2 years, 2 months ago

Organizations as Systems – Kurosawa, Clausewitz, and Chess

In order to respond appropriately to the context we find ourselves in, it’s helpful that we be able to correctly define that context. It’s something humans aren’t always good at. Not too long ago, Sun Tzu’s The Art of War was all the rage as among executives. While the book contains some excellent lessons that […]

2 years, 11 months ago

It’s About Time

Of the many reasons to have EA as part your company’s approach to decision-making, the one that is most often overlooked is that it will save you TIME. Saving time means moving forward faster.

2 years, 11 months ago

It’s About Time

Of the many reasons to have EA as part your company’s approach to decision-making, the one that is most often overlooked is that it will save you TIME. Saving time means moving forward faster.

3 years, 4 months ago

The Hidden Cost of Cheap – UX and Internal Applications

Why would anyone worry about user experience for anything that’s not customer-facing? This question was the premise of Maurice Roach’s post in the Zühlke blog, “Empathise with your users or you won’t solve their problems”: Bring up the subject of user empathy with some engineers or product owners and you’ll probably hear comments that fall […]

3 years, 10 months ago

Changing Organizations Without Changing People

Prof Bo Molander once pointed out to me and the other students in the class that when you try to change people, you go up against billions of years of evolution, “good luck with that” and when you try to change groups, you go up against millions of years of evolutions, “good luck with that […]

5 years, 2 months ago

When does EA start to care about sociocultural influences?

Organizations do not work, in real life, like they work on paper.  On paper, there are departments (all shaped like a neat rectangle) and business processes with neat inflows and outflows of responsibility and information.  On paper, you improve things by modeling things on paper, and then moving things around, on paper, then teaching people to follow the process that your neat paper diagrams represent.

In real life, there are human beings and the tools that they use.  Sometimes the tools move information from one person to another.  Sometimes, they just aid in communication.  People meet and get to know other people, and they learn to trust some, and distrust others.  Some folks have different measures and motivations and just “pass by” one another.  Some subset of these people will have shared cultural values and expectations.  There may be many cultures in an organization: both because the organization is in multiple places, and because people from multiple places join an organization.  Also, “business culture” arises as leaders achieve successes and people learn to use certain “cultural expectations” to get things done efficiently. 

Reality is a lot messier than pretty rectangles. 

Enterprise Architects apply science and engineering and aesthetics to the challenge of organizational change.  We are unique in that most other “change artists” are not focused on engineering and some even ignore science.  (see Daniel Pink’s TED Talk on the Surprising Science of Motivation).  Few even know how to spell aesthetics.  Yet, when you are dealing with systems that contain and include people, you have to use aesthetics, and you are ill prepared for success if you ignore science.  Engineering is a mindset as much as a class of methods.  It involves applying the things that science has discovered and using that understanding to build great (and sometimes terrible) things.  Engineers build on ideas and use them, often experimenting on systems that are too complex and intertwined for “pure science” to get arms around.

As Enterprise Architecture is such a young science, we have relied to heavily on the “boxes and lines” model of enterprises, and not enough on the messy but important sociocultural view of an enterprise.  We find it easier to document, and model, and even simulate, processes as though people were interchangeable and their relationships didn’t matter. 

That is just lazy.

It is time to get up off our collective butts and start working out ways to understand sociocultural influences, relationships, and architectures.  We have to build ways to detect, measure, and consider these structures when we measure capabilities, or improve processes, or suggest automations, or evaluate business models, or any of the two dozen things that EA’s do. 

The value of EA often comes to an executive in the form of a reasoned opinion that is based on data that no one else is looking at.  Let’s consider the possibility that examining sociocultural influences can provide interesting opinions that an executive will find valuable.

We should consider sociocultural information if:

  1. Sociocultural influencers can impact the speed of change in an organization.
  2. Sociocultural connections can impact the decision making and governance processes
  3. Sociocultural strengths would allow rapid improvement in business capabilities needed for a shift in strategy
  4. Sociocultural blind spots would prevent an organization from recognizing an existential threat

 

Think about it.  Do you believe that any of those statements are false?  I can find ample examples for each one.  So if sociocultural interactions matter, why are we not tracking them, learning from them, using them to make decisions?

It’s only hard because we haven’t tried.

(This post inspired by the many similar pleas shared by J.D. Beckingham in social media).

5 years, 2 months ago

When does EA start to care about sociocultural influences?

Organizations do not work, in real life, like they work on paper.  On paper, there are departments (all shaped like a neat rectangle) and business processes with neat inflows and outflows of responsibility and information.  On paper, you improve things by modeling things on paper, and then moving things around, on paper, then teaching people…

6 years, 9 months ago

On Readiness

In his presentation on Enterprise Agility at the SCiO meeting yesterday, Patrick Hoverstadt introduced the concept of Yarak.

In falconry, the word Yarak describes a trained hawk that is fit and in a proper condition for hunting. According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word entered the English language in the 19th century, perhaps from Persian yārakī ‘strength, ability’ or from Turkish yaraǧ ‘readiness’.

Patrick explained that Yarak involves a balance between two forces – motivation and strength. The falcon has to be hungry enough to want to hunt, and strong enough to hunt effectively. So the falconer has to get the balance right: too little food and the creature cannot hunt, too much food and it can’t be bothered.

When I talk to people about building organizational intelligence in their own organizations, I hear two forms of resistance. One is that the organization has so little inherent intelligence at present that the task is daunting; the other is that the bosses wouldn’t want it.

When I take examples from glamorous high-tech companies like Microsoft and Google, this can provoke a somewhat fatalist reaction. People say: This kind of intelligence may be all very well for these hi-tech birds of prey, but ordinary companies like us simply don’t have the resources or capability to do any of this stuff. 

So it’s important to see examples from ordinary companies as well as from the glamorous ones. Every company has some intelligence, although it may be patchy, fragmented and inconsistent. So we need to find ways of linking and leveraging this intelligence to create a positive spiral of improvement.

As for the question of motivation, there will still be many organizations where the senior management team, perhaps lacking confidence in its own intelligence, will lack enthusiasm for developing intelligence across the rest of the organization. This may be a generation thing – the younger generation of management may be much more comfortable with new styles of management (such as “Theory Y”) as well as with social networking and other technologies.

Does this mean we have to wait for a generation, until the current bosses have shuffled off to the golf course or the Caribbean cruise? Not if the organization can start to develop intelligence in a bottom-up piecemeal fashion. In which case, what matters is the motivation and strength of the people and groups across the organization, and not just the motivation and strength of the bosses. Can we achieve some useful results without top-down support?