February 18, 2008

Leadership, Change, and Enterprise Architecture

Enterprise architecture is about planning, managing, and measuring change in an organization. To effect change requires true leadership, and this requires multiple skills.

In the book, The Leadership Triad by Dale Zand, three essential forces of leadership are presented—knowledge, trust, and power. These leadership forces guide constructive organizational change.

“Like three horses pulling a chariot, these forces, if coordinated and working together, provide a swift and exhilarating ride. But if one force is mismanaged or pulls against the others, the ride is bumpy and can end in disaster.”

Effective leaders integrate the three forces of knowledge, trust, and power to drive effective change and maintain efficient operations in their organizations: “They know what should be done, they have the trust of their people, and they use power appropriately:

  1. Knowledge—“leaders know or can find out what should be done…they have vision and they know how to fulfill that vision. They set clear, challenging goals, and they know what needs to be done to reach the goals…they know how to gain access to the knowledge of others, and they know how to work with people to convert that knowledge into action.”
  2. Trust—“people trust effective...leaders, giving them loyalty and commitment… [They] earn trust by disclosing relevant information, sharing influence, and competently using knowledge. They earn trust by fairness in their dealings with others—fulfilling the spirit of their agreements, sharing rewards and hard times and not abusing their power.”
  3. Power—“leaders use their power appropriately. They know how to be directive or to delegate. They know how to review and evaluate constructively. They know how to be consultants, providing guidance rather than issuing commands.”

Why not just lead in a command and control fashion like in the military or law enforcement organization?

“The heroic fantasy of one person at the head of a column and followers shouting ‘charge’ as they mount the battlements is outdated. Instead leaders need to learn to use the sensing, searching, and thinking ability of all people within the organization.”

How are these leadership skills similar to those necessary for implementing enterprise architecture?

Knowledge, trust, and power are the cornerstones of an enterprise architecture program.

1. EA makes information transparent and provides information products to distribute knowledge and enable better decision-making. EA information is critical to decision-making, particularly in terms of ensuring sound IT investment management decisions, IT planning, analysis of problem areas—uncovering gaps, redundancies, inefficiencies, and opportunities--driving business process improvement, reengineering, and the introduction of new technologies to the organization.

“In the twentieth century society crossed…into the information age, marked by the emergence of the knowledge organization.”

“Competitive advantage in the information age is in constant jeopardy—knowledge is fluid, and creative thinkers leapfrog over existing knowledge.”

“Knowledge travels with the speed of thought, but can be blocked by the smallest emotional barrier. It can enlighten the entire organization’s operation, yet it can easily be concealed if people do not want leaders to see it. People throughout organizations continually acquire and create important, critical knowledge about customers, [suppliers], products, technology, costs, and competitors. But that knowledge can remain hidden and inaccessible to leaders. In the new world leaders need to liberate knowledge and creative thinking at all levels and in all corners of the organization. To compete, leaders need to move knowledge from where it is to where it can be used to define and achieve appropriate goals.”

EA helps to synthesize information and liberate knowledge to meet strategic goals.

2. EA is based on the trust of business and technical leaders and staff across the enterprise. EA synthesizes business and technology information. It relies on the trust of divisions, departments, and subject matter experts (SMEs) throughout the organization to share (and not hoard) information and build a results-driven, process-oriented, interoperable, standardized, cost-effective organization, rather than a siloed, ineffective one. In an EA-directed organization, siloed functions and management relinquish their own personal interests and perhaps, selfish motives and instead plan for the good of the overall organization. For example, decisions on IT investments are made based on enterprise priorities and cost-benefit-risk-architecture considerations, rather than who has the money to spend.

“Trust regulates the disclosure of information—how open people are with relevant information…trust regulates mutual influence—how receptive people are to each other’s goals and concerns, and trust regulates control—the intention to fulfill the spirit of a decision and willingness to rely on another person to implement her part of the decision.”

“Mistrust causes people to censor, delay, and distort relevant information. Social uncertainty compounds ambiguity, masks difficulties and deprives leaders of the opportunity to make high-quality decisions

3. The EA Board (chaired by the chief enterprise architect) ensures that proposed new IT projects, products, and standards align to and comply with the enterprise architecture. EA must have the power to mandate and enforce alignment and compliance or else the target architecture and transition plan is just a sham that will not yield enterprise results and achieve stated goals. Additionally, EA must have the ability to require SMEs to contribute regularly to the development, maintenance, and use of the EA. The business and technical SMEs are the owners of the EA content and must be partners with the EA team in ensuring that the architecture is kept current, accurate, and complete.

“Power is the ability to influence others so that they do or do not do something.”

“Leaders have legitimate power to determine the process by which decisions will be made.”

Knowledge, trust, and power are three dimensions of leadership that are the foundation for an effective EA program. EA ensures that the information needs of the organization are met in terms of business and technical baseline and target architectures and transition plans. EA relies on the trust of its organizational partners in the business and technical domains to share information and adhere to architectural decision and standards that are in the best interests of the overall organization, rather than any one individual, group, or function. And finally, EA requires the power to ensure alignment to and compliance with the architecture and the decisions of the architecture board or else EA is just a paper tiger and will fail.


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