November 16, 2008

Enterprise Architecture Plans that Stick

I read a great little book today called Made to stick by Chip and Dan Heath about "Why some ideas survive and others die."

As I read this, I was thinking how very applicable this was to User-centric Enterprise Architecture in terms of making architecture products and plans that stick—i.e. they have a real impact and value to the organization and are not just another ivory tower effort and ultimately destined as shelfware.

The Heath brothers give some interesting examples of stories that stick.

Example #1: A man is given a drink at the bar by a beautiful lady that is laced with drugs and he finds himself waking up in a bathtub on ice with a note that tell him not to move and to call 911—he has been the victim of a kidney heist and is in desperate need of medical attention.

Example #2: Children Halloween candy is found tampered with and there is a scare in the community. The image of the razorblade in the apple is poignant and profoundly changes people’s perception of and trust in their neighbors.

Now, you may have heard of these stories already and they probably strike a deep chord inside everyone who hears them. Well, surprise—neither story is true. Yet, they have lasting power with people and are remembered and retold for years and years. Why do they stick, while other stories and ideas never even make it off the ground?

Here are the six necessities to make ideas have lasting, meaningful impact and how they relate to enterprise architecture:

Simplicity—drilldown to essential core ideas; be a master of exclusion; come up with one sentence that is so profound that an individual could spend a lifetime learning to follow it. In enterprise architecture, keep information products and plans straightforward and on point.

Unexpectedness—violate people’s expectations; surprise them, grab people's attention; I call this the shock factor. In architecture, we can use principles of communication and design (for example identify critical relationships in the information) to garner people’s attention, and help them come away with actionable messages.

Concreteness—use concrete images to ensure our idea will mean the same thing to everyone. In enterprise architecture, we can use information visualization to make information and ideas more concrete for the users (i.e. “a picture is worth a thousand words.”)

Credibility—promote ideas in ways that they can be tested, so that they are credible to the audience. An example is when Reagan was running for president and he asked Are you better off today than 4 years ago. This brought the message home and made it credible with voters in ways that pure numbers and statistics could not. For architects, the roadmap provided to the enterprise must be credible—it must have the level of detail, accuracy, comprehensiveness, and currency to garner acceptance.

Emotions--make your audience feel something; people feel things for people not for abstractions. In architecture and planning, we need to inspire and motivate people in the organization effectively influence, shape, and guide change. Remember, there is a natural resistance to change, so we need to appeal to people intellectually and also emotionally.

Stories—tell stories that are rich and provide for an enduring mental catalogue that can be recalled for critical situations in later life. Often, architects create isolated products of information that describe desired performance outcomes, business processes, information flows, systems, and technology products and standards; however, unless these are woven together to tell a cohesive story for the decision makers, the siloed information will not be near as effective as it can be.

These six principles spell out SUCCES, and they can be adeptly used successfully by enterprise architects to hone information and planning products that enable better decisions. These are the types of architectures that stick (and do not stink) and are truly actionable and valuable to the organization.


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