Improving EA Team Performance

With the arrival of the New Year, many EA teams are in the final stages of setting their annual objectives.  This year, we find that many are being asked to perform at a level significantly higher than last year.   They must do so in response to higher expectations placed on them by leaders who believe that EA plays a critical role in moving the enterprise into the future.

Many annual objectives documents are primarly structured as lists of projects  and deliverables that the team must complete in the next planning period.   While hard deliverables are necessary and expected, every EA leader should also consider adding objectives designed to improve team performance and to address “how” the team is going to accomplish their assignments.   Why?  Because EA success requires predictable and consistent performance by the team as a whole and by its individual members.

One of the most interesting observations from studies of EA team performance is that the typical team profile of a collection of highly skilled and specialized individual contributors isn’t necessarily optimal.  To be successful, teams populated that way must learn to function as a team, supplementing the natural tendency for individuals to work alone.  Enterprise architecture is inherently cross-domain in scope.  Only by working in collaboration across domain specialites will the team be able to quickly address the many dependencies that are part of the modern enterprise.

We recommend that EA leaders employ the following techniques when striving to improve their overall team performance:

Develop a common language: Words and concepts are important.  Adopt/adapt a “language of EA” that makes sense for your organization.  A common grounding in EA core concepts can go a long way to unifying a team.  Look to the more widely used and common industry approaches to EA, take a class, or ask us.  We’re happy to make recommendations on practical approaches that will work, and show you how to adapt them to your needs.

Be a Team: Get together frequently, in person and/or virtually.  Eschew “project status reporting” meetings in favor of strategic discussions, cross-domain issues resolution, trend analysis and healthy debate.

Collaborate and Communicate: Actively recruit and engage external parties and bring them into the discussion.  Learn to exploit “social media” style connections to engage with these larger audiences.

Learn to Lead: EA is a “lead through influence” discipline.  Take a leadership course, but be careful to select one focused on “soft” leadership styles.  It isn’t about traditional personnel management techniques.

With people as the critical element to EA success; it only makes sense to invest in team skills and performance.   Unfortunately, many teams put disproportionate emphasis on templates, frameworks and deliverables.  Make it a practice to visit/revisit the health and productivity of the team.  Don’t wait until next January to start.