Take the Initiative

From my Editor’s column in the most recent Architecture & Governance Magazine:

I was recently asked to reflect on the strengths of some of the EA practitioners I have worked with over the years.  They have been an inspiring group who collectively and individually were drawn to EA because they aspired to make a difference in their companies.   They had a strong sense of wanting to do the right things for the enterprise, to collaborate and work with internal communities to understand and identify opportunities for longer-term leverage, to enable positive incremental change, to protect against unintended consequences, and to add big picture insight to narrow decision-making. 

Fulfilling that aspiration isn’t always an easy path.  Sometimes, and frankly more often than one would expect, the climate for conversations about EA hasn’t been established, muted by the need to deliver on the projects at hand.  It is often the wrong time, or the practitioner is in the wrong place.

But the best EA practitioners have persevered, created opportunities for new conversations, and used targeted stories to expose new perspectives and enlighten stakeholder communities.  They showed initiative.  Positive results come from a willingness to experiment. Every company is different and will require different techniques. So be open to a hybrid approach.

I then went on to comment briefly about a couple of articles related to the issue’s theme, “Take the Initiative”, but column space didn’t permit me to elaborate a little more with my own thoughts…

The biggest challenge to having effective and forward-looking, proactive, EA-based conversations is learning to engage in meaningful ways with multiple target audiences.  That includes providing internal education, building sponsorship and support, encouraging participation and collaboration, generating relevant content, overcoming internal biases, demonstrating the value of abstraction, and showing how abstraction translates to results, etc.

Every company is made of up different people, priorities, motivations, and history.  It is never really possible to fully predict the path to winning EA mindshare before the fact. One general EA presentation or white paper is rarely enough.  Moving the EA ball forward can take time, patience, repetition, iteration, and some trial and error, drawing from a rich pallet of techniques.  In fact, I suggest that for most target audiences it is far better to mock up simple examples, do short rapid iterations to create meaningful content, and use them to expose ever widening audiences to the value of EA-perspectives.   Success will come from a willingness to rapidly perform small experiments and demonstrations and methodically creating targeted stories to match the needs of your audiences (see “Talking to Business Executives about EA”).