Monday, December 19, 2005


Is Enterprise Architecture really all about GroupThink?

Wikipedia defined Groupthink as a process by which a group can make bad or irrational decisions. Groupthink tends to occur on committees and in large organisations, and has been cited as contributing to the Vietnam War, the invasion of the Bay of Pigs and the bombing of Hiroshima. A more recent example may be the decision to invade Iraq even though zero weapons of mass destruction have been found...

You can avoid groupthink by placing responsibility and authority for a decision in the hands of a single person who turns to others for advice. Of course, it requires choosing the right person of high morale fiber. If the right person is selected, the decision and its consequences are their responsibility alone. This person will apply a reality check and will be motivated by their responsibility to take the right decision rather than follow a consensus.

Another way to reduce groupthink is to give an individual the role of disagreeing with any suggestion presented (Something I do a lot of at work). When one member of the team has an explicit Devil's Advocate role, there is less stigma in taking a negative stance. Intelligently argued opposition makes it more likely that other individuals will present their own ideas more carefully and be comfortable pointing out flaws in other's ideas.

A third way to counter groupthink is to use anonymous feedback via a suggestion box or an online chatroom. People can raise negative or dissenting views of proposals anonymously without harming the cohesiveness and social capital of the group. Collaborative workspaces are an excellent way of implementing this.

Once architecture teams acknowledge that groupthink exists, they can seek to avoid it so that quality decisions can be made. Some of the negative outcomes of groupthink include, but are not limited to:

Been noodling the thought of evangelizing the notion of a "second-chance" meeting as part of our governance process at work that will offer one last opportunity to choose another course of action for all strategic initiatives. Would love to know your thoughts...

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