Tuesday, February 14, 2006


How Enterprise Architects can change organizations for the better...

Below are a myriad of ways architects can consider for making their enterprise better...

  • Do your work. You weren't hired to change the organization. Do the work you were hired to do, or risk losing respect, and with it, the ability to make any changes.

  • Understand why. There's a reason why things are done the way they are, and it isn't because your coworkers are incompetent or malicious (They may be but that's not the point). Sometimes they may be ignorant (high probability), but even that isn't the only reason. Seek first to understand, then to be understood

  • Be respectful. Don't ever look down at anybody, no matter what, not even in the privacy of your thoughts. A differing opinion does not mean ignorance and ignorance does not mean stupidity. Think of this not as a problem but an opportunity.

  • Be careful with vocabulary. Jargon that means something positive to you might mean something different and negative to someone else. For example, "iteration" might mean "continual refinement" to you and "rework due to poor planning" to your audience.

  • Talk slowly. Explain ideas in a calm, measured tone of voice. Sometimes technical people speak at ten miles a minute, particularly when they're excited about an idea. Your tone should denote "wisdom of the ages" rather than "geeky excitement."

  • Understand motivations. As you proselytize, be aware of what motivates the person you're talking to. Less busywork? Higher quality? Feeling of control? Address these motivations.

  • Find the gap between desire and perceived reality. People have to want to change, and they'll only want to change if they think it will get them something they can't get otherwise.

  • Be flexible. Sometimes the organization needs to change to fit the process, and sometimes the process needs to change to fit the organization. It's easier to change the process.

  • Be calm, happy, and confident. It's easy to get ripped by all the things that are being done wrong. Stay calm. It will inspire confidence in you. Find small things to do that give you a feeling of accomplishment at work, and have good relationships with family and friends outside of work. Blogging helps immensely in this regard.

  • Lead by example. People naturally imitate those they respect. Lead by example, and in the beginning be prepared to do all the work for all of your suggestions yourself.

  • Don't be a wallflower. If you know there's a better way to do something, speak up.

  • Shut up. If you know there's a better way to way to do something, and you've already talked about it a bunch this week, keep it to yourself. NOTE: I can see my co-workers telling me this about open source, industry analysts, Liferay and ServiceMix

  • Be patient. Don't expect to make a change every day. Don't expect every change to succeed.

  • You have no authority. You can talk about stuff, and you can make suggestions, but you can't force anybody to do something. Remember that. Even the big guy in the corner office has a boss

  • Be flexible. Some processes, especially ones based on the agile manifesto have very specific and rigidly defined sets of rules. You aren't in a position to be specific and rigid (at least in the long run as short term constipation doesn't count).

  • Involve management. Somehow. consider previous postings on the elevator pitch

  • Present solutions. Talk about solutions to problems, not problems alone.

  • Find support. Find other people in the organization that share your views. Sometimes two voices are more convincing than one. It's also nice to talk to someone that agrees with you occasionally (I wonder if this is James). The more respected these people are, and the more accessible they are to you, the better.

  • Be experienced. Don't suggest something you haven't personally succeeded with.

  • Don't act superior. Everyone will hate you if you do. I am sometimes guilty of this. Don't be me.

  • Respect is your currency. The more people respect you, the more credibility you have. The more credibility you have, the more opportunities you'll have. Earn respect by your actions.

  • Never criticize people. There's problems with the process, sure. Criticize the process. Improve the process. Leave names out of it. The only person that you should critize is yourself.

  • Be helpful. Show people how your changes will make their lives easier, not more difficult. Of course if outsourcing on your agenda, I feel for you.

  • Take ownership. Take ownership of things that nobody owns and that are related to your change goals. If you assume ownership and lead in those areas, leadership will naturally fall to you. In time, you'll have actual authority over the things you took ownership of. Your actions will be more visible and you'll be able to earn more respect. This is a tactic used by another architect who doesn't have this title that I respect.

  • Work top-down and bottom-up. Direct some of your efforts at bottom-up change: lead by example and cajoling on the parts of the organization that you have continual contact with. Direct other efforts at top-down change: write essays and give presentations about the changes you want to make to people with authority.

  • Baby steps. Talk about big goals for as long as you have a receptive audience, but when it comes to actual change, make it small. Only make changes that require a very small change in routine.

  • Be natural. Don't follow these or any other rules by rote. Instead, internalize the concepts and then do what comes naturally. Internalization is mandatory for agile processes.

  • Repeat yourself. It's going to take a long, long time for your suggestions and changes to sink in. Say and do things over and over in different ways. I am sometimes guilty of expecting folk to get it on the first shot.

  • Find small pleasures. Trying to change an organization is a frustrating, thankless job. Find things that you can do easily that give you a feeling of accomplishment, and do them.

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