Sunday, March 05, 2006


Enterprise Architecture: Creativity vs Tension

Management training stresses the resolution of tensions and conflict. Sometimes this is useful and at other times this is detrimental. There are simply some organizational tensions and conflicts that managers shoudn't try to resolve...

The latest word to become part of the vocabulary of folks who practice Management by Magazine is innovation. A necessary tug of war exists between how enterprises generate knowledge in practice versus how they implement it through process (NOTE: Maybe this is what the debate between Scott and Charles should have been about). The tension reflects the countervailing forces that, one the one hand, spark invention, and on the other hand, introduce the structure that transforms the inventions into marketable products. In isolation, either force alone, can destroy a company, but conjointly they produce creativity and growth.

As a supporter of the Agile Manifesto I too must acknowledge that when an enterprise that adopts agile approaches over time moves away from a self-organizing string quartet to more like an orchestra whose disparate sections now need a conductor. The issue at hand is that the conductor is not about governance but more about stewardship.

Process when done correctly and with agility in mind, helps coordinate different communities so that their practices, while allowed to flourish, don't grow out of touch with one another. Ideally, processes must permit rigor without rigidity. One must be savage in seeking out a chaordic balance between them which is difficult at best.

Process emphasizes the hierarchical, explicit command-and-control side of organization and the structure that gets things done. Practice emphasizes the implicit coordination and exploration that produces things to do. Practice without process tends to become unmanageable; process without practice results in the loss of creativity needed for sustained innovation.

Companies that have failed to control conflicting forces and achieve chaordic balance tend to sway between fostering creativity and attempts to exert control. This almost always results in atrophy. Practice shuns process and vice versa. The best-managed enterprises practice thought leadership and have figured out how to maintain forward progress with no stated or indoctrinated preference that favors either practice or process but acheives a chaordic balance in managing both.

World class enterprises have taken the above notion one step forward by not making this a management problem but a leadership problem (management and leadership are not interchangable words) where they focus on strong technical leadership in harmony with strong project management leadership with no preference for the latter...

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