Wednesday, April 04, 2007


The lack of people skills in large enterprises

I have been brainstorming an idea I had for an upcoming book that deals with the human aspects of enterprise architecture where I am attempting to figure out patterns of all my enterprise architect peers in other enterprises with an emphasis on the people skills of their bosses in hopes that it would be great if managers of these folks could achieve knowledge of themselves without making several expensive mistakes in the process...

Most managers have convinced themselves that they have great people skills. This is partly due to the repeat-after-me notion that IT executives need great people skills and if I am an IT Executive that I must somehow have it. This is rationalization at its finest. The funny thing is that no one has really studied the downward spiral when an enterprise finally learns that IT executives don't really have this as a skillset.

Lately, many of my peers in other enterprises while seeming to make more money than I, also seem to be more miserable. They are increasingly being placed into situations where they aren't necessarily leveraging their strengths as they move towards competencies and lately have viewed being transfered as a reward. Depending on the situation, many enterprise architects will either remain in misery, get fired, change jobs or even summon the effort to do well with the hopes that they can move on to something else. When the later happens, managers will say "We really turned him around" when the issue is really something else...

It is interesting that we all know intuitively that we should focus on people, then process, then tools - in that order, yet we do the exact opposite which has a cause and effect on people skills. What if we were to first acknowledge that process is the problem? When enterprises embrace process-oriented management, when a problem is discovered, the process is at fault and the true causes of failure must be understood and somehow fixed, usually by simply changing the process.

This requires folks who are willing to change the way they work, to accomodate an ever changing process. If folks aren't willing to change the way they work, they are usually blamed and maybe even fired. What if we were to acknowledge that a bad manager can complicate the process so much that it would be impossible to know what went wrong?

Maybe the only problem is that the manager usually can dictate the process and hire the people, so he can make both the process and the people the problem. Maybe a higher-order pattern is that many processes fail because they don't utilize the strengths of individuals and instead prefer to rely on competencies? What if we were to brainstorm processes that were more adaptable to the people that participate?

Process is not a substitute for competence. Variations exist in people, processes, natural resources, everything. That is reality. This natural variation may result in a product that has a problem. The problem may have been a result of a person, a process, an incoming good, or it may be the result of some unknown combination. There is no apriori formula that says if there is a problem then it was always caused by X but a strong predictor may be that it is caused by the lack of strong technical leadership and those without people skills...

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