Brian Burke, Research VP at Gartner speaking at a Local Briefing event in London on 2nd February 2010, was talking about the flatter horizontal organisation and which means that control is much more difficult to exercise these days.

I think that control has always been a difficult idea.  The thought that one of us can control the actions of others is scary.  By and large we submit to the control of others because it is in our benefit to do so, either for individual gain or for the collective good.  The idea that the Enterprise Architecture (EA) team have control over the Strategy, the execution of Strategy, or are responsible for the upholding of the principles against all comers is an old fashioned illusion.

Governance comes high up the list of wants of all Enterprise Architects (if only we could make ….), but the control and the power to control is illusory.  Enterprise Architects need to make it in the interest of others to conform to the strategy, the principles and standards.

The EA team only wield power by virtue of the willingness of others to follow and for others to perceive that it is in their best interest.  For some people the collective interest is not sufficient.  They perceive that their own self interest can be best served by going against the collective interest and they will do so.  One of the tricks is to line up individual self interest with the collective interest.

The flatter organisation and the reduction in command and control management is also mooted as a significant trend and change.  Of course, when it comes to command and control, Seddon was right to draw the connection between leaders such as Ohno, Ford and Sloan as examples of command and control implementers (Seddon, 2005 p.9) and also right to recognise where all this came from in the first place: Taylorism and scientific management , as highlighted by the prominent management consultant John Seddon (2005 pp.199-202; Greenberg and Baron, 2008 pp.12-13).

Would it be reasonable to say that the higher performance comes from pull rather than push as well as a workforce engaged in the life of the organisation?  Systems thinking means engaging the workforce in decision making in stark contrast to creating “management factories”. For example, putting variety back into the production line and devolving decision making to the workforce.

Systems thinking should enable organisations to move from satisficing to higher performance.  Also, it fits with the notion of open systems based organisations and those that are “learning” based.  Organisational culture, therefore, becomes a key determinant, alongside, it has to be emphasised, good people management and an acknowledgement of how the architecture of enterprise-wide computer systems help to bond an organisation together.

Author Peter Senge loves to talk of ‘learning organisations’ but even he acknowledges this is very hard to achieve.

Senge (1995, p.21) asserts “deep beliefs are often inconsistent with espoused values in organisations. The organisation might espouse an ideal or ‘empowering’ people, but an attitude that ‘they won’t let us do it’ prevails. Thus, even though espoused values change, the culture of the organisation tends to remain the same. It is a testament to our naïvete about culture that we think we can change it simply by declaring new values. Such declarations usually produce only cynicism.”

The most effective organisations have always been those that are managed by co-operation rather than dictat (although modern-day disciples of Machiavelli’s The Prince may dispute this: see this paper for a discussion).  It is now even more obvious that this is the only way to manage.  The armed forces (a model of command and control) manage by the willing co-operation of their participants (the troops).

To claim, therefore, that Enterprise Architects can no longer rely on the command and control type of organisation is to deny the political skills of the previous CIOs and Chief Architects in gaining respect for their opinions and actions for their plans.

In the context of EA the power of veto is illusionary without the respect and support from peers, as once exercised, the power dissipates rapidly when unpopular decisions are forced through.

The soft skills that are required by IT architects are formidable, if the architect is to play their part in the shaping of the solutions or the organisations, they need the full set of soft skills, just as Gartner research director Chris Wilson pointed out.  It is not a new set of skills though, as Chris Wilson says “to be qualified as the best paid snake oil salesmen we had better be equipped to facilitate, persuade and sell and sell and sell.”

Way back in 1987, Beckard and Harris came up with a valuable contribution to help us all to get a handle on organisational transitions. Their ‘change equation’ still holds the road today. I’ll leave you to work the numbers for your own situation.

C=[ABD] > X

C=Change

A=Level of dissatisfaction with the status quo

B=Desirability of the proposed change or end state

D=Practicality of the change (minimal risk and disruption)

X=“Cost” of changing

You might be thinking that this still leaves Enterprise Architects in a dilemma, but hey – what’s new there? It’s precisely why Enterprise Architecture should be entrusted to the professionals.

References

Beckhard, R. and Harris, R.T. (1987) Organizational Transitions: Managing complex change 2nd edn. Reading, MA, Addison Wesley

Greenberg, J and Baron, R.A (2008) Behavior in Organizations 9th edn. Upper Saddle River, NL, Pearson Education.

McGuire, D and Hutchings, K. (2006) ‘A Machiavellian analysis of organizational change’ Journal of Organizational Change Management 19 (2) pp. 192-209 DOI 10.1108/09534810610648906 Also available at http://teaching.fec.anu.edu.au/MGMT7030/McGuire%20and%20Hutchings%20-%20Machiavellian%20Change.pdf [accessed 02 February 2010].

Seddon, J. (2005) Freedom from Command and Control: a better way to make the work work 2nd edn. Buckingham, Vanguard Education.

Senge, P., Kleiner, A., Roberts, C., Ross, R, and Smith, B. (1995) The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook London, Nicholas Brealey Publishing.