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Enterprise Architecture and Lean Thinking: Part One

by James McGovern  |  April 5, 2017  |  1 Comment

Prior to joining Gartner, I was an Enterprise Architect practitioner for a Fortune 100 enterprise that embraced Lean Thinking. The principles of driving both business-outcome driven EA and holistic technology implementations across value streams was something I got really good at. I found joy in enterprise programs that came with big hairy audacious goals (BHAG) for this provided me with a quantifiable target I could orient my own thinking around as well as help extended team members truly understand what we were driving towards.

I have come to appreciate that various aspects of architecture work don’t just happen in the Enterprise Architecture team itself but rather in different teams, so I had to continually check-and-adjust my approach based on the increasingly virtual nature of work.

The Lean concept of Gemba (Japanese for “go and see”) became part of my DNA because I wanted to operate on facts, not assumptions. For one month, I decided to track the amount of time I spent at my own desk and made a personal goal to spend less. In November, I spent a whole six hours at my office (large cubicle). Wonder if even having an office nowadays is considered waste? Anyway, I had the opportunity to not just interact with the “business” but also had conversations with the customers of the “business” that opened my eyes to new possibilities that wouldn’t have appeared on my radar if I just sat at my desk reviewing “requirements”.

If you are an Enterprise Architect in a shop that is embracing Lean Thinking, may I suggest that you will be well served by maintaining personal connections to each value stream under your stewardship? For me, go and see also applied to development teams for in order to be certain that I was championing better business outcomes, I wanted to know that “as-designed” was the same as “as-built”. From an organization chart perspective, I was senior to pretty much every developer, but that never stopped me from going to their desk and engaging in a conversation such that I could understand what aspects of our goals were understood vs getting lost along with a healthy dose of Agile thinking where I wanted to see “working software”

A funny thing happened. Developers and testers grew both their trust me as well as the strategy in which I was the keeper of the flame. Showing to business stakeholders and IT teams that the Enterprise Architect knows their current challenges and context is powerful. The Gemba has more power than it is given credit for. I am hopeful to hear success stories of other Enterprise Architects following the same path.

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Category: agile  enterprise-architecture  lean-thinking  

James McGovern
Research Director
1 years at Gartner
28 years IT Industry

James McGovern is a Research Director responsible for conducting research in the Enterprise Architecture and Technology Innovation areas. James is specifically focused on how organizations can use business-outcome-driven EA to respond to disruptive trends and leverage technology to deliver successful business outcomes. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Enterprise Architecture and Lean Thinking: Part One

  1. Sally Bean says:

    This is sound advice, but it doesn’t need to be limited to ‘Lean’ organisations. “Going and Seeing” should be something that every EA practitioner (or indeed any other sort of practitioner) does regularly. I’ve certainly benefited from doing this. It helps to avoid the perception that EA people live in ivory towers. It can be more difficult in geographically distributed organisations, in which case the best strategy is to try and nurture internal social media interactions to get a better idea of what is going on.

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