There’s a lot of great material to digest in Tom Graves recent post, Modelling people in enterprise-architecture, but I feel it gets off on the wrong foot in two regards. First, the title, "modelling people" [sic], suggests that the crux of the problem is that our models of people need to be greatly improved. But is that really the root of the problem? Isn’t the more fundamental problem one of motivating people?
Tom mentions Dan Pink’s Drive, which I think is absolutely targeted at the right issues. But AFAICT, Drive does not posit better models of people as an important goal! The primary goal is to find ways to give people enough autonomy, mastery, and purpose to enable them to do great things. While better models of people may help achieve this goal (eg by establishing what really motivates people), I think that good old fashioned traits like trust, respect, patience, leadership, listening, etc. are far more important than better models of people and their relationships.
I would argue that the great examples of organizations that do empower their people with autonomy, mastery, and purpose, do so with very little in the way of formal models of human behavior and relationships (whether they be personality profiles or RACI diagrams). They do it mostly with "gut feelings" about motivating people. That may be the fundamental problem with so much of enterprise architecture thinking: that the primary key to success is better models. I say, stop modeling people and start motivating them!
This leads me to my second concern: using building architecture as a metaphor for how to architect human organizations. In my presentation on hybrid thinking, I lead off with a slide contrasting a picture the US Capitol Building with a picture of the members of the US government attending the State of the Union. I make the point that the architectural models and practices for organizing chunks of inanimate matter into useful structures have virtually nothing to do with the models and practices for organizing people into useful groups (eg the US Contitution, Roberts Rules of Order).
I think Tom is making the same point as I am in his post. But if that is the case, why then proceed to start from scratch in building up a set of models for organizing people? Why start from an interesting but, with all due respect, sui generis list of four themes? Why not start from concrete examples of governmental, academic, and business organizational models and practices that are working better than others. In other words, why don’t enterprise architects draw their insights and examples from and base their practices on fields like organizational studies? Wouldn’t a chief architect with a degree in organizational studies make a lot more sense than one with a degree in computer science, or even one with an MBA? Yet how many descriptions of the skills and attributes of a Chief Enterprise Architect even mention organizational studies?
I think one of the reasons that enterprise architecture almost completely ignores organizational studies is that the origin of enterprise architecture really was rooted in computer system architecture, ie the architecture of computer hardware and software. And the architecture of inanimate hardware and software is a lot more like building architecture than it is organizational studies. But the architecture of hardware and software gives almost as little insight into the architecture of human organizations as building architecture does.
I would claim that modern organizations (whether governmental, academic, or commercial) are shaped far more by the insights from and the practitioners of organizational studies than by those of enterprise architecture. That’s why I am pursuing the approach of hybrid thinking. Rather than continue to try to build up enterprise architecture thinking from first principles, why not embrace other disciplines, and other ways of thinking, that are already grappling with (with some measure of success), the issues EA wants to take on. Build upon organizational studies, build upon design thinking, etc. I know I am preaching to a member of the choir when I say this to Tom. But I get the feeling that many in enterprise architecture feel that they already have what they need to take on architecting our human organizations, just like they architected our data centers. All that’s needed are the right models. FAIL!
Referring to Tom’s prior post on crossing the chasm, one of the major reasons a new innovation fails to cross the chasm to mainstream adoption is that an existing approach is already serving the mainstream well enough. Perhaps the existing approach of organizational studies, which is already well entrenched in academia, especially business schools, is better suited to mainstream needs for architecting human organizations. What innovation does enterprise architecture bring to the table that makes it a better alternative to the models and practices currently generated by organizational studies? Or those generated by design thinking for that matter? When enterprise architects can answer that question, then perhaps business leaders will listen to them.
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