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Motivating people is more important than modeling them

by Nick Gall  |  January 31, 2011  |  16 Comments

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.Capitol vs Congress 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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Category: enterprise-architecture  hybrid-thinking  

Nicholas Gall
VP Distinguished Analyst
14 years at Gartner
35 years IT industry

Nick Gall is a vice president in Gartner Research. As a founding member of Gartner’s Enterprise Planning and Architecture Strategies, Mr. Gall advises clients on enterprise strategies for interoperability, innovation and execution. Mr. Gall is a leading authority on middleware… Read Full Bio


Thoughts on Motivating people is more important than modeling them


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jovi Umawing, Nick Gall, Bromley Stone, UK Technology News, Keith Ricketts and others. Keith Ricketts said: Motivating people is more important than modeling them: There’s a lot of great material to digest in Tom Graves … http://bit.ly/eRJvix […]

  2. Tom Graves says:

    Hi Nick

    First, I agree very strongly your point about “stop modeling people and start motivating them!”. The catch is that motivating in itself in more someone else’s job than ours: the only motivating we’re normally authorised to do is to get people to talk with each other and to think more clearly about architectural matters. So yes, in enterprise-architecture there’s definitely a strong cross-over with organisational design – as there should be with everything else. The whole point about EA is that it’s one of the few disciplines (perhaps the only one?) that explicitly bridges everything.

    Beyond that, I guess I’d better say “guilty as charged”… :-( :-) In my defence, I ought to point out that the post had a specific purpose, namely how to address the apparent gap in architecture-models, that there was no apparent place for people in the architecture. My opinion – essentially the same as yours – is that we shouldn’t build people into the architecture – it’s exactly what to not do. But there are a few areas where ‘people-related stuff’ definitely does belong in the architecture, and that’s what I’d tried to document there. In my usual too-long, too-tangled way, unfortunately, but there ’tis… :-(

    On one other point: I do applaud what you’re doing with hybrid-thinking and panarchitecture: as per the previous post, I definitely think it’s the right way to go. And as I also said in that post, it’s great to see ‘insider innovators’ such as you and Ron and Jeff pushing the wagon so hard and so well, rather than sitting back and ‘toeing the party line’: very much appreciated! :-)

    Thanks again, anyway.

  3. Nick Gall says:

    Tom,

    We’re very much in agreement and I do have more to say about your four themes, which I think are good ones. I guess I’m just a little “model fatigued”.

    On the issue of whether motivating people is someone else’s job, I must disagree–vehemently. The job of motivating people is as much an architect’s job as anyone else’s. It’s just another thing about architecture that I think most enterprise architects are thinking about correctly. Most enterprise architectures are under the delusion that they are somehow neutral facilitators of other people’s desires. Wrong!

    Here’s a great article from the Sunday Boston Globe to prove my point, Green Building, (http://bit.ly/hQSqKa ).:

    Both the landscape urbanists and the traditionalists they’re trying to unseat think they know what must be done to conserve energy, limit emissions, and protect the environment from further harm, and both are certain that the other is wrong. As they joust in the pages of architecture publications and take swipes at each other from podiums, they are competing not just for commissions, but for the hearts and minds of a generation of young planning students who will soon be moving into positions of real influence themselves. At stake is the future of cities and their surroundings — what they will look like, how they will work, and what it will be like to live in them.

    Two architectural factions are battling over the hearts and minds of those who will plan and build future urban areas. It’s an intellectual battle and it’s all about motivating people to view things your way. Enterprise architecture is no different.

  4. Tom Graves says:

    Nick

    I didn’t say motivating people wasn’t our job, it’s more we generally don’t have the authority to do it… :-( :-)

    Since we don’t have the authority to do it, we gotta be sneaky – do it stealth-like. (Also, kind of useful to remind ourselves to back off a bit and not be so bloomin’ arrogant: who the heck are we to think we have the right to ‘motivate’ others? That’s their lives, not ours; what they choose to be motivated for should be their choice, not ours… we’re architects, not bloomin’ dictators or demagogues. I hope not, anyways… :-) )

    Hence what I’ve been suggesting: we document what we can, provide tools and information to point to what we hope or believe or whatever is an appropriate direction, and then, in essence, back off and let ’em get on with it. See what emerges; tweak where appropriate; don’t try to ‘control’, ‘cos it doesn’t work. That sort of stuff.

    I’m reminded here of the great Gerry Weinberg, who talked about a Buffalo Bridle: you can make a buffalo go anywhere, as long as _it_ wants to go there; and you can keep a buffalo out of anywhere, as long as _it_ doesn’t want to go there. Much the same with people: we need to give people good reasons – usually emotive reasons – to want to go or not-go somewhere. If we try to be pushy about it, we end up with a fight – as in your excellent example. Getting the balance right is t-r-i-c-k-y… but that’s our job, isn’t it?

    (Thanks for the great discussion here, by the way. :-) )

  5. Nick Gall says:

    Tom, We’re in complete agreement. Persuasion is a very effective form of motivation, especially when you don’t have the authority to be more pushy. :-)

  6. […] always to express our own responsibilities in this: for example, as Nick Gall put it, “Motivating people is more important than modeling them“. And in a practical expression of ‘power-with’, seek always to find ways to […]

  7. Good and thoughtful discussion.

    @Nick: “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? ”

    I would say no.

    What you say sounds correct and saying the opposite sounds counter intuitive, but I have found that what is counter intuitive is often a place where great discoveries can be made.

    One of the fundamental problems in this day and age (and it’s getting worse) is that people are so consumed with solving problems. Finding Solutions.

    I don’t blame “people” so much as I believe it is the human condition to solve problems and to want to be the person that finds the solution. However, it is my experience that spending time trying to find a solution is not the most effective or efficient means.

    For me, finding solutions to things is easy. Second nature. Almost automatic.

    Why? Because I am some kind of hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional being with a brain the size of a planet?

    No. It is because (and I have proved this to myself over the last 30+ years) I spend more of my time understanding a problem domain. 1% of energy devoted to understanding a problem can reduce the time to think of a solution by an order of magnitude.

    And so, our objective is to motivate people, but instead of spending an inordinate amount of time just thinking of the solution (how to motivate people) we should invest more time in understanding the problem. And in order to understand the problem we need to understand what motivates them and how their motivations relate to others (in many different areas such as personal motivation, career outlook, Financial motivation, Maturity, etc etc etc) See the relationships document in the culture section of PEAF at http://www.pragmaticea.com/peaf-products2-culture.htm

    Therefore I agree with Toms assertion that models of people need to be greatly improved. I agree with you Nick that the fundamental problem is one of motivating people, but modelling them and hence understanding them (the problem domain) is the way to move forward.

  8. I would also say that, as we all know, EA is all about exposing things so things can work better together. The way we do that is by modelling the enterprise and modelling the enterprise includes modelling the motivations and contrasting points of view of the people and groups within that enterprise. Our job is to help expose problems domains so the management and leaders of the organisation can make better decisions. Peoples motivation is no different.

  9. I agree with your stand, Nick, or what I make of it: “why don’t enterprise architects draw their insights and examples from and base their practices on fields like organizational studies?”

    An Enterprise Architect should understand organization design to enable alignment between people organization, business and technology architecture. After all, they are all layers of a full Enterprise Architecture. Processes are executed by people not only technology. The alignment would enable people roles & responsibilities be clearly set against processes and technology.
    Anyway, for top management, the working architecture seems to be the organization chart.

    I don’t really think that motivating people is the job of an architect or that it can be achieved by an architect, for that matter, except when convincing people to adopt EA practices, i.e. selling EA.
    The architect does not make decisions and does not motivate people to make them, but documents enterprise operation and target states as set by stakeholders. He does not make technology choices or specifies strategy. The architect can propose though choices to relevant fora for decision making.
    But as any leader in an enterprise the architect has the responsibility to motivate, to a degree.
    The other problem is that, in reality, the Enterprise Architect is a small cog in IT, and quite complacent with that, at times.
    We all seem to have an idealised, almost heroic EA role in mind, from time to time.
    Adrian
    http://www.enterprise-architecture-matters.co.uk

  10. I agree with your stand, Nick, or what I make of it: “why don’t enterprise architects draw their insights and examples from and base their practices on fields like organizational studies?”

    An Enterprise Architect should understand organization design to enable alignment between people organization, business and technology architecture. After all, they are all layers of a full Enterprise Architecture. Processes are executed by people not only technology. The alignment would enable people roles & responsibilities be clearly set against processes and technology.
    Anyway, for top management, the working architecture seems to be the organization chart.

    I don’t really think that motivating people is the job of an architect or that it can be achieved by an architect, for that matter, except when convincing people to adopt EA practices, i.e. selling EA.
    The architect does not make decisions and does not motivate people to make them, but documents enterprise operation and target states as set by stakeholders. He does not make technology choices or specifies strategy. The architect can propose though choices to relevant fora for decision making.
    But as any leader in an enterprise the architect has the responsibility to motivate, to a degree.
    The other problem is that, in reality, the Enterprise Architect is a small cog in IT, and quite complacent with that, at times.
    But we all seem to have an idealised, almost heroic EA role in mind, from time to time.
    Adrian
    http://www.enterprise-architecture-matters.co.uk

  11. Nick Gall says:

    Kevin,

    I’m like you Kevin. I can create models and proposed solutions easily. I think many architects are like us–such skills are a large part of why they became architects. But what good is an amazing model and a wonderful proposal if in the end, the stakeholders who must buy into it…don’t? That’s my experience in the past 30+ years. Lots of great ideas, models, proposals, etc. left on the cutting room floor because no one created enough of a “pull” from the stakeholders whose buy in was needed for those ideas to be put into action.

    I think there are a couple other factors in play here as well–one’s I didn’t get into in the initial post. First, I find that many architects apply models that don’t provide any deep insight; they are simply the “official” or “required” viewpoints mandated by their frameworks (DoDAF models come to mind). I’m all for groundbreaking models that help us make great discoveries that lead to entirely new solutions. But in my experience, such models are few and far between–especially in business. Second, as the research note on panarchy explains, more and more architectural problems are becoming “wicked problems”, in which there is little or no hope of a breakthrough model that will illuminate a comprehensive way forward. Instead, the “solution” will be a long slog of two steps forward and one step back.

    Finally, let’s get out of the realm of theory and into the realm of actual examples. Discussing actual examples reduces the risk of talking past one another at the theoretical level. Two of my favorites are Zappos! (Delivering Happiness) and Southwest Airlines (the Southwest Way) . IMO, both exemplify my approach of motivating people over modeling them. What would be actual examples of companies exemplify your approach?

  12. Nick Gall says:

    Adrian,

    I agree that an architect’s primary motivational job is to motivate stakeholders to embrace his or her architectural approach. That’s the kind of motivation in play in the Boston Globe article on the architects/urban planners battling over the hearts and minds of stakeholders, which I mentioned earlier in this thread.

    Secondarily, an enterprise architect is responsible for generating an architecture that includes, accommodates, and encourages that right kind of motivations in the human organizational structure that results. One can imagine an organizational structure, shaped by an enterprise architect, that either enhances Dan Pink’s motivational criteria (autonomy, mastery, and purpose) or interferes with them. It IS the responsibility of the architect to shape an organizational structure (an architecture) that facilitates people motivating people.

  13. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Vinny Carpenter, oesia. oesia said: "Motivating people is more important than modeling them" http://bit.ly/gzMwc3 […]

  14. The organization architecture, the 3rd architecture tier of an EA as I call it, is invaluable, since it brings all enterprise stakeholders around the table.
    In practice though, when I suggested slight adjustments to the chart to align the organization and EA, the feedback was less than thrilling. After all, we are all hired to serve IT.

    Nevertheless, my new Kindle EA book, illustrates organization design and EA alignment criteria. The point is that when you compare the organization chart with the enterprise blueprint you will observe differences that could be ironed out.

    I realise though that an organization works poorly if mechanically partitioned, without taking into account its soul, the human culture, relationships and motivation, as pointed out.

    As an architect I enable as such the EA, by adding to the framework a social architecture point of view that permits the description of the collaboration and communication patterns that once anaysed and acted upon, may enhance the usage of enterprise human resources in conjunction with technology.

    http://www.enterprise-architecture-matters.co.uk

  15. @Nick: “But what good is an amazing model and a wonderful proposal if in the end, the stakeholders who must buy into it…don’t?”

    You are confusing modelling people and relationships in order to create a pull from stakeholders with modelling other things and proposing solutions that you need stakeholders to buy into.

    Part of changing an enterprise for the better is to first understand it. This is what modelling is used for.

    Most people talk about modelling the structure of the enterprise from the point of view of the usual POLDAT, Zachman structures.

    I am not talking here about those models. I am talking about the models which capture the culture; relationships between people, their drivers, motivations, etc, etc. which therefore allow us to understand, analyse and figure out what to change and how to effect that change.

    This is architecture, its just that not many people realise (yet) that a very big part of the architecture of the enterprise is the culture – relationships between people, their drivers, motivations, etc, etc.

    If you want to change anything you first need to understand it. Not only so that you can find the “solution” but also so you know what to change (and what not to change) and the impacts of those changes.

    The problem is that humans (especially ones driven by the constant cry of “low hanging fruit” and “quick wins”) always concentrate on the easy stuff (modelling business processes, organisational structures, applications and technology etc etc) and fudge over or pay lip service to the difficult stuff. The thing is, the “difficult stuff” is what (true) EA has always been about .

    You ask “Isn’t the more fundamental problem one of motivating people?”

    I believe that you are correct the problem is that people are not motivated correctly.

    Therefore, we need to motivate people better

    Therefore, we need to change things.

    Therefore, we need to understand the people and what motivates them

    Therefore we need to model them.

    In order to achieve that goal, in Tom’s words “our models of people need to be greatly improved.”

    To change culture you need to understand it. To understand it you first have to model it.

    Changing anything without understanding it and it’s relationships to other things is akin to disarming a bomb by cutting any wire without first figuring out what the wires connect to…The skill is not cutting the wire, but knowing which wire to cut. Knowing which wire to cut only comes from modelling the bomb. I use a bomb analogy because if you try to change the culture of an organisation without first understanding (modelling) it you can literally blow up the entire enterprise.

  16. […] they have selected and have a good vision of which components would be better written from scratcMotivating people is more important than modeling them – The primary goal is to find ways to give people enough autonomy, mastery, and purpose to […]



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