I have, on occasion, been asked to spend time with an Enterprise Architecture team to help that team improve their maturity. It’s a great opportunity for me to learn, and share, and work with some of the smartest people on earth: Enterprise Architects. Coming off of an excellent experience in Europe, I’d like to share some reflections. I won’t name my client company to save them from any possible embarrassment.
This was a rather unusual case for me. Typically, I’d do fairly simple things. I may review and evaluate some activities, train folks for a day on methods, or perform a maturity analysis and provide a report out. While each of these require expertise, none are particularly dynamic. Nothing that would really push me to learn and adapt. Not so this time.
In this case, an EA team, made up of mature, experienced architects, was being challenged by an hard-driving CIO to “climb the ladder” into a strategic role, and do it quickly. Since the team was distributed around the world, climbing that ladder (which is already difficult to do) was made all the more challenging by the limitations of communication at a distance. Each of the architects were peers, which meant consensus and a shared vision were critical. They needed to accelerate their progress.
First, to be blunt, I’m not new at this. I’ve conducted trainings and workshops in a wide array of places to a wide array of teams. I’ve attended dozens of EA trainings and workshops. I hold two EA certifications (and will soon have a third). But this particular engagement was challenging. It was challenging because the objectives were clear, ambitious, and very specific. Due to the singular vision of one particular architect (who reads this blog… yes, I mean you, PH), I had a very clear set of marching orders: accelerate the team towards impactful and relevant business architecture.
We held a series of exercises over two very full days in a beautiful country inn in Germany. In each session, I provided some concepts and some practical tips from my own experience, followed by an exercise that got the group out of their chairs and collaborating in teams. Over the course of those two days, the team decided, for itself,
- what kind of Enterprise Architecture team they wanted to be,
- what their vision and goals were,
- what their specific enablers needed to be,
- and developed four alternative candidate roadmaps to deliver on their goals.
Along the way, we discussed and practiced skills in business architecture, stakeholder relevance, alignment, and roadmap creation. In the follow-up day, we worked to create visual stories that can be used to “tell the story” of their transformation to their many stakeholders.
Honestly, that’s a hard road. In a typical EA team, that amount of work takes weeks on a fast track. I didn’t have weeks. I had two days. So I had to dig deep. Working from every one of the experiences I’ve had in Enterprise Architecture, and thining back on every workshop or seminars I’ve ever conducted or attended, I pulled together an approach that left very little room for deviation from those goals. We worked HARD, and I can honestly say that I learned as much from this team as they learned from me. I am so honored to have had the opportunity to work with them, and I honestly hope to have another opportunity someday.
What, you might ask, would the trainer learn from a training session? Not much, if I were a trainer and if this were a training session. But I’m not and this wasn’t. I’m an architect and architecture manager. I’m an execution and alignment expert. This was a team of mature, thoughtful, and expert architects, each with over two decades of architecture experience. No, this was no training. This was guided empowerment.
When you work with people who are, in all rights, your peers, and you work to create something that you know is magnificently difficult to do, and you succeed, you learn. I certainly did. I deepened my respect for the talent and experience of passionate and empowered men and women. I broadened my skills of consensus and execution under constraint. I built unique connections upon the ideas and efforts of so many before me who generously gave their time and talent to help me to grow.
There are ways through the difficult and challenging obstacles that can make life difficult for business and enterprise architects. There are solutions. There are options. There are opportunities. It takes focus, dedication and passion to bring them to light. I was richly fortunate to have a chance to work with such a strong, vocal, and passionate team of people.
To sum this experience up, I’d like to share my recollection of the words of one of the attendees. At the closing, we spoke in turn about what we learned during the workshop and what we wanted to say to end it. One attendee shared this:
When I came to this workshop, to be honest, my expectations were very low. I had no faith that business architecture could achieve the goals that were being set for it. I just didn’t see it. Now, after these two days, I can see it. I feel like I learned 20 years of experience in two days. Thank you.
You are welcome.