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We do what you say we will do – Integrity By Architecture

We do what you say we will do – Integrity By Architecture

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One of the chief complaints of senior executives in midsize and large companies is that their organizations don’t “execute” on the goals that they set.  This concern is so common, it’s the butt of jokes.  Entire systems of governance and measurement are created specifically to provide assurance to senior execs so that they can maintain some level of public integrity.  Yet, when Enterprise Architects describe their roles to their peers, it is surprisingly rare to hear them talk about this issue.  That is a mistake.  Let’s talk about how to tell the story of Enterprise Architecture as the maintainer of executive integrity.

In 2003, when Motorola sent their CEO Chris Galvin packing, USA Today wrote about what a “good guy” he was:

He turned out to be a lackluster CEO, which, sadly, often seems to be the case when good guys land in the corner office. Friday, Motorola said Galvin would resign. Motorola under Galvin had suffered through six years of disappointing results, laid off one-third of its workforce, failed hugely on new ventures like Iridium, and waited for turnarounds that never happened. The board apparently had had enough; Galvin thought he'd better leave.

I have to say I feel bad for Galvin. Of course, I wasn't a Motorola shareholder who watched the stock go from $60 (split-adjusted) in 2000 to about $11 last week. Nor am I a laid-off Motorola employee. And yes, Galvin was paid handsomely: $2.8 million in salary and bonus last year.

Did Galvin fail, or did Motorola fail to execute on Galvin’s strategy?  The board of Motorola, and the board of any company, won’t see a difference.  Note that this story has happened over and over in high-tech, from Steve Ballmer to Michael Dell, usually without the board firing their CEO.  Far from being limited to high-tech, stories abound of retailers (Best Buy), manufacturers (General Motors), and financial services companies (too many to name) that have suffered through strategies that failed to pay off.

Here’s what stockholders see: you said “X” would happen and it didn’t.  You lied. 

From their perspective, the CEO loses credibility for lack of integrity.

Integrity is a personality trait and a virtue.  A person has integrity when they can be trusted to perform exactly as they said that they would perform.  In other words, they “do what they said they would do.”  This person makes a commitment and keeps it.  This means that they make commitments that they are fairly sure that they CAN keep, and they don’t forget the commitments that they made.  In every high-performing team that I’ve been a part of, each member had a high level of integrity.  Integrity is key to developing trust.  If you do what you say you will do, people will trust you.

Executives need to develop trust just as much as individual contributors do.   For private for-profit organizations, those stakeholders own stock, and purchase the goods and services of the company.  For public organizations, those stakeholders are voters and legislators.  Where an individual contributor must earn the trust of his manager and his or her peers, an executive is in a very visible position.  They have to build trust daily. 

Building that trust requires that they make bold pronouncements about the things that the organization will do under their leadership… and then their organization has to perform those activities.  And that’s a key difference.  When an individual contributor says “I will do this,” they are talking about their own performance.  Rarely are individual contributors held accountable for failures of the people that they cannot control.  Executives, on the other hand, are not talking about their personal performance.  They are talking about the performance of the many (often hundreds, sometimes thousands) of people under them. 

An executive doesn’t actually “control” the people under him.  He or she must lead them.  Sure, there can be an occasional “public hanging” (as Jack Welsh used to encourage), but, for the most part, the executive’s ability to speak with integrity comes from the trust he has in his organization to perform.  In other words, how will with “they” correctly do what “I” said they would do?

Enterprise Architecture is a keeper of executive integrity

Enterprise Architecture is the only profession (that I know of) that is focused on making sure that the strategy announced by an executive actually comes to pass.  Enterprise Architects exist to make sure that the needed programs are created, and executed well, keeping in mind the end goals all along the way.  EA’s go where angels fear to tread: to execute strategies and produce the desired results if they can be produced. 

If you value executive integrity, EA is an investment worth making.

  • Nick,

    You might be interested to read about "Deliverology", which is "... a systematic process though which public sector leaders can drive progress and deliver results." (www.deliveryinstitute.org/delivery-approach).  Not sure what the people who do this call themselves, and it's not clear whether it works, but it's about the same problem: making sure that the strategy announced by an executive actually comes to pass.

  • Hi Martin,

    For a nonprofit organization trying to impact 50 different educational systems, they don't share much information for free.  Even the book that describes the basic method is $45.  

    looks to me like an organization set up to sell things.  In my world, we call those "retailers" or "consulting agencies."

    the bits I can see look like a good basic beginning to EA.

  • Hi Nick,

    I think two of the biggest missing aspects are the concepts of related outcomes and benefits.  

    When people set goals they tend to not consider what their ideal outcomes would be.  So what happens if we actually achieved all these goals and how will we track the delivery of these?

    EA enables us show how our design choices are aligned with the various  outcomes and specific benefits.  

    Full traceability is achieved through relationships to the objectives and various goals.

    Ideally there should also be a benefit to the end customer, which seems to be afterthought too in most organisations :-)

  • If I understand your comment correctly, Mike, you are stating that one more value proposition for EA is not just to bring the goals to fruition, but to validate that the measures of success, once achieved, will ACTUALLY produce the correct response.  

    In other words, improving the strategies, goals, and measures themselves, not just the act of achieving them.

    If that is what you meant, then I completely agree.  That said, the original argument of the post is unchanged: that we can describe EA as a mechanism for Executive integrity.  Once a promise is made, it should be kept.  Before the promise is made, we can tweak the promise to make it more achievable.

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