Just recently I learned that a client’s CIO leadership team began a detailed and substantive discussion on EA principles, the implications they carry for their organization, and how they can use them to transform their journey into the future. I don’t see this as often as I’d like. While gaining that level of leadership engagement in the creation and use of EA principles has long been a desired outcome, it is still somewhat rare. In this case, it was a combination of good luck, good timing, and a skilled Chief Architect who was able to keep principles visible and to broker the discussion with leadership. There is a lesson to be learned here.
With common sense as a significant part of a good set of EA principles, it is easy for a leadership team to write them off as “a statement of the obvious” and not pay much attention. As enterprise architects, our goal must be to make principles relevant. The approach is for us to demonstrate how they are used in practice and to show that they are more than a collection of catchy phrases.
For each principle individually, and for the set as a whole, it is important to be able to explain them in real-world terms. This means choosing principles that guide desired behaviors and explain their rationale and implications in a form that leaders can relate to, with an emphasis on how they affect decision-making at all levels.
Unfortunately, I see many examples of principles that don’t gain traction. When that happens, EA principles have little value. When I diagnose the situation I often see that a lot of energy was consumed in creating the perfect written words, with less energy committed to bringing the principles to life.
A few tips: Always be sure to include rationale and implications, but don’t worry so much about making them perfect, just strive to make them good enough. Invest the extra energy in bringing them to life in four ways:
- Ensure that ALL members of the core and extended EA teams understand what the principles really mean and how they are used
- Be sure to actively and visibly reference the principles in the process of creating future state EA content
- Refer to the principles and use them as a test in ALL solution architecture and coaching work
- Carry the principles with you in discussions with leadership at every opportunity
By using the principles every day, their value will eventually be self-evident and leadership teams will recognize them as a helpful tool in their management arsenal.