>Groupthink and Enterprise Architecture

>Groupthink is a type of thought exhibited by group members who try to minimize conflict and reach consensus without critically testing, analyzing, and evaluating [alternate] ideas. A variety of motives for groupthink exist, such as a desire to avoid being seen as foolish, or a desire to avoid embarrassing or angering other members of the group. Groupthink may cause groups to make hasty, irrational decisions. (Adapted from Wikipedia)

Why is the concept of groupthink important?

If the enterprise allows conditions to flourish where groupthink tends to occur, then poor decision are made and these decisions may have disastrous consequences for the organization. Some examples of this are the following:

– Space Shuttle Challenger exploded because of the faulty o-rings, which engineers discovered prior to launch.

– The Bay of Pigs Invasion, which was a flawed plan, but which Kennedy’s advisors remained mum about.

Social psychologist Clark McCauley’s identifies three conditions, under which groupthink tends to occur:

  • Directive leadership
  • Homogeneity of members’ social background and ideology
  • Isolation of the group from outside sources of information and analysis

User-centric EA can be a valuable tool for thwarting groupthink and improving decision making in the organization in the following ways:

  • Consensus-driven: User-centric EA is consensus driven, not directive. Input from subject matter experts is not only desired, but also is required and strongly encouraged at all phases. While the chief architect does provide structure and direction, the architecture must reflect the expertise of the business and technical experts. Thus, the architecture, plans, and governance for the enterprise are driven by accord and not any autocratic process.
  • Diversity: EA is a diverse discipline, which by definition spans multiple business and technical domains. EA is an example to the organization of how variety of thought and expertise, as well as individual and cultural diversity is valued and necessary for the organization to grow and mature.
  • Idea-friendly: EA looks at both internal and external factors affecting the organization. These are inputs to the EA process, which integrates and assimilates the information, analyzes and catalogues it, and serves it up as information products and governance services to the end-users. EA is a prime source for bringing in external inputs, best practices, and innovations and using this to drive the plans for the enterprise. This is especially relevant in terms of identifying new technology products and standards, new IT systems, and new and improved business processes.

EA is the antithesis of groupthink and should spark creativity and “next generation” thinking in the organization. In User-centric EA, there are no stupid questions—it’s only stupid not to ask, not to challenge the status quo, and not to raise viable alternatives.

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