>Storytelling and Enterprise Architecture

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Part of being a good leader is having a clear vision and the ability to articulate it.

Harvard Business Review, December 2007, reports that “the ability to articulate your story or that of your company is crucial in almost every phase of enterprise management.”

How do leaders use story-telling?

“A great salesperson knows how to tell a story in which the product is the hero. A successful line manager can rally the team to extraordinary efforts through a story that shows how short-term sacrifice leads to long-term success. An effective CEO uses an emotional narrative about the company’s mission to attract investors and partners, to set lofty goals, and to inspire employees.”

Here are some key lessons on how to tell the organization’s story:

  • Action-oriented—“for the leader, storytelling is action oriented—a force for turning dreams into goals and then into results.”
  • Instructional—“many think it is purely about entertainment, but the use of story is not only to delight, but to instruct and lead.”
  • Truth—storytelling is not about spinning yarns, but rather must be truthful and authentic.
  • Heartfelt—“our minds are relatively open, but we guard our hearts with zeal…so although the mind may be part of your target, the heart is the bulls-eye.”
  • A worthwhile journey—“a promise that the listeners’ expectation once aroused, will be fulfilled.”
  • A managed journey—“a great story is never fully predictable through foresight—but it’s projectable through hindsight.”
  • Personalize it for the listener—“everyone wants to be the star, or at least to feel that the story is talking to or about him personally.”
  • Tailor the story—“a great storyteller never tells a story the same way twice…tailor it to the situation [and the audience].”
  • Prepare and improvise—“sheer repetition and practice it brings is one key to great storytelling…at the same time the great storyteller is flexible enough to drop the script and improvise.”

“State-of-the-art technology is a great tool for capturing and transmitting words, images, and ideas, but the power of storytelling resides most fundamentally in ‘state-of-the-heart’ technology.

The enterprise architect must use story telling effectively—the chief architect captures information, analyzes it, and uses this information to tell the corporate story. The architect connects the business and technical dots of the enterprise, identifies the impetus for change, articulates the issues and proposed solutions, builds readiness and consensus, and drives business processes improvement, reengineering, and the introduction of new technologies to enable mission success. The architect must be able to engage listeners intellectually and emotionally to “motivate, sell, inspire, engage, and lead.” The chief enterprise architect must be able to win the hearts and minds of the people across the organization. Architecture is not an ivory-tower exercise and should not develop useless shelfware, but rather the enterprise architecture needs to tell a coherent, useful, and useable story that decision-makers can understand and act upon.

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