>You Can Lead a Horse to Water

>When we architect change, we have to build in the transition plan for how to get from point A to point B. The problem with most enterprise architectures though is that they begin and end with the equivalent of “Thou Shalt” and never does the architecture deal with the behavioral elements of how to actually motivate people and organizations to change the way we plan/want them to.

Maybe that’s one reason why architectures so often remain shelfware and never actually get implemented.

This is reminiscent of the adage, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink” or can you?

With the Obama administration elected on a platform of change and major problems facing our nation in terms of the economy, healthcare, the environment, and so on, we are seeing the government confront the dilemma of how do we get the change we promised?

Time Magazine, 2 April 2009 has an interesting article “How Obama is using the Science of Change.”

The administration is using it [behavioral science] to try to transform the country. Because when you know what makes people tick, it’s a lot easier to help them change.”

Similarly, this knowledge can help enterprise architects effect change in their organizations. It’s not enough to just put a plan to paper—that’s a long way from effecting meaningful and lasting change.

So here are some tips that I adapted from the article:

  • Bottom-up or Top Down: We can mandate change from the top or we can grow change from grass-roots. If we can do both, the change is swifter and more likely to succeed.
  • Carrot and Stick: Change is not easy and usually will not happen without a nudge—we need help. We need to motivate desired change and disincentive obstinate clinging to failed status quo behaviors that are hurting the mission and long term success of the organization.
  • Make change clear and simple: Explain to people why a change is important and necessary. “In general, we’re ignorant, shortsighted, and biased toward the status quo…we procrastinate. Our impulsive ids overwhelm our logical superegos.” So change has got to be clearly articulated, easy to understand, and simple for people to act on. “Cheap is alluring; easy can be irresistible.”
  • Accept that change is painful: We need to keep our eye on the goal, and then accept that we have to work hard to achieve it. President Obama “urges us to snap out of denial, to accept that we’re in for some prolonged discomfort but not to wallow in it, to focus on our values.”
  • The way of the herd: When implementing change initiatives, we need to build community “creating a sense that we’re all in this together.” “We’re a herdlike species….when we think we’re out of step with our peers, the part of our brain that registers pain shifts into overdrive.”
  • Keep the focus on long-term success: Weight the benefits of long-term planning and change to short term status quo and gratification; constantly remind people that most worthwhile organizational goals are a marathon and not a sprint. But together, we can support each other and achieve anything.

With behavioral science principles like these, we can make enterprise architecture transition plans truly actionable by the organization.

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