Is Beer A Color?

So thought this was an interestingly funny flip chart. 

It’s titled “Colors”.

And it has the typical ones you’d expect: blue, red, green, yellow, orange, purple, black, white, grey, brown, and tan. 

But thrown into the mix is beer (and Summer)–maybe these go together! 

Perhaps, someone had a little too much beer when asked about colors.

On second thought, maybe beer is a color.  😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Montel Williams’ EA Wisdom


Amazed to see this posting on Facebook by Montel Williams.

This hits the bulls eye with what enterprise architecture–both organizationally and personally–is all about. 

Love it, and thank you for sharing this Montel! 

(Source Photo: Facebook December 11, 2012)

Toward A User-Centric Government

My new article in Government Executive is out today. Called “Too Big To Succeed”–the article talks about the importance of simplifying and organizing large, complex organizations, such as government, to achieve transformational and valuable change. The article is anchored in the Law of Diminishing Returns and the Law of Large Numbers.Although the article doesn’t use the term user-centric government, this is exactly the point and continuously driving forward with advanced technologies can help us make the leap. Hope you enjoy reading! Andy

>Organizational Blues and Enterprise Architecture


Organizations are like people, they have ups and downs. They have a beginning and an end (even as they transition or morph into something else). And somewhere in the middle or in numerous little points along the way, the organization/person experiences questioning, doubts, reevaluation or mere generally speaking, “the blues.”

The Wall Street Journal, 2-3 February 2008, has an editorial that describes “a massive American-British study of some two million souls throughout 80 counties confirming, empirically, that middle age immiserates us all without regard to income, culture, gender, marital status, or previous experience.”

The study demonstrates the “mood swing of life” with a “U-curve, in which mental stability and happiness bottoms out in our 40s and into our 50s. We then get more cheerful as we round the curve into the final stretch.”

What happens in mid-life crisis?

“Mid-life is a time when the mirage of life’s perfectibility and symmetry, as envisioned in one’s youth, come back to trouble you like a conscience…one might call it a last chance at happiness, or of “getting it right…the last opportunity to shape your fate before you have to accept it; a phase when you are suddenly taunted by the lives unlived.”

Not only people, but organizations go through mid-life crisis:

The stock market swoon of company’s stocks (representing their market values) is one gauge of their oft meteoric rise and death-defying falls. Just some recent examples of companies in the news today: Technology titans, Microsoft with an intraday low of $0.80 in 1986 and a high of $53.97 in 1999, and Yahoo $0.65 in 1996 and $125.031 in 2000, and both are slightly above or below $30 today. Another example, Starbucks has been off nearly 50% in the past year.

The rise and fall of enterprises is a reflection of their even changing environment. Life is not status quo. We are all tested, all the time. It is how we respond to those tests that determine where we go next.

How do we respond?

Some people respond to mid-life crisis by changing themselves, their jobs, careers, and even partners (some opt for the flashy red convertible sport car deluxe!). People are trying to remake themselves—for better or worse. Organizations do the same thing; they seek transformation, reengineering, and strategic change, and hence they undertake initiatives like Six Sigma, Total Quality Management, The Baldridge Award, Kaizen, and other varied change management endeavors (even enterprise architecture to an extent). We as people and organizations look in the mirror and realize that we cannot continue as we are if we are to survive and thrive to fight another day.

>Zen and Enterprise Architecture

>Zen believes in the transience of everything in this world and seeks enlightenment or an understanding of the way of the world for its followers.

The Book of Zen, by Eric Chaline, states that “nothing we can see, hear, or touch in the world has any permanent existence. It will of necessity, pass away.” This is the concept of “emptiness.”

Emptiness means that “all forms or appearances in the universe” are constantly changing and transient. For example, a simple chair was once “a piece of wood from a tree.” And over time, the “wear and tear on the chair will change its appearance and structure: losing some of its wood and gaining deposits of dirt. In time, the chair will break, and the wood will decay, rot, and finally fall to dust.”

This is similar to how the Torah/Bible describes the lifecycle of mankind, “for dust thou art and unto dust shall thou return.” We are simply passing through this world.

Similarly, in the Jewish high holy day prayers of Yom Kippur, we recognize and contrast G-d’s kingship and everlasting permanence with the earthly transient world of mankind which is likened to “a broken shard, withering grass, a fading flower, a passing shade, a dissipating cloud, a blowing wind, flying dust, and a fleeting dream.” The point here is not to bemoan our mortality, but to rejoice in G-d’s eternalness.

Like in Judaism, Zen and other religions and belief systems, User-centric EA seeks to understand the “as-is” nature of things, in this case, the organization, and it seeks to reconcile the “emptiness” and transiency of the current state with the necessity for adaptation and metamorphosis to its future state. EA recognizes that the way things are today and not the way they will be tomorrow; all factors inside an organization as well as the external factors affecting the organization are constantly in a state of flux. Therefore, the state of the organization is temporary and the organization must adapt or die. EA seeks organizational change and transformation through the development of a new “to-be” state along with a transition plan to get there.

In that sense, EA is a form of enlightenment for the organization and its transformation to a new state of being.

>Organizational Change Means Letting Go


In the book the “Tao of Leadership” by John Heider, he discusses “the paradox of letting go.” He states, When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be…by yielding, I endure…when I feel most destroyed, I am about to grow…let go in order to achieve.”

From a User-centric Enterprise Architecture approach, I think this is very applicable to developing, communicating, and achieving consensus on a target architecture and transition plan for the organization: for the enterprise to accept a new target architecture and a plan for change, the leadership, stakeholders, and all the rank-and-file, must be ready to “let go” of the as-is state.

If we forever hold on and embrace the way things are today, avoid any sort of risk-taking, and fear change, then we will never be able to achieve what could be. But rather, by being open to change, we free ourselves of the bounds and limitations of the here and now.

Often, I hear users in the organization say things like, “we’ve done it this way forever,” or “you don’t understand how we do things around here,” or “we’ve already tried changing to [fill-in-the-blank], and it’s never worked (i.e. we’ve never really been open to changing anything). These are exactly the kinds of things people say when they’re comfortable in their status quo; when they’ve been around for 20-25-even 30 years and don’t want or see any reason to change anything.

The world is a far different place today than it was 20-30 years ago or even 3-5 years ago, but people are risk averse, afraid of change or of losing some of their power, turf, or comfort, and they cling to what they believe are strategies that worked in the past and that they mistakenly believe will continue work in the present and forever.

This is the paradox of letting go that Heider talks about—when I let go of what I am (the as-is state of being), I become what I might be (the target state of being)!” Put another way, for an organization to progress, mature, and grow, it has got to be open to change. And finally, this openness to change has got to be more than just a dictate from the top or “lip service” from the rank and file. Change is hard, and to really succeed, everyone has got to be on board.