Genius Consultants–Yes or No?

Genius Consultants--Yes or No?

A lot of people think that the McKinsey’s of this world are the business geniuses.

You hire McKinsey, Bain, or The Boston Consulting Group when you need to address big organizational problems–frequently those that involve broad reorganizations, massive cutbacks, reformulation of strategy, and culture makeovers.

According to Bloomberg Businessweek in a book review of The Firm, the notion is that these consulting big boys come in to “teach you how to do whatever you do better than you do it–and certainly better than your competition does it.”

The question is can consultants really do it better than those who do it everyday, or perhaps an objective 3rd party is exactly what is needed to break broken paradigms and set things straight.

These global consultants are usually generalists–who specialize in “rational thinking and blunt talk.”

It’s like going to an organizational shrink to have someone listen to your crazy sh*t and tell it back to you the way it out to be–and then guide you with some behavioral interventions (i.e. the recommendations).

What’s interesting also is that these consulting firms hire the “A” kids right out of school–so they are inexperienced, but bright-eyed and bushy-tailed ready with their idealistic thinking to tell you how things ought to be done–the question is do they have enough fundamentals under their belts and genuine solid thinking in a real setting to make sense to your business.

Probably the best thing is that these graduates can think out of the box and for an organization that needs to make a leap forward, these newbies can cut through the clutter and give your organizational a fresh start.

One of the problems pointed out is that with these consultant companies, it’s heads they win and tails you lose–if their ideas pan out, it’s to their credit–and if it doesn’t, well you implemented poorly.

Basically consultants are not magicians, but they do listen to your organizations tales of woes, put the pieces together, and tell you what you told them…many times, it’s basically validation of what people already know–but now it’s coming from “the experts”–so it must be true.

Another problem of course is whether their recommendations become more shelfware, collecting dust, or whether the organization can actually make the difficult choices and changes…or perhaps, there is another consulting firm that assists with that? 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

>Federal Computer Week – Discussion of ITIL and EA

>Services listed under ITIL and enterprise architecture models are
different in nature, said Andy Blumenthal, chief technology officer at
the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, who did not
speak on behalf of the agency.

“When we talk about services in an EA context, we refer to those that
are used for mission and business purposes,” he said. “In contrast,
ITIL-type services are underlying support functions to the customer,
such as problem identification and resolution. An example of an EA
service versus an ITIL service would be a document management solution
versus a help desk or network management function.”

“Traditionally, architecture efforts have been notorious for being an
ivory-tower effort that results in shelfware,” Blumenthal said. ITIL
proponents also tend to be squirreled away in data centers and not
inclined to consult with architects.

A cultural shift is necessary, Blumenthal said. Enterprise architects
in particular must become more user-oriented if they’re going to stay
relevant in a changing technology environment, he added.

To read the entire article go to:
http://fcw.com/articles/2009/12/07/comparing-ea-and-itil.aspx

>Are Organizational Values Valuable?

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Many organizations have a value statement that identifies what traits are most important to them.

Organizational values are similar to an enterprise architecture in that the organizational values identify a type of target state for organization members to strive for and adhere to.

The purpose of value statements is to guide people’s behaviors, decisions, and interactions.

For example, one police department that I looked up has value statements around the traits of integrity, pride, service, and fairness. A city that I found had value statements for passion for community, integrity in work, and results through collaboration. A non-profit organization had values of leadership, integrity, excellence, and impact.

As you read the value statements they give you a sense of the organization in terms of who they are, or actually more like what they believe in.

But do they really—i.e. are organizational value statements something that people in the organization are aware of, understand, can locate, recite, or summarize, and moreover, are the values actually used to guide behavior?

Or are these value statements written by leadership, human resources, or some strategic planning function in the organization as an ivory tower effort, and then published in the organization’s glossy annual plan and/or on their website, but never really communicated with or adopted by the people in the rank and file?

The question is not posed in order to be cynical, but to genuinely ask: are organizational value statements “true values” or are they more marketing and branding glitz?

With few exceptions, I would challenge most to identify whether their organization even has a value statement, let alone what it is. Moreover, the last time, they thought of and considered the organizational values in making a decision or taking an action.

Then why do organizations have value statements?

Perhaps, organizations intuitively or through management best practices know that they need to have values, because they are genuinely important. Just like as individuals we have personal values (be they religious or otherwise) that “tell” us who we as human being are and guide our behaviors, so too as organizations, we need to identify the values that will be our “moral compass” and define our organizational identity.

The problem though comes when organizational values are developed as a “project”—a time bound task or “to do” for someone or some committee who researched it, developed it, and got approval on it; but not managed as a “program”—an ongoing endeavor and commitment to create awareness, educate, and even enforce the values through performance rewards and recognition.

Moreover, culture and peer pressure are vey powerful forces that drive employee behavior, whether they consciously are aware of it or not. So many values are indeed employed in day-to-day interactions, but they may not be explicit and they may not be the same values that are actually in the organization’s value statement. That is because the informal network and implicit values may actually be more prominent and powerful in driving people’s behaviors that the formal and documented one in the organization.

The key is for leaders to genuinely commit to the values and their use across the organization. The leaders need to provide for the values to be widely communicated (on wall hangings, pocket cards, employee reference guides, Intranet and so on) and they need to be referred to in periodic communications (speeches, announcements, broadcasts, meetings, etc.). They need to be living, breathing values that touch people daily (and obviate the implicit and unsanctioned ones).

Further, leaders need not only talk about the values, but also they need to exemplify them. In other words, leaders need to practice what they preach and lead by example using the values to drive decisions and actions in a way that is transparent to all.

What I learned when I developed user-centric enterprise architecture is that any ivory-tower exercises or development of organizational shelfware is by definition a failure, and therefore we need to treat all of our strategic planning and management functions as a real-world effort.

If we could do that with both EA and organizational values, it would be great to integrate them and use them to drive an explicit target state for both the performance and the business perspectives, as well as a human capital perspective of the architecture.

>Enterprise Architecture Plans that Stick

>I read a great little book today called Made to stick by Chip and Dan Heath about “Why some ideas survive and others die.”

As I read this, I was thinking how very applicable this was to User-centric Enterprise Architecture in terms of making architecture products and plans that stick—i.e. they have a real impact and value to the organization and are not just another ivory tower effort and ultimately destined as shelfware.

The Heath brothers give some interesting examples of stories that stick.

Example #1: A man is given a drink at the bar by a beautiful lady that is laced with drugs and he finds himself waking up in a bathtub on ice with a note that tell him not to move and to call 911—he has been the victim of a kidney heist and is in desperate need of medical attention.

Example #2: Children Halloween candy is found tampered with and there is a scare in the community. The image of the razorblade in the apple is poignant and profoundly changes people’s perception of and trust in their neighbors.

Now, you may have heard of these stories already and they probably strike a deep chord inside everyone who hears them. Well, surprise—neither story is true. Yet, they have lasting power with people and are remembered and retold for years and years. Why do they stick, while other stories and ideas never even make it off the ground?

Here are the six necessities to make ideas have lasting, meaningful impact and how they relate to enterprise architecture:

Simplicity—drilldown to essential core ideas; be a master of exclusion; come up with one sentence that is so profound that an individual could spend a lifetime learning to follow it. In enterprise architecture, keep information products and plans straightforward and on point.

Unexpectedness—violate people’s expectations; surprise them, grab people’s attention; I call this the shock factor. In architecture, we can use principles of communication and design (for example identify critical relationships in the information) to garner people’s attention, and help them come away with actionable messages.

Concreteness—use concrete images to ensure our idea will mean the same thing to everyone. In enterprise architecture, we can use information visualization to make information and ideas more concrete for the users (i.e. “a picture is worth a thousand words.”)

Credibility—promote ideas in ways that they can be tested, so that they are credible to the audience. An example is when Reagan was running for president and he asked Are you better off today than 4 years ago. This brought the message home and made it credible with voters in ways that pure numbers and statistics could not. For architects, the roadmap provided to the enterprise must be credible—it must have the level of detail, accuracy, comprehensiveness, and currency to garner acceptance.

Emotions–make your audience feel something; people feel things for people not for abstractions. In architecture and planning, we need to inspire and motivate people in the organization effectively influence, shape, and guide change. Remember, there is a natural resistance to change, so we need to appeal to people intellectually and also emotionally.

Stories—tell stories that are rich and provide for an enduring mental catalogue that can be recalled for critical situations in later life. Often, architects create isolated products of information that describe desired performance outcomes, business processes, information flows, systems, and technology products and standards; however, unless these are woven together to tell a cohesive story for the decision makers, the siloed information will not be near as effective as it can be.

These six principles spell out SUCCES, and they can be adeptly used successfully by enterprise architects to hone information and planning products that enable better decisions. These are the types of architectures that stick (and do not stink) and are truly actionable and valuable to the organization.

>Ask the User and Enterprise Architecture

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The best way to find out what the end-user wants is to ask them.

The Wall Street Journal, 25 January 2008 reports on Ask.com that “Ask Searches for Answer to Luring New Users.”

Since 2006, Ask.com spent $140 million to Google’s $34 million on advertising between Jan. 2006 and September 2007, yet Google’s market share of the internet search business stands at 58.4% to Ask’s 4.3%, and “Ask’s market share hasn’t grown in the past couple of years, while Google’s…has seen its dominance increase.

Google is beating Ask based on “superior technology and word of mouth,” so the advertising is a moot point.

Jim Safka, the new head of Ask says that to understand the discrepancy, “the first step is figuring out who uses Ask today and what they use it for. We are not going to take wild swings.”

Apparently, Ask took some wild swings in the past without asking their users and ended up getting rid of the “Jeeves” from their original name Ask Jeeves.Com and getting rid of the “friendly butler designed to answer any question user posed him.”

Ask also goofed on a number of marketing campaigns which didn’t resonate with end-users, like “one campaign named ‘Use Tools, Feel Human’ [that] featured a primate [who] evolves into a human by using Ask.com.”

While “Ask’s market share continues to weaken,” Mr. Safka says that “Consumes are smart. If you look at the data and listen to them, the answer ends up being obvious.”

From a User-centric EA perspective, it is critical to ask the user what they want and understand their needs. One of the principles of User-centric EA is that we are focused on developing useful and usable products and services for the end-user; we do not build any information products that do not have a clear end-user and use. In contrast, traditional EA is often user blind and as a result develops “artifacts” that are difficult to understand and apply. Like Ask.com is learning, if you don’t understand your user’s needs, you end up with a lot of shelfware—whether it’s EA or search engines.