>Organizational Blues and Enterprise Architecture

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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.

>“Sacred Cows” and Enterprise Architecture

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Enterprise architecture develops the organization’s baseline and target architecture and transition plan. EA is an endeavor of change and transformation from current state to future state. To achieve organizational change successfully, the “sacred cows” must be made change-ready.

In the book, Sacred Cows Make The Best Burgers, by Kriegel and Brandt, the authors explain that the greatest inhibitor to organizational change is people’s resistance—people are the gatekeepers of change and people are the enterprise’s most stubborn of sacred cows!

“Sacred Cow—An outmoded belief, assumption, practice, policy, system, or strategy generally invisible, that inhibits change and prevents responsiveness to new opportunities.”

What’s with this analogy to cows?

“Cows trample creative, innovative thinking. They inhibit quick response to change, and cost money and time. They roam everywhere…yet many organizations continue to worship their sacred cattle. They’re afraid to abandon what once made them successful, and they extract a heavy fine from those cow hunters who would ‘pasteur-ize’ them.”

What’s the imperative for change now?

“It’s hurricane season for American business. Winds of change are barreling in from all directions. Competition is tougher than ever and coming from places you least expected. The customer is more sophisticated and demanding. Technological change is incessant. Government regulations are tougher. And everyone is restructuring, reorganizing, reinventing, downsizing, outsourcing—all at ultrasonic pace.”

What are we doing about it?

“New programs, processes, and strategies have been introduced to help you keep ahead of these changes and eliminate sacred cows. In fact, they’re emerging almost as fast as the changes themselves…reengineering, total quality, virtual teams, ‘horizontal’ corporate structures…”

What are the results of these change efforts?

  • “Though it’s predicted that U.S corporations will spend $34 billion on reengineering, most efforts will flop.”
  • “Some statistics say seven out of ten reengineering initiatives fail.”
  • A McKinsey study found that “a majority of companies researched achieved less than a 5 percent change due to reengineering.”
  • Two-thirds of American managers think TQM has failed in their companies.”
  • “The number of applicants vying for the Malcolm Baldridge Award…has fallen since its peak year in 1991.”

In short, “The ’Q’ [quality] word has become cheap currency.”

Why do these change efforts fail?

  • “People’s resistance to change is ‘the most perplexing, annoying, distressing, and confusing part’ of reengineering.”
  • People resist change because “change is uncomfortable, unpredictable, and often seems unsafe. It’s fraught with uncertainty and always looks harder than it is….change brings us face-to-face with the unknown, and that evokes our worst imagined fears: We’ll be fired, humiliated, criticized. So we dig in our heels.”
  • “We’ve seen workers fight change for months and years because they didn’t understand it, were afraid of it, or didn’t see it being in their self interest. It’s naïve to assume that the bulk of the workforce will come around. Even when resistance seems to disappear, most often it’s just gone underground, and will resurface when you least expect it.”
  • “Management consultants who deal with companies in transition know that the ‘people’ part of change is critical. And that it is most often overlooked and undervalued.

The reason that three fourths of reengineering efforts fail…is that the focus of change is on work processes, new technology…and decentralized services rather than on the people who must implement change.”

From a User-centric EA perspective, this last point is critical. Enterprise architecture efforts, by definition, are focused on business, technology, and the alignment of the two. EA looks at business process improvement and reengineering and the introduction of new technologies to enable mission success. Traditionally, EA did not look at the human element—the people factor. The necessity of measuring people’s change readiness and assisting people in transitioning to new ways of doing things is one of the most important elements of any change initiative. As I’ve written previously, Human Capital is the missing performance reference model in the Federal Enterprise Architecture. All this points to the importance of transitioning from traditional EA to User-centric EA, where the end-users and stakeholders (i.e. people) are the most important element of the enterprise architecture. How would my kids phrase this, “in the end it’s not the business process or the technology, but the people, stupid!”

What happens if we don’t recognize the centrality of people to the change process?

Plain and simple, change efforts will continue to fail. Money and time will be wasted. Our competition will continue to gain on us and overtake us. Our organizations will be made obsolete by our own inattention to our most important asset—our people!

>Six Sigma and Enterprise Architecture

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Six Sigma is a set of practices originally developed by Motorola to systematically improve processes by eliminating defects. A defect is defined as nonconformity of a product or service to its specifications.

While the particulars of the methodology were originally formulated by Bill Smith at Motorola in 1986, Six Sigma was heavily inspired by six preceding decades of quality improvement methodologies such as quality control, TQM, and Zero Defects. Like its predecessors, Six Sigma asserts the following:

  • Continuous efforts to reduce variation in process outputs is key to business success
  • Manufacturing and business processes can be measured, analyzed, improved and controlled
  • Succeeding at achieving sustained quality improvement requires commitment from the entire organization, particularly from top-level management

The term “Six Sigma” refers to the ability of highly capable processes to produce output within specification. In particular, processes that operate with six sigma quality produce at defect levels below 3.4 defects per (one) million opportunities (DPMO). Six Sigma’s implicit goal is to improve all processes to that level of quality or better.

Six Sigma is a registered service mark and trademark of Motorola, Inc. Motorola has reported over US$17 billion in savings from Six Sigma as of 2006. (Wikipedia).

Is Enterprise Architecture another offshoot of Six Sigma, Total Quality Management, Kaizen, and so on or is it different?

First what are the similarities between EA and Six Sigma?

  1. Business process improvement—both seek to improve business processes to enhance efficiency and effectiveness and improve enterprise “quality”.
  2. Performance measurement— both believe in measuring and managing results of operations and in driving toward improved performance and mission execution.
  3. Alignment to strategy—both seek to align outputs to strategic goals

What are the differences between EA and Six Sigma?

  1. Technology versus design Focus—EA focuses on technology enhancing business performance; Six Sigma emphasizes design for defect-free performance (or zero defects).
  2. Use of Information for improved decision-making versus process optimization—EA captures business and technical information to improve IT planning, governance, and decision-making (such as new IT investments); while Six Sigma captures and measures information on performance to optimize business processes.
  3. Information- versus industrial-based economy—EA aligns technology solutions with the information requirements of the business and its foundation is in the information economy; while Six Sigma’s defect-free processes are based on an industrial, engineering, and product-based economy.
  4. Information-centric versus process centric initiative—EA is an information-centric initiative that addresses information requirements, information technology solutions, information security, information access, information archival, information privacy, information sharing, and so on; Six Sigma is a process-centric initiative that addresses process inputs, outputs, controls, and mechanisms and works through process definition, measurement, analysis, improvement, and control (DMAIC).

So EA and Six Sigma share some important facets such as business process improvement, performance measurement, and alignment to strategy; however, EA is an information-centric initiative geared toward the information age, as such it takes Six Sigma into the 21st century.