Whilst I’m busy working on the latest article in the series “How do I become an Enterprise Architect?”, I thought I’d re-post an article I wrote on LinkedIn earlier this year. I felt compelled to write it after watching practitioners exhibit a what I believe to be a very damaging behaviour within their business environments.
Here’s the article in full:
I’m sure you’ve heard the joke:
Question: What do you call a group of Architects?
Answer: An Argument of Architects!
I’m also sure you’ve seen that behaviour. I know I have, and sadly I’ve been a willing participant more times than I care to admit.
But there’s another tendency within the architecture ranks, that led me to coin the phrase “An Arrogance of Architects”. I suspect you’ve come across this behaviour too…
Whilst this could be put down to a simple character trait of a subset of individuals, I think it deserves a little more discussion. What makes this type of behaviour appear on such a regular basis?
One thing we know is that architects, particularly Enterprise Architects and Solution Architects, are often called upon to take a leadership position within projects and similar change-focused activity. This can be challenging when there are a variety of interests and concerns within a group (not to mention established power-bases). As a result, a “judgement call” sometimes needs to be made, which can be counter to other people’s beliefs, needs or opinions.
When these decisions are made, they can often be done in a dismissive way (or at least without adequate explanation), which I feel contributes to the perception of arrogance. Repeated over time, perhaps this can become the “normal” behaviour for that individual. In saying this, we should make a distinction between arrogance and confidence. An architect must have confidence in their decisions, but that confidence should be based on knowledge and understanding.
For those with an interest in mathematics, here’s a slightly irreverent formula (apologies to Professor Einstein) to explain the point, using Arrogance’s close cousin, Ego.
Consider this scenario. You, as the architect, have called together a number of people to discuss how a change should be made. You may have a broader responsibility than any given individual in the room, but you know less than that individual about the subject that has led them to be there. In other words, they are the expert, you are the coordinator/aggregator. This should guide your behaviour, and highlights an incredibly important skill for an architect. Listening!
Times of change, which is very much a constant in the professional lives of architects, can be unsettling for the other individuals involved. This brings with it a range of human behaviours and emotions. I’ve spoken a number of times about the importance of empathy in such circumstances. Whilst you, as the architect, may have a broader accountability (e.g. realising a significant component of the organisation’s strategy), the concerns, needs and perspectives of the individual are still incredibly important. This is the human side of the corporate environment. After all, the “enterprises” we so often refer to are in fact a human pursuit, driven and enabled by people.
Of course, I’m aware of the tinge of arrogance that goes with even writing a post such as this. The irony is certainly not lost, but without the ability share our thoughts and perspectives, I believe we limit our ability to grow. I learn every day, and so much of that is from the countless mistakes I make each and every day. I look forward to hearing where you feel I’m wrong with my thinking, and learning from your perspective.
My only regret is that my life will never be long enough to learn all that I want to know. A sad situation, but nonetheless, a wonderful journey.
So what do you think? Am I being a little harsh on my fellow practitioners, or is this a behaviour that needs to be curtailed? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the Comments section below.
Don’t forget, we also want to know the subjects that are causing you professional pain. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll select one for a future advice column. The EA Practice Advisor team is here to help!