Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Consensus, Leadership and Agility

Many organisations in The Netherlands are culturally consensus based, which means there's often no clear leadership, management is often seen as purely facilitating and everybody more or less goes his or her own way. It's basically the way we (the Dutch) are.

Leadership is resisted. The boss says 'Let's do this my way', and there's bound to be a lively discussion about 'better' ways to do it. Everybody (boss included) accepts this as normal behaviour.

One of the hard parts of applying architecture in such a culture is to get everybody following the strategy as it is set out in the Enterprise Architecture. How are you going to do that if leadership is resisted? What happens? A lot of architectural implementations fail due to resistance from projects.

The introduction of Agile development has increased this problem. An often heard complaint is that too much upfront architecture is a form of over-specification, which is waste in agile terms. That's true, but the argument is too often used to totally ignore architecture and just focus on the user stories for this sprint. This can result in well working applications, which do not quite fit in the strategic direction of the company. Talking about waste ...

I'm not quite sure where the solution to this problem is. One way is to define architecture in such a way that there's something in it for everybody, not just for 'the business' or 'the architect'. Another way is to evangelize, to become a thought leader within the company. Not to push the architecture through, but to convince, stimulate and enthuse all participants.

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