Discovering Business Architecture Through Work & Play

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I have two children, a boy and a girl, both under 10 years old, and we often play games together. It’s an extra treat for me since I am also fascinated by the mental processes that people go through when they perform certain activities. Nowhere is this more evident than in children and their learning and problem solving abilities. It’s fascinating to coach them through a problem and see how they deal with the complexities before them. The key area I personally enjoy is being able to introduce guidance points for them in a contextualised manner, being very careful to give them enough challenges, information, mentoring and coaching to be able to solve a problem, but also not too much as to overwhelm them. In other words, talk them through the motivational aspects of the game that are relevant for them at that point in time, each time feeding them additional information on a need to know basis to help them contextualise further.

The game I often like to play with them, we affectionately call the Bear Grylls exploration game. What it entails is an activity where we traverse the house from one side to the other without touching the floor. The aim is to use whatever assets we can lay our hands on to move the three of us to our end goal, with the ever present incentive of a chocolate ice cream or some or other tantalising motivator being used as the carrot.

Now I have used the Bear Grylls exploration game to run a few “scenarios” with my kids. One of these entails allowing either my nine year old son or my six year old daughter to lead. The leader gets the responsibility of understanding the visionary and strategic aspects, whilst the follower gets the responsibility of the tactical aspects. You guessed it, a business motivation model for kids, from vision right down to the tactics. What’s interesting in this exercise is the different responses I get from my two children. My daughter is highly tactical, she prefers only looking a short distance ahead and understanding how to take the next step, preferring to live for the here and now and not concern herself for the future challenges half way down the hall. My son on the other hand is much more strategic in his thinking and prefers to understand the entire route and challenge so he can develop a mental roadmap of the journey. Sometimes, however, his tactical choices to achieve these goals are questionable – “son, you can’t stand on the dog’s back”.  I have tried a few scenarios of swapping their roles around and have had some interesting results, one of which is that strategic thinking can indeed be taught, it’s not a “birth right”.

Perhaps my most interesting scenario, and the one most relevant to this discussion is when I neglect to give my son and daughter any form of motivation model, but allow them instead to trundle along with only a vision statement of sorts.  This is equivalent to management trying to motivate staff without having given them a well thought out and structured motivation model. For certain individuals like my son, he is comfortable with this and chooses a fail fast style of journey. My daughter on the other hand is not comfortable with this and loses confidence. Instead choosing to simply tag along behind her brother and just accept instructions from him, thereby not adding the value that she could to the adventure, and herself not enjoying the journey. In this type of situation I find that 3 hours of playtime evaporates very quickly into very little productivity and often just a lot of delays and confusion. Does this sound familiar?

The purpose I am trying to demonstrate here is that one of the key pillars of the business architecture discipline is to have an understanding of the motivational aspects of the business and then to look for the means to help you achieve these. This is done through understanding what capabilities are at your disposal and how you can best mix them to achieve the desired outcomes. The problem in most organisations is that the motivation is either insufficiently communicated, or incorrectly contextualised to individuals, divisions, projects and vendors. This has a cascading effect within your organisation and commonly results in duplication, overlaps and wasted effort resulting in a loss of coherency. Therefore one of the first places to start with in the business architecture discipline is to have a consistent framework for the capture, presentation and communication of business motivation within the organisation.

This will go a long way in stopping fragmentation occurring within the planning disciplines of your organisation. An added advantage is that it also allows you to move the fragmentation issues away from the normal home of strategic planning, and into the business architecture space. It is here that you can now manage them more effectively since you now have control of this domain, and its within your area of influence.

So with that in mind – go forth and play.