In my last post, I laid out the first three steps in creating a people centric architecture: 1. creating a rationalized organizational chart, 2. Creating a function model, and 3. Mapping the function model to the capability model (and the value stream model, if you have one). What you have at this point is a strong connection between people, the functions they perform, and the capabilities they need to perform them. Unfortunately, this is the easy part.
If you need people to do what they do more efficiently, these three elements are most likely all you need. You can now set about creating the capabilities the organization needs to improve its performance. If, however, you need people to change what they do, or significantly change how they do their work, you need to know more. People do not work in a vacuum. Their environment also plays a significant role in their willingness to change.
Change is a form of risk taking. The safe path is to do what has brought you success in the past. To do something different, even in the face of overwhelming data that you should, is to increase risk. And what has brought success in the past? Working within the organizational context and cultural boundaries. These factors influence people (and by the way, that means you too) much more than you think. The result is that architects continue to create models and process that “should” work, but don’t because they bounce up against a context and culture that architects and other change leaders don’t understand.
Step 4 – Identify structural context elements
Structural context is the context designed into organizations. It largely describes things like span of control, decision-making authority, and distribution of resources. Organizational members typically have a common interpretation of the structural context but the effects can be difficult to understand because it often reflects what organizational leaders say they want – not necessarily what they are actually producing. For example, a compensation system that rewards only individual behavior often leads to internal competition. The competition might be thought of as part of the cultural context but in fact, it is designed in. Some structural elements are:
Organizational design – The overall design of the organization says a lot about how management thinks about span of control, importance of the various business units and functions, and who they want working together.
Incentive systems – Incentive plans directly reflect what is important to management. If leaders see collaboration as a key to success they will incentivize it. If they see competition as key, then they will incentivize that.
Budget mechanisms – How money is distributed plays a large role in what things get done as well as how they get done. This is particularly true for funding discretionary projects which almost all change projects are.
Step 5 – Identify management context elements
While structural context describes the context that has been designed into the organization through the organizational design, incentive systems, and financial mechanics, the management context is created by what the management team (usually the executives and senior manages) say and do. As with structural context, the actual results may not align with intent, but the intent is important to recognize. A few of the items I would put in the management context category are:
Corporate values - Many senior management teams develop a set of “corporate values”. This might be a list or a simple statement like “our employees are our most valuable asset.” Management may or may not demonstrate their stated values and employees may or may not believe them. Either way, they are part of the management context.
Accessibility - Senior managers explicitly or implicitly set the parameters for communicating with them. Some have an open-door policy that says anyone at any level can see them any time. Others make it clear that you can only get an audience through your management chain. Other avenues are emails, suggestion boxes, town halls etc.
Openness - Openness refers to management’s position to sharing information with the larger organization. Most often, this is information regarding strategy, finances, or the future of the company but can include other items of interest to employees.
Leadership - Leadership reflects to the senior management team’s ability (in aggregate) to go beyond managing and truly lead the organization.
The bottom line: ________________________________________________________________
Understanding context isn’t so much about modeling as it is about identifying and illuminating the environment you work in. Business architects are so attached to building models they often lose sight of what they are trying to do – create more understanding and insight that helps move change initiatives forward.