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Three Rules for Change

by Jeff Scott, on Nov 6, 2017 9:24:00 AM

Customer-Service-Officer.jpgThe business architect’s core role is to help his or her organization change. We might do this in a variety of ways from analyzing the application portfolio to designing and managing the strategy-to-execution process and a lot of things in between. However we approach facilitating change, there are three core elements we have to get right.


Identify the REAL problem. In many of the consulting engagements I participate in, the client is focused on a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself. Symptoms are the pain created when we encounter a problem, but they are not the actual problem itself. Complex problems manifest themselves in a variety of ways often creating symptoms that are hard to connect to the core issue. Fixing symptoms is a little like playing whack-a-mole. When we “fix” one symptom another pops up to take its place. Unfortunately, symptoms are often presented as the problem. Relieving the symptom doesn’t solve the problem – it just hides it for a while. The first question we should be asking ourselves in any new engagement is: “Are we solving the right problem?”


Ensure the problem will stay solved. Solving complex problems requires addressing the entire landscape of context and situation. Ignore either of these elements and the problem you are trying to solve is likely to return.
The context creates the environment for problems to grow and is largely a given. Context includes things like organizational structure, management style, funding mechanics, innovation approach, and culture. Context elements in well-led companies resonate, creating a situation where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In less well-run companies, context elements work against each other creating an organization where the whole is considerably less than the sum of its parts.

The situation fuels the problem. The situation is more directly linked to the problem than the context. Problems don’t just spring out of thin air. There is an underlying situation that is creating or contributing to the problem. When staring a problem in the face it often seems illogical. But there is a reason it exists - a very logical reason. Once you understand why the problem exists it will make perfect sense and solving it will become much easier.

Changes in context require transformational work or at the very least a large disruptive adjustment such as a top management shakeup. And it takes time. Unless you are solving a strategic problem with a long runway you must craft a solution that can succeed within and often despite of the context. The challenge is to develop a crystal-clear understanding of the context so you can leverage and/or mitigate its effect. The situation component is more malleable. The situation can often be modified by changing out one of the players, adjusting a process, or revising a policy.


Identify the BEST solution for the problem. Once we have an accurate definition of the problem and the context surrounding it, we need to ensure we are identifying the best solution. Business architects (and even most business leaders) jump to technology based solutions before exploring other alternatives. This is only natural as most of us came from technology. But often the best, fastest, and least expensive solution is found elsewhere. In places like people, processes, culture, organizational design, or management style. So regardless of what we are trying to do, we should explore the simplest solutions first.

The bottom line:_____________________________________________________________________________________

Solving problems so they stay solved requires a deep understanding of the problem and the surrounding context that sustains it. Make sure you are solving the right problem, the right way.

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