Five Types of Bad Chief Architect Characters – We Have The Whole List!

By Håkan Edvinsson and Peter Tallungs

We have looked at some of the extreme personality types of chief architects to provide some hints on how to deal with them. Below is a list of five Enterprise Architecture characters we have unfortunately encountered in the real world with a few tips on how these characters can be managed.

The Technical Solution Architect

Is this the chief technology officer (CTO) with a title change? The technical solution architect is the CTO with the eternal technology focus. This person is no more interested in information quality stored in the systems, than a plumber on a shunt-conference is interested in challenges around clean fresh water.

Risk: The business needs are not met. Too many repetitions of the development projects since the last (untested) tool should preferably be used.

Strategy: Make sure to get the debate on business value for each new initiative. Go with the client on the most critical business needs to be resolved with risk-free methods and techniques. Clarify what is “good-enough” and go no further, but also accept that experimentation workshops are needed.

The Choleric

“The important thing is not the results, it is listening to me. Debate is a competition and that I win is more important than your content is right. We are a team that I lead and my PowerPoint slides rule.” The Choleric has zero tolerance for criticism –they may very well have a background in sports.

Risk: Creativity is hampered and initiatives are slowed down.

Strategy: This person is probably good as a manager in a highly competitive situation, but perhaps not in architecture. The architects who succeed around the Choleric can be forced to develop two personalities: one who likes certainty and swallows pride to survive in the architecture team, and the other that does what is needed and constantly has to think about accountability.

Is this situation too hard? Change the job to not go under.

The Flying High

The Flying High architect might give the impression of being a philosophical and thoughtful. It takes time to any get response at all from this person. But it is a person who very well may take in lots of information and the bookshelves are filled with the great thinkers. When an answer finally arrives it hits a bit above most people’s heads. Critics do not bite.

Risk: Can kill the architectural concept of the organization because it is difficult to understand and does not lead to anything.

Strategy: Be the complementary pragmatics. Search for any practical use in the high flying ideas – there is almost always something useful that you can become an interpreter of. Even in a bushy framework there are treasures that can form principles for daily work.

The Detailer

The Detailer is considered to be on the safe side of the organization and at least one manager away from the CIO. This person wants solutions to be almost perfect –they see detailed obstacles, take criticism personally and this person is invaluable in the right contexts – such are unfortunately rare.

Risk: Architecture work slows rather than enables. The architects are constantly rounded because they are just awkward.

Strategy: The trick is to get a detailer in the right context to make clear its core issue there because there are sometimes matters of detail which are the most essential. The detailer should normally not be prolonged as chief architect.

The solution for this person is to get a specialized role where it really requires going to the bottom. The solution for you is to become the complement working on a higher level of abstraction and work with the possibilities.
The Methodist

The Methodist is the architect that is completely sold on everything that the method he/she has been certified in. The method is quite adequate, sufficient and suited for any application. Can always respond to criticism of the method – any other criticism falls on the side.

Risk: The stakeholder stop listening because everyone knows what the answer will be – what the method says.

Strategy: Do not participate in the method debate. Instead stretch the limits of this universal method, and do what is needed.

What type are you?

Are you the same as any of the above types? If you are, then you probably do not have a problem with just her or him – but maybe with all the other people around you.

Common to these types is that they are not on the job for the right reasons. Probably it’s mostly about themselves and their own interests even if they do not realize it themselves.

It is easy to note that there are good and bad leaders in all professions. Architects not exempt from it. The problems arise when the Enterprise Architecture is questioned and will put it in connection with the chief architect’s personality. It becomes the brand of the Enterprise Architecture.

Your best choice is to get a clear personal brand in your organization and to provide a better alternative than the above types –perhaps in line with the more desirable chief architect.

The Desirable

The Desirable is an architect that does not use a method from book, but rather calls on common sense and experience. For example, reasoning that “the projects we have planned over the next year will face the same problem. Let us deal with it first and hand over that platform to the projects. They do, after all, do not want to focus on that. Then we ensure that what is common will not fall through the cracks, or the wrong seat.”

Reward: The desirable is pragmatic while simultaneously setting his sights high. Recognizes sensible criticism, listen and trust the members of the architectural team.

Written by Håkan Edvinsson and Peter Tallungs

Translated and adapted by Mats Gejnevall

Originally published on trendspaning.se 

4 Comments

Filed under Enterprise Architecture

4 responses to “Five Types of Bad Chief Architect Characters – We Have The Whole List!

  1. Hello Hakan and Peter, this is E.G.Nadhan, Distinguished Technologist and HP Cloud Advisor from HP Enterprise Services.
    Really interesting post where you have called out fascinating analogies to the personality types of various types of architects.
    Guess that mind-set of the Chief Architect is likely to have a strong impact on the types of applications built out within the enterprise.
    Do such applications inherit their personalities?
    I wonder.

    Please check out this post on Applities (Application Personalities) http://bit.ly/vVccbN and let me know what you think.

    Twitter: @NadhanAtHP

  2. Indeed they do. These five bad guys are not really successful in their roles so a quick look at the system landscape will most likely indicate a great range of shortcomings (too many, gaps and overlaps, contradictions, etc). And yes, I think it is a correlation here between what kind of fails you find, and the character of the chief architect.

    This article is unfortunately based on living examples and they all have one thing in common: they are usually not measured on their EA work, and never measured on the value of EA works – the effect that you should gain from it.

  3. Hi Hakim, Peter and Nadhan,

    I agree that the whole architecture program will reflect the character of the Chief Architect. I like how a colleague of mine, Badar Munir, elaborated on desirable personality attributes of a Chief Architect:

    http://sysaffairs.org/channels/enterprise-architecture/5-who-should-be-chief-enterprise-architect.html

    I am only not sure how to include talent in these discussions. In my opinion, talent is necessary. Can you really teach common sense? Can you teach someone to be an EA Chief Architect unless the he or she was born with the talent?

  4. The subject of personality can be a very complex one, whether that of a Chief Architect or any other professional. As people grow in their fields, their relationships with themselves, systems, organisations and people are usually a reflection of their values. If the Chief Architect puts the organisation first, s/he will probably learn and imbibe the best behavior that will bring about success in all projects even though most humans are not perfect. Talent and nurture can be combined for better results.