Architectural Agency

Recently one my clients, Mike Rehorst with Northwestern Mutual, sent me this link to a TED presentation by well-known architect (in the building sense) Joshua Prince-Ramus:

During the first 8 minutes or so, the presenter makes a number of excellent points about how architects have abdicated their power to act. (He actually calls us cowards.) The rest of the presentation is an amazing example of what happens when architects take the responsibility to make their creations come to life. As with most TED videos, it is well worth the 18 minutes it takes to watch it.

Mike and I had been talking about the role of architecture and how architects respond to their organizational context. For many architects there is a big divide between representation and what Prince-Ramus calls agency – taking action. Too often we create “genius sketches” but accept little accountability for making them real. We expect the organization to embrace them and do the “easy” work of implementation. I’ve got news for you. Creating the architecture – those genius sketches – is the easy part. Getting the organization to embrace them and make them its own is the hard part. Of course we know that; we just don’t act on the knowledge.

By way of example: I occasionally recommend to architects that they need a small team of developers to implement some parts of architecture like an ESB or SOA components. I get the “we’re architects man, we don’t do that” response. Well ... maybe we should. Maybe we should “own the problem” instead of pointing our finger at others

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Autonomy, Mastery & Purpose: Motivation For Your IT Staff

A recent email got my attention. It highlighted a blog post on the MIT Technology Review website about a video from RSA Animate (copied below) illustrating a lecture by Dan Pink (@danielpink on Twitter): "The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us," based on his book of the same name.

What got my attention? We need to stop rewarding with a carrot and threatening with a stick. The video highlights multiple research findings that suggest knowledge workers are more motivated by autonomy, mastery and purpose than by financial reward. Pink suggests that financial incentives may actually have a detrimental impact on performance under certain circumstances.  (The research suggests money is a motivator for purely mechanical tasks but as soon as some level of cognitive processing is required to complete the task, money is secondary to other factors.)

I have to say this was a little hard to swallow at first. But then I almost missed a key point: this is only true when minimum financial rewards are met, i.e. when employees are paid a large enough base salary, financial incentives to deliver high performance may be detrimental when compared to other motivators such as the desire for: autonomy, mastery of skills, and a sense of purpose.

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People Don’t Buy What You Do, They Buy WHY You Do It

Two days ago I created a blog post entitled, "Leadership And Self-Deception And Social Media." In it, I suggested that the thing that separates success from mediocrity "isn’t how we do what we do, but who we are as we do it ... What determines how a brand’s actions create or destroy rapport (in social media) isn’t just what it does -- there is no magic social media 'to do' checklist -- but who the brand is and what it stands for."

Today I had the good fortune to spend 18 minutes with a wonderful TED presentation by Simon Sinek, author of "Start With Why," which shares Sinek's theory of effective leadership. His words are quite inspiring, and the ideas he conveys are so similar to the ones I included in my last blog post that I wanted to share this thoughtful video with you.

Sinek has studied great leaders and notes "All the great and inspiring leaders ... think, act and communicate the exact same way." That's a pretty bold statement, and he illustrates it using companies such as Apple and people including Martin Luther King and the Wright brothers. He notes that great leaders don't work from the outside in but from the inside out -- they start with Why and not What. 

And what does this mean to marketers? Sinek contends (quite convincingly) that great brands do the same. In the end, "People don't buy what you do; people buy why you do it." 

I hope I whetted your appetite to spend 18 minutes with this terrific TED Talk:

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Put Your IT Staff Through Sales Training

I was recently asked about the importance of selling skills for CIOs - does a CIO need to be a good salesperson? It seems to me the answer to this should be a resounding yes. After all, IT executives need to be able to sell themselves effectively in order to attain the heights of the C-Suite. Great CIOs must be great communicators, capable of delivering a compelling presentation or a memorable speech, and inspiring others to follow them.

But what of sales skills beyond being a good presenter? Since many sales skills are focused on understanding people and connecting with them, I've found sales training to be highly effective on two levels:

  • Developing better listening skills. One of the first things you learn as a salesperson is not how to make a pitch, but how to listen to a customer - only by listening can a good salesperson effectively satisfy the needs of a prospect/customer.
  • Understanding how products/services meet the customer needs. Salespeople spend a lot of time learning about a firm's products and services; they learn how they meet the various customer needs and they learn how to present them in the best light.
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