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Enterprise Architects and Politics in the Organization
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Politics, with a small “p” exist in every organization. There are good politics and times to use them and there are bad politics and ways to deal with them. Enterprise Architects will inevitably run into bad politics and must first know how to recognize them and then be armed with tactics for addressing them.


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Enterprise Architects and Politics in the Organization

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Enterprise Architects and Politics in the Organization

by Allen Brown Interim CEO, AEA


Politics, with a small “p” exist in every organization.  There are good politics and times to use them and there are bad politics and ways to deal with them.  Enterprise Architects will inevitably run into bad politics and must first know how to recognize them and then be armed with tactics for addressing them.  Simply taking a logical approach to stakeholder analysis will not reveal the hidden agendas and just because something seems to be common sense may not turn out to be that common.

Good politics are probably a familiar tool to most enterprise architects for gaining stakeholder buy-in and consensus.  Tactics such as “corridor or water cooler conversations”, provide an informal setting that creates an opportunity for reaching agreement. “One-to-one” meetings meanwhile, are an opportunity to look the stakeholder in the eye and make sure that they know that you are concerned with their needs. This, combined with follow-up notes seeking confirmation that you have captured these concerns correctly provide an opportunity for the stakeholder to correct what they may have said or that you misunderstood.  For larger groups with divergent needs, tactics such as taking things “off-line”, holding pre-meetings with individuals and providing opportunities for them all to “build” on early drafts can all be employed when needed.

The challenge with bad politics is that they come in many forms and are often difficult to recognize.  When the person you are meeting with tells you that someone, “further up the chain” either likes or dislikes a particular need, requirement or option, are they being helpful?  Or are they simply trying to coerce you for their own departmental or personal benefit? 

Then there are errors of omission.  What if you were not told about something or not advised to consult a particular person about an issue?  Was that an oversight or deliberate?  If it was deliberate, was the objective to slow you down, discredit the process or provide the opportunity for an 11th hour hero to come along and save the day?

There are of course the basic level politics that go on, such as not copying people with information, so that they cannot comment; or cc’ing the world in order to shame or coerce someone; or taking the credit for someone else’s ideas but these are fairly easy to spot.

And there is the person that you really need to talk with who is opposed to the project or its direction or the fact that they are not leading it. They are “so overworked”, or “overstretched” and cannot possibly find time to meet with you. If you’re lucky, they are late to arrive at meetings and rushed to leave, or cancel or postpone at the last minute.  Such a person is also likely to be an exponent of the tactic of remaining deliberately uninformed, so as to be blameless if anything does go wrong.

There are of course many other tactics in bad politics and I am not going into all of them but my least favorite of all is the person who brings up every reason not to do something.  Sometimes, these people are genuine: that is all that they can see.  At other times though, it is a tactic for either delaying the project until they are ready or derailing it completely.  The things we come across in this area range from what I would call “creative risk analysis” to “I would like to help but…”.

Being aware of the tactics of bad politics is half of the battle.  Being able to work around them or in spite of them is the other half.  One of the challenges is that you don’t always know what you don’t know.  In the words of Donald Rumsfeld there are known unknowns and there are unknown unknowns.  How do you know that someone has omitted to tell you something important?  You don’t.  How do I discover or rather trip over them?  By pulling together a picture of what I know, boiling it down to its simplest form and sharing it widely, asking for improvement points.  In most cases, someone will delight in telling you what you are missing.  And you must be delighted that they have told you.

The person who is rushed off his feet or the one who is concerned about someone “further up the chain” are best dealt with by “Good politics”.  Talk to people in corridors who might know whether the perceived concern of the more senior figure is genuine: preferably the person himself.  I have done this on stairways and many other places – not mentionable here – but you have to be very, very careful and very, very succinct in what you say. 

Building allies in the organization who you can trust through the use of good politics, is critical to consistently delivering success. And remember the first rule of Enterprise Architecture …. It is an iterative process.

By The Open Group

Allen was previously President & CEO of The Open Group beginning in 1998.  Prior to joining The Open Group in 1984, he held a range of senior financial and general management roles both within his own consulting firm, which he founded in 1987, and other multi-national organizations.

Allen is TOGAF® 9 certified, an MBA alumnus of the London Business School and a Fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants.

Tags:  EA  enterprise architect  enterprise architecture profession 

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