You can smell it in the air.  When a good idea’s time has come, many people will start working on it, almost spontaneously.  That’s what happens when smart people have the right to make choices and decisions.  Good things happen.

This happens at Microsoft.  More often that I can explain.  Not everyone sees it.  Not everyone knows where to look, but I’ve seen it… more than once.

I’ve seen an idea just ‘arrive,’ get tested, and fall away.  If the idea is a good one, it comes back and comes back and comes back until more and more people start to BELIEVE in it.  The idea takes over.  After a while, no one can remember what it was like before that idea was reality.  This was the way it was before code analysis tools appeared.  The idea appeared and was tried many times: automatically search code for defects and weak practices (think LINT on steroids).  After a while, it caught on, and now, a decade later, I can’t find anyone who remembers what it was like to write a major product without code analysis tools.

Yes, in a healthy culture of innovation, a good idea will keep coming back. 

However, when the time comes, if your team has a role to play, jump in.  Don’t hang out and wait to see if the idea was any good.  If you fail to take the lead, others will take it away from you.

Case in point: Enterprise Architecture is a fairly new thing in Microsoft IT. While there have been architects for a long time, the current model, where architects actually have a say in large projects and can direct the adoption of expensive but valuable infrastructure… this is relatively new.  Shortly after EA started to get their traction, one of the embedded architects started to form an Architectural Review Board (ARB) in his area.  He backed off because he didn’t have the governance support, but the idea was right.

Now, other folks want to create Architectural Review Boards.  The idea has arrived.  It is time for the Enterprise ARB to take shape.  It is time to develop the decision rights, processes, and pro forma models that produce value by creating and enforcing excellence in architecture.

Now is the time for EA to step in and take a leadership role in creating these boards.  If we don’t, the project management team will.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  Our PM team is staffed with very smart birds.  But it is our leadership that is needed.  If we fail to act, the board that they create could be weak and potentially ineffective.  Or worse, it could make decisions that aren’t architecturally sound or based on principles.

As they say, timing is everything.  It is time to lead.

By Nick Malik

Former CIO and present Strategic Architect, Nick Malik is a Seattle based business and technology advisor with over 30 years of professional experience in management, systems, and technology. He is the co-author of the influential paper "Perspectives on Enterprise Architecture" with Dr. Brian Cameron that effectively defined modern Enterprise Architecture practices, and he is frequent speaker at public gatherings on Enterprise Architecture and related topics. He coauthored a book on Visual Storytelling with Martin Sykes and Mark West titled "Stories That Move Mountains".

4 thoughts on “If you don't lead, others will”

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