//The concept of the “Nearest Common Manager” in Enterprise Architecture

The concept of the “Nearest Common Manager” in Enterprise Architecture

I’m going to share a secret.  Something that no one talks about, but is critical to understand if you are to be an effective Enterprise Architect.  Are you ready?

People do what you pay them to do.

What a letdown.  Everyone knows that, right?

But we don’t talk about it because it is an assumption of every day work.  Those assumptions drive a great deal of behavior in an enterprise.  In Enterprise Architecture, we must think about the assumptions, because assumptions can stop progress without anyone realizing it.  Assumptions can impede communications.  Assumptions can cause good behaviors to be punished and bad behaviors to be rewarded.

So let’s look at this assumption a little more closely.  Who pays you?  Well, the guy or gal who can fire you if you don’t perform, that’s the person who pays you.  So, if your manager says “run every decision past me,” you are going to run every decision past the boss.  You are doing what you are paid to do.

This creates a hierarchy in an organization that is persistent and rather absolute, especially if you can be blamed.  No one will defy their manager’s manager.  On the flip side, if you are an individual contributor, you have no idea if you are doing what the CEO wants.  Only your manager tells you what to do.

How does this affect Enterprise Architecture?

EA’s are often called to work “across silos” or to collaborate with different groups.  There is no single manager that everyone in your “virtual team” reports to.  You cannot go to a single manager and ask him or her to support your efforts.

One concept that you should be aware of is the “Nearest Common Manager.”  This is the lowest ranked person that everyone on your virtual team ultimately reports to.  In many companies where I have worked, the nearest common manager is the CEO.

The thing that you should be aware of: whoever the nearest common manager (NCM) is, someone who is in communication with the NCM has to have your back… someone who the NCM knows and trusts has to know what you are up to, and has to agree with it.

When you hear the term “executive support,” this is what we mean.  Someone who can provide the air-cover that you will need with the nearest common manager.

 

By |2016-12-16T10:05:24+00:00December 16th, 2016|Enterprise Architecture|1 Comment

About the Author:

President of Vanguard EA, an Enterprise Architecture consulting firm in Seattle focused on the Pacific coast of the US. Nick has 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".

One Comment

  1. Terri Wolfrom January 4, 2017 at 9:01 pm - Reply

    Great post, Nick… and more complicated than it seems. In a matrix organization, it can be difficult to identify the NCM. Sometimes you are working with people who don’t even have a common objective, let alone a common manager. The NCM concept is worth some serious thought. Thanks for sharing it!

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