The single hardest thing to get a
person to do, is think.

If you can get a person to think, the next most difficult thing to get them to do is change.

Therefore, if you want people to change,
don’t ask them to think.

My father used to tell me, “You have two choices: getting someone to think, or getting someone to change.  Asking for both is asking for the moon.”  My father had a good bit of experience with both… he was a college professor.  A good one at that.

Of course, a college professor can consider himself successful if he gets someone to think.  Not so much for an Enterprise Architect.  We have to be able to go either way.  Sometimes, it is the job of an EA to get someone to think.  Other times, it is our job to get someone to change.

Thinking is tough.  If you show a business leader that a particular counter-intuitive action is a direct result of their own strategies, they will have to think about it… or just trust you.  That is the advantage of being a trusted advisor.  If the business leader trusts you, he can take the easy way out.  He won’t have to think, because you’ve shown him that you can be trusted. 

Change is tough.  In many organizations, Enterprise Architecture is not well integrated into normal planning and alignment processes.  You may have to ask people to perform tasks in a different order or to use a different set of inputs than they are used to.  You are asking them to change. 

The key here is not to also ask them to think.  Plan out the steps and walk them through those steps.  Show them how to do the “new” work.  Help them to understand why the “new” work is more valuable than the old work through any of a dozen different techniques (reference wins, emotional appeal, hope, common values, support for shared goals).  You aren’t asking them to develop the new process. That would require thinking.  You are asking them to do, not think, and giving them the steps.

Thinking or changing… pick one.  As an EA, know what you are asking for.

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".

6 thoughts on “The most difficult things”
  1. Good read. Thats a good piece of advice , people would want to see how the ‘thought change’ could help them before they accept it one which I often find hard to do 😀


  2. Nick,

    Thanks for the post. I really like the distinction you make about thinking and changing. I ran precisely into this when I tried to get our HR dept to look at their processes and create a service catalogue. I did not have your wise advice and ran into a situation where I asked them to think and change at the same time. They did not like my approach and I felt like it was a disaster! Interestingly, my perceived failure must have planted a seed because 3 months later they created their first draft service catalogue.  I am now helping them relate their services to strategy, organization, applications, policies and data.

    Cheers! Leo

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