One thing we sometimes forget to do… make time to make relationships.  It is good when we do it right.

Large organizations are curious things.  Some folks like to think of a company as something akin to an organism, with a heart and lungs and nervous system, all supporting the same goal.  Some companies certainly behave like a single organism.  On the other hand, larger companies tend to have wide product lines and many sources of revenue.  Large organizations behave less like an organism than a community.

To extend the analogy, different parts of the company are like people in a family.  We can agree about what the family values are, and we can see the effects of culture on the family, but each family member is motivated differently.  Each has their own style.  And so it goes in large businesses: each division has their own style and their own idea of success.

Of course, with a business, we can go one level deeper.  It doesn’t make sense, in a family, for my kidneys to hold a ‘conference of kidneys’ and communicate with my brother’s kidneys to discuss how to be better at filtering blood.  🙂   But with business, each of the internal functions are run by intelligent, self-motivated, professional human beings.  And getting them together makes a lot of sense.

Inside MSIT, the EA team just finished running a community event that we called “Dynamic MSIT.”  It was a good conference, with about 200 IT architects and 50 or so of their close associates, all employees of MSIT.  We had presentations from our new CIO, our new Chief Architect, a Distinguished Engineer, and a leader from the evangelism group.  But more importantly, we had time to build relationships.

I’ve met nearly everyone in that room before, many in long extended conversations.  I knew them and trusted them.  But if we have a conference where I sit next to someone, but I don’t get a chance to talk to them, then what was the point of the conference?  I need to do more than “see” a face to keep a relationship working.  And that’s what we did.

The great success of our internal conference wasn’t the presentations.  It was the ‘white space,’ the large gaps in time between presentations.  These gaps ranged from 45 minutes to an hour long.  I’ll be honest: the gaps were as valuable to me as the talks… maybe more.  I got a chance to reconnect.  I shook hands and said names and asked about projects and reminded myself of how much fun it is to work with the best architects on the planet.

So here’s to the gaps… and here’s to building an internal community.  May we fill that ‘white space’ with friendship, trust, and teamwork.

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".

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