Pink Architecture: New Technology Leadership - InformationWeek

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Government // Enterprise Architecture
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10/10/2014
10:30 AM
Linda Cureton
Linda Cureton
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Pink Architecture: New Technology Leadership

Want success with enterprise architecture? Maybe you need a woman's touch.

One of the most essential components of effective IT planning is enterprise architecture (EA). Yet EA is considered by most observers to be an utter failure in government. Given this disconnect, it's no surprise that the current state of affairs in government IT is bleak.

If EA is so essential and Federal IT is in such bad shape, how can we turn this around? Do we throw money at it? Do we need more guidance from Mount Olympus... I mean... the Office of Management and Budget? Are we using the wrong framework? All of these things have been attempted with varying degrees of success. The answer is in leadership. We need better leadership from EA professionals -- we need Pink Architecture.

Pink Architecture employs the leadership style associated most often with women. Perhaps a less sexist description of this style is that of the "servant leader" -- leadership that is humble, leads from behind, and is collaborative. In essence, the opposite of what is held up today as the metric for successful architecture leadership.

Based on an image from Pixabay
Based on an image from Pixabay

Today we see success measured by:

  • Size of the EA budget
  • Degree of compliance to established guidelines
  • Adherence to arcane frameworks

However, in looking around government in a non-scientific way, one can see that the truly successful programs have very little budget, are below the radar, and are most often managed by the servant leader. We need to rethink the conventional wisdom of hiring architects.

Hire for soft skills instead of technical skills. The successful architects are able to bring people together from diverse perspectives and bring them together to present a unified mission perspective that needs to drive IT. They are humble, collaborative, communicate and listen well, and are inclusive. They are not driven by their need to be heard, they are driven by their need to hear -- to hear what the mission needs and translate that into IT requirements.

Measure success with lagging indicators instead of leading indicators. The successful architects don't solely consider the existence of architectural artifacts as indicators of success. Measure outcomes (lagging indicators) not just outputs (leading indicators). Lagging indicators are better measurements of the effectiveness of EA, for example:

  • Number of projects finishing on time, within budget, and delivering requirements
  • Money saved from successful IT initiatives
  • Mission successes from successful technology initiatives

Chose an architect from the mission rather than IT. If you're a law enforcement organization, choose a special agent; if you're a technology organization, chose a scientist or an engineer; if you are a health organization, choose a medical doctor. The bottom line: Teach a mission person IT instead of teaching an IT person the mission.

Today's struggling world of IT needs a profound change in its leadership approach. The feminine or pink leadership style seems to have better results when it comes to inspiring change. In a Fortune report, data showed that Fortune 1000 companies with female chiefs outperformed the S&P 500 index over their respective tenures. When we examine the leadership characteristics that inspire such positive change -- empathy, passion, engagement, listening -- these are consistent with the pink leadership style.

Pink Architecture is all about leadership, collaboration, and mission alignment. Don't get seduced by technical prowess; hire for emotional intelligence versus technology intelligence. While frameworks are relevant, the successful architect will abstract the arcane world of the architectural frameworks into the world of the mission. They will understand more of what IT needs to do (demand) than what IT does (supply). Finally, they will exemplify the leadership qualities of servant leaders instead of the technical characteristics of propeller heads.

Find out how NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory addressed governance, risk, and compliance for its critical public cloud services. Get the new Cloud Governance At NASA issue of InformationWeek Government Tech Digest today. (Free registration required.)

Linda Cureton is the former CIO of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and is now CEO of Muse Technologies, Inc., specializing in IT transformation. Her company helps organizations develop strong leadership, technology solutions, and program management ... View Full Bio
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