Lean & Enterprise Architecture: Seven Deadly Wastes of Enterprise Architects

Dec 3, 2013
Written by
Marc Lankhorst
Marc Lankhorst
Peter Matthijssen
Peter Matthijssen

Lean & Enterprise Architecture: Seven Deadly Wastes of Enterprise Architects

In our previous two blogs in this series, we outlined the connections between Lean Management and Enterprise Architecture. The focus of Lean is on taking day-to-day small steps for improvement. The elimination of waste and focus on customer value are central elements in Lean. Enterprise Architecture focuses on longer term results, but as https://bizzdesign.com/blog/enterprise-architecture-and-agile-development-opposites-attract/we have seen in the previous blog in this series a Lean perspective is also powerful for Enterprise Architects. We discussed the seven deadly wastes in enterprise architectures, such as unnecessary manual labor, gold-plating and complexity. Identifying and visualizing wastes in EA enable us to make improvements.

But what about wastes in the EA domain itself? From our practice we of course see many EA initiatives. We believe EA is a powerful and often indispensible aid for organizations. However, not all EA initiatives are a great success. We see many EA practitioners struggle to keep EA on the agenda. It is then a common reflex to say: “They don’t understand us; they only want quick fixes instead of doing the right thing for the long term”. But let’s take a closer look at our own behavior as Enterprise Architects, from a Lean perspective.

Cobweb Designer in action

A truly Lean Enterprise Architect ensures that all EA activities create value. In practice, however, we see a lot of behavior that does the opposite. See below.

Seven deadly wastes of Enterprise Architects:

  1. Ivory Tower Dweller: The ivory tower dweller has become out of touch with reality by only communicating with other architects. This Architect preaches the architecture gospel from an ivory tower to the populace down below. Most of what is produced from this position will turn into waste, because nobody is listening.
  2. Policeman: Uses architecture only as a way of telling other people what not to do, instead of supporting and guiding them. This architect will eventually be avoided and bypassed as much as possible. “How can we do this project without involving our architect?”
  3. Great Creator: Creates idealistic, long-term plans with no reality check. This Architect keeps away from being involved with the projects and initiatives that have to realize these plans. In Agile circles this is refered to as ‘big design up-front’.
  4. Abstractionist: Creates abstract, overly simplified pictures that are always true and provide no real insight beyond the obvious. Often these pictures are created in response to managers complaining about the complexity of architecture, but they don’t really help the organization.
  5. PowerPoint Architect: Documents architectures in the form of presentations, resulting in terrible maintenance problems. And have you ever tried to check such an architecture for consistency?
  6. Cobweb Designer: Creates huge and complicated spider webs with lots of interconnections. These webs may look impressive but are in fact unreadable and unusable. Recognizable by his or her trademark catchphrase: “It’s all very complicated…”
  7. Fearful Perfectionist: Only wants to communicate an architecture when it is completely finished. However, this will never be the case in a changing world. Projects have deadlines and won’t wait for you, so they move on anyway and your architecture is already outdated and irrelevant from the start. Perfectionism is a trait of many architects…

We think you will all recognize elements of this ‘wasteful behavior’. We will find it in our environment, but if we are honest also in our own actions. These behaviors produce waste and create an increasing gap between the architect and the rest of the organization.  We should, as professionals, continuously be aware of these pitfalls of EA and adjust our behavior. So start eliminating wasteful behavior today, and work on the continuous improvement of your job as an architect!

Next in this blog series: Enterprise Architecture for Lean Business Processes.