Business architects around the world are special, passionate people with unique strengths and abilities, including some superpowers. We help build better organizations and societies – for the greater good, for the challenge, or simply for the joy of doing it.
We’ve been at this for a while now and we are receiving validation, gaining traction, and breaking through. Beyond the uptick in the numbers, more importantly there’s been an uptake of the concepts. A new vision for end-to-end strategy execution with business architecture as an enabler is an idea that continues to resonate with organizations, with increasing recognition by industry professional associations and academia. The business architecture discipline might even be at an inflection point.
But there’s just one thing. Business architects worldwide quite unanimously report that getting other people to understand and buy-in to the value of business architecture and business architects is a top challenge. The question we need to answer is why. Answering and addressing this why is our mission because it will inform the actions we all need to take to get to the next level.
This installment of StraightTalk does not answer this question but rather intends to open a new conversation. It offers some fresh, data-based insights on the human side of business architecture from the Business Architect Strengths Study. This is a good starting point to help us explore how to leverage our unique strengths and work with others, not only to succeed in the business architect role but also to drive change with business architecture.
What is the Business Architect Strengths Study about?
The Business Architect Strengths Study is a first-of-its-kind primary research effort that looked at the strengths of business architects as defined by their Gallup CliftonStrengths® assessment. It also assessed where business architects focus their time and their satisfaction in the role.
The study was conducted by Whynde Kuehn and Pete Cafarchio with business architecture practitioners from 14 countries, with varying levels of experience, responsibilities, perspectives, and personalities. Huge shout out and thank you to the amazing study participants!
The intent of the study was to help us all learn a little bit more about business architects and what makes us so special in order to:
- Maximize our impact worldwide
- Identify areas of personal leadership development
- Articulate our unique perspectives and strengths to others
- Inform the formalization of the role and discipline
Here’s a two-page brief on the Business Architect Strengths Study and you can find more details about the study in More Good Stuff.
P.S. Super important caveat: The intent of the study was NOT to overgeneralize the strengths of all business architects worldwide. While there were clear patterns in the data, every study participant (and human) is unique. Some study participants did not reflect those patterns. In addition, the CliftonStrengths® assessment is not intended to be a predictive tool, which means that there is no such thing as a strength being “required” for a certain role, and the relative ranking of a given talent does not raise or lower a business architect’s chances for success. However, the study has uncovered insights that the authors believe will be highly valuable regardless.
What insights did the Business Architect Strengths Study uncover?
The full study contains numerous insights into business architects’ talents and practical suggestions for maximizing their effectiveness. However, here’s a snapshot of a few findings that really caught everyone’s attention.
- Business architects have some superpowers. While the top Signature Strengths for business architects closely mirror those of the general population, many business architects have two less-common strengths in their top 10 that give them a distinct advantage.
- Business architects rank lowest on Relational strengths. As a category, Relational strengths rank highest in the general population, but lowest with business architects. Check out the comparison in the diagram below.
- Business architects have some Non-Pattern strengths that differ from the general population. Specifically, there are three Relational strengths that occur infrequently with business architects when compared to the general population.
- There are some common misalignments in business architect responsibilities within organizations. When the study participants’ collective strengths results were combined with the results from their role and job satisfaction questionnaire, it illuminated some disconnects between what business architects are often responsible for versus what their strengths and passions are.
Business architect superpowers, really? What are they?
The study uncovered two business architect superpowers: Connectedness and Intellection.
Connectedness has an average ranking at #8 out of the 34 CliftonStrengths® for business architects, versus #22 for the general population. Intellection has an average ranking at #9 of 34 for business architects, versus #20 for the general population.
This data helps us to start understanding why business architects have such a unique and wonderful set of characteristics, such as why they are so gifted at seeing patterns and connecting the dots.
What are some Non-Pattern Strengths of business architects?
The three talents of Harmony, Empathy, and Adaptability occur with high frequency in the general population but occur very infrequently with business architects. They are all Relational strengths.
Again, this gives us some actual data to help us start understanding why business architects have common challenges, such as wining over executives and other key influencers.
What does this mean for how business architects perform in the role?
We need to own our strengths and take pride in them. Go all in on the unique strengths you have that others don’t, such as connecting the dots and seeing the bigger picture.
We also need to own our Non-Pattern strengths too. Per CliftonStrengths® there are four strategies to address a Non-Pattern strength: avoid it, borrow someone else’s talent, leverage a Signature strength, or just try harder.
We have to know who we are and what we are made to do, and work towards aligning our role to be in harmony with that.
This doesn’t mean that we have to do it alone though. This is where the power of partnership comes in. We can think about an organization’s internal business architecture practice as a function with key aspects for 1) building a business architecture knowledgebase; 2) applying business architecture value (most important!), and 3) establishing the practice itself. These aspects need to be covered, but not necessarily by each business architect. As we perform our roles, we can borrow talent from within our business architecture team and even others outside of it (e.g., think marketing and communications).
What does this mean for the bigger picture of socializing business architecture?
We have to get other people involved.
First, we have to articulate and focus on an ultimate purpose that goes beyond business architecture. Remember The Secret? At the end of the day, it’s actually not about the business architecture. Business architecture is only part of the solution. We’re change makers for a new vision for strategy execution and new ways of working in our organizations and ecosystems.
Then, we need to partner with others, especially those with Relational and Influencing strengths. The Business Architect Strengths Study illuminated this in black and white. We need to help others catch the vision, co-own it, tell the story about it, galvanize it, and drive it into action with us. Remember The Tipping Point? We need all three archetypes, Mavens (such as business architects), Connectors, and Salespeople to help us cross the threshold and spread the vision like wildfire.
Put it all together.
So, why do others not readily see the value of business architecture and business architects?
Some of it might be them. Business architecture requires us to think in different ways, some of which are not entirely normal or comfortable.
For example, business architecture allows us to look and collaborate across silos. However, siloed thinking can be quite ingrained. It is perhaps inherently human in some ways, but it has also been reinforced by years of organizational structures, motivation mechanisms, and even our education system and institutions.
In addition, business architecture bridges the gap between strategy and execution, between ideation and implementation. There are plenty of statistics that highlight how challenged organizations are in executing their strategies, yet most organizations think of work as an Ideation step and an Implementation step – while overlooking an important middle step for Activation, which is one that business architecture focuses on. Furthermore, the most people and time spent in the world is in Implementation.1
But, some of it might be us. As we’ve seen, business architects are amazing people with some special superpowers. We also can’t do this on our own. The way forward to the brightest future for our organizations and societies is in partnership with other people. This is how we as business architects get to thrive where we are best and allow others to do the same. And that is how we maximize our impact.
Let’s use this study as a foundation to advance the conversation to celebrate and maximize business architect strengths and impact.
Thank you for all you do – because what you do is what makes business architecture. We are co-creating it together around the world every day. And your work matters.
If you’d like to participate in a future study, drop us a line.
More Good Stuff...
The Business Architect Strengths Study (Whynde Kuehn and Pete Cafarchio): This primary research study is the inspiration for StraightTalk Post No. 96. You can download the brief for free or purchase the complete in-depth report from Biz Arch Mastery (See option A, Strengths Report Package).
Gallup: If you haven’t taken the Gallup CliftonStrengths® assessment, you can access it here. The site also has many resources to help you explore your strengths.
The Three Phases (the Working Genius podcast with Patrick Lencioni): Recommended by a business architecture community member and Business Architect Strengths Study participant. He brilliantly connected the dots from the study insights to the Working Genius approach and the fact that business architects focus on the Activation phase of work, which is often overlooked. This is an absolute must-listen and gives us more data to help explain the reality that we experience. It also gives a lot of credence to the concept of business architecture and its placement within strategy execution.
What is Your Genius (At the Table with Patrick Lencioni): An excellent listen on the six Working Geniuses: Wonder, Invention, Discernment, Galvanizing, Enablement, and Tenacity. The assessment is here.
Move Fast, Break Shit, Burn Out, The Catalyst’s Guide to Working Well (Tracey Lovejoy and Shannon Lucas): Recommended by another business architecture community member and Business Architect Strengths Study participant. She brilliantly made the connection to the research findings in this book and suggests that business architects have a Catalyst nature. What’s a Catalyst? Per the book, “a person who takes in lots of information, sees infinite possibility, and can’t stop themselves from moving into action.” This is a must-read and you might even feel like the book was written just for you.
The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (Malcolm Gladwell): An all-time classic on that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold and spreads like wildfire. You can reflect on your archetype here.
The Business Architecture Team (Whynde Kuehn): A white paper filled with practical guidance and useful best practices to successfully establish a business architecture team within your organization.
The Evolution of the Business Architect (Whynde Kuehn and Mike Clark): A white paper that provides a look at the evolution of business architecture and the business architect role for practitioners, for organizations, and for the business architecture discipline overall.
The Business Architect Imperative: Showing Up With Wow (StraightTalk): More StraightTalk on how to make an impact with business architecture. It’s not just about what you do, but how you do it.
The Power of Believing That You Can Improve (TED Talk): A TED Talk by the brilliant Carol Dweck on the power of a growth mindset – the idea that we can grow our brain's capacity to learn and to solve problems. Here’s a great contrast of growth versus fixed mindsets by Farnam Street and here’s Carol’s book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. This concept could change your life.
- 1. Here's a big shout out to one of our fellow business architecture community members, who was also a Business Architect Strengths Study participant, because he pointed this out based on The Three Phases podcast.