EA Styles

Back in August a number of posts appeared in the blogosphere following Gartner’s press release encouraging the use of “emergent architecture”. The debate is nicely summarised here (http://www.biske.com/blog/?p=670) by Todd Biske.

The language that Gartner used, however, rang some bells with me: in my recent studies I looked at the various schools of corporate strategy making as defined by Henry Mintzberg (nicely summarised at http://www.12manage.com/methods_mintzberg_ten_schools_of_thought.html ): Mintzberg obviously had his own favourites, but nevertheless had tried to describe the various ways that strategy *could* (not necessarily should!) be formed in an organisation.

Organisations obviously come in all shapes and sizes. Some have strategy formation processes that go back a long way or are dictated by their constitutions or remits: an army will always require a certain amount of disciplined, top-down formal strategy creation compared to a web 2.0 startup with 3 people, which needs to react quickly to change strategy if something new and game-changing appears on the market. Government agencies will always be answerable to politicians and will need to change strategy every electoral period to suit the new administration. Publicly listed companies need to drive shareholder value and adopt a strategy creation process that will suit their goals, depending on which sector they are in.

So what does this mean for an enteprise architect? Perhaps the EA effort needs to initially align and then seek to transform strategy creation processes in its organisation?

Mintzberg defined 10 “schools” of strategy formation in total. I’ve listed them below and spent a grand total of 10 minutes considering what form the EA effort might take in each case.


  • Deliberate strategy creation as a process of conception. Match the internal situation of the organisation with external factors.
  • Use tools like SWOT analysis, Ashridge Model
  • Planned
  • EA must: use a “Classic” Gartner approach, based around CRV and creating strategic solutions: TOGAF


  • Deliberate strategy creation as a formal process. Separate planning teams create strategy and use a pre-defined execution methodology.
  • Scenario Planning: Parenting Styles
  • Planned
  • EA must: use Zachman approach coupled with strong project management methodology (eg Prince2, MSP): TOGAF


  • Deliberate strategy creation as an analytical process. Positioning of organisation within industry or market.
  • 5 forces: value chains: BCG matrix: game theory
  • Planned
  • EA must: use Heuristic approach utilising reference models, eg MIT EAS approach: TOGAF


  • Semi-deliberate strategy formation as a visionary process. CEO is architect of the strategy.
  • Emphasises intuition, judgement, vision, leadership styles
  • Semi-planned
  • EA must: Inform and deliver the CEO vision: challenge, support, and then formally design and programme manage: TOGAF and heuristic tools


  • Strategy creation as a mental process. Maps, schemas, concepts and viewpoints.
  • Groupthink: MBTI: Johari Window: Cognitive bias
  • Emergent
  • EA must: Support cognitive processes across the organisation and making them real


  • Strategy creation as an emergent process. What works and what doesn’t gets incorporated over time in a series of small steps.
  • Organisational Learning: Knowedge Management: SECI model
  • Emergent
  • EA must: Provide a set of standards that the strategy can use as a platform for its learning. IFAPS.


  • Strategy creation as a process of negotiation.
  • Stakeholder analysis: force-field analysis: stakeholder mapping
  • Emergent
  • EA must: Identify powerful stakeholders and realise their common visions.


  • Strategy creation as a collective process, as a reflection of the organisational culture.
  • Cultural Intelligence: Ashridge Mission model
  • Emergent
  • EA must: Define dominant values, design and build social networks, and critically appraise the corporate culture


  • Strategy creation as a reactive process. Sees the environment as the dominant factor in determining strategic direction.
  • Contingency theory: situational leadership
  • Emergent
  • EA must: Design and build solutions to give the organisation more options in the expected future environment


  • Strategy creation as a transformational process.  Organisations change structure as strategy changes.  Manage stability and discontinuous change without too much disruption.
  • Organisational configurations: chaos theory: catastrophe theory: disruptive innovation
  • Planned / Emergent
  • EA must: Propose and design valid alternative configurations (for discontinuous change) and systems of  continuous improvement (for stable phases)

Interested to maybe develop this further: what sort of strategy creation style is prevalent in your organisation?


3 Responses to EA Styles

  1. Scott Gould says:

    That, my friend, is way over my head.

    Incredible stuff. Perhaps one day we can sit down and you can explain it to me!

  2. Pingback: EA Styles 2: Services « Devon Enterprise Architects Weblog

  3. Pingback: EA styles 3: transforming the strategic paradigm « Devon Enterprise Architects Weblog

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