The Intent Architect—Guardian of Outcomes

From the Change Thinking Blog
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Categories: Intent


To avoid the symptoms of intent mismanagement (see my last post) and keep the intent’s line of sight in place (clarity, expression, and integrity), critically important initiatives must be supported by an intent architect.

The intent architect is responsible for helping the initiating sponsor maintain the integrity of the intent as the transformation is executed. He or she is the guardian of the desired end state. The role includes facilitating intent clarity with the leadership team, helping to communicate it to others, and interpreting it for the various individuals and groups involved in implementation, as well as for the leadership team itself.

The key to success is managing consistency and alignment across the various execution streams. To achieve this, the intent architect must constantly interact with the teams and senior management. To use an analogy, the intent architect is a product manager and the product is the full realization of the intended outcomes. The responsibility is to ensure that the product that leadership expects is the product that is delivered.

A common question raised is, “Why is a separate role needed…can’t the intent architect duties  be handled by the project manager?” Experience tells us that on a major initiative, the answer is an unequivocal “no.” There is always tension around how timeframes, funding, and vision relate to each other. The first two deal with installation and the last with realization. Yet, most project managers focus on and are rewarded based on installation metrics. An intent architect is rewarded on realization and, therefore, must maintain tight vigilance on the integrity of the sponsor’s promise.

The intent will be frequently questioned and challenged, both directly and indirectly. The intent architect must be flexible and practical but also strong-willed to hold the line when appropriate, confident to raise questions when needed, and willing to confront people at all levels who compromise the intent.

Finally, the intent of a key initiative is justified in the ultimate business results. The intent architect needs business focus and understanding to represent the intent appropriately.

In summary, responsibilities for the intent architect include the following:

  • Help the initiating sponsor develop and represent the intent of a major corporate transformation (complete, concise, clear, and compelling)
  • Assist in gaining understanding, commitment, and alignment among the leadership team as well as cascading alignment and enrollment throughout the organization
  • Develop and track installation and realization indicators
  • Assist in defining and expressing the detailed solution that will achieve the intent of the transformation

Intent Management: The Bottom Line

Collectively, businesses spend hundreds of billions of dollars on strategic initiatives each year. The evidence is clear that, when using traditional planning and delivery approaches, each initiative begins with a 70 percent chance of failing. Lack of clarity, poor expression, and inadequate attention toward integrity all contribute to the failures. It doesn’t have to be that way.

For leaders, the cost is more than the dollars invested. A promise is made—to the boss, the board, shareholders, employees, and customers—when funding for the project is secured. Important results and the leader’s reputation is on the line. Explicit and deliberate management of intent not only avoids disappointment, but, most importantly, it provides the critical starting point for creating transformational results in the organization.

Posted on: September 21, 2010 11:28 PM | Permalink

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