Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Board Directors Think Like "Digital Architect"

The board directors with the digital architect’s mindset can abstract and envision, leverage the multitude of thought processes, to move the enterprise forward confidently.

With the organization/industry/society moving forward and stepping into the "VUCA" digital new normal, the corporate boards as the top leadership pillar play a critical role in leading changes; they are like the steering wheel, to ensure their corporate ships are moving in the right direction towards the uncharted water. Compared to other junior level management position, the boards as a senior leadership role needs to spend significant time on making both strategic decisions and sound judgments. They are like digital architects to envision the future of the organization and orchestrate the digital transformation smoothly.

The first skill an "architect" must have is "abstraction": Abstraction is an innate intelligence, the foundation of insight. Being able to step back from details and see patterns, generalization, standards, context, and a bigger picture. Compared to junior or middle or functional managers, the board directors as senior leaders should focus on the holistic big picture, without getting distracted by trivial details. As a matter of fact, abstraction is an important senior leadership skill because it’s the ability to abstract and simplify; it means to eliminate the unnecessary hassles so that the necessary can speak out. Abstraction is the cognitive skills which help to clarify and simplify, to capture the substance from style, essence from details, and patterns from random pieces, etc.. Senior leaders such as boards play the critical role in setting principle and policies. Hence, abstract thinking helps them "talk the walk," differentiate substance from style and grasp the quintessence from outdated information. The difference between senior and junior (middle) leadership is not about how many answers you have, but about how well you can ask the open questions to attract best answers, and leverage all sorts of information to perceive the big picture into which the knowledge fit, to improve decision effectiveness and enforce leadership maturity.

Flexible open-minded with “outside of the box" creative and critical thinking: With the increasing speed of change, it is in the BoD’s mindset to either adapt or resist changes. It has been said that to embrace change requires a change of mindset at every level of the organization and an understanding that things cannot stay the same. BoDs and top leadership teams make a significant influence on shaping the digital mindset of the organization, evolving to what is needed next for radical changes and societal advancements. An architect’s mindset has the ability to zoom in and out of the bigger picture. Thinking as the digital architect means the board of directors can both grasp the big picture of the business and go deeper, pay more attention to the significant details as well. The more complex the situation is, the more different approaches and role gaming is needed to reach for in-depth understanding. An architect’s mindset is coherent and persuasive, has the ability to read the "ripples on the surface of the water," practice critical thinking and creative thinking all the time. At the board level, practicing critical thinking is about gaining the contextual understanding of the business, conceptualizing, and making sound judgments. Critical Thinking requires an ability to be able to not only ask the great questions but also analyze information forecast potentials; risks/benefits; making comparing and contrast options, leveraging logic, and creativity. The board as top leadership team needs to be creative as well because creativity is about thinking beyond the conventional wisdom - where you have left the confines of other people's thoughts, in order to lead forward with a clear vision. Senior leaders at the board level need to be open-minded for either asking open questions to encourage creativity or exploring new possibilities to solve tough business problems.

Leverage business architecture as a strategic communication tool in the boardroom: The board oversees the business strategy and monitors the organizational performance. The real value of business architecture is how to keep the priorities in balance and make the sound judgment without losing the big picture. The business architecture equivalent takes a look at balancing the business priorities and forcing conversations that are otherwise difficult to have. The business architecture could become a great executive communication tool, particularly when the architecture discussion is kept at a higher level. The board directors with an architect’s mindset can translate the abstract concept back into the real world example, thus, it also has the ‘visual’ ability to “see” an idea and express it in visual terms via interactive way. In addition, you need to have the ability to analyze problems and mentally iterate through possible solutions to find the best fit. Leadership in itself is a constant learning process that requires the leader to apply the growth mindset, leverage the right tools, build experience and share insight, listen carefully, learn continually, expect to find some fresh viewpoint all the time, identify tradeoffs and negotiate them with all stakeholder to collaborate skillfully with empathy.

The board of directors is the leadership role, leadership is the adventure to explore unknown, and have confidence and insight for taking the right path to reach the destination. It has to be in touch with the business forces via listening, questioning, connecting, and coaching, with the capability to know when to bend and when to make a firm stand. The board directors with the digital architect’s mindset can abstract and envision, leverage systematic thinking, holistic thinking, critical thinking, creative thinking, analytical & synthetic thinking, or non-linear thinking for advising, monitoring, deliberation, and moving the enterprise forward confidently.


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