The Architecture For This Project Is Out Of Scope

not my monkey

It is fair to say that the project in question has not started well. A lengthy incubation period executed in isolation from business and delivery partners has seen resources consumed in exchange for very little demonstrable progress, and high-level commitment waning. Faced with challenges like these, project managers will often retreat into their defensive belief systems — the heavily-dogmatic linear methodologies. Under such circumstances, the project manager looked me in the eye and uttered the incredible words:

  • “The architecture for this project is out of scope for this project.”

This statement dumbfounded me, and made me think. Another literal expression had been made of the natural tensions between enterprise architects (and their broad-context thinking and striving for change-friendly capability delivery1) and project managers (and their project-constrained and limited-context viewpoint and striving to achieve traditionally-measured project success). Variously, while i am:

  • accepting that enterprise architecture does not have a strong track record in the successful application of its own heavyweight frameworks
  • holding strong personal convictions that well-executed P3M (Portfolio, Programme, and Project Management2) has transformative potential for good
  • noting signs that enterprise architecture and P3M practices can deliver better business outcomes working together harmoniously3

…i’m too often seeing struggling projects “remedied” through the application of portfolio-grade heavy management and governance techniques, with the primary effects being:

  • greater focus on time and budget, at the sacrifice of scope and benefit
  • more expensive (in terms of both effort, money, and time) project contols
  • blossoming of the infamous opportunities register

For this to change, the culture of projects, and the culture of enterprise architecture, needs to change, meld, and align — a new conversation is needed, needed to lift every project’s context for decision-making up to at least the portfolio level.

It was much later before i established the link with this item doing the rounds on Twitter:

  • “Not my problem” in Polish is “nie moj cyrk, nie moje malpy.” Literally “not my circus, not my monkey.”4

There it is, the crux of the execution-time tension: “not my circus, not my monkey“.

As we step down through the layers of P3M we find portfolios (selected circuses and selected monkeys), programmes (small numbers of circuses, small numbers of monkeys), and projects (one circus and some of its monkeys).

With its enduring concern for the broader context, enterprise architecture is concerned with the enterprise: with all the circuses, and with all the monkeys.

  1. Enterprise Architecture in 140 Characters, Brenda Michelson, Elemental Links,
  2. The Project, Programme and Portfolio Management InfoKit from JISC provides a good overview of P3M.
  3. Bittler, R.S. (2012) Best Practices for EA and PPM Integration Toward Improved Business Outcomes, Gartner Research, Article ID #G00237525, gives a pragmatic and actionable set of best-practice suggestions for aligning enterprise architecture and P3M teams and initiatives.
  4. @howardtaylor on Twitter at


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