The Solution Architect as a Communicator


Are you as a Solution Architect communicating effectively?

As a Solution Architect you are both a leader and a team player. You are simultaneously, an accomplished individual, and a part of a complex system, the team and organization you work for. Navigating the complexity of relationship dynamics that exist within teams and organizations can feel like walking through a minefield, and is often a challenge for even the most experienced professionals.

Reducing taxing interactions within teams and organizations can have a powerful impact, strengthening those complex systems by improving working relationships between departments, teams and team members.

John Gottman identified 4 behaviours that are so toxic, that he refers to them as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. I am sure you are familiar with at least some of these behaviours:

Blaming/ Criticism: attacking the person, instead of the behaviour
Defensiveness: not owning own behaviour
Contempt: name calling, sarcasm, belittling, anything attempting to create distance with another
Stonewalling: cutting off communication, silent treatment, refusal to engage

Take a deep breath and answer the questions in my questionnaire with T (True) or F (False).

You can download it here: The Four Tech Team Toxins: #solutionarchitect


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Sonsoles Alonso 
OD Consulting, Team & Executive Training and Coaching, Speaking.


The Solution Architect as a Leader




Are you aware of your power and its effectiveness?

Power is an internal quality that affects everything we do. Our use of power impacts others, and others’ use of power impacts us. When it comes to communication, team collaboration, and getting things done within an organization, it is critical to understand how power works and how to use it.

As a Solution Architect you have lead developers report to you, and you yourself report to a number of roles within your organization. Navigating the complexity of relationship dynamics that exist within teams and organizations is always filled with power issues. As a Solution Architect you find yourself having to both lead up and lead down.

We all have a personal Powerprint. This powerprint is constantly influenced by our personality and the variety of positions we hold within organizations and society. Each one of us has therefore different, and at times, conflicting ranks at the same time. I am sure having the positional power of a Solution Architect doesn’t necessarily translate to always feeling powerful. Understanding how your behaviour affects the people you lead and creating alignment between your sense of power and your use of it is the new core competency of the 21st century.

Whether you are already a Solution Architect or would like to be one, you can empower yourself and others to use power healthily and wisely. My questionnaire will help you gain greater Awareness of power so you can move towards a use of it that is ethical, authentic and effective.

Download the questionnaire here:

Tech Team Power Questionnaire: #solutionarchitect


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Sonsoles Alonso 
OD Consulting, Team & Executive Training and Coaching, Speaking.

33 Roses: Being Visible

One of the things I love most about my work is all the traveling I get to do around the world. In between engagements I take every opportunity to visit interesting sites and mingle with the locals.

The other day while in Hong Kong, I finally came around buying myself a selfie stick (yes, a selfie stick!) and doing some pending personal homework. I visited the HK Flower Market and bought 33 white roses in honour of my grandfather, José M. Alonso.

A couple of months ago I had consulted a constellator regarding professional success. Constellations are powerful visualisations that reveal family patterns that hold us back, empowering us in our life journey.

Even though I have enjoyed success in life, I always felt I was somehow ‘hiding’, keeping myself from bigger success. I discovered my grandfather was ‘the hidden one’ in my family. Outwardly, he was a successful businessman who provided well for his family. Under the surface, he was a 33rd degree Freemason, a humanist and a freethinker working towards improving himself and making the world a little better. He did so under the radar, hiding from Franco, who brutally persecuted Freemasonry.

My granddad fled from Asturias to Havana and Caracas at a time when it was possible to build wealth in Cuba and Venezuela, and then settled in the Canary Islands where he became a successful entrepreneur. His humanistic work was a secret.

As a kid, his passing away was an excruciatingly sad day. His funeral was a multitudinary affair too, people came from everywhere.

Now that I’m putting all the pieces together I also realize everytime I have visited La Laguna (Tenerife), the older people have always treated me well, ‘Oh, Don José’s granddaughter.’

He was loved.

There was something about him, whether telling us about a good exercise routine, teaching us about astrology or sending us humongous baskets of Christmas sweets around this time of the year, the moment he entered the room one would feel abundance in the broadest sense of the word.

My task today is to feel connected to my granddad and to be visible. My work is important and I don’t need to hide. It is safe today to do ‘real work’ out there, without hiding.

How about you? Is there anything blocking you from achieving the success you desire?
I’d love to hear all about it. You can like this post and connect with me on Twitter and Facebook, and share your own personal stories.

And, by the way, as it turns out, my grandpa was an organizational innovator. More about that in an upcoming post.

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Sonsoles Alonso 
OD Consulting, Team & Executive Training and Coaching, Speaking.

Do, or Do Not: Solo and Team Performance

Fundación BBVA, Madrid. With Willem Jeths

Have you ever tried to move a chair?

Exactly, there is something really odd about that question. You either move the chair, or you don’t. There is no trying. Trying is nothing.

Try it.

The similarity between moving a chair and performing a concert

Once the date of a concert has been agreed upon, it will not be changed, ever. On the day of the concert, there will be an audience, the curtain will go up, and you will be on that stage. There is no trying. There is only doing the performance. Period.

Try it.

What? There are suddenly some hurdles to overcome. Putting on a performance implies quite a bit more than moving a chair, I hear you say.

Yet performers do it, because in their minds, there is no trying.

4 keys to the mindset of a top performing musician. And you too can get there.

Performing with the same flow as when moving a chair means exercising the three muscles of personal power. And then adding a fourth something else.

Yes, personal power can be trained. I did it, and you can do it too. Here are the first 3 keys:

1. Letting go of what is not useful: it means turning down irrelevant mental processes and turning up the relevant ones, engaging the brain to be precisely tuned to the exact task demands. It means a state of mind that is equal parts all-out effort and all-out zen. Isn’t this a nice want-to-have besides a musician’s interesting friends?

2. Controlling fear and managing emotions: it all starts by facing them head on, putting them in a place where they can’t interfere with you building your skill and showing up on that stage. Making a distinction between self-worth and performance works nicely too.

3. Taking massive action: it means seeing the big picture of all the actions that need to be taken to achieve the desired goal and how they interconnect, and then taking them. Practicing, memorizing, finding the best mentors, talking to the right people, choosing the music, picking the right clothes and even deciding who will iron them, and everything in between. It also means changing the emotional meaning behind all activities, tying it to a concrete and compelling goal: in 3 years I want to be the next Beethoven and play for 3000 people in Carnegie Hall!

And then the something else:

4. Continuing until the end no matter what happens along the way: whether a musician makes a mistake, forgets the lines, the instrument breaks down or the ceiling of the concert hall comes crashing down, once a performance starts, a musician does whatever it takes to solve the internal and external problems encountered, and see the performance through to the end. There is no starting over. There is only giving the audience something memorable they can take home with them. And the audience loves a musician for it.

Would you like to achieve transformation the way a task-oriented musician does? A coach can help you tune in to your our own inner voice and develop the capacity to take massive action towards different and desired results.

How does this work in a team? Solo performer goes ensemble and team

Theater Kikker with Electra New Music. Utrecht, The Netherlands

Let’s say a solo performer becomes performer within an ensemble of contemporary music. Does anything happen to the 4 keys to a top performing mindset?

No and yes.

No, because the 1-2-3-4 basic recipe stays the same. Yes, because the tasks involved do influence 3 and 4.

Besides playing an instrument, this kind of musician creates a market for a type of music for which there is no clear demand and supply. When it comes to taking massive action, the big picture of actions to be taken and how they interconnect will look different and it will include a lot more tasks: conflict resolution, selling yourself, aligning different musical parts, hiring personnel, attracting sponsors, being flexible with roles, the list goes on and on.

For this type of performer, continuing until the end no matter what happens along the way, means ‘No’ is never the end. During a project, ‘No’ is simply a sign that says, just take another road. The goal is what matters, there is no trying, only getting there. The product, the production, the concert, will happen. On the day of the concert, there will be an audience, the curtain will go up, and that ensemble-team will be on that stage. There is no trying. There is only doing the performance. There is only giving the audience something memorable they can take home with them. And the audience loves them for it.

Let’s be honest: if you are a CEO or executive manager, you want your clients to love you for your memorable products too.

imageSo, what the heck is a high-performing team and how do you get one?

A high-performing team is one that is:

  • productive = gets the job done because there is only do, or do not
  • engaged = has a purpose (a clear ‘what are we here to do?’), and a language and atmosphere that support the being together
  • aligned = puts personal positions aside by focusing on the ‘what are we here to do’, coming together around organizational priorities

How do you get one?

I have a wide range of frameworks for organizational, cultural and strategic problem solving. My toolbox contains Theory U and Organization and Relationship Systems Coaching tools, as well as serious games so I can help you co-create a high-performing team. Just drop me an e-mail.

Try it.

I mean, do it! 😀

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Sonsoles Alonso 

Designing Productive Teams and Powerful Relationships
OD Consulting, Team & Executive Training and Coaching, Speaking.

The Biggest Mistake Leaders Are Making Today

Are you a CEO or executive manager and confused about the meaning of the word leadership? Are you wondering why it has become so difficult, exhausting and expensive to run your company, and why management practices that used to work do not work anymore? Do you find yourself wanting for the problem to go away, yet sensing deeply there is a cultural change that is here to stay?

The work floor has been shaken up by the arrival of Millennials and Digital Natives: a new generation with an entirely different set of expectations than the generations before. As it turns out, Millennials and Digital Natives are not interested in traditional career ladders. They want to be valued and take it for granted that this must be possible within an organization. They possess a wealth of information from inside and outside of the company, impressive skills to deal with data, and they want to be rewarded for their contributions, not for waiting their turn. And, when they see a problem, their natural allergy towards hierarchical models will make them go straight to the decision makers. Younger generations want autonomy and collaboration and will not fit in a company that sees employees as interchangeable parts of an HR machine. If their desired outcomes are not there, they will most likely change jobs.

What is one to do about leadership in the middle of this all?
Just recently, President Obama clearly articulated what leadership is not anymore in 2016.

President Obama on leadership 

During the 2016 Democratic Convention, President Obama clearly stated the current state of affairs regarding the word leadership: We don’t look to be ruled!

Just like that. What a breath of fresh air, I truly appreciate those who easily name the elephant in the room.

He went on to elaborate:

“We’re not a fragile people, we’re not a frightful people. Our power doesn’t come from some self-declared saviour promising that he alone can restore order as long as we do things his way […] Our power comes from the fact that all men are created equal, that we, the people can form a more perfect union… The capacity to shape our own destiny is our birthright”.

Obama’s words reflect a stance that is not only having an impact on our societies but in our organizations as well.

If you hold a leadership position in an organization, I could imagine the word “equal” in Obama’s speech possibly making you frown in disbelief, thoughts of anarchy racing frantically through your mind. But please, stay with me. A different way of doing things is truly possible, and luckily, it doesn’t involve any anarchy.

Schoenberg: And now… for something else…!

Did you know this exact leadership issue played out some hundred years ago in the classical music world when the tonality that had prevailed for centuries had, just like our current organizational models, reached a break down point? I am referring to a hierarchical way of composing (aka organizing sounds) that systematically made some pitches or chords prevail over others. Each piece of classical music was in fact a long marching of two recognizable chords in endless variations. If one of them, the dominant, made the listener feel “unheimisch”, the other, the tonic, rapidly provided a feeling of resolution. After uncertainty, certainty would always return.

If you are not sure what I am referring to, comedian, actor and musician Dudley Moore did a brilliant parody on the long standing tyranny of the dominant – tonic relationship. You can watch it in the video below. At around minute 3:05 you’ll most likely start finding yourself longing for that final tonic, except that Moore doesn’t give it to us. He keeps us in suspense for one and a half more minutes until he simply closed the piano lid. And when closing that lid, he opened a door, a dream door into new possibilities of organizing sound. Because, remember Obama?, sounds didn’t look to be ruled by the tonic, that self-declared saviour of the classical music tradition!

Somewhere around 1920 Austrian composer Arnold Schönberg, the “Millennial” of his time, showed up. He decided to treat all musical pitches as equal. With this atonal thinking he brought about an earthquake that changed classical music forever. From that point on, composers went on to treat other musical parameters in the same way. Stockhausen, one of contemporary music’s own “Digital Natives”, described it like this:

Use all the components of any given number of elements, don’t leave out individual elements, use them all with equal importance…It’s a spiritual and democratic attitude towards the world. The stars are organized in this way…”

If the word “equal” in Obama’s speech had possibly turned out to be difficult to hear, I could imagine Stockhausen’s words “democratic attitude” simply adding insult to injury. How can we be putting the words equality, democracy and leadership in the same sentence? How do their words relate to our current organizational models?

The big mistake leaders are making today

The management legacy of the by now 100-year old assembly line was to compartmentalize information. Besides, information was power. In our current era of overinformation, this legacy has become obsolete. Employees have access to information from both within and outside of the organization, making it increasingly difficult for any single leader to possess all the information needed for success.

The biggest mistake leaders are making today is thinking they themselves need to have all the information needed for an organization’s success, when there is in fact valuable unknown new information in the system itself.

Does equality and democracy mean that anyone gets to tell what needs to be done?

No. The key to being able to put the words equality, democracy and leadership in the same sentence lies in the word “information”.
The information present in each member of a team or organization is equal in value towards the achievement of strategic, cultural and business solutions. Because of that, a democratic approach towards all the voices (sounds 😀) of a system, including marginalized ones, is necessary today.

How about leadership?

Leadership today means to 1. incubate and initiate processes that reveal the information present in teams and organizations, and 2. orchestrate it towards the achievement of strategic, cultural and business solutions.

Are you wondering how to do that?

Just when everything that could be achieved with the dominant – tonic relationship in classical music had been exhausted, Schoenberg and Stockhausen were interested in making something that would work, instead of something that would be predictable. They were interested in results, and when the system restricted them, they broke out of the box.

If you are seeking for ways to break free from your own organizational box, so you can make something that works in our volatile and uncertain world, consider a systems thinking facilitator and send me an email.

System thinkers believe systems are intelligent and creative, and can help you reveal and channel the intelligence, creativity and pieces of truth held by every person in a team or group. I am such a facilitator and have many great tools from Theory U, Organization and Relationship Systems Coaching, and organizational sound constellations from the world of the modern arts like the one at the top of this post.

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Sonsoles Alonso 
OD Consulting, Team & Executive Training and Coaching, Speaking.


Modern Music is…Modern Organization

Music is organized sound – Edgar Varèse

When I started my organizational design consulting business 5 years ago, I had just made a 15-year trip from the bureaucracy of the classical music world to the agility of the contemporary multidisciplinary arts. I attended every single networking event I could possibly think of and talked about my venture to everyone who would listen. In some instances, I even talked to those who would not listen. But that is an entirely different post.

I decided to use social media and word of mouth as the central marketing tools. Enthusiasm and perseverance were the only commodities in my hands to make it a success. Along the way I was being asked to blog and even write a book. I kept postponing it, there was so much to do.

It’s been an intense journey, and 5 years later, I can scream it from the rooftops, things are happening!

I have navigated the business optimization waters of Lean, I am a Senior Advisor Innovative Organization by the Antwerp Management School. I have dived deep into the relationship optimization waters of processwork, and to stay musical, I have a battery of relationship-oriented tools, including Theory U, and Organization and Relationship Systems Coaching.

Within this spectrum of practices and experiences, I now use a wide range of frameworks to help my clients with their problem solving in a Design Thinking kind of way. I call myself an organizational design thinking consultant.

Today my clients are endorsing me, and oh yes, commodities have increased. I can now work on an entirely different kind of marketing with superstar Kerstin Hoffmann, the PR Doktor!

And here I am, excited to blog and share with you the many ways in which music connects to organizational development, facilitation and systemic coaching.

Today I would like to tell you something about graphic scores, the serious games right out of modern music performance. The prize is big. A graphic score is a collaborative framework that dramatically improves the quality of the collaboration with each iteration. The prize is continuous process improvement.

Did you know…?

Whereas classical music is notated making use of five lines with dots on and in between the lines (a score), some composers also make use of graphic notation when traditional classical music proves ineffective, the result being a graphic score. The example seen here (Hexagonie by Gaël Navard) is a graphic score of an ensemble piece. The aim of such a composition is mostly a research of new kinds of interactions between the score and the musicians. It is meant as a new type of ‘chamber music’ away from the chamber music played in traditional settings. Modern performers align around a purpose and remain engaged throughout its performance. Going back to Varèse, music is the organization of sound. When looking at graphic scores, we can also say that modern music is organized serious play.

Think for a moment about your teams

A music ensemble is in fact a team. Is the music your team is playing perhaps too traditional for the times we live in? Are traditional teambuilding practices unhelpful to your team? Are you seeking a different type of ‘sound’ for your organization? Stay, well…, tuned! Let me tell you more about graphic scores.

Hexagonie is a piece of music, a board game by Gaël NavardHexagonie

A graphic score is:

  • A serious game that allows expert musicians to develop new skills in real time while being care-free. Based on the instructions given in a legend, the players will be able to make different choices towards organizing the interaction. A symbol will trigger a gesture which will generate a new technique that in turn will generate a new type of sound. Graphic notation allows a musician to put aside everything he or she knows and to approach things with an open and fresh mind. It is a way of communicating that activates performers emotionally, allowing them to achieve that ‘something else’.
  • An iterative process of learning. There’s no such thing as a wrong performance. The first performance can be seen as a ‘minimum viable product’ (a ‘product’ that is not perfect but that somehow already works) and each time the game is played, the players will have a better understanding of the piece making each subsequent performance different and better.
  • A process to improve the enjoyment of work. The development of new skills and sounds fills experimental musicians with joy. The experimental musician yearns to go to places where he or she has never been before.

A graphic score:

  • Contains just a few rules that are clear, easy to remember (do not need to be repeated all the time), known to everyone through a legend, and easily accepted (no need for endless meetings to reach consensus). The responsibility for the end result lies within every player and everyone at the same time.
  • Allows everyone involved to have an overview of the whole process (most organizations are very fragmented, killing innovation)
  • Creates structure and a feeling of cohesion and coordination.
  • Is a flexible grid that says what needs to happen but leaves enough room for one’s own interpretation.
  • Promotes self-organization, self-selection and self-governance.

Graphic scores show that only two ingredients are necessary for self-organization: a clear purpose and a few restrictions or boundaries.

The principles of self-management were hammer-klaviered into me during my 15 years of serious play in The Netherlands. And not just self-management. I will be sharing my experience with this and other good sounding themes in my upcoming posts.

See you next time and until then, you can find my original paper on high performance HERE

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Sonsoles Alonso 
OD Consulting, Team & Executive Training and Coaching, Speaking.