Marry Your Builder to Your Architect.

28th Feb 2019

A couple of weeks ago, at our most recent Change Makers workout, our guest speaker lobbed an interesting question to us: “Are you a Builder, or an Architect?”

She was referencing The Lego Movie. In Lego society, most people are Builders. The Builders follow the rules, do what’s asked of them, and are good citizens. They follow the plan. They build stuff. And they build it good. The ultimate status in Lego society is Master Builder!

People who don’t buy the Builder narrative are outcast. They’re the rebels, misfits and creators who prefer to create things that don’t follow the plan to the letter. Our guest called these people the ‘Architects’.

I reckon that’s a great metaphor for what’s going on in a lot of our organisations and society.

We need Builders. Nothing happens without them. They give us reliable, solid stuff. And if the world was full of Architects, I reckon we’d have a whole lot of ideas, and a whole lot of chaos.

Research by adult development expert Bill Torbert and PwC suggests we’ve got plenty of Builders in our workplaces – people who can get shit done. And we’re short on people who can operate as Architects.

In this day and age, we desperately need more Architects. People who take existing practices and create something new. People who push the boundaries. They challenge the norms, because they can see that what’s served us in the past doesn’t necessarily serve our emerging future.

In stable times, when we’re confident things won’t change much between the design of the plan and the finished product, we can simply get an awesome team of Builders to deliver a great finished product. In interesting times, when our context is changing fast, we need our Architects close to hand to help us invent new ways, and to work closely with our Builders to keep iterating as we go.

The Lego Movie reminds us that we’re not one or the other. Both are inside us. We need to hook up our inner Builders and our inner Architects and consummate a happy marriage. Like any great marriage, when things are in sync, there’s a lovely to-and-fro tension going on. Sometimes we need the strengths of the Builder to get stuff done. Other times, we need the Architect’s vision and inspiration to infect us with fresh inspiration.

When you’ve got the dynamic balance between your Builder and Architect right, you’re in your sweet spot. That goes for you, as well as for the group of people you’re leading.

Across the spectrum from Builder to Architect, where’s your default? What’s your culture’s default? How close are you to your sweet spot? What shift is your context asking of you? And how can you get the dynamic balance working for you?



The Change Makers programme and workshop series creates leaders who learn to master the Builder / Architect balance to create lasting, positive change. Check out the programme and in-house workshops and get in touch for a chat about how I can help you to create the change you want to see.

And my new book, Change Makers: How to make your mark with more impact and less drama, gives you your roadmap to make it happen. It’s available for pre-order now.