Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Enterprise Architecture and Institutional Stupidity

I had the opportunity to chat with three different architects at work yesterday (Hi Ashwin, John and Tom) regarding several ideas we were noodling several months ago (non-work related) and agreed to continue the dialog at a future point in time. Later in the day, when i got home where the latest issue of InfoWorld was waiting in my mailbox. There was an article about a guy who has a moron for a boss who always wanted to cram twelve weeks of work into three. I figured I couldn't pass up an opportunity to comment on the notion of how enterprise architecture needs to address institutional stupidity...

Institutional stupidity reminds me of Baskin Robbins which comes in a variety of flavors. Within many enterprises, the vast majority of stupidity is of the garden-variety. Usually this type of stupidity over time eliminates itself (highly fibrous) so its worthy of attention from most enterprise architects. What deserves the attention however is when stupidity is piled high and deep and its aroma forces itself on the entire population.

Our great president, Bill Clinton was the poster child of governmental endorsed institutional stupidity. It came in the form of promoting to a variety of audiences that has no real substance the phrase "I feel your pain". Sadly, the folks in Human Resources in many enterprises have adopted political correctness and shoved it down the throats of their employees.

We all know that enterprise architecture will ultimately fail of folks are not allowed to have honest genuine conversations about why thinks blow. The Agile Manifesto encourages teams to constantly self-reflect and tune accordingly which cannot happen unless dialog is allowed to occur. Enterprise architecture needs to champion open conversations as its first goal.

The second aspect of institutional stupidity is the lack of acknowledgement of the skills of their employees. Hope it isn't a surprise to anyone that half of all IT workers are below the median but that about 80% of all IT workers are below average. Think about the good ole 80/20 rule.

One of the most consistent characteristics of civilizations and enterprises attempting enterprise architecture without strong technical leadership is failure. Archaeologists have built a profession on studying failures. Historians build careers by explaining failures. Every day, we are immersed in ignorable warnings that we too may fail as have those who have gone before. This basic, fundamental human constant is due to the fact that we are all pretty stupid, and no amount of information, learning or technological expertise seems to alter this subtlety one iota. The problem is that we have ready-made, socially condoned, psychologically acceptable explanations for crucial events.

Many folks who presume to practice architecture are really practicing Rationalization which helps contribute to failure by explaining away not only the inexplicable but the explicable as well. We need the assurance of having answers, so if necessary, we make them up. These myths, in turn, can prevent us from discovering valid answers to our questions.

Enterprise architecture is not about the ability to make up bullshit on the fly but in allowing the best architectures to emerge. This will only happen if we seek to eliminate institutional stupidity...

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