>Jonah and Enterprise Architecture

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There was an interesting editorial in the Wall Street Journal, 19 September 2007 about the Book of Jonah (that we read on Yom Kippur). Jonah was commanded by G-d to exhort the people of the city of Ninveh to repent or face G-d’s wrath. But Jonah flees and we all know what happens with him and the whale.

Jonah was concerned that he was in a catch 22. On one hand, if he warns the people of Ninveh and they repented and nothing happened (i.e. they were spared), then they would “assail Jonah for forcing them to make needless sacrifies.” On the other hand, if Ninveh did not repent and was destroyed, the Jonah would be a failed Prophet. (Yes, I know Jonah should’ve had faith that everything would be okay.)

Jonah’s dilema is repeated throughout history. During crisis, leaders frequently encounter this catch 22—no win dilema.

  • “Winston Churchhill, for example, prophetically warned of the Nazi threat in he 1930’s, but if he had convinced his countrymen to strike Germany pre-emptively, woul dhe have been hailed for preventing WWII or condemned for initiating an unnecessary conflict?”
  • Similarly, “Harry Truman predicted that Japan would never surrender and that a quarter of a million GIs would be killed…and so he obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki only to be vilified by many historians.”
  • This type of denounciation, for prevening an unknown, is what President Bush is experiencing for invading Iraq after 9/11 to stave off another terrorist attack in the United States.

What’s the leadership lesson here?

“This is the tragedy of leadership…policy makers must decide between costly actions and inaction…they will be reproved for the actions they take to forestall a catastrophe, but may receive no credit for averting cataclysm that never occur.”

In User-centric EA, like in all planning endeavors, we face a similar crisis of leadership. EA develops the enterprise’s target and transition plan, yet whatever actions (or inactions) that the target state and plan take, the architects are wide open for criticism.

  • If their planning in any way helps avert a future corporate crisis, no one will recognize them for some unknown that did not occur.
  • And if the plans in any way misses the mark (and no plan is perfect), then the architects are villified for the “errors of their ways”.
  • Finally, even with the best laid plans, who can definitely make the causal relationship between the plan and results.

So, architects, like Jonah, are in tough spot—hopefully, we don’t get swallowed by the whale of nay-sayers and critics. Of course, its always easier to criticize than to be constructive.

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