The title of this post is a bit of advice I first heard many years ago, while working on an Enterprise Architecture review of a troubled software development effort.  Never waste a good crisis.

Of course, no crisis is good for the person going through it.  Be compassionate.  And I’m not talking about a personal crisis like the death of a loved one.  I’m talking about a crisis in business, like when a company changes strategy leaving customers out in the cold, or when a new technology simply fails to deliver any value, leaving the champion with less buy-in from his business stakeholders.

These are the little crises of business.  It often starts with someone taking a risk that doesn’t produce an hoped-for return.  If that someone is a senior leader, and they are smart, they have already collected their bonus or promotion and moved on, so they won’t get the blow-back from their own failure.  But just as often, the person who took a risk is still around to get hit with “blame and shame.”

Unhealthy as it is in a corporate environment, blame and shame is common.  When something goes wrong, someone takes the fall.

But for an influencer like an Enterprise Architect, a crisis can be a good thing.  Why?  Because we are change agents.  And people won’t change unless they are forced to change.  John Kotter, in his book “Leading Change” suggests that one of the greatest obstacles to change is complacency.  Change just isn’t urgent enough.  He’s completely right, and a crisis is often what is needed to break through complacency.

So a good change agent has a dozen different changes all queued up, ready to go.  Well thought out, well planned, well designed changes.  Some little, like getting your boss to agree to buy you a new Surface Pro 3, and some big, like a hacker waking up your leadership to the notion data security.

To take advantage of a crisis, you have to be ready.  Have your arrows sharpened and sitting in your quiver, ready to go.  During a crisis, you may get exactly one shot to propose an idea, and it may not be the moment you expect.  There won’t be a “right” time.  Just the opportune time.  So be prepared.

And when the crisis comes, strike.

On that note, I’m leaving Microsoft.

I’ve had the great pleasure of being part of the Microsoft family for eleven years now.  As many of my friends know, I was a dot-com entrepreneur back in the 90’s and had a great run at two start-ups in a row.  It was exciting but risky.  My children were very small and responsibilities to my family meant that I needed to curtail the risk for a while.  So I sought a “safe port in a storm” by joining Microsoft.  It served me well.  During the doldrum years and all the way into the Great Recession, I rode with Microsoft, pouring my energy into becoming the best Enterprise Architect I could be.

And for the past few years, I’ve been fortunate to be part of Microsoft Consulting, while the company experimented with providing Enterprise Architecture as a consulting program.  The ESP program has been through many lives in the past few years, and it is still “figuring itself out”, especially with the new “Devices and Services” world Microsoft has chosen for itself.  I’ve met some of the smartest, most amazing architects, project leaders, and yes, even sales professionals while working inside Microsoft Consulting, and I’ve learned a great deal.

But it’s time.  The economy is back.  Enterprise Architecture is on the rise, and I see opportunities to provide Enterprise Architecture service that are outside of Microsoft’s strategic focus.

So I’m moving on to create my own Enterprise Architecture practice as a compliment to Microsoft Consulting.  I am applying to become a Microsoft Partner, and will work happily with Microsoft customers, but I’ll no longer be limited to working solely in the Microsoft model.  I’ll be looking for other architects willing to take this journey with me.

Moreover, as many of you know, Enterprise Architecture is of tremendous value in companies that don’t have strong IT strategy and planning DNA.  These can be very large companies that are not IT focused, like transportation companies or retailers, or midsized companies that have never really gotten hold of the concept of strategic planning.  It can even include start-up firms that need to spend wisely and move quickly.  These players are an excellent market for a Vanguard EA, and I’m going for it with an established business and technical architecture process.

So if you wish to continue to follow me, reach out and connect with me on LinkedIn.

I will continue blogging on a new platform as soon as I get things set up.  If I’m able, I’ll bring across the EA-specific articles from this blog to that site as well. [updated 01 June 2016 — the new platform is and yes, I was able to bring across most of my posts]

It’s been a good run, but I’m awake from my own complacency, and I’m not going to waste a good crisis.

By Nick Malik

Former CIO and present Strategic Architect, Nick Malik is a Seattle based business and technology advisor with over 30 years of professional experience in management, systems, and technology. He is the co-author of the influential paper "Perspectives on Enterprise Architecture" with Dr. Brian Cameron that effectively defined modern Enterprise Architecture practices, and he is frequent speaker at public gatherings on Enterprise Architecture and related topics. He coauthored a book on Visual Storytelling with Martin Sykes and Mark West titled "Stories That Move Mountains".

2 thoughts on “Never Waste A Good Crisis”
  1. All the best nick! All your writings here helped me tremendously in numerous occasions I thank you for that.

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