Coaching & Enterprise Architecture?


Does the business, like the water, flow the same direction?

A recent Linked In group discussion revolved around how coaching does/does not fit in the Enterprise Architecture (EA) world.  Hum?  What do you think? 

I found it an interesting idea to ponder.  For this article, I’ve extracted the question and a portion of the responses.  

Defining Enterprise Architecture

At this point I would typically point you to Wikipedia for a good definition to provide some framing.  However, I found the Wikipedia content both lacking and under revision.  When I stepped back, I realized this shouldn’t be so surprising given the somewhat diverse views of EA.  To me, EA breaks down into two camps.

  1. IT-centric Enterprise Architecture.  I personally view this as Tech Arch, though there are many who will argue about this.
  2. Business focused Enterprise Architecture.  This broader, more holistic viewpoint is more in alignment with my personal view. 

The Initial Question, Thoughts & Ideas

James Lapalme •Should coaching being an element of enterprise architecture?  I completed a 1 week intensive life/professional coaching course last week.  The final course assignment was to coach a total stranger.  It was an amazing feeling to help a person with a topic which was dear to them.  The person I coached truly appreciated the experience.  People seem to really appreciate having someone to listen to them, and to help them sort out their thoughts.

Corporations would probably benefit from having coaching as an organizational component of their hierarchical structure.  They spend a lot of time on action, and put almost no emphasis on reflection.  Should this type of reflection be part of the enterprise architecture?

Faith Fuqua-Purvis • I cannot speak to whether it should be part of enterprise architecture, only to the value of coaching as well as some organizational observations and challenges.  My sense is that it would be difficult to gain acceptance of Coaching as a formal part of enterprise architecture across the board but that it might be accepted at some organizations.

  • It is often difficult to individuals to fully grasp the value of coaching until they experience it directly. 
    • This can be through a formal program such as you attended, a 1:1 coach, or through indirect coaching.  
  • I’ve observed that coaching is often associated with Mentoring.  While they are similar, I do believe that they are often executed in different manners with different motivators and drivers.
  • There has been a subtle perception/belief that Mentoring is to help move someone up the ladder to be more successful, while Coaching is more about “fixing” an issue or “bad behavior.” 
  • The skill set required to be a good coach is undervalued.  
  • Just like with consultants, there are good, very good, and “less good” coaches. 
    • I hesitate to say “bad coaches” as I don’t believe that anyone would label themselves as a coach without a minimum level of true coaching skills.

A good coach would listen in an authentic manner and seek ways to guide self revelations and self awareness.  There is a great difference in acceptance rates between telling someone something and allowing them to discover it for themselves.

To be a good coach you have to make a calculated choice as to when and how often to deliver a difficult message.  You need to weigh the balance of the objectives and desired outcomes of the interactions with the risks and potential land minds when talking about the metaphorical elephant in the room, overtly identifying and discussing the underlying motivations and drivers.  We all are challenged to really look in the mirror some days and truly see ourselves.  The image shown changes over time and should be revisited periodically.

Coaches can be hired or they can simply be people you work with or know, that help you gain a better understanding of yourself, how you operate, and how you interact with others.  The desired outcome being an improvement in how you are feeling about what you are doing and the ability to operate more effectively.

Ron Thiessen • I think that one of the most intriguing dynamics I have observed over the last 10 years or so is that we have invented numerous “time-saving” gadgets that have succeeded in monopolizing our time beyond all sane measure.  What this seems to have created is a rush toward initiation, progression, and completion of projects to the exclusion of thought-provoking analysis of pros and cons.  In the drive to the bottom line, most corporations do not have TIME to designate to the think tank.  And the type of reflection you refer to (I think) could become pretty scary because an individual might have to justify in his/her own mind why they are attempting to move at such a frenetic pace to reach…….what? 

The number of clients I see who are “burned out” as a result of work stress is mounting almost daily.  Invariably, one of the secrets of moving from stress to sanity is intensive self-reflection, bringing the sufferer back to the basics of existence and their Life Purpose.  If corporations understood the power of key employees who are at peace with their world, they would run, not walk, their employees to the nearest conference, seminar, life coach, or psychologist.

Ari Tikka • I second Ron. Run you fools… :)  I aim at making my every client a peer coach.  Think of a team with every member taking responsibility of leadership and peer coaching.  Sadly, the current disempowering management norm is weeding this kind of development away.  Short term wins.

Doug McDavid • This brings the human element into a topic (EA) that too often focuses on the technology, or, when human social systems are considered, they are in such abstract form that the person is lost.  Here’s the kind of problem that could be addressed by the right kind of coaching. 

Systems developers are motivated by the desire to do something helpful for the part of the business they are closely associated with.  After hundreds or thousands of well-intentioned efforts have proceeded, the bigger, enterprise-wide system of systems can be a big mess.  Enterprise architecture, with its attendant governance, tries to bring coherence to this mess, but apparently with a loss of autonomy of individual development efforts.  Coaching can help all parties to see other points of view, and achieve a balance of big picture and immediate practicalities.

James Lapalme • For me EA is about helping the organization to align all its dimensions (people, process and technology) in order to meet organizational visions and objectives.  These dimensions encompass elements such as organizational structure, capital expense models, IT, performance management, knowledge management, process design, etc.”

If you agree with my definition then you would probably agree that EA is basically strategic business planning.  In this context, my question becomes “Does coaching have a role in strategic business planning (especially when working with CxOs and senior executives)? 

And the discussion went on…. 

Defining Enterprise Architecture – Take Two

Let’s just say that I like James’s definition and leave it at that.

Some Closing Thoughts

So what are the takeaways?  What do I hope you will stop and ponder for a moment?

  • What does the term Enterprise Architecture mean to you? 
    • Do you think at the Enterprise Architecture level?
    • Is there a group focused on Enterprise Architecture at your organization?  If not, why not?
  • What is your personal view of the role of a Coach?
    • How might you personally or someone you know benefit from a Coach
    • Have you observed resistence to the concept of Coaching in your organization?  If so, what and why?
  • If you think coaching is valuable, how might you help your organization understand the value?
    • Do you feel that you could ask for a Coach?
  • Is there someone you could swap Coaching with?  You Coach them and they Coach you?
    • What are the challenges with this?
    • What might be the unique benefits?
  • What might be contributing to your own personal burnout?   
    • If you aren’t feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or a little crispy – Congratulations and share the secret!
  • Are you using Social Networking tools to engage in thought provoking dialogs? 
    • If not, why not?
    • Might this relate to part of what Ron touches upon?

The Challenge

Get yourself a Coach!  If you can’t afford to hire a professional Coach, I encourage you to actively seek out a friend or colleague who can act as a personal Coach.  It’s important to remember that this is not the same role as a mentor.  The person you ask needs to have a good level of empathy, interpersonal skills, understand psychological issues, and be willing to make the time investment to help you. 

The web is full of tools (some free, some not) that can help you conduct your own personality and behavioral analysis.   Its important to agree about what you want as an outcome and that both parties be committed to the process.  Good luck to both you and your Coach, should you decide to take on this Coaching Challenge!

Note:  These are only extracts 5 of the 16 posts in this discussion.  Discussions like this are a good way to challenge your and other’s thinking on a topic.  Edits did not include wordsmithing, rather deletion of content not relevant to this article.


  1. Excellent discussion, Faith.

    Executives are hired for their technical skills and experience but fired due to a lack of leadership ability. Effective leadership coaching can happen on the dance floor of conversation.

    Once the person commits to being coached, s/he begins to experience a different, more hopeful world as his or her perceptions evolve.

Guiding Principles

- Think Holistically
- Seek the Root Causes
- Respect the Individual
- Demonstrate Accountability
- Collaborate with Clients
- Work with Integrity, Always
- Relate to the Business Strategy
- Ensure Alignment
- Demonstrate Responsibility
- Transfer Skills

Thoughts and Quotes