A Trace in the Sand
by Ruth Malan
11/1/06 November Already!
How did this happen? The year is passing way too quickly!
11/2/06 Architecture Documents
When I was in Alaska in August I watched a program on Alaskan Public TV on the creation of the Alaskan Constitution. I was impressed--the convention delegates gave themselves 75 days to get the Constitution written. It is a quite remarkable story:
"Fifty years ago a dedicated group of Alaskans gathered in Fairbanks to shape the future. They worked with remarkable civic spirit to create a constitution that became the foundation for the state of Alaska. The 49th Star chronicles a great story of American democracy - an account of 55 people who gathered for 75 days in sub-zero temperatures for a Constitutional Convention. The 55 elected delegates represented communities across Alaska. Creativity, compromise and consensus were hallmarks of the Convention. Those qualities, combined with days and nights of discussion, argument and passionate debate, produced a constitution widely considered one of the best ever written. The Constitutional Convention and its result, a state constitution, was a pivotal achievement as Alaska continued its journey to statehood."
The Alaskan Constitution is quite short, by state constitution standards (though not nearly so short as the US Constitution). The proponents also wrote a Citizen's Guide to the Alaskan Constitution. It is 255 pages in its current edition, but in its first edition it was just a booklet used to explain the state's "architecture" to voters.
The current Citizen's Guide is at: http://w3.legis.state.ak.us/infodocs/constitution/citizens_guide.pdf?/constintution/citizens_guide.pdf and the Constitution is at: http://ltgov.state.ak.us/constitution.php
I think a "citizen's guide" that is short and pulls the essence together in a way that explains and motivates the architecture is a good idea. I don't mean a guide for non-citizens, I mean a guide for the "citizens" who will need to live with the architecture, cast their vote for it. Too often, our architecture document is the architecture spec, period. Good for its purpose. Not so good for buy-in. We can learn a lot about time-boxing, and about communicating, from those Alaskan politicians.
So, in your quest for stories, do consider The 49th Star; it is a great one!
11/3/06 Pat.. and Slap
During a workshop in Oregon, one woman (not from Oregon) made an indelible impression on me. She would persistently start out offering praise, and just as I was disarmed, strike! A classic still rings in my ears: "I like your dress." ... "uh, thank you" ... "It matches your hair." (I was wearing a black dress with a grey pattern.) On the sidelines, this passive aggressiveness would have been disorienting enough. In front of a roomful of people, let's just say it was one of those things that made me a more resilient instructor. And, it gave me a story to tell.
I try hard not to do this. Though I have to confess, I slip up under duress. My daughter saw right through it when I said "How is it that a smart 7 year old who's been going to school for 3 years doesn't know to brush her hair before we leave for school?" "That's an insult," she returned, lips starting to quiver.
When you're in the "advice" business, sometimes you need to redirect, and framing redirection can be challenging. This is true for me, as an architecture consultant, and true for architects, consulting with developers and others. While I try to act with grace, sometimes I just have to hope that my true and deep intention to do good, to help, is what comes across most strongly. But I'm aware that the excellence I seek out and acknowledge can be shadowed by the emotional deflation that comes in the context of finding an area for improvement.
... I searched for "feedback" on my domain looking for my reference to Seth Godin's blog piece on giving feedback, and groaned at how often the word feedback shows up! Oh well, it even appeared in a job posting I was quoting, so it's not just me... and it's not just the double X, coding me to nurture...
Here's something as scary as the global population explosion, but closer to home for those of our generation and younger in the USA: GAO Chief David Walker on Looming Economic Disaster. Please make sure you get out to vote on (or even before, in Indiana at least) November 7th. We need to send strong people with the will to fight this deficit to Washington.
11/3/06 Software Architecture Workshop, Arlington/DC area: Going, going, ...
Well, we are down to just 1 open spot. So, if you were going to help out by pointing someone to the class, you'll have to hurry! I just heard that another architect has been telling his colleagues that our workshop was a "life-changing event" for him. Changing how a person sees himself and his job, being the catalyst that helps him grow into a highly respected architect (so that "life changing" has significance to his colleagues)... why, that's something.
11/7/06 Software Architecture Workshop, Arlington/DC area: Gone!
It's a full house again. So, the next opportunity is March in the Bay Area (probably Palo Alto). Next week, we have 1 person coming in from Costa Rica, 1 from Norway, and 3 from China.
And women move in on DC! We have 3 in the workshop next week, and a new Speaker in the House!
11/10/06 Mark Mullin's Professional Blog
Impressed by an email interaction with Mark Mullin, I was sure he had a blog and went in search of it, and indeed he has one, and indeed it is good. You'll find the blog here: http://vibrant3d.net/blogs/default.aspx, and while you're there, take a look at his Electron and the Bear posts (good direction; innovative style in presenting both sides of a debate). Keep it up Mark! Now, I need to go in search of Mark Mullin's Unprofessional Blog!
After realizing that I'd fallen behind on my HBR reading, I picked Rosabeth Moss Canter's paper on "Innovation: The Classic Traps" (in the November issue of Harvard Business Review) to be my kitchen companion during downtime while on family dinner duty the past few days. Then Daniel Stroe (thanks) forwarded a link to Jim Miller's article "Commentary: 10 crucial elements of building an innovative company."
I've also been following some the commentary on Carly Fiorino's book (I guess I'll be picking that up soon). Carly claims that HP's current success is the result of her years of tenure at HP's helm. One thing I do know is that innovation often takes a few years in the pipe before the returns are fully realized. And Carly was dogged about innovation, with number of patents explicitly tracked in performance evaluations top-to-bottom through the company. I wish I'd kept screenshots of the HP website in the Carly years--"HP Invent" and number of patents awarded was prominent on the site. A lot that Carly did was unpopular, and the broad disenchantment with her leadership was counterproductive. But, I have to wonder, did HP Invent lay a key piece of the foundation for HP's success today?
[11/28/06: Rishi Khullar kindly pointed me to screenshots http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.hp.com. What I remember so vividly is the ticker showing number of patents awarded to HP and I surfed around a bit looking for this and didn't find anything more than the "HP Invent" logo from those years. So, another day, when I have more time...]
11/20/06 Making IT Matter
I'm reading Gawer and Cusumano's "Platform Leadership: How Intel, Microsoft, and Cisco Drive Industry Innovation" (2002) book and it is a striking illustration of the importance of architects in determining the strategic plays that shape competitive advantage through architecture and technology. A more important book than "Does IT Matter?" (Nicholas Carr, 2004) would be "Making IT Matter", and architects who are brought into the strategy process are, in effect, writing this book.
11/28/06 Just Busy
Thanks to those who are looking out for me. It's just a frenetically busy month. I'm as inspired as ever by the great work I see, and great people I work with!
I did carve out a moment to update the open enrollment workshop schedule for Q1 and Q2, 2007, so that those who want to can enroll now and use 2006 budget--yes, some of our clients are in this situation.
2006 by Ruth Malan
I also write at:
- Bredemeyer Resources for Architects
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