A Trace in the Sand
by Ruth Malan
1/1/07 Happy New Year!
I hope that you had a wonderful start to 2007, and that you will have a great year!
[1/29/07: Just stumbled on this http://www.passingnotes.com/index.php/legal-notification-for-holiday-season/. ]
1/6/07, 1/8/07 Bouncing Off the Accenture Ad
I was struck by an Accenture ad in the Chicago airport: Tiger Woods is setting up for a pitch shot and there’s his strategy line for the shot and the line is labeled 30% insight, 70% foresight and 0% hindsight. This ad is directing attention to Accenture research into what makes high performers so successful. 70% foresight! No kicking oneself after the shot. Experience counts in insight, but foresight matters even more. This is the whole notion of being strategic, forward-looking, anticipating, planning, playing the winning angle.
This is why the Visual Architecting Process is so powerful—the strategic setup, making foresight more self-conscious, is essential to quicker, more intentional, purposeful architecting. Everyone is looking for what to short-cut in software development. But short-cutting intentional strategy simply means that strategy is left to ripple up from a myriad undirected decisions in an ad hoc piecemeal growth approach to software development whereby both the properties of the system and the strategy are emergent; relying on happenstance and heroism. This may feel fast, being that everyone is always scrambling to solve the crisis of the day; until the crises become so frequent and hard to resolve that it is apparent even without measurement that the trial-and-error approach is not fast at all!
We don't get true speed from spending all our time strategizing and planning either! So, the Visual Architecting Process looks for better-than-Pareto techniques to get the essential strategy work done by the right people—high performers who can bring insight and foresight in the critical dimensions of competitive advantage to the table.
Agile cycles have an important place to play in large system development, but only, I would venture to argue, in the context of strategy—business/product strategy and technical strategy. Strategy and foresight plus insight go hand-in-hand: foresight is anticipating where markets and technology, the business and competitors, and customers (current, emerging and future segments or contexts of use) are headed; insight is built of experience moderated by intelligence, leveraging lessons learned into opportunities to deliver value and strategies to overcome challenge and risk.
1/8/07 That Vision Thing
I stole a moment to look in on Kevin's Architect's Linksblog (I am horribly behind on architectural surfing and haven't even had a chance to stop by favorite blogs in more than a month). Having just jotted down the thoughts above, this entry caught my eye:
"Leaders Focus on Creating, Not Problem Solving - This can be a tough lesson for developers moving to architect or other leadership roles that are used to their troubleshooting engineer role."
Scanning George Ambler's essay, these words sprang out:
"Society is too problem focused, we are more concerned about fixing problems, removing what we don’t want, than we are with creating what we do want."
Right there is a great articulation of why we do "desired state" interviews during our strategic visioning process at the front-end of Visual Architecting! Desired state interviews free the person being interviewed from all the clutter of today's problems, and lets them think about how they want things to be. Then we look at how to get there, from here. But thinking about what to fix today, is so overwhelming and oppressive it hardly lets us be creative; certainly not big-picture, high-payoff creative!
1/9/07 Charlie Alfred's Comments
Charlie Alfred was kind enough to share his thoughts on my "Vision Thing" notes above. Here are his observations, which he gave me permission to make available here:
"You are entirely right. Ambler's comment on problem-focus vs. creative is comparing apples and oranges. You wrote about the first major issue::
The second major issue, equally important, is:
Perhaps this second issue should go without saying. But in my experience, people often don't look far enough beyond the boundaries of the system under development.
I worked on a reference data management system for derivatives and swaps in 2005. The immediate issues were message reliability, schema translation, and error handling. Yet, without looking through this first layer to understand the business processes inside and outside of of the investment firm, you have no real way to know that you are addressing the right problems."
-- Charlie Alfred
Scope is indeed a key piece. In addition to Charlie's work on use context and value modeling, we highly recommend Grove's Strategic Visioning™ process along with their Graphic Guides® as an excellent way to Pareto this up-front, ground-laying vision and strategy work that is so necessary to effective execution. Taking these influences into account, in creating a compelling vision, we look at:
In all of this work, we are broadly considering the scope relevant to the mission at hand. If we are working on strategy and visioning at the enterprise scope, then we are working at a much higher level than if we are working on visioning for a product; and visioning for a business unit, or for a product line, is in between. The key is to filter by relevance, but bearing in mind that commitments around scope (in the sense of scope that designates capabilities of the system being architected) are an outcome of visioning and some follow-up work, not input to it. That said, given the initiating mission, we need to consider which key stakeholders to gather visioning input from. Stakeholders include those in different use contexts (arising from different market segments, as well as different stages of the product/service lifecycle including sales, installation, and operation) as well as various internal business stakeholders such as various levels of management (strategic versus project execution), marketing, IT/R&D/technology development, etc. I mentioned seeking the magic Pareto (I'm an optimist, so actually I seek better than 80% gain for 20% effort), and key to attaining this kind of productivity is being strategic about who is brought into the visioning process!
"The topic I started to touch on in my latest blog entry are the challenges in getting (and keeping) groups aligned, including:
local contexts facilitate communication between people who share the context, and inhibit it between those who don't
When you combine these things (and some others that haven't occurred to me) with complexity, time urgency, and information overload, you can easily reach a point where groups break down. One major reason is that each group gets so immersed in its own world and concerns, that they lack understanding of the concerns and challenges facing other groups. In addition, if they don't share enough context (common understanding) communication takes a lot of effort and becomes inefficient. The direct effect of this is that groups have a tendency to undervalue the problems faced by or value contributed by other groups. This tendency can be conscious or unconscious.
Shared vision enables these groups to focus on a future state that they want to achieve, and need each other to do it. Alignment keeps the groups organized and keeps their activities properly directed - in normal situations, unusual situations, and when things change.
In the end, alignment seems like architecture for human systems, and shared vision seems similar to articulating purpose and value proposition. Ironically, perhaps human systems and computational systems are more similar than we think.
After all, the main differences are:
Perhaps if you take these things into consideration, the rest of the principles of architecture apply equally well in both cases."
... yes... and for me this comes up in communicating direction (and the architecture) too. Motivating the necessity of writing architecture decisions down and talking about them, I have pointed out that human components are very well encapsulated! I did see in an ACM newsgram that Atari has experimented with a probe directly in a boys head (the intrusion already being there for epilepsy control...) and he was able to control the mouse cursor with his thoughts!!! But generally our thoughts are very effectively encapsulated, and we only gain access to thoughts via these communication channels (writing, drawing, talking). Of course, this breaks down in cases like mine, where my proclivity to writing tends to leak thoughts all over place...
For those who may be new to it, Charlie's blog is: http://charliealfred.wordpress.com/. I mentioned I have been so snowed under that I haven't had a chance to stop by some favorite blogs of late, and Charlie's blog is one of those. I have rectified that neglect some, though I still have to get to a number of the posts I missed during the seasonal downtime (most of which was related to seasonal illnesses, but some was related to seasonal celebratory fun), but... I'm catching up! I certainly value Charlie's generous sharing of insight and content, and highly recommend his blog! He is working in a space that is too often neglected; one which holds my interest as a result!
s a trademark of Grove Consultants International
1/10/07 Commenting on Comments...
I suspect I should have continued the above discussion in my blog (where I started it) rather than here... but for some reason I think it is ok to jot down notes here, and feel (I should be) more self-conscious on my blog...
It is almost a year since I started making my architecture notes public via this online journal. At the time, Kevin (of Architect's Linksblog fame) suggested I blog instead, so I did both... I didn't think that all that many people would want to read my notes, since I expected these notes to be as scattered as they have proven to be. I thought I would separate out more interesting pieces from this journal, edit them, and post those to my blog... but once I've had the thought I'm often too ready to move on (already bored with my own thinking??) and forget to reap material for the blog, so it is rather sadly neglected... sigh...
So, neither mechanism is working all that well.
I'm happy to consider what you think I should do. From time to time, someone tells me they've been tracking my journal, but otherwise I have no idea who reads these notes (I don't have or want stats on this site—it would defeat the personal point). I do keep being surprised by who is reading them; this is a comment on me, not you as a reader! I guess it boils down to finding reliable (at least partly a matter of taste) guides to the explosion of stuff "out there." I've come to rely on Kevin's scouting and check in with him even before I follow some of my own threads of interest. So... it's nice that you check in on where I've been scouting too.
[12/18/09: An architect I worked with in Germany scolded me most severely for the lack of improvement-orientation signaled by not tracking site stats, so I eventually succumbed to installing stats after 2 years of journaling. Seeing that my home page was not "sticky," did prompt me to improve my home page... And stats did alert me to the use of some of my pictures in ways that made me realize that having my name as my domain name could be a really bad thing... and caused me to put a lid on this journal for a few months while I wrestled with the risk versus the utility to me of having Google index my entries and make it easy for me to find thoughts and links I trace in this journal. The stats are also the small reward for doing this in public, for the repeat visits are all the encouragement I get from readers who, granted, don't have a comment facility.]
1/11/07 Upcoming Architecture Event
DR. DOBB S ARCHITECTURE & DESIGN WORLD
2007 CALL FOR PAPERS CLOSING SOON!
1/11/07 It Depends
I find myself saying "it depends" in response to questions that demand a context-sensitive answer. I started to think it was an artifact of being a consultant, working with various architecture projects that differ in scope, organizational complexity, technical complexity, point in the product lifecycle (1st release, 6th release, 1st next generation release, etc.), etc. Some people have been uncomfortable with this apparent equivocating. Then I became aware that many architects were answering my questions with "it depends." During the last workshop, it fell into place—here's one of those little indicators one can use to suss out architects! Someone who is very uncomfortable with grey areas, fuzzy lines, ambiguity, is going to be uncomfortable as an architect. Philippe Kruchten put it so well when he wrote:
"The life of a software architect is a long and rapid succession of suboptimal design decisions taken partly in the dark."
Philippe Kruchten, "The Architects -- The Software Architecture Team," Proceedings of the First Working IFIP Conference on Software Architecture (WICSA1). Kluwer Academic Publishing 1999.
Some decisions will be suboptimal because we don't have a crystal ball but need to act as though we have one! Some will be suboptimal from some perspectives—local vested interest within one product group, for example, may be compromised to achieve overall product family goals. The architects of the U.S. Constitution recognized that they had to accept that "good enough," given an amendment mechanism, was better than "none at all." Someone who cannot handle "it depends" is going to have a hard time coming to grips with "good enough" when our field is so much about art and judgment, and (thanks Accenture) insight and foresight.
As an aside, if you've been tracking our work at all, you've surely read the U.S. Constitution story in our Role of the Architect paper. But in case you haven't, you'll find it at http://www.cutter.com/offers/greatarchitect.htm. The full reference is Dana Bredemeyer and Ruth Malan, "What it Takes to be a Great Enterprise Architect," Cutter Consortium's Enterprise Architecture Executive Report, August 2004. This use of the U.S. Constitution as a metaphor for architecture has it's roots in Bill (William) Crandall's inspiration; I wonder where Bill Crandall is now? And yes, Cutter asked me to do another report in 2006, but I was just too swamped to take it on.
1/11/07 More on The Vision Thing
Booch doesn't say why this quote strikes him. But from the title to this post, you can guess why it resonates so much with me! It is not that I think that sailors make better ship builders, or that ship-building sailors make better ships... It is more that creating a shared yearning, a common quest, is so important to communal creative endeavor. Then, building the vessel that will take us where we want to go will be an inspired venture, a joy that generates goodwill enough to surmount the challenges.
As for the Walesa quote... we are using our computers in the search for love... isn't that a founding assumption of MySpace?? If not, why is the user experience dominated, and to my mind, subverted, by this assumption...?? Ok, maybe it's just me, but I object to being characterized by age, gender, sexual orientation and location, and having that presented as "me in a nutshell" to the world. I mentioned this in reference to how our assumptions shape our systems and how this becomes very hard to maneuver away from, and I was told "everyone lies about their age on MySpace." Well, gee, I suppose it says something about my age, that this architect instantly concluded that was the source of my objection! Why wasn't it the default assumption that I prefer to be known by my interests or areas of contribution—that I would want to interact in a community based on a projection of who I am that is not limited or constrained by the dating baseline of age, gender and location? Those of us who are not available in the dating sense, still live in the world, even the MySpace world! How does this relate to vision? Clearly, MySpace had a strong and unifying vision and this led to a whole lot of goodness for MySpace development. And then again, if the MySpace architects envisioned where MySpace could go—well beyond dating (and finding "love," in all its nuances) and music/video sharing—you wouldn't see the dating assumption shaping everything from profiles to the search engine on MySpace.
McGrath has a checklist section on ways visions may be flawed, including tunnel vision, myopia, and some other things I'm forgetting right now... and too busy to run two doors down to pull McGrath's book (see below) from the library shelves! Anyway, if you don't have it, you need to get it, really! It's "highly recommended" (by me). Well ... I found it useful; I expect you will too.
McGrath, Michael, Product Strategy for High-Technology Companies: How to Achieve Growth, Competitive Advantage, and Increased Profits, Second Edition, McGrath, 2001. Highly Recommended.
I've recommended McGrath's book to IT architects, not just product architects. As I've said, "Making IT Matter" is more interesting than Does IT Matter, and that is all about figuring out where IT can be leveraged to create differentiating advantage. (And yes, Carr's point applies—where it does not make a strategic difference, we should manage IT accordingly.) Some IT folk from a bio-manufacturing company told me they were just a cost center, nothing strategic about them. I probed for where their company differentiated. They make the mass market, low cost good in their segment. They said distribution logistics was a key area. Well, it didn't take any of us long to realize that without IT they couldn't lead in the logistics area, which indicated an identity shift was in order for that IT group! And established permission for me to "bully" (who, me?) them into putting cycles into strategy.
1/12/07 Long Tail: Call for Papers
Cutter IT Journal: The
Long Tail: The Changing Role of Strategy, Systems and Operations in the
Era of the Informed Customer
To request more information or to submit an article idea, please respond to Eric K. Clemons, Clemons@wharton.upenn.edu with a copy to email@example.com, no later than 26 January 2007 and include an extended abstract and an outline of the proposed article, showing major discussion points.
What does this have to do with architecture? Uh... nothing ... Just a little animal levity to lighten a dull, rainy Saturday! But... Booch's blog post struck me—as far as I can tell, he wrote his collection bullet point to provide the segue for me to post these pictures! Certainly I don't think he wants a bunch of folk ordering Melissa and Doug giraffes to ship to him... Still, I know his birthday is coming up soon. Ouch! Now, I collect Ardmore ceramics, if you've a mind to punish me in kind for my indiscretion. You can get them at Christies in London. Or at the quaint studio in the Drakensberg foothills, but only if you just happen to be passing by. Of course, if you go there because I introduced this piece of heaven-on-earth to you, then you'll no doubt feel you owe me an Ardmore piece! Just kidding!
Ok, so I have a singular sense of humor. Best kept under wraps. Please note, this is all Ben Ponne's fault! Between him and the IRS, I'm in the office today and should really be out hiking... in the rain... or something!
And if you do feel inspired to expand someone's collection, I suggest a donation to Room to Read!
1/20/07 I Get to Play Too! But...
Oh dear! I mentioned I have been too busy to hang out in the blogosphere... so I've only now noticed that (two weeks ago) Arnon tagged me to play the "5 things you don't know about me" chain-letter-blog-style-game. My problem is, I don't think there is anything left to find out about me! After all, you already know I have a crush on Dana Bredemeyer, right? And you know I hail from South Africa (still have that "colonial English" accent even after close to 20 years in the United States). Speaking for myself at least, South Africans have a satirical bent, and the satire is usually self-directed. Naturally, my humor lies entirely in the intellectual camp; I'd never stoop to slap-stick—well, not unless a giraffe was involved. And I never exaggerate. Never! And I never tease. Ok, I'll come clean. There was this one occasion where I teased Grady Booch, but that's only because he's a big-hearted sort of guy who can take it—how do I know this? I was there when Rumbaugh serenaded Booch with "I've looked at clouds from both sides now."
Now I need to tag 5: so Charlie Alfred, Kevin Furbish, Anshu Gaind, Mark Mullin, and Simon Munro you're "it"—if you feel like playing, that is. Wouldn't it be better if the tag went along with a challenge to donate to Room to Read. That would be a pyramid worth growing!
(Arnon is to be highly lauded for inviting not just one, but two women to play too. )
Dana mentioned this Bucky Fuller quote he says he's been using in workshops: “I always say to myself: What is the most important thing we can think about at this extraordinary moment?” This came to mind, when, on looking back over my last two posts, I was wondering what on this good earth possessed me to frit away minutes like that!
I went looking for the Fuller quote, so I could reference it properly, and came across a reference to Fuller's technology gestation rates (explored in Critical Path). While pursuing this trail, I got distracted by a piece on Lincoln and t-mail, and stumbled on this quote:
"People… are more easily influenced through the medium of a broad and humorous illustration than in any other way."
Do you remember any of the e-mails you read today? Do you remember any of the e-mails you sent today? Unfortunately, all too often there is a vast grey line of deadly boring e-mail that piles up in our in-boxes day after day, devoid of color, description, spontaneity and humor. Obviously your stories and humor have to be in good taste, but when used effectively they are an incredibly powerful way to communicate.
Jim Walker, "President Lincoln, You've Got Mail! How Lincoln Used "T-Mail" To Win The Civil War"
So, now I'm in somewhat of a crisis. Is it in good taste to suggest, even in jest, that "yawl" could have some fun sending our good Mr. Booch a 5ft tall stuffed giraffe for his birthday? Playfulness has its place. In kindergarten. Better to change the world the Wood way, with education. So, nix that giraffe gaffe! Quick! Oh, don't worry, this won't reach Grady unless you tell him, and I know you won't. This journal is not the sort of thing one admits to reading! I'm sorry; I have a wicked sense of humor! But I'm 5 9's at the brunt of it, and I figure that if anyone should have 0.001% exposure, it should be someone with a healthy predisposition to being a genuinely nice guy with a well-tamed ego—the kind who'd let one have a little fun while raising money for a good cause. So, did I mention Room to Read yet? Just checking! No sleeping at the wheel.
Back to Lincoln. On my way back to the Milwaukee airport last week, I saw a billboard which read:
"Fail, fail, fail.
Beneath was a picture of Lincoln.
I have no idea what it was advertising; I was too distracted by the relevance for architects—we shape the future through our vision and dogged persistence. Technology gestation is not just about time for new technologies to be figured out. It is also about time to have the need for change sink in, to be absorbed by those who need to figure out how to accommodate the change.
Which gets me back to the Fuller quote. It is compelling and inspiring to prioritize our time by reminding ourselves that each moment is an extraordinary moment—if only in that we will never again have this particular moment. But some of what we need to do, even with our fleeting moments, is simple project hygiene! When I shared the first draft of a paper I was writing with Derek Coleman and Reed Letsinger with these co-authors, Derek was distraught. "This is like telling people they have to brush their teeth every day," he said. We submitted the paper to OOPSLA'95 (yes, that OOPSLA when Jim serenaded Grady at a Rational-sponsored side-show announcing and starring the "3 Amigos"). The reviewers gave it a score of 5, the highest rating. Apparently they agreed that people had to be told to brush their teeth. And I'm still telling people to brush their teeth: Seek differentiating value. Identify and prioritize challenges and risks. Articulate principles and strategies. Identify patterns and design mechanisms. Create visual models to think these through, and communicate. Document as you go. Keep the documentation up-to-date. Validate early, and often.
If you live in an impoverished environment, where the day-to-day fight for survival dominates attention, hygiene may seem like a luxury, yet the lack of it breeds debilitation.
On the other hand, if we treat each moment like an extraordinary moment, a moment to be seized to accomplish big things, a moment in which we can defer hygiene, then our environment degenerates. John Wood's trunk is a case in point. (What, you still haven't read the book??)
So, balance, I find, is key. Architects make tradeoffs. Architects need to strike a balance. Yes, indeed, "What is the most important thing we can think about at this extraordinary moment?" That is not a call to pursue opportunity at the expense of all else. But it is a reminder to value the extraordinary moment in history we find ourselves in, and to use it well—to face each moment with wonder and appreciation, and prioritize where we pay attention.
So, use this day well. Ask: What big thing can I do today that will make a difference? And what are the little things I can do today that will, like the Buckminster Fuller trimtab, help steer myself, my project, and my enterprise on a course of contribution and value creation?
And, thanks to Dana's Fuller quote which led me to Ready, Aim, Inspire which led me to Bono's U-Penn commencement address. (Goodness, one does arrive at unexpected places on the Internet! I tend to jump/skip-read until I find "the good stuff", and Bono's address is definitely up there on my "good stuff" list right now.) It is a call to action, specifically a call to action on the ideal of equality with Africa as the proving ground. As inspiring pieces go, this is one to learn from, dude! I urge you to read it at the source, but here's a snippet:
"Me, I'm in love with this country called America. ...
I'm that kind of fan. I read the Declaration of Independence and I've read the Constitution of the United States, and they are some liner notes, dude. As I said yesterday I made my pilgrimage to Independence Hall, and I love America because America is not just a country, it's an idea. You see my country, Ireland, is a great country, but it's not an idea. America is an idea, but it's an idea that brings with it some baggage, like power brings responsibility. It's an idea that brings with it equality, but equality even though it's the highest calling, is the hardest to reach. The idea that anything is possible, that's one of the reasons why I'm a fan of America. It's like hey, look there's the moon up there, lets take a walk on it, bring back a piece of it. That's the kind of America that I'm a fan of."
Bono, "Because We Can, We Must," Commencement Address by Bono, May 17, 2004.
Anything is possible! We are the architects of the future.
1/23/07 Important Things
My daughter was bugging me to read a bedtime story just as I was finishing up with "We are the architects of the future." I told her that was either the most important or the most lame thing I've ever written, but I couldn't tell, being that I had to go and brush my teeth, and all that! Hygiene, sleep, bother!
Speaking of important things, while traveling out of reach of my journal last week, I did cruise by Inside MySpace.com (thanks Kevin/Architect's Linksblog) and the strategies documented at the membership milestones slipped right into my architecturally significant reading bucket—to which I also added:
Amazon, by way of Greg Linden's Early Amazon blog series, especially:
Here's a thought: can we get Amazon to donate EC2 capacity to HelpMatch?
1/23/07 Architecture Crying Towel
I've told the story of Holt Mebane's crying towel, but I think the first giraffe photo above would serve just as well! (Really, you couldn't do better than a box-and-line drawing sticking its tongue out!) Still, that would be relying on a pervasive and playful sense of humor. I mentioned Dana's "goodwill is the real silver bullet" to Charlie Alfred. Charlie replied:
"Without goodwill, then everybody's decision process would be self-centered in a Machiavellian way. What a depressing thought. The fact that it isn't (in most situations except rush hour traffic) is proof that goodwill is alive and well."
Unfortunately for some of us, our whole work day feels like perpetual rush hour! Yep, we're so busy speeding on the fast lane to success, we get into the kind of big ball of mud syndrome that makes goodwill, and project hygiene, feel like a luxury we don't have time for.
And even if there's time, playfulness may be counter to policy—I kid you not! I once was at a client site where I was required to read and take a test on their safety and security policies. One of these policies was "no horseplay." I was concerned at this constraint, but gathered this policy was treated as out-of-scope by the R&D group when a flip-chart-sized paper airplane was being used to demonstrate how to make the architecture fly.
Dana just said he wished today would last 20 years. I told him that would make him "x+20" years old today. He laughed; it's all in the timing, but still generous.
Barnes and Noble has this sign that says "Valentines Day is February 14th." It was all I could do to restrain myself from writing "this year" on the sign!
This is (still) all Ben Ponne's fault! I worked all through the weekend, and last weekend, and... I can't even remember when I took a day off. No, I can. It was Christmas. Never worked so hard in all my life as Christmas! I really need to get out! You need me to get OUT! What on earth are you doing reading this anyway? Well, I shouldn't make light of hope. It's what keeps us all going.
Naturally, mentioning hope made me think of Barack Obama's book... which I don't have (yet?)... which caused me to see this on Amazon:
"When you focus on solving problems instead of scoring political points, and emphasize common sense over ideology, you'd be surprised what can be accomplished. It also helps if you're willing to give other people credit--something politicians have a hard time doing sometimes."
"We just need to understand that actually solving these problems won't be easy, and that whatever solutions we come up with will require consensus among groups with divergent interests. That means everybody has to listen, and everybody has to give a little. That's not easy to do."
So, I have to conclude, all the important things have been said. I can go back to writing code.
Along the lines of "Fail, Fail, Fail! Persistence" there's "Learning from Failure," by Dean Takahashi, Electronic Business Network, 5/1/2006 (by way of Daniel Stroe). In the architecture workshop I facilitated last week, I mentioned the need for resilience but felt the need to hasten to add it's not that we fail all the time; and certainly it's not that Visual Architects need to be more resilient than other architects! But we do face resistance. We do face set-backs. And we do succeed! Behind every big accomplishment is a series of small failures, the rocky road to learning and improvement! Keith Moore said his team re-architected HP's ORB 7 times before they got it right. MySpace.com has gone through several generations of system architecture (a number focused on infrastructure/data, it's true). Each generation was good for its time, but rampant success made that time short-lived. So, success is also context-sensitive, and biased by the perceptual filters we apply.
Which reminds me of stories Dana has been relaying from "Animals in Translation." As I noted journaling last night, all the important things have been said—and Temple Grandin has said quite a few of them. Anyway, here's a story that is relevant at this point. (Remember, Dana is reading the book, telling me the stories, and now I'm retelling them—so if you want to retell the story, I recommend you read it at the source first!)
Grandin tells of a piece of research where an audience watching a basketball game on video is told to count each pass. A person dressed as a gorilla runs onto the court and thumps her hands on her chest and then runs off. The audience is asked afterwards what they remember. Very few mention the gorilla. Even when specifically prompted, they don't recall the gorilla.
What we are paying attention to, shapes what we perceive. We manage complexity by applying filters. This comes up in architecture over and over. It is why we so emphasize stepping back and bringing in fresh perspective to help with architecture validation exercises—and doing this early (while our egos are still relatively un-invested) and then often throughout the life of the architecture. It is vital to be strategic about who participates in these various validation activities. Visual Architecting is all about being agile; but we learn important lessons about differentiating value and addressing the architectural challenges through models rather than (only) through code.
Differentiating value and delight. I was going on about the importance of delight and how everyone is talking up Zappos.com at the workshop last week. Only one of the architects had bought shoes on Zappos, and he got somewhat teased by the others. But then, upon returning from lunch that day, one of the biggest teasers confessed to buying a pair of shoes through Zappos during the lunch break! The power of word-of-mouth. This is about the enterprise delivering an experience that delights, with IT providing the central nervous system of that enterprise. It may not only take engineering to create delight, but it does take engineering. Think iPod. Think Trek. Think Roomba. Think ??? Hmm! Not too many products and companies come to mind. This says a lot for the opportunity that is out there!
And it says a lot about all the missed opportunities out there! So, what would it take to create a product or service that delights in your market segment? Zappos proves that it doesn't have to be high-end, like, say, a Tesla, to create delight.
Oh, did I mention that I love the Scooba that Santa so sweetly dropped off? With a puppy who is having some trouble with the toilet training part of her education, the Scooba is coming in mighty handy! I love to work, but that's so not the kind of work I love! Ok, so a $300 mop is pretty high end, but a mop that, all by itself, does the sanitizing cleanup after a puppy oops has earned its keep, oh, by the end of the first day! There's value, and there's value!
Why do I talk to architects about delight? Ok, I consider that to be a key question for the MCA review board. You might as well start preparing your answer. Here's mine:
Delivering value is job one. Addressing the architectural challenges that come with delivering value is so tough, we get fooled into thinking that that is what it is all about. But we can't let that distract us from the goal. The goal is differentiating where it matters--and delight is a powerful differentiator!
[And it's a good thing that Scooba had earned it's keep by the end of that first day, because it didn't last more than 3 months... alas... And, being so busy that I needed a Scooba in the first place, I was too busy to navigate the warranty repair process with the result that, well, let's just say it became a good disassembly project for our son.]
Charlie Alfred, in his inimitable style, is also furthering the value/delight discussion:
"Here's my view of value and delight. I see them as non-identical twins - as close as you can get without being the same. I see delight as a special case of value, the special case that has surprise, excitement, or urgency. Delight is a women getting a dozen long stem roses for no reason. Delight is what somebody feels right at the top of a steep rollercoaster. Delight is when you are next in line at the keg after a hot summer softball game. Delight is always valuable, always heightened, and nearly always transient.
Value (the non-delight variety) is satisfying, enduring, and more level in its intensity. Value is the companionship you find in a long-term relationship, or the knowledge that your car will just work the way you expect, even though it has 100,000 miles on it. Value is knowing that your favorite NFL team will not be eliminated from playoff contention with 7 weeks remaining in the regular season.
Is one better than the other? Hardly? Can you do without either? Not and be better off for it. What's the difference in providing it? Providing delight requires imagination, creativity, and the ability to know what another wants at a particular moment. Providing value requires imagination, creativity, and the ability to know what another wants in general, or over a longer period of time.
Agree or disagree?"
Charlie Alfred (email, 1/25/07)
Well put. I see delight as a special kind of value. I realize I've been alluding to something without naming it. That something is the Kano model, and when Sara Beckman (UC Berkeley) introduced me to the Kano model, she talked about factors that delight (or excite), and I've been talking about the Kano model that way ever since.
I do that. I integrate powerful influences and they become part of the way I think and communicate. Which reminds me, every time I say "architectural challenge" and "use contexts" and pretty much anything about value, you should really read that as a reference to Charlie Alfred (I highly recommend his blog, as well as his superb papers on Product Strategy and Architecture and Architecture Challenges).
1/25/07 Failure and Filters Revisited
"When Edison invented the light bulb it took thousands of attempts. He saw each one as increasing his understanding of what didn't work. He didn't see them as failures."
Filters. What I was paying attention to yesterday, influences what I notice today. Charlie Alfred responded to yesterday's gorilla story with:
"Filtering begins with what people perceive is important to them, and what they perceive they have room to consume. This is one of the main reasons why large organizations struggle with silos and tunnel vision. It's so difficult to find the common ground to have meaningful communication when everybody's filters are on 7x24."
Not only has Charlie Alfred paid me the honor of reading my journal, but he is (implicitly) willing to go on record as one who does "from time to time"! Like me, Charlie is reserving his blog for more formal discourse, in his case reserving his blog for value modeling topics. And like me, he is willing to use this journal to punctuate the day with a little light-heartedness. So, I have Charlie's permission to publish Charlie Alfred's "5 things you don't know about me" here:
"Just for laughs, here are my five, in no particular order:
1. The thing I miss most about San Francisco is walking to Coit Tower at daybreak and watching the old Chinese women do their tai chi
2. I'm a Dave's Ultimate Insanity hot sauce junkie (50-60,000 scoville units, jalapeno pepper=4000). My taste buds are history
3. The one thing I wish I had more time to do is play golf, especially with my 11 year old (summers are so short in New England).
4. My Digital Video Recorder has completely changed the way I watch TV. It has also become a crutch for lapses in attention.
5. I have no formal education in engineering or computer science. My degrees are in Business. There must be a reason for this."
Charlie Alfred (email, 1/25/07)
Well, well, I have lived in the Bay Area and New England. Personally, I liked the New England golf courses best in winter, when they made for great cross-country skiing. If you've seen South Africans (and Jamaicans) doing winter sports, you'll know why cross-country skiing is more my mettle than downhill. Some things (like accents and falling down) are best learned under the age of 18. My brother, a self-made millionaire, skis in Austria every winter. My sister-in-law had a personal ski-trainer. He pointed out a skier as an example to her: "That man has no style; he also has no fear." "That man," replied my sister-in-law, "is my husband."
We could take that as a segue into the topic of varying degrees of risk-loving/risk-aversion that, along with perceptual filters, impact architecture adoption. But Ben thinks I'm working, and I am, really!
Continuing the conversation (feel free to join in), Charlie observes:
"The "amplified filtering" scenario is an interesting anti-pattern:
This is clearly a viscous cycle. I wonder what the approach is to reverse it into a virtuous cycle. I suspect that participants need to become more aware of the other (like value models says you need to). The slope on that activity might be steeper than I hope it is."
Today I told Dana about Bono's story of the African father who wanted to give him his son, to give him not just "a life," but life at all. And the story of the young Cambodian girls who are being horribly abused in sex tourism.
Dana agrees, HelpMatch is where I need to be putting cycles. And Charlie's reflections amplify this notion. All (or at least most of) the important things have been said; said to the point of overload. I know this was totally not Charlie's intent. But further underscores amplified filtering! We hear what suits us; helps make our case! So, really, I can go back to writing code. Seriously, I have a few commitments to clear off my plate, and then I'm bound and determined to get to prototyping HelpMatch (see also HelpMatch Strategy, HelpMatch Intro and HelpMatch Problem Statement). Yes, Rishi, I'm still there. Wanna play too? I'm thinking Ruby on Rails. Anyone have strong opinions as to whether that is a good or bad idea?
1/26/07 Architects as Bridge Builders
Encouraging a friend, I emailed "Technology companies have to create better bridges between those who think strategically about technology and those who think strategically about markets!" And it usually falls to the architects to recognize that these bridges need to be built, and to set about building them. Partnering skills figure prominently in the skills an architect needs to have in good measure!
Usually I try to stay away from stories that directly (and immediately) relate to a client interaction, but last week I was so very impressed by an interaction with the CIO of the group I was working with, I just have to talk about it! We were meeting for an hour. He took charge of the first 35 minutes, going over the company history, the current competitive context, and the strategic differentiation strategy going forward. With that avenue into the discussion, the remaining 25 minutes could be completely focused and contextualized. This is a metaphor for architecting, where strategic focus pays dividends in downstream productivity, but it also directly speaks to the value of setting explicit context.
When companies start with just a handful of people, there is strong communication between technology and marketing/sales. With strategy being set in a small, close-knit group of technologists and marketing, there is a natural bridge. But as the specialization of roles drives gaps between functions, the rifts between them have to be consciously spanned. Each role is very protective of its decision turf, but that leaves artificial devices like "documents" to bridge the widening chasms. Given the bandwidth needed to write complete documents (by complete, I mean conveying not just the decisions but the thinking that made those decisions meaningful), and the bandwidth needed to read these documents--and filters and overload--we typically get incomplete, at best, messages passing across the role divides.
Now, I'm just not the kind of person who takes a "given lot" as immutable constraint. I've discovered that attitude shapes outcomes, makes the amazing possible. It may take time, but persistence, goodwill and simple upbeat energy, together with a vision of what is possible, and, oh yeah, hard work with a hammer, changes the outcome. Yes, I like Bono's words:
"You know I used to think the future was solid or fixed, something you inherited like an old building that you move into when the previous generation moves out or gets chased out.
But it's not. The future is not fixed, it's fluid. You can build your own building, or hut or condo, whatever; this is the metaphor part of the speech by the way.
But my point is that the world is more malleable than you think and it's waiting for you to hammer it into shape."
Bono, "Because We Can, We Must," Commencement Address by Bono, May 17, 2004.
I do recognize some lots in life are harder to reshape than others. But if you're an architect, you've already reshaped your lot in life quite considerably, so that's not one I'll let you hide behind!
So, forge a great destiny for yourself, by forging a great destiny for your company. And if you can't see that happening, come work on HelpMatch! I completely believe it is the next great thing! People want meaningful ways to make a direct, personal difference that person-by-person will lift the overwhelming mass of suffering around this globe. HelpMatch can do that. John Wood used his social network to start making a difference bringing books to Nepal. Everyone can do that! But we can make it easier to do that with technology; it is within our grasp but it has not been done. Architects are among the most caring people I've encountered. These stories I tell bring tears to their eyes, because the power of being able to make a difference makes us more vulnerable to them. If we can't help, we close ourselves off to protect ourselves. But we see we can help, so we allow ourselves to care. Now we just have to act!
And you thought this was a section on bridges!
1/26/07 Wade Steffey Missing
A Bloomington, IN, family is distraught waiting for news of their 19 year old son, Wade Steffey, a Purdue student who has been missing since the Saturday before last (Jan 13). YouTube has the Fox News piece covering what is known. Many people on MySpace are posting Missing posters for Wade Steffey on their profiles and blogging about Wade, spreading the awareness throughout personal networks that reach around the country, even around the world. Could HelpMatch do anything more in a situation like this? I know, I need to set up a HelpMatch blog—which I'll do, just as soon as I get around to setting up the HelpMatch.org website... just as soon as I get a few commitments out of the way. I do want to get the "Virginia Plan" written up—the Indy Architects Group has worked hard on the vision and I think we have a great one! I just have to get past some dragons—slew some today, but they multiply! Anyway, until then, you can send me your ideas for HelpMatch and I'll post them here and/or on the HelpMatch area of the Bredemeyer site.
1/27/07 Wade Steffey Update
This from a friend, who is a friend of the Steffey family:
"Heraldtimesonline.com is carrying all of the links for the information on Wade. He vanished two weeks ago today from the Purdue Campus. We have not a single piece of evidence after exhaustive searches. I can't say enough about the quality of this individual. He was a black belt at age 12, Eagle Scout at 15, National Merit Scholar, mature, clean cut, 4.0 student that had the balance and poise of a much older individual. Because of these traits, it is believed that force and violence had to be involved. Therefore, all forces has been brought to bear on the effort including FBI, Missing Children Bureaus, National News coverage...on and on.
I certainly wish we knew of more to do. There are several funds available and the money has poured in and allowed additional resources to be set in motion. Purdue has provided free rooms, a command center, psychologists, and allowed their campus to be turned upside down by dogs, helicopters, and an ongoing presence of police and hundreds and hundreds of volunteers. Oh Ruth, it is just breaking our hearts. Thank you for asking what you could contribute. I so wish I knew."
Beth, email 1/27/07
So, ideas—specifically, on how to help in the Steffey case (without HelpMatch), and generally, could/would HelpMatch have anything to offer? If you're gasping that this is "out of scope," remember that the architecting process (any innovation process), has a series of divergent thinking-convergent thinking cycles. We're in early divergent thinking cycles, that will shape the vision for what is possible. What we scope as release 1, release 2, and so forth, will come. But we're not there yet.
In architecting we need to look for the simplest solution, and an obvious place to start is to look for the simplest problem to solve. That is, we need to be absolutely disciplined about scoping decisions. But that is in the context of understanding what is valued; in the context of seeking to contribute value that makes a difference. In the HelpMatch case, this also has the element of the larger social difference.
So there is a tension we face, between the value we ultimately want to deliver, and the good-enough-to-start-with solution we could get out pretty quickly. I don't want to slow down the good-enough minimalist system, and that is where my prototyping will focus. But at the same time, I want to explore what is possible. That may expand the initial vision and direction, or there may be a whole lot of added value we could go after relatively cheaply and quickly. Like messages boards, wikis, blogs, and so forth. Of course, given rocketing scale, costs rocket too. That is why I, and other architects, need to drive out-of-the box, divergent thinking cycles where we explore opportunity (and concomitant challenges), and just as surely, drive convergent thinking cycles (where the lead architect assumes executive decision power when needed, to move the process forward).
I push (or rather, encourage with gentle tenacity) architects to move through these cycles quickly, so we explore (using models as far as possible, but code in very focused exercises to resolve risk) the downstream impact of decisions while we are willing to still hold those decisions in suspension. The architect who is leading, needs to "watch the clock" and be sure to drive to convergence with a rhythm that the team can sync to. It's hard to get to a steady rhythm with limited duty cycles, but I'm saying no more; hopefully we'll get to a point where others are doing so do to.
(1/28/07: I was going to simplify the structure of the first sentence in the paragraph above, but I realized that it paralleled my point. I liked that. Architects have to be willing to backtrack. So, let that sentence be a test to you!)
1/28/07 Bud not Buddy and the Maple Seed
There's a wonderful sequence about an idea being like a maple seed in Bud not Buddy (yes, the "kids story"). Which gives rise to a nice image to use for a vision graphic—the seed of the idea, the roots, the branches and the fruit.
1/28/07 Colts, Banking, and Building Customer Loyalty among the Greatest Persuaders on this Planet! Kids!
So, how about those Colts? Indy is quite the blue and white capital these days! Our local bank gave kids with a savings account with them, $5 every time the Colts won. Our kids got quite turned on to the Colts when their savings bumped up by $5 with each win! See, delight and loyalty is out there; we just have to be creative about where we look to find it.
1/29/07 Architecture PointersSoftware Architecture
Web sites contributing to the discussion and discipline of software architecture:
Podcasts exploring software architecture:
Journals focused on software architecture:
1/29/07 Scaling Personal Networks: HelpMatch EnvisioningI haven't had a single solitary response to my appeal for ideas on how HelpMatch could help in the Wade Steffey tragedy (no matter how it resolves, these weeks of torment for the family, their friends, and the whole communities of Purdue and Bloomington, have been tragic). So, in the hope that it will get your juices flowing, and you'll pitch in with ideas, I'll tell you I'm thinking it can't help in the least.
Not! But let's think a bit about this situation:
There's a disaster. This one is involves one young man and ripples out to impact the parents of this only child, their extended family and friends, the Purdue campus filled with sadness and fear, the families of students there who are scared, ...
The other side of this picture, is a whole host of people all using their personal networks to try to help. Help get the word out, in the hope that someone will come forward with some clue that will help resolve what happened to Wade Steffey. Today, we got this email from a teacher (forwarded from his wife) in my children's class at school:
I placed the X's to maintain confidentiality, since I don't have Jennie's permission to post her name or give out her email address. But if you want it, I'll put you in touch with her.
So, something is at play here. Personal networks are being brought to bear. This is age-old. Communities hang together to work through difficult situations. But there is something new too. Our networks are no longer just those that depend on face-to-face social worlds and the odd pen-pal. We can come together as communities with nothing more than a shared interest or goal and some technology glue. I think HelpMatch needs to be a kind of technology glue, with the chemistry to make help networks form around chronic and acute crises. Then we can use the power of the inspired and caring individual aggregated across the many, to address the multitude of personal crises that plague our world. And do so in a personal, meaningful way that touches the giver with the knowledge of actually being effective in a world that can make us feel like but a feeble gust of wind, rearranging a few leaves but not lifting the veil of tragedy.
Oh, if you ever feel inclined to link to any topic in this Journal, I do bookmark and link to section titles from the sidebar, so you can copy the shortcut (from the sidebar). I know, it's not a permalink, but it works and has the bonus that the flow around the topic is but a wheel spin away... er... I think that's a bonus... ???
Well, I only mention this in case you're itching to help spread the word about Wade Steffey and/or HelpMatch. But, yes, I did bookmark the other things too. You never know what, at last, will set that tipping point tipping.
1/30/07 Command and Control
My son has taught me valuable lessons. For example, while I would join the rest of the docile public and get on whichever train car pulls up next to me, my son runs for the front of the train. He cannot/will not sit (or stand) in anything but the very front of the very front car, even if he has to wait for the next train (or rollercoaster, or... you get the picture). So, what is his reward for his enthusiasm and delight at being in the very front of the very front car? What engineer can resist a kid who is so joyfully passionate about trains? In California, the Caltrain engineer let him come into the front cab and toot the horn at every crossing. On other rides, the conductor let him announce the train stations we were stopping at. The BART engineer let him sit in the driver's seat while the underground train was moving (it was on "autopilot," but still a great thrill). The boat captain in the Alaska fjords let him... you get the picture. Expect that you can do the unexpected, and you will; at least you will more often than those who do not expect they can burst the mold they're set in.
My son's puppy is teaching me valuable lessons. I say "do your business" and she squats and executes. I say "fetch toy" and she fetches her toy. I say "sit" and she sits. The kids say "lay" and I cringe. (Sorry, I grew up in South Africa and there, chickens lay, not dogs.) She is 3 months old, and already she is teaching me the power of command and control.
Now, if only my kids would just do this. I say "close the door" (because even though pup executes on the "do your business" command, she thinks carpet is grass and... executes without the command...). My daughter first executes whatever is on her mind, then, maybe, gets around to closing the door. At which point, it's... too late.
How can this possibly be relevant, you groan? Well, we want our architecture decisions to be executed, yet we value, deeply, the kind of independent thinking that leads to innovation; the kind of thinking that isn't stifled by "this isn't the way it is done." We encourage and reward independent, creative thinking. And we punish and discourage independent and creative thinking.
I don't have the answers to this conundrum. I want my daughter to close the door with a sense of urgency when I need the door to be closed. But I don't want to close the doors to her mind, her independence of will and thought. We want everyone to be creative and question, seek the best solution. And we want them to accept decisions so we can move forward with our best guess at a good approach to the overall conjoint set of value, constraint and risk that we have to balance.
Software development (and product development in general) is a social endeavor, where many creative minds need to be brought to bear on creating a product or service that, ideally, goes beyond satisficing to deliver an experience that delights. Some corporate cultures are more "command and control" style than others. If your organization has a strong consensus culture, that doesn't mean leaders don't get to make decisions. But it also means we have to work to set context so that independent thinkers will better understand the impact and systemic consequence of their creative ideas. In the creative process, we need to allow divergence as we explore alternatives and approaches, and then strive for convergence and consensus, in repeatedly more focused cycles. So too do we need to set context in more repeatedly focused, applied, and, in some dimensions, constrained, terms.
Well, that's all I had to say... really, this was not about command and control at all. I just wanted to brag about our puppy. :)
1/30/07 Happy Birthday Carol!
Good gracious girl, you're over the hill! But, look on the bright side—now you qualify to be an architect.
1/30/07 Another Birthday Coming Up
On February 3, this journal turns 1 year old! I'm sure I'll just be flooded with words of appreciation and encouragement. Uh... well, maybe next year!
Just, whatever you do, don't tell anyone about this journal. It will reflect badly on you if you do. There's way, way too much of that interpersonal stuff that (other) women tend to pay attention to... And anyway, we can just command everyone on our team to "do their business," can't we???
Ok, if you must tell someone else... the link to the current month's entries is always www.ruthmalan.com/Journal/JournalCurrent.htm (but if you're linking from a blog or website and want a permanent link use www.ruthmalan.com/Journal/2007/JournalJanuary.htm; follow the same pattern in future months). From there, there's always links to all the good stuff in previous months. Of course, it's all good stuff, so the link is to the full month of entries. But not all good stuff is immediately pertinent, so there's links to section titles in the sidebar for each month (so you can copy the shortcut from the sidebar).
Now, now Kevin, I do know that all this would be a lot easier if I would just blog instead... but... I'm way too inflexible to admit I was wrong. And then there's the small issue of "blog ethics." You can use profanity on blogs, but if you do, never regret it, because you can't go back and change it. Or so the ethic goes. I don't use profanity, but I do write some crazy things I regret, and once I've had a cold dose of self-criticism I like to have the freedom to lean on that editing hand... So, either the self-promotion in this section will succumb to a heavy finger on the backspace key, or this sentence will. Yes, I do know about mark-and-delete (and I even know the right way to turn a screw: righty tighty, lefty loosey; ha! had you fooled, didn't I?), but where's the fun in one-click delete? And it's so much quicker to undo; which in my case, is a bad thing!
1/30/07 AOGEA or AO GEAO???
If it was April 1st, I'd take this one in my stride. But... does it go to the tune of "AO, G-E-A O, daylight come and me wanna go home"...? Sorry... couldn't resist.
So, did Allen Brown at least talk to Ben Ponne about the merits of two organizations with the same focus and almost the same acronym?
Thanks to Bruce H. for bringing the announcement to my attention.
1/31/07 Firebrand Architect Blog
Here's a blog I stumbled on and it cost me some time this evening! Not that I mind. I especially liked the 11/26/06 entry. When I wrote the "marketing" blurb for our software architecture workshops, I wrote: "Yes, there is some strength to the argument that architecting skills are learned from experience -- but the lesson is always much less costly when it is from someone else's experience!" Thanks CK for sharing the lesson. Firebrand Architect (CK) maintains the www.softwarearchitectures.com website, which I have visited from time to time over the past year at least (and link to from the Resources for Architects website). Now, I wonder why the Resources for Software Architects (www.bredemeyer.com) website is not mentioned on http://www.softwarearchitectures.com?
I also write at:
- Bredemeyer Resources for Architects
By Topic (January 2007)