03/04/10 Your Co-ordinates
This journal contains notes I
take as I explore what it takes to be a great software, systems and
enterprise architect. This is a journal of the more traditional
sort--a place to keep track of pieces of my exploration, and a place
to write as part of my meaning-making process.
03/04/10 Using Our Discontent
- "You might say I'm
looking for some work. I can frighten people with my mind. I
can tear their souls out with the diamonds in my eyes. I
have found my rage and I am willing to use it. I can juggle
three basketballs. I can write faster than I can think. I'm
convinced I can defend Microsoft, single handedly, in an
argument against dozens of the unhinged. I prefer to do,
than to talk. I've invented my own passions, and have faced
my fears. I confuse courage with desperation, and lattes
with capachinos." --
I love that "I have
found my rage and I am willing to use it." Of course, I don't
like it when rage is expressed in abusive, self-concept-dismantling
terms, but the sense of that--the finding the big things that are
wrong, and using that sense of internal unrest to motivate and
impassion is very powerful!
Architectures, even when they start out
with the best of intentions, tend to morph towards an eclectic mix
of stuff reused from "legacy" systems,
code from libraries and
open source bits, along with the new bits, and it takes strong
leadership to impart to this part-intentional, part-emergent
architecture a governing aesthetic that unifies
and lends integrity--structural integrity but also design integrity
in the larger sense of a compelling design ethos. Design that
delights--the user with an experience that surprises in key
differentiating ways, and developers with an opportunity to do work
that is good for the mind and the spirit because it is a call to
excellence within pragmatic
deliver-real-value-in-competitive-timeframes boundaries, not to
mention business leaders with the value it creates for the business.
So design that delights, yes, but also the integrated "spirit" of
the thing--that makes it more than a Frankenstein's monster that
howls because it has no good fit with the world. Well, anyway, there's plenty to "rage" about,
the internal compulsion to create
discontent with mediocrity and
inspire, and keep inspiring, a design
that distinguishes the system and the people who nurture it through
And I love the self-(d)-effacing wit in
"I can write
faster than I can think."
[Oh, you like the irony in that placement, do you? Sigh... I get no respect!]
3/4/10 Abundance in a Time of Scarcity
Oh dear, I've been so busy I neglected to mention--Grady Booch's Part II
Abundance in the Face of Economic Scarcity" is wonderful! Grady has such a
talent for capturing the essential with deft brevity yet conveying with such
(I should learn from him, huh?! Oh yeah, right,
every other question you treat as rhetorical, but this you're prepared to tell
me you agree with. Hmmpf!)
3/5/10 Courage To Lead
In January I had more time, but I struggled to get sunk into
the Cutter Report and I felt like I just had no light. In retrospect this makes
sense literally, since we're in the Northern hemisphere, but my struggle was
more in the "unbearable lightness of being sense"--the sense of not been seen,
not making a difference or having an impact on the world during this glance of
time that I get to spend here. At the time, Dana responded to my couched yelp
into the universe of indifference, emailing from The Netherlands:
"I love that
you do it at all, I admire the bravery, and the discipline. I especially like it
when you surprise or challenge me; then I know it's you out there and not me,
and the whole body of the work is such that it convinces me of the value of the
whole body of the work, including the hidden parts, the I-don't-get-it-at-first
parts, and the future parts. "
I thought of this because
today Daniel Stroe heartened me with:
admire your inspired courage to write fresh"
When we do the things we feel passionate about, we don't generally stand at the
brink feeling like we need to summon courage, be brave--we just get on and do
it. That said, when I look back at what I've done, I gasp at the spunk because I
am shy and know that I tread an unlikely path through this software world and,
though courage wouldn't be a word that came quickly to mind in my
self-characterization, it is brave to put oneself at the mercy of people, some
of whom are out to undo anyone who stands out from the crowd--to undo in
negative dismantling ways. Possibly they are uncomfortable with themselves and
they are projecting their fracture onto others, but whatever the impetus, there
is emotional, and even physical, danger in leading especially in public ways
(which is why I like that this is only quasi-public--potentially but not
But there is another sense of "undo" that is the best kind of undoing that
people do for one another, and it is the making of new possibility, washing away
the inertial binding of habit in the way we view and what we do. Daniel wrote
something that is consonant with my personal orientation:
"relations between people are like rivers,
always shaping new formats, creating landscapes. Not always a fast pacing
process, rather a continuous reposition, re-definition, re-discovery."
This resonates with
my subconscious wrote for Dana (I can hardly claim credit for it just was there,
full-formed, on the doorstep of my mind) long ago, but which I think contains,
as a poem should, a bigger kind of truth that is not only local to one
relationship. The truth is well revealed in Daniel's words, and
Thoreau's philosophy, though I think it goes further too. And it is this
undoing, this changing one's capacity to change, that takes us beyond our
contained self to making something entirely new possible. I like that it contains a continuous cycle: rain into rivers into
oceans, which is where rain comes from, so a continuous giving back and taking... (and more that I
won't go into here...) ...if we keep being open to imagination and change, we
keep moving and stay interesting, and we do this for one another and ourselves!
So we get to my point in "talking" so personally here. Collaboration, the dance
of minds, the bringing together of different histories, different experiences,
different perspectives and personalities, creates new capabilities in the people
and hence in what they build in the world. Collaboration creates more than the
simple sum of each person's work; collaboration, among people and in systems,
creates something new not possible in the parts alone.
This is astonishing, isn't it?
3/5/10 Architecture, Integrity and Leadership
In childhood development, most children progress from playing alone, to playing
independently but side-by-side, to playing fully co-operative games. In
software, we tend to regress. :-) I tease, mostly myself. But it is something
to think about. One approach to "collaborating" is to do some serial and
parallel work and cobble it together. And another approach is to enter more
fully into the undoing of collaborating, that making something entirely different possible
because the stasis of our own thinking patterns has been disrupted by the
astonishing others we get to work with. Bumping into other minds in a trusting, respectful way, puts us on a different trajectory. The new connections
that are the very essence of innovation are made possible by the surprising new
insights we ourselves have, once we allow others to bump the dust off our sights
and blend what they now see with what we now see. (This sounds very "rose colored
lenses" and one can devil's advocate any interesting proposition! So it is worth
remembering: Context is king, while diversity is queen. And out of their
marriage, innovation is born.)
At the same time, the system will have distinguishing design integrity only if
this is what someone pays attention
to, and that someone has to be the architect. What
we build in ourselves is what enables us to build in the world. While
this is a nice little idea for all of humanity, it is especially important for
the architect. This is because the demands on the architect are so
multi-dimensional, but most importantly the architect must have a finely tuned
individual aesthetic and be able to move that into design excellence that is a
curious kind of excellence for it is at once highly compromised and not--which
is to say that it is pragmatic without being mediocre, not even close!
Alternatively put, the circle of excellence is clear and the vectors of
good-enough are just that, and no less. Now a purely technical architect can
strive for technical greatness, but will fall short because design is not only
a technical matter. Yes, designs are killed with shoddy structure, but great
designs do more than stand up to stresses and strains. There is art in achieving
design congruence and balance, simplicity, elegance and understandability, and
more. Further, in the words of
first job of good design is to serve a social purpose."
That is, it must serve people--users, developers, the business, and other
stakeholders in the value network. Rob Forbes looks at urban spaces for design
principles to apply to the design of things we use, and I highly recommend
watching that TED talk (on
ways of seeing). I mean literally--he travels around the world looking at
and taking photos of urban spaces. He integrates that personal journey, that
questing, through other dimensions of the world into himself, into how he sees
and experiences the world, and that influences his designs, informs them and
gives them a unique stamp of individuality and excellence. Now, a lot of what he
learns from this applies very directly to our technical design process (the role
of patterns, of emergence and happy accident and of intent and governance, to
touch on just a few--leaving the joy of discovery in that talk to you), but it
also applies to how we see and create value--the composite of capabilities and
their qualities that make the system and its architecture. Remembering
that architecture is, yes, about decomposition and relationships, but it is
fundamentally about making possible the unique and integrated likeness of being,
that "quality with no name" quality of the system (referring, of course, to
Timeless Way of Building). The likeness of
being that is about simplicity and internal harmony and balance as well as unity, congruence,
A person of integrity is a person who shows up as being good, but also
internally aligned. There is no incongruity between the external person we honor
and their internal value structure--for misalignment tends to show through. We
do have to work hard on ourselves to maintain this internal and
internal-external alignment since we're
not all Mother Theresa's--not even
close. Likewise, design integrity is not just about the skin, nor just about the
guts, but also about the congruence between a promise of goodness and internal
structures, mechanisms and collaborations that deliver this goodness.
3/5/10 The Curious Thing About Curiosity
In this Conceptual Age (or--if you'll suffer the self-indulgence--this
Innovation Age), curiosity is next to imagination and before knowledge, though
schools reverse this tuple. Knowledge is important and takes huge work to amass
to the point of world-class expertise, I'll grant. And yet it takes imagination
to conceive of what is not, and
curiosity to explore what is--to ask "why?" and "what if?" and
"why not?"--to allow our imagination to begin to invent, to conceive
of, what is not. So these are all important to innovation, but imagination and
curiosity are what give focus to the discovery and application of knowledge to
make something new in the world.
Of course, nothing is created in the world without action.
We can build too much in ourselves, and nothing in the world; we can so focus on
action, that our actions become meaningless and uninformed--haphazard
experiments; and we can try to apply Howard Behar's "Think like a man of action,
act like a man of thought."
3/5/10 The Curious Thing About
I liked Roger Martin's The Opposable Mind,
but I also think tradeoffs are our friends, too. We just have to
know, to get clear about, where we will strive for excellence, and where good
enough will be just that. Looking for "the integrative solution" is a good
discipline, but it is also worthwhile remembering that "doing/having it all" is
unlikely to be a good thing for anyone. Striking a balance is important, because
it makes us aware of where we are stretching. Where we stretch and strive for
excellence takes focus--focus that will be taken away from other things that are
also on our slate of concern.
Apple created a concept around which an ecosystem could form: a computing
platform for people with a discerning aesthetic sensibility--for artists and
tech trail blazers. You can charge more for that, but you also have to wrap
discernment and design aesthetics into the entire experience to carry it off.
We have to pick the vectors of differentiation that will underlie our design
ethos. Cost is a vector consumer choices will be weighed against, and Apple
decided that a sizeable-enough market cared less about cost so long as they got
more on the vectors related to personal expression, aspiration and discernment.
The key though, is that this created an attractor for those who shared the
design ethos. That kind of meaning making is essential to the creation of an
ecosystem with webs of interdependence that pull entities in, amplifying the
health and viability of the ecosystem through strong network effects (in the
social and economic sense).
Btw, I've seen "ecosystem" treated by architects with hype antigens. It is time
to get over it. Ecosystem shapers are the power players in the market, and
technology is the medium for connections.
3/6/10 Pinnacles in the Landscape of our Time
Natalie Merchant and Peter Gabriel have, in their separate ways, created albums that let poetry and music delight and rouse us! Leave Your
Sleep indeed! Natalie Merchant set out to celebrate childhood, but in doing
so produced something that is at once delightful and a deep exploration of music
and meaning--thankfully we can preview
audio, even though we still have to wait for the album... That is one
amazing woman, and she has drawn on collaborations with a world of musicians.
Peter Gabriel's Scratch My Back album is out in the US now! I've been too
busy to remember that until this moment! I'll have to see if it lives up to
of the pre-release material.
3/7/10 Delta Humor
Ok, if you've been "with me" for a while, you've watched
Sir Ken Robinson's TED talk, and so you know his delta on "if a tree falls
in the forest and no-one hears it, did it make a sound?" Well, in case you need
reminding, it is "If a man speaks his mind
and no woman hears him, is he still wrong?" Ok, so here's my delta: "If
an architect speaks her mind and no developer hears her, is she still wrong?" As
I've told you, that talk is
just ripe for parlaying into software terms!
3/7/10 Competing on a Circle of Excellence
I'm suggesting "Competing on a Circle of Excellence: Differentiating where it
matters" as a title for a talk I've been invited to do. The "differentiating
where is matters" leverages the double entendre--figuring out where excellence
matters, and differentiating (competitively) on what matters. Oh, right, the
primary audience is product managers, but I think it should be relevant to
3/9/10 Outrage and Delight
Ryan told Sara she could use his Macbook sometimes "because it is morally wrong
that she should only get to experience Windows PC's"... Morally wrong! We get
silted over by compromise and conformity, and forget how to be impatient at what
is not but should be, and zealous about what just is right. Leave Your Sleep
We have to figure out how to un-grow-up kids and they will have all the
imagination they need to make new possibilities surface, all the curiosity they
need to gather ideas and knowledge, all the impatience they need to get on with
it, not to mention the trial-and-error, experimental approach to figuring out
how to make something new in the world!
3/12/10 Meebo, Meebo Not
Yesterday, I put a meebo chat box on my page footer. This afternoon I looked in
on xkcd for the first time in a while. Did you see
today's xkcd? I got rid of the
chat box! :-)
But, it did get me thinking... Don't you think Garr Reynolds would like to
showcase my PICTURE IT presentation in
The Naked Presenter? Ok, it wasn't entirely
naked, but closer than most. ;-) Now at an SEI workshop, Dana Bredemeyer went
fully naked, and got some raised eyebrows when he said he'd just flown back from
Europe and had no slides for his invited presentation slot. What they didn't
realize, is that Dana can totally pull off naked--in the
Garr Reynold's sense, of course. Those at the workshop last week
are smiling, 'cos they got Dana naked all week--Dana didn't even turn the
Well, that's enough of that... though... I dunno Garr. Can you imagine how many coffee
"accidents" this will prompt--when guys urge the woman on their team
to present naked?
3/13/10 Other Cheap Stories
The Apple COO (Tim Cook) got a $5m bonus for doing such a good job while Jobs
was getting his liver switched out. Now $5m was cheap when you think of it as a
way to get major press telling the story that Apple can do just fine without
Jobs (to assuage the long-held shareholder fear that the company would crumple
if Jobs checked out).
3/13/10 A 2-Speed Fan
Over morning coffee, Dana recounted this story: When he started work at HP (as a
developer in the Operating Systems Lab), his project manager took him around and
introduced him to people. He'd say "This is Jim; he's a '9ers fan" and "This is
Dave; he's a Warriors fan." Dana quickly saw the pattern, and at the next person
said "Hi, I'm Dana. I'm a 2-speed fan." His manager was, like, "Hmm, what do
I chuckled at the story, but was quizzical. "What's a 2-speed?" (To me, you talk
about speed on bikes, so I didn't get 2-speed...) He said, "High and Low. A
fan with two speeds." So we laughed again--at me.
3/13/10 Unblocked Humor
Ok, if you want the real thing (in humor, that is), try
The Best of [Darth] Don.
This one is architecturally significant:
Don, “Your project is supposed to use
workflow and complex event processing to integrate multiple systems. You are
building a high performance pub/sub bus. You either have to change your use case
or change your implementation.” Person, “Well, a high performance pub/sub
environment is useful. Can’t we use it to solve our integration use case?” Don,
“Drano and ex-lax are both useful. But, when I am constipated I do not shout,
“Honey, where is the Drano.’”
Now, I wouldn't usually go here, but given how often
laxatives come up for Don... I think it might be useful for him to know about
Looza pear juice. Not that I'd have any reason to know about such
things. Not being full of c### myself, that is.
[I love the sense of humor in the Universe! And Don. Oh, yes, I did notice his
jabberwocky; no worries, I have a vorpal sword and other nonesuch.]
Remember the picture right? Yes, the one Sara drew for me. Now you know
3/13/10 Now You See the Pattern
If you've been following along, you know that the raw humor means I'm crazy
busy. For those who are new--yeah, literally! Cindy (at Cutter) told me I've
been pushing too long, and better deliver these twins--by Monday would be good.
So... I went to see Alice in Wonderland. In 3D. Now I'm thinking these
twins have Red Queen heads. I decided that when I grow up, I want to
write movies like Avatar and Alice. In 3D. When I grow up. I guess
it will be a while yet.
I know, I know, you think I should just do it now. And I know you mean that in
the nicest possible way. Thanks. You mean a lot to me too.
So much for appreciating that I broke the "sound barrier" in terms of what is
permissible in executive and senior architect reading with that
Getting Past "But"
Report. Using a children's story and childlike sketches to smuggle the agile
architecting donkey no less. Just think of the doors I've opened for you! And I
get no thanks. Hmmpf! Goodness knows what you'll make of my Art of Leading: To Lead is
To See, To Frame, To Draw fractal report... ;-) Ok, sigh... Dana says the
best time to write a movie is when you have a paper due Monday. I guess I'll go
write a movie... about a girl who falls down a hole and finds herself... a
misfit... among misfits... and finds her muchness... oh right, that one's been
3/13/10 Get Ready -- for National Pi Day!
Yes, 3.14 is tomorrow! Are you ready for it? And you consider yourself a nerd?
3.14 was also Einstein's birthday. There's a certain order in the universe.
3/14/10: The Google logo
today is cool! I got those "order in the universe" warm fuzzies just from
looking at it.
3/14/10 From "Just a Few Things..."
This is a page from my
I liked the serendipity in the "addressing the Kludge" sketch--I didn't set out
to make the kludge look like a face; it just happened. This is what makes
sketching so powerful--something new happens that you didn't intend. Perhaps it
was in the subconscious and the brain-hand link gave it expression, and perhaps
it was just luck. But the result, I feel I can say*, is magical. Why do I think it is magical? Look at archman's arms, and the face.
It's a "Hail, oh Kludge" kind of stance. Why am I delighted by that? Well, if
the Kludge (aka Big Ball of Mud) is
the dominant architectural style by far, is it that perhaps deep down we (the
software tribe) honor it, pay homage to it, ...? This might remind you of, or make you want to take a look at, Brian
Builders of Mountain View."
Dana was delighted at this notion that Archman is at once horrified by the
entropic disorder and hallowing complexity. For that is a duality we have to be
able to embrace, even as we strive to bring complexity under intellectual
management and to shift the system organically through transformations that defy
obduracy or decay.
And... if I
keep talking about the sketches, you might come to appreciate them... huh?
Those who worry about my reputation will be very relieved when I get less crazy
* I feel I can say it, because I didn't do it intentionally, so it is more like
someone else did it and I'm not taking credit (although I'll keep the copyright)
nor applauding myself. ;-)
3/14/10 Too Busy to Chuckle?
Brian Foote... That reminds me! This is from my Cutter Report, and I'm
concerned the editors will rip it out; if I put it here at least 4 people may
read it (this being quite far down on the page, and realizing that hundreds of
hits on this page don't by any means translate into readers):
To be lay-it-on-the-line frank, many of us in the role of architect are
introverts who have spent a lot more time getting computers to do what we want
them to, than persuading and enrolling people to support and execute a vision.
Thomas Jay Peckish II corroborates this view:
too many programs are made in the images of the people who create them: complex,
technically sound, but ineffective, often woefully, at communicating with human
beings. Why are we surprised?"
Thomas Jay Peckish II, February 26, 2009.
But Peckish leaves no
sacred cow untipped:
"Software professionals are presumed by many executives to possess paranormal
skills, such as reading their minds, and predicting the future."
Jay Peckish II,
November 19, 2009.
3/14/10 Who's Willing?
Anybody willing to read Part One of The Art of Change: To Lead is to See, to
Frame, to Draw and give us feedback? It might be good... and it might not
be... but how would you know if you don't read it?
um... no chuckles required!
Here's the overview (from the introduction to Part One):
Part One of this report explores change, making the case that in this age of
innovation and change, architects at various levels of scope have a leadership
role to play in creating businesses that are agile--not just giving the
appearance of moving fast in the moment, but responding to the specific
market-shaping opportunities or game-changing challenges that (part of) the
business is facing.
We start out considering change, and present a market lifecycle model,
illustrating that the innovation points, and hence the meaning of agility,
shifts through the lifecycle. We also explore broad changes that are reshaping
the nature of business across industries, highlighting the role of the web of
relationships in complex, interdependent business ecosystems. This, in turn, has
ramifications for the strategic role of IT as organizations increasingly compete
on and for relationships, and on information leverage. And it has implications
In particular, when architects are absent, the two biggest organizational
outcomes that are in jeopardy are value through synergy and system integrity.
Both have important consequences for agility. Synergy is needed to see and
respond to changes that affect diffuse parts of the business and to create
striking and organizationally unique opportunities to innovate offerings or gain
efficiencies in internal capabilities. System integrity facilitates changes at
least within designed tolerances, and potentially also beyond, by virtue of a
more transparent and understood design, and more modular and simple structures.
Yet change, even when intentionally directed, is inherently unpredictable, so we
needs-must pragmatically embrace the emergent nature of extemporaneous responses
that create "messes" and incur a "debt" of increasing change encumbrance. The
role of architects in an agile enterprise, therefore, includes taming the
transmogrifying mess created by responsiveness, dynamic learning and
accommodation, even while leading with intentionality to build, evolve and
sustain the system and its explicit, enabling and constraining architecture
We observe that high responsiveness demands fractal business strategy setting,
so that different parts of the organization can change at different rates, with
different response styles adapted to the opportunities in their respective
markets. This in turn raises the need for a fractal notion of leadership.
Moreover, these different leadership scopes provide a growing grounds for
leaders to emerge and gain practice--to start adopting the attitudes and
practicing the skills and behaviors that make great leaders; to begin, within
the sphere of influence determined by system impact, to practice "to lead is to
see, to frame, to draw."
Thus, Part One of this report, dealing with the art of change, is designed to
motivate Part Two, dealing with leading change, and leading in a context of
change. It is also an illustration of the second part--given the need we see for
architects to lead, this is how we have framed--advocated and positioned--the
leadership role of the architect in variously changing, adapting organizations.
Let us turn our
attention then, to our framing of change and what it means for IT and
I tend to say "my" report, but that is an unfair representation since Dana plays
an integral role in developing the work that is expressed. I lay down most of
the words, so am entirely to blame for inadequacies in organization and
expression. But we collaborate very closely on the work, and that gives me the
words. And we collaborate on
tuning up the words to make the paper more grokable. Dana is amazing to work
with, because he is brilliant and immensely curious, and thinks carefully about
everything from obfuscation to simplification, modularity to synergetics, and
hard skills and soft.
3/15/10 Designed to Delight!
Thanks to Mark Goestch, tonight I read The Designful Company, by Marty
Neumeier, and Marty uses delight
the way I do--and with the same frequency! So naturally I love it! :-)
Well, there's plenty I agree with, and the writing style is distinctive and
racy. It's a very quick read, with punchy insights, colorful illustrative
stories, and is well worth a slice on an evening.
Marty Neumeier is a master of stand-out great lines that are vivid and capture a
quintessential insight. Here are some Neumeier classics:
"Necessity may well be the mother of
invention. But if we continue to manufacture mountains of toxic stuff, invention
may soon become the mother of necessity." Marty Neumeier, The
Designful Company, 2009
difference plus design equals delight :D
Image source: The Designful Company, by Marty Neumeier [I would read that
as cross product not plus, but as I've said before, it doesn't pay to be
pedantic about these math analogy/picture thingies.]
BUT, I tried it on
Kindle for the PC, and there's no annotations and marks on Kindle for the
PC! :( Serious undelight!
"The Kindle for PC application doesn't
offer the ability to print content. Features not yet available on the Kindle for
PC application include the ability to make notes, highlight or clip text, shop
from within the application, or search within a book. Text-to-Speech and
dictionary look-up are also not available with the Kindle for PC application."
I'll have to put the book on my
iPhone to make annotations! :( Then I'll whine about not
having text-to-speech on my iPhone. :) And whine about not being able to
share annotations with a circle of readers... ;) So much for free Kindle
on my PC. :D
Aside from using the delight word, I also like that Marty gives loads of credit,
referring to people who's ideas have influenced him or who have written
something that makes points that Marty wants to make, so he draws them into his
discussion. He also has a super-great selection of readings at the end of the
book. I wonder why so few people share the podium like that? It doesn't
diminish--rather it enhances. And it demonstrates by the example he sets that he
Too many individualists want to "mark the territory" with their distinctive
claim to credit, and forget that co-operation, sharing, collaboration are the
modes that will help us build great things with and through people.
Boiling down to the essence of the simpatico between my orientation and Marty's,
I might say: Design your way to delight to profoundly differentiate. You will
create loyal, excited customer advocates and loyal, excited and creative team
members--who will design to delight again. And again. Because we want to be
delighted with what we own and use--and proud of what we build. ... Or
some other rah-rah rhetoric like that. ;-) Marty doesn't exactly say that.
I haven't exactly said that (before). But that's the net effect.
Which makes for a different way to look at make versus buy! If the vendor has
more motivation to delight (because that is how it differentiates) then we
should think about buying rather than building.
Marty talks about "wicked problems." We address wicked design problems through
diversity, and that creates the wicked problem of diversity! Earlier today I had
cause to say: which
is what makes leading in enterprise architecture so important--it is all about
leading in complex situations. Situations where strong leadership is demanded
because the vision requires drawing rather than driving... I like the
acceptance address of EU President van Rompuy, for it makes the point that
diversity enriches if it can be handled... but many can't handle it... It takes
dialog, and unity. And unity, given divergent parochial interests, is unlikely
without goodwill and leadership.
3/24/10 Comfortable with Failure, and with Pictures
Dana drew me in to watching a lecture by Paul Zeitz on problem solving
strategies (in mathematics). The domain (math and probability) is an old friend
to me, but Zeitz approaches problems from the point of view of strategies and it
is quite interesting and relevant to architecture. He distinguishes between
problems and exercises. The pill problem is great! It is a superb illustration
of what we run into with stated requirements... if one takes the problem as
stated, it can't be solved. It one allows flexibility in the problem framing,
zooming out so more features of the problem space come into view, the problem is
Zeitz also makes the case that we need to be very comfortable with failure (you
might relate that to my
comfortable with uncertainty piece). These tough problems that we haven't
yet solved are our friends; we put them on the backburner and can toy with them
during boring meetings. And sleep on them.
In terms of strategies, he talks about "getting your hands dirty"--which in his
worldview means trying things out, and in particular modeling and visualizing,
and also reframing or restating the problem--asking more interesting, different
questions, so the problem takes a different shape.
In software, we tend to think getting our hands dirty means writing code. But
thinking through a complex interaction with pictures can shed light, at least
allow us to cast light differently, on the problem. The questions we ask, the
way we frame or state the problem, these are powerful determinants of our
ability to solve tricky problems! Questions, framing, and
pictures/sketches/visual models help us address more and more complex problems.
And help us bring more minds to bear, addressing more complex problems requiring
different perspectives or the multiplier in head-power you get from people who
collaborate well and magnify one another.
Now I'm interested in his book (The Art and Craft of Problem Solving by
Paul Zeitz, 2nd ed. 2006)!
I was looking through my "waste bin" for a piece of writing I
remember ripping out... and found this piece:
But this is the stuff of leadership. If you stand up to lead,
you stand out. If you stand out, you're a target when people feel
uncomfortable with the challenge of the vision and the change it
requires. Sometimes there will be a mutiny, with carnage visited
on your ego. If your vision is a good, right vision—a vision put
together out of the hopes, desires, aspirations, goals, needs of
your stakeholders, balancing across stakeholders and looking to past
successes and future competitiveness—then you will have a
well-spring of enthusiasm to tide you over these harsh points.
Then, looking at cuts from March last year, I also found this
image and comment:
forces that discourage tech leads and junior architects from standing
out/up and leading, mean that organizations have to
look outside for
architects to hire.
I'm not sure why I ripped those... and not sure why my eye
fell on two related entries from quite different timeframes and contexts!
3/27/10 Off Topic but On Point
Last night we went to see IU ballet's
Evening. This is a great town--a community this into music and ballet is
heart-warming at a time when classical performing arts have waning audiences. Anyway, we
really enjoyed it. Ben Delony was thrilling as the "champion roper" in Rodeo.
Mary-Quinn Aber was incredible as the Cowgirl, and she and Ben sparkled in this very funny ballet! The
cowgirl, and the way Mary_Quinn powerfully conveyed it, really speaks, I think,
to Q<=s in software and other fields where Q<=s try to find a place in the
machismo, and also find a way to be a Q<=.
Caitlin Kirschenbaum is such a versatile and talented dancer--she made Dana and
I both tear in breathless wonder during her performance of the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker,
but as principal in Rubies she is flirtatious and pert, and ideal for the
so witty ballet! Grace Reeves is a stunning dancer, but for me Caitlin defines that role!
That the entire interpretation of the ballet could so hinge on the
expressiveness of the principal dancer astonished me! Talk about conceptual
integrity being defined by the lead!
Naturally, when I was
watching Serenade, I was thinking about software. Grin. No really, I was.
It struck me viscerally that we have to consciously pan out, look at the overall
system of complex interactions, to see the patterns. Serenade (the first
ballet Balanchine choreographed in the US) is very much about pattern, and an
intricate and delicate flow that make the patterns dynamic.
incorporated things that were happening during the process of choreographing
that ballet--like a dancer stumbling, and another arriving late for rehearsal.
This incorporation of everyday accident in an extraordinarily crafted ballet
speaks to Balanchine's humor but also an openness to serendipity and to the
vibrancy of life.
Anyway, I think of "panning out" as a natural way to "add
information" (one of Zeitz's problem solving strategies).
3/27/10 Oh yes, It's Spring--Daffodils! Cummings!
In celebration of the season of becoming, here are some lines from a wonderful poem by ee cummings:
"in time of daffodils(who know
the goal of living is to grow)
in time of lilacs who proclaim
the aim of waking is to dream,
remember seek(forgetting find)
time of daffodils
by E. E.
I also like this:
For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea
and milly and molly and may
by E. E. Cummings
3/29/10 Cup Half Full/Empty
Sara drew a picture of her water glass half full and added the words "whether you
think it is half empty or half full, you are right" which is a delightful spin
Ford quote and the cup half full idiom.
3/30/10 Cup Half Full
Cup half emptiers may relate to this:
someone is WRONG
Cup half fullers look for all the ways that someone is
RIGHT, and magically the cup fills. Now, I am aware that I come across (to half-emptiers)
as a boom de ah dah "I love the whole world"
sort. But my positive views are hard wrought. I look for the positive, and it is
as much an intellectual exercise as looking for the negative! The state space of
the outcome is just more enabling! And I do have a very active negative voice
that I try hard to keep focused on myself so that it is kept productively
busy improving what I do, rather than unproductively busy undermining the good
I stumbled across this:
"Most biographies are written by hero
worshiping sycophants, or worse written by the subject of the biography whose
recollection of events are always flattering. Potter tackles the single most
important man in U.S. Naval history with appreciation, but not at the expense of
review of E.B. Potter's Nimitz on Amazon
My positive voice says "indeed detachment is important" and it takes
tremendous detachment to focus on the positive in the face of a flawed and
complex world, and to bring that positive in all its depth and magnificence to a
world that battles with itself to make good on the best humanity has to offer!
It is puerile to assume that people who seek out the positive are superficial
careless thinkers, or servile flatterers! I would no more assume a dark and
curmudgeonly person to be a shallow fickle creature than a joyful optimist!
Optimism is a state of mind that, in a world where hurt and darkness co-exists
with joy and light, is no easy achievement! (And I by no means claim any
proficiency in staying positive; I only claim a value structure that allows me
to seek out and embrace the positive.)
So I recognize that some people see boom de ah dah "I love the whole world"
types as mostly empty, but I will not kowtow to them by toning down my positive,
or purposively increasing the negative I express (to kowtow to curmudgeons!)--though indirectly there is
always the dual, the shadow side, of what is said, that illuminates how sharp
the positive mind can be. I fully realize that others want to express a more
balanced perspective, and I value that. But I'm part iconoclast (though in the
social not religious sense), and I rebel at the notion that negative is somehow
more weighed than positive! I have to wrestle with demons and listen enraptured
at the feet of angels just like anyone else! ;-) Where I can give voice to the
angels rather than the demons, that is better I think. [What, you don't wrestle
with demons? Oh. ;-) Metaphorically, ok? :-)]
Of course, for the ironically impaired--this entry is overlaid with irony. :-)
It is very hard to keep a negative voice stilled. Try it. :-) [Oh, the
imperative wasn't intended for you, but for the cup-half-fullers who...
uh... don't read here.]
I am very (too?) aware of multiple perceptual slants or interpretations, and
that we choose to take negative or positive views of things. A child in Ryan's
class declared he wanted to finish 8 weeks of schoolwork in 3 (Montessori kids
set their own pace) and the head teacher came down hard telling him that if he
tried to do this, he'd assign the child more and more facts to find in his research
projects to slow him down until he settled down and did his work well.
The child was upset; the entire class was outraged. Now the teacher could have
stayed positive, and told the child that was a great goal, and he'd work with
him to achieve it, so long as he kept his standard of work high. Given his angry
outburst though, I told Ryan that there is a positive interpretation even of
that. The incredible thing is that the teacher totally believed that this kid
could finish in 3 weeks! That is a compliment (yes, well veiled, but still real)
that a child seldom gets. So lots of slants. The trick in staying resourceful,
is to find the positive, helpful interpretations. Hard, in the heat of a moment.
But valuable whenever the position can be attained. Better, sooner. Easier, if
our de facto mode is to lean to the positive.
Why did I write that post? Well, goodness,
someone is WRONG on the Internet. (And I half-suspect it is me!) Grin.
(As for internal voices, one of mine piped up with this: "It is very good to
have more than one internal voice 'cos you can get so much more thinking done!
Thank you, internal voice. I like that. Of course, this was prompted by my other
principal internal voice wondering if sane people confess to having more than
one internal voice. Wink.)
3/31/10: Dana admitted to not reading my journal this past week (tsk, tsk), and
I told him about my rant in protest against those who declare celebration to be
sycophantic, and a happy state to be superficial and barf-inducing. Without
pause, he drew out a story--he was struck when someone said in an interview he
watched "When I was a child I thought bravery was not being afraid, but now I
realize that bravery is being very afraid and still doing the thing that must be
done." Optimism is not being glibly, superficially positive about the future,
but being positive in spite of everything that is seen with clarity and empathy.
It is about seeing the amazing that truly is possible when we draw on the best
in ourselves, and, having seen what is possible, begins to make it so! Against
the odds, you might say if you focus there. Or with the odds, if you allow that
concerted intent and motivated people have changed, and will change, this
world--harvesting the fruits of intent and happenstance, being challenged,
facing set-backs, but with determination born of the optimistic conviction, not
just brazen assertion, that the possible is attainable, and makes it so.
One of the key things the leader does is see and frame--that is the leader sees
through all the clutter of obstacles to the big thing that can and should be
done. And the leader helps others see it just that way--as desirable and
possible, with their help, their intelligence, experience and energy focused on making it
3/31/10: If you don't understand the phrase "skip-happy," you didn't know my kids when
they were younger. When they were in a state of bliss, of sublime unadulterated
happiness, they would literally skip. Take each others, or my hand, and skip in
a happy state they simply exuded and transmitted infectiously. It was as if the
lifting, lilting feeling wanted to take physical expression but also to take
company, to draw others into the incredible lightness of being of the best kind.
(Not the kind that is light and unanchored because our indescribably small
presence in the Universe and across the expanse of time means what we do matters
not a jot...) As we grow older, socialization (getting whack-a-moled by
color-in-the-liners), perhaps, causes us to draw more of that in, to withhold it from
others. Well, I expect that must be the case, for I still feel skip-happy even
when I may not literally skip! It would be too devastatingly bad it that wasn't
the general experience! Still, my father, at times, exuded that kind of
skip-happy bliss, the ability to be excited by joy to the point of barely being
contained by his skin, and I thought that was a wonderful child-like quality he
had--a quality he had despite working two jobs and being plagued all his life by
ulcers and intermittent bouts of depression. Now, from time to time, someone
says I have child-like qualities or a youthful quality and I groan that
I've reached the age where that is remarkable! :-)
In our entryway we have a picture of Ryan before he was two (taken by Dana),
running with his arms out like he was flying (I'm sure he was, in his experience
of that moment) and the look of absolute unselfconscious (not in the teenage
self-aware kind of sense, but in the ecstasy sense of being outside oneself) joy
gets the attention of everyone who sees it.
Bliss, joy, enthusiasm attracts and transmits. It is like the molecules that
Dean Kamen is famous for being able to heat up even in the most cold investor,
just by the sheer excitement of his own molecules. It is hard to affect
enthusiasm, for the disjunction between internal state and external display
leaks through. But we can give ourselves permission to show our happiness and
positive orientation, and develop it more in ourselves.
Ok, enough power of ♫positive thinking pop-psyche
mumbo-jumbo. ;-) Eh, then
again, ♫Don't Worry, Be
[Ah, internal voices... a flash of insight... all my parentheticals are my expression of parallel thoughts--the explanation that
happens in conjunction with another thought... and I expect you to be able to
process parallel thoughts too!]
[5/6/10 Someone else has voices--gotta hang
this one in
the loo... except... I need one that says to lift the lid first... ]
3/31/10 No Barriers to Entry!
This is very interesting--playing
pong with the blink of an eye.
Innovation can be a lucrative avenue to differentiation,
carving out new markets even within mature industries. And with university
students figuring out how to do something for
£25 when "Eye
movement systems that scientists currently use to study the brain and eye motion
cost around £27,000" (Imperial
College press release, Friday 26 March 2010), the opportunities to entirely
reorder the space are boundless! Innovation is not just what genius inventors or
big research labs are doing on big budgets. Big is going to be under ever more
pressure to be nimble! One avenue is going to be to stop looking at the
corporate navel, and start looking even in surprising places for reshaping
ideas--looking where the "wheel" of big reshaping ideas could be and where
they could not possibly be!
Dana pointed me to
this book by John Kao: Innovation Nation.