A Trace in the Sand
Ruth Malan's Architecture Journal

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November 2009What it takes to be great: collaborative modeling of collaborations

11/1/09 Your Co-ordinates
This journal contains notes I take as I explore what it takes to be a great software, systems and enterprise architect.

Until November entries accumulate, you can catch up on prior month's entries (linked on the left sidebar). I've also linked to many enterprise architecture and software architecture bloggers in the left column. If I've missed your blog on software, systems or enterprise architecture and related topics, please let me know.

11/2/09 Presentations to Learn From

Presentation style:

Leadership style:

Design style:

  • Design Thinking: Tim Brown urges designers to think big [relevant, if we revolt against the "architecture is about designing the innards only" thinking that is still quite prevalent in software]

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” -- Steve Jobs

11/2/09 Failures of Imagination and of Process

"Most cases of failure that I have seen have been in two categories: imagination and process," Grady Booch, quoted in Imagination, process failures doom software projects, by David Worthington

Well, that's a handy quote for my innovation deck! As is Grady's quote of the day today:

"In my dream, the angel shrugged & said, If we fail this time, it will be a failure of imagination & then she placed the world gently in the palm of my hand." Brian Andreas

Grady shares insights in his inimitable vivid and crisp style in both the Worthington article and Larry O'Brien's interview with him. He's good! I mean, he's good like smart and experienced and talented at drawing out actionable insights, but also good like:

'Finger-pointing that persecutes is also unhelpful, he added, stating that the end result should be institutional policies to make certain that mistakes won't happen again.

Booch cautioned against overreacting, which he said could "harm innovation. Organizations should have a light touch," he said.'

Good like being sensitive to the fact that we're dealing with people, not automata. We need to allow that despite good intentions, things may go awry.

Grady is the great statesman of our field--in the sense that Brad Culter used it when he said architects are technological statesmen. A good and principled leader with a talent for seeing the need and crafting the message to rally the field. Failures of imagination and of process! That is a trumpet call! It puts attention in just the right place, and by lighting a path forward, it is empowering. I am so grateful to Grady for this aphorism.

Leading draws its flack, along with its attention. Imagination is not always a popular concept in our field; process perhaps even less so! We sometimes have to drag architects (not you, of course!) bodily to the realization that requirements don't simply exist, scribe-ready, but they are invented in a collaboration between imagination and contextual factors, stakeholder needs, aspirations, hopes, frustrations, what technology does and could enable, etc... It will help us that Grady put "failures of imagination" so clearly into the lingua franca of our field.

"Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathise with humans whose experiences we have never shared."

-- J.K. Rowling, The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination, June 5, 2008

11/6/09: Look, I'm well aware that the cynic can say failures of imagination and of process is just a different way to say that we can fail by doing the wrong thing, or fail by doing it wrong. Conversely, to succeed, we need the right system, built right. But there is a very important shift in the way Grady put it. Yes, it is more vivid, and that makes it more memorable and transmissible--in short, more likely to be a meme. Yes, it helps that Grady Booch said it, and we pay attention to him because he has earned our respect. But there is something very important in that imagination word, and the process word. Imagination is the key to new markets, new possibilities, new solutions. Failure of imagination is failure to create solutions that transform the world in empathetic ways. I don't mean solving the problem of providing clean water in Africa--necessarily. I do mean failure to advance what we offer human beings--our customers and users, our business, and our world (our shared precious planet that bears the brunt of our collective actions). And the process word, that in the Agile Manifesto got second billing to people, but which is simply a different lens--the lens of what people do and how they do it with what talent, experience and energy they bring to bear.

"Technology, like art, is a soaring exercise of the human imagination." -- Daniel Bell

11/3/09 The Doof in Doofus

I've tried to hammer out truths about the part-inventive, part-interpretive aspects of the innovation process in our Getting Past "But" report, among other places (like this journal). We need this, right? In our field, we can be such doofuses in our pendulum swings--and the one that swings from technology push to the other extreme where technology has no place in the innovation conversation is a polarization that harms as much as the all-push polarization!

A point of personal history: when I was a kid of about 9 or 10 until I was about 13 or 14, I would help a family friend look after her 4 sons who were a few years younger than I. Three of the boys were disabled, and statistically shouldn't even have made it past infancy--so they lived with a death sentence hanging over their childhood (they didn't know it, but we who loved them did), as well as severe physical disability. They were all very bright, sweet, playful kids who taught me more than anyone in my encounters to love, relish, delight in life, and I loved them and they loved me dearly. One of the things we did endlessly together, was build inventive contraptions. With Lego, Meccano, and frankly, junk--boxes, spare parts, whatever. I owe them a lot; for them, I built things I may otherwise never have been drawn to. The youngest of the disabled boys had a speech impediment, and he called me Doof. So I have very warm sentiment when it comes to doofuses, being one myself. (Well, if I look at the urban dictionary definition, I have to confess that when it comes to personal hygiene I do break the mold. There's trying to be more green, but not that kind of green! Of course, that is the only exception I'd have to beg. Grin. Yeah right, now you agree with me!)

11/2/09 Visual History

The kids wanted me to go through photos with them, and this one brought back memories of this playful pod of orcas with multiple cow and calf pairs that gamboled around us for a good while. Life has a way of making one feel anointed; struck with wonder and awe, and individually blessed.

During our trip to Alaska a few years ago, a playful pod of orcas surrounded the boat. These were against the rugged backdrop of mountains and glacier fields of the Kenai Peninsula.

11/3/09 Visual Maps

If I haven't convinced you that visual maps are powerful, then hopefully xkcd will: narrative charts [I was passed this pointer and it made my day. I hope it makes yours!]

I love xkcd!

and I hate him (Randall Munroe, that is)! No, seriously, look at this (and this for context) and tell me you don't hate him--and I'll call your bluff! The guy's genius puts a real edge on "sharp"! And he strikes where it hurts! (Looking through photos with the kids didn't help, I confess.)

Here's a cool visual history map (a year+ old, but hey, it is still cool): Browser Wars.

11/3/09 On the Path to Visual: What is, and What is Seen

Photo credit: dana bredemeyerPhoto credit: dana bredemeyer

I love these two photos Dana took when we were hiking last weekend. There is a way of seeing that marks a person--sets them apart, but also makes them. (A variant on my "what I see, defines me" ruffian tag line.)

I see that there is a new compilation of Van Gogh's letters--it's very exciting to have access to the story of his life and work told that way! I think there can be much art in correspondence, and with Van Gogh that is perfectly literal--too.

11/3/09 This is Your Pocket Calling

In the category of "you had to be there": Dana was supposed to meet me, but he wasn't there. I called him, and he didn't greet me though clearly his cell had picked up--I could hear him walking and breathing. So I called out "Hello, this is your pocket talking." More breathing and walking sounds. I tried again, with variations (grin), but pretty soon I was just a lump of laughter. On his end, he's thinking "hey, she sounds fun, but what's she doing in my pocket?" Then he's saying to me "what's all this laughing about?" completely deadpan. I couldn't answer! Life, of course, has its own set of jokes. For years, whenever the kids would ask Dana where I was, he'd tell them I was in his pocket.   

11/4/09 Moves Ahead Thinking versus a Different Kind of Thinking

Dana was suggesting that chess might be a good analogy to help see the difference between architecting as-we-go as in agile versus architecting just enough upfront (and then as-we-go). When we just work with the next move, we're integrating the notion that the world is changing and, what's more, any move we take changes the world. But if we think one move at a time, the move we take next could be our undoing (especially when playing against a more strategic opponent). So the architect needs to think several moves ahead. 

Figuring our where the dominant challenges, risks and uncertainties areAnd I suggested that a different kind of thinking is also needed--a bigger kind of strategically structural view needs to be taken. The game is indeterminate. Lots of unknowables. And plenty that could be figured out (at least to some degree), but doing so would be a distraction from creating the future. So, there's art and luck in picking where to think ahead. Figuring out where the dominant challenges, risks and uncertainties are, to assess whether the technical strategy will hit a major cost or feasibility issue that will be its undoing--at least from the perspective of time and resources and schedule. Doing that early, and doing that as more of the features of the landscape are uncovered and better understood, and as the landscape shifts. All of this, of course, is a playing of the imagination--a mental exercise integrating what is known and what can be found out, with that distinguishing feature of the pre-frontal cortex--playing out possibility and likelihood, contingency, and multiple possible futures. Not hallucigenically. Not in any kind of extreme, out-of touch way. Just enough, to utilize the distinguishing feature of the human's brain that allows us to be more proactive creatures. And with just enough process, prompting us and giving us vehicles to support creative, collaborative, get-beyond-our-cognitive-limits work.

"The present is big with the future, the future might be read in the past, the distant is expressed in the near." -- Leibniz's law of continuity

"Chance favors the prepared mind." -- Louis Pasteur

"Where a calculator on the ENIAC is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers of the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and perhaps weigh 1 1/2 tons." -- Popular Science, March 1949

"The trouble with our times is that the future is not what it used to be." -- Paul Valsry

"The future is itself a story, and predictions are stories we tell to amaze ourselves, to give hope to the desperate, to jolt the complacent." -- David Remnick

"The future has more to do with what we do between now and then, than anything else." -- Russell Ackoff

"Don't worry about what anybody else is going to do. The best way to predict the future is to invent it." - Alan Kay

and there's this: Ok, so just what about this likely future was hard to predict?

Slide credit: Gar Reynolds Presentation Zen http://www.presentationzen.com/presentationzen/2009/09/wa-the-key-to-clear-design.htmlOf course, there's also the role the architect plays in determining right system, and now my image of archman sparking innovation has the wires of insight and intention and a beam of imagination to spark innovation. All ideas we have in our state of play, but the image brings them into vivid focus. That's what I think a lot of our eurekas are about--new combinations of ideas that make new things possible. Sometimes big things, and sometimes small things. Which takes me back to Garr Reynolds for a slide (reproduced on the right)!

Btw, whenever you encounter someone who writes about software the way Garr Reynolds writes about design (yes, with a presentation slant, but mostly he is taking general design principles and applying them to presentations), please tell me! Given how much of the architect role is about communication, in more and less formal settings, I highly recommend looking in on Garr's Presentation Zen blog.

11/4/09 My Joy... Your Agony?

I know that for some people, recognition is uncomfortable--even distressingly so. There was a "praise wave" that hit the education system--research showed that praise motivated, and praise was taken simplistically and people started to glibly praise without content. Then the "praise research" was questioned, and new work found that kind of praise to be damaging and demotivating (Nurture Shock). The pendulum swing away from praise or positive recognition is just as simplistic (in the worst way). Praise for specific achievements is good, but it takes work from the person giving the recognition. The broader context has to be understood, as well as the specific contribution, for recognition to be accurate. And even a child can tell when the praise is glib--a lazy, undifferentiated gloss. When I express delighted recognition of someone's contribution, it is in good part to highlight the contribution and in part it is just because this planet is a more wondrous place when we share the wonders we encounter--spreading the infection of joy, rather than the infection of meanness. Both of these serve the community more than the person being acknowledged. But, for those who stumble on praise of their work, I think it is good that they find that someone understands the difference they work so hard to make--sees it, sparkles with joy at the beauty of something that just is right, hard-wrought and effective. The key though, is the specificity and the credibility of the recognition. That takes work. It takes an eye for finding, and it takes time in expressing. So while there may be a glut of gloss, there will never be a glut of accurate recognition. In short, if you don't like the recognition I give, get over yourself!  Grin.

11/4/09 Hat States and Transitions

In this time of recession, the general mood in organizations is more somber, and there's certainly more stress under the uncertainty together with pressure to get more work done by fewer people on tighter budgets. Given this, there's a greater reluctance to take risks, which shows up in less playfulness. So being more "all-business" is in, but is it good for us?

Daniel Stroe pointed me to Feeling grumpy 'is good for you':

" While cheerfulness fosters creativity, gloominess breeds attentiveness and careful thinking, Professor Joe Forgas told Australian Science Magazine. "

"Professor Forgas said: "Whereas positive mood seems to promote creativity, flexibility, co-operation and reliance on mental shortcuts, negative moods trigger more attentive, careful thinking, paying greater attention to the external world." The study also found that sad people were better at stating their case through written arguments, which Forgas said showed that a "mildly negative mood may actually promote a more concrete, accommodative and ultimately more successful communication style". His earlier work shows the weather has a similar impact on us - wet, dreary days sharpened memory, while bright sunny spells make people forgetful.

-- Feeling grumpy 'is good for you', BBC News, November 3, 2009

This recalls to mind Don Norman's TED talk--which I still have only semi-listened to, but he was indicating that we need to be in a different state to be creative than to be analytical, critical, focused. 

Daniel astutely observed:

"We need to adapt to the situations and change the hat, however there are hardwired tendencies and therefore is good to build a complementary team that value the differences and transform it in a multi-cylinder combustion engine." -- Daniel Stroe, personal email, 11/4/09

This recognizes that while we can shift hats (De Bono's Six Hats technique), some people have a propensity to being happy while others are more "cup half full" types, while still others just plain don't like milk! Grin. I'm very much in favor of diversity, because well, almost everywhere I go, I bring a diversity factor to the equation and it is good. ;-)  Oh come now, play!  Even if the research was redone on happy people, rather than random people asked to put themselves in a happy mood, I'd still question the simplistic polar conclusions like "happy people make more mistakes." That just puts fodder in the BB guns of the cranky morose folk! Well, well--I'm outraged--see how clearly I analyze in this angry state!  (Wide, mischievous grin!) The trouble with me is I'm happy as a pig in mud when I'm being analytical--and I can run rings round most people on analysis. (Just not you, so don't bother to challenge me; I won't accept.)

I've mentioned Disney's approach of going into different rooms to be creative, to plan, to be critical. We battle enough to get a room assigned to architecture teams, and see no hope of three rooms! But we can create playful creative states, and focused analytical states, and critical, objective states. And, it doesn't even have to depend on the weather! Ok, we do insist on a large airy room for workshops because low-ceilinged, dark, small rooms depress and the workshop outcome is affected. At the same time, the group in Porto Allegra apologized to me over and over all week for the rain we had--we had a wall of windows, but it was dark with heavy storm clouds. And yet this group was able to make the transitions from playful and open, to analytical and focused design decision-oriented, to objective and critical, as we pulsed through the iterating cycles of VAP. I've worked with groups in rooms with no windows, and we've had the same exciting outcome. Etc. What makes the difference is attitude and a willingness to shift, a willingness to let me conduct in that crucible way. Other groups have been affected by the state of individuals in the group, more than anything. A morose person can bring the whole tenor of the experience clumping down. Morose, more than anything, loves festering company.

My Qui-Gon :-)So anyway, states--attitudes and orientations of mind and mood--can be shifted. Some people are more flexible and adaptive. Disney externalized his state changes with room as a physical reminder of the intentional process of adjusting state--as well, perhaps, as a subliminal cue with light, colors and decor (I don't know this, but we're talking Disney here!)  And De Bono does it with hats--but he does not insist on physical hats, though he uses the hat colors to remind people of the state they are supposed to be in. And I did it with "left brain, right brain"--more metaphorically than literally (but I still think it is cool that I can make the dancer switch direction at will. ;-) The point being that we all (ok, all except some very extreme cases) have left and right brains that we do use, though sometimes we have to work more on ourselves to establish permission with ourselves to let the right brain have some air time! We need a process that allows the run of imagination in divergent parts of the cycle, and the run of analytical thinking in the convergent parts, and which allows for big-picture holistic thinking, and detailed careful focused thinking. And I know, personally, when I've spent hours hunkered down working on something deeply analytical with deadlines looming, I just have to surface for some "play" time. Some fun, goofy, pointless light-hearted play! If you follow along here, you know that about me! But I have always been reflective, and intense. As a teenager, I would not read the vapid soppy romantic stuff teenage girls read. Not in English. No, if I wanted to read trivial light stuff, I read it in Afrikaans (apologies to my countrymen) or German (no offense, but your deep literature is hard and I was only learning your language). Then I dreamed in whatever language I'd been reading at bedtime! So most of the time I read the greats of English literature. And sometimes I read sop. And dreamt sop. But in another language. (Bent, I am, on learning. Yoda, my model, he is. Even if I am more like Qui-Gon.)  We can find ways to balance ourselves out, to be creative and playful in the midst of times when we are generally being analytical and focused, because our subconscious needs time out to re-arrange and refresh and percolate. And I could not be playful all day. That would be a huge effort for my personality!

In all of this talk of states, though, we're not talking about "happy" and "grumpy"! We're talking about playful and open, versus focused and analytical. I can be happy and playful, or happy and analytical. And I'm only grumpy and critical when I am sorely, sorely provoked. I have children. They burst my bubble of good intentions daily! They remind me I'm human. In the best and worst ways. ;-) 

The bottom line is that Daniel is right--a diverse team is important. But I don't want a person on my core architecture team who can never shift out of a deeply negative "black" state. That person damps the state of everyone else, and doesn't let the yellow and green and red (positive, creative and intuitive) states happen effectively!  (For the metaphorically- and emblematically-impaired, I'm using De Bono's states figuratively, not prescriptively!)  That person is very useful to the team, and dangerous! Ok, I generally make it a rule to never say never. But I'd have to really work with how we managed roles and responsibilities, as well as work hard to find what activates the play state of the curmudgeon. :-)

In Ten Faces, IDEO recommends that you have a devil's advocate on any innovation team. (As devil's advocates go, I'm afraid I am a very perverse one, for I am adept at seeing the yang to most any yin, I'm playful and no-one ever knows how serious I am, etc.) Still, there's a devil's advocate, and there's the person who persistently practices polemic and can't get over their own negative views and wants everyone to share their perspective. That drags at the energy of the team. They can set a broader negative, resistant tone. I try to set the play mood with jokes and fun, when we're moving into the divergent phases of the process. I'm still learning... sometimes painfully! And then I have to rally all my resources to be positive and energetic and set that tone for others to fall into sync with. On the up side, people do--they can fall into sync with a down beat, but they tend to want to fall into sync with an up beat.

 "If you look for the bad in people expecting to find it, you surely will.”  -- Abraham Lincoln

There are many styles. There is a current in our tech world that favors machismo, arrogance, a willingness to use anger and "the stick." These are not the only forms that competitive people take! There are other valid and successful leadership styles. Assertiveness may not be full-frontal attack, but rather a steely dedication to finding a route that people can align around and make work. If you have seen (or read) Hoot, you'll recognize that there is a gentle way to take out arrogant Machiavellian expansionists. There are also valid states of mind for creativity and for analysis. And I sorely object to associating a happy state with being error-prone, and an analytical, careful state with being grumpy. At first glance, given what the BBC News article said about how the research was done, I have, to put it mildly, lots of questions. :-) 

Aside: Actually, it is useful to think of personal states in a broader way than just mind and mood, explicitly thinking about the data that the person has to operate on, which can affect his attitude and mood.

11/10/09: Reading Florence Nightingale's "Chattering Hopes and Advices" I am reminded that when I talk of "tell the truth but tell it circumspect" or when I offer an alternative to the curmudgeon who is also a careful thinker (no grumpiness required), I don't mean to imply being glib and sweeping horrors under the rug, nor being unrealistically optimistic. And in accepting diversity including curmudgeons, I do not condone angry, abusive behavior!    

11/13/09 On the "diversity in innovation" point: trolling my own writing for leadership material, I reread the Traffic Calming post, and, in particular, like this paragraph on diversity:

We can't do all this thinking, research, incubating, and so forth in "group think" mode. Architecture by committee is slow. Deathly slow. I so like The Wheel on the School. The team was chartered: wonder about storks. The team went off, and in their individual styles, wondered. They created a shared vision. Then they each went off in different directions, like the spokes of a wheel, but with a common vision unifying their search for a solution. The whole village got pulled into the creation of the solution, at different points. The team told vivid vision stories to motivate and inspire various people along the way. More and more people got drawn into creating the solution; taking risks, doing what it takes. The core team, working like cogs, pulled in teams of teams. Sometimes all working together, sometimes as smaller teams. Fluid, dynamic, ever-changing teams. Through action, they made the vision real. People changed; changed their self-concept, changed the communities concept of them. In changing how they viewed themselves, in changing how they viewed others, they built the team. A man with no legs, an old man, an old woman, a teacher, the children, the preschoolers, the men of the village, the women, the tin man from the next village, all were transformed by working towards the vision. Of course, these are metaphors for all the different forms we take; whether we are stunted by chronic resistance to ideas not our own, by small-mindedness of any kind, if we are highly tuned up in some areas, but deficient in others, in all sorts of ways, a team needs diversity and a team is transformative; or it can be. They changed what they could accomplish.  We can too.

11/4/09 Hats: Just a Tool

I mention De Bono's hats because I think it is a tool to have in the toolbox, but also because there is something to the separation of concerns that the hats represent. For fun, or to get past a sticking point--like someone is perpetually playing one state at the expense of the others--then I have gone to hats. Generally, though, I prefer, for example on Competitive Landscape Maps and Project Roadmaps (the planning kind) to deal with the "black" in "Challenges and Risks," and "red" in "uncertainties" and "frustrations and aspirations" spaces on the map, etc. So I'm playing the same game of shifting attention to surface ideas, just not so overtly. And as long as people can move around the map (literally in the Competitive Landscape case, but figuratively in terms of the process more generally), that's ok. Sometimes you have to become more explicit, just to budge a person. And sometimes you need to play it differently, just to loosen people up, to have fun while getting work done. And role playing can be fun. Once in a while!!! Dana says "goodwill is the silver bullet" -- but what do you do when you don't got* goodwill? ;-) When people are behaving in stuck, unhelpful ways, the leader has to stay resourceful to help get them past that. I'm still learning how to do that... it's good to be able to do something productive, to avoid becoming defensive and unresourceful myself. :-)

I'm certainly open to other suggestions for techniques to add to my facilitative leadership toolbox. This is not just about early get-lots-of-ideas then cull-them kinds of activities. It is about surfacing alternatives and options throughout the process, and making tradeoffs. Wherever it matters to have multiple people work on surfacing and deciding on approaches, you have these human dynamics to deal with. It's useful to be able to do that most effectively, drawing out the best in the team using strategies to overcome the blind-spots we all have. 

* the "don't got" is an intentional flag. :-)

Looking for that Lincoln quote (preceding entry), I also came across these:

11/4/09 Lincoln on Debt (Technical and Environmental; Fiscal may be another matter...)

"You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” -- Abraham Lincoln

11/4/09 Lincoln on Organizational Politics/Dynamics

"I don't like that man. I must get to know him better."

"Tact is the ability to describe others as they see themselves."

"When the conduct of men is designed to be influenced, persuasion, kind unassuming persuasion, should ever be adopted. It is an old and true maxim that 'a drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall.' So with men. If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend. Therein is a drop of honey that catches his heart, which, say what he will, is the great highroad to his reason, and which, once gained, you will find but little trouble in convincing him of the justice of your cause, if indeed that cause is really a good one."

That Abe, he really knew how to do self-(d)effacing humor:

"If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?"

11/4/09 Lincoln Foreshadows Immaturity

Lincoln said this in a book report:

"People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like."

The Encyclopedia of Immaturity does something similar in a few paragraphs. It's hilarious too!

11/5/09 The Other Thing I Need --or-- No More Mediocre Success!

"So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default."

-- J.K. Rowling, The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination, June 5, 2008

11/5/09 At Least Somebody Loves My Writing! :-)

'I loved your last Executive Report (“Getting past But: Finding Opportunity and Making it Happen”)' -- Cindy, email, 11/6/09

I reread most of the report, preparing some material for that innovation session. I like it! Who wrote that anyway? Goodness, she had gall! But in a good way. :-)

11/5/09 Back to reconstruction...




I would like to think that there is room in the world for a piece of work like this--a journal of the journey through the wondrous landscape of our field, stopping to point out the features of the landscape produced by others, and sometimes crafting a new feature myself.  

But whether that is viewed by some as worthwhile or not, and while my journaling helps me think, it distracts me too.  

So that is my bigger concern du jour--not to squander time and ?talent.  I only know a couple dozen of this journal's frequent visitors, but those I do know, give me to believe there is something here--the other people who, like you, read my journal from time to time, are, like you, amazing people--great architects and active, investigative explorers! So while I don't trivialize the value of your attention, I need to be concerned that the small success of this outlet for expression, distracts me from leveraging what I've learned from what you've taught me, into something more useful.

I hope you'll like the other projects (more tightly packaged, still quirky, but not personal), and I won't be shy about pointing you to them. :-) 

price(humility) = opportunity cost(self-promoting)

price(self-promoting) = opportunity cost(admiration)

price(admiration) = opportunity cost(humility)

                                                         -- Archman on blogonomics

Oh, I like this--blaming Archman. You hate it, he did it. You love it, Arch{wo}man did it. :-)

Anyway, please do check back in once in a while.

"If you would not be forgotten,

as soon as you are dead and rotten,

either write things worth reading,

or do the things worth the writing."

-- Benjamin Franklin


11/6/09 Deadline Up; Ideas Flow!

Not that I would have entered, but as soon as the deadline for the text-only comic strip was up (12:01am today), and because Halloween is also over (you know, the deadline for scary), I had this incredibly wicked idea:

Gob Stoppers

... guy talk...

saved the day...

guy talk...

this [       ] big...

... guy talk...

Hey, beautiful, what's that?

A breast pump

... O.





ha ha ha


ha ha





Sounds great! What are you reading?

My Little Red Book

What's it about?

First periods

.. O.




Hey, what are you reading?

Ruth's journal






Ok, ok, I was wondering how to do a panel with silence as the main feature. That's what popped into my mind. I have just found "those topics" to be the best silencers on the planet. ;-)   I told you it was wicked, and you read it anyway! Serves you right! 

So, think about the undiscussables in your world, and make a silence panel. Call it change through comedy. It's supposed to work better than tragedy! And the neat thing? You don't even have to be able to draw! ;-)  Ok, ok, I'm not really recommending that! There's bold and there's brash. I'm brash, but only so that you can be more bold. ;-)

Of course, this whole notion of undiscussables is architecturally significant! The architect is the agent of dialog--often the only one, because the architect is often the only one who bridges all the worlds. Bridges the different specialist domains, the different parts of the business, the different participants in the development process, etc. So the architect has to find what is not being discussed--the "hot potatoes", and find ways to surface and discuss them, if they are strategically important--if they are make or break for the system. I've said this before, but it is perhaps worth repeating: there's context and there's subtext, and the architect needs to be uniquely clued in to the significance of each.

well, regular programming will resume... if you dial back a few months and read there... 

Hmmm. Periodic: here's an old view and a new one.

As for My Little Red Book, I think it should be required reading--for men! There is room for a whole lot more empathy in the world, and stepping into the shoes of your lovers and daughters for a moment is a good investment. As is reading my journal?? But we won't tell anyone. Certainly we won't tell anyone who thinks that women's moods are hormonal and men's mood are what? Righteous indignation? (How sexist!) Based on the phases of the moon? (How sexist!) Isn't it a shame though, that still today we have people who will not read the work of a woman? Or who expect a woman, teaching a class, to sound and act like a man, instead of valuing what she brings and how she does so?  

11/7/09 Addicted!

I can't help but note my points of excitement! Dana added this to my slide on the divergence-convergence process that underlies VAP:

"We do this divergence-convergence process with pieces of the problem—architecturally significant sub-problems, and we also keep doing it with the whole problem! We keep looking for the cross-cutting issues, the game shapers, and the game changers."    -- Dana Bredemeyer

Game shapers and game changers, indeed!

Last month I wrote:

  • Value lies not just in the parts, but in the relationships of the parts to each other and to the context.

  • Architects design to create and shore up value. In its first incarnation, and through the evolution of the system

I had to quote that, because xkcd just posted a great parts-relationship cartoon. :-) [And you didn't know he reads here--ha!]

11/8/09 Fractal Leadership and the Architect's Growing Grounds

It occurs to me that we need to use this fractal concept in more than just strategy--Dana just alluded to it in the divergence-convergence process, but I was thinking about it with respect to leadership too. It might help junior architects to realize that the smaller scope they work at, is still the practicing ground for many of the leadership skills they will draw on as they progress through their careers, and their scope of influence broadens. It is obvious, when put like that. But so many dismiss this "leaders are made by the need they see" thing, that I conclude they need to reframe for themselves the notion of "need." It is context-dependent--which also means dependent on scope of accountability (set by work context or moral context).

"Leadership cannot really be taught. It can only be learned."  — Harold Geneen

This is an important concept, because "the need" (or opportunity) that the leader inspires and influences other people to work together to address doesn't have to be of the order of abolishing slavery or creating democracy or giving women dignity and equal opportunity. Even if those are all problems that plague our world still today. And we have a new one, that threatens humanity at an even greater scale: climate change and the broader problem of an environmental footprint that is leaving insidious but building devastation in its wake. When I think of the size of the ocean, and the scale of the devastation man has visited on it in 50 years, I tremble! Big problems, that we can all start to address, individually and collectively. The same applies to the changes we must make in our organizations, to enable them to become much more responsive and adaptive. The notion of fractal leadership pushes empowerment throughout the organization. And it is beautifully geeky! Grin.

The leader is the person who sees the right thing to do, and then makes it happen, primarily through influence, enrollment and by example, rather than through authority and autocratic control.

Leaders craft the message

"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty... It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

-- Abraham Lincoln, The Gettysburg Address, 1863

With these words, Lincoln redefined the Civil War as a struggle not only for the Union, but as "a new birth of freedom" that would bring true equality to all of its citizens, and that would create a unified nation with one government of, by, and for the people. These words inspired with a crisply stated noble calling.

Minimalist statement. Truly, uniquely, finely minimalist.  Drafted, and redrafted.

Of course, leaders don't lead by words alone. But they are what the leader crafts to shape her own actions, and those whose actions she illuminates. Our actions must align with our words, but our words define our actions, frame them and give them meaning.

President Obama and former President Clinton brought talented speech writers to the public eye. Their ability to weave words to inspire is of great value to the leader. Which is not to downplay the role of the leader in crafting the message. The leader sets the tone, the themes, the meaning. So, whether it's a formal address penned by Lincoln himself, a formal address crafted under the intellectual and moral authority of the leader, or informal and unscripted dialog that the leader shapes, the leader crafts the message. Not once, but continually. In conversations--those that the leader seeks out, and those that serendipity offers; in presentations--invited and offered, formal and informal. In written communication. And oral.

Something that Grady Booch said to Dana and me several years ago, stuck with me. I can't remember his exact words, but the gist was that in repeatedly doing something like giving presentations or workshops, you find the ways to cast your message that work. Like "the code is the truth, but not the whole truth" (or my version: "code is not the Grail, value is the Grail"). So, for example, we use the Madison story--still do, even after all these years. But it becomes richer--knowing that Madison post-Constitution was not your iconic laudable figure, for example, enlivens the story with the wrinkles of human greatness and human fallibility. We tend to want to be new and fresh, but it also helps to find and use the images, metaphors, stories that just work.

"You are getting a great education here, and I would gladly pay any of you $100,000.00 for 10% of your future earnings, but if you do anything significant to improve your communication skills, I'll pay you $150,000.00"

-- paraphrasing Warren Buffett addressing students at the Columbia Business School

Image Source: American Library of Congress Treasures, First Draft of the Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) "Nicolay Copy," Gettysburg Address, 1863: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/treasures/images/frstdrt1.jpg

Back to packaging, but first, by way of Dana and the kids (Ryan's been singing Tom Lehrer's Hunting Song):

11/7/09 Neat Visualization Example

This visualization of ☼Tom Lehrer's "New Math"♫ song makes it all so clear! :-)

The words are great, of course: "Math, it's so simple only a child can do it."

Which recalls to mind:

"A child of five would understand this. Send somebody to fetch a child of five."  — Groucho Marx

11/8/09 Visualizing Contributors to Climate Change

This is a neat example of a sankey diagram: Contributors to Climate Change

11/9/09 Code is not the Grail, Value is the Grail

Model out loud/in small groups, with an eraser/willingness to do-over!Using the approach of writing production code to find out where the value sweet-spot lies is... one way to do it... But if we can eliminate some dead-ends by being more imaginative, playing out different strategies in our mind's eye and doing that mental messing around, shouldn't we? And if we can get stakeholder feedback and eliminate dead-ends and low value options with sketches and dialog, shouldn't we? And if we can rough something up, to learn about the value sweet-spot, shouldn't we? The principles of Agile are good, with the caveat that we need to pick the most agile medium for the moment we're at. But we need to reign in our nerd desire to do analysis and design to the point of perfection. A perfect design for the wrong system, in market terms, is almost as wrong as working code that misses the mark. The trouble is, working code is often accepted, tolerated, because we've got what we got, and we make do. How long will I live with Vista, because rolling to Windows 7 means I not only have to buy and install Windows 7, but it ripples through my entire environment and aside from the real money involved, I hate installing with a passion that only comes from being burned with countless, countless hours of time poured down "trying to make it work" (hunting and pecking for drivers, then driver patches, then ...,  etc.) and then "this d##@@ thing won't uninstall (cleanly) and leaves a bleeding trace all kinds of places" nightmares... Well, of course, none of you have left install/uninstall up to the college intern to hack while your team focuses on the real value...  

"Mistakes: Toothless little things, providing you can recognize them, admit them, correct them, learn from them, and rise above them. If not, they grow fangs and strike."

-- Dee Hock, The Art of Chaordic Leadership, 2000

So, code is necessary if our system is software-intensive. No question about it. But our goal is to create value--in competitive terms, value that differentiates our products and services. Differentiation is pragmatically determined in the market, factoring across the conjoint set of cost, features, user experience (including the perceived experience of value), etc. Trivializing and dismissing all the other contributors to this determination of value, does not serve developers real well. It certainly doesn't serve the organization real well, but developers are the ones who pour energy and chunks of lifetimes into the software, and if it is poorly targeted and fails the proving grounds of the market it is a crushing blow. Agile practices help--exposing our ideas to test helps. These ideas can be first tested as cheaply as possible with sketches and mock-ups and targeted prototypes, or they can be tested in evolving code. If that evolving code is production standard code, it is a pretty pricy test. Compared to models and mock-ups. So we have to be pragmatic and balanced. We may have to shoot off lots of quick and dirty trials so we can fail fast and cheap, to find the product concept that has a good fit to purpose and to context. It is bad to push a poor product concept to the conclusion of releasable code, and it is bad to push a design to nth degrees of detail before writing a line of code. Somewhere between all code-and-adjust-direction-and-redesign-in-code and BDUF is the right balance for each different context.

"Never confuse activity with productivity. It is not what goes in your end of the pipe that matters, but what comes out the other end. Everything but intense thought, judgment, and action is infected to some degree with meaningless activity. Think! Judge! Act! Free others to do the same!" 

-- Dee Hock, The Art of Chaordic Leadership, 2000

Our notion of how value is created is changing--even in our nerdverse. Why are (some) architects getting out and talking at conferences? In part the conference circuit is the place to get attention if we want to hire the best of the best--we do cool stuff, we talk about how cool it is, and we attract those Stanford PhDs who had no notion our "energy company" has one of the biggest compute centers on the planet, and was dealing with some of the most complex parallel programming issues before it became a concern of the general community establishment. And in part the practitioner conference circuit (like Tech-Ed and QCon) is the place to reach the scanners or technology mavens--the people who are actively looking for what's next so they advance the capabilities of their products and business. So we technical people are realizing that value is in perception, too.

In short, we must do the strategic things that will create differentiation for our business and products in a market that judges by real stuff and how well it fits the needs and aspirations of enough people to create a viable competitive position. No real stuff, no deal. Unless you're raising venture capital. But the value in the "real stuff" comes from different angles, because there is an interplay between perception and reality.   


I think I need to disable edits on this journal site. :-) 

11/18/09: Frank Lloyd Wright famously said:

"An architect's most useful tools are an eraser at the drafting board — and a wrecking bar at the site. "

– Frank Lloyd Wright

Now, I always read that just the one way--the architect stays willing even into construction to change the design if it is unfit. Of course, the wrecking bar at the construction site is more expensive than the eraser, but some things will only surface as problematic--or as an opportunity--as the thing is built. So the architect needs to be there to see these opportunities to improve the design, and suffer the cost (to ego and to the construction schedule and resources) of smashing out and reworking parts already (partly) built. But also, duh, of course a wrecking bar at the construction site is in good part there to hold the construction work to the design, and to a high standard of execution.   

11/10/09 Reconstruction

Disable edits... Or give over to the notion that I find whispering into this well a useful way to think something through. One of my sideline projects is a Leadership essay, organized around slides from a deck I put together on Leadership and Communication. You can read along, or hop the lily-pads of links to other people's more interesting work. ;-)  Most readers here don't follow links to other pages on my site, but do pop over to other sites I link to. That's a clear message, but as you can see, I'm ignoring both your clear messages and my clear conclusion that this spot is not my most effective point of leverage. But Dee Hock (founder of VISA International) wrote:

"The first and paramount responsibility of anyone who purports to manage is to manage self: one's own integrity, character, ethics, knowledge, wisdom, temperament, words, and acts. Without management of self no one is fit for authority no matter how much they acquire, for the more authority they acquire the more dangerous they become. It is the management of self that should occupy 50 percent of our time and the best of our ability. And when we do that, the ethical, moral and spiritual elements of management are inescapable."

-- Dee Hock, The Art of Chaordic Leadership, 2000 

Of course, there is a little trickiness in doing this managing of self in public--even if it is only public in potential, not so much in actuality. My peculiar self requires rather a lot of disciplining, for example. Fortunately, mostly you leave that up to me. And I spend a good part of my 50% allocation on it. Correctively. Which is the wrong kind of self-discipline! Grin.

I do heartily recommend Dee Hock's The Art of Chaordic Leadership essay. This is simply beautiful:

"Creativity: The problem is never how to get new, innovative thoughts into your mind, but how to get old ones out. Every mind is a building filled with archaic furniture. Clean out a corner of your mind and creativity will instantly fill it."

-- Dee Hock, The Art of Chaordic Leadership, 2000

(Sounds like he was inspired by my desk... ;-) As was Christoph Neumann, I just know it!)

Oh, speaking of more interesting work, I began the Leadership and Communication deck with this quote:

“If you dispense your own wisdom, others often dismiss it; if you offer wisdom from a third party, it seems less arrogant and more acceptable.” — Randy Pausch

I just noticed that when people write to me about this journal, 90% of the time they say they like something someone else said (someone I quote, or link to). [No, the other 10% they do not say they like something I wrote!] Since it's certainly not the arrogant thing, it must be the "more acceptable" thing. So I styled the presentation around quotes, and now I'm back-filling with... my ?wisdom. ;-) Randy Pausch called it a head-fake. Grin.

(Looking for the VCR anecdote in The Last Lecture, I started reading around in it again. When first I read it, Randy was alive, and reading it now that he is dead is quite different. Wrenchingly! It also adds urgency to the need for self-discipline to be reminded of our frailty and short tenure on this planet.)

11/10/9 [8, 7, 6] Leaders


  • initiate and guide dialog; listen

  • identify need/opportunity; propel progress

  • inspire and influence; craft the message

  • lead up and across; set context

  • set an example; serve

  • create meaning/sense of significance; give recognition

If you don't think that is the best set of principles for leaders ever, I'm not talking to you! Oh, right, I'm not talking to you! I'm talking to myself. Oh well, I like it. :-) I've worked hard to get to the point where I can burn all the fluff down to that 6 item list, with it's two-part reflection. Ok, I'll stop dancing on the table now. If I didn't say that, it would just be another list. Having said that, you have to at least look at it again so you can discount my claim. ;-)

Ok, did I miss anything?

Lead down? Ha! It was a trick question! So, you didn't read Dee Hock, even though I recommended the article highly. Hmmpf! :-) Actually, I do believe I've got "lead down" pretty well covered with inspire, set context and serve, among others.

11/10/09 Leaders Inspire and Influence

Leaders inspire and influence

Florence Nightingale might not be among those who to come to mind when we're thinking about great leaders, but that she was! This "Lady of the Lamp" is known for her "ministering angel" role in the Crimean War, where she changed the destiny of injured soldiers, reducing the death rate from 42% to 2%. She also laid the foundation of professional nursing, articulating the principles of the profession and spending much of her life "promoting the establishment and development of the nursing profession and organizing it into its modern form" (wikipedia). Nightingale saw a need, and decided to forgo the life of a wealthy woman of leisure, to devote herself to it. But she did so much more. She was well educated, by her father, in mathematics and she was elected the first female member of the Royal Statistical Society. I became interested in Nightingale's story when I read that she was a pioneer in the visual presentation of information and statistical graphics (wikipedia). In particular, she invented polar area diagrams (which she called "coxcombs") to reveal in a visual way the impact of hospital sanitary conditions on saving soldiers lives in the Crimean War.

"The legacy of Florence Nightingale to the field of statistical diagrams deserves to be discussed in detail. It exemplifies the use of diagrams as objects of thought and imagination and as an instrument of the mind. Her significance for future generations derives also from the dramatic circumstances in which the diagrams were designed and from the revolutionary effects they have produced." -- Lewi, 2006

She used these visualizations to persuade and educate, recognizing that "Members of Parliament and civil servants ... would have been unlikely to read or understand traditional statistical reports." (wikipedia) She also fostered relationships with politician Sidney Herbert, and she became a key advisor to him, and Benjamin Jowett, a professor at Oxford, who had great influence with many of the influential people of the day, who'd come under his tutelage and remained fond of him. She wrote exhaustively, publishing some 200 books, reports, articles and pamphlets, and corresponded with many: "The "Collected Works of Florence Nightingale" series demonstrates Nightingale's astute use of the political process and report on her extensive correspondence with royalty, viceroys, cabinet ministers and international leaders, including such notables as Queen Victoria and W E Gladstone.'  (Amazon)

Image source: Florence Nightingale, wikipedia

Nightingale's principles themselves are specific to her discipline, though I think we'd do well, in architecting, to ask the question "What is done when I am not here?" She was a systems thinker, to be sure!     

Darth archman--created by Sara11/10/09 Darth Vader

...still thinking...but... got to go play Star Wars... oh, btw, what is Darth Vader's funniest line? "What?" No, really, according to Ryan that is his funniest line (and Ryan has a very finely tuned sense of humor--I work on tuning it every day, you see). Context factors!

...haven't heard from Darth Don in a while, so I'll make do with Ryan quoting Vader "asteroids do not concern me, I want that ship not excuses"-- just replace "asteroids" and "ship" with "business goals" and "domain architecture [in 4 weeks or less]" and you're there! :-)

11/16/09: Of course, Donald puts aside his Darth-mask when he does that awe-struck by the universe thing. [If I didn't have good reason for caution, I'd say "we're onto you, bunny man." But I won't say it, just in case. ;-) ]

Picture credit: Sara created Darth Arch-Man.

11/10/09 Architecture Tactics work at the SEI




11/11/09 Organizational Mood Swings

In times of caution and with a chill edge of fear nibbling at work life, some things are easier, some harder. Confident, assertive styles can help create a sense of purpose, and the sense of urgency itself aligns. Steely focus is treated as the hard-edged approach needed for cost cutting and survival.

When the tension eases, and attention shifts from cost cutting and efficiencies to growth and innovation, the need for leaders who can inspire followers to propel advances in business and product capabilities swings back into play.

Of course, competition is intense with cut-backs on consumer and business spending, and innovation is being demanded along with cost-cutting. Are these things at odds? We all know that "necessity is the mother of invention" that propelled Amazon to its initial success. There are countless other stories like that. But necessity and inspired energy and necessity and fearful kowtowing are not identical twins!

It will be interesting to see if companies that manage to make efficiency gains in a spirit of growth through process and product innovation outperform companies that make efficiency gains in a spirit of hard-edged focus on cost-cutting. The tricky thing, though, is that the first approach seems frivolous in times like these.     

But is it?

This is important to think about, as I decide what to write next for Cutter.

Fundamentally, retrenching is a downward spiral. If we all believe everyone will play the retrenchment game--or enough will, retrenching is the play to make. But it is self-fulfilling.

Optimism, and putting our backs to the wheel of regrooving the way we husband our planet, will bring us out of this tail-spin we're in*. But it will take the bravest of leaders to make a stand for optimism and action.

Imagination and innovation are the Patronus charms of this age of Dementors breathing fear and chill into the hearts of consumers and businesses depending on them.

* Ok, if you can mix more metaphors in one sentence and still have it seem natural, I will bow to you.

11/11/09 Potter → Rowling → LIFE

JK Rowling speaks to the times we're in--we need to eschew mediocre success if we want to achieve big things. This is just as true for business as it is for our personal life. Not that we have to fail so hard we hit rock bottom to succeed--we have, after all, that power of imagination and can learn from the stories of others. And we need to use our imagination to project ourselves out 5 or 10 years and ask what we would want to have done, that we won't have done if we keep putting one foot in front of the other, making small wins that amount only to making a living, not a LIFE! A LIFE in the big letters memorable sense, is memorable in whichever way we choose to make it, but it comes down to having made a difference to those who will remember the impact of that LIFE.

Randy Pausch's life was cut short, but he made it a LIFE first by making a remarkable difference to the lives of his students and colleagues. His Last Lecture has its profound effect because it was a summation of the principles that made Randy profoundly effective in his living and his teaching and mentorship. His Last Lecture (the lecture) was packed, because his classes were always packed! He had chosen how to make a difference, and then, with time running out, he chose to make an even bigger difference. And he did it without compromising on living; instead he aligned his living with making a LIFE. If we know what our goals are, if we know how we want to distinguish our life, we can do that.       

11/11/09 Charlie's Answer

From time to time I look at search phrases that brought people to this site because it is a window into what questions other people are asking (I like other people's questions--it's like clearing a spot in my mind). Ok, so this is one: "is thinsulate worth it." That was too far off the map for me to really believe that my site came up on the first page or so of a search, so I had to see. Google. Nada. Yahoo! nada. So I looked at what other search engines were used. Ask. Wait a minute! On page one of the search results low and behold: A Trace in the Sand. But get this--it was Charlie Alfred teaching us (Mark Mullin and me, and all of us) about value positioning! It's a neat example! I hope the searcher got their answer! And I liked being reminded of Charlie's!

Well, if that's not enough, someone searched "funny personal and professional interests" and my "other interests" page comes up on the first page of Google search results... Well, Google has me dialed in!

11/11/09 Software Architecture Workshops

Well, the workshop Dana will be teaching in The Netherlands in December is already full (and has been for a few weeks), but the workshop I'll be teaching in Chicago in December still has places open. Hmm. We can't let Europe get that far out front, really we can't. ;-)

I've commented on the attention to and investment in architecture in The Netherlands before, and they really have it clear at the most strategic levels (including government funding) that architecture is a competency to distinguish a nation, and its industries! I'd like a little trickle down on creating a sense of urgency around architecture in the US. :-)

11/13/09 Introduction to my Leadership piece

In most organizations, architects have to work more through influence and persuasion than positional authority, for they are leading change that impacts across the scope of traditional organizational units and their respective power trees.

Change, adapting to a shifting environmental context with emerging and evolving opportunities and threats, impacts multiple people often in various groups—communities. Communities with identity, "folk-lore" about their history, evolution, place in the market, and so forth. Communities with perceptions and vested interests shaped by the status quo. So change is a tricky business. We're always told that it requires "change management" and that inherently jars with our sensibilities. Led, inspired, empowered, all these things—yes! But "managed"—no!

Leaders don't become leaders to drive, they become leaders because they are driven. Leaders see a need, they are able to express the urgency and need for change and mobilize people to effect change and address the need. Rhetoric and stickiness of the message are important, as they make vivid and compelling the case for change. But the need is what breathes life into the rhetoric; the need is what breathes passion in the leader; the need is what followers identify with and are themselves impassioned to address. The status quo, inertia, power trees wrapped around the status quo—these all obscure the need or damp our hope in doing something about it, but the leader sees it clearly, reveals it, and builds a shared vision of a change we can work together to effect—the destination and the path to it. A path we can believe in, and see our role in.

We need to see leadership as something that happens in change fractals. When we do, we realize that a local project scope is a practicing ground for many of the leadership skills architects will draw on as they progress through their careers, and their scope of influence broadens. The need (an opportunity or threat that raises the need for change) is context-dependent--which also means dependent on scope of accountability (set by work context or moral context).

This is an important concept, because "the need" that the leader inspires and influences other people to work together to address doesn't have to be on the order of abolishing slavery or creating democracy or giving women dignity and equal opportunity. Its true, when we think of exemplary leaders, we tend to think of leaders who propelled epoch changes in history. But the same principles apply to the changes we must make in our organizations, to enable them to become much more responsive and adaptive.

The notion of fractal leadership pushes empowerment throughout the organization. It gives each of us a place to start, as we lead the changes that help our organization become more adaptive, able to seize opportunity and negotiate threat--within our current charter and job scope.

11/13/09 Red Cross Gifts

The Red Cross is offering choice in terms of how your donation gets used. ChangingThePresent.org has had an impact, and this is one of the ramifications--you can choose a way to make a difference, and if you are doing this in lieu of giving someone a gift, Red Cross can send them an ecard to let them know.

11/15/09 The 4 t's of Architecting ArchitectureDoing the classic fisherman's perspective trick--glowing with mischief

The 4 t's of Architecting Architecture: themes and teams; and temes and tactics. Well, that's the playful working title I'm toying with for a paper for Cutter. By temes, I mean technical replicators, including patterns and also instantiations of mechanisms, etc. But the idea is shaped around the fundamental elements that we're working with: teams and strategic themes on the one hand. And temes and tactics (in the SEI sense), on the other. If we use temes and (architecture) tactics as our fundamental architecture toolbox, how do we put these together? That's where themes and teams come in. Then you have to flip it, to work it.

Well, the photo right is not misplaced. [Hint: Scroll over.]  ;-) 

And yes, it could just as well be the 4 p's: people and process; and patterns and practices. But there aren't 4 p's in architecting architecture. ;-)  No, in seriousness, I like what the folk at the SEI are doing in the tactics area, and it would be fun to connect the dots between themes and not just patterns, but other means of replicating what is in the technical "gene pool", as well as tactics. (Reuse, for example, became less "interesting" but we're still working various angles on technical leverage.)

Of course, a VAP description under the twin banners of Visual and Agile may do just as well (and certainly has scope for exploring the 4 t's too).

It is either that, or an expanded version of my PICTURE IT: The Art of Drawing People In script. The draw there, for me, is that it is an area that has so much scope for contribution, pulling together and extending how we think about visualization in system development.

Well, I guess both are worth going after; just which to complete first? 

Photo credit: Dana Bredemeyer, 11/14/09

Yes, Ryan got his hair cut. Half the girls in his class like it, half don't. From which I conclude: half don't like people to be different and the other half don't like people to change. ;-)

11/15/09 Subject to Change

Daniel Stroe pointed me us to this great presentation on slideshare:

Daniel had pointed me to the book, and I was remiss in not passing on the pointer, so here it is:

11/15/09 Words and Images

"Let's begin with a few words about words. Words are only secondarily the means by which we communicate; they're primarily the means by which we think."

-- Dee Hock, The Art of Chaordic Leadership, 2000

We use words to construct the world. Words in various languages. Words, and images. Models. Designs. What we can imagine, we can set out to build, to find a way to transform from thoughts into substance. If we can't picture it, envisage it, describe it--first to ourselves, and then to others, we can't build it particularly if it takes multiple minds to inventively translate from idea to the form it is to take.

I thought I'd watch a movie while I filed papers that had collected on my desk. The first paper I picked up, was Dee Hock's and my eyes fell on his words about words. I picked a movie I'd already seen, knowing I'd be distracted doing the filing. I don't like to waste the short time I have on this planet, so since it was a do-over, I chose a Brazilian masterpiece that inspired and stunned me when I saw it first a year or two ago. I succumbed again to it--didn't do much filing. But I was so struck by what we create with words (though this is a movie that is sparse in terms of spoken words, it is huge in terms of scope of imagination transformed by a good many women and men into an experience that transports). All the amazing things man has accomplished, starting with ideas expressed first by one person to herself (or himself) in words and images, and then to others. All the devastating good, and the devastating bad starting in a mind, and then more minds, with ideas.  

Sara (10) wrote 2,000 words in her novel today. Taking an idea, and weaving words into a compelling world full of detail. She's astonishingly good! A little naive in places, but she weaves words like a magic cloth, full of texture and images that spring to life. We create the stories of our fiction, our movies, and our lives. In each, the scope of the collaboration, the mixing and blending of words and images to create, extends beyond a person, to a group, to teams of teams, whole organizations even. More minds, more possibilities, and more room for misinterpretation or misdirection. With just words and images, and empathy and good intent, to navigate our way to building these astonishing things we humans build together.

Dee Hock invented a new word, feeling his way to a better description of how he sees the collaborative, creative world working: chaordic. It fits!

But if the world is created with ideas, and we all have a lot of them, then a leader is simply one who sees which among the clamoring clutter of ideas is the "big idea"--the most "important" in some sense, to that community, and builds alignment and momentum behind achieving that big idea. What makes it the idea big, is the perceived value of the outcome and the sense that this leader can align energy (appealing to individual aspirations, in good part), and the contribution of many small ideas, and make the big idea unfold. So the leader gives significance to the community--an opportunity to contribute not just muscle power, but head power--the power of ideas that inform action and make it meaningful, in part because of the ideas it unleashes and husbands, and in part because something (often, some thing) of value is actually created. Or at least, it is believable that the value is possible to create. 

So, perhaps, leaders are dealers in ideas.

Or, letting the letters lead--leaders are dealers in ideals.

Um, I might be able to get by with that, with a contortion--math as language.  Not buying it, huh? Ok, we envisage what bring into existence in the world in the mediums of words, images, and math. (And special-purpose applications of words, images, and math.)


integrate over individual aspirations and needs to find compelling group vision

Going through one of my notebooks (mainly client-specific), I came across this sketch of what I was trying to get the group to understand they needed to do. They had lots of strong personalities and opinions pulling in different directions, but they had to find a shared vision that integrated aspects of various stakeholder visions. Not to make everyone happy (though this is a side-benefit of inclusion), but because there were multiple perspectives that needed to be taken into account in creating a good solution. It relates quite nicely to the discussion above, and leaks nothing--I mean, I could have been saying this to your team, right?  ;-)Latte art by db

11/16/09 On the Lighter Side: a Romantic Visualization

That db: he's not just an awesome storyteller, architect and developer, he's also a great barista with an artistic flair. And--a sense of humor. A much tested sense of humor! :-)

11/16/09 Fractals

More fractals:

And Nature's own:

"You cannot create anything yourself that hasn't already been created in nature." -- Colleen Champ

(The context for that quote is inspiration for a visual representation in the medical field.)

11/16/09 More Visualization Links

  • Jeff Heer, ☼A Brief History of Data Visualization☼ (Stanford)    [Warning: the brief history is brief only relative to the span of history it covers, not relative to YouTube videos. :-)] This is a delightful tour of the history of data visualization, and includes a reference to (yes!) Florence Nightingale.
  • Larry Gonick and Woollcott Smith, Cartoon Guide to Statistics, 1993

11/16/09 Nightingale's Visual Rhetoric

Jeff Heer (☼A Brief History of Data Visualization☼) calls Florence Nightingale's coxcomb's an "early piece of visual rhetoric" (meaning the use of visualization to persuade and influence)--Nightingale showed in a graphically evocative way how deaths were occurring in the Crimean war. Apparently she said that the tables of figures that the statisticians were collecting were not enough to engage the public or affect the decision making of royalty, and she wanted to "affect through the eyes what we fail to convey to the public through their word-proof ears."

Archman as The Thinker11/17/09 A Big Idea?

A bunch of technology capabilities in prototype and product form, that belie trends:

  • Project Natal and Microsoft Surface
  • Johnny Lee's WiiMote projects (as well as products like eBeam Whiteboard that capture whiteboard notes drawn with a marker on a standard whiteboard digitally)
  • MIT Media Lab's 6th Sense project.
  • MIT's CSail sketch recognition projects.
  • My tablet--very disappointing that this year's version is no better than the one I had back in 2005-ish
  • Current online collaborative whiteboards--nice idea, but the mouse is hard to sketch with...
  • SmartPen
  • Motorola's cell phones with on-board micro-projector, and TI pushing projectors ever smaller, etc.
  • Google Wave

What I want:

  • pen and paper-based sketching is still my favorite medium for getting ideas quickly out of my head into the shared collaboration space of the team.
    (From a motor perspective, I can draw more naturally with a pen than a mouse, and I have a flexible and wide range of ad hoc things I can sketch quickly and roughly to communicate sketchy ideas--limited more by my imagination than anything else. Having the drawing appear where I am drawing is also more natural. Sketches are important in terms of team dynamics and perception, too. A formal looking model just looks authoritative and begs elaboration and refinement and that is a slippery slope.)
  • I'd like "electronic paper," so working over distance I can sketch/rough out diagrams and have my team see what I'm doing, and they can add to and otherwise interact with my drawing
  • utilize this natural input interface along with sketch recognition and OCR software so I can take my sketches and brainstorms as a starting point for refinement and evolution in modeling applications


  • Get out of the box!"We're all working on the same page" collaborative interaction medium for distributed teams: Could we use micro-projection, Lee's WiiMote project/Natal-like sensors, and good old paper (recycled, of course)? Add voice recording and situated playback (the point in the drawing accesses the words being said at that point, similar to the SmartPen), and it all becomes pretty cool! I want it!!
  • Make sketch recognition happen! We have our visual language standards; we have handwriting recognition. This will reduce the model maintenance burden, because as the models mature, we want to move from hand-drawn to more and more refined and elaborated models, and as we reflect the system as built back into models, we create the medium for the next interaction between hand-drawn and computer rendered.

Open Questions (devil's advocate):

  • we know we can do what eBeam and that ilk do, or what Johnny Lee does (more cheaply), but this is in the large (white board scale). Natal uses gross motor movements. etc. Can we do this in the small? (Where motor movements are much more fine grained, and the pen is higher resolution than a marker...) At what price point?
  • Does doing this at the page level, get around the issue of being in the way of the projection--I'm thinking 6th Sense kind of scale... (yes, it'll project on my hand while I draw...)
  • how far can we get with off-the-shelf/extant technologies? e.g., can we ride a Wave to push changes back and forth between distributed users?

Mental messing around: Archman tosses ideas about

"There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?" -- Robert Kennedy

I think this is a neat idea... Now the thing with ideas, as I said, is that there is a surfeit of them. Even a big idea is nothing, sown in a desert of disinterest or disbelief. Partly, this is an idea that crosses current foci: the gaming people are doing interaction, but not projection; the projection people aren't doing interaction; and what techie wants a paper-based solution?! ;-) 

But, oh this could make a big difference in this world of ours, enhancing our ability to move drawings from paper to electronic media in an unobtrusive way, and more, to dynamically share and interact with the paper medium that is so natural to us. We're working ever more in distributed teams, and with environmental and cost pressure not fly so much, we have to create better tools for the early stages of system development and other major milestone in system evolution--the stages where dynamic informal interaction is so key.

And the meta-point, of course, is to play with turning our expectations on their head, to see what falls out. We get stuck in our assumptions. And one assumption we're being limited by, is the screen and the mouse or a pen-like replacement. There is a dynamic dance between need/desire (which may be the flip side of frustration) and technology capabilities, and saying that we should not think about solutions when we identify problems is a silliness that derives from another silliness--in particular the silliness of running with first ideas. Playing out what could be, stimulates ideas. The thing that matters is finding the ideas that will make a difference. Then those have to be tested and refined, and redefined. Tested against market need, and tested against feasibility and cost parameters. Tested cheaply! Hack the thing--do more of that "procrastineering" that Johnny Chung Lee does.   

ps. of course, from my handwriting you can see why I am so tied to the ... uh... uniqueness of hand-rendered forms. ;-)

"As soon as you have made a thought, laugh at it." -- Lao Tzu

"Only the most foolish of mice would hide in a cat's ear, but only the wisest of cats would think to look there."

-- Scott Love

11/17/09 Visualizing Failure

  • Failblog.org [warning: turn on G-rated--otherwise there's dicey content.] Its a hunt and peck, so here's some that might suit a project situation: facades (I like the comments: "why?" -- "let's column and find out"), and this one to remind people to be 100% present during a meeting ;-) 
  • and also from lolz there's funny pictures: this one is especially for you. :-)  And this one's for me (and Darth Don).

And all my effort collecting visualization links, and you didn't point me to graphjam? It's a neat idea. What is? Web 2.0 humor, I guess. Of course, what we get from Jessica Hagy is consistently high caliber entries, but a site that is by the community for the community has its proletariat appeal too. :-) So you get Venn diagrams like this one.

Well, there's a variant on the fail theme with significantly more unpalatable content (and ads). There's funny, and there's gross and indelicate. We don't need to go there!

There's a great photo of a Frisbee-chasing dog crashing into a tree, that is such a great "failures of process" visualization! Of course, I never feel like I just did that!  ;-) Unfortunately the source of the photo wasn't referenced, so I can't use it.

But I can use this:

"Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly." -- Robert Kennedy

11/17/09 Out of all Proportion!

Sara (10) drew this "I break all laws" sketch for me. I wonder why?

And this (below) is archman's cat (as envisioned and drawn by Sara):

Archman's cat, by Sara

Here is Sara's Motivation for Agile (drawn when she was 8 or 9):

By Sara: Why Agile is Better!

Archman showing how Agile is better--take on too much in one go (the elephant) and you fall over. But a feather may be too little. Arch{wo}man, juggling too much, spills contents on herself... For his part, Archman couldn't even juggle two ideas, and broke one... And the little (Agile?) Arch-kids are horrified! The last: it wasn't flexible enough, and broke on stretching...

Well, that gives you a window on table talk in our family. archman smiles

Now we'll see this site getting referenced! ;-)  [Of course, if it did, I have to put a lid back on, or go back undercover! ;-)]

11/19/09 Some Thoughts On the Value of Modeling

From the first draft storyboard for my Picture IT presentation:

from the first draft skeleton of my Picture IT presentation

From the notes I took when I read Morgan Jones' The Thinker's Toolkit:

Archman illustrates how modeling out loud, in groups, helps break out of the box of our biases...Archman illustrates how'our indifference to the validity of our explanations" can be precarious!

Model in pairs or small groups, and bring in fresh perspective, because new information helps us to break out of the confinement of our (often hidden) assumptions.

11/19/09 An Open Mind

I can't tell you how often I've wanted to say this:

"You are not thinking. You are merely being logical."  -- Niels Bohr to Albert Einstein

And I can't tell you how often I've feared this:

"Keeping an open mind is a virtue, but not so open that your brains fall out." -- James Oberg

11/19/09 Let's Repair the Relationship...

Frequently in software development, "user experience design" is divorced from "software architecture" and this broken marriage hurts what we accomplish. Agile seeks to mend the relationship drawing requirements, design, development and test into tightly integrated cycles, where team members wear all hats. We do JEDUF (just enough design upfront) to scale (organizationally), to tackle greater complexity, or to be more strategically proactive, making key make-or-break architectural decisions early because not doing so would substantively increase cost and risk. But then we have to mend that relationship too.

Our definitions of software architecture focus on the structure of the software system--defining it in terms of the major software elements and the relationships among them. Some definitions extend this to the relationship of the system to its environment. And some encompass the behavior of the system. We like to ensure that fit-to-context (business and use context, as well as deployment context) and fit-to-purpose (system functionality or services and qualities) are incorporated in our notion of architecture--or at least, right architecture (in the good, right, successful sense).

But in our architecting process, it hurts the system design when we decompose the process into "requirements" (whether explicitly or implicitly defining the user experience--not just the UI, but the workflow or choreography of that experience, etc.) and "architecture," and divide responsibilities along those lines. Now, the "design" (as used by the classic designers like Ives Behar and IDEO, and in contrast to the way "design" is used in software*) and user experience folk are pushing in the direction of designing across the "skin" versus "guts" divide, and we get guidance like:

''Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it's this veneer -- that the designers are handed this box and told, 'Make it look good!' That's not what we think design is. It's not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.''” -- Steve Jobs, quoted in The Guts of a New machine, New York Times, November 30, 2003

"begin with a deep exploration of business, human, and technical factors. Observe. Brainstorm. Prototype. Repeat." -- Tim Brown, IDEO

Ives Behar--at minute 7:42-8:42 on this TED talk: designing objects that tell stories

"People think that design is styling. Design is not style. It's not about giving shape to the shell and not giving a damn about the guts. Good design is a renaissance attitude that combines technology, cognitive science, human need, and beauty to produce something that the world didn't know it was missing." -- Paola Antonelli

We advocate actively involving architects in concept development and the (strategically important aspects of) design of how the system will work from the perspective of users, and, of course, architects make decisions about how (strategically important aspects of) the system will be internally structured. This is because designing how a system will work should influence and be influenced by how it will be structured. And more: it should be informed by what the architect knows about the technical capabilities of the organization (including the as-built capabilities within its other products and predecessors, but also the capabilities of the development community) and capabilities outside the organization that could be leveraged to create competitive distinction.

"Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service... On our latest iMac, I was adamant that we get rid of the fan, because it is much more pleasant to work on a computer that doesn't drone all the time. That was not just "Steve's decision" to pull out the fan; it required an enormous engineering effort to figure out how to manage power better and do a better job of thermal conduction through the machine. That is the furthest thing from veneer. It was at the core of the product the day we started."

 -- Steve Jobs quoted in CNN Money, January, 2000

If you're going to make decisions about the core of the system on day one, you're making architecting decisions on day one. It's good if that is understood. Steve Jobs is the chief architect, clearly. But in (too) many situations, the architect is brought in at the point of system scoping--primarily to vet, and to have a voice in setting priorities. That is to say, the architect is brought in after concept development and requirements definition.

schematic (lots of detail hidden--like use case diagrams aren't only way to show capabilities)Anyway, software architecture definitions tend to focus on how the guts of the software system are structured, rather than also allowing that the interplay between the design of how it works at the user experience level (outward facing), and the design of how the internals work and are structured (inward facing), is architecturally significant. When you go as far as to be concerned about this, you realize there is also an interplay between the human capabilities and the technology-supplied capabilities at the product/system level too. If you don't, humans have to bend to the will of the machine in unnatural rather than natural ways... So it is better to recognize that the systems we build exist in a human context which is changed by the presence of the system, and we should take this into account when we design the system.

VAP's Software Architecture Decision Model stays squarely within the software architecture definition space. And we address the larger system-in-context design problem through the architecting process. In particular, separating the concerns into context and system concept formulation, architecturally significant requirements, and architecture design and specification. That way, we allow the process to solve the problem introduced by our definition of architecture which focuses on the internals of the software system. VAP iterates across these concerns, and across the layers of the Decision Model, in a forth and back dance that allows iteration between:

  • the design of how the system works: what capabilities to offer and the choreography of those capabilities taking into account the human supplied capabilities and desires/frustration/goals/activities, etc.

  • and how those capabilities are designed: what architectural components/elements serve to provide these capabilities, and how they interact to do so.  

Allowing that we may decide on day one to eliminate noisy fans, for example, because humans don't like noisy fans, and spawning prototyping to ensure we can eliminate fans... etc.


I need to redraw the visual, but for now the diagram below will suffice. The red lines show major iterations across capability (architecturally significant requirements) definition and architecture design and specification. The green lines show the forth and back nature of architecture decision making--as different views are explored, views already visited are reworked, refined and/or elaborated as needed.


illustrating iterations through the VAP view model

The problem, though, is that current perceptions are validated by the definition of architecture and its focus on software elements/internal structure, and these govern how the development process and roles are decomposed. So we have to do a huge sell-and-educate job getting software architects involved where they need to be involved in concept development and "requirements definition" (I'm usually pretty lasses faire on terms, but that one grates because it leads to counter-productive organizational perception and behavior). Again, software architects don't do all the work, but they do need to be involved, and even--when software is where differentiation is most driven--potentially lead that early design effort.

Now, EA evolved beyond enterprise-wide technology/infrastructure architecture to enterprise-wide IT architecture (i.e., including software solutions and information architecture) and then to include business architecture, so it designs across business capabilities supplied in part by humans and in part by technology.

A critical question our field faces, I think, is should our notion of system architecture evolve similarly, so the design decisions it encompasses include what capabilities the system offers? And if we go there, then do we include decisions that are made across system capabilities supplied in part by humans and in part by technology? Do we solve the problem I'm outlining by saying software architecture is as per extant definitions, but it fits within the architecture of the socio-technical system it serves? Then software architects are members of the (socio-technical) system architecture team (and business analysts or user experience designers and hardware/infrastructure architects and "marketects" are too).

Does this make sense? If Apple thought they were designing a software-intensive device not a socio-technical system, they'd have produced another MP3 player (distinctively cool and easy to use, but not much more). However, because they knew the socio-technical system was key, they allowed themselves to blur the design boundaries out, until they reached a workable system--its not just how we store and play music on the run, but how music is sourced, and from there to where and how we buy music... which gets into digital rights... etc... So they redesigned what people do, not just what the machine offered them... Now the device architects scope to the design of the device itself, but again the dance is across the design of the choreography of what human does with the device and how the device does it... If we design what the human does first/divorced from thinking through the internal capabilities of the device, we arbitrarily--without technical perspective--shape the system. 

"It isn't that they can't see the solution. It is that they can't see the problem."

-- G. K. Chesterton (1874 - 1936), The Scandal of Father Brown.

11/21/09 Visualizing Threads in VAP

Since I was bleeding messy lines all over our sketch of the VAP view model, I thought I'd also illustrate how the threads of reasoning trace across the context, capabilities and architecture decision space:

 illustration of threads of reasoning traced across the VAP view model

As for the messy lines on the iteration sketch--I didn't make them nearly messy enough!! For purposes of illustration I made them somewhat messy, but not so much as to cloud what I was trying to communicate. But ideally there is much more backtracking and tossing out and trying new approaches/testing alternatives and so on (and on). There is such a strong tendency to strive for excellence in our work, and we spend too long trying to get one view "right," when inherently we cannot unless we iterate and explore! That takes time which is problematic (and famously called "analysis paralysis"), but also it becomes fixed in our mental model which constrains what we perceive, our ego gets too wrapped up in it, and we become entrenched and defensive instead of being open to exploring other alternatives. We have to be willing to work fast and loose early on--prototyping first on paper with sketches and kludgy mock-ups, etc. We need to weave a very coarse mesh, as we explore just enough to find the value sweet spot and the dominant challenges, uncertainties and risks--the game shapers and potential game changers if you will. And then we start to tune up, to refine and elaborate just enough to meet the demands of our situation. More, if our system needs-must be built by many people or there are other organizational complexities such as (geographically and organizationally) distributed teams. 

Now, you don't have to necessarily let on that the process is this chaordic! If your organization wants stage-gates, fake it. ;-) Which is to say, still do your lightweight drill-downs to explore implications in areas you feel mighty queasy about. Yes,

"The life of a software architect is a long and rapid succession of suboptimal design decisions taken partly in the dark."  -- Philippe Kruchten

But you have to decide (and I can't tell you) when you need to drop into prototyping some aspect in code to benchmark alternative approaches, for example. Architecting is in good part judgment borne of experience, including judgment as to when to give in to the signal you get when your defensiveness is raised by the discomfort of some big buzzing confusion and uncertainty. And when to simply ride that wild ride out, making suboptimal decisions that you know may have to be reversed later. 


11/22//09: Mitch Kapor's A Software Design Manifesto, delivered in 1990, and published in Terry Winograd's Bringing Design to Software in 1996, foreshadows many of the points I'm trying to make. Whether I manage to be convincing or not, I strongly urge a (re)reading of Kapor's classic piece on design--which in his conception includes what is typically defined as software architecture, as well as "the overall conception of the product" or software-intensive system.


"What is design? What makes something a design problem? It’s where you stand with a foot in two worlds—the world of technology and the world of people and human purposes—and you try to bring the two together."

-- Mitch Kapor, Software Design Manifesto, 1990

Kapor's instinct and insight serves well today, because there is an interplay between system concept and capabilities we offer, and the system structure. We need to design across the key relationships, and the relationship between capabilities and architectural elements is architecturally significant. We design across, because there is give and take. Human desire/aspirations and goals are context-specific, and if you change the cost or add a different capability option, that can put a whole different spin on perceived goals and acceptance envelopes. So we muck about a bit to see where a capability could take us, and suddenly we've shifted the "requirements" and shown they aren't so fixed. We could muck about forever--so this is a highly strategic, non-trivial exercise. We need to do enough of it, so we head in a direction we're confident will serve us well as we shape our future. Otherwise, we head smack bang into one of those failures of imagination and process that we started this month with, thanks to Grady's post. [Along the lines of "I'm not nothing, though he is something"...we also ended last month with my quotes on imagination in innovation.]

11/22/09: A comment (to perhaps clarify): Yes, we also visualize assignment to processes and threads of a different sort in VAP--in the Execution Architecture, to be specific. Obviously here I was talking about threads in a thematic-weaving-through-the-tapestry-of-views sense. In the visual above I've hang tapestry panels of context, capabilities and architecture, though we have other panels, depicting other collections of views--like a panel devoted to security, for example.

1/22/09 Brownfields Architecting

Where we have most uncertainty and most degrees of freedom in the design process, is when we are creating a new product (entirely new, or revolutionary in some way). But the Visual Architecting Process also maps to more constrained situations (such as the next release on a current product). In such cases, we are jumping into the process with messy lines already on the page--the process page and the architecture views! And we are iterating from that point, deciding where to back-track and refactor, and where to add and so forth. 

11/21/09 Lessons on EA from the EU

This side-by-side comparison of Europe and the US is very interesting (note the use of a visual for land mass, just for those who can't see the relationship in the numbers :-). The duty of the President of the EU is especially interesting: to "'facilitate cohesion and consensus', without national bias."  That sounds like the duty of enterprise architects (swapping business unit or parochial for "national")! And newly named President Herman Van Rompuy, has words that lead us in the example they set:

"Our Union belongs to every one of us, we are not playing a zero-sum game. Europe must be in every Member State's advantage. This cardinal principle leads me to a two-track approach:

- First of all, I will consider everyone's interest and sensitivities. Even if our unity is our strength, our diversity remains our wealth. Every country has its own history, its own culture, its own way of doing things. Our journey may be towards a common destination, but we will all bring along different luggage. Denying this would be counterproductive. Without respect for our diversity, we will never build our unity. I will always bear this principle in mind.

- Logically, this principle has a consequence for our actions: as far as I am concerned, every country should emerge victorious from negotiations. A negotiation that ends with a defeated party is never a good negotiation. As President of the Council I will listen carefully to everyone and I will make sure that our deliberations turn into results for everyone.

There has been much debate about the profile of the future president of the Council's meetings, but only one profile is possible and it is one of dialogue, unity and action. The image of the Council is shaped by its results."

-- Herman Van Rompuy, following his appointment as President of the Council of the European Union, video here (starting at 3:37 when he switches to English) , text here, November 19, 2009

We can translate that into terms to lead EA, right? For example:

"Even if our unity is our strength, our diversity remains our wealth. Every [business unit] has its own history, its own culture, its own way of doing things. Our journey may be towards a common destination, but we will all bring along different luggage. Denying this would be counterproductive. Without respect for our diversity, we will never build our unity."


"only one profile is possible and it is one of dialogue, unity and action"

Van Rompuy's background is economics. Many of the concepts from economics apply to architecting across groups (especially those with historically independent and potentially divisive entrenched vested interests): the zero-sum game; the tragedy of the commons; the Nash Equilibrium.

And Van Rompuy writes poetry, in particular haikus. Poet laureate and poetry critic Andrew Motion points to some that are quite lovely, but concludes: "Judging by the poems, Van Rompuy is not only a charming, attentive and sensitive man, but he's clearly in the right job." Well, goodness, it appears that Andrew Motion is in the right job--that of critic with no need to broker any win-win! As for Van Rompuy, I'm so happy that the leader of the EU uses poetry as a medium for disciplined awe-struck seeking, making sense of and creating meaning in this world! What we see, depends so much on where we look from.  (Yes, it depends on what we look for (Sir John Lubbock), but that depends so much on where we look from.) Van Rompuy works on himself, on where he looks from--that, in Dee Hock's terms, is paramount in a leader.

"Poetry is a search for ways of communication; it must be conducted with openness, flexibility, and a constant readiness to listen." -- Fleur Adcock

"Poetry is the language in which man explores his own amazement . . . says heaven and earth in one word . . . speaks of himself and his predicament as though for the first time." -- Christopher Fry

"We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for." -- from Dead Poet's Society

Amusing note: Did you notice this in the Van Rompuy bio in the Time article: Van Rompuy has "several children"...? Several? Like children come in these unquantifiable or unimportant numbers... UNLESS is there an insinuation of more than his publicly declared FOUR children... Hmmm... :-) 

And amusing quotes about poetry:

"You don't have to suffer to be a poet. Adolescence is enough suffering for anyone." -- John Ciardi

"Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese." -- G.K. Chesterton

"Poetry is like fish: if it's fresh, it's good; if it's stale, it's bad; and if you're not certain, try it on the cat." -- Osbert Sitwell

Acknowledgment: Daniel Stroe pointed me to Van Rompuy's address following his appointment to the Council of the EU, and also to a EU/US comparison. Thank you, Daniel!

11/22/09 Poetry and Architecture??

Um, poetry in an architecture journal? A case of a brain-leaking too-open mind?  If you only fell into step with my journal traces recently, you might want to track back to my piece on "Uncertainty is the watering place of discovery." There I say: "The poet seeks to reach through that fog to find the meaning and the patterns in life, we seek the meaning and the patterns in systems. But he who tries to divorce these endeavors, and worse, belittle either, risks divorcing his soul from his work." (3/1/2009) 

11/21/09 Leader Leading--Take 2

Grady Booch is doing it again. This time, in Part I of a column titled "Software Abundance in the Face of Economic Scarcity," Grady is adding a voice warm with optimism to the clammy chill of the "Great Recession." Grady has a clear and compelling vision of software as the "inescapable and necessary element in helping us operate, innovate, and even thrive in the face of lean economic times."  Now I'm impatient for Part II!

11/21/09 A Great Leader, Now Departed!

"The New York Times obituaries for the last couple of weeks included Elmer Winter (Co-Founder of Manpower Temp Agency), John O’Quinn (Personal-Injury Lawyer), and Don Ivan Punchatz (Fantasy Illustrator), among other notables. There was no obit for Russell Ackoff who died on October 29, 2009, at the age of 90." , Wally Brock, In Memorium: Russell Ackoff, 11/7/09

If you aren't familiar with Russ Ackoff's work, these video clips on System Thinking will give you a good introduction (and they're worth watching even if you've read some of his books!):

I went to one of Russ's seminars in the mid-90's; he was a very engaged and engaging speaker. Dana, you'll recall, sought Russ out early in his career, and the impact of the system thinking of Ackoff and of Fuller shaped Dana's awareness and contributions to architecture, first as an architect (by that title) in the '80's in HP's Operating Systems Architecture lab, and then as an architecture consultant and facilitator.

11/22/09 Workshop On Architecture Competence

Dana Bredemeyer participated in the SEI Workshop on Architecture Competence and his contribution is reported in the SEI report on the workshop:

"Finally, Dana counseled us not to be too hard on ourselves because we don’t do a good job of quantifying the benefit of architects and architectural practices. He reminded us that much larger decisions are often made on golf courses on the basis of personal relationships, trust, and the advice of experts." -- Bass et al, A Workshop on Architecture Competence, April 2009

11/22/09 Top Down

The longer my journal page gets, the more I wonder if my design assumption hurts those who actually read here, and who hence should be my prime focus. In my defense*, that anyone reads here astonishes me greatly! That anyone reads here more than irregularly, flat out stuns me! For the reader who comes but once or twice a month, the start-at-the-top-and-scan-down to pick out bits to read, is the most sensible model. For the reader who uses this as a more regular soporific, it might be nice to invert the sequence, the way blogs do.

To compensate, for a while I put a calendar near the top of the left column, with links to entries on the dates entries were made, but it seemed that no-one missed that when I forgot to put it up one month, so I just didn't bother with it any more. Anyway, if you want the calendar back, let me know. I don't think I'm willing to reverse the sequence--I like the top-down flow because this is a time-trace of my thinking, and the sequence tracks in a more connected way. Besides, I treat the whole month of entries as a work-in-progress, like some chunks of soapstone I'm carving as the whim takes me, and scrolling across the month reminds me of hanging thoughts I had in another context, that I wanted to come back and plug in... I don't tend to do this for prior months--out of sight is out of mind. :-)

And, because I give most of the feedback on this journal, my input, by default, gets highest priority. ;-) 

So, one piece of feedback I gave myself, is that it might be a good idea to create an index of entries so that people can navigate "by topic" to find the "nuggets" buried in the vast mass of writing that has accumulated here. That goes on that stack called "surfeit of good ideas." :-)

* you'll recognize that defensiveness cements assumptions. :-)

11/23/09 Hacking Global Warming

  • In the trenches on climate change, hostility among foes Stolen e-mails reveal venomous feelings toward skeptics, by Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post, Sunday, November 22, 2009

Cyber vigilantes blow open conspiracy to shut down global warming debate... raises very tricky moral issues on all sides!

11/23/09 Notation^3

Daniel Stroe pointed me to John Vlissides' "Notation, Notation, Notation" column, C++ Report, April 1998.  Some points of salience from the column:

"As indispensable as formal notations are, though, we found informal diagrams equally important, especially in a pattern’s Motivation section. By “informal” I mean pictures, sketches, screen shots, and anything else that’s graphical but doesn’t conform to rigid conventions. ...

Informal diagrams are good in these contexts because they are non-threatening. You don’t have to be comfortable with a formal notation to understand and appreciate them. Informal diagrams ease the reader into the pattern, while formal notations are best applied where precision is more important than accessibility. And therein lies a rub, because formal notations can suggest a level of precision that isn’t there. Compounding the problem is their succinctness—they can say a lot in a small space. Put the two together and you’ve set the stage for 'pattern legalism.'"

These points apply to architecture, and I remind architects to be clear where they are being prescriptive, and where they are being descriptive/illustrative.

 "But it’s easy to get carried away. We mustn’t forget that text is a powerful medium, too. In fact, I find prose far more difficult to perfect than any diagram. Perhaps it’s just me, but I doubt it.... Heck, anybody can do diagrams; writing is the real challenge!"

That's from the closing, but actually John answered himself, at the end of the first primary section:

"The moral here is simple. If you want to get nontrivial information across, you’ll want to use any and every means to convey it accurately and in the smallest space. To succeed is to achieve a delicate balance of graphical depictions and descriptive text. The two should act synergistically, neither overpowering the other. Readers should come away feeling informed without having worked at it. They will be persuaded, refreshed, even energized—and probably impressed too."

The Universe (plug in your belief) has an amazing sense of timing--Daniel sent that pointer on the very eve of the 4th anniversary of John's untimely death. I'm saddened all over again that John is no longer with us. But his wisdom endures at least in the form of his writing, and in all of us that he influenced so deeply.

and, in answer to sadness, Daniel has another pointer (email, 11/21/09), mentioned in a different context, but it fits:

"To sum it up: in the presence of tyranny, oppression, misery, misfortune, disaster, calamity, you not only refuse to give up, but you extract out of all misfortune the most ardent desire to live and to fight."

-- Nicolae Steinhardt, Three Solutions, from The Happiness Diary

Daniel first pointed me to Steinhardt and Sartre's "look what I have done with what they did to me," when I was reflecting on Jean-Dominique Bauby (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) and Randy Pausch. This conversation was continued in More on the Power of Self. And you know how important Nolan's words have been to me:

``My mind is just like a spin dryer at full speed. My thoughts fly around my skull, while millions of beautiful words cascade down into my lap. Images gunfire across my consciousness and, while trying to discipline them, I jump in awe at the soul-filled bounty of mind's expanse.'' -- Christopher Nolan

11/23/09 My Thanksgiving Note to You

I'm very grateful to Daniel, my good friend, scout and mentor, for he opens new worlds to me. And I'm grateful to all my scouts-and-mentors, my named and unnamed muses--those who know they play that role, and those who lead me only indirectly through their work. The thoughts that fly around my skull are borrowed thoughts, and my awe is as much at the wonder of what is brought to me, as it is to the bounty of the expanse they create in me. Let that be my Thanksgiving note to you this year. I doubt I could come up with better. Thanks to all of you, and to Christopher Nolan for giving me the words to thank you!

11/24/09 Thank You Notes

Kurt, who I got to know through the Indy architects community, sends an email every Thanksgiving, and it is such a wonderfully warm tradition--to reflect on the people we are grateful to have fall within the orbit of our lives, and reach out to them this week. It takes Randy Pausch's thank you notes and spins the notion out. Because so often people have a subtle influence on us that we don't specifically think to thank them for, and Thanksgiving reminds us we're grateful that their way of being touched us. 

My Thanksgiving note was general, but my gratitude to each person is very specific and individual. I am well aware that who I am is a product of the encounters I've had, and anything good I manage to craft has come from listening to you, to what you say and what you say between the lines.

11/24/09 Borrowed Thoughts

One of my favorite lenders in the insights space, is Charlie Alfred--his SCRUM and Architecture article is an illustrative example of Charlie's leadership. There is so much in that paper that I value, the insights and Charlie's talent with examples and humor. Like this:

"For those few product managers who also have exceptional technical skills, they also may play the role of architect. But if the Project Managers do not have the background, or the depth of experience, then significant risk exist if they attempt to play the architect role. There are very good reasons why trained pilots fly our commercial aircraft, while airline executives, and flight crew don’t. Perhaps it is because commercial airline crashes are perceived to have more devastating consequences than software catastrophes." -- Charlie Alfred, SCRUM and Architecture -- Partners or Adversaries

Use cheapest, quickest design medium to flesh out ideas (and flush out mistakes).I also very much value Charlie's pointers. This one nicely fits the "why model?" topic (within the broader visualization theme):

"The first comes from a blog article written by Hanno Hinsch, in the Joel on Software block on 9/13/05. The URL of the article is: (http://discuss.joelonsoftware.com/default.asp?joel.3.205446.14)

'Harking back to Joel’s post on BDUF last month: Some time ago I resolved to once and for all reconcile my inner agile with my up-front-design head. After duly mulling it over, I concluded there is no conflict. The XP guys just need to apply first principles to the question of when to design. Actually I went ahead and did it for them; here’s a two paragraph outline of the answer:

There are design media (paper, UML, plaster, index cards, or whatever) and there are delivery media (code, bronze, oil paints, or whatever). The cost of working in the media varies (e.g. plaster vs bronze). But whichever media you use, mistakes will be made.

You’re looking for design media that help you catch mistakes at low cost. For some projects the delivery medium (e.g., working code) will be a cost-effective design medium, for others it won’t be. The key to using design effectively is to think about the possible mistakes you might make doing your particular project, and then choosing design media appropriate to catching those particular mistakes at low cost. So don’t waste your time doing “design” that has no chance of flushing out your mistakes, but don’t jump straight into using a delivery medium if your mistakes will be really expensive to correct.

Anyone who advocates a one-size-fits-all approach, no matter what it is, should be suspected of not having thought about this very much.'"

-- Hanno Hinsch, quoted in Charlie Alfred's post: SCRUM and Architecture -- Partners or Adversaries (the highlights are Charlie's)

There's so much keen insight tumbling around in our experience, but it takes work to grab hold of it and wrestle it into something useful! I love how Charlie does that, and that he does that.

Speaking of lenders... Last week parents were allowed to watch the ballet lessons at Indiana University's precollege ballet program. Sara's primary ballet teacher (and director of the precollege ballet program at IU) told the class: "If I gave you a dollar to hold for a week, and you gave me back 50c, I'd be really upset.  I'm happy if I get $1 back, but I'm very happy if I get more. That's what I want from you. What I ask for, or more. Never less."  I love to watch (and listen to) this teacher because she is superb!  Absolutely superb! (Sara's class also has a young male teacher, and he is a fantastically talented dancer and choreographer who has become, over the 3 years he's been teaching one or two of Sara's classes each week, a truly remarkable teacher. It is one thing to know technique and to be an outstanding dancer oneself, and quite another to draw the very best out of a class full of children. It is so rewarding to watch the blossoming of the talent we have at IU!)

11/24/09 It's Not Just Software Projects!

'Change is vital to organizational growth and survival, but it is difficult to do well. While change initiatives take many forms, they share one thing in common: a dismal record of success. For example, researchers estimate that only about 20 to 50 percent of major corporate reengineering projects at Fortune 1000 companies have been successful. Mergers and acquisitions fail between 40 to 80 percent of the time, and the primary reason is “people issues.” Only an estimated 10 to 30 percent of companies successfully implement their strategic plans.' Wharton, Leading Organizational Change

silly turkey (vulture)11/25/09 And Action!  [A family Thanksgiving]

Last month I caught this silly turkey (vulture) in totem pose. We spent a good 15 minutes watching a dozen or so turkey vultures close to this spot. We decided the turkey in turkey vulture is not just a matter of looks, but silliness too! They are the "Laurel and Hardy's" of the animal kingdom, and had us in stitches! Well, that was then. No leaves left on the trees now!and another...

Now, it's Thanksgiving--already! Ever since Dana had to be in Europe over Thanksgiving one year, Ryan has been head chef for Thanksgiving Dinner. Ryan decided he'd make a panfish soup for his starter. So, I was prevailed upon to take Ryan fishing at Lake Monroe on Sunday and again this evening, and he was delighted (and delightful in his delight) at the "fast action"! For my part, I have such a hard time with the concept of fishing (and a harder time with the reality of it; Ryan tells me not to look)! There are some things I don't understand... 

As for Thanksgiving... Sara and Ryan are the decorators. They also provide musical entertainment. Just going with the flow of exuberant kid energy over this Holiday, makes it special for everyone. It's not elegant. (I bet there's no other home in America decorated with pictures of crappie this Thanksgiving; Sara's also quite crafty--in both senses--so her influence pervades too; grin.) But it is joyful. And Ryan and Sara are the only children on the American side of the family so they get to bask in lots of appreciation and delight in their efforts.

My family are all an ocean away, but we do have a lovely country linen tablecloth from my sister's store that's perfect for an earthy repast at Thanksgiving. If you're ever in Cape Town and looking for a comfortably tasteful memento, she has two French Country decor stores (L'Orangerie in Wynberg and Newlands) that are small but treasure troves and there's always that perfect gift even for someone who isn't into French Country. She shops in France for antique fabrics, and has her designs for accent items like cushions and footstools made up in South Africa. She also has very tasteful South African crafts like lovely baskets, pottery and glassware that go with any country theme. Her stores exude her taste for enduring classic, traditional country charm, from gardening hand-tools to handmade children's toys. Her store in Wynberg is a "destination"--it is set in a quiet location with just a couple of other shops, but she has such a reputation that she draws loyal customers back from all over. It is the first stop for local customers shopping for gifts or for the kind of accent that makes a space without making a loud statement, and a place that travelers return to for mementos. I'm very proud of my incredibly talented, so-gentle sister who has made sharing her passion and deep sweetness a business advantage in a world where the "engine" of commerce-at-scale, with all its points of indifference, generally puts small business at risk.

11/26/09 Happy Thanksgiving!

I am deeply thankful for a Thanksgiving full of joy, grace and peace. I know that for too many people around the world, this day was none of those things.

11/27/09 So, Did You Do Your Part?

This Holiday season is make-or-break for hope in the economy.

"Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total; of all those acts will be written the history of this generation." -- Robert Kennedy

11/27/09 Book of Longing

Ryan booked two hours of my day to take him fishing--again. The sky and water were startling blue, the late-afternoon light slant, the air crisp and cold, and my mind too ready to be stirred to read anything technical, so I spent the time with Leonard Cohen's Book of Longing. The title is perfect. It is a reflection on longing. Longing, often tinged with regret--more, but that's what struck me most profoundly. It is sensual and mystical. Most of the poems are free verse, and remind me why rebellion surges in me when I remember:

"Writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down." -- Robert Frost

Reading Cohen, and feeling his yearning-learning struggle that is the human struggle, and admiring how he captured it, I burn at the intellectual arrogance that scoffs at free verse. Better to suck at the marrow of life like an unschooled pagan, than to primp proper form empty of the joys and struggles that most make us.    

But that's self-serving. I'm just too lazy (I call it busy) to wrestle poems my sub-conscious leaves at the doorstep of my mind into taught form. So, I leave them to lie fallow in the field of untended dreams.

If you like Leonard Cohen's Suzanne and Hallelujah, then you'd feel recognition reading Book of Longing, for it has those sensual and spiritual qualities. It's just Cohen coming at them with the perspective of being in his 60's, for the most part. It has lots of messages, but one that hits home is the sense that as life rushes through us so fast, we need to take time to cherish so we don't reach the ebb tide of life full of empty space and regret. Our work makes us live in the minds of others; our love, and being loved, makes us alive in our own minds. We need both. Cohen's longing has its poignant fulfillment; perhaps that's why we can bear to read it.

11/28/09 The Road Not Taken

I read Leonard Cohen's Book of Longing yesterday, and saw Benjamin Button tonight... we intended to see it when it was released, didn't get to it... so, unbelievably, I only saw it today. I think there has to be some fall-out from the serendipity of that pairing.

11/29/09 A Gossamer Legacy

Dana pointed me to AV (AeroVironment):

"Committed to the idea of preserving and conserving resources and creating energy efficient ground transportation, MacCready’s company, Aerovironment, founded in 1971 and located in Monrovia, Calif., focuses on alternative energy sources and has developed a number of environmentally pioneering vehicles. Whether in the air or on the ground, MacCready’s projects are all linked by a desire to change the way we view and subsequently use our resources." 

-- InnovativeLives

Intrigued about the history of the company I dug around some inquiring into Paul MacCready and the story of the Gossamer Albatross (of course I've seen it in the National Air and Space Museum in DC, but hadn't read the innovation backstory before):

“The initial construction and load-testing of the Albatross components was particularly interesting, since carbon fiber was at that time a somewhat exotic material and there was very little practical knowledge of how to craft parts out of it,” said Albatross pilot Bryan Allen.  "There was a lot of camaraderie in the team, amusing stories of past experiences, and a fair amount of brainstorming about how to solve particular problems on the airplanes and come up with better and lighter and more-reliable solutions."


Paul’s optimism was what kept the project moving at such a momentous pace. He kept saying, “We’ll win it next week.” “The Condor and Albatross were dealing with fundamental physics, right at the edge of the possible. So it seemed to me they would be remembered and written about for a good long while” said Allen.  He went on to say, “I am very pleased to see that finally some of the things about efficiency and quality of life that Dr. MacCready was talking about and advocating 30 years ago are making it into our societal discourse.”

-- The Flight of the Gossamer Albatross

MacCready was a visionary who was concerned about our collective impact on the environment. This is touching:

"I learned an awful lot about youthful idealism from a man so many years my senior. Paul believed in education and the power of ideas to inspire. He was also very afraid that mankind’s ability to effect change far exceeded our collective understanding of the consequences. All of us who wish to honor his legacy should continue to believe in the power of our own ideas - both big and small- and to resist the creeping cynicism that leads us to abandon what we believe is right for what we believe is possible." -- Catherine Mohr, in rembrance of Paul MacCready, 9/23/2007

We can make viable businesses out of turning the environmental crisis around, and we should! And software is woven deeply into about anything we might try--from design and simulations, to operations... to tracking trash!

“You’re inheriting the future,” he reminds them, “and we can get by using a lot less energy than we’re using now and having just as good lifestyles.” And, MacCready stresses, “it is best to invent things that work with less energy.”

-- InnovativeLives



Feedback: If you want to rave about my journal, I can be reached using the obvious traceinthesand.com handle. If you want to rant, its ruth@traceinthesand.ru.cz. Just kidding, I welcome input, discussion and feedback on any of the topics in this Trace in The Sand Journal, my blog, and the Resources for Architects website, or, for that matter, anything relevant to architects, architecting and architecture! I commit to using what you teach me, to convey it as best I can, help your lessons reach as far as I can spread them. I try to do this ethically, giving you credit whenever I can, but protecting confidentiality as a first priority.  

Topics from the current month are listed down the sidebar (after the archives and before the blogroll). For those who decry my lack of permalinks because you are desperate to share a quote on your blog or to point colleagues to a particular section—just copy the shortcut from the topic link in the sidebar. It's clunky, but it works. I did say the necessary condition was "desperate."

hidden in plain sight: words that both veil and unveil 

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