Thinking about...A Trace in the Sand

by Ruth Malan





Architects Architecting Architecture  

in motion (by Sara, 4/1/11)April 2011

4/1/11 In Motion...

Google Motion... and xk3d... What is it about April 1?

Image: By Sara

4/1/11 What's This?

This is a journal, a playful thoughtscape, where I trace of some of my exploring and thinking about topics I relate to architecting and architecture, and how to be a great architect.  

These recent posts will give you a sense of the exploration that is traced here:

Motivating Context: Technical Debt:


Architecting: Improve/validate and learning from failing (early and cheap):

Architects: Influence without Authority:

influencing my thinkingArchitects: Innovation and Design Leadership:

Well, it's a journal of my exploration. It traces what I encounter, and how that stimulates my thinking. I get most excited when my mental model is jostled and I have to wrestle with my own understanding, gaining new insights from the different vantage points someone else's thinking helps me take. 


4/2/11 Kind Words

Kris Meukens and Doug Newdick tweeted kind words about The Art of Change: Fractal and Emergent and What it Takes to be a Great Enterprise Architect, respectively. Of course I much value the personal feedback I get, but there is something importantly ratifying about a positive observation or peer recommendation made in the community that is different than something said privately and personally.

Now I know there are some who think that "praise" is damaging and I think that is rubbish, at least when it comes to me. ;-) A couple of generous tweets are not going to make me arrogant and blinded to my weaknesses or unmotivated or anything like that. The kind words simply affirm that what I do reaches someone. And that is important.

Anyway, I am grateful to these two gentlemen for making my day/week/month/year for their generosity in saying something about my work "out loud"/in public. It was nice to have kind words, for example, from the reviewers of the Fractal and Emergent paper, but those were private and, in a sense, solicited. Kris did something no-one else has done (as far as I know) -- said something about that paper in a public forum. Something positive at that. :-)

4/12/11: Thanks, too, to Peter Bakker for recommending The Art of Change: Fractal and Emergent to #entarch on Twitter.

getting ready4/2/11 Conceptual Architecture

Doug has added a follow-up to his Conceptual Architecture post, adding a useful example complete with visual. It is good to have an example in the public space to point to; it will help ground the conversation about what Conceptual Architecture is and how it is useful. Great contribution Doug and thank you!


4/3/11 Stealing Fire

'Twyla Tharp calls part of her process “scratching.” From her book “The Creative Habit”:

“You know how you scratch away at a lottery ticket to see if you’ve won? That’s what I’m doing when I begin a piece. I’m digging through everything to find something. [...] Scratching can look like borrowing or appropriating, but it’s an essential part of creativity. It’s primal, and very private. It’s a way of saying to the gods, ‘Oh, don’t mind me, I’ll just wander around in these back hallways…’ and then grabbing that piece of fire and running like hell.” '

-- Mark, comment on “25 Quotes to Help You Steal Like an Artist”, Austin Kleon, 2/10/10


4/3/11 The 3 B's of Architecting -- and more

'For much of the last decade, the term "software architect" has become popular. It's a term that is difficult personally for me to use. My wife is a structural engineer. The relationship between engineers and architects is ... interesting. My favorite was "architects are good for the three B's: bulbs, bushes, birds". The notion is that architects come up with all these pretty drawings, but it's the engineers who have to ensure that they actually can stand up. As a result I've avoided the term software architect, after all if my own wife can't treat me with professional respect what chance do I stand with anyone else?'

-- Martin Fowler, "Do you wanna be an Architect when you grow up?" in Is Design Dead?, May 2004

Undaunted by any such "architects are good for n B's" tarnishing, Charlie Alfred paraphrased the SEI team's definition of software architecture as follows:  

"Please pardon the oversimplification, but architecture encapsulates the reasoning behind:

  • how a system is organized,

  • how the parts collaborate,

  • how it adapts to significant changes between contexts (variation in situation),

  • how it evolves gracefully over time

To slightly extend an observation made by Gerry Weinberg, these four things represent a system’s being, behaving, balancing, and becoming."

-- Charlie Alfred, Is Architecture? Is Not Architecture

Charlie goes on to extend this characterization, but I find myself drawn back to the set of "B's." Here's Gerry Weinberg's version:

"The Three Bs Of systems, the minutest crumb Must Be, Behave, and then Become"

I do like the addition of balancing, and I'd want to characterize it more broadly than balancing across contexts (allowing for context-sensitive being and behaving), extending it to all the system properties that need to be balanced (weighed, traded-off, factored in the design of the system structures with their responsibilities and states, and the interactions and collaborations among them). Alternately put, "how the system responds to various challenges, such as differences among users and use contexts, security threats, changes in system load, component failures, etc."   

One could say that the system must be, behave and become, and the architect in designing the system must balance (take into account, weigh the relative impact of, and strategically determine how to accommodate) the system properties and other demands on the system.

But, if we were to get off on b's, I'd also want to add boundaries (of the system, what's in, what's out, etc.) and because to my list (to cover purpose and risk, and other considerations that we factor into our decisions).

Now we have: architecture encapsulates:

  • boundaries: how the system relates to its context (as a system in a broader set of systems),

  • be: how the system is organized (form, shape, identity),

  • behave: how the parts collaborate (interact to deliver function),

  • balance: how it responds to various challenges or demands (forces/tensions giving rise to emergent properties),

  • become: how it evolves gracefully over time, and

  • because: how these decisions are motivated (the purpose of the thing and the reasoning behind all these decisions)

Then, we could turn to the c's, and context (system, organizational, and process) factors too. Just throw in an architect to do analysis, synthesis and balancing, and we have the a b c's of architecting.

And, with our a's, b's and c's, we pretty much have a compression of Charlie's essay (and hopefully you take this as a read recommendation).

What? You were happy with 3 or even 4 B's? Look, as Dan North puts it, sometimes we have to complexify in order to simplicate. I think largely characterizing a field in just 6 B's is a neat reduction. Plus, when you arrange the B's thusly

be             behave      become

boundary   balance     because

you see that there is a nice (set of) symmetry(/ies). And 6 is the number of lines on a tetrahedron, which makes me think we found the right (number of) B's. (This last is a reference to Bucky Fuller, which came to me by way of Dana Bredemeyer.)

You're wondering if this post is a hang-over from April 1? No, this post is a seriously playful example of stealing fire, or, as I would more tend to put it (if I hadn't stolen some of Twyla Tharp's fire), collaboratively connecting, extending and (re)interpreting ideas. Besides, I do thrill at simplicity. And balance (harmonious arrangement or relation of parts or elements).

Well, this started when I was wondering (on a flight so unable to just check) what the 4th B was, and came up with because along with balance and 5 B's just wouldn't do... so I reread Charlie's essay and the 6th was right there. ;-)

I wish Charlie would get back to blogging/essay writing, don't you?

Image: Mike Ash tweet. 

Aside: I'm still figuring Twitter out. For example, is there a "gentleman's agreement" that tweets are ephemeral and not to be snipped and posted  "scrapbook-style" into journals? If so, oops. ;-) There's some very funny stuff that flickers by, and it sure would be a waste not to catch some of it by the tail and tack it to "my wall."  

"The study pointed to the increasing globalization of science, with research carried out in more and more places and to a greater degree than previous. Besides China, Brazil, and India's rapid rise, the report identified other rapidly emerging scientific countries, including Turkey, Iran, Tunisia, Singapore, and Qatar."

-- ACM newsgram relating to New countries emerge as major players in science, 4/4/11

4/4/11 Sketching Design

A Haas design thinking blog post became the venue for a discussion between Bill Buxton, author of Sketching User Experience,  and  Jon Pittman, and Bill's responses are interesting.

In the "fail fast and cheap" movement that is getting it's moment in the hype-light, prototyping, pretendotyping/pretotyping, or just experimenting is hot (again). 

This article (via a Peter Bakker tweet) from the building architecture space is interesting: The Next Dimension:

"While visualization tools, such as Maya, are great for form-finding, they are unable to generate the precise measurements needed to convert complex models into buildable plans. For that, architects must export their work into an engineering program, such as Rhino, then into AutoCAD to produce project documents. Not only is this process inefficient, but it almost guarantees that information will be lost along the way."

That was in 2005. It would be interesting to know where it stands today.

This post is a useful survey of important contributions to innovation discourse:

And this article in Technology Review is a great discussion of design (as noun and verb):

Architects design. I think the article is useful and vibrantly written.  And the image of the lamp is from H+D lab, who are into "parametric desgn" which ties back to that Next Dimension article. Serendipity! I don't think it's just people who are connected in 6 or fewer degrees, but ideas too!!!

And if you still aren't inclined to read our Fractal and Emergent paper, this post makes some similar points:

5/31/11: Fake it before you make it, Andrew Thomas, May 30, 2011

4/5/11 Tweet-licious

Another for the humor wall:

4/5/11 Collaboration and System Properties

"The second challenge is even bigger because of the mainstream reductionist thinking: our assumption has been that by understanding the parts in detail, we understand the whole. This is simply not possible! What happens in interaction between the parts is more important than the parts. The whole is the emergent pattern of that interaction, not the sum of the parts."

-- Communication and diversity secure system-wide performance. Competition doesn’t, Esko Kilpi, April 20, 2010

4/5/11 Mixed Messages!

Cause for pause:

"Last year's figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) show that computer science graduates are the largest group of unemployed graduates in the UK." -- Communication skills more important than technical know-how for IT jobs, say IT graduates, March 31, 2011

Is it because they think that technical skills aren't that important? Or because they don't have the business and communication skills? Or both?

4/5/11 In a Word -- WOW!

When can I get one? Every parent of active tweens has to be clamoring for one of these!!

And this (via a David Sibbet tweet) demonstrates how powerful the visual medium is:

It is stunning!

4/6/11 On the Importance of Negative Space

"It's perfectly all right to do nothing for a time. Dormancy periods in seeds and hibernation in animals are adaptive strategies in an environment with fluctuating opportunities for growth. In human organizations, the Zone Theory says that it sometimes makes good sense just to lie low during periods of rapid change. Knowing that Chaos is contagious, Thelma wisely decided to leave the technical managers alone. Their time would come.

In other words, just like in artistry with a canvas, paint, and a brush, sometimes the empty spaces are the most important part of the work of art."

-- Gerry Weinberg,  Knowing What to Leave Alone, March 29, 2011

I quote the image on this post when I talk about the importance of what we leave out in architecture conversations/workshops.

4/6/11 EA as BCA

Thanks to Doug's retweet, I saw a generously worded reference to our EA as Business Capabilities Architecture slideset. It is rewarding in one day to be called a "pioneer in software and enterprise architecture" on a LinkedIn link request and to see this recognition for something that has been out there for, yes, quite a while. Well, that slideset seems to have been getting some interest -- an architect asked for permission to use some of the material in it earlier this week. Our "Enterprise Architecture as Strategic Differentiator" Enterprise Architecture Executive Report (June 2005) covers that topic, and The Art of Change report extends some of the thinking. Well, we advocate that architecture should be minimalist and work through lightest touch approaches like culture wherever possible and sufficient to meet (fractal) strategic intent.  

Oh yes, and the Getting Past ‘But’ paper is about agile architecting. ;-)

When our "How to be Great" paper was mentioned recently, I was pleased that a paper published in 2004 is still relevant enough to peer recommend.

Visual Architecting

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Kris Meukens has prompted an interesting discussion of agile and architecture. I know, I know, I should comment on his post (that is, on his site rather than here). But in case you hadn't noticed, I don't do things the way other people do them just because that's the way they do them. I do things for peculiar (idiosyncratic, but also perhaps strange) reasons. For one thing, I don't like to draw attention to myself. Further, this is a very thought-provoking subject, and my thinking is non-linear. Which is to say, I have to revise it. I boldly hash out sketchy ideas, and then actively, mindfully, push and pull at them. It's that wrestling with a pig thing. That is why I "journal" rather than blog. I reserve the right to edit and extend and to find myself an idiot and reverse and redirect and improve what I think. So, with all those caveats in place, here's a sketchy response to the delicious provocation to think in Kris's post. :-)   

In The Art of Change: Fractal and Emergent, I wanted to address just this set of paradoxes around architecture and agility. So I set out to characterize agility and to show how the demands for agility are different at different points in a product-market lifecycle/span (the table near the beginning of the paper, and related discussion). I also wanted to bring to mind the other paradox in software, in which "being agile" can lead to a "tar baby" system that stymies agility (the opportunity debt or "with or without" you section).  

At any rate, architecture can enable realms of agility, making movement outside those realms less likely for many reasons. So, for example, relationship platforms like Facebook or Android, etc., create playgrounds for extensive, a priori unimagined innovation to take place, but there are still boundaries to this playground, and constraints on play within it. I think this is what Kris is going after: architecture is the platform for -- the enabler of -- agility. We create an arena of stability with architecture that allows (adaptive, responsive) innovation to flourish. In The Art of Change, I put this in ecological terms. Organizational ecology is interesting though, because we have explicit, intentional design forces (humans and their organizations act intentionally, albeit with limited rationality and irrationality, and directed application of resources, for example in governmental/legal interventions, alter pure market forces) not just, for example, natural selection at work.    

What I have been trying to articulate across many and varied attempts* (The Art of Change and here and here and here, etc.), is that architecture is -- should be -- the expression and translation of strategy into design. The vectors of agility will depend on strategy (which itself can be more or less intentional, and/or more or less accidental and emergent). A modular design may scope and bound agility in the ways Kris is depicting. A haphazardly coupled design increasingly thwarts agility. Design that is actively refactored not just in fine-grained refactorings, may conceivably draw pliability into the very form or shape of the system, reducing the cost of change by keeping the design plastic. In other words, decisions that have "high cost of change" are architecturally significant, but that is not the limit. If we can lower the cost of change of shaping decisions, we do not necessarily, simply by dint of reducing the effort and cost of change, eliminate them from architecture because architecture is what is strategic and what shapes or gives defining/differentiating form to a system and architecture is the design of architecturally (or strategically) significant system dynamics (the "how it works" or "physiology" of the system, if you will). This form may be fluid, or have deepening and widening realms of stable structure that allow for high variation at designed variability points addressing market niches. Etc.

Does that make sense?      

Still not inclined to (re)read The Art of Change paper? Oh well...

4/8/11: I should mention, in his An Architectural Oxymoron on architecture column (#27), Grady Booch addresses this topic. (Bruce Douglass characterized Rigorous Agile as an oxymoron, so oxymorons, and paradoxes generally, are going around, and I think it is a sign of the times!)

Grady Booch sets the stage with agile architecture is an oxymoron but "I think it is a Really Good Idea" and goes on to note that:

"The architecture of all well-structured software-intensive systems should be resilient and loosely coupled; all such good architectures are grounded with a small set of well-reasoned and well-syndicated design decisions that nonetheless offer some wiggle room that allow the moving parts of that system to adapt and adjust without bashing into one another; all such good architectures can be nudged in ways far beyond their initial expectations without major drama and without bringing its load bearing walls down due to the presence of brittle, unyielding structures. In short, all good software-intensive architectures are agile." -- Grady Booch, An Architectural Oxymoron on architecture column (#27)

You no doubt see how this maps to my point above (referring to The Art of Change paper), as well as to Kris Meukens point -- architecture creates a space, or realm, of agility. This space is not limited to what can be preconceived, but it is not absolutely unlimited. I do want to point out, though, that the architecture and hence the space itself can -- does -- evolve. And I think that is why characterizing architecture as (the) non-agile (part) has a spin that unsettles me... (Meaning my own mental models have an opportunity to reorganize/be extended, and I like that.)  I do think it is really important to note that creating realms of stability is a good thing. I don't mean universally, necessarily, but at least for classes of systems. Anyway, it is important to biological ecologies and has been and still is important to socio-technological ecosystems that come readily to mind. And how we mindfully create, or intervene in the creation of, these realms of stability is architecturally significant because they are highly strategic. They are make-or-break, game shaping kinds of decisions.

Right now we know that the relationship of humanity to technology is being morphed so fast that questions of morality/ethics/philosophy are being raised in my mind and conversations, and others. This sense of already in motion and precipitous change is giving us the feeling that any stability is suspect and bad and so 20th century. Yet, as we discover what the future will be like, we still bring with us not just the past but our humanity -- our biological humanity, that is being ratcheted ever more quickly through technology enhanced evolution, but yet still has that lizard brain... We have these econo-socio-technical relationship spaces, or ecosystems, and some are more formal (companies and groups within them) and some very informal, fluid and ad hoc, and the distinctions between formal organizations and informal are being blurred... Still, these relationship spaces have firmament that has at least epochs (that may be hard to identify distinctly as they evolve and shape-shift) where fundamental concepts and relationships among them (and the conduits for those relationships, including technology but also, for example, legal agreements) remain relatively stable, at least for periods of time.

So, as you see, I am willing to contemplate much more fluid notions of architecture, even while I also believe that decisions that create increasingly stable ecologies or relationship networks are architecturally significant. This may be at the level of a product family, or a relationship space like iTunes or Facebook, or a value network, such as that supported by AUTOSAR or the Smart Grid.    


Um.. Some years ago, working with a group of architects in Germany, one characterized what I do in my journal as philosophy. It didn't feel like a compliment at the time... but I have come around to being ok with both the idea that he'd think that and the need for philosophy in software and architecture. At least, I don't think that is what I do, but I'm not so appalled that he should have thought that. I scope my explorations in terms of thinking about what it means to be a great architect and how to be one. I suppose that touches on philosophy (what it means), but my orientation is very distinctly towards the practice of architecting. And a very pragmatic, experimentally-oriented (trying things out and learning) practice it is.  Even vision-setting is, for us, very practice (technique, but also learn-by-doing/reflection-in-action) oriented.          

5/2/11: See also: Agility and Architecture: An Oxymoron?, Philippe Kruchten, SATURN, May 2010.

4/6/11 Architecture Decisions

I do believe that a design decision that has a high cost of change (as characterized by Grady Booch; or a high cost of being wrong, with great difficulty or cost to redress, revert, alter the path) is architecturally significant. Dana Bredemeyer also makes the point that design decisions that need to be made early to attain strategic outcomes are architecturally significant. Every decision we make narrows our options -- eliminates opportunity from the broad system-within-systems design space. To quote Dana -- "we're pruning the opportunity tree." It is important to note (because while obvious when said, it is often overlooked): this isn't just true for decisions where we (consciously) weigh alternatives! We must make decisions in order to gain traction; we can't leave every option open or we "wander aimlessly in a desert" of endless possibilities and no concerted action. But given that early decisions, in some known and countless unknown ways, eliminate options, we'd want them to be made with strategic sensibilities -- with a keen sense of the implications and choices. And a keen sense of which decisions to make early, and which to defer and delegate. (As keen sense goes, the "gut" plus data points made in this interview are salient: Executive Insight, Guy Laurence, CEO of Vodafone UK, ThinkQuarterly, 4/2011.)

4/6/11 Keeping Track

 intentions, reflections, projectionsVisualization

Modeling and Model-Driven Development


Google (Doing Fractal and Emergent):

Design Thinking

That "everything we know is wrong" notion is hitting every space of human endeavor these days. Combine it with our general magpie attraction to the next "shiny new thing" (the new "silver bullet"?), and anything from the last decade is suspect. Design thinking. Enterprise architecture. You name it.

But how about this time we throw out the seesaw? The pendulum. The fight or flight.

I mean, look around. Things are changing. Humanity is different. And yet the same. Human organizations are different, and yet we recognize much. In this sense of enormous possibility all about us, we're trying to figure out where we're headed and how to get there. That is intentionality at work. That is what humans and human organizations do. This notion that everything is, in effect, accidentally emergent neglects our explicit conscious efforts to create socio-technical ecologies people and organizations can thrive in. In the pendulum swing toward zeal for emergence and away from design, we neglect one little detail. Emergent properties can be affected by design (making things more the way we want them to be). Ok, yeah, the more complex the system, the less understood the impact of our attempts to husband complexity to our advantage. But we still try, and in important, if limited, ways succeed. Larry Page, now at the helm, is apparently shifting Google to a more decentralized organizational model with more autonomous business units and flatter hierarchies. This is intentional design at work. Oh yes, there will be a slew of unintended consequences, unforeseen and even unforeseeable. But this is nonetheless a design intervention that is done with intent to shift Google more in a direction Page wants to see it head in.    

Even if we get to the point where organizations are fluid groups of forming and reforming teams that dynamically adjust to what they are trying to accomplish (and we are by no means there, at least not universally), there will be an "architecture," albeit a highly dynamic one, that is distinguishable, for example, from the predominant organizational architecture of the 20th century that clove organizations along functional lines and processes into finely (and more mechanistically) orchestrated workflows. Architecture doesn't mean modular, for example. Modular is just an example of a structural paradigm. Herbert Simon pointed out that systems are composed of interacting components that are hierarchically decomposed. Humankind challenges assumptions gravity cast on our forebears, giving our flightless bodies ways to fly (in the flesh, and by imaginative extension in Second Life, for example), so we may well challenge and find ways to organize that aren't about bigger things being composed of smaller things (and even smaller things). But so far, that has been a good way to gain intellectual, and hence organizational, traction so that we can take on ever more ambitious, ever more complex systems -- designing ever more complex systems in part serendipitously and in part applying experience and knowledge based reasoning in intentionally directed, purposive ways.   We can't tell anything about gravity by studyiing the apple...  (Bucky Fuller)

Emergence comes from interactions. This is not new news. Bucky Fuller, Russ Ackoff, Eb Rechtin -- central figures in the lineage of fathers of system architecting --  made this point compellingly. I liked Bucky Fuller's example of gravity and the apple (and used it, for example, ☼here). But when you read:

"The system is open, the behaviour of the system is determined by the interactions, not the components, and the behaviour of the system cannot be understood by looking at the components. It can only be understood by looking at the interactions. Coherent and novel patterns of order emerge."

do you feel a little uneasy? That phrase "not the components" eliminates too much, though the interactions are what distinguishes the system (in value/outcome terms, as well as in structural and behavioral terms) from its components in disjoint aggregate. That is to say, the components still factor, but their interactions in this system and its context add new capabilities and properties not (entirely) predictable by the components in isolation or in different (system and system-of-system) contexts. To act with any intentionality at all, we try to understand the system (including investigating and understanding it as a system of interacting components, patterns of interaction, etc.), so we can nudge it, improve it and/or replicate successes.

So one thrust of enterprise architecture is developing our understanding of the systems of (socio-technical) systems in our enterprise context. And another thrust is intentionality chartered at broad (enterprise) scope to create context for anything that needs to happen at broad scope in the organization to enable its strategy. This may be nothing. I tell architects that minimalist says we start with an empty decision set. Well, I hasten to add the guidelines under which decisions may be added to the decision set. And the criteria are few and strict.

We can embrace iterative, incremental, evolutionary design and a conception of non-static, adaptive systems (of systems) without ditching intentionality (or directedness or purposiveness of outcome/goal orientation) and design. Design doesn't mean all upfront. And design isn't an all or nothing proposition. If we accept our bounded rationality (a cautionary concept from the "early days" of scientific management) and even irrationality (getting more attention thanks to the accessibility and vibrancy of Dan Ariely's TED talks and writing), we know that there is a lot of accident feeding into the emergence of system capabilities and properties -- and more so, in complex systems of complex systems. So? Do we give up all concert, all intentionality and simply do whatever we please, flocking and swarming according to our predilections and connections? How does Facebook get a new data center built in Oregon without intentionality and design?

Enterprise architecture is, if you will, first a charter that grants a scope of responsibility (and perspective and influence) that distinguishes it from one that is function or business unit centric so that cross-group, cross agent, cross resource buckets, cross whatever can happen where it needs to, only to the extent it needs to, in order to enable a strategic outcome. What enterprise architects tackle, given that charter, depends on the strategy and strategic initiatives. This may be broad but thin, or quite local to more narrowly scoped interactions across organizational systems (that "multiparadigm architecture" thing). 

Blah blah. The pig and I have been at it again! 



I was tempted to write a paragraph on EA and innovation capability but I have much too much to do! And at some point, I need to attend to:  For ever and ever. Amen!  (He used real eggs! Wow!) We delegate ("up" too) to simplify our lives and concentrate on the things that trigger our Bliss response. But it sure does cost us! In organizations. And in nations.

Delegate up? Yes. Indeed. Following, dutifully or neglectfully or actively, is a form of delegating. We are letting some other body make decisions for us. Decisions that lead to roads and other common good. And wars. And... oh, pigs!

I'm outta here!

4/7/11 Not Looking?

"I myself participate in this shift as I include lean flow management, queueing theory, Yesterday’s Weather and the like in my lectures and classes .. and worry the entire time as I do so. I add chapters on craft, creativity and personalities, not as compensation, just as part of the mix. I don’t see others putting those into the mix."

-- Taylorism strikes software development, Alistair Cockburn, April 2011

Hm. The question occurs: is Alistair looking?  ;-)  A simple scan of my Journal Map would suffice, surely? But this post might help too.

Oh, I'm just (opportunistically) kidding. I do realize the context that produced Alistair's reaction was the conference he's at.

A key aspect of Taylorism is job compartmentalization for efficiency. And we do indeed still have a lot of that in software. There is a lot of faking going on. Like faking customer involvement with a product manager who acts as a proxy for customers (and users) and who is allowed to interact with the dev team only in isolated windows of time. [Yes, the structure of the situation is generally beyond the control -- but not the influence -- of the development team.]

When I joined the Software Technology Lab in HP Laboratories, I worked on a project called the Flexible Software Factory (with James Navarro and Reed Letsinger), applying lean concepts to software. Goodness, that was getting way too close to 20 years ago! Ugh! In 2011, here comes McKinsey with the same notion! Well, we learned all kinds of formative lessons, including the downsides of "pressure cooker" agile. We also learned a lot about concurrent (multifunctional) design and development -- like it is hard, and not just because there is cognitive distance (a Charlie Alfred'ism). My approach to these things is not to throw the baby out when we discover the bathwater has been soiled. Whatever approach we choose, we have to deal with the downside. Or... something like that.    

In all seriousness,

'For myself, I am not sure where to draw the line between, “This is a great way of working,” and “Everyone has to work this way.” '

-- Taylorism strikes software development, Alistair Cockburn, April 2011

is an important openness. It is tempting, when our worldview is shaped by what we advocate, to get into the mindset that it is the "paragon of all religions" (small r). It is important, I think, to allow the notion that this is a big world with lots of different people, styles, organizations, contexts and maybe, just maybe, we should give diversity a little headroom!

I've mentioned that the intention with Visual Architecting is to adapt and scale organically. One image we use is that of treating process as scaffolding we leverage only just enough of and dispense with when we don't need it to reach the outcomes of our charter and strategy. I'm not sure if organically is the right word, but I want a word that conveys natural and adaptively organismic rather than mechanical and standard and stamped out. This notion of process as "scaffolding" helps us keep our attention where it should be -- on the system. That is, the scaffolding should never be a "cathedral" unto itself. It does help to reach and do the things we couldn't otherwise do, but should be just enough to get the real job done -- to build complex systems, to engage more people, with different expertise and predilections, etc., effectively. (Well, if this were not a wonderfully quiet backwaters place, there'd likely be some going off pop about scaffolding as a metaphor because it relates to a building architecture analogy and that isn't dynamic enough. But I wanted to convey the idea of process being just enough to enable ourselves to accomplish something bigger and more ambitious and complex. Oh, and thinking back to The Social Network, it occurred to me that ambition is important to getting big things done. Of course, the ambition can be to do enormous good in the world, as in the case of Matt Flannery in starting Kiva.)

See also:


Right, just as soon as I get around to posting my "technical debt" geek&poke collection, another fits the bill -- the "steaming pile of..." pattern yet!

As code smells go... my image (left) ranks 5th on a Google image search on code smells (right after Jeff Atwood's smelly cheeses, grin). At least Google (the bot) likes my images! Well, wouldn't an intelligent bot get the horrified-at-tight-coupling innuendo?



As technical debt illustrations go, I'm still enamored with my "when agile isn't" technical debt illustration (right). I can (allow myself to) say that in good part because when it comes to my drawings they so seldom work the way I intend that they have all the feeling of having been done by someone else!

And then, of course, there's addressing the Kludge.

4/8/11 I Think, Therefore I Am (What I Think)

Ok, word of warning: I'm going to self-justify my wrestling with the pig (aka characterizing what architecture is).

I believe that our notion of what architecture is, and what we do as architects, are intimately linked. Moreover, it doesn't surprise me that the discussion comes up over and over. Our field is ever in a state of flux. It is dynamic, rich, exciting. So? Look, ever since Socrates there has been a place for self-knowledge through questioning. Yes, we don't want to spend all our time studying our navel, but...   

What we do, defines what architecture is. What we believe architecture is, shapes what we do. If that were not so, we'd just be swaying in the political breezes of our organizations. What we imagine it could be, and convince ourselves it should be, is the beacon to which we set our course -- subject... to compromises forced by political breezes. ;-) And so it goes.

If you read the introduction to my Journal Map, you might have noticed that there is, in that introduction, (if I may say so) one of the most important single sentences in the architecture space, in that it lays out the architecture of the architecture space:

organized [... in terms of] architects (who) architecting (how) architecture (what) in purposive (why), organizational (where) and evolutionary (when) context.

 Oh, you hadn't noticed that? Hmpf!

Seriously (I'm always half-teasing myself) though, I love structures that are just so wonderfully natural once you see them, and this is one such! Right? Don't you love the simple structure:

architecture (what) in motivating* context (why)

architecting (how) in lifecycle/evolutionary context (when)

architects (who) in organizational context (where)

architecting doesn't proceed sequentially, but explores, investigates "big buzzing" uncertainties, addresses make-or-break challenges and risks, works across views and concerns, dives into detail and "chunks up" raising the abstraction level, etc. Yes, that is the organizing model for the Bredemeyer site (which I designed and largely wrote/write, though heavily influenced by work Dana and I both do, conversations we have together and with a world of architects that extend and enrich my thinking, etc.). I also use it to organize our overview class -- going from why to what to why to when to how to when to where to who to where. Dana called it the 3 Ω model. (I'll have to draw it for you.)

Anyway, all 6 of those dimensions are interrelated. How does one talk about how to create an architecture without a fairly firm notion of the concerns and decisions it covers? What we do has strong implications for the qualities, experience set and interests of architects. Etc.

Well, fairly firm is a time-sensitive construct because as much as things stay the same (the 6 interrogatives have been a key navigational model for the Bredemeyer site since 1999), our understanding and how we communicate it does shift and deepen over time.         

I've mentioned the "process as scaffolding" notion. Once we have internalized the essence of architecting and the key "what is the most important thing I should do at this extraordinary moment?" orienting question, there is a lot that we do just naturally, like playing the music without reading the score. Nonetheless (in the self-justifying vein), many of the vehicles that we use in VAP are carefully chosen for the outcomes they generate. For example, in creating a strategic vision, we leverage visual facilitation templates from The Grove, adapted to our strategy model. The format (structured brainstorming in a visually facilitated stakeholder meeting) produces outcomes beyond the artifact -- a richer vision, shared ownership, etc. So "just doing it" can be enhanced using these templates even once mastery has been attained, and they are not just for communicating the done thing but for thinking it through in a mode that allows multiple people (even many people) to see what others mean, contribute to the thinking, and allow new connections to be made (the stuff of opportunity finding and innovation). So much for the master. For the architect transitioning into the role, the process serves as a guide -- and safety net, to fall back on when what one does just winging it doesn't produce quite the right outcome. 

[Ryan got an amazing opportunity to be on a trapeze yesterday and while he was flying through the air stories up, I was sure glad there was one of those beneath him. :-) ]

* What is the context that motivates architecture? Well, what in your context does? System complexity? Growing deterioration/brittleness/inflexibility in systems that underpin the business in some important way? The desire to create or break into new markets or carve a new niche in a neighboring market? You see how these questions nudge up against and overlap with questions of where the system is in the lifecycle (greenfield, brownfield, ...). 

Image/Quote above: excerpt from Ackoff and Emery, quoted in On Purposeful Systems.


"The beginning of wisdom is a definition of terms." -- Socrates

Actually, I think wisdom comes at the point where we are willing to question the definition of terms and even Socrates, but what do I know? Wicked (and deeply ironic) grin. [I do recursive irony, in case you hadn't noticed.] Perhaps it is a difference in context, where we have such a vast legacy of terms and sometimes we have to question dominant definitions... At any rate, I think we get to evolve (and sometimes perhaps even redefine) the meaning of terms by doing things that enhance and enrich and contextually specialize them.

"As game theorists Drew Fudenberg and David Levine showed, your false beliefs, left unchallenged, can be self-confirming."

--  Failure Isn't Enough by Joshua Gans, April 14, 2011


"In effect, Wittgenstein is saying: also look for the unknown in the familiar. We should not indoctrinate ourselves with what is known as if it were imperious authority."

-- Arthur Gibson, Unpublished Wittgenstein archive explored, Cambridge U.


4/8/11 Fractals

Links to resources on fractals, by way of Peter Bakker's tweets:

Here's a list I collected a couple of years ago: fractals   Both of these TED talks are wonderful. And maybe you remember this post, which was a point along the journey that led to The Art of Change: Fractal and Emergent.

4/11/11: More from Peter Bakker on Twitter:

Peter also recommends looking into constructal theory (Adrian Bejan), and indeed it looks interesting.

9/26/11: Art Forms in Nature: The Prints of Ernst Haeckel, Ernst Haeckel, Olaf Breidbach, Richard Hartmann, Irenaeus Eibl-Eibesfeldt, 1998

Kunstformen der Natur (Art Forms in Nature), Ernst Haeckel


4/9/11 Open Data...

Blush!  But hey, you can think of this as an "open data" project on my brain!


Yep, just another way that I lead the industry.  Self-defacing satire being the other... :-)

Uh. That gives one pause doesn't it? How much more useless data there'd be if everyone's brain was this open!!!

I write to think, to share, to record/keep track of where I explore, what I find, and how I relate to, connect with, and extend it*. Words do pour too fast from my fingers though, and I read fast. I realize my notes are overwhelming much. So. They're just notes. My trace. Useful, if nothing else, to me.

As to volume, consider this:

"Vincent’s correspondence falls into two parts: the letters he wrote himself – 819 in all, 651 of them to his brother Theo [...]. Although they make for sizable volumes in print, these numbers are by no means exceptional. To put them into perspective, Delacroix’s surviving correspondence comprises 1,500 letters, Monet wrote more than 3,000, while the correspondence of the artist James McNeill Whistler consists of no fewer than 13,000. Voltaire, finally, wrote around 20,000 letters to more than 1,700 people." -- Van Gogh as a Letter Writer

I make no comparison, except to say, when one is in the habit of writing, writing accumulates!

"Where is the wisdom that we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?" -- T.S. Elliot

In my journal. Somewhere. That's why I'm indexing it.  (Stick around a while, and you'll see why my husband says I'm "self effacing to a fault."  Like... I'm teasing my own memory, and you think I'm saying there's wisdom in here ..somewhere. Ha!)

As for the open data thing, I'm on board! The World Bank is leading by example, identifying itself as an open data bank. Open science is compelling too. I wish libraries of professional publications (like IEEE and ACM) were as open as MIT's lectures...


4/10/11: Isn't it interesting that the internal processing we are aware of doing isn't distinguishing between data and information and wisdom, which is to say we manipulate composites with facility, without distinguishing between a granular sensory input or piece of data, an abstraction or interpolation created by processing across the data of our experience and knowledge base, and conceptualizations. (I just had to say that in case you were reacting "that's not open data, that's one person's questionable wisdom." Grin. Open it is. Data it is. Just... not normalized. It any sense. Except Montessori's, although my brain cycles backward whenever I see that use because it is so counter-intuitive to one such as me who sees flouting norms being as important as living within them when it comes to advancing society...) 

 You no doubt remember how this journal jaunt got started (yes, with my HP Lab notebook habit -- but, I have always taken notes, defacing books with notes in the margin, keeping "letters to God" journals when I was in high school, etc., etc.). I was interested to read this:

"Some would call this hypergraphia (Dostoevsky was a member of this club), but I trust the weakest pen more than the strongest memory, and note taking is—in my experience—one of the most important skills for converting excessive information into precise action and follow-up." -- How to Take Notes Like an Alpha-Geek (Plus: My $2,600 Date + Challenge) 189 CommentsWritten by Tim Ferriss

which I got to from From a notebook to launching a startup – 10 lessons learned from a not so fast company by Shane Mac on April 9, 2011.

Ballet manga by SaraI get push-back about keeping the architecture documentation up-to-date, and part of me is just incredulous because it should be a natural daily habit to keep writing about it and drawing (key parts of) it. But that is time away from writing code? Yeah? What of it? Being reflective makes our action so much more directed. So long as we can stay balanced.

Balance is such a great image-conjuring word -- especially if you watch ballet, and notice how much balance isn't about simple symmetry yet symmetry is complicit in it. Balance is one of the things that brings structure and dynamics together, and what is in balance in flow may be quite different than what is in balance when considered statically. Anyway, balance is as important in life as it is in architectures. 

By the way, Vincent Van Gogh's letters are very much about the process of becoming a great anything, but in particular an artist. He pays attention to the space around him in which he works, to his development of skill, to his appreciation for and sense of meaning in life, and more. We saw the world premier of Vincent, the opera, at IU last night, and it was great but I was disappointed that it had less of this aspect of Vincent. It conveyed more the story, the events and relationships, of his life than the mind of the man, so when I got home I went back to reading his (illustrated) letters. I'm so glad we have them --- translated into English, at that. The mind he reveals through his letters is a mind to fall in love with, a beautiful mind full of life, and I came away from the opera sad that it didn't do that for Van Gogh and for us.

As for the opera, we had this sense of occasion, this being the opening weekend of a world premier opera -- and there not being too many of those across the span of history, but especially in our times... And it being Vincent at that...  So we insisted the kids come, making them among a very small set of school-aged children in the audience... Ryan came and went making jokes about opera and torture, and saying we'd scarred him for life. Oh dear. Wink. The music was wonderful! The performances too. The use of projection was interesting. There's a lot that I'm sure was learned in this first staging, and I could see lots of places I would be champing at the bit to improve, but it was an impressive first staging and we enjoyed it immensely!

In the address beforehand, Bernhard Rands made the point that this, being a commissioned work, was a leap of faith on the part of IU. He observed that no matter the history of great works an artist has accomplished, the next one is always unpredictable. This really struck a chord for me, as I have been thinking along these lines about the difference in investing in an innovation project within a company versus a start-up effort. The leap of faith commitment of resources is different. It is one thing diverting evening "TV time" to a "second job" doing start-up work and a whole other thing committing primetime resources to a risky exploratory venture within a company.

Image: by Sara

* To illustrate this process of connect with and extending, allow me to point you to this pairing:

This is how we learn and innovate, is it not? Standing on the shoulders of giants. Well, for anyone (me foremost) who teases me about the volume of notes here, you can just think of it as me doing my part to add to, and makes sense of, our ☼collective learning (yes, that's another wow! TED talk).

And standing on the shoulders of students?

4/10/11 What is Being Incented Here??


Image/slide source: Early Developments: From Difference Engine to IBM 701, MIT

Image/slide source: Early Developments: From Difference Engine to IBM 701, MIT

When I saw.

"Software is the invisible thread and hardware is the loom on which computing weaves its fabric, a fabric that we have now draped across all of life." -- Grady Booch

I hadn't connected that back to Babbage, but seeing the slide I realize the roots of Grady's metaphor run deep.

Weaving and dance are metaphors that have a strong draw for us.

4/11/11 Noted

The notes below illustrate why I still like taking notes on paper (my mind doesn't work linearly, and I think in terms of relationships between, as much as the concepts themselves), and why, if you have the slightest inclination to peer into my too open brain, it is good that I jot so many of my notes in this journal rather than my notebooks.

decisions are rooted in time; decisions cleave the opportunity space; some decisions are hard to revert/undo because some are so interwoven and some because they create blindspots so that we don't even know what chocies we made/eliminated

Madison invented a shorthand. I just learned how to read my own scrawl.

The point of my notes? The pivotal point is that, given behavior/choices made, it is apparent that there is a fairly common implicit assumption that built systems will evolve into systems built right. That, because we are intentional, mindful creatures, this will tend to be so. But this is a fallacy. Built right, that is built to be resilient to forces the system will be subject to (evolution, threats to security and availability, etc., etc.), takes explicit attention hence explicit resource allocation. Explicit attention including but not limited to attention at micro-scales. This attention competes with the attention it takes to evolve the system closer to the (itself evolving) conception of right system.  And what it takes to evolve the system mounts as the structure tends to entropic state.

What about the rest of the notes? Yes, I can read them. Today. (I need to render readable and jot more notes on the thinking around playgrounds... delineating interactions across boundaries and the rules of play to be good system citizens...)

4/27/11: Here's a post on non-linear thinking.


4/12/11 Elephants!

Ooooh! Another elephant to like: Grady Booch's latest on architecture column (#28).

Um... my excitement? I have a thing about elephants! For instance, there's:

I've even made references to elephants in more formal settings:

  • in that PICTURE IT talk, I let people think they knew where I was headed with the blind men and the elephant reference and then chopped the elephant up, to an audible "awww" from a gentle lady in the audience (this use was triggered in my journal in "visualizing panic")
  • Back in 2005, I wrote this: "Choreographing the dance of change is one thing, and it is hard enough. Teaching elephants to dance [9] is quite another." Which is a reference to Rosabeth Moss-Kanter's book of that title (in the original, I believe/as I recall; now you'll find it titled When Giants Learn to Dance)

And, yes, Sara drew an elephant in her comic about Agile

Grady's tale of the elephant and the blind programmers is wonderfully imaginative and delightfully written! (It only takes 8 minutes, so enjoy!)    

Dana introduced me to Rashomon years ago. It is a classic movie about individually constructed realities. Kurosawa is Dana's favorite film maker. Miyazaki holds the top spot in Sara's estimation. I have been much influenced by both of these great Japanese filmmakers, though more by Miyazaki who deals with very hard topics [like projected reality and (mis)perception] and I lean towards the beauty of his expression and what he reveals to us so gently. (Let me take a moment to say: Japan has had such a deep impact on us, and we are so very, very perturbed by the ongoing crisis and pain of so very many of that great land's beautiful people. IU musicians are holding a "Benefit Concert for Japan" this coming Monday. I'm sure there are similar opportunities to pull together for Japan in your community.)

Kurosawa's Rashomon is not your usual work-day fare (it is a classic Japanese film dealing with a heinous crime and going through the stories told by various participants). Still, it is a classic and it makes points about how flawed our human perception is and how unique individual sense/meaning making is, and how that interacts with the stories we tell ourselves and others, and how we project our experience. It is rough stuff. Not [typical] classroom material. But, to be frank, it is an important topic--getting us to be more sensitized to the role of own process, our own perceptual frame and our own story-making, in what we experience.

-- moi, 10/28/09

Grady's tale reminds me somewhat of Idries Shah's The Tales of the Dervishes. I have Dana to thank, too, for introducing me to The Tales. As you know from Getting Past ‘But’, I think learning from allegory is powerful. Learning by analogy (visual analogy, biomimicry, etc., etc.) is powerful too. We need more than one tool in our conceptual toolkit. Anyway, you might find this piece on good following useful.

Well, my magpie mind also collects Boochisms, for he is so vivid! Brian, I mean Thomas Jay, put it thus "A-List meme raconteur Grady Booch."

Thomas Jay (and his alter ego, to be fair) being another on the A-list. Hey, it was Thomas Jay who said:

"It’s better to be obnoxious than to be diffident...," Thomas Jay Peckish, 2004  

Well, I'm not diffident. Comic-ally so. 

4/14/11: Oh wow -- Grady's talk at IBM Impact (01:18:05 - 01:33:45) was awesome

Isn't this such a wonderful age to live in? A world of us get to hear Grady Booch almost live (I was only a day behind, since I couldn't make the time of the livestream) and we get to interact with a lineage of great minds leading up to this "extraordinary moment" (Bucky Fuller).

4/15/11: Cognitive disinhibition? Oooooooh! And I thought it was just having wanton relationships with the minds of others, co-/pro-creating thought-children... hm. Disinhibition can get one into trouble pretty fast! But it's fun, in that "exceptional sensation"/eureka sort of way.



I realize this journal is... much like the pebbles we collect on our travels. Some quite remarkable. Like the Good Following pebble.

But like the beach where I found "The Earth's Scream" in a pebble, there are just too many pebbles on this beach!

So, should I take this pebble-jar out of circulation, to force myself to be more selective about the pebbles I present to you? 


As failures -- I mean experiments -- go, this one (this Trace) highlights the exception. Sometimes resilience, dogged persistence, sticking to what one believes is the right approach, is what counts. How does one know? One doesn't. But in this journal you will find nuggets like Dana's "goodwill is the silver bullet" and this pointer: ☼The Empathic Civilization. That must count for something. If only to make for a very large jar of pebbles!

Writers write for an audience and I am very fortunate in mine -- at least half the voices in my head love what I do here, and the other half are very helpful critics. :-)

4/14/11 Ah, Balance!


Paradox? Not unresolvable, anyway. But it does take balance.

I need to learn how to balance better! Back to ballet with me, I think!

Sometime when I'm not so focused, I'll tell you some lessons I've learned from Sara's ballet classes. Beyond stretches.

4/14/11 The Psychology of Architecture

Ok, so we have long known about the psychology of place, which if you must know, really complicates venue selection for workshops. For open workshops (where we get to decide; for in-house workshops we only recommend), we insist on high ceilings, natural light, and plenty of space. Now read this: The Psychology of Architecture.

Alright. I also think the "psychology of space" in software systems is important.

But back to physical spaces. You remember what I've said about Disney. The man that is. And his use of different rooms. And the story in... Oh, right. Pebbles. Rats!

Um, I'm going now.

4/14/11 EA Blog

I read some of Martin Howitt's blog posts tonight. He is a great writer!  Fun, vivid, insightful.

4/16/11: This too, by way of Peter Bakker, is very interesting:


4/15/11 Frank Gehry

This article (which I came upon by way of a Peter Bakker tweet -- TY!) is (short and) awesome and I highly recommend it because it speaks so well to us system form-shaping architects: Frank Gehry, the Atlantic Mobile, May 1, 2011. It ends with a quote I just love and will be using a LOT:

"Look, architecture has a lot of places to hide behind, a lot of excuses. “The client made me do this.” “The city made me do this.” “Oh, the budget.” I don’t believe that anymore. In the end, you have to rise above them. You have to say you solved all that. You’re bringing an informed aesthetic point of view to a visual problem. You have freedom, so you have to make choices—and at the point when I make a choice, the building starts to look like a Frank Gehry building. It’s a signature."

-- Frank Gehry, the Atlantic Mobile, May 1, 2011

If we want ownership, we need to act like we have it. It's that "good followership is acting empowered" thing again. Oh I know all about being whack-a-moled! Why do you think I like Dana's "architects must have self-repairing egos" so much? The truth hurts. Defensive posturing hurts. So? Doing nothing, taking the power away from ourselves by projecting our excuses onto others is not going to give us vibrant fulfilling lives. I'm not saying act like you have the CEOs authority. But do act like you have your own! Not aggressively. Not in the kind of assertive way that diminishes and belittles others. But with the confidence that you can lead.

I love that "you're bringing an informed aesthetic point of view to a visual problem." We turn our problem into a visual one to shape it. To turn it over and over in our minds and share it with other minds to collaborate and co-create. And we bring that "informed aesthetic point of view" --  our experience and acquired knowledge informs but our active "Bliss-following," "awe-struck seeking" creates in us a "point of view," a strong aesthetic, a (religious, moral, artistic, technical, etc.) value system.  This compound makes us unique, and makes our systems distinctive and resilient -- resilient because integrity is not just a matter of making the "right" technical choices but also because it has an integrating, unifying, consistency lending, aligning (set of) dimension(s) to it.

Daniel Stroe recommended the movie about Frank Gehry to me a few years ago and I enjoyed it very much. I should watch it again. Sigh -- time!

"Time is that quality of nature which keeps events from happening all at once. Lately it doesn't seem to be working."

anonymous, quoted in Time Management for New Faculty, A. Ailamaki and J. Gehrke, SIGMOD Record, June 2003

Concurrency bedevils parallelism in my world! ;-)

Read this, if you want an alternative point of view on Frank Gehry:

In the three months since the philanthropist offered his $300 million prize to any city—of any size—that dares to not commission a Frank Gehry building, there has not been a single taker.

"Cities are afraid to seem backward and square," he concedes.

-- An Architect's Blueprint for Overexposure, Joe Queenan, WSJ online, April 23, 2011

4/16/11: This too, by way of Peter Bakker, is very interesting:

He didn't show up in PJs... so, what's the fuss about? I want one of those self-driving cars, so let's just let him take his pet project to the market! :-) But seriously, if you'd asked Wall Street about search, think they'd have guessed where that would be today? Think they have any clue where it's headed? The next 10 years are going to be... disruptive! Utterly. And the interesting thing is that investing may well be one of the most disrupted arenas, especially if Wall Street is just too inertial and constraining.

"For years, Jeff Bezos ran Amazon with little or no regard for Wall Street. He made big bold bets, and he sacrificed the short-term bottom line. He said he was focused on building for the long-term, and he wasted almost no time sucking up to Wall Street. And he said explicitly, if you care about the short-term, then don't buy our stock." -- GOOGLE'S LARRY PAGE DOES EXACTLY THE RIGHT THING: Says "Whatever" To Wall Street, Henry Blodget, Apr. 15, 2011

Ok, so there is a cognitive decision bias toward short term thinking. Kudos to those who can correct for it!

4/15/11 SketchNotes

Image: Leonardo Da Vinci's sketchnotes, from Eva-Lotta Lamm's sketchnote talk (also by way of a Peter Bakker tweet).

According to Eva-Lotta Lamm, sketchnotes are:

  • nonlinear: so many things can co-exist; see relationships and patterns hadn't seen before (eg can be read horizontally (layers) or vertically (columns)
  • visual hierarchy: using different text sizes and typography; using color; visual hooks that draw eye
  • visual mnemonic device: improve recall; images so efficient -- pictorial superiority effect; pictures combined with words win over pictures which win over words in terms of recall; dual coding theory pictures are analog codes (direct) and words are symbolic representation -- encoded into something more abstract; with words we can express more abstract concepts like freedom and love that are not represented by objects;
  • real-time processing: edit while listening, writing down what is important; dissect and reassemble what hearing actively, which creates more hooks in mind
  • concentration
  • fun!

The first 3 sets of points complement my PICTURE IT talk (capitalized to allow the double entendre) and these visualization notes quite nicely. Oh right, that talk is about (the warm fuzzies of) front end pictures, as well as the schematics and blueprints of architecting. And Getting Past ‘But’ has, among other neat "political booster packs" for the architects' toolkit, coverage of visual storytelling during visioning. If you can get past the "But, Ruth, you said there's a children's story in it," I think you will find it a useful treatment of agile architecting -- quick and fleet architecting that creates differentiating advantage... blah blah rhetoric. I'm sorry if you have read it. And didn't like it... :-( That would be very sadful.

4/16/11 A Note on Branding

I have characterized Getting Past ‘But’ as being about agile architecting. Opportunistic branding? Or a framing that helps us understand that we can go about architecting differently, more responsively, adaptively and fleetly? That is, more agilely.

As branding goes, our technical tribes form around and take identity from the strong messages of values that brands are good at promoting. It creates belonging, filling a social need. Forgive the repeated mention, but this The Empathic Civilization caused some pieces to fall into place for me, helping me understand the importance of branding to tribes. As tribes go, there's also ☼Seth Godin's TED talk. We might think this stuff is dripping with distasteful political gooeyness, but if we want to lead, shouldn't we afford ourselves a better understanding of the social dynamics?

We stand at a point in time when I am just in awe! We see all around us such amazing innovation which speaks to mastery of astonishing complexity. But we also lie ever at the cusp where some bad event (like an earthquake then a tsunami) can push us into crisis.  I think such a time as this demands better methods for designing systems and evolving them (the systems and their designs). And we are still human. Still soft-wired to want to belong and connect and make a difference in the world in this so quickly spent life. So I learned long ago working with teams learning Fusion (the OOA/D method), that the identity thing is important. I have to keep reminding myself of that, because I have a strong distaste for promotion, especially when one is one's product so one has to "self-promote." I just want to do work that really helps architects excel. But I have to frame that work well enough that at the end of the day bills get paid. 

I'm not very good about getting the word out, but even if you think that anyone who writes their brain out long form in a potentially public spot can't possibly be shy, I am! This spot is only potentially public. It is, thanks to the protection of all the words, actually a quiet backwaters place hidden in plain sight on the i-way.  Indeed, given that you're reading despite all the words that blare "WARNING: leaky thoughts; DANGER flash floods," I made this postcard just for you...    

As for framing and positioning so as to create branding: I think that it is a good thing to pay attention to framing because we should pay attention to how others will grok the value we might think is obvious. It comes up a lot in architecting because it just doesn't do to assume that others will execute on the decisions we make just because they're paid a salary. Smart people think. And unless we convince them, the reasonable thing to do from a system/strategic perspective may look not the least bit reasonable from a different (more local to a service or feature or user story, etc.) perspective.. 

4/16/11 On the Modeling Front

4/16/11 Creepy...

Is this an example of the "stalking" that Grady Booch referred to in his keynote at IBM Impact:

"This time, the hype centers on more precise ways to sell. At Zynga, they're mastering the art of coaxing game players to take surveys and snatch up credit-card deals. Elsewhere, engineers burn the midnight oil making sure that a shoe ad follows a consumer from Web site to Web site until the person finally cracks and buys some new kicks." --  This Tech Bubble Is Different, Ashlee Vance, 4/14/11

4/22/11 Innovation in the Form and Shape of Organizations

4/22/11 Innovation and the Chain of Command

4/22/11 Complexity

"The emergence of ‘wicked problems’ in our new epoch of complexity, reveal the limits of our dominant way of knowing – the limits of reductionist science. Since Newton, we understood things by taking them apart, by reducing them to their essential components, isolating them in laboratories from their surrounding factors. This reductionist science was a powerful tool, it was instrumental in making the industrial revolutions and transforming the world." -- Political Science in a Climate of Skepticism, Barry Kade, 11/24/09

Visualizations of Complexity

4/22/11 Conceptual Architecture

Case study/examples (demonstrates variation in what is called a conceptual architecture)

4/23/11 New Leaf

I read a page of one of Sara's stories. I was unreservedly in awe.

This story (which I came upon by way of a Kent Beck tweet) produced a similar response.

I'm tired of doing things that meet with responses that range from barely disguised derision to moderated, qualified, caveated appreciation, but never any no-holes-barred enthusiasm. So I conclude I'm doing the wrong thing. Or the right thing, the wrong way. Which has to change.

4/23/11 Maps and Visualization

This paper, focused on the London Underground map, is full of discussion of maps and visualization in is, in many ways, wonderfully pertinent to software visualization:

 Consider, for example, this passage:

Rebuilding a business after the Japan tsunami Image source: The Guardian UK"As such, maps temper our personal conceptions of the world and mediate our understanding of geographic space. A map is a device by which particular meanings can be imposed on the world: it orders priorities and naturalizes hierarchies of place. Because these factors all collaborate to act as its criteria and its discursive strategy, a map is both a practical and ideological document. In addition, each map has a tense, even though it may appear to be atemporal. It refers to a specific moment (a period, an era) in time (past, present, future) which is revealed in the information it conveys, as well as the style in which it does so. It has a physical form (size, shape, color) which is determined by prevailing conventions and economies of production and distribution. And because it is conceived in the context of that particular moment, a map is a historical document as well."

-- Janin Hadlaw, The London Underground Map: Imagining Modern Time and Space, MIT

Thanks to a Peter Bakker tweet for the heads-up.

4/23/11 A Lesson in Leadership

Image source: The Guardian, April 18, 2011


4/24/11 Happy Easter! Or Happy Chocolate Day or Happy Greening Day! Or Fall. Or... Happy Diversity Day... Etc.

Happy Easter [or whatever Happy you want/prefer to be wished] from a very soggy (and greenly-pretty) Indiana!

It is amazing how often the "i thank You God for most this amazing" line of the E.E. Cummings poem is quoted as "I thank you God for this most amazing" -- it might seem astonishing that someone who is struck enough to quote Cummings gets it so wrong, but it is also a huge demonstrator of the power of cognitive and perceptual illusions and the work the brain does "fixing" things to be how we expect them to be! Kipling's curtiosity is another that the brain is tempted to overlook (simply seeing curiosity instead) and the spell checker is tempted to "fix." 

This presentation has a nicely laid out summary of cognitive biases.


4/26/11 Scoped Down

Indifference personified in a personless shoe that tramples the rose of an idea...  the rose of the idea being part rose and part CFL bulb/the greener light-bulb of an ideaI can't get the balance of "me-ness" right in this public-facing aspect of my journal. The problem with putting a personal journal/thought-scape "out there" is that judgmental reactions are personal. My thoughts are personal, and reactions to them are personal.  Issues of family identity are personal. Treating this Trace as "meh, nothing special" is personal. 

But filtering takes time and thought. And it is hard to find time to consider which journal entries to closet and which to post. So I bounce between all and nothing views. I realize this is very "so what" to you. And that is a good part of the point. I shouldn't put even a moment into something that is not worthwhile. Life is too short. Discretionary time is too limited.

Too limited not to do something worthwhile and valued. Too limited not to do something that produces astonishment and appreciation. This journal produces not the least modicum of either. Well, not in a positive sense; it does meet with astonishment at the piles of words and there incredulity borders closely on derision. 

Oh, I don't mean my journal isn't worthwhile to me. I think everyone should build their unique point of view; their unique perspective, aesthetic and informed judgment. Actively, avidly exploring the perspective of other delightful, passionately-built informed minds helps one create a more distinctive set of views, and a point of view from which to see both more broadly and more piercingly, and to cleave the important from the not. If we build only on our personal experience (as important as that is), our point of view is very confined and even in danger of being untested, for it is in the conversations, as it were, with other minds that we test and stretch our thinking and become better acquainted not just with other positions but with our own. 

So, yeah, this is the perennial "journal crisis" when I am liable to crash this trace. One could view it as a childish petulance; an infantile tantrum at the vast desert of indifference I sow words in. One could. Of course, that would be a judgmental reaction. ;-)

My resolution is to do what you would recommend. To turn my focus to a more productive forum and format for my words.

But I think that it is a shame on me and a shame on this field that my journal was not seen with astonishment for its richness. For its many layered avenues for thought and exploration. For the way it danced words into lively insights. ...

Uh oh. Childish petulance!   

I'm going, I'm going!

[Don't you like my sketch though? Indifference personified in a personless shoe that tramples the rose of an idea...  the delicate flower of an idea being part rose and part CFL bulb/the greener light-bulb of an idea...  It astonishes me how much the subconscious can pour into just a few lines ineptly sketched on a page...]

4/30/11 It does feel kind of sordid, but I suppose that's to be expected when one peers into that "open brain as open data" thing... humanity in all its uncertainty and confidence, confusion and clarity. Paradoxical, certainly. 


Diego Rodriguez recent post, titled "Wisdom from Francis Ford Coppola," is (as usual) well worth reading. It focuses on what Rodriguez thinks of as a "point of view" and which Coppola called the "theme of the movie." Frank Gehry talks about bringing an "informed aesthetic point of view" to his work. I think that an aesthetic point of view and a central theme that becomes a touchpoint for all kinds of decisions/judgment calls, are closely related and confer a strong identity to the design. To me, the compelling notion that I associate with a strongly held and communicated "point of view" is conferring a "soul" somewhat in the "soul of a new machine" sense -- I realize the term has a controversial slant (things don't have souls) so maybe I should just say identity, but I mean something like personality and something like aesthetic and even moral judgment, like the "soul" of the thing is the projection of the team's moral, aesthetic and engineering judgment. (In my experience, a rallying, aligning, unifying, enabling leader is needed to affect this kind of distinctive integrity, but I'm open to exceptions that disprove this conclusion.) The "point of view" is taking a stand on issues, cleaving the decision space so that some things are just not ok, just not in line with the design values. In the Soul of a New Machine/Tom West sense, speed was the decision cleaver, but you can look at, for instance, Apple for examples where design integrity has an iconic aesthetic.   

As ethics/morality in software goes, there's Grady Booch's talk at IBM Impact (01:18:05 - 01:33:45), and this, from an article about Bill Buxton at Microsoft:

"This question gets at something that Buxton sees as an urgent challenge for product designers. It's not enough to merely build something that is faster, smaller, or cheaper than what came before, he argues. Instead, designers need to think carefully about what kinds of innovations to pursue—and in his view, they should be things that improve quality of life."

--  Jessica Mintz, Designs with a Deeper Purpose, MIT Technology Review, April 21, 2011

4/27/11: In light of my remarks above, this JD Meier post on the "Soul of Leadership" is salient. I was struck by the numbers that lend weight to my "give recognition" schtick:

"Empower others. One of the best ways you can empower others is by noticing their strengths. Deepak pointed out that according to Gallup research, if you don’t notice their strength, they disengage. If you criticize them, their disengagement goes up by 20%. If you ignore them, it goes up by 45%. If you notice a single strength, disengagement falls to less than 1%." -- JD Meier's notes from a talk by Deepak Chopra.

As recognition goes, I was struck by the appreciation segment in designer Michael Wolff's curiosity-appreciation-imagination triad. When I mentioned my "letters to God" journal that I kept in high school, I remembered something really important about that daily discipline and it was the discipline of gratitude. In our modern lives, we make so little time for gratitude -- to notice, to appreciate, and to be heart-and-mind openly grateful and joyful. I think this stance, this habit of perceiving the beauty and goodness in others and in our natural and made world, is eroded, especially for those for whom "God is dead" and it is all about an objectivist's ME. Appreciation, gratitude, is frankly good for the perceiver, not just the perceived. And each of us does need to be seen, to be appreciated and treated with wonder. This seeing creates social connection. To see another appreciatively means that the seer has to cleave away all the crud of compromise that is the stuff of our so-busy juggling-everyone's-needs lives and see the sparkle-brightness, the rare, unique special qualities and contributions of another person (than ourselves). This is what an architect has to do, in so many ways -- to see, amidst the mess of details what is important, what matters, what needs to be distinguished and held fast to, amidst the negotiation and tradeoffs and compromise. So appreciation is indeed a good "muscle" (or ability or aptitude-imbued stance) to strengthen.         

Some time ago, I observed "my view of software visualization is inherently biased/warped/filtered/threaded/[list generation here] by my interest in visualization of the design (as intended and as built)." You probably grokked the payload implicit in the observation, but in case, I'll explore the insight. What insight? Well, it relates to who is the actor whose intent is being served, and that is an important avenue for creating distinctions (that would show up in a visualization taxonomy). Yes, that. But also design visualization is an interesting avenue for investigation. When we focus there, design intent versus reflection of design as built are both important to "design visualization." When we focus on code visualization, our orientation is to code -- that is, we are placed within a frame of reference and that is (existing) code. We're trying to understand the code, to locate within the code, etc. It is a shift in perspective, subtle perhaps, but important, to consider the design of the system, and to use visualizations -- renderings of views -- to reason about the design and its adequacy, options for improvement, and evolution.

[Image source: Arnold Lobel [1933-1987] It is used variously on the i-way, including here.]

Now the software visualization community has generally gone after visualization of the code (e.g., code maps of various forms) or control flow (e.g. flow charts), etc., which is more tractable because code is manifest. We can see it, and analyze it, and so forth (just as we can a poem, or book, or mathematical proof, which are also text and symbol based). Further, an important issue we face is sheer code volume -- the problem is vivid when we realize that 6 million LOC stacks as tall as a 3 story building! We can extract and/or analyze certain features of the code, applying computation to ease this job for huge codebases. The intent is to assist in code navigation and understanding, and also to facilitate some level of analysis by associating attributes or metrics with the visualization. In the absence of explicit architecture models, developers create mental models of the code. Because these mental models are individual and built on (by dint of volume) partial views of the code base, even the orienting views are often incomplete and possibly even wrong (Cherubini, Venolia and De Line, 2007).

Code visualization becomes especially important in the absence of (up-to-date) architectural design models or when these are inadequate. There are two important cases:

  • no or inadequate (architectural) design models
  • code diverges from the design models, so that the design-as-built is different from the design-as-intended, and the design models no longer serve (except as historical markers).

The first points to a difference in philosophical orientation, or simply context. By which I mean, some believe that design is best done in the medium of code (iterative and all that good stuff) and this may well be the case for smaller projects/fewer minds to engage and align. The latter being true of the beginnings of systems when the team is small; then, as the system and its development team grows, at some point the cognitive load is such that models are needed. In contrast, others place value in models (importantly visual models) as a medium for thinking, reasoning, exploring, testing and validating design ideas from the get-go.   

The second leads to an important "use case" that those who focus on code visualization may miss: noticing when the code diverges from design intent and alerting. Of course, this is exactly one of the key values of the tool implementations of SDMs by Lattix and others, although they are doing this for a very focused set of design rules. Specifically, those that have to do with static dependencies among elements (which may be conceptual elements composed of code elements like layers, or code elements like classes).

The other side of this coin is that we want a feedback loop into the design, so that the design evolves with the learning and feedback that comes from the implementation.

Of course, this is not to say that the code visualization work doesn't have important design implications! Finding imbalance in responsibilities ("god" classes), for example, highlights design "smells." One point I'm trying to make is that when we take design intent and design reflection as a visualization driver, we serve designers and we serve developers. It becomes a mechanism for governance and design improvement, but also for orienting and aligning development work.

When we focus on design, we're asking design-oriented questions. We can think in terms of design intent -- conceiving of a system that will be more the way we want, by bringing experience and perspective to bear. And then we can improve our intended design, our plan, if you like, by doing that "mental messing around" we do with models -- by ourselves and in groups. We can consider coupling and inappropriate intimacy, for example. We can ask "what if?" and "what then?" and "what else?" and "why not?" kinds of questions. We can bring others in to help us surface risks, and discover unintended consequences and, bringing prior experience to bear, make assessments about emergent properties and the likelihood that the system as designed will fit within its performance envelope and whether the design tolerances will leave it resilient enough not to sheer under foreseen load patterns and where the boundaries are beyond which all bets are off and structural integrity is at risk. And we can set up experiments to better assess the design and find/quantify its limits. 

Then, as the system is built, we shift to ever improving the design. Adding value, but also attending to design integrity. Now we're using design reflections (pictures, diagrams, models, projections of the design as implemented) and reasoning about what the system is, what it does and how, building our understanding of the system, its properties and its limits. And reasoning about how to improve and evolve it, adapting it as we change the very need it serves, drawing our users into its potentiality.

"The avionics system in the F-22 Raptor, the current U.S. Air Force frontline jet fighter, consists of about 1.7 million lines of software code. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, scheduled to become operational in 2010, will require about 5.7 million lines of code to operate its onboard systems. And Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner, scheduled to be delivered to customers in 2010, requires about 6.5 million lines of software code to operate its avionics and onboard support systems."  -- This Car Runs on Code, IEEE Spectrum

In a sign of the complexity of the task, the Volt uses an estimated 10 million lines of code, running about 100 control units. That's up from about six million lines of code in typical 2009 model cars and as little as 2.4 million in 2005.

The number of test procedures was also cut from more than 600 to about 400. "Testing is something all of us can still waste too much time and energy on," she said.

In an acknowledgement of the increasing importance of its in-house software, GM gave each Volt its own IP address.

"They use it for a few things today, like finding a charging station, but they hope to use it to push more software out to the vehicles in the future," Selfe said.

-- IBM tells story behind Chevy Volt design, Rick Merritt 5/4/2011

Well, this should turn the tide back in the modeling direction, don't you think:

Modeling and visualization links (by way of Peter Bakker and J Bezin and ... tweets fly by and I don't always track which interesting pointer came from whom... sorry):

4/27/11 Failure is Trendy

Failure is trendy right now, but some of us have been learning from failure for ... well, a lifetime! ;-) 

So, Amazon has a learning moment:

These failure reports dating back to 2008 show what can be done:

Related books:

Related blog posts:

4/27/11 Enterprise Architecture and the City as Metaphor

Maps: visualize, navigate, locate

also by way of Peter Bakker tweets:

Connected company: visualized

Here's an example:

Working Smarter by Dave Gray

Image: Dave Gray, Working Smarter, Image use under Creative Commons license.

Hey, I don't have as far to go as I thought! ;-)

4/27/11 Enterprise Architecture and Ecosystems  

4/27/11 Systems, Chaos and Complexity

"A case of spontaneous synchrony occurred on the 2000 opening of the Millennium footbridge in London when hundreds of pedestrians caused the bridge to undulate erratically as they unconsciously adjusted their pace to the bridge's swaying-it was closed two days later." -- Amazon editorial review

4/27/11 Innovation

Innovation is very much about connecting ideas (about the problem and/or for the solution) across disciplines/domains/fields. So I found this interesting:

"The American architect Gehry used a computer program, CATIA, that has its origins in aerospace. He contributes his success to the possibilities of the program. A project like the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, with its complex shapes, would not have been possible without this program. The English architect Norman Foster said once that at an aerospace exhibition he gets more inspiration than at a building exhibition. The French architect Le Corbusier even wrote a book about airplanes."

-- Martin Smit, The Cyclical Iterative Design Process and Design Environment

It is an interesting thesis (in which a building architect investigates an iterative cyclic product design process for application to architecture -- of buildings).

4/27/11 System Thinking and Design


“When you start looking at a problem and it seems really simple, you don’t really understand the complexity of the problem. Then you get into the problem, and you see that it’s really complicated, and you come up with all these convoluted solutions. That’s sort of the middle, and that’s where most people stop… But the really great person will keep on going and find the key, the underlying principle of the problem — and come up with an elegant, really beautiful solution that works."

-- Steve Jobs, 1994

4/27/11 Issues of Morality and Ethics in Software and Systems Design

4/27/11 Issues with Time!

Hm. That sounds right until I think about it... It does feel like an artificial contrivance to have to break off from awesome "flow" to fetch kids or call a break for lunch before the cafeteria closes... But it is also how we arrange our lives, fitting our lives to the rhythm of days and the interweaving of work and family lives...

Ok, ok, I do expect Mike is referring to the waterfallish mode of splitting work up into process steps and mapping those to a timeline... and I do agree that there are more organic/natural ways to organize work, especially creative work that doesn't decompose and stage neatly and aseptically.

The point I'm trying to make, that Mike's tweet helped me see, is that we use time to contrive order and to contrive interweaving and synchronization, and these contrivances can be "natural" if they allow concert and seem artificial if they produce obstructions. But it is also a matter of perception and arrangement. Time is conceptual. And objectively measurable. That makes time rather interesting. I wish I had more time to ponder it!

4/28/11 More of More!


4/28/11 UML

"UML has got rather out of fashion it seems." -- Martin Fowler, UMLAsNotes, April 28, 2011

Hm. I wonder why... ;-)

But I do believe it is climbing out of the "trough of disillusionment"... The thing is, complex systems need to be engineered, and engineers use models to think -- to reflect on what is, and to reason about what could be.

4/28/11 MDD... MBE ...or MAD?

I know that in our field we need tribal identifiers to coalesce around and our acronyms are dear and important to us. As identity labels go, I think I prefer model-based to model-driven... but, shouldn't we just capitulate and call it MAD? I mean that'd give us a great cartoon referent and all. ;-) MAD? Oh, you know, model-aided development.

4/28/11 Parts and Wholes

"Everybody knows that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts [...] What few people realize is it is only through the parts that the whole is delivered."  -- Michael Wolff

Interesting that designers of the other kind see the world inversely to the way we do! We've applied reductionism and objectivity to the point that we have to remind ourselves that systems have emergent properties not present in the parts themselves -- especially when some of the parts are um "wetware" and defy "logic" ;-).


I liked Brian Foote's Cobbler's Children post (even if I blushed at the cartoon point...) and the reference to the Cobbler's Children is inspired. Here are some points in a related vein:

"The tragedy (or irony) is that we know how to solve this problem, because we’ve been solving it for other people for almost forty years. Electrical engineers and architects don’t use Microsoft Paint to draw circuit diagrams and blueprints; instead, they use CAD tools that:

  • store a logical model of the circuit or building in a form that’s easy for programs to manipulate;

  • display views of that model that are easy for human beings to understand and manipulate;

  • and constrain what people can do to the model via those views. 

What’s the difference?

  • In an architectural CAD package, I can’t put a door in the middle of nowhere: it has to be in a wall of some kind. In Emacs or Eclipse, on the other hand, I can type any gibberish I want into a Java file, or write Javadoc about an integer parameter called threshold when in fact I have two floating point parameters called min and max.

  • That CAD package will let me show, hide, or style bits of the model: I can see plumbing and electrical, but not air vents, or windows and doors but not floors, and so on, and I can see those things in several different ways. When I’m looking at source code, I can’t even see my Javadoc rendered in place."

-- Literate Programming, Greg Wilson, March 7th, 2011


Credit apology: I came upon that Literate Programming post by way of a tweet, but didn't notice whose... sorry. Even though I don't follow very many, Twitter is just way too busy to keep up with, so when I do peek in on the accumulated tweet stream I quick-scan tweets, opening links that seem interesting... and maybe read them at some point... when the connection between tweet and blog post/article is long lost...


4/30/11 Closing Out the Month

Often I reassemble the month's posts after the month has ended, but this month end comes on a Saturday and visits drop off dramatically on Spring weekends. So, I figured I won't frighten many people with all the words from April. ;-)

Well, there are a few posts from April that I need to edit before I pull them into this potentially public journal... It is, in fact, a very quiet and private place because it is well protected. I mean, think about it... would you tell anyone about this site? Not hardly! One has a reputation to think about, doesn't one? ;-)

4/30/11 The Architecture of Open Source Systems

Wow -- can't wait! I didn't see a publication date... anyone know it?



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- Strategy, Architecture and Agility: The Art of Change: Fractal and Emergent, 2010 

- Innovation and Agile Architecting:
Getting Past ‘But’: Finding Opportunity and Making It Happen, 2008


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