"Sequential images employed to explain an idea? That’s no figure. That’s a comic!"
A Trace in the Sand
by Ruth Malan
For 5 1/2 years, this journal has contained notes I've taken as I explored what it takes to be a great software, systems and enterprise architect. That's a long time, and a lot of exploring, wrestling with understanding, and simply noticing and celebrating. Too much really. I should go back to thinking outside this box; and I am creating some better organized boxes for the work I share. :-)
8/1/11 Delightfully Humble
8/4/11 Outsourcing Outsourced Jobs to ... Silicon and Metal
The robots are
8/4/11 Wirth on History
9/22/11: Another history pointer: Topics in history and comparing programming languages, Dennie Van Tassel
"Closure in comics is the "phenomenon of observing the parts but perceiving the whole" (McCloud, pg. 63). In other words, closure is the act of mentally filling in the gaps of what we observe, thus allowing readers to comprehend the action and meaning between two seemingly unrelated panels. The reader observes two separate panels and mentally pieces together what happens in between them, even though there is no panel containing what actually happened in between." -- mediawiki
8/5/11 A Market in Ideas [or when greed goes too far...]
1/4/12: Google looks ahead as it buys up more IBM patents, BBC News, 4 January 2012
This telling of Isaac Newton's story is wonderful. And it has not just the central player, but two other players of great importance -- the critic/rival and the friend/champion. And of the two, the friend is by far the more important.
8/5/11 Tracing Roots
8/6/11 Defining Moments
The intention-setting why is important in all the ways Tom Graves so eloquently states in "Two Kinds of Why". And yes: When we offer the rationale to our decisions we provide traceability between action and intention. As we reason, we explicate refinements and elaborations on intentions, setting up an intention-rationale recursion, and forming a link in the chain of connected dots to finer grained (more narrowly or locally scoped, more specific) intentions and decisions. Intention is rippled in that fractal way and rationale (the reasoning underlying our interpretations and decisions) articulates the connections from intent to intent or decision and on. Or, as Tom Graves puts it:
Looking ‘downward’, we see a stream of decisions: “because so-and-so… therefore… therefore… therefore…”. Looking upward, we see a stream of reasons: “because… because… because…”
On the path to reification and realization of strategic intention, each new elaboration translates, interprets and reinterprets, refines, elaborates and adds intentions.
And new intentions emerge, from accidents, out of inventiveness, out of seize-the-inspired-moment acts of brilliance, and not. Some happy serendipity. Some unhappy accident. Adjustments. Accommodations. Shifts in intention. Misinterpretation. Disjunction. Opportunism. And more.
So I see two important kinds of why: why?, and why
not? Why -- intentional. Why not -- emergent. The
opportunities we create through intentionality
creating concert of minds and action. And the
opportunities we seize and are
seized by. The intentions we seed forward, into more
and more local, more specific decisions. That is
strategy as intent. But especially where empowerment
thrives, there are also reactions, adaptations,
reflective action and learning, all seeding strategy
from the ground up (or, perhaps more properly, the
edges), coursing back through the
organization-as-organism to adjust and confirm and
re-establish concert in intent. Empowerment thrives in
the context of culture, of clear identity and values,
which scope the "why not?' of empowered action. Ah yes,
Fractal and Emergent. Or chaordic.
I also write at:
- Bredemeyer Resources for Architects
Visual in Architecting
Strategy, Leadership, Innovation and Creativity, Interpersonal Dynamics, etc.
tRuthiness [aka (ab)using my soapbox]
- Elevated Silliness
Of (Potential) Interest to Architects
- DNA Meme
Architects and Architecture
- Todd Hoff (highly recommended)
- Anna Liu
- JD Meier
Architect Professional Organizations
Agile and Lean
Agile and Testing
Other Software Thought Leaders
- CapGeminini's CTOblog
CTOs and CIOs
- Werner Vogels (Amazon)
- Jonathan Schwartz (Sun)
CEOs (Web 2.0)
- Don MacAskill (SmugMug)
- Wired's monkey_bites
Social Networking/Web 2.0+ Watch
- Dan Roam
- David Sibbet (The Grove)
Strategy, BI and Competitive Intelligence
- Freakonomics blog
Um... and these
- CNN Money Business of Green videos
Martin Fowler, Podcasts, August 4, 2011
Suprotim Agarwal, Free Podcast For Developers, August 10, 2011
Kent Beck, Tech podcasts, Oct 8, 2010
Bouncing from a Doug Newdick tweet about de Montaigne, I found this is interesting:
"In his own time, Montaigne was admired more as a statesman than as an author. The tendency in his essays to digress into anecdotes and personal ruminations was seen as detrimental to proper style rather than as an innovation, and his declaration that, 'I am myself the matter of my book', was viewed by his contemporaries as self-indulgent. In time, however, Montaigne would be recognized as embodying, perhaps better than any other author of his time, the spirit of freely entertaining doubt which began to emerge at that time." -- wikipedia
Montaigne was placed in a watershed moment of transformation in what humanity is capable of and we technologists -- we who write the fiction in our minds eye into reality that manipulates and brings machines into greater and greater concert of directed action (flying our airplanes, driving our cars, .... driving our production and distribution mechanisms, ... healing our sick...) -- we stand too at a watershed moment and it is hugely vital (in every sense) to bring our humanity into what we do.
8/15/11: This is the abstract to Peter Cochrane's keynote at ICED2011, given today (missed the livestream unfortunately):
"Until recently we were the sole designers, alone in the driving seat making all the decisions. But, we have created a world of complexity way beyond human ability to understand, control, and govern. Machines now do more trades than humans on stock markets, they control our power, water, gas and food supplies, manage our elevators, microclimates, automobiles and transport systems, and manufacture almost everything.
It should come as no surprise that machines are now designing machines. The chips that power our computers and mobile phones, the robots and commercial processing plants on which we depend, all are now largely designed by machines. So what of us - will be totally usurped, or are we looking at a new symbiosis with human and artificial intelligences combined to realise the best outcomes possible.
In most respects we have no choice! Human abilities alone cannot solve any of the major problems that confront our species, and machine intelligence is now an imperative. To get the very best results we have to use computer modelling, visualisation and decision support. This also turns out to be a route to new materials, processing, production and thinking that promises to revitalise our industries and realise sustainable solutions. It may even turn out to be a new industrial revolution."
Our strong and idiosyncratic aesthetic, empathy that enables us to anticipate others needs, our quest for and creation of meaning, the very imperfections that we accept even as we gasp in appreciation at mastery, all these qualities and more set us apart from machines.
Of course, that illuminates and justifies what I and this open brain
(and open heart) stand for -- bringing our humanity in all its complexity,
including frail egos and self-doubt, into what we do. :-)
That very frailty is also the wellspring of its insight and vibrant questing --
self-doubt keeps us humble and nimble; we're willing to move. To change
positions, to consider other perspectives.
Tonight (late, after watching Mrs. Doubtfire with the family, so bear with me if I got this wrong) I read Designed as Designer by Richard Gabriel and I think if I boil it down, the thesis is that there is a natural fit of form and function that will out -- a design (the thing being conceived and realized) has its own natural innate integrity that designers are apt to discover or uncover. This assessment of Sagrada Familia is perhaps an interesting counterpoint... Still, much of what Richard is arguing is more in line with what we think than he asserts. Our "hero" models are much more textured than he concedes -- we don't, for example, for a moment believe that Steve Jobs designs Apple products -- not single-handedly, nor even as the master designer. But we also surely know that his aesthetic and the design culture he has influenced is a strong shaping force. Steve Jobs is a hero not because he did it all, but because he made it possible for all to do something that awesome. He shaped the context. ...
Which is to say the essay does exactly the kind of pushing and pulling at my thinking that I so like for it makes the boundaries of my thinking more permeable and the center of my thinking more pliable, and that is exciting to me!
8/15/11: It occurs to me that in their thrust, Richard's points interact in interesting ways with what ☼Daniel Dennett is explicating -- designs that are fit will thrive and replicate as memes, bringing about a convergence in design*. In that sense, the designed is the designer, and a designer capable of producing increasing conceptual integrity at that.
Naturally my bias is to protest that given intentionality, imagination, reasoning, our good Dr. Hofstadter's analogies as thinking machines, experience, patterns and more, we do more than discover and unfold but intervene in the creation of intentional and accidental combinations that speed evolution with design interventions -- some brilliant in conception and execution, and some just brilliant luck, some barely sufficient to begin an evolutionary trail, and some outright failures that don't even create a bump on technology's intertwingled evolutionary tree. The designer is an active player, and given the many choices -- including those that have energetically, even antagonistically, advocated alternatives -- we know that there are many ways for a system to devolve from a path of integrity. The role that takes the system view, shaping system outcomes and with them the organization and primary mechanisms and articulation points of the design, is an important role in bringing about system integrity. This role may be shared, but then the gestalt needs to be shared in a deep way.
for a given context-outcome-form* tuple, but I'm not happy with "form" so the
idea is a work-in-progress. I'm tying to
avoid the context-problem-solution wording we usually use to describe patterns.)
I ought to consider my sketches early drafts and redraw them before I place them here... Well, we'll let ought remain the operative word, assuming that any draft is only a stepping stone to other more useful conceptions. [Another thing that separates us from machines is our huge creativity and finely honed skill when it comes to self-justification. ;-) ]
Here I was thinking about thinking from different angles, rotating (archman as) The Thinker in my mind's eye:
That, for the metaphorically impaired (not that any such read here), is playing with several different mental operations including rotation and abstraction -- and analogy. I was seeing "another side" to archman and to thinking.
Whenever I think of taking a different perspective, Daniel Stroe's poetic-lovely way of putting it comes to mind:
"...the human capacity to adapt which consists in mind’s ability to simulate realities, to dream. This synthetic ability has to be guided, and there is a medicine against the illusions, it requires a constant mind repositioning to shade new angles and perspectives to the issues. Find a spin and it will feed a fresh light for a while (there are infinite things to know and there is limited life to learn)."
-- Daniel Stroe, Don't believe the obvious!, 8/23/09
We (IEEE 1471, Rosanski and Woods, Bredemeyer, Kruchten/Rational 4+1, etc.) advocate different views that address different concerns. Separation of concerns is applied in many different ways in architecting (decomposition, views, etc.). But it occurred to me, reading Thinking Visually (McKim), that different kinds of models, diagrams and even ad hoc sketches do this other important thing which is cause us to move through different thinking operations, using different vehicles for thought, moving different pieces of our mental processing to consciousness. This flexes our thinking organ, giving us more chance to be pliable, to find new, fresh combinations of ideas, surfacing different issues and sticking points as well as opportunities.
It also occurred to me that not only does our education steer us away from using pictures as part of our exploration and discovery and problem definition/solution process, but writing code is also highly symbol, logical, sequential, cause-and-effect, and "now" -oriented. That is, we live so much of our workdays in and hone our left brains. Not terribly surprising then that models were swept out by the first waves of Agile. But when we need to think about "the big picture;" relationships, spatial organization (even more right-brained when the spatial is a metaphorical overlay); time oriented and especially fuzzy future oriented threats and opportunities; draw on and relate multiple ideas, concerns, influences; process emotions, deal with politics and draw on empathy; etc. then it helps to use pictures, visual thinking and visual formats to foster collaboration and draw people in. I have argued that we would benefit from using pictures as a thinking tool when writing code (if nothing else, to engage more of our brain, and to see from different perspectives), but when it comes to architecting it is important to get our heads into the visual space. To "picture it" -- to envision and visualize, to create shared thoughtspaces to enhance collaboration and co-creation, and to communicate so that we can create great yet ever more complex systems with and through the creative engagement of many people (minds and hands and emotions/feelings).
With the pendulum swing to "do all our thinking and experimenting in the medium of code," we tend more to what Tesla chided Edison for:
(Image: The Currency Wars, good.is)
Edison, in turn, scoffed:
Edison was awarded more US patents, but Tesla's alternating current powers our information-hungry, device-rich, car-mobile lives.
Tesla is known for visual thinking, although his was in his mind's eye and this is where we can keep our thinking too if we are as adept at it as Tesla, and as insular a thinker. If we want to create a thoughtspace others can contribute to, leverage, and use and extend in the future, drawing our thinking out is important. We can draw it out in code, but in visuals we have another powerful thinking tool. Complexity demands we have a versatile supply of thinking and communicating, collaborating tools. As Alan Kay points out:
When we're conceiving new mechanisms, describing mechanisms we envisage so others can help us improve, test and build them, and documenting mechanisms to magnify their impact beyond in-person conversations, pictures are an important tool to have at our disposal. This is not an all or nothing proposition. Which is to say that all code and no pictures should be viewed with as much skepticism as all pictures and no code. Either way we're wasting resources. A dream is but a dream. And one trial does not guarantee even a valuable lesson!! Nor do 10. Nor a 100.
The architect deals with risk. Risk of failure of fit to context and to purpose as well as structural failures including those that are triggered by run-away success, etc. Dealing with risk inherently means thinking about scenarios in-the-future (they may be possible now, but not certain) and probabilities and a strict YAGNI orientation eschews thinking about the future and likelihoods less than 1... But possibility is a big space, and visual thinking tools and operations are useful in thinking about big spaces.
Ok, as tools go, the "if you have a hammer" idiom is given a refresh with this meerkat snip from Animals are Beautiful People. So is the moral: if we only use our extant know-how, will breakthroughs only be by accident?
"Design Thinking" became a "designer label" in much the same way that "Agile" became a "designer label" -- a sexy tribal identifier. Well, when that happens, whatever "stuff" gets bundled into the tribal identifier by its evangelists or hype-ists, becomes baggage as the tribe tries to grow beyond the initial hype circles. No doubt "Visual Thinking" will go the same way. And then we'll get provocative headliners like "Visual thinking is a failed experiment" and "The decline and fall of visual thinking." So that we can move beyond visual thinking. Not! But beyond Visual Thinking as hype to a new level of facility with visual thinking, practicing what comes naturally but gets educated and worked out of most of us. Just as we're doing with agile development, embracing what makes us more flexible and adaptive. Including embracing more visual thinking, if I have anything to do with it. ;-)
IQ, EQ and now CQ... Well, at the very least it sounds like a creative way to expand the testing market...
The trope and rhetoric used to distinguish and build tribal converts can foster rigid expectations, sharp delineations and narrow options. Polarities induce reactions, and factions break off from the tribe and new factions form; the distinct hyped identity of the tribe is an easy target to position against as the new faction hypes the next "shiny new thing" masquerading as a silver bullet.
Tribal insularity can be an issue when a group is so focused on its own navel it doesn't see what is going on in the world in terms of opportunity and threat, or just plain useful approaches, ideas, and tools, etc. The bad kind of tribalism gives off a smell rank with elitism and exclusive orientations. Insiders, of course, are too accustomed to their own smell, so less likely to be aware of it. Those who embrace the hype most exclusively tend to be most disappointed by the "trough of disillusionment" -- a reality check and self-correction as the hype excess is spun-off (to go follow the next silver bullet). While what is good evolves and "matures" in the sense that what serves evolution is kept and added into the set of fundamentals "that never go out of style" (a Boochism).
Aside: When we talk about NIH (not invented here) syndrome, we are generally talking about the situation where a group is arrogant and nothing done outside the group is accepted because it can't be that good, or good enough. Such groups exist. When groups won't accept something from the outside as is, it isn't necessarily that form of NIH. Many of us integrate from various sources and the resulting meld need not be so much a sign of dangerous need to invent our own as a sign of healthy adjustments to context and outcomes sought, and a healthy disrespect for hype beyond substance. If a group rarely considers other sources and influences and constantly dismisses and discredits work from outside, that is one kind of signal. The red light kind that signals inertia or status quo-preserving insularity.
8/18/11 Gag Those Emotions (or not)
We have been taught in the school of hard knocks (the whack-a-mole "game" we all play on each other to create uniform worker drones who are easy -- predictable and more uniform so simpler -- to interact with) to compartmentalize emotions into the "leave these at home" category.
Which goes hand in hand with leaving subjectivity and irrationality at home too. Right?
Wrong! We tend to out-frame subjectivity from business, but:
This has echoes of Dan Ariely, teaching us to recognize our irrationality, then telling us that it has its uses. Both aspects are important. We're human. And WE'RE HUMAN! Despondency and joy.
Now, as emotions go... I think rage -- abusive, aggressive rage -- is bad in any setting, but if we can turn our frustration at something that is wrong in the world into a laser-focus on doing something about it, not in raging vengeful terms but in deliberate, concerted, passionate terms, that outrage can be fruitful. Outrage and compassion live in close quarters, I suspect.
If we cannot feel, we cannot feel empathy. We may be able to perceive and even imagine the "objective" elements of another's problems but not what drives and concerns them.
"Above all, what I, and the client, am looking for is that rare professional who has both technical skill and a sincere desire to be helpful, to work with both me and my problem. The key is empathy - the ability to enter my world and see it through my eyes."
-- David Maister quoted by Jason MacKenzie (by way of Simon Brown retweet)
Paraphrasing ☼David Brooks: Emotion is the foundation of reason, because emotion lets us assign value and so priority. We are really emotional and social creatures, and 75% of variation in job performance is not attributable to IQ [I find this a little hard to believe... like given some threshold IQ, perhaps?]! David Brooks identifies the following biases or things we need to correct for:
path dependence (began long ago with choice that may not be relevant any more);
illusion that what worked in the past will work now -- we apply a simplistic controlling metaphor or analogy;
focusing illusion -- the things we focus on seem to be more important than they really are;
fundamental attribution error -- don't try to explain by traits things that are really determined by context;
distinction between emotion and arousal;
distinction between problems that are clocks (can take apart) and problems that are clouds (dynamic system you can't take apart) and we try to turn cloud problems into clock problems by cloud problems are characterized by emergence, and through pattern of interaction create a new thing;
Pareto principle -- bias to think everything is bell shaped;
we have many different authentic personalities (sub-selves) that are aroused by contexts;
distinction between askers and guessers;
limerence -- the conscious mind thinks it wants money, etc. but the unconscious mind really wants moments of transcendence when self-awareness falls away and we get lost in what we're doing or feeling and unaware of ourselves so that the conscious mind disappears.
Relevant to the architect? Ok. You tell me.
[Peter Bakker pointed to the David Brooks video.]
8/30/11 I thought this, from The happiness hypothesis: finding modern truth in ancient wisdom by Jonathan Haidt, was interesting:
8/18/11 Kind Words Give Life!
I was looking an email from an architect "alum" of our training from some time back, and it soothed my sorry ego:
'My title here is CTO, but it should be "principal architect" because EA is very much my focus here. The lessons learned at the EA workshop have proved invaluable to me. In fact...few days go by that I do not make use of what I learned. ' -- personal email
I needed that. A paycheck makes it possible from a family logistics standpoint to do this kind of work, but the architects who trouble to tell me that what I do made a difference to them is my real reward and what really keeps me going. Of course, my own ego has to do most of the stimulus spending because the community I work in is extraordinarily* reticent at least as regards my contribution -- even as a provocateur to their thinking.
* spend that stimulus Q<=. :-) Of course you're going: "extraordinarily? -- hmpf, understandably or justifiably reticent."
8/18/11 I Want One!
8/18/11 Caring Circles
I'm coming around to thinking that in online social networks one should (try to) conduct oneself with the same level of caring, empathy and social grace as face-to-face networks. These networks give us the tremendous good of being able to connect with people who share a passionate interest. But the tendency to relate very superficially to those connections creates a situation where people can act quite badly, and then crowdism magnifies and reinforces the bad behavior... Boom!
So I made a "Get Well" card today -- it's cute, which I can only say because it totally and unabashedly steals (with small translation that has more to do with my ineptitude than anything) from the illustration (probably by Mirjami Manninen) on Tarun Kumwar's "Twitter Turns Five Today" post. (The blue bird? It's a twitter-card.)
Of course I used the imperative, just so those flu bugs know who's boss.
As for Tom Graves, well, he augments, challenges, inspires, threatens (grin), deepens, and in many other ways (that my list-unfriendly brain stalls at) provokes me to improve my own work, and though I don't blatantly pay him the compliment of plagiarism, his work and thinking has (though I only came upon it relatively recently) and does influence what I do and how I think about it.
There are two ways we persist: i. by creating a work of durable worth that will be reflected on through the ages, and ii. through our genes and memes -- well, at least, through the ways that our thinking is integrated into and takes on life in that of people we influence. (Well, as soon as I assert "two ways" I'm confident that can't be right but I'll leave it to you to think of other ways. :-) I conflated genes and memes into one, so that gives you an easy target... [Um... feel sorry for me! I have to live with this brain of mine. You only visit it sometimes. What? You've just decided sometimes is too often? Nice. We're supposed to be talking about caring here.]
8/18/11 In the Ouchy Category...
Daniel forwarded me this quote:
"There have been long-running rumours that chief executive Leo Apotheker, who recently joined from German rival SAP, wanted to refocus the company away from its traditional hardware business towards its smaller, but much more profitable, software lines.
The transformation planned by Mr Apotheker mirrors that of IBM, which dropped out of its traditional hardware business over the past decade.
"HP is recognising what the world has recognised, which is hardware in terms of consumers is not a huge growth business anymore," said Michael Yoshikami, chief executive of YCMNET Advisors.
"It's not where the money is. It's in keeping with the new CEO's perspective that they want to be more in services and more business-oriented."
On the sale of its PC business, HP said it "will consider a broad range of options that may include, among others, a full or partial separation... from HP through a spin-off or other transaction"." -- BBC
HP is a hardware company and that is deep in its identity. It will be interesting to see if it can shift its very notion of itself. IBM was able to make a transformative shift, but can an outsider come in to HP and lead so radical a change? It will be interesting...
Such landscape shifting times we're in...It reminds me how important it is for architects to be watching these shifts and spotting trends, for opportunities and threats lie therein. They may seem tangential to your business ... and then suddenly something shifts again and they're not! It's all ... intertwingulated... or so I read...
And that would be?
Well, Andreesen is making the case that "software will eat the
world," and that gives some insight into what at least one person on HP's board
is thinking. It still leaves observers thinking it is a company with an identity
crisis and that's only to be expected what with so many CEOs in such quick
succession taking the company on a zig-zag course.
If indelicate language and locker-room humor doesn't put you off: Top 7 programmers bad habits. I like the comment:
'The concept of “done” is easily influenced by the concept of “deadline”.'
8/19/11 Business Capabilities
I read Nick Malik's post distinguishing business capabilities from business processes today and for a moment it seemed like he was saying that capabilities are fragments of processes. Then I realized that the key point in what he is driving at is that capabilities are a different way of chunking than end-to-end processes, and this chunking, or different abstraction, provides a different (allowing a perceptual shift) way to see how business outcomes can be achieved, and existing capabilities connected and leveraged. I think that is a great way of looking at it.
I would like to add that with capabilities as our design element, we can ask interesting questions about how we are going to achieve our desired (specific, challenging, matter of hard choices) strategic outcomes that make the most of people [as "self-activating" and responsive rather than plug-and-play parts in a planned mechanistic industrial era process] and all that information we've been stock-piling not to mention the new flows that are flooding in from the "internet-of-things" (IofT). And what capabilities can we build with this IofT that aren't just sucking data but taking actions? That is, capabilities allow us to conceive of capabilities that are blends -- pulling in new capabilities that we meld with extant capabilities, drawing on what people and technology bring, and drawing on process we can design and improve. This doesn't shoulder BPM out of the picture, it just says there is a natural conceptual design element or abstraction that we should have in view as the business strategy is developed, implemented, evolved, and improved.
To take a well-known example, if we consider Google's innovation capability, we see that the emergent features and products created in engineers "20% time" is important. There is no formal 20% time process (though it is a formal commitment). But, because it is so big, with 20,000 developers, winnowing and selection for more investment in promising projects is a defined process. Further, analytics play a role in improving innovation initiatives, as Google considers itself to be a very data driven company. With business capabilities as conceptual design elements, we consider these various facets of the innovation capability so those that are highly organic or embedded in technology capabilities are in full view along with the more traditional process view. This facilitates understanding from which to learn and experiment with designed interventions to improve the innovation capability or its interactions with other capabilities. Capabilities give us a different "chunking" -- sometimes these chunks line up closely with processes. But we don't a priori assume that they will or that they should. They could map to multiple processes, or to fragments thereof. They could map to some elements of process and to organic, empowerment-centered initiatives and to technology that all work in concert to provide the capability.
8/19/11 Understanding Willpower
The more I work on my boxes, the more I have to cut loose and just journal -- ohhhhhh, I get it! That is one interesting and surprising article! Consider this:
"Virtually no one has a gut-level sense of just how tiring it is to decide. Big decisions, small decisions, they all add up. Choosing what to have for breakfast, where to go on vacation, whom to hire, how much to spend — these all deplete willpower, and there’s no telltale symptom of when that willpower is low. It’s not like getting winded or hitting the wall during a marathon. Ego depletion manifests itself not as one feeling but rather as a propensity to experience everything more intensely. When the brain’s regulatory powers weaken, frustrations seem more irritating than usual. Impulses to eat, drink, spend and say stupid things feel more powerful (and alcohol causes self-control to decline further). Like those dogs in the experiment, ego-depleted humans become more likely to get into needless fights over turf. In making decisions, they take illogical shortcuts and tend to favor short-term gains and delayed costs."
-- John Tierney, Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue?, New York Times magazine, August 17, 2011
Should this cause us to ask if architect-as-hat-everyone-wears is a bad idea (on complex projects anyway)? Alternatively put, should the landscape-shaping, direction-setting decisions and architectural structure stewarding indeed be separated from day-to-day local decisions...? Is decision fatigue from the myriad in-the-moment decisions enough to ensure that the "cross the Rubicon" decisions are ever deferred until another day? Well, we advocate an explicit architect role but a highly participative process.
In product family settings where we're investing in architectural consistency and leverage across products in the family and creating a shared fundamental architecture and product platform, we can have product platform architects in a team that works closely with the product teams, or have the product architects work in the platform architecture team. Either way, we're talking about a matrix or dotted line reporting. The difference is in what is primary and what is secondary. Is the platform the primary allegiance, or is the product the focal allegiance? The answer lies in the architect's primary responsibilities as played out in the daily dynamics, the conversations, the concerns of those who have most influence -- the primary team the architect works within and is responsible to and for.
Likewise, if architecting is a shared responsibility on the team, but no-one's primary responsibility, it will be a secondary concern in a world where the primary concern -- short term mutual team commitments -- is very demanding. Having a designated architect doesn't mean others don't have any architectural responsibility, but only that we clearly have someone who has architecture as their primary responsibility -- who will attend to the architecture, who is the go-to person for architectural issues that will require investigation and tough judgment calls, who will notice and guide design shifts and draw out design changes with associated rationale and implications so that the architecture isn't accommodated and eroded endangering system integrity, calling others' attention to architecture when that is needed. This lead architect is more successful, the more the team feels that the "good, right, successful"-ness of the architecture is their doing -- but to achieve that, a lot has to be noticed that is in contention with day-to-day detailed design decision pressures.
8/25/11: Given our propensity to decision fatigue, "paradox of choice" thinkers make a useful contribution. See for example,
8/19/11 Art Inspires
10 Science Fiction Books That Changed the Course of History, Gordon Jackson and Charlie Jane Anders, August 18, 2011
Tonight I watched Cave of Forgotten Dreams. If you haven't seen it yet, I can't recommend it highly enough! But. If you just want to read about it, the article in the New Yorker that I pointed out some weeks ago is splendid. And this account is moving too. Just imagine doing something that incredibly lovely! And then imagine it being present in the lives of people gasping at its loveliness and grasping to know you, to know what you felt and were thinking and who you were and what you were like -- people living 35,000 years after you!
I think it has extra resonance for us code spelunkers... who glimpse the mind-lives of the code's creators (who lay down changes over years and years -- not thousands, but still more than we typically anticipate)...
8/20/11 We have
considerably expanded access to art and opportunities for artists. And moved our
art onto paper and
then silicon. And swept it up in a deluge
aspirants all clamoring for a piece of the attention pie, creating this
unfathomably huge information slick that is growing by the minute like something
in a sci-fi movie. (My Trace doesn't help!) What we have loosed is and
can be so great! But it might also overwhelm us, draw us into The Shallows
and turn off our empathy and set us upon one another. We've seen it in
mind-blind bad behavior at conferences. We've seen it in riots. What will
make the difference amounts to the choices we make, beginning with the choice to
care. Technology serves us, but we can't let that make us all-important to
What we perceive is very much restricted, and sometimes even determined, by our expectations, assumptions, entry frame. There are whole categories of myths and fallacies we fall prey to, that set expectations for us. For example, if we think architecture is BDUF, whomp, we're in a perceptual trap already. And there's decision and cognitive biases and not just optical illusions but perceptual illusions. We can't -- but more significantly don't -- proceed as if we're always wrong. And we aren't. Always wrong.
All of which is to say, what we make of another person is at least as much about us, about the cast of our minds, as it is about them. It's that:
"We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are." -- Anais Nin
insight -- just further refined with a growing repertoire of cognitive biases and more. :-)
8/20/11 Make It Worth Something
I watched After The Wedding (Danish) and it is
wonderful but emotionally tough material. It is the kind of movie that makes one
wonder why we don't spend every moment of our lives making it matter for others
making their lives better. I think I investigate and write what I learn to help,
to advance what I and we know, but... then it seems trivial not because the
problems are but because tickling some dancing words into the silence has as
much impact as a water drip from a leaky faucet, and there's so much good that
needs to be done in the world.
Point: Use the refactoring word only in the sense that Martin Fowler defined: Code Refurbishment, Martin Thompson, 20 August 2011
Counterpoint: The refactoring word has a longer history and broader use (that makes sense): Refactoring's Original Sin: Part I , Brian Foote, Feb 23, 2011, Refactoring's Original Sin: Part II, Brian Foote, Feb 26, 2011, and The Roots of Refactoring, Brian Foote, March 1, 2011 and
If we only say one word to the "business folk" -- or if they only hear one word -- and their listening-reasoning faculties shut down in fear, then might that suggest our issues don't lie in the word? Just a thought. But where we need or want to convey the more particular sense, perhaps we could just say "micro-refactoring" (or step-wise refactoring or some other qualifier the community embraces)... Besides, if this word has already gained such power, the barn door is already open... It is worth considering that indicating that our code is a mess is what scares these good business folk -- no matter what the word, the association would trigger the reaction.
Precision has its place. But factoring, and hence the extremely natural "refactoring", is too useful at many scales to preclude various uses and insist upon limiting it to small step-wise functionality-preserving restructurings.
Well, I think refactoring works across its range of application so no need for a unique and precise word (which presumably only a neologism could supply). But as neologisms go, this one drew a smile:
Not that that ever happens... ;-)
When we encounter stories and pictures, to make sense of and find their meaning and apply it to our lives, we have to engage with them and draw out their meaning or significance. In that engagement, we -- in a way -- enter the story or picture. We fill in the interstitial space bringing something of ourselves and how we relate to the story or picture into the process, and this is more active than being told specifically, step-by-step and argument-by-argument what something means to us or how it should alter our views or practices.
This makes stories and pictures very powerful shapers of culture and direction. We are motivated by what is meaningful, and what is meaningful is personal. It contains our "stuff" -- our views and hopes.
8/22/11 Meaning in Context
There's been a rash of recognition in various sources that meaning matters. We want to contribute to something meaningful, that transcends our small blip of self on the huge canvas of humanity. We want to show up on the vibrant tapestry of the lives we touch in some way that we care about. We want to have distinct and valued identity. It may be that we want to put the life that flows through us so rapidly to some good use, or that we want to have a valued presence in the group we hang out with. Of course everyone has their own values and preferences, and for some meaning has to do with social or economic status, for another social service, and so on.
So a key in system design is to tap into that desire to be meaningful and to do what is meaningful in some way that matters to the individuals in our stakeholder groups. That meaning isn't in the thing so much as it is in the context which imbues the thing with meaning and value. Which is why we pay attention to understanding the context and the forces and values that shape it.
8/22/11 How to LIVE Before We die
A letter to Canada speaks to the world:
"Give them a careful hearing; consider the alternatives; and consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.
My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world."
-- Layton’s last words: ‘Love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear’, Jane Taber, August 22, 2011
I've read Steve Jobs commencement address at Stanford several times these past few years, but only tonight listened to/watched it. It made me tear. The man is reading the speech that has spoken to so many of us. Just reading it. This is a speech that inclines spirits and inspires minds and he's reading it -- not even that smoothly. No high tech. Just a man reading stories from his life. And it is so moving. Perhaps more so, because the unpolishedness bares his humanity before us and his story, obviously meaningful to him, touches us.
Steve Jobs looks back and connects the dots between moments that as he lived them, he had no way of knowing were key points of choice and chance on the path to where he stands now (in 2005 giving the address). When I look back, I wouldn't say I have no regrets for I have many -- conversations I didn't have, dreams I didn't pursue, foolish ego-serving dreams I did pursue, people I hurt, people I didn't help -- but I also see how what I happened to do and what I chose to do and all the people (and minds past and present) I came to encounter, all built who I now am, and I'm so happy for it. We stumble toward our Destiny, most of us, for it unfolds as we live it out.
But. From where we stand at this precipitous point for humanity, two roads lead forth. And unlike Robert Frost's Road Not Taken, this choice matters and if we take the wrong one there will be no hindsight from which to conclude it was the right choice. Mankind has amassed the ability to destroy itself through wars yes, that too, but also through the accumulation of our careless (yes, careless and care less) acts. We are so many, and our environmental impact on aggregate so huge and alarming. But also as we become more connected to our digital surrogates for books and ☼relationships, we can become shallow, heartless and hopeless. We move ever more onto silicon and metal. And this can enable or disable us. The antidote is to care. To love, to hope, to be optimistic, and to make choices and undertake actions that make the world better. This is the age of great adaptation and invention. There is a lot to be optimistic about. And much to be done.
To me, what Steve Jobs connected dots is very much about is what we find we have built in ourselves and how that enables us to do the great and unique thing only we can do in the world. But we have to do it! The really awesome thing about working with architects is that it is so much the case that architects, by the road of chance and choice they've taken, have built such interesting, amazing, capable minds -- technically but also with an appreciation for (at least some of) art, science, history, music, story, philosophy, and people. They have an individual aesthetic, a developed point of view. And all this builds to an ability to see and frame and motivate addressing a compelling need that must be served, for that is the hallmark of a leader. And the neat thing about being me is that these amazing architects have nudged (not always gently) and coaxed and coached me along so that I too have something unique I'm capable of. Well, with that I'm turning shamefacedly back to my boxes.
So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And change the world.
In his piece on rituals and routines on his software career blog, Jim Coplien recommends:
"Read good books, good journals, and carefully read the letters of your friends."
Oh, I know he means refereed professional journals, but I thought it was fun to quote in the context of my good journal which surely any intellectually curious, investigative architect aspiring to be great should read. ;-)
Life wisdom from 11-13 year olds:
Son: Life is not age appropriate.
Also overheard recently:
Sara: Stories aren't about real life because life is mainly filler.
Son: That's because life has no plot.
Ah, but by our passion, we give it a plot. Living your life being cognizant that it is short is not only for "older people" -- Steve Jobs said this when he was ~37:
“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.” [The Wall Street Journal, May 25, 1993]
Oscar Nierstrasz follows more cartoon heads on Twitter than anyone else I've seen -- software 'toon heads at that (plus PhD comics)! I like that as a selection strategy! For then I factor. ;-)
8/23/11 A Tad Overstated?
8/23/11 Infodynamics and Infomechanics?
"I see, that we need a information science, not a computer science. I understand, that we are still searching for the rules of information which correspond to the rules of physics in the mechanical engineering." -- Hans Beck
8/23/11 DNA meme
DNA Origami Revolutionizes Metamaterial Manufacture, Technology Review, 8/23/11
Four Components of Organizational DNA, Booz & Company
This book is a great illustration of conceptual and logical design of systems and their mechanisms -- Leonardo Da Vinci's in this case:
First, some context. Given the current doom and gloom, Rosabeth Moss Kanter apparently thought the time was right to tell her tweeps about a blog post she wrote last year on humor. I agree. It's a good time for humor. So, with that as set up...
8/25/11: In case you didn't watch Peter McGraw's what makes things funny TEDx talk, his position is that humor is constructed when it combines something that is benign (not malicious) and a violation (a surprise, something unexpected).
Some folk at IBM need to watch that video about what makes something funny. That's not benign. ... Oh goodness. I just did it too. Life, alongside all its tearing sadness, does confront us with humor in the juxtapositions we find ourselves placed in and stumbling into and upon. Life is pretty tasteless and insensitive, when you look at it like that!
8/24/11 Another Tack at Abstraction
I watched a video interview of Grady Booch in Second Life on the topic of Agile. Asked what advice Grady would give to the next generation of software architects, Grady recommended nourishing in themselves and among their team:
Elsewhere (SoftVis2010 Endnote), Grady makes these points:
and designates the "fundamentals that never go out of style" as
Maintain a good separation of concerns.
Create crisp and resilient abstractions.
Create a balanced distribution of responsibilities.
Focus on simplicity.
-- 5 Things Grady Booch Has Learned About Complex Software Systems, Esther Schindler, May 29, 2008
From which I playfully constructed the SCARS mnemonic (the bold highlights above are mine).
Actually, Grady lists crisp abstractions first, and a good separation of concerns and balanced distribution of responsibilities could be seen as elaborations on crisp abstractions, since the crispness has to do with the integrity of the abstraction. Cohesive responsibilities (related to the same concern) contribute to a more crisp abstraction. Too many responsibilities and a "god component" that does too much is not crisp and is unlikely to be resilient for it will be implicated in most any change to the system.
I think that, when talking about architecture, putting separation of concerns first is ok (though you may argue I'm just justifying for the sake of the mnemonic), but to see what I mean let's take a small detour through a corridor of VAP-think: from the point of view of architectural design (the reasoning and decision making process) and description (the communicating process), separation of concerns applies not just to our conceptualization, design and definition of abstractions but also to attending to different facets of the design, such as modularity (an evolutionary concern) versus deployment (a runtime or operations concern). These considerations also impact our abstractions, for distribution boundaries may affect our allocation of responsibilities, for example. We also separate conceptual architectural design (which has as its outcome the form and shape of the system, the organization of the system into elements and a conceptual sketch of principal mechanisms and interaction or "articulation" points) from logical architecture (which has as its outcome the specification/blueprint level of architectural design). We take the orientation that conceptual architecture is very much about experimenting quick and dirty on paper with different approaches not just to the system decomposition/composition (as important as that is) but with what the system itself presents as capabilities and hence value propositions, then this separation of concerns (experimenting with key abstractions versus specifying the abstractions so that they can be built and built with and upon reliably) is vital. Yes, promising avenues of experiment will need to be taken to logical design and simulation or code, but to the extent that we can eliminate or adapt and evolve experimental conceptions at the "paper test and thought experiment" stage of conceptual architecture, so much the better.
However you cut it though, abstractions are at the heart of architecting. But what are they? The architectural elements in the SEI definition of software architecture? Surely. Anything else? We're getting to it.
But first, an interrupt and some breaking news.
8/24/11 Faster Experiments
Dana pointed me to Bonnie Bassler's ☼TED talk. It is a great talk about interface design and communication mechanisms coordinating the social behavior of single-celled organisms, namely bacteria. This (from an interview with Bonnie on the TED site) is interesting:
"Basically bacteria do evolution on a 20-minute time scale. It takes humans about 20 years to make an offspring; but bacteria are dividing every 20 minutes, testing out new mutations for selective advantages."
Ah but -- she's forgetting about our thought children (the stuff of memes rather than genes). We can generate and test out ideas in our mind's eye, and on paper, pretty fast. But we have to discipline ourselves to do that because we have these biases and tendencies to want to reach certainty and dissolve that fog of ambiguity into requirements and, better, running code. Evolutionary forces have sway, and market selection can be merciless and failures costly.
We can also relate to this, I think:
Q: "Have you come to see the everyday world differently, working in this microscopic world all the time?"
Bassler: "I would say mostly no. Just like you, I can’t see bacteria either. So what’s funny is that, in the lab most everything we work on looks like water or grains of sand in tubes and bottles. It’s in our heads that we make up pictures of what’s going on in that invisible world inside those tubes and bottles.
What I do think I have is an appreciation for nature’s complexity. It’s a really lucky life to be tuned into a world that’s completely invisible to everyone else."
Bonnie doesn't just waltz, she does the rumba! It's a great talk, in good part quite "naked" (in the Garr sense). She's energetic and enthusiastic, and the way she unfolds her story is riveting. Who'd have thought a talk about microbes would get a standing ovation? And even though she is an "aerobics-teaching diva" and officially a Genius (MacArthur Foundation vetted), she credits the 20-30 year old students in her lab for all the discoveries. That is some lady!
Biology (through biomimicry) is a fertile place to look for ideas for mechanisms that will create new system capabilities. And as with other analogies, it makes for some interesting stories to tell to illuminate the mechanism and make it memorable.
8/24/11: The Ding Master
Steve Jobs retired from his position as Apple CEO today. Here is a look at his life story so far -- such as we have access to, since Steve, for all his showmanship as Apple's icon, is a remarkably private man. When I sought out the video of his talk the other day, I had a strong feeling this was imminent just because that is the way that the merciless disease goes. The put-a-ding-in-the-Universe-man has taught the world that technology and art can come together in many ways in great design. I mean others have done so, of course, but not so compellingly in products that capture the imagination around the world, across generations and social strata.
Steve's words, over the years, hold such great lessons too: Steve Jobs’s Best Quotes (compiled by Jennifer Valentino-DeVries, Wall Street Journal). These are close to my mind-heart:
“Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works. The design of the Mac wasn’t what it looked like, although that was part of it. Primarily, it was how it worked. To design something really well, you have to get it. You have to really grok what it’s all about. It takes a passionate commitment to really thoroughly understand something, chew it up, not just quickly swallow it. Most people don’t take the time to do that.
“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.
“Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have. [Wired, February 1996]
8/25/11: This is an interesting/useful perspective: "What Makes Steve Jobs so Great?" As is this: Ruminations on the legacy of Steve Jobs, James Allworth, August 25, 2011. And this: Steve's Seven Insights for 21st Century Capitalists, Umar Haigue, August 25, 2011
And the Designers's Designer -- Apple's Jonathan Ives: How did a British polytechnic graduate become the design genius behind £200billion Apple?
Some indicators to watch, that may provide a signal should Apple starts to slip (the title of the piece is a misleading attention getter, for it doesn't conclude that Apple is slipping): 5 Warning Signs Apple is Starting to Slip, Bob Sutton. [Ha! Note Archman as The Thinker behind Bob Sutton in the image on his blog. ;-) ]
And a look at what happens when the founder leaves: Disney, Walton, Ford, Gates: Tales of When Legends Leave, Joe Light and Scott Thum, Wall Street Journal, August 26, 2011
8/29/11: Jobs made Apple great by ignoring profit, Clayton Christensen and James Allworth, Aug 29, 2011
Roger McNamee declared: "Don't try to be "social": the big social platforms are created." It is a well-occupied space, though I expect ingenuity will find a way to challenge McNamee's assertion. At any rate, I'm glad people are still working on niche social spaces -- Jonathan Harris's Cow Bird storyteller--story-threader looks set to be interesting.
Seeing social spaces as places not just to "connect" but to be found meaningful, opens us so seeing different avenues for that self-expression to find its audience. And I wouldn't discount curation. Google and Bing are one kind of segue into the information flood -- one where we name a "bucket" with our search criteria and Google dips it into the information seas and presents that to us (effectively the top page or so of the returns). Twitter allows a different approach -- we assemble our lists of scouts and they tweet their finds into streams for us to dip our cup or bucket into as we please (no, as we fanatically, addictedly, are drawn to -- smile). Blogs like Brain Pickings and presumably the likes of Storify emerging in the Twitter ecosystem, chunk into larger connected storylines with annotations. But given the information problem, we're far from done! We are passionate about advancing our (personal and community's) understanding and do-ability, advancing the frontiers of our fields and powering the waves of creative destruction so necessary to filling landfills and creating (different) jobs... or at least the latter, but with unintended consequences like the former. These advances are piling information high, and so these things are linked -- the drive to know and the drive to create and be known so that our memes (conceptual packets or building blocks of knowledge and know-how) get seeded into the advancing state of the world. That last part brings me back to the notion that launched this thought-trail: The desire to be known, to be seen, to find meaning in our existence and to have that meaning be recognized is powerful. Big Fish comes to mind, but on an "all-of-us" kind of scale. So I do see promise in Cow Bird.
Jonathan Harris's take on storytelling is a useful way of framing a good part of what we do with the architecture narrative and its shaping stories:
"How would you define storytelling? I define storytelling as the untangling of, and bringing order to, the chaos of actual experience and packaging it in a way that is usable for yourself and other people going forward."
8/25/11: Too Much, Huh?
Ok, ok, I'll explore abstractions off line. :-)
Great post by Anthony Draffin on capabilities!
But goodness me, did Paul Harmon not know about our Cutter report on Enterprise Architecture as Business Capabilities Architecture published in 2005? ;-) You know you really should read it, and if you like it, why, you might like to tell someone. :-) Actually, the Fractal and Emergent paper is more recent, so read that ... and tell someone. :-) I'll embarrass you by thanking you in this quiet little circle we have gathered around my journal. But let me say, it may be quiet but you are in very good company reading here. Some of the nicest and most brilliant architects I know read here. :-) [And of those I don't know, I have to assume you likewise are characterized by great intellectual curiosity and brilliance tempered with empathy for the human condition... and a keen ability to sift for grist.]
8/27/11:Thank you Peter:
I admire how you captured the essence, provided the link and tagged it all in just 140 characters!
8/26/11 In Common with Irene
What does Dana have in common with Hurricane Irene? Both are headed for New York City! Dana is on a direct overnight flight from South Africa, bound for NYC. As I understand it, he should get in before Irene, but his connecting flight out of NYC is already cancelled.
The Great Courses has a 75% off special offer on all courses on DVD -- ending tomorrow! Enter priority code 59910 during checkout. We highly, highly recommend: Art and Craft of Mathematical Problem Solving, taught by Professor Paul Zeitz. This from the course overview page:
"The first step is to come up with a strategy—an overall plan of attack. Among the many strategies that Professor Zeitz discusses are these:
Get your hands dirty: Dive in! Plug in numbers and see what happens. This is a superb starting strategy because it almost always shows a way to keep on investigating. You'll be surprised at how often a pattern emerges that takes you to the next step.
Think outside the box: Break the bounds of conventional thinking. Professor Zeitz shows you the original think-outside-the-box problem, in which the key idea is to disregard the boundaries of an implied box. He also explains why he prefers to call this strategy "chainsaw the giraffe."
Wishful thinking: Turn a hard problem into an easy one by removing the hard part. For example, substitute small numbers for big ones. This is a confidence-builder that often gives you a partial solution that shows you how to solve the original problem.
Change your point of view: Every problem has a natural point of view, such as a time or place where something is happening. Step back and try a different point of view. This could mean recasting an algebra problem as one in geometry, or vice versa."
Think about it -- if you get that much from the course overview page, the course has to be worth it, right? The problem solving strategies translate well to architecture and many of the problems are just plain fun! Great stuff to work out to when it is too hot/humid or too cold/icy to kayak/jog/hike/bike outside!
8/27/11 Context, Text and Subtext
Tom Graves drew our attention to an account that really highlights the importance of listening on multiple levels. One could say, given the context, what is the subtext that we are being sent along with the text. Or what is the meaning beyond the immediate superficial meaning of the words. When we read literature, we expect to gather and assemble meaning at multiple levels, not just from what is happening on the surface. In life, we sometimes do this with our stereotypes and expectations -- we don't accept what people say at face value because we impose some interpretation on them based on our stereotype or foregone conclusion about them. So especially in culturally and organizationally complex, politically charged situations, we need to put aside our assumptions and be more open to what people are saying, what the "negative space" in what they don't say is conveying, and what they are cuing through tone, expression and body language and a sense of how context provides the opportunity for an overlay of messaging and meaning making. And we need to sensitively validate the meaning we're assembling.
8/27/11 Goodness, Is This Really True?
Source: The State of Digital Education, Knewton
8/27/11 Why Architects Sketch
We draw to see. To observe -- remember "the pencil is one of the best eyes." Sure, we are drawing our conceptualization of structures, of interactions, of flows, and we're using analogies and symbolic representation of abstractions and relationships. Nonetheless, drawing a rich picture of the larger system-of-socio-technical-systems or influence networks or the conceptual structure of our system, we start to see, to notice, more.
A building architect will draw existing structures and structural detail in some part to practice drawing, but in good part to see, to learn about those structures. And we software, system and enterprise architects also need to draw existing systems and their interactions within their context but also their composite elements and mechanisms, studying the structure and the interaction between structure and function and structure and properties.
Observing, noticing what works and how, developing informal theories about the relationship among function, properties and structure, seeing the patterns, developing "blink" insight and the knowledge foundation for more careful reasoning. Observing, with imaginative intervention, you might say, is the process of finding questions worth asking. Questions that advance understanding. The properties of a system do not exist in the code (in the line by line sense), and just as we couldn't find out about gravity by studying and measuring objects, but only by observing and thinking about the relationship between them, so too do we need to take a wider lens than studying lines of code to really grapple with and develop an understanding of these deep issues of system design which have to do with emergent properties or cross-cutting concerns, architectural mechanisms and structural organization.
And we draw to design. To play out. To draw out. What is in our mind's eye, and to create a shared thoughtspace where others can interact with the design, adding to, probing and testing it. Then putting those ideas aside and deliberately trying out quite different conceptualizations. In short, sketching is a way to "get our hands dirty" but dirty on the problems of architecture* that are of a very different nature than those of writing code.
We may be drawing out the form and essential structure, the key mechanisms and how collaborations and interactions deliver capabilities with their emergent properties (properties not in the elements taken separately). We may do this to help others locate or navigate within a complex system. We may do this to help ourselves and others understand the system, to make sense of it, to investigate options, to make decisions and create the context in which we can evolve it with that combination of intentionality and empowered ingenuity that makes for great systems.
So we draw also to communicate and to record.
For more of my thinking (about other's thinking, in good degree) on visual architecting, see the posts linked under Visual Thinking and Visual Design on my Journal Map. I know, that's a lot. But hey, it's all, you know, Ruth Malan wit and wisdom and where else can you get that? Oh, right. Ruth Malan. Pass! :-)
All this talk of sketching is really talk of informal modeling, representing (an aspect of) the system or something related. We should also turn our attention to the value of more rigorous modeling, using tools that allow us to run simulations, to maintain and update our models as we evolve the design, and to generate code (in certain contexts). The point though, is that informal diagrams are an important but sadly often overlooked tool in the architect's toolset.
To become a visual architect is to start to draw -- more, and more. To take what
we intuitively begin to "see" in our mind's eye, and find ways to draw that out,
because as we do, we give our minds more bandwidth to see more, to encompass
more in what we draw, and we also allow our bodies -- our hand-eye and our
emotions and visual perception -- to kick in and play a role drawing more out of
us. It always astonishes me when I look at something I've drawn, that there is
insight expressed that I wasn't consciously thinking about. It might be
something my hand knew, or a serendipity. No matter. It advances what I
* Architecture attends to the interaction of key abstractions under the forces the system will be subject to, paying attention to emergent properties and system capabilities, and the role of the system in its contexts and value streams. We need to get our hands dirty much sooner than these would be fully manifest in code, for code, malleable as it is at the line level, quickly becomes bound within the cast of early assumptions and structures.
Considering what is conveyed in Peter Bakker's tubemaps as concept maps versus mindmaps a la Tony Buzan, it occurred to me that tubemaps allow for interaction among the concepts, while mindmaps focus more on elaboration of associations (a fanout). That's obvious in retrospect, but it is indeed a nice feature of tubemaps especially for concept mapping. Of course, tube maps can be used to map the lay of other lands, not just concept spaces or underground rail networks, and allow the expression of progression or staging not just interaction.
8/30/11: Oh. I hadn't seen a prior tweet by Peter pointing to his Tubemapping, Mind Mapping and Sketchnotes are intertwined! post. I think the points above are not entirely redundant for they shade things a bit differently, though they are related.
In another post, Peter shares his idea that tubemaps are good for mapping lines of thought, with a pointer to a post that makes these points:
"Hume thinks that our imagination is part of the answer, and it operates according to three principles of association: resemblance, contiguity (in space and time), and cause and effect. If I see a sketch of Churchill, I’ll think of what it resembles, namely the man Churchill. (The principle of resemblance explains why staring at clouds is sometimes rewarding.) Thinking about my living room leads on to thoughts of nearby rooms. Reflection on a few beers makes me think about tomorrow’s hangover. There’s room for one or two more principles, but they might just be complicated versions of cause and effect."
-- Lines of Thought, James Garvey, June 11, 2009
Mindmaps render our branches of association, freeing our working memory so we can expand other branches while still holding what we have done in view. Being able to explore and see interactions (in addition to associations) is a neat contribution of tubemaps -- and a good reason to use a pencil. :-) Peter's tweets about mechanical pencils have more significance now. :-) I was introduced to mechanical pencils doing math as an undergrad and I think that alone contributed significantly to my grades which contributed to my confidence and love of math! ;-) Sara (11) draws a lot-lot-lot and she introduced me to the squishable, reformable artist's erasers and those are super cool too, because they keep the hand busy while thoughts take shape.
I like Peter's sense of humor (and conversation), and that does bring to mind -- for a lot of my sketching I use a marker. And in a lot of our architectural work too. I have no pretensions when it comes to my sketch ability, but what I like about accepting what I draw out, is that it lets me see what my subconscious had in mind. But yes, erasers are useful for erasing and editing too:
"An architect's most useful tools are an eraser at the drafting board — and a wrecking bar at the site." – Frank Lloyd Wright
Of course the point is about being willing to see alternatives and change our minds, and a pencil+eraser handily conveys that willingness. Still, markers convey a boldness (that can be seen at a distance) yet an undoneness, a sketchiness that is one of those subtle subliminal difference makers in the kind of socio-technical, co-creating collaborative work we do. We're bold and confident, but humble and flexible and we can accommodate our and others ideas so that we create our architecture. More along these lines about architects sketching here.
Returning to tubemaps: I had just viewed tubemaps as a way to visualize paths, routes, connections and they are good for that. There are so many circumstances in which a journey or wayfinding metaphor is useful. I hadn't thought of them as an alternative to mindmaps, and given Peter's introduction, I do find that they are interesting and useful, and I'm glad to have them in my toolkit (for myself and to share). I'm not an all-or-nothing, one best choice, kind of person. I can see myself still using mindmaps a lot, because sometimes one wants to follow streams of associations without thinking about connections and interactions or deciding where to put what. But then I can also see using mindmaps to draw out those connections. It is helpful as we explore and as we communicate to be able to switch views, to add texture, but also to prompt a different flow of thought, to draw attention with something novel and interesting, or to connect with a different cognitive style, to have these different diagrams/models/map styles to draw on.
Anyway, I had fun with the tubemap styled overview for my journal topic map, because I like the connections and route metaphor. On the inner loop, we have:
On the larger loops we have these primary routes:
Aren't those decent primary routes to take through our field? :-) So, you see, I'm grateful for the way to visualize what I'd previously used our triangle logo for the core, and a tetrahedron for the core + plus context (lifecycle, organizational and motivational).
Jotting notes about sketching, I noted: Observing, with imaginative intervention, you might say, is the process of asking questions. Ah questions -- the "right" questions, the questions that open us to new realms of understanding and then capability, are perhaps the true genius of geniuses. Geniuses like ☼Einstein. But also like Gandhi and King and Mandela. The latter group being social geniuses, men who understood the human condition, which enabled them to ask how we advance it. In the pragmatic now of social change, but also in the large, in bigger terms of how to live.
8/30/11: Ah, by now you're thinking I'm connected into some pretty amazing circles:
Either that, or they've all been reading Getting Past ‘But’" which makes much of asking questions. And telling stories.
That is an interesting twist -- if we have IQ, EQ and CQ, do we have geniuses in each? And do we point to Steve Jobs+Jonathan Ives as a remarkable combinatorial genius? The Wright Brothers too. And doesn't that point in an interesting direction? Two examples of collective genius, where teamwork is so profound and deep as to amplify great individuals so their combined genius surpasses that of individuals who have only their encounters with the minds of others (through books and reverse engineering and such) to leverage. We can make compute resources collaborate and get a Watson, and a whole value network collaborates to put out an Apple product, for example. The notion of a new kind of living organism created through networks of sentience, intelligence, processing power and action is being explored variously these days (Ross Dawson's slideset is an interesting peek at one such exploration). So we have these networks, sometimes fractal, sometimes very messy and ad hoc but often self-organizing into clearer structural hierarchies (within latticed networks). But what drew my attention was this smaller composite of very closely interacting minds that amplify and draw on each other, magnifying, reacting to, extending the "intelligence" of each but also working so effectively in combination that we can see the combined intelligence as a unit. When I think of that, I am reminded of Kent Beck's tweet (referring to this video: The True Value of Partnerships):
As partnerships go, I have the grace of working intimately with Dana Bredemeyer. Our kids often ask us to leave our work in the office. As if I could! I think hiking and kayaking and such is just extended space to mash ideas together. But also to drift. Letting the subconscious play. And to talk about entirely other things, which end up, in surprising ways, informing how I think about architecture.
8/29/11: I don't have a crystal ball; my prescience comes from experience reading people but it is remarkable that I am drawn to Steve Jobs "How to live before you die" talk the day before he retires, and drawn back to Kent's tweet from May the day before he tweets his vision letter expressing his hunger for deep connection. (Makes you want to pay more attention to me huh? Just kidding!) Well, Kent took that hunger and turned it into the articulation of a dream, a vision for himself, and he set the ball in play. I say "awesome! well done! and thanks Kent, you've given me a great homework exercise for the Architectural Leadership workshop." In my dream I say it, anyway. ;-)
Oh, have you seen futureMe.org? Isn't it a neat idea (but don't judge what is possible from the public examples)? Send an email to your future self, outlining your vision and hopes for yourself. If I imagine standing before my future self having failed in my quest, I feel so much compassion for the future me I have to get busy! And how about this: send an email to your kids in the future, telling them how you feel about them now? That is a variant on a neat idea a talented architect and wonderful person, Jim, shared with me several years ago -- in his case, on each of his children's (all 6 of them) birthday every year he wrote a letter to the child and put it away until his or her 18th birthday.
8/28/11 Of gods and God
This is an interesting contemplation on atheism and religion: The New Atheism, James Wood, August 26, 2011.
We often talk about "religions" in metaphorical terms in organizations, indicating the golden calf we make of the technology du jour, or other "belief" camps. The need to work across these entrenchments and be able to not just co-exist peacefully, but create sustainable organizations and nations, makes this a very interesting area of thoughtful sensemaking for "statesmen" of nations and organizations.
8/28/11 Elevated Silliness
I thought this must be a leftover April Fool's Day prank, but indeed it's from The Guardian today:
So was I sleeping when the world declared every day a fool's day? Well, my my, it's about time!
8/31/11: To demonstrate how wonderful a talk can be with Powerpoint rather than index cards providing the small navigational memory prompts the speaker needs, take a look at Software Quality – You Know It when You See It, presented by Erik Dörnenburg, Aug 30, 2011. After a while Erik shifts to visualizations, but during the set-up part of the talk he is using mostly Powerpoint bullets. Well, he is talking and the bullets only come into view if he wants to jog his memory or put a placeholder in ours. Great content, absorbing speaker. (Thanks to Martin Fowler for the heads up.)
8/28/11 RecrEAtion and FruITion
Have you read Chris Potts novels of those names? What do you think of them? I have tons to read, but if you recommend them, I'll push them up my stack.
This video gives a sense of the power of visualization, a cool view of a mechanism visualized (the mechanism being the Rube-Goldberg machine in our ears):
Yes, it is a physical mechanism, and our visualizations use the very sensually interesting* metaphor of boxes... but it is still a good demonstration of how a very brief visual can convey as much knowledge and insight (and in-sight) as a book (or a least chapter). By which I mean, if I had to read a chapter or even a book on the ear, I would scarcely take away as vivid a learning as I gained watching that video. And I took a year of anatomy (including the lab work) and physiology classes during my undergrad.
* your irony sensors should be on full alert when you read here.
Between our Art of Change: Fractal and Emergent paper and the Steve Jobs+Jonathan Ives partnership, there is a great image of the relationship between strategy and architecture, management and architects. Yep, the interface and the blockhead. No, no! The partnership and close interaction between strategy and architecture that allows for the transmission of strategic intent into capabilities that generate desired system outcomes, along with a tolerance for the uncertainty that goes with empowerment and emergence. We accommodate this messy state, knowing that we will continually advance design excellence reflecting on and clarifying (decluttering, refactoring, resolving, etc.) and simplifying the design as we go.
I wrote The Art of Change: Fractal and Emergent report to give architects an "outside expert" perspective on this relationship to seed in the management team and the architecture team a view of a partnership where architects inform and enable what the management team can accomplish. Some teams have this partnership in place, but even then it helps to articulate the relationship and mechanisms to nurture and amplify their effectiveness. So the report is intended to stimulate, as it were, that hunger for so rich and enabling a partnership between designing the organization's fit and role within the value stream and the capabilities that deliver value into it. The relationship, that is, between the manager and the architect.
Alternately put, every strategic manager should be looking to have (at least*) one of those. Those what? Those Jonathan Ives-styled designers, of course! ;-) A passionate, deliberate architect who translates strategic intent into market-stunning designs. Into more than demand -- into lust. :-) But also taking sustainability -- not just economic, but also social, technical, and environmental sustainability -- into account. A "Jonathan Ives" and a design team who realize the product (or organization) vision, repeated fractally throughout the organization:
2008: The Business Model Jobs is famously known for his affection for The Beatles. In fact, when asked about his business model by television news magazine 60 Minutes he replied: "My model for business is The Beatles. They were four guys that kept each other's negative tendencies in check. They balanced each other. And the total was greater than the sum of the parts. Great things in business are not done by one person, they are done by a team of people."
-- Steve Jobs: His Life in Pictures, CNBC
* At least one? Well, for any initiative that needs great, evolutionary, intentional and emergent design. So every product or service. And every cross-cutting or system-of-system initiative launched to create synergy and connection and compound intelligence.
In short, it would serve you to recommend it. The paper, I mean. But also what the paper recognizes and promotes, by framing and narrating a view of the role of architecture and the architect in a context where the management team wants to do great "ding in the Universe" kinds of things. Yep. To put a ding in the universe -- or at least set the global social bell of our times joyously chiming.
8/29/11 Partnering Well!
A female cardinal (bird) flew into our office door and lay stunned, then struggled to get up but couldn't fly. She was tweeting her distress and a male cardinal brought her something to eat, putting it in her beak. That was such a touching demonstration of deep partnering right before our eyes while I was busy writing a piece about partnering!
Life is so full of Serendipity!
8/29/11 The Architect's Journey
I noticed that Grady Booch's latest on architecture column is now posted. It is titled "The Architect's Journey" and the title refers more to the closing (and the Philippe Kruchten quote about working in the dark ;-). It is, as Grady's essays are, wonderful -- not least because Grady stimulates that excited "yes, and" kind of thinking. Some people are more like a heckler than a muse to me, and I appreciate that stimulation of my "push-back" muscle. But the resonance that Grady strikes engenders more of that and, and, and kind of thinking-excitement in response.
8/29/11 Twain Explains!
I guess... my journal is like this... Even those who think of themselves as awestruck seekers aren't going to go stepping into that puddle... well, of course, there are rare exceptions. People who will step in puddles. Even when warned. Remember this (beginning "warning: leaky thoughts; danger: flash floods"):
Yes, the photos above were from a few years ago. This is the same spot, earlier this year when the water was considerably higher still:
Ok, so what are all the words in my journal about then? Ah yes:
Image source: 17 Mark Twain Quotes for Leaders, wbriggs, Aug 29, 2011
Just kidding. Although the wall of words does make me less cautious because, well, of those who do read, few read here. Still, though one has to dig-dig-dig to find them, the mass of words serves to hide aphorism gems and nuggets of wisdom, does it not? Oh... you're thinking:
Image source: 17 Mark Twain Quotes for Leaders, wbriggs, Aug 29, 2011
Uh, yes, I do rather turn my sense of humor upon myself. Why? Well, who better to laugh at? I call it self-(d)e(f)facing humor -- you know, a combination of self-effacing and self-defacing. Lincoln was great at it. I mean, he must have been. He said, "If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?"
8/29/11 (Avoiding) Dark Nerdy Corners
"On the nature of models, umm, the systems community tends to run headlong into dark nerdy corners if you don’t stop it and in one of these corners are endless debates and conflicts about the nature of models and modeling and whether these should be epistemological or ontological and …. Well suffice to say people get terribly excited and irate about it. Some of these arguments have gone on for decades – I kid you not."
-- Patrick Hoverstadt, LinkedIn discussion
We focus on a minimal set of views supporting decisions that clarify strategy and value and the essential cornerstones of organizing structure and key mechanisms. Everything else is dependent on contextual value, drivers and forces. Sure, in the sea of uncertainty, ambiguity and chaos in many organizations in these turbulent and complex times, many of us want to work on something concrete and "safely" analytical. And such analysis has a place. But only when we know where to focus that lens of attention. Our focal mantra comes from Bucky Fuller: "What at this extraordinary moment is the most important thing for me to be thinking about?" But we broaden it to the "we" of the team.
8/29/11 Conflicts of Interest
We are putting together a workshop that focuses on persuasion and influence, listening and negotiating skills, and so forth (we deal with these topics in the Architectural Leadership and Other Skills workshop too, but that has a more broad slate of skills we draw attention to and work on). Anyway, Dan Ariely's latest TED talk "Beware Conflicts of Interest" is well timed.
8/29/11 Link Roundup
Systems and Enterprise
Soft stuff: Innovation, Interpersonal Skills...
Feeding Creativity (or just making excuses to have fun):
In addition to the day-to-day work, I have a paper to finish, a chapter to write, and a book that needs a lot more work. Yesterday would be better. Today would be good.
So, back to boxes. Hold me to it, ok? You know, say nice things about my work and be impatient to review it so you get first access and your name in the acknowledgments. ;-) Generally speaking, in papers or reports the Acknowledgments section -- if there is one at all -- is very brief. But I make a point of indicating the role the reviewers played because, given our iterative feedback-oriented improvement process, it is not just a superficial one, but rather one where real value is added. So, that is another place we differ from usual practice, and another place where the Cutter editors have had to bend their rules and make allowances for my peculiarities, but in the end I think they and we are better off for the accommodation. In short, the acknowledgments give us a way to give credit without any implication of blame. :-)
Early on, EA = TA, then the scope widened, and EA = EWITA = enterprise-scope(TA + SA + IA), then widened again, to EA = BA + EWITA. Now, at least in some conceptions, BA is widening in scope, so BA = BA + BT = BA + sum(ITA) aggregating over the federation of technology units serving business units. How the world swirls!
EA hit a rocky patch in the Recession, in many cases it was viewed as a luxury that could be cut with cost controls and downsizing. Add to this the problem of EA being cast as an IT function under the CIO, and it was hamstrung in terms of the kinds of contributions it could make. BA is not encumbered with that IT geek expectation set, so it is more natural, in many cases, to see BA move out of IT. I think it would be an unfortunate to split BA away from ITA, creating another link in the chain between strategic management and the technology that is interwoven now with human capabilities, actions and intelligence in everything from innovation to supply chains. This would again shut technology out of the strategic conversation, and that is the wrong direction to be moving in a world that competes ever more on its technology-enabled capabilities.
But EA has an image problem, and rebranding and retargeting is one way to address that image problem. Waves of creative destruction keep reshaping other spaces, so having a flexible approach to architecting at the organizational level is important.
When we view business capabilities as the focal design element of enterprises, we don't give anything a priori emphasis. For example, we don't have business architecture represented as one leg of a 4-legged stool, with infrastructure (TA), solutions (SA) and information (IA) being the other three. As we design business capabilities, we do what architects do -- we consider concerns and views that support their consideration, as well as views that help us achieve synergies and resolve tensions and tradeoffs across the views and the concerns they address. That is, we dance between holistic, system views and various decompositions that help us consider how to design and build or evolve the capability.
That is, EA = BCA = interacting capabilities[BA and BT].
8/30/11 Steve Jobs, Apple and the Big C
Two things have been going on that are intertwined and so hard to separate, yet good to acknowledge. On the one hand, there is the perception that Apple's success has been masterminded and steered so much by Steve Jobs that there is debate about whether it will falter without him. This is an investor concern. And an industry concern.
On the other hand, there is a crescendo of well-earned tribute to a man we all (for the most part; there are exceptions) want to thank. Tribute he would get whether he was retiring healthy or ill. But all the more heart-wrenching being that he is suffering not just a disease but the process of having to let go of what he loves. First, his company. Hopefully reducing the stress of being at Apple's helm will help him live longer and be more happy in the circle of his family's love.
So, yes, this is the retirement of one of our eras great rainmakers, perhaps the greatest. Somebody who changed our lives in ways we appreciate, and contributed to how we see ourselves as technologist-designers and as humans using enabling technology. Even if he doesn't directly see the tributes, part of what we are doing is acknowledging that Steve has shown what we -- humanity -- is capable of. He has stretched our imaginations and changed conceptions and expectations. Expectations we have for how technology should be, and how it should enable and expand what we are capable of, and expectations for what we are and can be. Expectations for what companies can achieve, and individuals.
We want to say, with all the crescendo of our united voices, "Steve, you put a ding so loud in our time, that it will reverberate through the ages and even, such as the Universe is able to receive it, the Universe."
Cancer is a terrorist and a thief. It robs us prematurely of people who have so much to give. But worse, it is a horrific ordeal for a person and a family to go through. So we also feel deep sorrow when anyone has to suffer the horrors of cancer -- and when it is so heralded a figure, it puts cancer right smack in the middle of our attention space, not in the dark corner we usually shunt such horrors into. No matter what one believes about what comes upon death, the physical and emotional pain, and certainty and uncertainties, all put cancer in the category of drawn out torture. No less! Well, I hope Steve and his family will put a fortune into creating as much of a transformation in cures for cancer and prevention of cancer as Steve wrought in the technology-experience-enablement space.
9/8/11: Steve Jobs, World's Greatest Philanthropist, Dan Pallota, September 2, 2011
8/30/11 Cause for Pause
When we think in terms of economic sustainability, we have to be thinking in terms of environmental sustainability:
8/30/11 Why Twitter is Addictive
This, right here, is why Twitter is so addictive:
I laughed out loud! I so needed that after a morning of tying the ribbon on the corporate tax data.
I told Dana and he laughed deliciously.
And to demonstrate the effectiveness of the social medium -- help was on the way in pretty short order:
I told Dana and he laughed more.
This stuff is important to LIFE! Finding the fun and the funny, gives us the kind of resilience we need for architecting is, yes, technical but also, yes, social, and, sorry but yes, architecting entails passionately working at what can be very difficult pressure points within the organization. It is moreover a role which requires sometimes joyously and sometimes desperately working at the cross-roads of various intellectual and practical domains from engineering to art and magic (or applied neuroscience and psychology).
8/30/11 Absolute MUST WATCH Video
Well, you may not agree, but since it only takes 5 minutes, it's worth watching to see whether it should be in your "stuff to pep up the team" folder*:
Genius! Do you see how he gets the pat and slap thing right off? But his lessons about failure, about humility, about design, these speak right to the heart of architecting!
This article and the videos it embeds are both great learning and a great tribute to Steve Jobs:
* You do have a "team pep" folder and it contains such iconic cultural gems as the "this is gonna be our finest hour" snip from Apollo 13, right? (More about it here: Apollo 13: NASA's finest hour?) Ok, so what else do you have in it? Tell me, do! Please. :-)
8/30/11 Of Note to Visual Architects
The points made by Jennifer Egan at minutes 2:47 - 3:44 are of special interest to us "thinking with a pencil" people. She talks about her organic writing process and letting the genius of her unconscious flow with fast handwritten scribbling letting the story unfold:
"I'm looking for the unconscious to do what I'm not able to do, not smart enough to do."
And then when she has a draft she types it up and systematically edits it, applying all her analytic powers.
Aside: This pulsing between creative organic ideating conceptualizing divergence and analytical deciding converging is covered in our Getting Past ‘But’ paper, and elsewhere of course, but note the map of the paper at the beginning. Don't you like it? The Wheel is the story, and the wheel as image plays its way through the paper. The repeated pulsing of divergence and convergence also shows up explicitly and implicitly in the paper.
And why we have to learn from a young Dutchman living in the 17 hundreds:
That TED talk is titled "Dan Gilbert: Exploring the frontiers of happiness," but it is really about expected value and how bad we are at estimating probabilities and value, and a cognitive bias that happens as we add time into the picture. This lends insight into choices we make affecting climate change, but also investments in innovation and architecture. After presenting a not so happy picture of our tendency, Dan Gilbert asks "How is it then that we idiots could put a man on the moon?" Our subjectivity may help us not be paralyzed in the face of choice, but we need to impose some reasoning on the dilemmas we face. Not one or the other. But both.
Given how bad we are at estimating, is this surprising:
8/30/11 Some Friends You Are!
Hmpf! I asked you to hold me to my paper and book writing resolution, and look at what I did! I escape from the numerous analytical rat holes of number sifting on the company books to an explosion of "cut loose" scavenging and hole-patching along all the leaky dikes of our field and no-one calls me to order!! I'm supposed to spend my chopped up bits of in-between time finishing a paper no one wants... Sigh. You could at least pretend to be interested in it. :-)
Interesting tweet stream, working at punching our notion of capabilities into clearer shape. I value that, and I'm impressed that though the capabilities part of the discussion was launched provocatively with:
the discussion stayed very even-keeled, with gentlemanly give and take and keen exploration.
At any rate, I just wanted to collect my thoughts, and this Trace is not intended as strident advocacy or anything obnoxious like that. I have a style of articulation that may seem more "imposing a view" than I intend. On the other hand, to other people, my style is not nearly grand-standy enough, but I'd rather fail on the side of humility and flexibility and openness, than err on the side of block-headed single-mindedness and arrogance... So, with that as framing, take the "argument" below as framing a mock-up not staunch positioning of entrenched dogmatism. Alternately put, I'm a coward and I don't like boxing so don't draw me into the ring. Whatever. You'll see me as you will. For my part, I like the halo I see in the mirror. Just kidding. Goodness!! Self-defacing satire is my thing, remember? Ok, to work:
[11/7/11: Just to level-set. We leverage our common understanding of capabilities -- that is, our abilities (in this case, of the business, rather than an individual). In enterprise architecture terms, then, we ask "what capabilities do we need to execute our strategy?" Now, to make a case for capabilities rather than saying 'process has a "what" and a "how" aspect and capabilities = "process what"':]
Business capabilities are a conceptual design element (i.e., an abstraction) -- just as business processes on a high level architectural view are conceptual design elements (also abstractions). These abstractions may bear the same name. But the meaning is different. Processes focus on activities and flows to achieve outcomes. Capabilities are multi-faceted; they are "bundles" made up of what people, process, technology, resources enable us to do -- what they bring to the business table -- to accomplish outcomes. For example: Process has implications for skills. Capabilities include skills. Alternately put, while business process views skills and motivation and so forth as an enabler of process, capabilities doesn't presume any rank ordering in advance. That is, capabilities don't a priori and without regard to context put process first, and have process determine what skills are needed. A capability may well be provided by virtue of a set of people acting as self-activating and responsive, rather than following a process, defined or definable. Returning to skills as an example: skills may grant a capability that a process may amplify or thwart, and vice versa.
Sure, we can advocate that the way we define and view processes in organizations should run the gamut from ad hoc, informal and totally unstructured (in the people in the moment, impromptu and extemporaneous and creative) to rationalized and structured. And that gets us a good distance along. But capabilities are multifaceted, and that is why we have advocated capability maps as a key EA view.
I think the reason d'être for capabilities as an enterprise design element (enabling reflection of the system as it is -- the extant design; and a medium in which to explore and express design intent) is well expressed in this point (and the blog post it is drawn from):
"In a complex system, leaders have to rewrite their playbooks and re-jigger their organizations quickly."
-- Rita McGrath, The World is More Complex Than It Used To Be, August 31, 2011
Enterprise architecture provides the views to contemplate and consider possibilities and options in a holistic way.
As for this notion that capability maps map one-to-one onto business process maps, well, should we be surprised? Where we are coming from is enterprises conceived of in terms of rationalized and formalized processes and these are easy to "spot."
At the individual level, we can reasonably ask: Is my capability the same as my process? No. I can do things different ways, with the same capabilities, to accomplish the same intent. And I can do different things, within a span, with my capabilities, but I have to develop new capabilities if I go outside that span. Capabilities are a useful design view. Processes too.
A capabilities orientation doesn't say process doesn't matter, though it sure does seem like a process orientation is causing people to argue that capabilities don't matter!
Aside: I for one don't equate business processes with automated workflows, though often the reason that BP analysis dives so deep is to automate workflows.
... Ah... Twitter wit and wisdom to the rescue:
8/31/11 Waste Not Those Brightest Minds!
Consider what we have done -- we've created a world where search and social is funded by ad revenue hell bent on selling more stuff to people who don't want or need it... Result? Climate change.
Better if we create products that "sell themselves" through word-of-net. Products that so compellingly sell themselves because they enhance our lives while paying down our environmental debt. Socially responsible products!
But then who would pay for search and social? Socially responsible people!
On utopia. We, though, live in a world that has to make some more sensible choices or we're sending our children on Spaceship Earth on a short cut to dystopia!
Anyway, Greg's tweet bought Grady Booch's keynote at IBM Impact (01:18:05 - 01:33:45) again to mind.
9/1/11: Besides, advertizing is a "middleman" kind of thing,
and that is
being written out of the equation, so search and social will have to figure
out how to create an alternative revenue stream anyway.
8/31/11 Bad (Thought) Leadership?
I very much admire Rosabeth Moss Kanter. [Right at that point, Steve Jobs would be using his stool as a shield... ;-) Pat and slap is such a persistent, oft-used pattern, isn't it?] But it does rather occur to me that with all the negativism we are displaying, HP's self-image must be taking quite a considerable whack right now. And that can undermine a great company! If the company has the wherewithal, the catcalls might strengthen the resolve of its people to surmount this identity crisis. Well, I sure do hope that HP once again outdoes the expectations of prognosticators...
That said, HP does have an identity issue and the market needs to be persuaded that it has a conception of itself that will build a bright future. If I was at the helm, I'd be rebuilding Bill and Dave's company. And I wasn't even there in the time of Bill and Dave! But on the principles of The HP Way, they had built a global Smart System-of-Systems Company poised to dominate a space that IBM is only now in full and determined concert marching all of its remarkable intellect and forces to claim. At a time when HP naively looks over at IBM and sees with envy only the flag of Enterprise Analytics.
Well, at least that is what I make of what IBM is doing. Or what I would be doing, if I was IBM. The Smarter Plant rubric is powerful! A powerful communicator. And a powerful magnet.
So much for HP. Rosabeth Moss Kanter has been doing a wonderful job of countering the gloomy voices on the economy with hope and humor.
As we stare over the edge of another dip into Recession, too many thought leaders think that the responsible thing to do is warn people about what they see in the abyss. That's all well and good. Tell it like you see it. But see it like you should tell it -- look for where the Hope lies, and tell that too!
As for me, I see such a huge flowering of innovation in every space. We are learning about and advancing humanities, science and technology as such a rate and possibilities are opening up in so, so many areas that I can't but see enormous opportunity for everyone bold enough to act on the recognition that people are sick and tired of Recessionary blues and very ready for optimism and rebuilding. And we have such a huge amount to do to regroove the planet for sustainability. We do, though, need some songbook to sing from, and the doom and gloom songbook is a downward spiral into huge destruction of social fabric.
8/31/11 Story Form in a Nugget
"Your story, reduced to its most basic elements: character (WHO) and conflict (which results from the character’s efforts to overcome the OBSTACLE and reach their GOAL)."
-- John Robert Marlow, Building the Perfect LogLine,
Relevant? Yep, as a structure for an "elevator pitch" for your vision, for example. Thanks for the pointer, Peter.
8/31/11 An Inkling
8/31/11 OASIS Reference Architecture