Thinking about...


A Trace in the Sand

by Ruth Malan

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Architects Architecting Architecture

March 2010

03/04/10 Your Co-ordinates

This journal contains notes I take as I explore what it takes to be a great software, systems and enterprise architect. This is a journal of the more traditional sort--a place to keep track of pieces of my exploration, and a place to write as part of my meaning-making process.

03/04/10 Using Our Discontent

"You might say I'm looking for some work. I can frighten people with my mind. I can tear their souls out with the diamonds in my eyes. I have found my rage and I am willing to use it. I can juggle three basketballs. I can write faster than I can think. I'm convinced I can defend Microsoft, single handedly, in an argument against dozens of the unhinged. I prefer to do, than to talk. I've invented my own passions, and have faced my fears. I confuse courage with desperation, and lattes with capachinos."  -- Scott Berkun

I love that "I have found my rage and I am willing to use it." Of course, I don't like it when rage is expressed in abusive, self-concept-dismantling terms, but the sense of that--the finding the big things that are wrong, and using that sense of internal unrest to motivate and impassion is very powerful! Design integrity encompasses the integrity of the user facing design and design of the system gutsArchitectures, even when they start out with the best of intentions, tend to morph towards an eclectic mix of stuff reused from "legacy" systems, code from libraries and open source bits, along with the new bits, and it takes strong leadership to impart to this part-intentional, part-emergent architecture a governing aesthetic that unifies and lends integrity--structural integrity but also design integrity in the larger sense of a compelling design ethos. Design that delights--the user with an experience that surprises in key differentiating ways, and developers with an opportunity to do work that is good for the mind and the spirit because it is a call to excellence within pragmatic deliver-real-value-in-competitive-timeframes boundaries, not to mention business leaders with the value it creates for the business. So design that delights, yes, but also the integrated "spirit" of the thing--that makes it more than a Frankenstein's monster that howls because it has no good fit with the world. Well, anyway, there's plenty to "rage" about, to engender the internal compulsion to create discontent with mediocrity and inspire, and keep inspiring, a design that distinguishes the system and the people who nurture it through its evolution.  

And I love the self-(d)-effacing wit in "I can write faster than I can think."  

[Oh, you like the irony in that placement, do you? Sigh... I get no respect!]

3/4/10 Abundance in a Time of Scarcity

Oh dear, I've been so busy I neglected to mention--Grady Booch's Part II of "Software Abundance in the Face of Economic Scarcity" is wonderful! Grady has such a talent for capturing the essential with deft brevity yet conveying with such vividness!

(I should learn from him, huh?! Oh yeah, right, every other question you treat as rhetorical, but this you're prepared to tell me you agree with. Hmmpf!)

3/5/10 Courage To Lead

In January I had more time, but I struggled to get sunk into the Cutter Report and I felt like I just had no light. In retrospect this makes sense literally, since we're in the Northern hemisphere, but my struggle was more in the "unbearable lightness of being sense"--the sense of not been seen, not making a difference or having an impact on the world during this glance of time that I get to spend here. At the time, Dana responded to my couched yelp into the universe of indifference, emailing from The Netherlands:

"I love that you do it at all, I admire the bravery, and the discipline. I especially like it when you surprise or challenge me; then I know it's you out there and not me, and the whole body of the work is such that it convinces me of the value of the whole body of the work, including the hidden parts, the I-don't-get-it-at-first parts, and the future parts. "

I thought of this because today Daniel Stroe heartened me with:

"I admire your inspired courage to write fresh"

When we do the things we feel passionate about, we don't generally stand at the brink feeling like we need to summon courage, be brave--we just get on and do it. That said, when I look back at what I've done, I gasp at the spunk because I am shy and know that I tread an unlikely path through this software world and, though courage wouldn't be a word that came quickly to mind in my self-characterization, it is brave to put oneself at the mercy of people, some of whom are out to undo anyone who stands out from the crowd--to undo in negative dismantling ways. Possibly they are uncomfortable with themselves and they are projecting their fracture onto others, but whatever the impetus, there is emotional, and even physical, danger in leading especially in public ways (which is why I like that this is only quasi-public--potentially but not actually public).

But there is another sense of "undo" that is the best kind of undoing that people do for one another, and it is the making of new possibility, washing away the inertial binding of habit in the way we view and what we do. Daniel wrote something that is consonant with my personal orientation: 

"relations between people are like rivers, always shaping new formats, creating landscapes. Not always a fast pacing process, rather a continuous reposition, re-definition, re-discovery."

This resonates with a poem my subconscious wrote for Dana (I can hardly claim credit for it just was there, full-formed, on the doorstep of my mind) long ago, but which I think contains, as a poem should, a bigger kind of truth that is not only local to one relationship. The truth is well revealed in Daniel's words, and Thoreau's philosophy, though I think it goes further too. And it is this undoing, this changing one's capacity to change, that takes us beyond our contained self to making something entirely new possible. I like that it contains a continuous cycle: rain into rivers into oceans, which is where rain comes from, so a continuous giving back and taking... (and more that I won't go into here...) ...if we keep being open to imagination and change, we keep moving and stay interesting, and we do this for one another and ourselves!

So we get to my point in "talking" so personally here. Collaboration, the dance of minds, the bringing together of different histories, different experiences, different perspectives and personalities, creates new capabilities in the people and hence in what they build in the world. Collaboration creates more than the simple sum of each person's work; collaboration, among people and in systems, creates something new not possible in the parts alone.

This is astonishing, isn't it?

3/5/10 Architecture, Integrity and Leadership

In childhood development, most children progress from playing alone, to playing independently but side-by-side, to playing fully co-operative games. In software, we tend to regress. :-)  I tease, mostly myself. But it is something to think about. One approach to "collaborating" is to do some serial and parallel work and cobble it together. And another approach is to enter more fully into the undoing of collaborating, that making something entirely different possible because the stasis of our own thinking patterns has been disrupted by the astonishing others we get to work with. Bumping into other minds in a trusting, respectful way, puts us on a different trajectory. The new connections that are the very essence of innovation are made possible by the surprising new insights we ourselves have, once we allow others to bump the dust off our sights and blend what they now see with what we now see. (This sounds very "rose colored lenses" and one can devil's advocate any interesting proposition! So it is worth remembering: Context is king, while diversity is queen. And out of their marriage, innovation is born.)

At the same time, the system will have distinguishing design integrity only if this is what someone pays attention to, and that someone has to be the architect.  What we build in ourselves is what enables us to build in the world. While this is a nice little idea for all of humanity, it is especially important for the architect. This is because the demands on the architect are so multi-dimensional, but most importantly the architect must have a finely tuned individual aesthetic and be able to move that into design excellence that is a curious kind of excellence for it is at once highly compromised and not--which is to say that it is pragmatic without being mediocre, not even close! Alternatively put, the circle of excellence is clear and the vectors of good-enough are just that, and no less. Now a purely technical architect can strive for technical greatness, but will fall short because design is not only a technical matter. Yes, designs are killed with shoddy structure, but great designs do more than stand up to stresses and strains. There is art in achieving design congruence and balance, simplicity, elegance and understandability, and more. Further, in the words of Rob Forbes (TED, 2006),

"The first job of good design is to serve a social purpose." 

That is, it must serve people--users, developers, the business, and other stakeholders in the value network. Rob Forbes looks at urban spaces for design principles to apply to the design of things we use, and I highly recommend watching that TED talk (on ways of seeing). I mean literally--he travels around the world looking at and taking photos of urban spaces. He integrates that personal journey, that questing, through other dimensions of the world into himself, into how he sees and experiences the world, and that influences his designs, informs them and gives them a unique stamp of individuality and excellence. Now, a lot of what he learns from this applies very directly to our technical design process (the role of patterns, of emergence and happy accident and of intent and governance, to touch on just a few--leaving the joy of discovery in that talk to you), but it also applies to how we see and create value--the composite of capabilities and their qualities that make the system and its architecture.  Remembering that architecture is, yes, about decomposition and relationships, but it is fundamentally about making possible the unique and integrated likeness of being, that "quality with no name" quality of the system (referring, of course, to Christopher Alexander's Timeless Way of Building). The likeness of being that is about simplicity and internal harmony and balance as well as unity, congruence, self-consistency.

A person of integrity is a person who shows up as being good, but also internally aligned. There is no incongruity between the external person we honor and their internal value structure--for misalignment tends to show through. We do have to work hard on ourselves to maintain this internal and internal-external alignment since we're not all Mother Theresa's--not even close. Likewise, design integrity is not just about the skin, nor just about the guts, but also about the congruence between a promise of goodness and internal structures, mechanisms and collaborations that deliver this goodness.

3/5/10 The Curious Thing About Curiosity

In this Conceptual Age (or--if you'll suffer the self-indulgence--this Innovation Age), curiosity is next to imagination and before knowledge, though schools reverse this tuple. Knowledge is important and takes huge work to amass to the point of world-class expertise, I'll grant. And yet it takes imagination to conceive of what is not, and curiosity to explore what is--to ask "why?" and "what if?" and "why not?"--to allow our imagination to begin to invent, to conceive of, what is not. So these are all important to innovation, but imagination and curiosity are what give focus to the discovery and application of knowledge to make something new in the world. Of course, nothing is created in the world without action.

We can build too much in ourselves, and nothing in the world; we can so focus on action, that our actions become meaningless and uninformed--haphazard experiments; and we can try to apply Howard Behar's "Think like a man of action, act like a man of thought."

3/5/10 The Curious Thing About Tradeoffs

I liked Roger Martin's The Opposable Mind, but I also think tradeoffs are our friends, too. We just have to know, to get clear about, where we will strive for excellence, and where good enough will be just that. Looking for "the integrative solution" is a good discipline, but it is also worthwhile remembering that "doing/having it all" is unlikely to be a good thing for anyone. Striking a balance is important, because it makes us aware of where we are stretching. Where we stretch and strive for excellence takes focus--focus that will be taken away from other things that are also on our slate of concern.

Apple created a concept around which an ecosystem could form: a computing platform for people with a discerning aesthetic sensibility--for artists and tech trail blazers. You can charge more for that, but you also have to wrap discernment and design aesthetics into the entire experience to carry it off.  We have to pick the vectors of differentiation that will underlie our design ethos. Cost is a vector consumer choices will be weighed against, and Apple decided that a sizeable-enough market cared less about cost so long as they got more on the vectors related to personal expression, aspiration and discernment. The key though, is that this created an attractor for those who shared the design ethos. That kind of meaning making is essential to the creation of an ecosystem with webs of interdependence that pull entities in, amplifying the health and viability of the ecosystem through strong network effects (in the social and economic sense).

Btw, I've seen "ecosystem" treated by architects with hype antigens. It is time to get over it. Ecosystem shapers are the power players in the market, and technology is the medium for connections.

3/6/10 Pinnacles in the Landscape of our Time

Natalie Merchant and Peter Gabriel have, in their separate ways, created albums that let poetry and music delight and rouse us! Leave Your Sleep indeed! Natalie Merchant set out to celebrate childhood, but in doing so produced something that is at once delightful and a deep exploration of music and meaning--thankfully we can preview videos and audio, even though we still have to wait for the album... That is one amazing woman, and she has drawn on collaborations with a world of musicians.

Peter Gabriel's Scratch My Back album is out in the US now! I've been too busy to remember that until this moment! I'll have to see if it lives up to the promise of the pre-release material.

3/7/10 Delta Humor

Ok, if you've been "with me" for a while, you've watched Sir Ken Robinson's TED talk, and so you know his delta on "if a tree falls in the forest and no-one hears it, did it make a sound?" Well, in case you need reminding, it is "If a man speaks his mind and no woman hears him, is he still wrong?" Ok, so here's my delta: "If an architect speaks her mind and no developer hears her, is she still wrong?" As I've told you, that talk is just ripe for parlaying into software terms!

3/7/10 Competing on a Circle of Excellence

I'm suggesting "Competing on a Circle of Excellence: Differentiating where it matters" as a title for a talk I've been invited to do. The "differentiating where is matters" leverages the double entendre--figuring out where excellence matters, and differentiating (competitively) on what matters. Oh, right, the primary audience is product managers, but I think it should be relevant to architects too.

3/12/10 Meebo, Meebo Not

Yesterday, I put a meebo chat box on my page footer. This afternoon I looked in on xkcd for the first time in a while. Did you see today's xkcd? I got rid of the chat box!  :-)

But, it did get me thinking... Don't you think Garr Reynolds would like to showcase my PICTURE IT presentation in The Naked Presenter? Ok, it wasn't entirely naked, but closer than most. ;-) Now at an SEI workshop, Dana Bredemeyer went fully naked, and got some raised eyebrows when he said he'd just flown back from Europe and had no slides for his invited presentation slot. What they didn't realize, is that Dana can totally pull off naked--in the Garr Reynold's sense, of course.  Those at the workshop last week are smiling, 'cos they got Dana naked all week--Dana didn't even turn the projector on!

Well, that's enough of that... though... I dunno Garr. Can you imagine how many coffee "accidents" this will prompt--when guys urge the woman on their team to present naked? 

3/13/10 Other Cheap Stories

The Apple COO (Tim Cook) got a $5m bonus for doing such a good job while Jobs was getting his liver switched out. Now $5m was cheap when you think of it as a way to get major press telling the story that Apple can do just fine without Jobs (to assuage the long-held shareholder fear that the company would crumple if Jobs checked out).

3/13/10 A 2-Speed Fan

Over morning coffee, Dana recounted this story: When he started work at HP (as a developer in the Operating Systems Lab), his project manager took him around and introduced him to people. He'd say "This is Jim; he's a '9ers fan" and "This is Dave; he's a Warriors fan." Dana quickly saw the pattern, and at the next person said "Hi, I'm Dana. I'm a 2-speed fan." His manager was, like, "Hmm, what do they play?"

I chuckled at the story, but was quizzical. "What's a 2-speed?" (To me, you talk about speed on bikes, so I didn't get 2-speed...) He said, "High and Low. A fan with two speeds." So we laughed again--at me.


3/13/10 Unblocked Humor

Ok, if you want the real thing (in humor, that is), try The Best of [Darth] Don. This one is architecturally significant:

Don, “Your project is supposed to use workflow and complex event processing to integrate multiple systems. You are building a high performance pub/sub bus. You either have to change your use case or change your implementation.” Person, “Well, a high performance pub/sub environment is useful. Can’t we use it to solve our integration use case?” Don, “Drano and ex-lax are both useful. But, when I am constipated I do not shout, “Honey, where is the Drano.’”I break all laws of proportion, by Sara B.

Now, I wouldn't usually go here, but given how often laxatives come up for Don... I think it might be useful for him to know about Looza pear juice. Not that I'd have any reason to know about such things. Not being full of c### myself, that is.

[I love the sense of humor in the Universe! And Don. Oh, yes, I did notice his jabberwocky; no worries, I have a vorpal sword and other nonesuch.]

Remember the picture right? Yes, the one Sara drew for me.  Now you know why...

3/13/10 Now You See the Pattern

If you've been following along, you know that the raw humor means I'm crazy busy. For those who are new--yeah, literally! Cindy (at Cutter) told me I've been pushing too long, and better deliver these twins--by Monday would be good. So... I went to see Alice in Wonderland. In 3D. Now I'm thinking these twins have Red Queen heads. I decided that when I grow up, I want to write movies like Avatar and Alice. In 3D. When I grow up. I guess it will be a while yet.

I know, I know, you think I should just do it now. And I know you mean that in the nicest possible way. Thanks. You mean a lot to me too.

So much for appreciating that I broke the "sound barrier" in terms of what is permissible in executive and senior architect reading with that Getting Past "But" Report. Using a children's story and childlike sketches to smuggle the agile architecting donkey no less. Just think of the doors I've opened for you! And I get no thanks. Hmmpf! Goodness knows what you'll make of my Art of Leading: To Lead is To See, To Frame, To Draw fractal report... ;-) Ok, sigh... Dana says the best time to write a movie is when you have a paper due Monday. I guess I'll go write a movie... about a girl who falls down a hole and finds herself... a misfit... among misfits... and finds her muchness... oh right, that one's been done.

oh well...

3/13/10 Get Ready -- for National Pi Day!

Yes, 3.14 is tomorrow! Are you ready for it? And you consider yourself a nerd?

3.14 was also Einstein's birthday. There's a certain order in the universe.

3/14/10: The Google logo today is cool! I got those "order in the universe" warm fuzzies just from looking at it.

3/14/10 From "Just a Few Things..."

This is a page from my Archman Sketchblog:

tight coupling, bad code smells, and addressing the Kludge

I liked the serendipity in the "addressing the Kludge" sketch--I didn't set out to make the kludge look like a face; it just happened. This is what makes sketching so powerful--something new happens that you didn't intend. Perhaps it was in the subconscious and the brain-hand link gave it expression, and perhaps it was just luck. But the result, I feel I can say*, is magical. Why do I think it is magical? Look at archman's arms, and the face. It's a "Hail, oh Kludge" kind of stance. Why am I delighted by that? Well, if the Kludge (aka Big Ball of Mud) is the dominant architectural style by far, is it that perhaps deep down we (the software tribe) honor it, pay homage to it, ...? This might remind you of, or make you want to take a look at, Brian Foote's "Mound Builders of Mountain View."  Dana was delighted at this notion that Archman is at once horrified by the entropic disorder and hallowing complexity. For that is a duality we have to be able to embrace, even as we strive to bring complexity under intellectual management and to shift the system organically through transformations that defy obduracy or decay.

And... if I keep talking about the sketches, you might come to appreciate them... huh?

Those who worry about my reputation will be very relieved when I get less crazy busy... chuckle

* I feel I can say it, because I didn't do it intentionally, so it is more like someone else did it and I'm not taking credit (although I'll keep the copyright) nor applauding myself. ;-)

3/14/10 Too Busy to Chuckle?

Brian Foote... That reminds me! This is from my Cutter Report, and I'm concerned the editors will rip it out; if I put it here at least 4 people may read it (this being quite far down on the page, and realizing that hundreds of hits on this page don't by any means translate into readers):

To be lay-it-on-the-line frank, many of us in the role of architect are introverts who have spent a lot more time getting computers to do what we want them to, than persuading and enrolling people to support and execute a vision[1].   

[1] Thomas Jay Peckish II corroborates this view:

"All too many programs are made in the images of the people who create them: complex, technically sound, but ineffective, often woefully, at communicating with human beings. Why are we surprised?" Thomas Jay Peckish II, February 26, 2009.

But Peckish leaves no sacred cow untipped: 

"Software professionals are presumed by many executives to possess paranormal skills, such as reading their minds, and predicting the future." --Thomas Jay Peckish II, November 19, 2009.

You've never heard of Thomas Jay Peckish II? Well, how about Brian Foote? Yep, The Big Ball of Mud guy. Need we say more?



3/14/10 Who's Willing?

Anybody willing to read Part One of The Art of Change: To Lead is to See, to Frame, to Draw and give us feedback? It might be good... and it might not be... but how would you know if you don't read it?    um... no chuckles required!

Here's the overview (from the introduction to Part One):

Part One of this report explores change, making the case that in this age of innovation and change, architects at various levels of scope have a leadership role to play in creating businesses that are agile--not just giving the appearance of moving fast in the moment, but responding to the specific market-shaping opportunities or game-changing challenges that (part of) the business is facing.

We start out considering change, and present a market lifecycle model, illustrating that the innovation points, and hence the meaning of agility, shifts through the lifecycle. We also explore broad changes that are reshaping the nature of business across industries, highlighting the role of the web of relationships in complex, interdependent business ecosystems. This, in turn, has ramifications for the strategic role of IT as organizations increasingly compete on and for relationships, and on information leverage. And it has implications for architects.

In particular, when architects are absent, the two biggest organizational outcomes that are in jeopardy are value through synergy and system integrity. Both have important consequences for agility. Synergy is needed to see and respond to changes that affect diffuse parts of the business and to create striking and organizationally unique opportunities to innovate offerings or gain efficiencies in internal capabilities. System integrity facilitates changes at least within designed tolerances, and potentially also beyond, by virtue of a more transparent and understood design, and more modular and simple structures.

Yet change, even when intentionally directed, is inherently unpredictable, so we needs-must pragmatically embrace the emergent nature of extemporaneous responses that create "messes" and incur a "debt" of increasing change encumbrance. The role of architects in an agile enterprise, therefore, includes taming the transmogrifying mess created by responsiveness, dynamic learning and accommodation, even while leading with intentionality to build, evolve and sustain the system and its explicit, enabling and constraining architecture decision set.

We observe that high responsiveness demands fractal business strategy setting, so that different parts of the organization can change at different rates, with different response styles adapted to the opportunities in their respective markets. This in turn raises the need for a fractal notion of leadership. Moreover, these different leadership scopes provide a growing grounds for leaders to emerge and gain practice--to start adopting the attitudes and practicing the skills and behaviors that make great leaders; to begin, within the sphere of influence determined by system impact, to practice "to lead is to see, to frame, to draw."

Thus, Part One of this report, dealing with the art of change, is designed to motivate Part Two, dealing with leading change, and leading in a context of change. It is also an illustration of the second part--given the need we see for architects to lead, this is how we have framed--advocated and positioned--the leadership role of the architect in variously changing, adapting organizations.

Let us turn our attention then, to our framing of change and what it means for IT and architects.   

I tend to say "my" report, but that is an unfair representation since Dana plays an integral role in developing the work that is expressed. I lay down most of the words, so am entirely to blame for inadequacies in organization and expression. But we collaborate very closely on the work, and that gives me the words. And we collaborate on tuning up the words to make the paper more grokable. Dana is amazing to work with, because he is brilliant and immensely curious, and thinks carefully about everything from obfuscation to simplification, modularity to synergetics, and hard skills and soft.

3/15/10 Designed to Delight!

Thanks to Mark Goestch, tonight I read The Designful Company, by Marty Neumeier, and Marty uses delight the way I do--and with the same frequency! So naturally I love it! :-)  Well, there's plenty I agree with, and the writing style is distinctive and racy. It's a very quick read, with punchy insights, colorful illustrative stories, and is well worth a slice on an evening.

Marty Neumeier is a master of stand-out great lines that are vivid and capture a quintessential insight. Here are some Neumeier classics:

"Necessity may well be the mother of invention. But if we continue to manufacture mountains of toxic stuff, invention may soon become the mother of necessity." Marty Neumeier, The Designful Company, 2009

From The Designful Company

difference plus design equals delight :D

Image source: The Designful Company, by Marty Neumeier [I would read that as cross product not plus, but as I've said before, it doesn't pay to be pedantic about these math analogy/picture thingies.]

BUT, I tried it on Kindle for the PC, and there's no annotations and marks on Kindle for the PC!  :(   Serious undelight! 

"The Kindle for PC application doesn't offer the ability to print content. Features not yet available on the Kindle for PC application include the ability to make notes, highlight or clip text, shop from within the application, or search within a book. Text-to-Speech and dictionary look-up are also not available with the Kindle for PC application." -- Amazon

I'll have to put the book on my iPhone to make annotations!  :(   Then I'll whine about not having text-to-speech on my iPhone. :)  And whine about not being able to share annotations with a circle of readers... ;)  So much for free Kindle on my PC. :D

Aside from using the delight word, I also like that Marty gives loads of credit, referring to people who's ideas have influenced him or who have written something that makes points that Marty wants to make, so he draws them into his discussion. He also has a super-great selection of readings at the end of the book. I wonder why so few people share the podium like that?  It doesn't diminish--rather it enhances. And it demonstrates by the example he sets that he values collaboration.

Too many individualists want to "mark the territory" with their distinctive claim to credit, and forget that co-operation, sharing, collaboration are the modes that will help us build great things with and through people.

Boiling down to the essence of the simpatico between my orientation and Marty's, I might say: Design your way to delight to profoundly differentiate. You will create loyal, excited customer advocates and loyal, excited and creative team members--who will design to delight again. And again. Because we want to be delighted with what we own and use--and proud of what we build.  ... Or some other rah-rah rhetoric like that. ;-)  Marty doesn't exactly say that. I haven't exactly said that (before). But that's the net effect.

Which makes for a different way to look at make versus buy! If the vendor has more motivation to delight (because that is how it differentiates) then we should think about buying rather than building.

Marty talks about "wicked problems." We address wicked design problems through diversity, and that creates the wicked problem of diversity! Earlier today I had cause to say: which is what makes leading in enterprise architecture so important--it is all about leading in complex situations. Situations where strong leadership is demanded because the vision requires drawing rather than driving...  I like the acceptance address of EU President van Rompuy, for it makes the point that diversity enriches if it can be handled... but many can't handle it... It takes dialog, and unity. And unity, given divergent parochial interests, is unlikely without goodwill and leadership.

3/24/10 Comfortable with Failure, and with Pictures

Dana drew me in to watching a lecture by Paul Zeitz on problem solving strategies (in mathematics). The domain (math and probability) is an old friend to me, but Zeitz approaches problems from the point of view of strategies and it is quite interesting and relevant to architecture. He distinguishes between problems and exercises. The pill problem is great! It is a superb illustration of what we run into with stated requirements... if one takes the problem as stated, it can't be solved. It one allows flexibility in the problem framing, zooming out so more features of the problem space come into view, the problem is easily solved.

Zeitz also makes the case that we need to be very comfortable with failure (you might relate that to my comfortable with uncertainty piece). These tough problems that we haven't yet solved are our friends; we put them on the backburner and can toy with them during boring meetings. And sleep on them.

In terms of strategies, he talks about "getting your hands dirty"--which in his worldview means trying things out, and in particular modeling and visualizing, and also reframing or restating the problem--asking more interesting, different questions, so the problem takes a different shape. 

In software, we tend to think getting our hands dirty means writing code. But thinking through a complex interaction with pictures can shed light, at least allow us to cast light differently, on the problem. The questions we ask, the way we frame or state the problem, these are powerful determinants of our ability to solve tricky problems! Questions, framing, and pictures/sketches/visual models help us address more and more complex problems. And help us bring more minds to bear, addressing more complex problems requiring different perspectives or the multiplier in head-power you get from people who collaborate well and magnify one another.

Now I'm interested in his book (The Art and Craft of Problem Solving by Paul Zeitz, 2nd ed. 2006)!

3/24/10 Carnage!

I was looking through my "waste bin" for a piece of writing I remember ripping out... and found this piece:

But this is the stuff of leadership.  If you stand up to lead, you stand out. If you stand out, you're a target when people feel uncomfortable with the challenge of the vision and the change it requires. Sometimes there will be a mutiny, with carnage visited on your ego. If your vision is a good, right vision—a vision put together out of the hopes, desires, aspirations, goals, needs of your stakeholders, balancing across stakeholders and looking to past successes and future competitiveness—then you will have a well-spring of enthusiasm to tide you over these harsh points.

Then, looking at cuts from March last year, I also found this image and comment:

Cut that out!








The same forces that discourage tech leads and junior architects from standing out/up and leading, mean that organizations have to look outside for architects to hire.  

I'm not sure why I ripped those... and not sure why my eye fell on two related entries from quite different timeframes and contexts!

3/27/10 Off Topic but On Point

Last night we went to see IU ballet's An American Evening. This is a great town--a community this into music and ballet is heart-warming at a time when classical performing arts have waning audiences. Anyway, we really enjoyed it. Ben Delony was thrilling as the "champion roper" in Rodeo. Mary-Quinn Aber was incredible as the Cowgirl, and she and Ben sparkled in this very funny ballet! The cowgirl, and the way Mary_Quinn powerfully conveyed it, really speaks, I think, to Q<=s in software and other fields where Q<=s try to find a place in the machismo, and also find a way to be a Q<=.

Caitlin Kirschenbaum is such a versatile and talented dancer--she made Dana and I both tear in breathless wonder during her performance of the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker, but as principal in Rubies she is flirtatious and pert, and ideal for the so witty ballet! Grace Reeves is a stunning dancer, but for me Caitlin defines that role! That the entire interpretation of the ballet could so hinge on the expressiveness of the principal dancer astonished me! Talk about conceptual integrity being defined by the lead!

Naturally, when I was watching Serenade, I was thinking about software. Grin. No really, I was. It struck me viscerally that we have to consciously pan out, look at the overall system of complex interactions, to see the patterns. Serenade (the first ballet Balanchine choreographed in the US) is very much about pattern, and an intricate and delicate flow that make the patterns dynamic. 

Balanchine reportedly incorporated things that were happening during the process of choreographing that ballet--like a dancer stumbling, and another arriving late for rehearsal. This incorporation of everyday accident in an extraordinarily crafted ballet speaks to Balanchine's humor but also an openness to serendipity and to the vibrancy of life.   

Anyway, I think of "panning out" as a natural way to "add information" (one of Zeitz's problem solving strategies).

3/27/10 Oh yes, It's Spring--Daffodils! Cummings!

In celebration of the season of becoming, here are some lines from a wonderful poem by ee cummings:

"in time of daffodils(who know
the goal of living is to grow)
in time of lilacs who proclaim
the aim of waking is to dream,
remember seek(forgetting find)

from in time of daffodils by E. E. Cummings

I also like this:

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea

from maggie and milly and molly and may by E. E. Cummings

3/29/10 Cup Half Full/Empty

Sara drew a picture of her water glass half full and added the words "whether you think it is half empty or half full, you are right" which is a delightful spin on the Ford quote and the cup half full idiom.

3/30/10 Cup Half Full

Cup half emptiers may relate to this: someone is WRONG

Cup half fullers look for all the ways that someone is RIGHT, and magically the cup fills. Now, I am aware that I come across (to half-emptiers) as a boom de ah dah "I love the whole world" sort. But my positive views are hard wrought. I look for the positive, and it is as much an intellectual exercise as looking for the negative! The state space of the outcome is just more enabling! And I do have a very active negative voice that I try hard to keep focused on myself so that it is kept productively busy improving what I do, rather than unproductively busy undermining the good others accomplish.

I stumbled across this:

"Most biographies are written by hero worshiping sycophants, or worse written by the subject of the biography whose recollection of events are always flattering. Potter tackles the single most important man in U.S. Naval history with appreciation, but not at the expense of his detachment."  review of E.B. Potter's Nimitz on Amazon

My positive voice says "indeed detachment is important" and it takes tremendous detachment to focus on the positive in the face of a flawed and complex world, and to bring that positive in all its depth and magnificence to a world that battles with itself to make good on the best humanity has to offer! It is puerile to assume that people who seek out the positive are superficial careless thinkers, or servile flatterers! I would no more assume a dark and curmudgeonly person to be a shallow fickle creature than a joyful optimist! Optimism is a state of mind that, in a world where hurt and darkness co-exists with joy and light, is no easy achievement! (And I by no means claim any proficiency in staying positive; I only claim a value structure that allows me to seek out and embrace the positive.)

So I recognize that some people see boom de ah dah "I love the whole world" types as mostly empty, but I will not kowtow to them by toning down my positive, or purposively increasing the negative I express (to kowtow to curmudgeons!)--though indirectly there is always the dual, the shadow side, of what is said, that illuminates how sharp the positive mind can be. I fully realize that others want to express a more balanced perspective, and I value that. But I'm part iconoclast (though in the social not religious sense), and I rebel at the notion that negative is somehow more weighed than positive! I have to wrestle with demons and listen enraptured at the feet of angels just like anyone else! ;-) Where I can give voice to the angels rather than the demons, that is better I think. [What, you don't wrestle with demons? Oh.  ;-) Metaphorically, ok? :-)]

Of course, for the ironically impaired--this entry is overlaid with irony. :-)  It is very hard to keep a negative voice stilled. Try it. :-) [Oh, the imperative wasn't intended for you, but for the cup-half-fullers who... uh... don't read here.]

Why did I write that post? Well, goodness, someone is WRONG on the Internet. (And I half-suspect it is me!) Grin.

(As for internal voices, one of mine piped up with this: "It is very good to have more than one internal voice 'cos you can get so much more thinking done! Thank you, internal voice. I like that. Of course, this was prompted by my other principal internal voice wondering if sane people confess to having more than one internal voice. Wink.)

3/31/10: Dana admitted to not reading my journal this past week (tsk, tsk), and I told him about my rant in protest against those who declare celebration to be sycophantic, and a happy state to be superficial and barf-inducing. Without pause, he drew out a story--he was struck when someone said in an interview he watched "When I was a child I thought bravery was not being afraid, but now I realize that bravery is being very afraid and still doing the thing that must be done." Optimism is not being glibly, superficially positive about the future, but being positive in spite of everything that is seen with clarity and empathy. It is about seeing the amazing that truly is possible when we draw on the best in ourselves, and, having seen what is possible, begins to make it so! Against the odds, you might say if you focus there. Or with the odds, if you allow that concerted intent and motivated people have changed, and will change, this world--harvesting the fruits of intent and happenstance, being challenged, facing set-backs, but with determination born of the optimistic conviction, not just brazen assertion, that the possible is attainable, and makes it so.

One of the key things the leader does is see and frame--that is the leader sees through all the clutter of obstacles to the big thing that can and should be done. And the leader helps others see it just that way--as desirable and possible, with their help, their intelligence, experience and energy focused on making it so.

3/31/10: If you don't understand the phrase "skip-happy," you didn't know my kids when they were younger. When they were in a state of bliss, of sublime unadulterated happiness, they would literally skip. Take each others, or my hand, and skip in a happy state they simply exuded and transmitted infectiously. It was as if the lifting, lilting feeling wanted to take physical expression but also to take company, to draw others into the incredible lightness of being of the best kind. (Not the kind that is light and unanchored because our indescribably small presence in the Universe and across the expanse of time means what we do matters not a jot...) As we grow older, socialization (getting whack-a-moled by color-in-the-liners), perhaps, causes us to draw more of that in, to withhold it from others. Well, I expect that must be the case, for I still feel skip-happy even when I may not literally skip! It would be too devastatingly bad it that wasn't the general experience! Still, my father, at times, exuded that kind of skip-happy bliss, the ability to be excited by joy to the point of barely being contained by his skin, and I thought that was a wonderful child-like quality he had--a quality he had despite working two jobs and being plagued all his life by ulcers and intermittent bouts of depression. Now, from time to time, someone says I have child-like qualities or a youthful quality and I groan that I've reached the age where that is remarkable!  :-) 

Bliss, joy, enthusiasm attracts and transmits. It is like the molecules that Dean Kamen is famous for being able to heat up even in the most cold investor, just by the sheer excitement of his own molecules. It is hard to affect enthusiasm, for the disjunction between internal state and external display leaks through. But we can give ourselves permission to show our happiness and positive orientation, and develop it more in ourselves. 

Ok, enough power of positive thinking pop-psyche mumbo-jumbo. ;-)  Eh, then again, Don't Worry, Be Happy!

[Ah, internal voices... a flash of insight... all my parentheticals are my expression of parallel thoughts--the explanation that happens in conjunction with another thought... and I expect you to be able to process parallel thoughts too!]

[5/6/10 Someone else has voices--gotta hang this one in the loo... except... I need one that says to lift the lid first... ]

3/31/10 No Barriers to Entry!

This is very interesting--playing pong with the blink of an eye.

Innovation can be a lucrative avenue to differentiation, carving out new markets even within mature industries. And with university students figuring out how to do something for £25 when "Eye movement systems that scientists currently use to study the brain and eye motion cost around £27,000" (Imperial College press release, Friday 26 March 2010), the opportunities to entirely reorder the space are boundless! Innovation is not just what genius inventors or big research labs are doing on big budgets. Big is going to be under ever more pressure to be nimble! One avenue is going to be to stop looking at the corporate navel, and start looking even in surprising places for reshaping ideas--looking where the "wheel" of big reshaping ideas could be and where they could not possibly be! 

Dana pointed me to this book by John Kao: Innovation Nation.


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


Busting out of stereotypes!

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Copyright © 2010 by Ruth Malan
Page Created: February1, 2010
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