A Trace in the Sand
by Ruth Malan
What's a Trace?
Hell if I know, any more. I thought it was worthwhile. But if no-one bothers to find it so, no-one bothers to say so. Well. It is depressing. At least.
I know. This is an unusual format. That it has been shown generous kindness is amazing!
From time to time, someone is extraordinarily kind. Moreover, attention takes time and the compliment it pays is the more sincere since it is a side-effect. I am grateful.
But. If I want an audience of more than 4 or 5 clearly exceptional people, I shall have to write for that audience. Hm.
Well, would you miss gems like this:
Isn't that worth the price of admission right there?! Okay, I know. The price is high. So many words.
Still, I guess my sense of humor is a little too... referential... for most people... ??? Many (possible, and possibly ambiguous) relationships under uncertainty, characterize complexity... So. It depends what is being named. You see? It's complicated. ;-)
So, does that mfeathers teaser decode to:
which may be visualized as:
Using the past to predict the future under conditions of growing entropy is... let's just say... hard? At least. Growing pressure to meet schedule predictions and attendant commitments increases entropy... Spiral.
It's for SCIENCE!
Will you please help me help my son get lab rats (that's you -- please) for his science research seminar project in high school. Thank you. Here you go..
Stunningly Humbling Week!
and a kind shout from Grady Booch! That mention was especially kind, given that Grady has a wonderful long-running column in IEEE Software (first on architecture and now on computing, especially as it relates to the human experience), and in the Sept/Oct edition he contributes to the "learn to code" discussion with a wonderful historical perspective, and observations about where we are at:
Of course, Grady, the SEI team and Philippe Kruchten, the Hofmeister, Nord and Soni team at Siemens, and Dana Bredemeyer and I. and our colleagues at the Software Initiative at HP, along with others, were doing field shaping work in architecture in the last millenium. We might hence be cast by the uninformed in BDUF caskets. However, those familiar with visual architecting know that we have taken a more agile than Agile approach since the mid-90's. Minimalist, just enough, participatory, messy and non-linear, evolutionary, these were all part of the orientation we advocated long before the Agile Manifesto. We, and others like Rebecca Wirfs-Brock, should be among those who leap to mind before the good Mr. Fowler when it comes to architecture in any context, Agile included. Martin Fowler is very good at packaging up what is at the cusp of a major "happening" in our field, but it is in the wake of pioneers who made that wave happen. Oops. Did that put a target on my back? I mean that with enormous respect, because it takes non-trivial insight into our field to be able to do that, and he does it superbly! Further, we're all learning from each other, so what Martin does is what we do.
Perlis on Style and Idiom in APL
Under the principle of facing realities (elephant in the room stuff), we went with "organizational politics" in the architect competency conceptual framework (rather than alternatives like organizational dynamics). And it falls in the general rubric of Organizational Effectiveness (in our updated model, featuring Strategic, Organizational and Technical Effectiveness as the three legs of the tippy stool of architect qualities and focal areas). Anyway, my eye fell on this in a trace from 2013, and I wanted to pull it out from under the pile of past words:
Can We All Just Take a Moment
No, that was not an echo in that Ruffyan creature's tweet. Sheesh. It was taking a moment to appreciate someone who takes a moment to appreciate. A girl who represented her school in astronomy at the middle school state Science Olympiad, and who is vying to be on her high school's team, again focused on astronomy, among other things including projectiles. So, she was right thrilled at the history made today.
This Trace, and my exploration, is addressed at the challenges faced by architects -- of complex systems, in complex organizational situations. These traces should set the stage for talking about leadership in that context:
Yesterday I presciently tweeted a link to Cory Booker's talk on leadership. See my tweetsream for lots of great pointers from today, focused around Linda Rising's talk and the tweet-outs about, and responses to, it. The notion that leadership is something that happens throughout the organization, at different scopes and scales of impact, is not new to us. There is this from 2011: Playing Leap Frog
And this is from our Fractal and Emergent paper (2010), which you probably still need to get around to reading (smiles):
So, That was circa 2010 and I've learned a lot since. But it is still a leading set of ideas, no?
Oh. And I used the string image rather than my quip about the elephant. "If we put the architect behind the elephant, we may as well just give her a shovel because all she can do at that point is damage control..." I call it 'Getting Past "But".
Naturally we have been exploring leadership for as long as we have been working in this space -- Bredemeyer Consulting is 16 years old this month you guys!!! For example, there's "Leaders, Warts and All" from 2008 -- my kids, illustrating rapport, were so darned cute, weren't they?! Plotting against dad in the acorn wars -- I'm so glad I jotted that down; what memories it recalls to mind. Smiles.
Oh. And. The Paola Antonelli: Walk the walk talk is awesome. Rebels ftw.
Again, the focus above is on leadership and architects. Opportunities to create coherence and energizing import around doing something that can't be done alone, are all over; they are by no means limited to architecting. Obviously! But architecting is about getting things that need to happen from a broader, system outcomes perspective, to happen when they don't just happen on their own. The architect doesn't need to lead in every case -- shouldn't even. But the architect does need to lead when no-one else is, and there is no other way to accomplish the strategically significant system outcomes. Outcomes that are make or break have consequences. Quality of life and perhaps even jobs on the line for the team. Consequences -- maybe even safety or security-- for customers. And so on. Things that matter. A lot.
11/18/14: It is hard to talk about leadership, it seems. One wants to avoid implying leadership is strong on command and control, dictatorship and autocratic directorial styles that veer to the extreme in the dominance direction. But one also wants to reserve a place for decision making under urgency to move things forward. So it is not a uniform terrain. Sometimes charismatic and inspiring. Sometimes assertive and directorial -- just enough as fits the moment (at least, that's my preferred model of leadership, but I grant that there are other styles). Sometimes empowering, delegating, including, convening conversations, leading or enabling explorations that lead toward consensus. Stepping it up to making decisions unilaterally if time and lack of progress towards consensus means some decision must be made to move. Being aware, including self-aware. So decisions are revisited. Direction is set, and adjusted, and reset. As fits the moment, and the context, its forces, constraints, emergent outcomes and intents become more clear. And so on. Etc. Yadda. You get the picture. Books -- no shelves of books -- are written on this! :)
Also, conversations around partnering, collaboration, participation, and followership and facilitative leadership and so on, belong here too.
If you see me on Twitter, ridicule me mercilessly for giving in. I have way too much to do. As a bulletin board for pointing to people's work, Twitter does pretty well, but my "Serendipity feed" is overflowing as it is.
(Oh. Let's just take a moment to appreciate that someone gets my very dry sense of humor. I know, I know, it is so dry California should probably bar me from entry, lest I worsen their drought. Harhar? No, no. You know how it ends.)
(Yes, the last line is, among other things, a meta-comment on how twitter has become a medium for "thought-policing" and correcting the behaviors of upstarts in the pack who are challenging the dominance hierarchy, and yadda, social mechanism stuff. I do pack rather a lot into a line.... ;) Plus also To Don't lists, for those who missed that that is a thing. ;)
(What? If you'd known it meant all that, you'd have retweeted it too? ;)
(via the ever awesome Dana Bredemeyer, who introduced it to me long back, but I re-remembered to trace-note it only now, in the context of the leadership discourse we're having single-mindedly; wink)
This, if we allow it, can lead our thoughts germanely and germinatively:
I don't mean to suggest heavy-handed governing, nor weighty governance (in organizations, around architecture). It is a way of thinking about minimalist architecture, and a wonderful statement and reminder of the great thinking we have to draw on.
Minimalist architecture? Dana's conception (minimalism and the arc of architecture), which I wrote up here (so credit Dana with the good ideas, and me for errors like using the word "asset"):
("long back".. re-remember... -- I know. I abuse grammar. Whaaaat? I don't get to break some grammar now and then? One has to take certain liberties, to bend words into the form of feelings and states. To open the conversation in a mind to include others in its comfy circle, informally exploring and trusting-non-judgmental... ;)
By Dana Bredemeyer
Oh, okay. Dana only took the photo, he didn't actually make the sun rise. ;)
Design, Delight and Kano
A twitter-sized convo on design and delight, and this response:
reminded me of a trace from 2007, which I will reproduce here:
While Twitter does much to help ideas find mates, I do feel wistful about missing out on the social networking that really delved into ideas in longer-lived and respectiful conversations. Like this.
Twitter is just so... flighty. :)
As social mechanisms go, I think we might see twitter and other social networking platforms as mechanisms for sea-level changes in our civilization's ethical evolution. They are also substrate for evolutionary processes of technology and society -- in conjunction (socio-technical) and in the teme or tech-meme sense (that social lives of ideas thing, as well as patterns, and capabilities that get bundled in new ways, etc.).
Unfortunately as value-systems (or what our culture has remained passive on, versus what it objects to) are shifting, we see individuals getting called out and "made an example of" -- by public shaming and other punishments like loss of jobs. Rather than a statement identifying with a group of activists on one side or another of an issue of social consequence, instances that get called out may be a matter of not noticing that a shift has occurred in the "social temperature" or that a values re-levelling is trying to occur in areas like objectification of bodies (women's and men's). Or that ways of being (jokes and other behaviors that (may be perceived to) debase women (even if not intended that way), for example) at tech community events have become, overnight, as it were, non-normative. This gets attention drawn to behaviors that alone may seem trivial, but which together mass into forces that have hurt so many of us, visibly turning our field from one that was quite gender balanced to one that is heavily male dominated, in numbers and power dynamics (showing up in avenues for influence and career progression).
However, the huge social cost of these mechanisms is that we instill fear that we might step into such a social trap, and be socially crucified by public opinion; tried, pretty much, without understanding of where we were coming from, or going, without a place for learning and regret, or differences in choice and value-set. These forces damp difference, and social change relies on diversity. They quiet voices, and social change needs varied, even objectionable (to those who disagree) or stridently put, perspectives. As we try to get previously silenced voices heard, we can over-correct and fail to attend to other perspectives and concerns. So it's a tough balance to strike, between making progress socially and ethically and not damping out crucial difference in ways of seeing and being. We need to be enabled to make better choices for behaviors that impact other people, and to better understand what our impact is. Social disapproval is a powerful force, but a veritable pack attack has its severe costs and consequences. Being judgmental, blinkered and self-righteous has huge social costs. I loved A Year of the Quiet Sun and Anna Karenina -- the theme of exploring the cost of non-tolerance is stronger in the latter, but it is there in Zanussi's work too. I'm also relishing Jantsch, and the points he makes about the role of disequilibrium and amplification strike home in this arena of social evolution.
Values are complex, and evolve. Figuring out what we, as a culture, value, what we feel is just and good or worth striving for, isn't even and uniform. We can set off unintended side-effects we come to regret. Learning proactively through a plurality of ways of being in this world is important. It is a crisis of a short life, with forces that tug in many possibly unresolvable directions. Yet we need to evolve socially, one might say morally, and fast, as biotech and AI capabilities forge ahead of our capability to harness what we have unleashed. And more, as we recognize that capitalism fails us, channeling wealth from increasingly capital and technology-intensive industry to the few, at the expense of the ever so many, we have to face what that means for a just yet viable economy. We have real challenges. If we look at CDC data, for example, we notice that sexual abuse is endemic, to name just one of the social frontiers we need to make progress on. Culture lives atop nature, and we're fallible creatures. That doesn't mean we shouldn't strive for a better world -- strive to shape and reshape our values and ethics to foster and enable a better world. We need to convene conversation, but also to allow stories and data to be shared and listened to attentively, without crowding them out with the din of our internal, defensive objections before even hearing others' real lived experience. We need to let the number of stories, the sheer social weight of them, bear upon and change us. But self-righteous and punitive mechanisms without any compassion, without understanding, without the humane in humanity, without tolerance for and appreciation of diversity in our very quest for tolerance for and appreciation of diversity, why, that's a shame on us!
11/25/14: As ethics in design goes, this talk addresses important questions (the style of presentation... hm... takes some risks in being... forceful?... but I sincerely value that it is passionate about asking big questions about what is congruent with one's ethics, not just one's aesthetics):
There is the matter of individual responsibility, but in a complex world, we can't pay attention to everything all the time, and the blame and shame pack attack doesn't take into account that there is plenty of unevenness in access to perspectives some might feel are a "done deal" while others disagree and still others are just unaware.
Rather than taking offense, we might want to orient to the learning opportunities in the stories that present themselves to us. If we treat the incidents and accidents in these tense arenas as more about learning how to be a better me, a me I want to be, than what lessons others need to be taught, we might make some progress?
We might assert less and allow the space to open up to listening and wondering more.
Perhaps I need to be explicit, since my style might suggest otherwise -- I've spilled words here to figure out what I think in this messy mesed up space. I throw down words to shape and reshape my own wondering. I know I don't got it right. :) But I'll keep trying. I offer it, tentatively (and fearfully -- having a voice on the internet puts one in a vulnerable position), knowing that accessing another's thinking can help one think further, if only by making it more clear what one disagrees with. :)
I also write at:
- Bredemeyer Resources for Architects