SATURN 2010, IEEE Software Speaker: Linda Rising, Architect as Change Agent

Grady Booch, architecture as hallucination: “Architecture is a collective hunch, a shared hallucination, an assertion by a set of stakeholders on the nature of their observable world, be it a world that is or a world as they wish it to be.”

The problem comes in when my delusion is different from yours. We get off track.

Architects as service providers, Roland Faber: “Soft skills.” In addition to being technically superb, soft skills are necessary. As a facilitator in retrospectives, says Rising, “I see what happens when the party is over. I appear at the end of a project and help lead a retrospective. My view of projects and architecture is distorted because the ones I see are the massive failures. So I’ve put together a few comments to see the kinds of things I hear regarding architecture’s impact on the project.”

How do we know if our certification program is effective? Look at what comes out of the retrospective. Are you hearing a change in the viewpoint of participants? Are comments reflecting improvement you hoped to see in the architecture for projects?

Olaf Zimmerman talked about patterns today. Said it’s not enough to justify architectural decisions unless you involve people for whom decisions will be important. You need to listen to them–they don’t care about your justification. Architect must interact closely with the projects. But this is not just checking a box. Real interaction is required.

Fearless Change: Patterns for Introducing New Ideas by Mary Lynn Manns and Linda Rising: Some of these patterns might be useful for architects because architecture is taking on the role of introducing new ideas.

Christopher Alexander: We want a way of hanging on to things that we see over and over again. Naming a recurring problem with a known solution. Names of related patterns can be used in a conversation about the problems and solutions. Patterns offer a way to name it and have it for future use.

“I wonder if architects subscribe to a collection of myths about how people, teams, and organizations work. Are these myths getting in our way?”


  1. Creating the architecture is my job. I shouldn’t have to sell it. Sell? Moi? Underlying the myth is that good ideas should succeed because they are good. Selling is underhanded and only for people in marketing. What decides which ideas win and which ones lose is not the best technical solution. It’s the ability to sell it. Hard for technical people to swallow that they have to learn about selling or marketing. Penalty: having your idea lose. Pattern = evangelist. Good ideas succeed because they are sold by someone who believes in them and has passion for how the ideas will play out in the organization. The first person you have to sell is yourself–it’s your belief that will carry you in everything you have to do to make your idea a success. “Truth and virtue will automatically be your own reward–that’s a crock.” (Tom Peters)
  2. If we just explain the value in the architecture, the people will understand it and accept it. Underlying myth: After all, we’re smart people and smart people are reasonable people and logical decision-makers! Cognitive scientists tell us that none of our decisions are rational. We’re good at explaining rationally after the decision has been made. But we don’t make decisions rationally. PowerPoint bullets are good for information, but not for influence, for which they are almost useless. Pattern = personal touch. Help others see how your idea can be useful in solving their problems. Answer, “What’s in it for them?”
  3. You’re a smart person, so you don’t need help from anyone. Underlying myth: Reaching out is a sign of weakness and, why do all the work on the architecture if you’re not going to get all the credit? Pattern = ask for help: The architecture might be yours and, of course, you believe in it, but the end result is produced by the team, and it’s not all about you. When you involve other people and when you ask for help, just say Thanks. Research: grateful people have more energy and optimism, are more resilient in the face of stress, have better health, suffer less depression, are more compassionate, more likely to help others, less materialistic, more satisfied with life. The more specific the better in giving thanks. Offer appreciation in retrospectives.
  4. The best way to deal with negative people who are skeptical about your architecture or don’t seem to “get it” is–avoid them! Underlying: Cynics and skeptics are naysayers (and usually old people who are out of date). THOSE people have nothing useful to say. Pattern = fear less: Use resistance to your advantage. Listen, really listen, and learn all you can. Listen hard to what you don’t want to hear.

For more, see Linda Rising’s website.


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