SATURN 2010 TECHdotMN Session Notes, Linda Rising IEEE Software Speaker, Thursday, May 20

SATURN 2010 / TECHdotMN field notes
by Mike Bollinger 5/20/10

IEEE Software Speaker: Linda Rising

Linda Rising is a well-known presenter on patterns, agile development, and the change process. In her presentation to the SATURN 2010 conference, she discussed the software architect as a change agent. She argued that architects are like any other person in that they struggle to influence their own peers (in their own teams/organizations) to make good decisions and adopt good ideas. From her perspective, many people develop great solutions but struggle with execution (in other words, they struggle to make those ideas “happen”). In her presentation, Linda outlined some approaches to influence change by sharing stories of successful change agents and influencers, as well as supporting research in social psychology, which are included in the book Fearless Change: Patterns for Introducing New Ideas by Mary Lynn Manns and Linda Rising.

Linda began by saying “Architecture is just a collective hunch, a shared hallucination…” (source: Grady Booch).  She emphasizes the importance of shared hallucinations and the collaboration involved in that sharing.  “The problem is when my delusion is different from yours,” she says.

With Agile, we see things differently. We need to become more than we were.  We need to participate and talk to customers. It changes everything. Why shouldn’t that also be true with the architect? The role is expanding, and needs to expand, she maintains. Architecture in “retrospectives”:  Architect as learner. Architect as listener. Patterns are not enough to justify architectural decisions unless the people that are affected by those decisions are a part of the process, she said, referencing a previous session with Olaf Zimmerman.

Fundamental questions that guide her thoughts on this subject: (a) I wonder if architects subscribe to a collection of myths about how people/teams/orgs work? (b) I wonder if these myths have been preventing effectiveness.

Myth #1: Creating the architecture is my job.  I shouldn’t have to sell it.

Underlying myth: The architecture is good or badGood ideas should succeed because they are good.

The pattern: Evangelist. “Good ideas succeed because they are sold by someone who believes in them.”

Myth #2: If we just explain the value in the architecture, 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!

The pattern: Personal Touch. “Help others see how your idea can be useful in solving their problems. Answer the question What’s In It For Me?”

Myth #3: You’re a smart person, so you don’t need help from anyone else.

Underlying myth: Reaching out is a sign of weakness, and, why do all the work on architecture if you’re not going to get all the credit?

The 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.”

Myth #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 myth: Cynics and skeptics are naysayers (and usually people who are out-of-date). THOSE people have nothing useful to say.

The pattern: Fear Less. “Use resistance to your advantage. Listen, really listen, and learn all you can.”

A pattern that goes along with all of these: “Just Say Thanks!”  Turns out, she says, the research says the benefit is for the person who gives the thanks. Grateful people have more energy and optimism, are more resilient, have better health, and live longer.

For more, see Linda Rising’s website.


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