Friday, July 13, 2012

TRUTH: The Architect’s One and Only Yardstick

As Architects, we seek the truth.  This truth may be earth shattering or it may be trivial.  Either way, it is only the truth that will allow us to deliver systems, products and solutions that support the business.  However, unlike philosophers, we seek to create the truth we believe in.  We project this future truth and then seek to achieve it.  The extent to which we can do this determines our success as architects.

When we design something, it is based mostly on belief.  We believe that users need X; we believe that technology Y will perform as designed.  We don’t actually know.  If you are designing something that you already know works then you are not actually designing something.  You are implementing something that someone else already made.  Implementation is not bad.  In fact, it’s super important.  Without implementations we never find out if our beliefs will be found to be truths.  It is only through the crucible of actual implementation that we separate incorrect beliefs and assumptions from truths.  It is therefore the truth that we seek as architects. 

This is why so many architects get a bad reputation.  An architect that never measures themselves against the yardstick of truth is not really an architect.  They are a philosopher.  They have ideas that sound good in theory.  Will they actually work?  Who knows?  They never get implemented so they’re just theory.  All theory is equally good and equally bad until it’s implemented.  Then it’s either TRUE (good) or FALSE (bad).  Unfortunately, many of our peers never get to the implementation stage to find out if their assumptions proved to be true or false.  Sometimes these types of architects are referred to as “hand wavers” because they usually make vague gestures when you ask them for specific details underlying their designs.

I really don’t like those types of architects.  I think they give the rest of us a bad name.  My goal is to eradicate this behavior because it is evil and causes cancer.  OK, that last part is probably not true, but I really, really don’t like people who don’t know what they’re doing claiming to be architects.

If you have an architect title or you aspire to be an architect, think about this equation.  How do you hold yourself accountable?  Is your success based on the quality of your design?  Or is it based on the success of your customers?  It is only the internal yardstick that you carry around in your head that really matters.

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