Many architectural documents are full of vague principles that provide hardly any direction, do not inspire, and cannot be enforced. It takes the authors a long time to draft them and then many others have to eat their way through the vocabulary if only to explain why they ignore these principles. If the architects then take a stand, this leads to frustration and conflict. The parties dig in, the governance process stalls and everyone sees their favorite prejudice confirmed: architects live in ivory towers, builders are all cowboys and managers don’t understand the content. How should it be? By limiting themselves to a handful of principles and strictly adhering to them, architects can have much more impact. So practicing the art of omission, and that’s not easy. We give five steps to deal effectively with architectural principles. If you are interested, visit techwear jacket.
Stop and delete
First, the production of new principles must be curbed. The long lists of saltless principles floating around in many organizations can go in the trash. Such documents are rarely actually read and mainly cause annoyance. Anyone who thinks throwing away is a sin should at least replace the word ‘principles’ with ‘tips’ or ‘for consideration’.
Look critically and make choices
The next step is to identify the ten principles that, when applied consistently, really make a big difference to the organization. That is quite a task, it is easier to come up with a hundred principles than to define ten that are really valuable. It is precisely the limitation in the number that means that every remaining principle must be spot on. Because a lot has to be devised and a lot has to be deleted, it is extra important at this stage to carry as little ballast as possible. A principle is primarily a means of communication: a catchy name plus a short explanation is sufficient for the time being. The templates that aim to categorize and document principles very precisely are superfluous at this stage.
Make it personal
When Time Warner and America Online (AOL) merged, AOL’s proprietary email system was adopted as the default solution in the new company. This led to so many problems and grumbling among the staff that the system had to be pushed aside again. AOL’s own dog food didn’t taste as good as Microsoft’s anyway. A principle is by definition personal. So you have to be careful with reference architectures and other lists of general principles. Such lists are not suitable for copying one-to-one: they only serve as a source of inspiration to draw from when drawing up your own, adapted principles. Reinventing the wheel is not necessary, but a critical attitude is important when adopting other people’s principles.
Face the Pain
A principle is a fundamental choice and must therefore hurt. People are willing to suffer that pain, provided they are taken seriously. Often full attention is paid to the advantages of a principle, while the disadvantages remain underexposed. A missed opportunity, because paying attention to the disadvantages shows that the choice has been made well and that makes it easier to accept the pain. A good way to discover the pain behind a principle is to thoroughly discuss it with the intended users. Typically, developers, administrators, fellow architects, line and project managers – anyone who will be dealing with these principles in their work. If a proposed principle only elicits a shrug of the shoulders, it can be deleted immediately: apparently, nothing is at stake, and then it would be a shame to spend any more time on it. If there is resistance, it is worth listening carefully and asking further questions. ‘Undoable’, ‘too abstract’ and ‘open door’ are arguments that indicate that a principle will not work in practice, usually because the form has been chosen incorrectly. Some principles are all form and no content and often this only becomes clear in a conversation with others. Substantive counter-arguments are the most interesting. They help determine whether a principle is worth introducing and if so, they make it easier to explain and defend the principle.
Promoting and challenging
A principle that is not observed kills credibility. Who takes a declared vegetarian seriously if he orders half a chicken for lunch? The same goes for architectural principles – if one can be trampled on with impunity, all the others lose their strength as well. That is why it is important to propagate principles, to explain again and again which principles there are and what they stand for. Not only the responsible architects have to do this, but also people in other roles: managers, administrators, testers, builders. Many organizations establish an architecture board to enforce their principles. As a kind of aesthetics committee, such a board approves or rejects designs and issues building permits. That easily backfires. Architects become stampers and the principles remain something of a bureaucratic elite club.