Saturday, January 14, 2006


Enterprise Architecture and Humility

For the past couple of months, several agilists within our enterprise have been figuring out how to sell agile approaches to a larger audience. We met on Wednesday for our usual passionate lunch discussions and several thoughts emerged that I started to think deeper about. Originally, I wanted to make this blog on the methodology paradox but instead decided to talk about what agile approaches and enterprise architecture both have in common...

The vast majority of large enterprises suffer from the lack of Strong Technical Leadership which causes folks to think that they can methodology their way through complex issues ignoring the fact that maybe they really shouldn't be participating but simply facilitating so that folks who have the right abilities are put into situations where the best architectures can emerge.

Many of these same shops have adopted in-house methodologies many of which are rooted in some form of Rational Unified Process. The notion that one can buy a methodology and customize it so that it fits their needs on the surface is appealing but without any set of guiding principles one can get lost in the wilderness. Agile Manifesto unlike RUP starts with a base set of principles which allow one to detect when one has gone off-course.

Lack of strong technical leadership within enterprises and the folks who have never written software yet lead software projects also tend to be somewhat delusional in their abilities and devise methodologies that support this notion. Many even stray from the line of confidence to blatant arrogance. Most continue to ignore the real root cause for any failures that have preceeded them and of course can rationalize any past mistake made by them. In order to understand the problem, lets enumerate some of their practices:

Agilists understand that this is not only not reality but that the odds are better in using a metal detector to find a unicorn in your sockdrawer is higher than being wildly successful with this approach. Maybe enterprise architects should be busy introducing the notion of humility to the enterprise. Actually, maybe they should be busy introducing the notion of humility to themselves...

With this thought in mind, here are some things that architects can do to adopt humility within their shops:

In the meantime, I suggest everyone that wants to understand humility start with the roots. Check out a paper by Edsger Dijkstra entitled the Humble Programmer...

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