Years ago my son came home with some geography homework. He had to learn the countries and capitals of the European continent. When I was practicing with him I encountered the country Yugoslavia...Now, this is 2010 I am talking about, Yugoslavia is split up into (a.o) Serbia and Montenegro. I honestly thought this was a mistake (old material used by the teacher), so I went to the teacher and asked her whether we could get an update on the material. This was her response:
"The method has not been updated yet"
This is – in my opinion – a small symptom of what is very wrong with education (which is completed saturated with this ‘method-illness), society as a whole, and – more particular - Enterprise Architecture. History tells us that these beliefs, like a religion, in a method and blindly following it and demanding others should too, will not end well. Methods used in this way are killing critical thinking, creativity and innovation.
Methods, best practices, checklists and other attempts to mask (especially to management and society) the inherent uncertainty of the work/world we’re in, is extremely damaging to people, organisations and society.
Only ‘systems’ (using a very broad definition of ‘system’ here) that are simple, linear, predictable and have a generic context might benefit from this method-approach. In my world of data-enterprise-IT-Business-Blabla-architecture, these systems do simply not exist.
I understand its temptation, the phrase ‘we use TOGAF’ or ‘we have written a PSA1’ sends a vibe of trust and safety (‘he, I followed the method, not my fault’) and is highly rewarded by senior management. What is not rewarded is stating this uncertainty (‘What do you mean, you don’t know, that’s why I hired you’). Make senior management part of the uncertainty, figure out together how to approach it, how we design a learning-by-doing mentality as well as a mutual respect for one another and emerging insights (!).
We ‘the architects’ should stand firm in stating the message ‘this is complicated, we can do it, but I am not sure how’.
How do we need to change? We need to go back to the fundamentals, stir away from the various technical hypes, distance ourselves from architectural methods. We should separate concerns fiercely, isolate, abstract, collaborate with many experts in the field, communicate and above all, we should honour the context of the domain we are working in and how it’s affecting the real world. Remember, there is no ‘one architecture’ in complex systems that you can design on forehand. And if you tell that fairy-tale, you are deluding yourself, your colleagues, your organisation and ultimately, society.
Back to my opening story, if teachers are not evolving towards educators truly interested in the kids they need to educate and if they keep relying on the methods to educate our kids, I say…lets automate the teachers, long live the MOOC’s and YouTube. And the sad thing is, this teaching in methods is educating future architects to do the same, this method-illness is deeply rooted in our society. Instead, teach them how to think critically, to think outside the box using fundamental skills. So, throw away your methods, burn them, educating kids is about connecting with kids, parents, their concerns, it's about an unique and proud profession, something you need to learn and train hard for, it's a valuable, hard-to-learn and respected skill.
I leave it to the reader to convert this analogy to Enteprise Architecture and the state we are in.
*referring to the Cynafin framework of Dave Snowden
1 Project Start Architecture