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Dialogue over Diagrams


In thinking how Agile changes the role of an Architect, I keep thinking about the Agile Manifesto Axioms or preferences.  For the Agile Architect, I think we need to add a new one:

Dialogue over Diagrams

As with the manifesto, we’re not saying that diagrams are  no longer required.   A diagram is still worth a thousand words.  Also, what would we do with our Visio and UML Tools?

The point of Dialogue over Diagrams is not to say we don’t need diagrams.  The point is that, as Architects, we need to remember that the Diagrams are not the final objective.  Working Software [products] is the final objective.  Working software comes when there is a common understanding between owners and builders of what needs to be built and how it needs to work in order to satisfy the vision of the owner.

I believe the best and fasted way to achieve common understanding is through dialogue.  The diagrams are still necessary, but they are no longer your primary focus.  They are enablers.

Dialogs help you communicate your ideas – they don’t communicate for you

The best use of the diagrams is to draw them on a white board or shine them on  the screen while you are standing there speaking. We obsess over the syntax of a diagram (uml, bpmn, etc…) to be sure there is no ambiguity.  But we should be expressing the contents of the diagram to an audience and soliciting their feedback.

Diagrams are great tools to help you communicate and get feedback.  Don’t just email it or point at it.  Explain it and ask for people’s feedback.

Crayons and Paper

Next time you plan to walk through a diagram up there on the light-pro, print a few A3 size copies of your diagram and pass them around the room with colored markers.  Have a little fun!  Make it enjoyable.  Give people in the workshop or meeting something to do other than respond to email with the Blackberry or iPhone.

Send me your comments on this.  I really want to know what others are doing to be more agile as Architect.

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