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Soul of an Engineer #10

This Issue: Sacred Plans, Context-Specificity, Conway's Law, Exploding Volcanoes, Growing Up

Amarinder Sidhu
Amarinder Sidhu
2 min read

Sacred Plans

It is baffling how sacred we still treat formal plans in enterprise software projects. Teams endure a lot of unnatural contortions to preserve the sanctity of these plans.

When projects invariably go south, the consensus takeaway always is to make those plans more sacred, i.e., more thorough and more scientific planning.

That is the exact opposite of what the remedy should be. I discuss the remedy in my new essay - Plans.....Too Sacred.


Expanding the problem scope to match the capability of the technology is a cardinal error in design. Simple solutions come from applying technology to a specific context.

Clients often talk about "Uber-like Experience" but then ask to implement hundreds of requirements. Best designs are only about 1 or 2 things, like Uber enabling you to call a cab from your location.

Chris Alexander writes in Notes on the Synthesis of Form.

"The impractical idealism of designers who want to redesign entire cities and whole processes of manufacture when they are asked to design simple objects is often only an attempt to loosen difficult constraints by stretching the form-context boundary."

I have posted about form-context boundary previously here.

Conway's Law

Conway's Law is an adage initially introduced by Melvin E. Conway in 1967.  

“Any organization that designs a system (defined broadly) will produce a design whose structure is a copy of the organization’s communication structure.”

There have been many interpretation of Conway's Law.

1) You cannot ship what isn't there in your org chart (Steven Sinofsky)

2) "Team = Software": The behavior of a team maps directly to the qualities of its product.  (Jim McCarthy)

Exploding Volcanoes

Bjorn Steinbekk (@BSteinbekk) posts regular drone footage of exploding volcanoes on his Twitter. I am hooked!!

Afterthought: Growing Up

The great American Poet Maya Angelou on growing up.

“Most people don’t grow up. It’s too damn difficult. What happens is most people get older. That’s the truth of it. They honor their credit cards, they find parking spaces, they marry, they have the nerve to have children, but they don’t grow up. Not really. They get older. But to grow up costs the earth, the earth. It means you take responsibility for the time you take up, for the space you occupy. It’s serious business. And you find out what it costs us to love and to lose, to dare and to fail. And maybe even more, to succeed."