Garbage Collector

The little space of a writer, tinkerer, and a coffee addict

I don't know

I don't know
Panda point d'interrogation - OpenClipArts - Public Domain

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve started a new mission at work, still as a solutions architect. A very interesting context with important stakes : reduce the legacy debt, enhance, and build tomorrow’s service.

The team I’ve integrated had several experiences with their previous architects. Good and bad.

Good because at the beginning, they’ve been able to construct a consistent service around a good technical platform. Bad because this construction has always been « tech » oriented instead of « customer » oriented. Even if it’s an IT for IT product, we need to think about the end user anyway. In our case, the end user is usually a project manager or an application responsible who is not especially a tech person.

The other bad experience they told me about was regarding the position of their architect. Too much vertical, considering they had the truth and the fellow team had to follow it with no discussion. Myself, I hate this. The result of this position was a disconnection between a thinker and the doers. The thinker was too far away, putting the design for what must be the future… But for a +4 years horizon and without considering what is the departure point. The doers want something now and a projection in which they need to see themselves acting. When the fire is now, it must be extinguished instead of over-thinking how to build a firefighter department !

End of race : the project got pushed back by the direction because they were afraid to enter inside a never ending cost increasing dark tunnel.

This is the state of the project I’ve been integrated to. Let’s say there was work to do. And still have.

Anyway, following a month with the team, I’ve had a feedback I’ve never expected or even noticed myself. Which was :

What I like is you’re not afraid to say « I don’t know ».

To me it was obvious, how could I tell people working since 3 or 4 years on a technical platform what should they do after a month with them ? It would be absurd and the best way to create tension and anger. So yes, several time they asked me my posture for a subject, and I said « I don’t know, give me the details, I’ll see what I can tell you ». Of course, other times I could directly answer because it was elements I mastered.

To them it was a surprise because they explained me their previous architects always had a response. Even if it was irrelevant or useless, but they did. Just like ChatGPT would always answer to your prompt. My experience tells me it’s better to not immediately answer to something, document yourself, challenge the idea and come with several propositions, instead of saying « that » with no further thinking. Especially when the « that » is told as a dogmatic posture.

The result of their previous experience is what everybody could expect with these kind of non-collaborative work. Architecture documentations are disconnected from the current state, only talking about a future that never happened. The future state of the service is described in unusable terms because it was a vision not shared by everybody. And no architecture diagram to rely on ! A field on ruins with operational teams trying to document and maintain it with no actual lead. In one word : a shame (and a time bomb).

So, in one month, I’ve had to instantiate almost one year of documentation work so we could be able to present a viable road map to the direction. But I wasn’t able to do it myself because I didn’t had any experience on the current service status. So I’ve worked with the team, integrated them, started to challenge them when I was more confident for some topics, and each time, discussing and listening. And so far, it works and we have results.

So yes, don’t be afraid to say « I don’t know ». It’s the best way to learn.

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