Dune series has a lot of great thoughts. They’re more than just sci-fi books. Let me share one with you:
Moneo: For what do you hunger, Lord?
Leto: For a humankind which can make truly long-term decisions. Do you know the key to that ability, Moneo?
Moneo: You have said it many times, Lord. It is the ability to change your mind.
Leto: In the view of infinity, any defined long-term is short-term.
Moneo: There are no rules at all, Lord?
Leto: Perhaps one. Short-term decisions tend to fail in the long term.
It’s a concise summary of why neither big upfront designs will work nor design will magically emerge.
The former is not flexible and will not stand the proof of time and the changing environment.
The latter will eventually be swamped by short-termism.
The best thing is to cherish curiosity and be humble, assuming we’ll be wrong but can recover and adjust our course.
I’m not always succeeding in that. But failure is coherent to what we do.
That applies to architecture, but not only.
That’s also why I don’t set short-term goals; the year is short-term. I’m trying to define where I’d like to be and think about what I should do to get there.
For instance, my recent goal was to have more time for my family and have flexible time. That’s why I chose to be a consultant, and for now, this gets me closest to that. Being a consultant is not a goal for me but a tool.
Actually, I’m not a consultant; I’m working as a consultant. It is not who I am but what I do. I worked as a technical team leader for most of my career, but I no longer do that. I might also stop working as a consultant if that no longer matches my goals.
In the same sense, our system is not equal to our architecture. This is how it works, but what it is should be described in business terms. Our goal should always be related to business; we should treat our design, decisions, and technology choices as a tool, not a goal per se.
That should help us be flexible, revisit our decisions, and adjust them, as we won’t be so attached to them if they’re just tools. Changing the tool is easier than a goal.
By the way, sand dunes are an excellent example of the difference between the importance of short-term and long-term decisions. Sand is moved left and right by the wind. Dunes change their place, height, and length; they change the form, but they’re still dunes. Even a giant sandstorm won’t change that. Still, they might erode and transform into different forms if the environment changes significantly, but that takes time.
I encourage you to read regular books. They can tell us more about life and ourselves than business and self-help books. The Dune series can teach us a lot about strategy and the impact of our decisions; George Orwell’s 1984 and Isaac Asimov’s Foundation as well.
I also wrote about it in the past, see:
- Removability over Maintainability
- How to design software architecture pragmatically
- The risk of ignoring risks
- Why are we afraid of our decisions?
- What do the British writer and his fence have to do with Software Architecture?
- When Agile is not enough
- The Holy Grail syndrome
- Stacking the bricks in the software development process
p.s. Ukraine is still under brutal Russian invasion. A lot of Ukrainian people are hurt, without shelter and need help. You can help in various ways, for instance, directly helping refugees, spreading awareness, putting pressure on your local government or companies. You can also support Ukraine by donating e.g. to Red Cross, Ukraine humanitarian organisation or donate Ambulances for Ukraine.