A number of bloggers have talked about the central importance of story-telling and sense-making in the architect's craft. So I wanted to highlight an interesting piece about Rowan Williams in the Guardian recently, with possible relevance to the practice of enterprise architecture and systems thinking.
As an experiment, I have taken some of Williams' statements about Christianity, and reworded them so that they refer instead to enterprise architecture and systems
1. Instead of trying to argue that [enterprise architecture] is
true, it is important to see [enterprise architecture] as a cultural tradition.
Meaning is constructed through cultural practices. [Enterprise architecture] is the
place where a very specific form of meaning is made, shared, passed on.
2. The question of what we believe is secondary to the question of what we
do, what forms of symbolic communication we participate in, what
cultural language we speak.
3. On what grounds do [enterprise architects] affirm principles? Is it that [systems theory] dispenses a few
non-negotiable rules? No,
says Williams, the legal paradigm is inadequate; it doesn't help us
through the inevitable grey areas. The [architect] should approach moral
and ethical questions by means of communication, sign-making. The
[engineering] impulse invites us to semiotic anarchism: casual
[engineering] hints at
huge meanings that we don't mean; it is not safely "meaningless", but is
meaning-shaking. A disciplined approach to [architecture and engineering] (which does
not deny but affirms its
goodness) is perhaps the loudest communicative tool available to us.
When an architect chooses to label something as a "silo" or "legacy", or uses words like "integrated" and "standardized", these may not always be objectively verifiable categories but subjective judgements, around which the architect may then weave an appropriate story.
Marcel Derosier, Architect as Anthropologist: Leveraging Cultural Knowledge to Foster Collaboration (pdf) (Saturn 2012, via SEI)
Tom Graves, The Enterprise is the Story (Integrated EA Conference, March 2012, via Slideshare)
Theo Hobson, Rowan Williams got it right about ritual (Guardian, 31 October 2012)