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Leadership

Soft Edges

As humans we seem to engage in a never ending dialog around who should, when and why?

A constant conversation that often focuses on the process rather than the outcome. In my own world (a technology product delivery world), there has probably never been a better example than when does architecture end and technical design / engineering begin? If I had a dollar…

I feel that this type of question is (unfortunately) more about when to engage the people / team rather than the activity itself. More about when do we get Jenny in the loop than what will our architecture and technical design look like?

I’ve got a pretty strong opinion on this and it’s rooted in primaries, secondaries and soft edges.

For simplification, think of primaries as the R/A in RASCI and secondaries as the C. Soft edges? Well that’s just about not being precious and working together as primaries and secondaries.

When we lead into something like architecture, the reality is that our architects are responsible / accountable for it, but our engineers have so much to contribute. In fact they need to contribute because they will ultimately implement what’s being architected.

When we lead into something like technical design and engineering, our engineers are responsible / accountable, but our architects typically have a deep engineering background. They too can contribute to ideas on how to implement the architecture.

Therefore is architecture and technical design / engineering mutually exclusive? Nope, never is. In fact over time, such involvements and activities don’t start and stop, they merge and transfer. As we progress through time and implementation, our architects shift from primaries to secondaries and our engineers vice versa.

Where is the handoff point then? Well there actually isn’t one. Instead there is a blended activity of outcome ownership and a shifting of responsibility / accountability and contribution within the team.

The underpinning philosophy that enables this is the soft edges.

The ability for roles / teams / people to work together on problems, contributing together with little regard for job description or remit. Soft edges allows us to have a first class opinion and not get precious about ‘who’s call is it’? Rather can we get the best outcome, like what’s the best idea?

We all know who the elephant in the room is, and we all know who is the deer. Let’s not rule out what the deer has to say.

It’s important to know who is primary and has the responsibility / accountability and who is a secondary and can contribute. Over time this often reverses, and when working well it does so with smooth transition. Smooth transitions need a lack of jarring and the best way to do that IMO is through softness, as in soft edges.

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