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ThoughtWorks' CTO Rebecca Parsons on Courageous Leadership and Evolutionary Architecture

| Podcast with Rebecca Parsons Follow 0 Followers by Shane Hastie Follow 11 Followers on Sep 25, 2017 |

In this podcast Shane Hastie, Lead Editor for Culture & Methods, spoke to Rebecca Parsons, CTO of ThoughtWorks, about their recent report on the need for Courageous Leadership and her forthcoming book on Evolutionary Architecture

Key Takeaways

  • Courageous leadership enables organisations to solve enterprise-scale problems while still allowing empowered development teams to produce software in an agile fashion 

  • The importance of making the link between technology advances and what they could mean for a business organisation, rather than seeing them in isolation 

  • If your metric is how many experiments succeed then you will not take enough risks – turn this around and celebrate the learning from failed experiments 

  • The need to truly put the customer at the centre our focus, understand the kind of relationship we want with customers and how we want to interact with them 

  • Create an environment where people are recognised and valued for their varied perspectives and recognise that good ideas can come from many different places 

  • Evolutionary architecture is based on the idea that things are changing so rapidly now that you can’t predict what changes will be needed in the future 

  • Innovations around databases, architecture and continuous delivery enable evolutionary architecture to be a real thing today 

1:05 Solving enterprise-scale problems while still allowing empowered development teams to produce software in an agile fashion

1:22 Describing what courageous leadership is

1:45 The importance of a leader who has a real vision for the transformation of their business

2:05 To understand what the traits of courageous leaders are they interviewed a group of them, and people around them

2:34 The first characteristic is an understanding of just how transformative technology can be for their organisations

3:14 Referring to the IT is becoming irrelevant article – that is true for particular kinds of IT services that are becoming utility, but not for transformative technology solutions

3:39 The importance of making the link between technology advances and what they could mean for a business organisation

3:50 The second characteristic is supporting the ability to experiment, safely

4:01 If experiments don’t sometimes fail, they are not experiments

4:15 If your metric is how many experiments succeed then you will not take enough risks – turn this around and celebrate the learning from failed experiments

4:44 The importance of knowing the difference between taking a risk where the experiment didn’t work and failing because organisationally people did things wrong.

4:57 Don’t make bad mistakes, and recognize that not all mistakes are bad mistakes

5:08 The need for courage to face down an executive team and explain that something didn’t work but that it was a valid experiment with valuable learning

5:25 Another characteristic is the willingness to take on big risks and protect their people from organisational consequences when the experiments don’t work out

5:38 The next characteristic is understanding the central role the customer now plays in our organisations

6:00 The need to truly put the customer at the centre our focus, understand the kind of relationship we want with customers and how we want to interact with them

6:10 It sometimes takes a lot of work but you have to engage with your customers where they are, not where you want them to be

6:20 You need to innovate and present customers with things they haven’t told you about because they may not know what they want, but be prepared to learn from them

6:40 Work is different today – work is much more collaborative today

7:05 Draw ideas from many different parts of the organisation

7:16 The value in diversity of thought and viewpoints

7:30 Create an environment where people are recognised and valued for their varied perspectives and recognise that good ideas can come from many different places

7:40 Courageous leaders blaze a trail because they have built a good team around them, not because they are lone heroes

7:50 These leaders have created a culture which allows innovation to thrive

8:10 They bring people along with them, make sure their people understand what the vision is

8:20 The vision needs to be clear and welcoming

8:25 This is achieved by presenting a goal, a picture of what the future might be and inviting their people to help them paint that picture together

8:43 Empowering people on their teams to dream, to imagine how the world could be different and creating an environment where people have the space to be creative, the space to take measured risks and sometimes fail, and sometimes “hit a home run”

9:10 An example of Domino’s Pizza as an innovation leader – a technology company who happens to create pizzas

9:25 Ways that Dominos have leveraged technology to create a complete customer experience rather than just order a pizza

9:55 IAG in Australia as an example of a company that has built an environment which allows for experimentation and learning despite being a traditional financial services organisation

11:00 The upcoming book on Building Evolutionary Architectures

11:11 Work done by Rebecca and Neal Ford on applying agile principles to architecture

11:32 Challenging the premise that architecture is hard to change

11:40 Evolutionary architecture is a technical challenge and also a process and people challenge

11:55 Distinguishing between evolutionary architecture and adaptable architecture

12:02 “Adaptable” is often perceived as configurable – decisions made in advance about what could change in the implementation

12:25 Evolutionary architecture is based on the idea that things are changing so rapidly now that you can’t predict what changes will be needed in the future

12:35 Rather than building switches and configurations choices which will probably not be used explore ways to make the architecture as easy to change as possible

13:00 Examples of big changes that evolutionary architecture can support

13:15 Many of the traditional architectural principles still apply, for example coupling and cohesion are crucial

13:35 Questions about tradeoffs and choices that have to be made

13:40 The concept of a Fitness Function – things that need to be explored up front relate to the critical architectural characteristics which will have the biggest impact on the overall system. Examples include security, performance, mean-time-to-recovery.

14:05 You can’t optimize for all of these things – you have to decide which is the most important characteristic and optimize for that

14:25 Drawing on ideas from evolutionary computation and fitness functions

14:35 Some recent innovations have made evolutionary architecture possible

14:47 True continuous delivery is key to evolutionary architecture

15:05 Explaining how well implemented, fully automated CD infrastructure and processes remove many of the risks which would previously have prevented evolutionary architecture

15:47 Agile thinking and the way of doing things in small increments, coupled with the rigor of well implemented continuous delivery is what makes evolutionary architecture possible

16:00 Microservices is an early implementation of an evolutionary architecture

16:10 Contrasting the degrees of freedom in microservices with that in traditional layered architectures

16:44 The importance of techniques for database refactoring to support evolutionary architecture

16:50 Data is a tremendous asset for organisations but it ages very poorly

17:00 Conceptually data migration is easy – practically it is always hard and problematic

17:23 Refactoring databases tackles head on the issue of data migration – make the smallest possible change and get rapid feedback, a-la unit testing

17:45 By making big data changes as a series of small refactorings you know when the migration breaks and can recover quickly, identify and fix the problems incrementally

18:20 The innovations around databases, architecture and continuous delivery which enable evolutionary architecture to be a real thing today

Mentioned

Agile 2017

IT is Dead Article

Domino’s Pizza

IAG

Building Evolutionary Architectures book

Neal Ford

Patrick Kua

Refactoring Databases

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