Maybe It Is Time for Kind Architecture

It can often feel as if society is at a crossroads. Most days there seem to be new stories in the battle against bigotry, racism & xenophobia. This leaves technologists to try and cope with the relentless flow of change and to navigate a path through diametrically opposed camps. Perhaps it is time for technologists to consider Kind Architecture, to keep pace with this relentless change and be a source of great value in an organisation. So, what is Kind Architecture? 

As a young Australian man, I recall watching a now-famous meme unfold on national television; “please explain?” was born. 

That was in 1996, and Pauline Hanson, a still relatively popular politician was correctly taken to task for her racist views and the quote was pure, unscripted comedy genius to highlight the power of ignorance. (If you don’t know the story behind Pauline Hanson perhaps a quick Google search will help).  

The irony of her words, give or take a few years, heralds the positive turning point on the importance of kindness in our society. If you check out the Google books n-gram viewer and you will see a steady decline in the use of the word kindness since about 1830. Perhaps it is time to reverse that decline? 

I’ve had significant time to reflect on what kindness means, through the personal experience of emotional and psychological abuse to the professional exposure of friction at every level in complex organisations. I have come to realise the importance of Non-Violent Communication (if you have not come across this, look up and read Marshall Rosenberg).  

What Non-Violent Communication teaches us is the immense power of language and how it can be used or abused in any given situation. The “clean language” described in non-violent communication can increase empathy and understanding making it much easier to create a mutual agreement. 

This is something for all of us, and especially technology architects can benefit from showing friendly, generous and a considerate approach to communicating the complexity of current and future states and facilitating their transformation. 

Only a few years after “please explain”, the foresight of Jeff Bezos architected Amazon’s success so that it is now one of the world’s few trillion $ companies. Ahead of the industry he now famously identified that the friction of human interaction was holding his company back and he enforced the need for internal APIs or contracts between teams to foster sharing of data, information & knowledge. It was his wisdom that many companies still don’t fully grasp. But to give his employees the impetus required he said “Anyone who doesn’t do this will be fired.  Thank you, have a nice day!” 

Now, bringing this back to the present day, I’d like to propose Kind Architecture as the medium to correct the kid’s football of engineering that permeates technology and change.  

Like five year olds all chasing the ball around the park, scrums of engineers, analysts and product owners chasing the metaphorical football around the office pitch. Even with the wisdom of Jeff, you still need humans to agree to the contracts between teams. There is a significant amount of friction that can be removed by being Kind. There is a significant amount of friction that can be removed by considering the value of Architecture. 

While technological singularity is still a few years off, human interaction is still key to the delivery of change. Even though architecture might be a dirty word in Fintechs these days, there is definitely the need for a set of skills in principled individuals that are the fulcrum of your metaphorical football teams. Understanding the significance of minute decisions, the vision of iterating microservices, or the understanding of how the existing solution actually works in production; these carefully structured views are complex, hard and transient. 

So, as a technologist, how will you approach today differently?  

Will you listen empathetically to your colleagues… 

Will you observe without evaluating… 

Will you be the mediator… 

Will you elevate the tough decisions… 

Will you deliver value today and tomorrow… 

Will you remove technical debt… 

Or, will you help chase that damn football?