Thursday, June 17, 2010

How Much Progress is Enough

There are days when you just know you are right. It may not happen often, and certainly not with every topic, but it happens - and there is nothing more frustrating than knowing to the depths of your knowing-place that the path upon which others have set is incorrect, poor, or well... wrong.

It's not that you are a genius, have special cognitive powers, or stayed at a Holiday Inn just last night.  No, in this particular case the Gods of insight have bestowed upon you the analytic mind of Sherlock Holmes, conviction from Joan of Arc, and the confidence of Cliff Clavin.

Now what? You've used your best Engrish, color coded the white board, wasted three good napkins, and even developed a PowerPoint that will get honorable mention in the Picasso home for the symbolically senile. You've said "yes but" more times than a filter inspector at a Marlboro factory. Still - the wisdom of the masses, or maybe the blindness of a single individual stands between you and perfection, ... or mediocrity, or ... not-as-much-suckiness.

In 1943, author Ayn Rand (a name I still cannot pronounce with sufficient confidence) wrote a book called the Fountainhead; which was the quintessential treatise on the intersection of architecture and individualism. The struggles of the main character, Howard Roark, are as notable today as ever.

Roark would feel right at home as an IT Architect - ever striving for perfection, delivering absolutely perfect designs that are guaranteed to function even after all the Internet tubes are filled up.  Roark would understand.

IT Architects are constantly in a position to see our solutions implemented at less than full design. We are perpetually perplexed with how hard to push, how much purity to pursue, and how much intellectual pollution we can pardon.

It is understandable that some of our best people just stop caring, and as such, stop being our best. The hardest part of being an IT leader is that you have to balance the internal fire and drive that makes you care against a personality for which others couldn't care less. Winning one technical battle today can lead you to a path that loses the war of opportunity tomorrow. Remember that even a little progress counts as progress.

Advocate. Push. And while you may need to give in from time to time, don't ever stop caring.

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