Why Architecture Abhors Heroes

The craft, properly applied, prevents drama.

Robert McCall – Vision of Utopia

Architecture puts compatible components together to deliver valuable functions. It aims to do this with the highest possible quality, at the lowest possible long-term cost.

An expert architect will avoid predictable issues and predict unavoidable ones from experience. Either way, there will be few surprises when as you build and use the product.

A hero is someone who rides in to save us from disaster single-handedly through her strength, guile or both. If a hero has to ride in, the architect hasn’t done her job.

Bad user interface? What were you doing, Application Architect? Performance issues? How did you size it, Technology Architect? Old data? Come on, Information Architect. Did the competition get a better customer experience NPS? Where was your strategy, Enterprise Architect?

Architecture, by its nature, only respects someone who eliminates the need for heroism.

Heroes are villains here. If an accomplished architect and her work don’t get headlines, so be it. The result is the reward. That doesn’t mean she has to be saintly. She will get a nod of respect from those in the know and belong to one of the longest-lived and best-paid professions (even if no one can precisely say what we do).

A world without heroes and their dramatics would be rather dull, you say? But there would still be the joys of invention, art, sport, love and laughter.

These lovely things would flourish more in a world with more method, standards, foresight, and discipline. The would-be heroes could spend their time being innovators, inventors, athletes, artists, good friends and fine parents.

It is wasteful for the world to let things go bad then fix them with heroics. Architectural thinking prevents this profligacy.

Of course, many other professions, when practised well, also reduce the need for heroism. Marketing strategizes, Sales predicts, Project Management plans, Consulting avoids pitfalls, etc. But, in my experience, their world tolerates, encourages and celebrates heroes more. For the architect, obviating heroics is his raison d’être.

Is this hubris? No. It’s about the essence of a profession that makes our brief passage through a chaotic universe a little more graceful.

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