The Great Wall of Architecture

As an architect for a team with a large number of people, I have a couple of problems:

  • I often make decisions that turns out to be quite crappy.
  • Even when I think I’ve written or drawn something that’s smart, it often turns out that it’s incomprehensible to everyone else

Luckily, I’ve noticed that most developers have characteristics that almost always counter these weaknesses:

  • Most developers are pretty smart, especially when they’re trying to solve a specific problem.
  • Most developers don’t read architecture documentation

So instead of trying to force the developers to read my crappy, poorly documented decisions, I decided to try to see what happened if I instead made use of the opportunities that the situation presented to me. Enter: The Great Wall of Architecture.

The Great Wall of Architecture

There are two rules for the Great Wall of Architecture:

  1. Only the pictures on the Great Wall of Architecture are officially part of the system documentation.
  2. The architect (me) cannot draw pictures to be included on the Great Wall of Architecture

As a playful addition, some of the developers have signed their work, just like we used to do in kindergarten. You can’t actually see it on the photo, but the hand writing on this diagram reads “made by Christin, 32 years old”.

Sequence Diagram

My hope is that the Great Wall of Architecture will make the whole team feel they can use their strengths on the project. As more drawings come up every day, I’m optimistic with the result.

About Johannes Brodwall

Johannes is Principal Software Engineer in SopraSteria. In his spare time he likes to coach teams and developers on better coding, collaboration, planning and product understanding.
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  • Pretty cool. I’ll have to try that out. :)

  • espen

    Really cool way to document architecture. It probably also prevents you from doing too much in terms of a formal architecture, as you quickly run out of wall space trying to draw en ESB :)

  • Erlend
  • So, Johannes, have you the effectively delegated all architecting to the developers? What is left for you to do? Maybe you got more time to code yourself, … which would qualify you to contribute to the wall after all..

  • Hi, Leif John

    As an architect, what’s left for me to do is to make sure that there’s nothing left that only I can do. :-)

    Any role that is prefixed with “the” is potentially dangerous. If “the Architect” has unique responsibilities, (s)he transforms from an asset into a liability.

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