Mental Momentum: Unsticking a Stuck Design

May 31, 2012 |

Investigative Architecture is our “bread and butter.” We facilitate meetings with stakeholders, understand what they have or what they want, and use diagrams to rapidly drive to a clear consensus regarding what is there (“as is”) or what should be there (“to be”). We have refined our approach over many years into a clear, well defined, proven methodology. We write articles on our approach, we mentor clients, and we sell training.

So why am I stuck? I met with a group of stakeholders, I have markup on the initial (very drafty) diagram I produced based on speculation and a few pages of notes. I am staring at the page. It seems to be staring back at me.

Often times, in spite of having a precise methodology and being experienced at that methodology, it feels a bit overwhelming to take that first step for assorted reasons – too complex, too much information, not enough information, juggling too many projects, kids didn’t sleep last night, etc. That’s when “Don’t know where to start” syndrome takes over.

In those cases, I do the following to kick-start success:

  1. Remind myself that I have done this 1000+ times before and in the end it always works out.
  2. Focus on an element of my notes about which I feel more confident and start there. Alternatively, pick any part of my notes and start there.
  3. Select the most likely diagram type. Is it a process? Activity Diagram. Data flow? Data Context. Static system connectivity? Logical System Overview.
  4. Look at the page, read a note, add the element to the diagram, cross it out in the notes. Repeat.
  5. If you are having trouble adding the information in a note to the diagram, there is a good chance it doesn’t belong there. Iterate to another (appropriate) diagram and add it there.

Pretty soon I have momentum. I get “into the zone.” Suddenly, miraculously, my notes are all crossed out and I have a handful of draft diagrams ready for my next design review. Understanding is improved, and more importantly, knowledge of what I still need to figure out is clear.

It’s the magic of Investigative Architecture!

Okay. I am done with the blog. Time to return to my page of notes and blank diagram… :)

For more diagramming tips, try some of our other articles on diagramming.

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Dan Hughes

Was a principal consultant at Systems Flow, Inc.

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