An architect‘s job is often portrayed as an activity focused on ingenuity and problem solving. Ingenuity is a key trait of successful architects. However an equally important characterization of the activities of a successful architect is ‘diligence’. Diligence can manifest itself in many ways, but ultimately it is an exercise in perseverance and paying the right amount attention to each task and each architectural goal of the system.
Diligence goes hand in hand with the mundane. Successful architecture practices are in many ways mundane. Effective architects often follow mundane daily and weekly checklists to remind them of that which they already know academically, but fail to practice by habit. Without such mundane checklists and reminders architects can quickly fall into software time, in which no measurable progress is achieved because a lack of diligence allowed the architecture to meander and violate known academic principles. It is important to realize in these retrospectives of failed projects that in most cases it isn‘t incompetence that drove failure, but rather the lack of diligence and a sense of urgency.
Diligence also requires an architect to succeed at the deceptively simple task of making and keeping commitments. These commitments are often disparate and can encompass a wide range of constraints and expectations. Examples include:
- Embracing the budget and time constraints of the customer
- Performing all the work that makes the architect effective, not just the work the architect enjoys.
- Commitment to the process/methodology
- Accepting responsibility
Atul Gawande, in his terrific book ‘Better: A Surgeon‘s Notes on Performance‘ , speaks of diligence in the medical community:
“True success in medicine is not easy. It requires will, attention to detail, and creativity. But the lesson I took from India was that it is possible anywhere and by anyone. I can imagine few places with more difficult conditions. Yet astonishing success could be found … what I saw was: Better is possible. It does not take genius. It takes diligence. It takes moral clarity. It takes ingenuity. And above all, it takes a willingness to try.”