Corporate culture, software development and architecture
28. June 2021

How can I know what I think before I see what I paint?


5 minutes reading time

It used to be called ‘doodling’ – now it’s called “sketchnotes”. Whatever you call them, they are visual notes in which you combine images and text in your own style.

And they’re not about creating works of art. Instead, they help you focus and remember, and they’re a lot of fun, especially when they’re NOT pretty. So while you’re reading my blog post, why not pick up a pen and create your first sketchnotes?

Give me a whiteboard

Sometimes my refusal to hold meetings without a whiteboard and pen in hand really got on my colleagues’ nerves. As soon as we discussed something together on the spot, pictures would be drawn. OK, often you couldn’t really read what was being written, but at the end you had a shared image.

And now? In the age of online meetings, we quickly fell back on Miro & Co. This works quite well. But I soon found myself scribbling extra words, exclamation marks or smiley faces on the side of the paper.

Then came the first online conference, and on the first evening, I found my seat full of colourful leaves – but it was spring, not autumn. It wasn’t really new to me, after all, my notes at school and university looked like this. Even then, it helped me not to wander off in my head, but to listen actively.

But it’s not just about concentrating – it’s also about filtering or concentrating what you hear. And surprisingly, the “key takeaways” often fit on a simple A4 page.

Reflecting and remembering – my “treasures“

At this point, I would like to share a few of my favourite doodles with you – perhaps you will enjoy them as much as I do.

Software / Architecture Reviews

As a software architect, you not only make good progress by helping to design software or IT landscapes yourself – but also by learning from others. And architecture reviews are perfect for this. Especially if you see them as just that: an opportunity to learn from others and discuss with others why they did what and how. Thias is often because reviews often have the flavour of “here comes someone complaining”.

At the Software Architecture Summit, I had the pleasure of taking part in the Software Review practice workshop with Dr Gernot Starke.

My favourite “takeaway” from this session is the “2 F(Ph)ac(s)e Commit” of the review results.
2 faces = always finalise with at least two people
2 phases = always double-check with the developers/architects before the results are passed on to third parties

Team Retrospective

An important point: Focus – of course, but on what?
The answer is on the table: on us!

Architecture discussion around enterprise architecture

What are really sensible macro and micro architecture specifications and topics? Like so many things – a question of perspective and relation.

Discussion of ISO25010 quality requirements

In addition to requirements such as maintainability, scalability, usability, etc., there is one “-ness” that often influences the priority of the other “-ability” in the end: the affordability of all the desired features. – A pity really …

What do agile teams look like?

Who hasn’t heard of the desire for full-stack developers, DevSecOps engineers, etc.? It used to be called the egg-laying wool-milk sow. But is it important that everyone can do everything? My view is pretty clear: the team should be able to do it. And everyone should be interested in it – for me, T-shaped skills come closest.

Architectural approaches in practice

At this point I would like to quote my colleague Kay Thriemer: “The difference between theory and practice is greater in practice than in theory”.

Code reviews – from bottleneck to superpower

Dr Michaela Greiner inspired me with her talk at the Software Architecture Summit in March. The realisation that code reviews require a lot of soft skills to make the whole process promising is actually logical, even if it is not always obvious at first glance.

And written pull request comments are no substitute for direct communication. Otherwise, everyone will interpret the image on the bottom left differently.

Software Architecture Approaches

Finally, two quotes by Stefan Tilkov from his workshop at the Software Architecture Summit on “Achieving the right modularisation with quality-driven software architecture” – packaged in sketchnotes.

One relates to the impact of different architectural approaches (microservices, self-contained systems or even monoliths) – and why did we need something new after SOA?

The other quote concerns the maintainability of systems, which is often a key requirement. But what does that mean in today’s more lightweight architecture?

Paperless office?

So yes, so many pieces of paper are not really ecological, I know. I’ve tried it with Miro, and it works quite well with the right touchscreen and pen. And you have the templates ready to copy.

For me, though, a pen in my hand and a sheet of paper on the table just feels more intuitive. It’s also more relaxing to look away from the screen, at least for your eyes. The brain also processes things differently. But that’s just a matter of taste – and the notes don’t necessarily end up in the bin, but on the bulletin board as a reminder.

Does it always work?

Well, it’s a challenge – or let’s just call it a problem – especially in videoconferencing: it doesn’t really work well with drawing without looking. This means that you are looking down at the paper and the other people in the meeting are mainly seeing the hairstyle from above. But with a little intelligent camera positioning and active communication about what you’re doing, this can be minimised. At this point I would like to quote my colleague Andreas Siegel:

That’s really nice to see:
When I see you busy in meetings,
I almost immediately think
that you’re drawing pictures to go with it”.

And quite clearly: the digital transcripts are missing. Both at the same time? I’m a woman, we’re supposed to be able to do that… Well, as we all know, the exception proves the rule. And even with the time disc method, you don’t really get very far. So either you have to bat your eyes and let your colleagues write down the details, or you have to put down the pencil and put your fingers on the keyboard.

Or, finally, my favourite alternative: simply digitise the sketchnotes and file them as part of the meeting minutes to create acceptance and enjoyment throughout the team.

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