I have to admit I was quite excited to have been asked. After all, it was about a topic that sounded very grand, and it had the word ‘Strategy’ in it. It was 1996 and I was 30 years old — enough technical experience to have a stab at most things without breaking something — but not yet versed in the ethereal world of high-level management consulting. The, frankly older consultants exhibited such calm, such… gravitas. And now was my chance to take a seat at the top table, to listen, perchance to dine with some of the smartest people I was likely to meet.
And so, I laboured. I interviewed everyone I could find. I filled a wall with sticky notes, I drew mind maps. I held brainstorming sessions and read everything I could find about the topic. I drafted a document, I went through the company standard first, second and third level review. The higher thinkers read what I had written, and they found it good. I was overwhelmed with joy, my proudest career moment since that meeting in Berlin when I had held the room in the palm of my hand.
Not long after, I left the company so I never found out if it was implemented. I doubt it — shortly after that, the firm merged with another, and was acquired by a third. No doubt my efforts were lost in the noise, after all it was custom built for the original company.
Or was it, indeed, custom built? A few years later I was reminiscing about my great achievement. I had defined an information architecture, with meta-data enabling the company’s information assets to be structured and organised. I had defined an indexing mechanism, ensuring that any such assets could be catalogued and found. And I had defined a management process, with the roles and responsibilities required to keep everything ticking over.
In other words, I had ‘invented’… the library, as used from the present day from the ancient Egyptians and no doubt beyond. As this realisation dawned I felt initially horrified, then a strange peace descended. What lessons ? That despite ending up with what might be seen as an ‘architectural pattern’, it was important to have to worked through the process.
Oh, and that sometimes there are no lessons, only experience.
Also published on Medium.