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Emergent Design

I’m somewhat onboard with the agile community’s concept of “emergent design“. But like all techniques/heuristics/rules-of-thumb/idioms, context is everything. In the “emergent design” approach, you start writing code and, via a serendipitous, rapid, high frequency, mistake-making, error-correction process, a good design emerges from the womb – voila! This technique has worked well for me on “small” designs within an already-established architecture, but it is not scalable to global design, new architecture, or cross-cutting system functionality. For these types of efforts, “emergent modeling” may be a more appropriate approach. If you believe this, then you must make the effort to learn how to model, write (or preferably draw) it up, and iterate on it much like you do with writing code. But wait, you don’t do, or ever plan to do, documentation, right? Your code is so self-expressive that you don’t even need to comment it, let alone write external documentation. That crap is for lowly English majors.

To religiously embrace “emergent design” and eschew modeling/documentation for big design efforts is to invite downstream disaster and massive post delivery stakeholder damage. Beware because one of those downstream stakeholders may be you.

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