The old saying about committees came to mind when I was considering the default approach companies often use to achieving a control objective. Bringing together diverse perspectives can help to reduce bias, but in many cases a simpler approach might result in a better outcome.
Let’s focus on the specific example of a solution architecture review.
It is rare that there is accountability for each member of a committee if their decisions were poor as they have no skin in the game. The power imbalance between the committee and the creator of the architecture proposal being reviewed might also encourage nitpicking over format or style rather than substance.
There is also an increased likelihood of incurring delay and other forms of waste. Committees meet at scheduled intervals which might not align well with the needs of a specific team. The committee might also be faced with a “feast or famine” challenge where they are overwhelmed with submissions at some meetings with the result that certain teams don’t get their proposals reviewed. Beyond the proposal review itself, there is usually a need to go through some type of formal intake process and to provide other documentation for committee-specific needs. The overhead costs of running the committee are likely to be charged across all teams. And don’t get me started with the increased costs of re-work or repeat reviews beyond the initial presentation…
So let’s consider a simpler alternative as the default approach with a committee used only an exception basis for the most complex situations.
Why not require all architects to spend a fixed percentage of their capacity on conducting structured peer reviews of each other’s architectural proposals? Each architect is expected to have a clear understanding of enterprise standards and good architectural practices, so control objectives should still be met.
This addresses both of the previous disadvantages:
- Greater skin in the game. The architect who reviewed the proposal will be sharing accountability for the outcomes with its creator. On top of that, should the reviewer not be fair in the review process, this behavior will be rewarded in the future when it is his or her turn to be reviewed.
- Reduced delay and waste as it is much easier for two people to meet than a committee and the level of process or bureaucracy around the review can be minimized.
It might also result in a better architecture as we may be more open to incorporating feedback from one of our peers than a group of seniors.
Ensuring that there is a fair balance of review work across all architects might be achieved through some sort of random allocation system that prioritizes reviewers based on their last review date.
Delivering in a leaner manner should not require sacrificing the control objectives which will keep us safe, it will just require re-thinking how we approach governance.