Patron Role


...the development organization has come to the point where DeveloperControlsProcess, and now additional roles are being defined.
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It is important to give a project continuity. But centralized control can be a drag. And anarchy can be a worse drag. However, most societies need a king/parent figure and an organization needs a single, ultimate decision-maker. The time to make a decision should be less than the time it takes to implement it.


Give the project access to a visible, high-level manager, who champions the cause of the project. The patron can be the final arbiter for project decisions, which provides a driving force for the organization to make decisions quickly. The patron is accountable to remove project-level barriers that hinder progress, and is responsible for the organization's "morale" (sense of well-being).

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Having a patron gives the organization a sense of being, and a focus for later process and organizational changes. Other roles can be defined in terms of the patron's role. The manager role is not to be a totally centralized control, but rather a champion. That is, the scope of the manager's influence is largely outside those developing the product itself, but includes those whose cooperation is necessary for the success of the product (support organizations, funders, test organizations, etc.). This role also serves as a patron or sponsor; the person is often a corporate visionary.

We have observed this in Philippe Kahn in QPW; in Ravi Sethi and others in early C++ efforts in AT&T; for a manager in a high-productivity Network Systems project at AT&T; and in another multi-location AT&T project.

This relates to the pattern FireWalls which in turn relates to the pattern GateKeeper. Patrons are central to the success of SkunkWorks. They can help arbitrate the membership of SelfSelectingTeams to guard against exclusivity.

Block talks about the importance of influencing forces over which the project has no direct control [BibRef-Block1983].
In a Joint Application Development (JAD [BibRef-Kendall2002], pp. 132-135) session, one of the key roles is a "tie breaker" who is usually a manager who appears only occasionally at the meetings.

The etymology of Patron is instructive:

The term pattern comes from Middle English patron (and the more ancient French patron) which still means both `patron' and `pattern.' In the 16th century, patron, with a shifted accent, evidently began to be pronounced patrn, and spelt patarne, paterne, pattern. By 1700 the original form ceased to be used of things, and patron and pattern became differentiated in form and sense.

1 a `The original proposed to imitation; the archetype; that which is to be copied; an exemplar' (J.); an example or model deserving imitation; an example or model of a particular excellence. aC. 1369 CHAUCER Dethe Blaunche 910 Truely she Was her chefe patron of beaute, And chefe ensample of al her werke.

From a dictionary of medieval terms, related by Aamod Sane at University of Illinois.