This is a very liberal reading of Lao-Tsu’s Tao Te Ching for the use of software architects, based on various French and English translations. The numbers refer to the original tablets, shown at right.

Scroll 12The architect observes the world
but trusts his inner vision.
He allows things to come and go.
His heart is open as the sky. (12)

The architect doesn’t talk, she acts.
When this is done,
the team says, “Amazing:
Scroll 17we did it, all by ourselves!” (17)

When a great architect leads, the team
is hardly aware that he exists.
Next best is a leader who is loved.
Next, one who is feared.
The worst, one who is despised. (17)

Scroll 27A good traveler has no fixed plans
and is not intent upon arriving.
A good artist lets her intuition
lead her wherever it wants.
A good scientist has freed herself of concepts
and keeps her mind open to what is.
Thus the architect is available to everyone
and rejects no one.
Scroll 36She is ready to use all situations
and does not waste anything.
This is called embodying the light. (27)

If you want to shrink something,
you must first allow it to expand.
If you want to get rid of something,
you must first allow it to flourish.
Scroll 38If you want to take something,
you must first allow it to be given.
This is called the subtle perception
of the way things are.
The soft overcomes the hard.
The slow overcomes the fast.
Let your workings remain a mystery.
Just show people the results. (36)

When the process is lost, there is good practice.
When good practice is lost, there are rules.
When rules are lost, there is ritual.
Ritual is the beginning of chaos. (38)

Scroll 45The architect concerns himself
with the depth and not the surface,
with the fruit and not the flower. (38)

The architect allows things to happen.
She shapes events as they come.
She steps out of the way
and lets the design speak for itself. (45)

Scroll 50The architect gives himself up
to whatever the moment brings.
He knows that he is going to leave,
and he has nothing left to hold on to:
no illusions, no resistance in his mind.
He holds nothing back from the project,
therefore is ready for departure,
as a man is ready for sleep
Scroll 53after a good day’s work. (50)

The great way is easy,
yet programmers prefer the side paths.
Be aware when things are out of balance.
Remain centered within the design. (53)

The architect’s power is like this.
Scroll 55She lets all things come and go
effortlessly, without desire.
She never expects results;
thus she is never disappointed.
She is never disappointed;
thus her spirit never grows old. (55)

Those who know don’t talk.
Scroll 56Those who talk don’t know. (56)


Those who do not have a clue are still debating about the process.
Those who know just do it. (56)

Scroll 58The architect is content
to serve as an example
and not to impose his will.
He is pointed but doesn’t pierce.
Straightforward, but supple.
Radiant, but easy on the eyes. (58)

If you want to be a great leader,
stop trying to control.
Let go of fixed plans and concepts and
Scroll 57the team will govern itself.
The more prohibitions you have,
the less disciplined the team will be.
The more you coerce,
the less secure the team will be.
The more external help you call,
the less self-reliant the team will be. (57)


About the author

Philippe KruchtenPhilippe Kruchten is former Director and General Manager of the IBM Rational Software Process Business Unit, in charge of the Rational Unified Process (RUP). He worked with Rational for 13 years, in various functions and places: France, Sweden, US, and Vancouver, Canada.

Philippe’s main interests right now, besides software architecture and design, are software engineering and the development process. He is campaigning, in Canada, for the concept of state-licensed professional software engineers.