1. Guardrails, An Introduction

Guardrails (Plural Noun): A rail at the edge of something, such as a cliff or the deck of a boat, that prevents people from falling off.

What, in your opinion, should be the first priority before embarking on any new venture or innovation? First and foremost, safety?

At first glance in the photograph, the white car appears to be leaving the arrival gate. The fact is that this is a departure gate. If you look closer, there is a small “No Entry” board in blue, suggesting that this is a departure gate and not an arrival gate. The white double line on the road also indicates that this is the pause for the outgoing vehicle, i.e. the departure area before a vehicle takes the major road.

How did we reach this confusing stage, and how is this linked to the topic of guardrails?

This is called “hard coding” within the IT Engineering area. The “Arrival” and “In” signs were hardcoded into a decorative gate when the train station was built with a thought process to make it look artistic, grand and elegant. However, the most important point missed was that there can be a state change at some point in the future. An entry gate can also become an exit gate in future due to an increase in traffic or a change to other external parameters, e.g. road design, taxi ranks, car size, etc. Avoiding hardcoding and making it configurable would be a guardrail similar to something in IT that could have avoided this situation.

🗽 Boundaries Liberate

Guardrails / Boundaries sound claustrophobic and negative in nature. They are being seen as restrictive, an unnecessary rule that takes away freedom.

Another way to look at it is that boundaries provide safety, it helps us liberate rather than constrain us. For example, children from a school near a busy road could only play in areas where adults could keep an eye on them. This was true until a fence was built, after which the children could play in any area of the playground of their choosing.

Boundaries limit options but also provide freedom of choice from the available options. As Greg Mckeown puts nicely in his book Essentialism – The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, it gives freedom to select the vital few from the trivial many and is central to Essentialism.

It is not about policing and restricting freedom but taking out unnecessary adventures that can risk the overall goal/vision, may lead one to danger, or waste crucial time exploring things that do not really matter. Too many options may not lead us anywhere; guardrails allow us to experiment within the chosen option.

Exploring Examples of Different Types of Guardrails:
📿Guardrails: Religious Beliefs

This is Kutubiya mosque, Marrakech, Morrocco, and no building can be taller than this Meenaret in the old town. This is by design, as it reminds people that principles and values are higher than anything else.

The principles of Islam are Surrender, Submission, Sincerity, Obedience and Peace.

🏳️ Guardrails: Political Beliefs

India’s Republic Day falls on 26th January. This was when the Constitution of India came into effect on 26th January 1950, and India became a Republic.

The word republic comes from the Latin term res publica, which literally means “public affair” or “public matter”, i.e. the power resides with the people.

The constitution is a book of rules, principles and guidance on how the country should operate. It is above any law, politics or religion of the country, which brings “real” freedom to the people by setting up boundaries.

The constitution sets up three pillars,

🏛️ The Legislative Power: Task of passing laws and supervising their implementation

👮‍♂️ The Executive Power: This is the federal government tasked to implement laws created by the legislation.

⚖️The Judicial Power: Interprets law and administers justice; their task is to ensure the laws are complied with.

The constitution is above all these pillars because the power resides with the people, and the three pillars work for them.

It is important to note that the Constitution defines the duty, roles and responsibilities, and power between the Union and the States, as India is a Union of States, i.e. establishing the fine balance between Centralisation and Decentralisation. Without this balance, it is impossible to scale up the governance of such a big country, having a rich diversity of cultures, 1.3B people, different religions and roots in ancient civilisations.

🏨 Guardrails: Organisational Beliefs

British Telecom has a 178-year history, employs over 100,000 people, and operates in 187 countries. 

A code of conduct for all BT employees and principles is established within the Digital area. It is impossible to scale and establish the right culture unless these are defined and agreed upon by the citizens of the organisation.

👴 Guardrails: Personal Beliefs

The three guiding principles in my life of which are constructive.

❤️ Speak Truth (First Person)

Speaking the truth means being true to myself. This ensures that I am always consistent with my responses and do not have to think about them.

🤗 Love (Second Person, Singular)

Loving everyone individually and treating them the way I want to be treated.

♾️ Compassion (Third Person, Plural)

Compassion is for the third person, and it is plural. It is about being kind to everyone as a group.

The other three principles are contrarian and instruct me on what to avoid doing. This is specific to me and my way of life; there is no right or wrong.

🍾 Do Not Intoxicate

Trying not to drink alcohol.

🍗 Avoid Meat

Do not eat anything that is not plant-based, except milk and honey. It’s more like a way of life I’ve grown up with.

🎲 Do Not Gamble

Don’t gamble, and don’t do anything that has to do with gambling. So far in my career, I haven’t worked for any company that deals with gambling.

What are your personal and family guardrails? I would love to hear from you!

Guardrails: IT Architecture, Data and Analytics

As an Enterprise Architect, this is a great topic that is close to my heart. I promise to write in detail about the guidelines for data and analytics in IT architecture. This will include figuring out where to begin, how to define, and giving an assessment of the maturity model for data architecture guardrails.

Coming Soon!

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