Friday, December 14, 2012

Messy SOCS

I was helping one of my teams get unstuck and it took five minutes to realize that their issues was not knowledge, it was data.  The circumstance is usually the inverse so let me explain what I mean.

This team is operationally very mature.  They have solid, documented, processes, qualified and competent people and are really running very smooth. The issue is that almost nothing is written down and even less goes through any formal evaluation process regularly. In the heads of all these wonderful workers are the ways and means, the reasons and rationale, and the detail behind decisions. The know a lot, but they can't reference very much. They may make good decisions, but have little evidence that survives the decision-making process. This means the organization, while mature, is actually quite frail. They are deeply impacted by personnel changes and have substantial exposure to risks and accidents.

To help get a handle, we've been developing a Situation Report. There are lots of names for this type of information, lots of ways to assemble, and lots of examples. I personally prefer the SOCS approach.
  • Situation - What are the facts, components, processes, and other influential elements that comprise the situation you find yourself. For information technology this is often a combination of the 3 P's (People, Process, Platform). 
  • Options - What do you know about the alternatives? What have you evaluated? What needs to be evaluated?
  • Consequences - Assuming status quo, how will the situation change? For actionable options, how will the situation change?
  • Solutions - What actions are needed to evaluate or realize the options? What timeline, what risks?

This is one of those glaringly obvious ways to collect and/or present information that is so clean as to be easily overlooked. Give it a shot the next time you need to make sense of mess.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

TFS Preview

I'm just going to say it. The TFS Preview is the smartest thing from Microsoft in quite a while. Well, since they started offering free virtual servers so engineers could train and experiment with the platform, anyway.

It's like what [Github/bitbucket/insert crappy open source code repository of choice] and [insert project management software of choice] would be if they grew up and had a really cool kid that didn't suck.

Now if they can just get make a phone with the reliability of an HTC and camera with optics better than an iPhone, we'd really be cooking...

Monday, June 18, 2012


Acronyms are amazing things. I have tons and in my industry they seem to be everywhere. In reality most of them are quickly forgotten and of limited value beyond shortening the conversation.

However there are a couple of favorites that are indispensable for helping ensure critical thinking and completeness. For example:

SMART - This relates to setting goals and describes the attributes you should ensure each goal encompasses.
  • Specific: details to remove wiggle room when determining if the goal was met
  • Measurable: if it can't be measured, how will you know if you accomplished anything?
  • Attainable: don't set yourself or others up for failure
  • Results-Oriented: it helps to think in terms of an outcome or future state so others can support you, it also gives you a benefit to anticipate
  • Time-Sensitive: everything needs a timeline so we have a sense of urgency and more importantly know when to declare success or change tactics

and I've recently added another one to my short list:
FACT - This relates to the quality and integrity of data or intelligence.
  • Fit-for-purpose: does it apply, can it be used, is it appropriate?
  • Accurate: how reliable and consistent is the information or the source?
  • Complete: are there other inputs that could color the interpretation? does the data stand on its own?
  • Timely: how up-to-date is the information, and can age impact the interpretation or usefulness?
I'm sure there are plenty others that you use, and I've a few more on my list I'll share later.