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.