30 June 2009
29 June 2009
26 June 2009
25 June 2009
“[we provide] processes that can stand the scrutiny of unprecedented oversight.”
Are they really saying that the objective of their proposed “methodical, rigorous and standard processes,” which are “demanded by the complexities of 21st century weapon systems,” is to prevent criticism? Yes, they are. I’m not surprised it’s come to this, but it is a little bit funny to see the CYA mentality stated so explicitly and with such boldness.
Withstanding scrutiny & oversight is fine, but it shouldn’t be the bottom line. What happened to delivering capabilities (which the briefing NEVER MENTIONED!)?
If processes are going to be of any value, they should make the product better. They should streamline operations, enable smart decision making, foster better problem solving, encourage innovation, and deliver the required systems faster & cheaper. When we use them primarily as shields against scrutiny, something is horribly wrong.
24 June 2009
23 June 2009
LtGen Kadish: “It's remarkable that the people we have out there doing this every day can make this work still under the systems that we impose on our self. And all for good reason. There are a lot of heroes out therereally making this work and I would almost say in spite of the system
I don't think process is going to fix this problem. When we add process and improvements, we tend to really add things and not take things away. And under that approach, I think we will just increase complexity. So I would advise a lot of caution in adding things without asking the question, "What are you going to take away to make these processes more integrated and less complex?"
And at the end of the day, it's the people doing the job, making more right decisions than wrong decisions that our going to produce the outcome here. And it really does. It might really come down to the fact that we could make an administration system and as good as we can make them in human terms. But its going to come down to people doing the job every day. And we've got to select them right. And we've got to support them and make them perform and hold them accountable.”
There's a lot there I can hang my hat on. It's stuff I've been saying and writing about for several years now, so this is a nice bit of confirmation that I'm on a good track.
I really should have some t-shirts made that say "I don't think process is going to fix this problem." Let me know if you want one too and we can do a bulk order...
22 June 2009
I suspect the fact that I rose out of my chair and waved my fist in the air once or twice while reading it means a) I'm a hopeless geek and b) I'm in the right job.
A one-page summary that accompanied the 40+ page transcript offered these observations & themes:
Complexity drives the problems
People make the difference
I'm encouraged by the recognition that complexity is a problem and people are a solution. Not much mention of the need for more rigorously-defined and vigorously-enforced processes. Whew! I particularly appreciated the comments by DARP Chairman Rep Robert Andrews (D-NJ):
Andrews: “There have been many instances where there has been very effective coordination. I think the bulk of the evidence is that that's more a function of the talents and commitment of the individual that are involved, not necessarily the administrative structure within which they are working.
One of the corollary hypotheses to this is maybe it doesn't matter much what the administrative structure is. It's entirely dependent upon the skills and personalities of the people involved and that there are very finite limits as to what we can do with manipulating an administrative structure. That may well be the case.”
Former SECDEF Gordon England: “The more complex the system, the more flexibility you need -- managers need. The trend is always the other way. That is, it gets more complex. We add layers of bureaucracy and regulation and control and that makes it almost impossible to run very complex programs.”
19 June 2009
18 June 2009
Yes, this is a real chart, and there are literally hundreds more like it. Don't tell me this is hard to follow. This is as simple as it gets. It shows you right there in the figure how to verify something. How can it be any more explicit?
Like all institutionalized cogs, instructions are essential. Intuition and intelligence need not apply.
17 June 2009
16 June 2009
15 June 2009
14 June 2009
12 June 2009
11 June 2009
10 June 2009
He starts by pointing out this problem is a longstanding issue:
"Problems are deeply entrenched and have developed over several decades," one study noted. "Too many of our weapons systems cost too much, take too long to develop, and, by the time they are fielded, incorporate obsolete technology." That was the troubling diagnosis of a blue-ribbon commission - in 1986. Yet despite repeated attempts at reform, including more than 130 commissions and studies, the core problems persist.
in Robert M. Gates, we have a defense secretary determined to correct the Pentagon's failure to quickly deliver lifesaving equipment and technologies to our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan - failures that led him to simply bypass the traditional procurement system in order to equip those forces with the unmanned aerial vehicles and explosive-resistant armored vehicles they needed.
And can I also point out there's a HUGE difference between developing a new technology and building a new system? Building a new technology involves a large degree of exploration & uncertainty, using immature & unproven stuff. The point is to try to bring something to maturity. Building a new system, on the other hand, is all about putting something in the field. It's got to rely on proven, mature technologies. We get in trouble when we call it a system development project and it's actually a technology development project. That's the kind of stuff that needs to get cancelled.
being tough-minded on acquisition reform is part of being serious about a strong defense
09 June 2009
08 June 2009
We here at Rogue University have come up with our very own assessment tool – the Rogue Maturity Model. It’s still a work in progress (and probably always will be), and we’re going to crowd-source it. That means you can contribute to the development of the RMM.
The Rogue Maturity Model assessment tool is a spreadsheet, available via Google Docs. Feel free to click on over, open it up and add your own recommendations.
05 June 2009
04 June 2009
After serving in uniform for 33 years on three continents, he wrote a small book titled War is a Racket (in 1935), in which he denounces the fact that nations go to war to enhance the profits of industrialists, while the costs of war are born by the poor. He offers an isolationist policy, and suggests that the military should focus on defending the shoreline, writing “I wouldn't go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket.”
Now, I’m not going to go into a full analysis of Gen Butler’s ideas. I’m not even going to say whether I agree with him or not. However, I will say I agree completely with his denunciation of situations in which profits are privatized while losses are socialized, or where the few collect benefits while the many pay the costs.
I get a kick out of MGen Butler’s suggestion that the government be required to “conscript capital and industry and labor before the nation’s manhood can be conscripted.” He writes:
Let the officers and the directors and the high-powered executives of our armament factories and our munitions makers and our shipbuilders and our airplane builders and the manufacturers of all the other things that provide profit in war time as well as the bankers and the speculators, be conscripted -- to get $30 a month, the same wage as the lads in the trenches get.
Let all these kings and tycoons and masters of business and all those workers in industry and all our senators and governors and majors pay half of their monthly $30 wage to their families and pay war risk insurance and buy Liberty Bonds.
Why shouldn't they?
They aren't running any risk of being killed or of having their bodies mangled or their minds shattered. They aren't sleeping in muddy trenches. They aren't hungry. The soldiers are!
Give capital and industry and labor thirty days to think it over and you will find, by that time, there will be no war. That will smash the war racket -- that and nothing else.
MGen Butler was a radical and a rogue thinker. His book is worth reading. We proudly award him the posthumous Rogue Medal of Independent Thinking.
03 June 2009
Here’s a question for all the program managers out there. When you’re developing a new system, is the focus on making sure we “do it right” or “get it right”?
Doing it right is all about compliance with the proscribed processes and best practices. Getting it right is all about delivering the product.
I contend it’s more important to GET it right than to DO it right.
(I found the phrases in an article by Roger Atkinson titled Project Management: cost, time and quality, two best guesses and a phenomenon, published in the 1999 International Journal of Project Management, vol 17, No 6)
For those who don’t already know, FIST stands for Fast, Inexpensive, Simple and Tiny. It’s a set of values that can be applied across the spectrum of decision making (organization, requirements, architecture, design, testing, etc), for all kinds of technology development efforts. Whether you’re building an aircraft carrier or a hand-held radio, there is always an opportunity to chose between fast and slow, inexpensive or pricey, complex or simple, and large or small.
I recently came across some research by The Standish Group that strongly supports the FIST approach. In fact, they make me look downright conservative. They write:
Our research has shown smaller projects are consistently more successful because of reduced confusion, complexity and cost.
… smaller projects experience fewer cost overruns.
… shorter time frames… increase the success rate.
… the more expensive a project becomes, the less likely its chance of success.
Time is the absolute enemy of all projects.
Our newest data suggests that we need to further reduce the amount of resources to increase the success rates even more. … no more than four people, for no longer than four months at a cost of less than $500,000. We find that the less the features, the greater the yield.
02 June 2009
I’ve been writing four-page articles for several years now, and have sort of been itching to write something longer. Something book-length, with a bit more substance and nuance and completeness than a short article can contain. But instead, I find myself moving in the opposite direction – short blog posts.
And yet, a blog is more than a series of short, isolated posts. A blog is actually a continuing stream, and could end up being longer than a book, not shorter. With the opportunity to have discussions in the comments section – this may indeed be more substantive than a book. It has the potential to be richer, the ideas more fully explored and more dynamically developed. A book is a broadcast monologue – a blog is a conversation.
So, we’ll see how it turns out. I really appreciate all the comments & discussions we’ve had so far. I look forward to seeing how things develop.