30 September 2009


I haven't talked about the topic of values in a while, and after some lively discussions with B. Smitty, I figured I'd spend a little time on the topic again, because assumptions about values are at the heart of most of the problems in project leadership (and a lot of the disagreements too).

The values I have in mind are "the things we think are important." In engineering speak, values are measures of merit. They are the signs of sophistication and other desirable attributes (and the context I have in mind is organizations, technologies and processes). This stuff matters because our values shape our objectives, and at the end of the day, values are the yardstick we use to assess whether good things have happened or not.

In my FIST-related writings, I talk about values as the answer to the question "What is important and good?" and I often describe FIST as a values-based approach. It basically says "It is important and good to be Fast, Inexpensive, Simple and Tiny." There are other value sets out there, and mostly they go unstated, unexamined, unconsidered and untested. That's a HUGE problem.

See, if we value complexity (either explicitly or unconsciously), we'll make the system more complicated and think we've done something good - even if it's not actually any better. You see this a lot in PowerPoint presentations - people who think they are effective communicators because they included every word, every comma, every data point and every possible nuance of every diagram in their 800-chart presentation (for their 15 minute time slot). You also see this in over-engineered systems, chock-full of a million good ideas. I'm going to suggest these are examples of values out of whack. Overvaluing complexity drives unproductive behavior.

Similarly, if we think spending a lot of money guarantees quality, we'll feel reassured by a high price tag, even if a smaller price might have delivered better results, better quality. Same thing with time - if we value the slow-and-steady approach, the fact that it took 20 years to deliver a system gives us a warm feeling, even if such expenditures were unnecessary.

So, the questions are: what values drive your project? What values contribute to positive outcomes, and improved operational effectiveness? And to come full circle to the afore-mentioned discussion, when people praise the F-22 as "the most capable aircraft" in our inventory, what are they really praising? What values are driving that assessment? What basis is there for those values?

Frankly, this question doesn't come up often enough in program management circles, which is a bummer because I think it's at the core of the whole discipline.

29 September 2009

The One Thing

If there was one thing I could accomplish professionally, one contribution to the corpus of program management practice and theory, it would be to dispell the Myth of Inevitability.

What is this myth, you ask? It's the idea that high tech system development projects (weapons, spacecraft, commercial products, etc) inevitably take a long time, cost a lot and are complex. The myth is expressed in phrases like "better, faster, cheaper - pick two." A corollary to this myth is the idea that adding time and money to the project improves the outcome, as if the problem with our failed system development efforts was that our schedule was too short and our budget too small.

No kidding -that's what they said when the 18 year, $7B (billion-with-a-b) Comanche helicopter was cancelled. They needed more money. They needed more time. Yeah, that would have helped. Right. A similar chorus rises from any number of failed high tech projects. My assessment is that they had too much time & money, not too little. And at the core, they believed that the costs and delays were inevitable, simply an inherent part of this kind of work. It's a tragic belief and a self-fulfilling prophecy. It's also not grounded in reality.

The truth is, there is nothing inherent in military technology (for example) that requires it to cost so much, take so long or be so complex. Yes, systems like the F-22 took a long time and cost a lot. But there's a difference between "it took a long time" and "it takes a long time." We could have done it better (both programmatically and operationally). If we set up our values correctly, if we cherish our constraints and pursue intelligent simplicity, we don't have to spend billions and decades. We can do it for millions and in years (or thousands in months). The F-117, the SR-71, NASA's Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) mission and the Pathfinder Mars mission are all examples of high-tech projects built on a FIST (Fast, Inexpensive, Simple, Tiny) foundation.

Despite the evidence of a significant portfolio of FISTy projects (documented in my master's degree thesis), the Myth of Inevitability insists that things like this have to be complicated and expensive. Believers in the myth see no alternative to bureaucracies, technologies and processes that are complex, expensive and slow.

Their failure to see through the myth reflects ignorance of the past and a lack of imagination. There are alternatives. Download a free copy of The FIST Handbook for more details on the principles, activities and examples of how to use constraints to foster creativity and deliver systems that are simultaneously faster, better and cheaper.

28 September 2009

Writing Length

My buddy Rhet passed along this link to an article about the impact of the web on writing. And now I'm passing it along to you, my favorite readers.

Now, this isn't technically a project leadership issue, nor a military technology issue. But it is about several topics that are interesting & (I think) relevant to the wider discussion here on RPL.

The basic idea in the article is that the internet expanded the scope of possible manuscript lengths. No longer are writers limited to books or magazine articles. We can go longer or shorter, thanks to the magic of the series of tubes we call the internets.

It's just one of the many ways the internet is changing how we do business, how we communicate, and ultimately how we think. It affects what ideas we are able to share and discover. And THAT is the secret sauce of the whole thing.

Read the article. It's real good, I promise.

25 September 2009

Everything is...

I keep coming across the phrase "everything is a process."

Um, I don't think that's quite true.

Rocks are not processes (although they can be described as the product of a process). For that matter, I don't think any nouns are processes. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that only a verb has the potential to be described as a process. This means an outcome is not a process. Hold that thought...

While we're talking about words, let's consider semantics. It might be true to say "everything you do can be represented as a process." That's a bit different than "everything IS a process," wouldn't you agree? I suspect that's what people mean when they say "everything is." But why say everything when you mean every activity? And why say is when you mean can be represented as? Those concepts are quite different.

More to the point, even if everything we do can be represented as a process, that doesn't mean everything should. Some activities are best performed with an intuitive, craftsman-like touch. Not because it's easier, but because the end product is better. As my favorite poet ee cummings pointed out:

since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;

Process, it seems to me, is all about "the syntax of things." It's not about the outcome. Process may be about kissing, but it's not about The Kiss.

Another observation: some activities are not repeated / repeatable. Some projects are unique, some activities are unique. But repeatable or not, it's important to consider the amount of time, money, effort, etc that goes in to developing, documenting and validating a process. Sometimes, it's just not worth the expense. For example, do we really need to document a process if we're only going to do it once? What's the point of documenting a process if the people doing the activity are already effective and efficient? It's a calculation we should consider.

Sure, if you've got a large number of people doing well-bounded, well-defined, repeatable tasks, in which variations are undesirable and the environment is generally predictable, by all means, document your process and do it that way. But not everything is in that category.

Is everything a process? I'll take "Answers That Begin With No" for 500, Alex. Can everything be represented as a process? Sure. Are there some activities that should not get the process treatment? You bet...

24 September 2009

Twitter Is Mission Critical

Gabe & I collaborated with our AT&L editor Carol on a fun little article titled Twitter Is Mission Critical. It'll be in the Oct issue of Signal magazine, and you can read a short preview here. We'll let you know when the full version is up.

23 September 2009

War is Boring is Interesting

OK, this is kinda touchy, on a couple levels, but here I go...

I was quoted in a post yesterday by David Axe, over at the War Is Boring blog. The post starts out talking about Sec. Gates and his vision for military technology (AF in particular), then goes on to talk about some of the stuff I've been writing about for a while. It's a cool piece, and I hope it helps generate some thoughtful discussions about ways & means for doing this acquisition thing better. But there are some bits in the post that probably merit a disclaimer / clarification.

I did sit with David for a little interview. He's a cool guy and it was a lot of fun to talk with him. I think his post captured the bulk of what we talked about. However... there are a few lines that come across more pointed and critical (and less nuanced) than they probably should have. That is, they came across more pointed and critical than what I think I said. Not a huge deal - but I don't want readers to think I've gone further off the deep end than I really did.

Don't get me wrong. I like rocking the boat. I'm not shy about offering criticism of the DoD's acquisition community. I've been known to use phrases like "slow-dancing with the 800 lb status quo gorilla" or "the DoD has too much money, which is limiting our ability to be innovative" or "we don’t blame the bureaucracy. We blame the bureaucrats, and you can tell them we said that." And that's in official DoD publications.

Still, when I'm boatrocking, I do have some guidelines. Like, keep it honest, keep it funny, keep it accurate, acknowledge nuances and stick to what I know. So, I avoid phrases like "we don't have the right systems," because I'm not in that business. I'm not involved in determining the portfolio of operational needs, and I can't say for sure whether we've got the right mix. My area of expertise is figuring out ways to develop systems that provide meaningful capabilities, not measuring whether we've got everything we need. If I get anywhere close to the topic of operational needs, I'd go with something more nuanced, like "It seems to me we need more of this and less of that..." Better yet, I'd quote an expert like the SECDEF, and say we need more ISR assets and fewer air superiority jets.

And while I do think the FIST principles can apply to just about everything, I'm sure I'm wrong about that. In fact, I'm very very very sure I'm wrong - just because I can't think of any situations where FIST wouldn't be helpful doesn't mean such a situation doesn't exist. So, I can't and don't say everything should be done the FIST way. Sure, I think that, but I go out of my way not to say it. If I gave the impression in the interview that I meant ALL systems should be FIST systems, that's my bad, but not my intention.

OK, having said all that, I do think it's an interesting and thoughtful blog post. I really like the way he finished the piece. Here's an excerpt (with the caveat that the word "all" in the 3rd sentence should be replaced with "most" or "more):

Ward has a prescription for building a better, cheaper Air Force, faster. It boils down to constraints. All programs should be “fast, inexpensive, simple and tiny,” he said. Budgets, schedules and initial quantities should be deliberately limited, so as to deliver a given capability in years for millions of dollars, instead of decades for billions.

Pointing to aircraft like the F-16, the Predator drone and the World War II P-51, all of which were developed quickly and cheaply, Ward insisted that his so-called “FIST” approach isn’t really new. It just requires today’s Air Force establishment to stop believing in the “inevitability of overruns and delays.”

“We can do better, faster, cheaper,” Ward said.

So, surf on over to WarIsBoring. Check out Dave's stuff and jump into the conversation. Rock on!

22 September 2009

New Wars, New Friend

A hearty Rogue Welcome to blogger Mike Burlson, who writes the New Wars blog! His blog is, as Gabe would say, awesome. Be sure to check it out.

Burlson's vision for the future Navy lines up very closely with my own imaginings of a future AF. Specifically, he's saying we should move away from small fleets of big, expensive, complex systems, and towards larger fleets of systems that are, to coin a phrase, fast-inexpensive-simple-tiny. Here's a short excerpt:

We contend here at New Wars that modern computer technology added to guided missiles has doomed the heavily armored, over-priced weaponry of the Cold War/WW 2 eras. With this in mind we could safely cut such complicated arms as the manned fighter, the heavy tank, and large surface warships. Their replacements would be unmanned aerial vehicles, light armored cars, plus submarines and light patrol ships.

Amen, brother!

21 September 2009


Let's say I can hold my breath for two minutes. That would be an impressive capability.

However, being able to hold my breath that long would not make me a more capable writer or engineer - the two main areas of professional expression I'm currently engaged in. I would not include "can hold breath for 2 minutes" in a resume looking for an engineering or writing job -it's just not relevant to those tasks.

So, when I hear people say that the F-22 Raptor is "the most capable aircraft ever," I have to object and ask what they mean by "most capable."

When I assess a system's capability, I'm looking at its ability to contribute to the fight. Since 2001, any system that doesn't provide capabilities we need in Iraq or Afghanistan is, by my definition, not very capable. And that's precisely the case with the Raptor. It first went operational in 2005, and it has yet to fly a combat mission in either war. It's not bringing anything (a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g) to the fight. In what sense is it, therefore, the "most capable" jet around?

To put it plainly, the F-22 does things we don't currently need to do. We may need to do them someday, although I think that's not as likely as some people do. But it is a demonstrable fact that we don't need these capabilities today... or any time soon. The SECDEF himself said the Raptor is "irrelevant" to the fights in Iraq and Afghanistan. To my mind, that makes it one of the least capable aircraft in the inventory (and that's not even factoring in its maintenance issues, low availability rates, etc). Combine that with the $65B we've spent on the thing and you can see why we've decided to not buy any more of them.

So yeah, it can hold its breath for a long time, but that capability doesn't line up with the near- or mid-term needs. What we need are aircraft that are capable of accomplishing the mission. The Raptor clearly is not. I'm not saying we should scrap the whole fleet. I'm just saying we should stop trying to paint it as the "most capable" system we've got.

18 September 2009

Catching Up With BRITE

One of the first projects I really had an impact on was a little imagery dissemination project for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency called BRITE (originally Broadcast-Request Imagery Technology Experiment... I think they changed the E to something else later). It was a small system designed to provide overhead imagery to forward deployed SpecOps guys who had very limited bandwidth and were highly mobile.

The BRITE project was one of the keys to developing my FIST approach to technology development. We had a very small team - in fact, I was the only government guy working on the project (and I was a junior Captain). On the contractor side, we just had a handful of people, and most of them were only assigned to the project part time, as I recall. The budget was quite small, the deployment schedule was short (this was 2001 - 2002). The system was designed to operate in austere conditions and it worked like magic.

That experience had an enormous impact on my thinking and my perspective on what can be done with small teams of talented people, working on tight budgets and tight schedules. It also hammered home the importance of simplicity - organizationally, technically and procedurally.

So, just for fun I googled it and came up with a great story about using BRITE to support the Hurricane Katrina disaster relief effort. It's nice to see that my little project still had legs after I'd moved on to other things.

17 September 2009

Congress Redux

One other comment while we're talking about Congress.

Representatives and Senators are elected to represent and protect the interests of their constituencies. That's their job, and we should not complain and object when they do what they were elected to do. The problems in military acquisitions are not Congress' fault.

See, when we deliberately spread out development of a project across 44 states and several hundred congressional districts, we are making a cynical move that's designed to ensure the project can't be cancelled. We can't then turn around and object that those doggone people in Congress are forcing us to do something. If we built smaller, more focused projects, we'd get a lot less Congressional involvement.

Similarly, when we launch a hugely expensive project, it is entirely appropriate for Congress to insist on performing oversight. It's a lot of money, and they owe it to their constituencies to make sure it's spent appropriately. If we spent less money, we'd get less Congressional involvement.

The FIST approach is a good way to reduce intrusive oversight without denying legislators the right and ability to perform their legitimate, constitutionally appointed roles.

16 September 2009

The Realm of the Possible

In a recent discussion about improving defense acquisitions, someone suggesting things would be better if we could get rid of Congress. Everyone laughed at this humerous suggestion, and one particularly literal-minded person said "Oh, that's too big of a change, it can't be done, let's move on..."

Well, hold on.

Maybe there's a way to "eliminate" Congress from the project without disbanding one third of our constitutionally-established government.

See, the problem isn't Congress' existence. The problem is that sometimes Congress provides, as Shrek so delightfully put it, "the opposite of help." So, what if we could minimize this anti-help?

It turns out, we can. The FIST (Fast, Inexpensive, Simple, Tiny) approach does exactly that.

A FISTy project has a small budget, which attracts less interest and oversight from our congressional leadership. A short schedule provides fewer chronological opportunitites for, let's call it involvement (instead of meddling). A small team and simple organization doesn't get spread across multiple congressional districts and states, and voila, that means fewer legislators with a dog in the fight.

These decreases are all appropriate and above-board. It's not a matter of shutting Congress out, but rather of keeping the project sufficiently small that it doesn't require their, ahem, help.

15 September 2009

Process Application

Most of the process advocates I've met recently have come from background like manufacturing and logistics. That makes a lot of sense - these are well-bounded, repeatable, concretely-defined disciplines. The problem is when we try to cut and paste successful manufacturing or logistics approaches onto other areas, like research & development or program management.

R&D is typically - and appropriately - an unbounded, unique, loosely-defined activity. That doesn't mean there are zero processes involved... just that the most significant parts of R&D are beyond the realm of process.

So, when I say that I'm a critic of the process-centric approach, what I'm really objecting to is the misapplication and the overapplication of these approaches.

I also want to point out that I'm not a skeptic of the utility of process-centric approaches in R&D and program management. I'm emphatically a critic. The term skeptic sounds like a person is unsure whether a thing will work or not. Not me - I'm not agnostic about this stuff. I've done my research, taken the classes, got the t-shirt, and came to a conclusion. I'm well beyond skepticism.

14 September 2009


"If the only tool you have is a hammer, I don't want you to help fix my windshield."

11 September 2009

Process Is Neither The Problem Nor The Solution

I've been thinking about this whole process-centric approach for a while now, and I think I figured out a way to state my position in words the Lean and Theory Of Constraints crowd can understand:

Process is not the bottleneck. Talent is.

This means process is neither the problem nor the solution. Talent drives action, talent dictates outcomes, and at the risk of sounding like Tom Peters, talent is, well, it's everything. [not that there's anything wrong with sounding like Tom Peters - the guy's amazing].

Process is a poor substitute for talent. You can't make up for a talent shortage by simply instituting more and more (and more and more) processes. If there is indeed a talent shortage, the way to deal with it is by... unleashing more talent! And a compliance-based, process-centric, dictatorial, command & control approach squelches and repels talent.

Now, there's nothing wrong with using and improving our processes. But when our approach to improving performance is process-centric instead of talent-centric, we end up discounting and preventing the very thing that matters most.

10 September 2009

Presentation Skills Are Critical

The ability to stand up in front of a group of people and communicate effectively is a critical professional skill for program managers and other project leaders. It's particularly necessary for military engineers, defense contractors, and leaders in general. I can't say strongly enough how important this is as a matter of professional competence.

For better or worse, PowerPoint is the tool of choice for making presentations. When anyone gives a presentation with dense, complicated, unreadable, illegible and otherwise horrible-horrible-horrible presentation charts, they are demonstrating sheer professional incompetence.

In case you can't tell, I get kinda worked up about this.

For all the time we spend giving and receiving briefings, it's inconceivable to me that honing one's presentation technique is not treated as an important discipline and a core element of professional development. I've even seen professional educators, who brag about their ability to facilitate discussions and interact with audiences, use powerpoint charts that are frankly embarrassingly bad.

This stuff isn't hard. Sure, it's a little bit more work than doing it badly, but once you get the hang of it, it's not bad. Go check out Garr Reynold's Presentation Zen blog for some great examples of how to do it right.

09 September 2009


I like to say that FIST isn't a new way to do acquisitions. It's just how we do acquisitions when we do it well.

But frankly, I'm not convinced my current attempt to drive FISTy change into the system is going to succeed. I am very aware that the probability of success is low. Five or ten years from now, there's a pretty good chance the defense acquisition community is going to look very much like it does right now.

Having said that, the environment does seem more change-friendly than it ever has before. Our experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan are a big part of that, along with the new administration, changes in the economy and advances in technology - particularly UAV's. This combination of operational, political, economic and technical factors is sort of a perfect storm and gives me hope that significant, meaningful change is possible. If the FIST approach ever had a chance at widespread adoption, it's in the current climate.

Our troops overseas are increasingly emphasizing the importance of rapid access to systems that are simple and effective. They have less tolerance for the complexity and delays of previous years. The president ran on a platform of change, and military leaders from the SECDEF on down are reimagining the way we do business. The economy is forcing people to think really hard before spending money. And along come these UAV's, which offer relatively inexpensive and simple ways to accomplish missions that used to require much more time, money and effort.

So will FIST take off? I don't know. I certainly hope so. All I know is that I've got to try to make a difference, even if the odds are against me, 'cause these are the best odds I'm ever likely to see.

08 September 2009

Rogue Netflix!

My brother sent me this link to a Guide to Netflix Culture & Values a while ago, and I'm just now getting around to posting something about it. It's pretty remarkable (get it, re-Mark-able, and it's from my brother Mark, and I'm re-posting it... sorry!)

Anyway, I love this. My favorite bit was the chart about Communication. When they talk about valuing people's communication skills, what's the first line on the chart? "You listen well."

Holy cow, that's fantastic. Good communication skills start with good listening skills. Um, heck yeah.

We hereby award Netflix the Good Rogue-keeping Seal of Approval!

04 September 2009

F-20 Redux

I'm not going to pretend I understand the Iraqi Air Force's operational needs better than they do, but I have to admit I think they might be heading in the wrong direction when it comes to fighter jets.

A recent Danger Room post says the Iraqi's are not terribly interested in the inexpensive and simple light-weight fighters that have been getting so much buzz in FISTy circles lately. Instead, they want F-16's. I have to wonder whether this preference is based on a solid assessment of their actual operational needs and maintenance capabilities, or whether it's based on a desire to have the same shiney jets that the big boys fly.

Something similar happened in the late 70's & early 80's - ironically, also involving the F-16. Northrop developed the F-20 Tigershark as a low-cost export fighter. It was basically an advanced F-5, and was supposed to be easy to maintain, lower cost, etc. The idea was to sell it to countries who didn't really need or couldn't afford all the capabilities of the F-15 Eagle or F-16 Falcon, but still wanted a solid fighter jet. The F-20 cost $8M, compared to $15M for the F-16 or $30M for the F-15.

Under the Carter administration, foreign sales of Falcons and Eagles were not allowed anyway, so the market for the F-20 looked good. But then President Reagan changed the policy, and suddenly other countries had the option of buying F-15's and -16's. Northrop never sold a single F-20.

Sure, there's a lot more to the story, but the gist is that even though the F-16 cost twice as much, was more expensive & difficult to operate and maintain, and was frankly more aircraft than many of our allies really needed... that's the jet they wanted.

Here we are nearly 30 years later, and when faced with the possibility of buying a FISTy fighter that will do everything they need it to do, we see an ally apparently buying into the idea that complexity is a sign of sophistication, that more expensive equals better, etc. I might be wrong here, but the similarities are striking.

And interestingly, the US Air Force is also looking at using these Light Attack fighters. Maybe that'll help lend some credibility to the thing...

Not Easily Imitated

Ever since I wrote the nightmare fiction story Acquisition As Deterrent, I've been a little bit haunted by the thought that it might be true. In fact, when the idea first hit me, it came down on my head like a ton of bricks and sorta bummed me out.

What if the reason for all the complexity, cost and delay in military technology projects is to prevent the rest of the world from imitating us?

Well, that still might be the case, but if so, it's a bad reason. The thing is, the FIST approach is not easily imitated, because the US has such direct access to a wide range of mature, advanced technology, compliments of our various military laboratories, etc.

So, the hostile dude in some other part of the world who wants to use the FIST approach is starting off with a significant disadvantage, in terms of the pieces and parts available to use. Yeah, the barriers to accessing and adopting technology are lowering, but we've still got a significant advantage.

And then there's the whole personnel part, the training, talent, education, courage and creativity of the people who actually develop and use these systems. That's pretty hard to imitate.

03 September 2009

FIST Video!

Yesterday's post was the short version of the FIST (Fast, Inexpensive, Simple, Tiny) approach to system development.

Today, I've got a short post with a link to a long video. Yes, this is the much anticipated Rogue-a-palooza aka Rogue Fest 2009 aka the briefing that Gabe and I did at the Defense Acquisition University back in July.

I confess I haven't actually watched the whole thing yet, but my mom and dad did and they said I did real good. They also said the video includes the Q&A at the end of the presentaiton - I wasn't sure if that part would be included, but it was. That's cool.

So, if you've got an hour or so to kill, and you want to see me and Gabe jump around like monkeys and tell stories about why FIST is so good, click the link.

02 September 2009

The Cult of FIST

One of the main rebuttals to our FIST concept is that it is incapable of producing the kinds of capabilities seen in weapon systems like the F-22 or an aircraft carrier. The argument is that these kinds of capabilities can only be produced by programs that are methodical, deliberate, systematic and massive. We often hear that FIST programs are cute and may be fine to fill stop gaps, but aren't sufficient to do the heavy lifting of developing and fielding "real" weapon systems.

But that's our point exactly. Weapon systems with tons of capabilities and features are overrated, if not useless, in the current state of warfare. We postulate that what the warfighter's really want and need is something that is Good Enough. Turns out defense isn't the only industry where this is true. WIRED just published an amazing article which could easily be our manifesto for FIST, The Good Enough Revolution: When Cheap and Simple is Just Fine. An excerpt:

Military aircraft are experiencing their own version of the MP3 effect.

Why, if manned planes are so superior, is the Predator saturating the combat market?
[Their] ability to maintain a constant presence in the air. That's because the drones are relatively cheap to build, can fly for more than 20 hours straight, and don't require pilots who need sleep, food, and bathroom breaks (and who might die if the plane is shot down).

Piloted aircraft are still valuable......but because the Predator can linger, it has enabled a new type of strategy—remotely guided surgical strikes with fewer troops and armaments. It's a lesson that surprised the Air Force and other services, Mathewson says, but one that has been learned definitively.

It's Not Inevitable

OK, let me summarize the whole FIST thing as concisely as possible. It really comes down to this:

"There is nothing inherent in military technology that requries it to cost so much, take so long, or be so complex."

There, I wrote it down for everybody on the Interwebs to see, and it feels good.

The more I read, the more I do, the more I hear people's stories, the more convinced I am that complexity is not inevitable. We do it to ourselves, technologically and organizationally and procedurally... but we dont' have to. Similarly, these huge cost overruns and schedule delays are not inevitable. Until we believe that - I mean REALLY believe it - we're going to keep getting the results we've been getting.

Incidentally, this applies to NASA's space projects as much as the DoD's systems... and no doubt to commercial & industrial projects as well.

01 September 2009

Fan Letter Day

Take a moment today to drop someone a bit of fan mail, will you?

It could be an email, a blog comment, a Facebook wall post, or (gasp) an actual, physical letter, with a stamp and everything. If you're feeling particularly bold and Rogueish, you could even make a phone call.

If there's someone out there you admire, someone whose work means something and speaks to you, let them know. Sometimes we're just so busy enjoying the articles, songs, books, etc, that we don't take the time to say so out loud.

And along with writing some fanmail, maybe you could find the time to tell a friend about whatever singer, artist, writer or other creative types you're enjoying these days.

Spread the word, share the love.

CogBlog Homerun

Check out this (rather lengthy) post over at the CogBlog. It's an insightful look at the saying-doing gap in defense acquisitions, primarily focused on the IT side of things. A few nuggets to whet your appetite:

DoD acquisition regulations do not actually mandate stupidity … they just encourage it.

...the Joint Capability Integration Development System, or “JCIDS“, mandates a change from “system-based” to “capability-based” requirements... However formal OPTEST evaluates systems, not enterprise capability.

What is the gap between the capability provided by Travelocity vs.
Defense Travel System? [Dan here - holy cow DTS is a pain to use!]

We need pre-approved catalog offerings available on GSA schedules and IDIQ vehicles. We need “dating services” to put consumers with like requirements in touch with each other and expert providers. We need “consumer reports”... to provide basis of objective, convenient comparison.