Technical Triage or a week in Hell
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What does a crisis really mean? In the world of medicine they preform a process called Triage when there are multiple injured people or just one injured person. The goal is to determine as quickly as possible what the root case or at the very least what are the worst symptoms so that treatment can begin.

We try to do the same thing in the IT world but sometimes I wonder if we are effective. Triage is preformed by a trained professional with a view as to the overall severity of the various types of problems out there.

Yesterday I got slammed with several problems. None of which were easy let me off the top of my head answer them. Each of the problems came from a different person and of course they each felt their particular problem was the most critical. From there of course you have no where to go but down.

Which led to to think about the effective concepts of triage.

  • A group focused on reviewing the initial problems.
  • A group focused on linking problems (ie does this one, impact that one etc.)
  • A group focused on solving the problems or implementing the fixes from the second group.

Group can be person in every case. Now that said, there are a number of things that can go wrong. Have the wrong skillsets or knowledgebase in the first group and your triage will fail. How do you know your triage is failing? People will yell at the second group. Or worse people will pull the second group into a series of meetings and then wonder why the problems aren’t being solved quickly.

What can you do?

You can reverse the order, and have the linkage group focus on linking problems together and then escalate the smaller set of problems to the review team. It changes your skills a little but in the end would solve the problem of the wrong skillsets at the wrong level.

Another option is to completely abstract the top tier of problem solvers so that no one from the first tier can get ahold of them. That only functions however is there are no personal relationships that allow level skipping.

  • In the end it is a matter of time. If it takes 1 hour for a problem to occur, it will take between 1 minute and 60 minutes to fix the problem.
  • In the end it is a matter of repetition. If you first tier doesn’t see problems normally they will fail because problems require knowledge. The goal of a problem solving solution such as a triage model is to enable healing (problem solution) not to prolong the suffering.

The end is simply allowing the process to work without creating multiple path’s around the triage process. All that does is gum up the works.


Scott Andersen

IASA Fellow

The Conclusion–Conceptual Boundaries…
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When thinking about this boundary we start with communication. Communication in the end is about two things, connection and sharing. The connection piece must be in place however before you share. The simple working hypothesis is the greater the conceptual barrier in an organization the greater the likelihood of separation not communication within that organization.

Assuming that the original assertion is correct the next question of course is communication itself if the goal is connecting and then sharing (with a number of variations that drive to that solution) why do some organizations creation the conceptual boundaries? The first reality is language is not only a conceptual barrier but a natural one. Within any one language there are a number of sub dialects that are applied as well. This means that at best communication is a struggle.

Connection then can become an uphill battle. Within that initial struggle is the reality of the meanings and definitions used. The boundary that exists in virtually every company is the people who believe they can use the words of a profession in any way they wish. Well within reason, very few people will argue a diagnosis with their doctor using the same words as the doctor with different meanings. But except in large hospitals Doctors tend towards outlier status in the conceptual communication boundary debate. Still if you doctor says you have a broken arm you not going to look at him, and gently pick up an apple and say I have a broken bone my arm still works. Yet business and technical people inside an organization do that to each other all the time.

Our initial boundary is the use of words. This really is a two part problem. Most people who use technical terms or business terms loosely are extremely defensive about their native or personal terms. This is a huge conceptual boundary because in the end you can’t call these people on the double standard, they don’t see it as a double standard. They see your definitions as being “loose” and their definitions as being tight. This is a huge boundary and frankly many organizations have this boundary built in.

Empowerment is the next great boundary. Yes the very concept that frees people to make the right decision is also a boundary. It is an interesting problem when you begin to “depower” rather than “empower” people to make the right decision. It is a boundary that becomes very rigid very quickly.

It was never meant to be a boundary, it was always meant as a way to enable people to do the right thing for an organization. But if you make the wrong decision and there is no support for you in the organization then empowerment is little more than an HR Buzz phrase used to recruit the best and the brightest to your tar pit.

As a boundary this one is clear and concise. You don’t quibble about the empowerment line. Sometimes the line is based on role in the organization, sometimes it is based on the ability of the person to pull off the miracle over and over. It is the dichotomy of this boundary that is interesting.

  • You are empowered (but don’t make a mistake) or sometimes this one is called “the hero culture.”
  • You are empowered to here. Here is clearly defined and denoted which in the end means you aren’t empowered at all.

The first empowerment only works as long as you keep pushing the bar higher. This is of course a huge risk for individuals, great rewards no question but great personal risk as well. The second is a more traditional view of what empowerment looks like and is frequently thrown around as the right way to do things in the organization. Interestingly by the way both of these models focus heavily on the tipping point within the organization.

As we dive further into the boundaries there a number of instantiations that are interesting within many organizations. When I first started down this path I considered the problem of communication (words that have multiple means) that limits the flow of ideas within an organization. There are a number of others.

· Mom and Pop (Because I said so)

· Beneath the banyan tree (territorial)

· Your still drinking from the fire hose

My parents used to say “because I said so” at times when I would push an argument too far. There are other variations of this “it’s not the way we do business or we don’t do things like that here.” In the end it’s a because I said so answer and it kills any number of ideas before they take wing. Which is another conceptual boundary found in many organizations.

Beneath the Banyan tree is a double entendre. In first because Buddha sat under such a tree and found a great revelation and in second because it carries the concept of I told you so further from its core. With this you find people focused on ownership. The problem with ownership is that it prevents brain storming and idea sharing. It represents an organizational mindset that may have multiple layers (including I said so, and multiple layers within the organization. Our Banyan tree the company, our Banyan tree the organization or unit within the company and then finally our Banyan tree the team I work on).

Finally the last and possibly the largest of the last three barriers is “how long have you been here?” A problem many companies have. It is a well known fact that no one with less than 20 years in a company ever created a new idea. (please note the dripping sarcasm). In fact the reason many companies are formed by ex-employees of other organizations is in fact this wonderful little attitude.

The reality of conceptual boundaries is every organization has them. Every team has them and like the reality of communications patterns and anti-patterns it is part of the team responsibility to manage that reality.

You never want to see a billion dollar idea take wing and fly away from your organization. It happens all the time, but it is painful when it happens to you and your company.


Scott Andersen

IASA Fellow

A communication trend?
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My grandparents met on the commuter from Aurora Illinois to Chicago. In the 1920’s when they met that was a 45 minute ride one way to downtown Chicago and they would then both walk to where they were working (Grandmother at Montgomery Ward and my Grandfather was working for Oscar Meyer at that time). They met and began dating while talking on the train in the morning.

Yesterday I rode home on the metro from DC to the burbs. Interesting different world that we live in now. There were people conversing still but now it was on their phone (with a hurried I am on the train I may lose you). They were staring at screens and interacting with a world beyond the train, but no longer with the train.

How many great romances are lost to the screen?

Its not easy being social on a train – it’s a lot easier to slide into the electronic friendships of FB or Twitter. You have to listen more and talk a little louder which means others can hear your conversation so you have to pitch the content a little differently taking out names and context at times. You can do it but FB is easier.

What does that say about our modern age? Are people less social or are we more social? I find that my children are more willing to share things on FB than I am. Although I do blog every day so I tend towards oversharing there.

I think a lot about what is next in technology. Trends and things that will change. I wonder and consider all of the what may be options in the technology area. I also dabble in the area of communication in particular evaluating and considering patterns and anti-patterns within communication. I see an emerging pattern that I am not sure what happens next. A move towards a different meaning for the word social.

Oh to live in interesting times…


Scott Andersen

IASA Fellow

On this day…
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I was watching the Oscars last night and thinking. First of all I was rooting for Argo and Lincoln. The two seem to me to be the best pictures this year.

Daniel Day Lewis was mesmerizing as Lincoln. I thought he truly was the president for a time during the movie – you get lost in the moments.

The show was reasonable – the comedy a bit edgy for me but not as edgy as some of the comics in the past have been.

It is interesting to me how we line up sides before a show like that. It doesn’t really matter who wins the actual award in our house, we just like rooting for our favorites. We should however, as a family know that our favorite TV shows (other than CSI) tend to get cancelled. We like shows that present twists and turns, those tend to require great writing and seldom last longer than 2 or 3 years.

I still miss Northern Exposure. I miss the more recent show Men in Trees as well, in both cases the shows took on topics that I found intriguing and in the end, not popular enough to last.


Scott Andersen

IASA Fellow

What will I do when I get there?
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Someone asked me the other day what my favorite place to travel was. I answered the question but I felt like a weasel afterwards because while I answered the question from my perspective, it wasn’t really the answer the person was looking for.

So, let’s break the question down into easier to answer questions.

Favorite places to visit:

  • Looking for sun? Bangkok Thailand
  • Looking for busy city – lots of great people, nice climate? Kuala Lumpor
  • Looking for a clean outdoors city? Seattle and Amsterdam – both very clean both very outdoors orientated.
  • Looking for busy cities? London, New York, Mexico City or Tokyo. All are busy – lots of do and they are open very late (well past my bedtime).

You see the thing about favorites is not that they are or are not your favorite city rather its what you do in that city that counts. So my favorites list has bunches of different things I look for. I like living near Washington DC now. I loved as a small child living in and around Chicago. Each has a unique flavor and I suspect I am a big city person at heart. Now there are certain cities that I love because of the people that I know there. Bangkok, Singapore, New York, Seattle and Chicago are a few of those cities. The question isn’t really what is your favorite place to travel to, its what am I going to do when I get there.


Scott Andersen

IASA Fellow

How do you fix anti-patterns
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How do you help someone that people perceive as brilliant but as a solo artist learn to play on a team?

As I think about the various patterns and anti-patterns in communication that I have discussed here (and published in my book Transitional Services), I wonder how you help some of the anti-patterns move forward. Personally I suffer from the project pirate anti-pattern. I tend to take meetings off in a different direction. Based on that I have to be very careful on the what and how of my interaction in meetings. Awareness is the first and probably the hardest part of fixing an anti-pattern. Not that mine is fixed just that I know it is mine.

There are a number of positive aspects to many anti-patterns, the builder can be a great team asset as longa s you keep them away from idea people. Dancing bears on unicycles with colored pens run great meetings as long as you keep them away from the whiteboard.

So how do you help someone that doesn’t play well with others? You can’t do the toastmaster process that will just make them more difficult. There has to be a reverse toastmasters – where you have to go and be the audience not the speaker. Where you have to walk up to the speaker afterward and say great job.

I suspect my essay after my 3rd one (that is coming – I haven’t quite finished it) will be how do you grow anti-patterns into patterns. I suspect it is at times as much a matching of management style with personality style as it is anything else.

From here to there takes as much effort as there to here. You just have to pay attention to the way you go.


Scott Andersen

IASA Fellow

Thank you to the authors I’ve read…
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If I were to think about it for more time than I probably should in the end I would find a number of great influencers in my life. Some positive and some negative. I think I have over documented the negatives in the various communication anti-patterns I’ve written about over the years.

I’ve also acknowledged the positives a number of times. What I haven’t spent as much time doing is acknowledging the genre’s of books that have influenced my thinking over the years.

When I was a young reader starting around age 10 and running well the rest of my life I loved science fiction and fantasy. Originally I was a hard core science fiction only reader and disdained fantasy but the Lord of the Rings changed that for me forever.

I graduated to strategy books in my 30’s. I began with Drucker and moved through the rest of that genre – in fact I still pick heavily from that genre. Its intriguing to me what others think strategy is. I suspect that is my strategic interest – what others think about strategy.

Lately I’ve been mixing serious and pleasure books and frankly Kindle, print and audible books. The number of print books is declining overall. One of my mentors when I first started teaching always told me to have a book in my bag. You never know when you are going to get stuck in a line. I still follow that rule, although now it is a Kindle with lots of books.

In the world I came from, Elementary Education reading is a fundamental part of early learning. I guess in the end I never really left that world.


Scott Andersen

IASA Fellow