Saturday, July 30, 2022

The 2nd Law ....

Did you heat a cup of coffee in the office microwave, and then walk away and leave it there?
Sometimes you just forget.
And when you returned to get the cup, what did you find?
Crap! The coffee is cool again. In fact, the average temperature of all the elements in the microwave are about the same: the coffee, cup, and surrounding air. Whereas after first heating, the averages were quite distinctively different; the coffee was hot; the air was not so much. But after a bit, all discriminating differences are lost. 

Said another way: Over time, and in isolation, "waste" increased, where, in this case, "waste" is the heat (energy) that was usefully in the coffee, but is now wastefully distributed throughout the microwave. The former distinctly organized sources of energy have become homogenous, bland, without contrast and shades of complexion. In effect: disorganized and wasteful; almost without value.

What's happened?
Physics took over.
Yes but ..... Actually statistics is the underlying explanation for the increase in waste, and that idea will take us to project management (which constantly opposes waste)

So read on; I'll get to project management shortly. 

So, what do we make of this?
At the outset, there was order, structure, and organization to the energy in the container. 
But over time, this orderly organization disappeared.

Inexorably, over time, and in isolation (that is: no outside influences or help), "disorder" (as opposite of "order") always increases until some equilibrium is reached. Distinctive differences degrade, becoming homogeneous.

And, by the way, value is lost .... The utility of the disordered is usually less than the ordered. Keep that in mind, project people!

Don't forget the living:
And this phenomenon applies to biological sources also: Without some stimulus from time to time, when in isolation, biological systems all tend toward a low-energy minimum maintenance state.

Statistical formulation
I mentioned statistics.
Hardly was the ink dry on the thermodynamics explanation of the cooling coffee than others grasped the idea that there's a statistical explanation as well: 
The probability of a well ordered configuration is hugely less than a disordered one. Even for the coffee cup situation, there are very few ordered configurations; there are effectively infinite disordered configurations for the distribution of energy. 
Disorder is the more likely end-state.
Generally speaking, given isolation, the probability that disorder increases and order decreases is very high. 
And never the other way around!

The 2nd Law:
All of the above is a layman's explanation of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (*), originally conceived as a law of physics to explain the distribution (and redistribution) of energetic molecules in a container. 

But given that there are many more useful concepts that arise from the statistics of disorder, perhaps the 2nd Law should be the Disorder Law.(**)
Maximize throughput ... project objective 
Another interesting tidbit, arising from the statistical interpretation, is that it is improbable for a system to be completely disordered or completely ordered. 
The 2nd Law predicts that statistically -- as things are approached asymptotically -- there will always be something missing; something lost; something wasted. 

Minimizing waste and lost value, and maximizing throughput thus becomes an exercise in working with the 2nd Law.

Isolated projects
You probably saw this bit coming: 
Projects that are highly isolated by security protocols, or physical remoteness, or by uninterest and lack of attention are vulnerable to the inevitability of  the 2nd Law. 

If external stimulus, energy, and interest are cut off, then the 2nd Law predicts blandness; lack of innovation, productivity, and morale; an increase of waste; and a general race to the bottom where a minimum effort is maintained. 
And, by the way, who among us have not seen such in the corners of large bureaucracies, oversized project offices, and similar locations? We're likely to say: Does anyone care?
Counter measures:
The only avoidance tactic for this decay into mediocrity and blandness is to selectively apply new energy from the outside. 
  • In project terms, this means re-energizing individuals, individually. (Giving everybody a new T-shirt or coffee cup won't restore individual leadership, energy, and innovativeness). 
  • This means aggressively combating wastefulness, non-value add activity, and a general acceptance of 'shit happens'
  • This means allocating time and space, away from the project, for recharging.
  • This means that selective (and genuine) attention to the project by outsiders is mandatory.
  • And, this may require rotation to an outside activity to spark new behaviors.
  • Not least: mitigating some physical remoteness and isolation.

(*) There is a First Law: Energy is never destroyed; it may change form, but in total it is conserved. This is a handy bit of information, but for PM purposes the way in which energy distributes itself is where the action is; and that is the domain of the 2nd Law.

"Entropy" is the word physicists use for "disorder"
And, there is a Third Law: The 3rd Law says that there is actually a limit to how disorderly things can become. That's actually good news for PM! But this limit is so remote that it's of no practical consequence in projects, unless you are trying to squeeze the last bit from an information channel. 

(**) There is more about this topic as it affects human situations in Steve Pinker's book, "Enlightenment Now". Pinker uses the term "Law of Entropy" instead of 2nd Law

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Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Mobile internet for platforms in motion

Have you ever had a project where a test unit, pre-production unit, or training exercise involved a mobile platform?
I have.
And, there have got to be many more out there.

Now this is not an endorsement or a commercial, but the recent news is that as of mid-2022, satellite-based internet is available at modest cost for mobile platforms. This after Space X's Starlink service for mobile platforms was approved by the FCC of users in the United States, although international air and sea connections are included.

If you intend to baseline this internet service for your project, be aware that it's not altogether risk free. As CNBC reports, "The FCC imposed conditions on in-motion Starlink service. SpaceX is required to “accept any interference received from both current and future services authorized ....”

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Sunday, July 24, 2022

Remote interview ... or is it an avatar?

Doing a bit of project hiring by remote interview?
Some caution advised!
You may be talking with an avatar ....

Kyle Barr has a report on with this headline:
FBI Says People Are Using Deepfakes to Apply to Remote Jobs

So, what is Barr reporting that the FBI is saying?

According to the FBI’s announcement, more companies have been reporting people applying to jobs using video, images, or recordings that are manipulated to look and sound like somebody else.

These fakers are also using personal identifiable information from other people—stolen identities—to apply to jobs at IT, programming, database, and software firms.

The report noted that many of these open positions had access to sensitive customer or employee data, as well as financial and proprietary company info, implying the imposters could have a desire to steal sensitive information as well as a bent to cash a fraudulent paycheck.

These applicants were apparently using voice spoofing techniques during online interviews where lip movement did not match what’s being said during video calls, according to the announcement. Apparently, the jig was up in some of these cases when the interviewee coughed or sneezed, which wasn’t picked up by the video spoofing software.

And, somewhat related insofar as fake references and supporting documention, the report includes this timely warning: "The FBI was among several federal agencies to recently warn companies of individuals working for the North Korean government applying to remote positions in IT or other tech jobs"

Bottom line: with remote interviews, some caution advised!

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Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Submarines in the Idaho desert

Submarines in Idaho?
In the desert?

Actually, a hull, a reactor, and a steam turbine.
All part of the 1953 simulation of the first ever naval submarine nuclear propulsion reactor to run in an actual ship configuration all the way to turning a propeller shaft.

That is what we PMs call a full-scale model and simulation test.
And not only was this first-ever in a ship's configuration, but the reactor-steam turbine combo ran for 96 continuous hours, a near-miracle for the technology of the day. 
"Radical technologies require conservative engineering"
Admiral Rickover, the father of naval nuclear power 

And what significance was 96 hours?
That was the time needed -- according to estimates -- for the soon-to-be Nautilus to transit continuously submerged from North America to Europe.(*)

We know the rest of the story: this "submarine in Idaho" project simulation and testing led to a successful Nautilus, followed by widespread nuclear naval power within a few decades.

.(*) Did you know: in World War II, only 20 miles was the extended range for continuously submerged?

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Saturday, July 16, 2022

Cloud Security Architecture in the U.S. Government

Have you got a project providing software services to the civil agencies of the U.S. Government? 

If so, you should be aware of a new 'technical reference architecture' authored jointly by CISA, USDS, and the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program.(*) 

Some of its provisions are likely going to find their way into RFPs and RFIs from the civil agencies.

From the document, we get this insight from the introduction:
This technical reference architecture is intended to provide guidance to agencies adopting cloud services in the following ways:

Cloud Deployment: provides guidance for agencies to securely transition to, deploy, integrate, maintain, and operate cloud services.
Adaptable Solutions: provides a flexible and broadly applicable architecture that identifies cloud capabilities and vendor agnostic solutions.
Secure Architectures: supports the establishment of cloud environments and secure infrastructures, platforms, and services for agency operations.
Development, Security, and Operations (DevSecOps): supports a secure and dynamic development and engineering cycle that prioritizes the design, development, and delivery of capabilities by building, learning, and iterating solutions as agencies transition and evolve.
Zero Trust: supports agencies as they plan to adopt zero trust architectures.

This technical reference architecture is divided into three major sections:

Shared Services: This section covers standardized baselines to evaluate the security of cloud services.
Cloud Migration: This section outlines the strategies and considerations of cloud migration, including explanations of common migration scenarios.
Cloud Security Posture Management: This section defines Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) and enumerates related security tools for monitoring, development, integration, risk assessment, and incident response in cloud environments.


CISA is the operational lead for federal civilian cybersecurity and executes the broader mission to understand and reduce cybersecurity risk of the nation
The United States Digital Service (USDS) is a senior team of technologists and engineers that support the mission of departments and agencies through technology and design.
Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program provides a cost-effective, risk-based approach for the adoption and use of cloud services by the Federal Government.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Hire the 'rules people'

A lot of great outcomes are directly from emergent innovation
  • Emergent meaning the properties were not predictable from analyzing the constituents; they surprise us all when the integrated constituents all came together and something new appears!
  • Innovation meaning that risks to norms were deliberately taken; a form of destruction-construction
But not everybody is comfortable for destruction-construction; and indeed, there are many industries where the rules and regulations prohibit departure from the norms.

And so if you are managing a rules-based rules-driven project, what's the profile of the staff you need?
The question begs the answer: people who have been successful obtaining quality outcomes while still following the rules ... staying between the hedges, as it were.

So, who are 'they' that can get it done within the rules?
Look here first for the "rules" people:
  • Former military and police
  • Former government agencies staff
  • Former very large corporate leaders
  • Former staff from major 'safety' projects (where the stakes were life-threatening)
  • People who value discipline, even if not one of the 'formers'
  • Athletes from team sports, particularly if not the star of the team
  • Socially moderate, and so likely to fit well into a heterogeneous team
Now, of course, there are a lot of 'formers' from rules-based organizations that are 'former' because they can't follow the rules. It's likely they have been invited to leave and apply their spirits elsewhere. Your job is to filter these rules-misfits out of your hiring plan.

Rules don't necessarily quash innovation
Rules generally go to methods and limits. Rarely do you find a rule about an outcome.
So, within the allowable methods, and within the allowable limits of disturbance, sustainability, availability, and quality in the large sense, any innovative outcome is possible.

You just need to hire the 'rules people' to get there!

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Friday, July 8, 2022

Social Media vs Project culture .... same?

The questions have been raised in various forums (and not only in the PM industry):
How much should the project culture be a influencing factor on the social media culture of project participants?

Can they be in opposition successfully?

Is it ok for PMO policy to insist that the project not be compromised on social media?

Before the pandemic, the same might have been said of dress codes (and hair cuts and body decoration, etc) in the office: don't embarrass the project, because influential sponsors, users, investors, et al might drop in. 

Tricky stuff
But we all know freedom of expression is more tricky, more sensitive, more litigious, more everything than something like a dress code. And, when you extend the project workforce internationally, all the more so. Not only are there different interpretations of the same expression(s), there are different norms and expectations. All this gets broadcast without borders.

Strangers in our midst
Then comes the virtual thing: it may well be that much of the workforce has never actually been in the office; may not have actually met policy makers (and enforcers); may not have actually had any professional colleague pay any attention to their social media presence heretofore. 

How do you form effective relationships in such situations?

The cheap answer: Return to the office!
The other answer: Say what you will, but if what you say is aimed directly at the project, then by your own actions you've deliberately engaged with project policy. If you can't abide the policy, then work on your resume ..... if there is no avenue to appeal the policy.

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Tuesday, July 5, 2022

AGILE: how to get there from left to right

If you are new to Agile (thus, perhaps, a late adopter .... or a newbie to the software industry) read through this posting at LeadingAnswers. 

The big message is: 
Internalize the founding concepts and guiding principles before jumping into sundry Agile practices. 

Start left; move right
In particular, understand this lecture: Absorb the idea of moving 'left to right' from the founding ideas to the many implementing practices. Avoid the shortcut to cut to the chase and start pick among the practices. 

If your mindset is "I'm not keen on the founding stuff; I'm a 'doer'", then LeadingAnswer's post is really designed for you! 

Read it through; take time to grasp the message in the graphics, and then summarize to yourself what you just learned. You and your project will be more successful than you might have been.

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