imageA jigsaw puzzle is a classic afternoon diversion for one or more people. Variants are now available in 3 dimensions, and are of many shapes and sizes. The biggest commercially available puzzle is about 18,000 pieces. These puzzles are solvable because the pieces are designed to fit together. Considerable assembly is required, but fans of jigsaw puzzles are able to enjoy this diversion because they have a high degree of confidence that the whole thing can be made from the parts provided, and that these parts will mesh together esthetically and mechanically. 

Synergy is frequently used in the context of 'the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.' Obviously, this is not always true, especially on projects. For example, in the mechanical mental model that people so often have, components are replaceable, they act independently of one another, and all behavior can be scripted in simplistic terms. The world is a far more complicated place than that.

This article analyses the symptoms and trends in which 'negative synergy' can occur on projects. In such situations, not only is the whole less than the parts you don't have, it's dramatically so.

  • The terrain is not the map
  • A chain is as weak as it's weakest link
  • Belief is a tipping point
  • The architecture compartmentalizes knowledge and action
    • communications rarely occurs
    • key states and interactions ripple across systems
    • initialization and recovery behaviors
    • throughput, timing, and race conditions
    • analysis of failures

This page is an early sketch of an outline of the challenges of risk management. It is incomplete and immature.
The intent is to demonstrate the feasibility, issues, and benefits with establishing a standardized,
scalable approach to risk management that is compliant with multiple improvement frameworks, highlight the various features
of such a process description and protocol (and demonstrate the differences between these), and walk through
how such an example could be used to explore opportunities for improved information sharing, knowledge management, and automation


If you can prove you don't need insurance, you can probably get it - source unknown

Risk management is the process of minimizing exposure to hazards. Nearly everyone purchases insurance for their own home, though this is usually because most financial institutions require it as a condition of financing. Most project leaders say they practice it, but rarely is it applied in an organized, methological manner. Consider this dialog:

Manager: We want to be sure we manage the risks on this project, but don't want to call them risks.

Worker: What's wrong with calling them risks?


Process Implementation


Process improvement requires two major steps. First, new processes must be defined. Second, the organization must begin to use those new processes. The literature has provided good guidance on writing new processes, but very little has stated clearly what actions must be taken to implement and then institutionalize the use of the processes. This paper provides a list of implementation and institutionalization actions that organizations should consider estimating, planning, and performing to ensure the new processes are used. Those actions fall into the categories of training, ensuring management support, obtaining a measurement baseline, auditing the use of the processes, collecting and maintaining a library of process assets, tailoring the processes, improving the processes and appraising the processes.


Writing new processes may be the easy part of process improvement. This can be a very depressing thought to those who spend years on process action teams (PATs) and systems- or software-engineering process groups (SEPGs).  However, once those processes are defined, documented, and even communicated, much work remains.

Each person working in the implementation organization will need to:

  • Access the processes
  • Understand all the processes at a top level
  • Understand in detail the processes that he or she performs

Managers must

Project data architectureOrganizations exist (and projects are initiated) to create value for customers. If organizations cannot create value, the organizations will cease to exist. Such value creation is hard; the path is littered with good intentions and incomplete results. Retrospective analysis helps us understand what the real factors are which determine success in creating new things, why things so often go wrong, and what leverage is really available to make things better. As Joseph Cambell says: 

This book provides a framework for capturing and deploying narratives about technical development processes.

This book provides a framework for capturing and deploying narratives about business processes.

Governance systems, and the improvement efforts that underlie them, represent a popular approach to introducing discipline and changing behavior within an organization or enterprise. The assets which make up these governance systems include written material (policies, processes, procedures, metrics, and associated training materials and tools) necessary to efficiently introduce, apply, and monitor governance within an organization, and to improve organizational performance. These assets are intended to be employed within and across initiatives, businesses, sites, projects and disciplines to guide and direct behavior and accomplish or pursue target business results. Once such a governance framework is established, and the organization using this framework becomes sufficiently mature in applying this framework, this structure provides a basis to build, locate, integrate, utilize, and improve individual governance assets themselves, in order to evolve organizational behaviors and improve outcomes.

Capturing star with netIn the race to get to 'faster, better, and cheaper', a frequently traveled path is for teams to identify, codify, adopt, and often adapt 'best practices' to use in performing their work.

The word practice is defined as 'a habitual or customary action or way of doing something'. In this same source, the definition of best establishes a high bar for the concept: 'surpassing all others in excellence, achievement, or quality.

It is easy to consider these words in combination as thus implying that there is an obligation for a team to find the best ''possible'' way, but this is usually not what is meant by the phrase. Instead, a 'best practice' is simply a way of indicating that a team is striving to consistently use approaches which they consider to be the best of those that are known, appropriate, and implementable in a given situation.

But Donald Reinertsen identifies an even greater concern about best practices:

This is a placeholder to explore how planning for the war in Iraq might have gone differently had risk management processes been in place. It is intended to draw on material from two sources: