What is The Crux

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Ever heard of the term “crux”?
In mountaineering terms, it’s the most difficult part of a climb.

Regardless if it’s a climb or a personal goal, I see the start as the most difficult part.

I used to think that starting was easy and finishing was the hard part. I would now say finishing is hard, once you get started.

Do you keep putting things off, day after day, week after week?

Now that we’ve started a new year, what are you going to commit to? Almost as important, what will prevent you from getting started?

(the pic is from a trail map for the Sugarloaf Mountain trails that I’ve hiked)

Categories: Misc Tags: Tags: , ,

Socratic Questioning

socratic questions

socratic questions After reading the book The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement by Eliyahu Goldratt, I found myself wanting to learn more about two things.  One, something known as the theory of constraints (TOC).  Two, the Socratic method or using Socratic questioning.  I’ll leave TOC for another post.  This time around, I’ll focus on Socratic questioning.  I started asking my client’s vendor a series of Socratic questions, with some surprising results.   But first, what is Socratic Questioning?  From our old friend Wikipedia:

Socratic questioning is disciplined questioning that can be used to pursue thought in many directions and for many purposes, including: to explore complex ideas, to get to the truth of things, to open up issues and problems, to uncover assumptions, to analyze concepts, to distinguish what we know from what we don’t know, and to follow out logical implications of thought.

The key to distinguishing Socratic questioning from questioning per se is that Socratic questioning is systematic, disciplined, and deep, and usually focuses on foundational concepts, principles, theories, issues, or problems.

Using my client’s vendor as a guinea pig, I decided to give this a go.  Rather than just accepting what appeared to be a half-baked answers, I started to ask more of the same questions.

I asked questions like

  • What do you mean by that?
  • Could you help me understand this a little more?
  • Is this always the case?
  • Why do you think that this assumption is true in this case?
  • Why do you say that?
  • What is there reason to doubt the supporting data?
  • What is the counter argument for this?
  • What is another way of looking at this?
  • But if that happened, what else would happen?
  • How does this affect that?

Though I’ve always asked a lot of questions, I’ve never tried to be so systematic or disciplined in the process.  I’m frustrating the hell out of the vendor with all of the open ended questions.  But I think the client is getting better answers.  I hate to see someone ask a complicated question, only to get a yes or no answer.  I want to understand why someone is doing what they are doing.  Hopefully, by asking these types questions, the vendor will start to wonder why as well.

Have you used Socratic questioning before?  What was your outcome?

Book link to Amazon is an affiliate link.
Original Drawing by Pictofigo

Categories: Project Management Tags: Tags: , ,

How Do You Know Your Metrics Are Worth It

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GQM Paradigm

So you want to create some metrics.  More importantly, someone has told you that you need to create some metrics.  How do you know if you’re just making work for yourself or if you’re just putting a spin on the same old data?

Ask yourself what the goals of your project are.

In trying to determine what to measure in order to achieve those goals, I recommend using a Goal-Question-Metric (GQM) paradigm. It can actually be applied to all life-cycle products, processes, and resources. I’ve been using this process for a few years and it really helps me creat a quality metric.  The GQM paradigm is based on the theory that all measurement should be [1]goal-oriented i.e., there has to be some rationale and need for collecting measurements, rather than collecting for the sake of collecting. Each metric collected is stated in terms of the major goals of the project or program. [2] Questions are then derived from the goals and help to refine, articulate, and determine if the goals can be achieved. [3] The metrics or measurements that are collected are then used to answer the questions in a quantifiable manner.

Here is an example of the GQM in action:

Goal (use this 4-step process to shape a goal)

[1] Purpose
[2] Issue
[3] Object (process)
[4] Viewpoint

Goal 1 [1] Purpose
[2] Issue
[3] Object (process)
[4] Viewpoint
a maximum level of
customer satisfaction
from the Help Desk user’s viewpoint
Question 1 What is the current help desk ticket trend?
Metrics 1
Metrics 2
Metrics 3
Metrics 4
Number of help desk tickets closed
Number of new help desk tickets
% tickets outside of the upper limit
Subjective rating of customer satisfaction
Metrics 5 Number of new help desk tickets open
Question 2 Is the help desk satisfaction improving or diminishing?
Metrics 6
Metrics 7
Metrics 8
Metrics 9
Number of help desk calls abandoned
Number of help desk calls answered
Number of help desk calls sent to voicemail
Subjective rating of customer satisfaction

As the great Lord Kelvin once said, “If you can not measure it, you can not improve it.”

Image based on Basili, Caldiera, and Rombach “The Goal Question Metric Approach“, 1990