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Thursday, October 13, 2005


Since you are talking about what I said I need to clear things up. Polishing a t**d is always a bad idea.

My point is not that some criticism is more friendly than others. My point is that some people TAKE criticism of a part to be criticism of the whole. A common example of this can be found in politics where criticism of a specific policy is viewed by some as an Anti- statement and is NOT accepted or acted upon except the act of silencing or marginalizing the one offering criticism.

Certainly there are cases where the whole idea is a crock and should be trashed. Those who understand the scope of the criticism should be able to tell when this is the case.

The real point is that some work on a binary "all or nothing", "love it or leave it" understanding. In my opinion this is wrong. I'm tempted to say totally wrong, but that would be wrong too... :-)



It seemed that you said the Type 2 had the solution. Anyway it seems also that you are missing the point. Im not saying that I get to pick everyone I work with nor am I saying it is always possible avoid them and I did not say that they never had valuable information. I did not mean for my comments to be all inclusive of every possible situation. They were meant to be an observation on Jacks comments about the nature of those that offer criticism. I was merely observing that I felt that the type 2 people I was thinking of when I read his post were harmful, hurtful and annoying people that should be avoided.


If you'll read the previous post, the Type II in the example had only critisim, no solution.

If you're able to pick those around you, you're in a better position than I. I envy you're selection process. Where I work this is not always the case.


If he had a solution then he was not a Type 2 to begin with. :-)

Im talking about communication styles and effectiveness. If you are a type 2 person then you are not an effective communicator.

and I guess you can spend some time and come up with a situation where it would be a good idea to listen to destructive blowhards but in general practice it is just bad policy for a variety of reasons.

I guess it comes down to the fact that if someone is a type 2 jackass and they have the answer then stop being a jackass for 10 mins and present it in a way that makes people want to listen. That is just a basic rule of communication.


No doubt Type I's with no value do just that "provide no value." Type II's with information, do just that provide information to the project.

If you persoanlly chose to avoid Type II's "completly" then in my lmited experince as a PM, that is a serious mistake.

It may serve your personal needs to keep away from them (assuming of course you can pick your project team), but probably not as a PM in a larger context where you can't pick your team or have the team assigned, say through subcontractors or far away HR people.

Imagine being a PM on a project that has a disaster - say a failed launch (sofwtare product launch or orbit insertion launch). And the Mishap Investigation Board (a lovely term that the marketing guys dreamed up) asks - "and why Mr. Kennemer did you not seek out or even take the information from the obnockious (sic) engineering manager who always tries to make you look bad by critising your work without contributing a solution? When this person in fact had the information you needed to avoid the launch failure?"

Uhm...good question, you say. "I deceided not ever to associate with such people..."

"Really... and why did we entrust the project to you? Personal preferences of associates was not in the job description if I remember the charting session."

Far fetched? Maybe, maybe not...


It does not say that at all. You are reading that into it. All I said (and you quoted it even) was that people of the 2nd type are to be avoided.

It seems pretty obvious (to the point of being safe to assume without it being stated) that if a person of the first type brought low value or bad analysis, etc that they too would need to be avoided on a case by case basis.

My statements assumed high quality.

So to sum up: Type 2 people are to be avoided completely. Also to be avoided are those of Type 1 that are bad at their jobs. :-)


Then I'm confused (again) about your position...

"Well really people of the second type should be avoided at all costs..."

Seems to say youonly want Type I's in your presence, not matter what information they bring to the party.


But I am NOT saying (nor is Jack) that only friendly communication should be sought. Quite the contrary. Critique is important, no, essential but it is important to be able to filter out those voices that are more about tearing things down than in fixing things.

I am NOT talking about only friendly voices. Im talking about voices that not only offer critique but also offer constructive and useful suggestions for how to fix the problems you are pointing out. That is what Jack was talking about.


I'm working on a briefing for Probablistic Cost and Schedule analysis. In this effort is embedded the communictaion aspects of scehedule and cost risk.

In an internal summary chart there are three undesiable outcomes for seeking only "friendly" commuication:

- Flawed analysis - engineering solutions presented to management needed to be done in a free and frank manner, independent of the messanger or the tone of the message.

- Flawed decision making - (...) personnel frequently accept critical risks without qualitative and quantative support, even when the information has been conveyed directly to the program management team.

- Blocked risk communication - risk information (technical or programmatic)... (is) not communicated effectively to risk assessment and mission assurance processes, but filtered by the listener to match the personal and cultural expectations.

EDIT - I meant the second type (critique WITHOUT advice)...


The second type (crtique with advice) serves a useful role as well. Red Team and Baseline Reviews "assess" the status of the project at that point in time, WITHOUT providing corrections or solutions. These are called Independent Non-Aligned Reviews (INAR) and are critical to avoiding the group think.

The problems of the CAIB and Mars missions was not necessarly "group" think - in fact group think would have saved MCO. But rather the failure of management to listen to the challanges - no matter what they sounded like.

I have all the reports if you can't locate them. They are worth the effort - espcially for enterprise software projects that tend to get into "optimistic" modes very easily.

As a PM I'd welcome ANY ctritique - type one or type two. Without feedback (of any kind) it woudl be hard to make progress. Requiring that someone bring a solution along with the critique is throwing the baby out with the bath water (so to speak), because the person arriving with the critique but no solution will not be heard.

It may be unpleasent or maybe even painful to listen to the Type 2's crtitque, but she may have the exact insight needed to save the mission and many times around here does just that. A recent lanuch was delayed 3 days when a very adversarial opinion was voiced about a fueling risk model that did not match the agreed upon plan. Turns out the "painful" person was right and saved the mission from disaster.

Just an ancedote, but I've learned never to reject any input no matter how unpleasent to communication is - it just might save my be-hind.


Actually the first kind give bad news too but they tend to offer constructive feedback rather than making noise to just hear themselves talk which is what Im talking about with the 2nd type. The 2nd type I mean tear stuff down without any thought to offering an improved alternative. They are to be avoided at all costs and doing so does not bring about groupthink (ala NASA) as you imply. They rid the team of a dead weight. The first type are the only people to have on your teams.

Brian K


Avoiding the second type can many times isolate the listener to hear only "good news." The Columbia and Challanger "mishaps" as well as Mars Polar Lander, http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msp98/ (the second vehicle is now called Phoenix, http://phoenix.lpl.arizona.edu/) and Mars Climate Oribtor, http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msp98/orbiter/, all had only the first type allowed.

"If you can't say something good, then don't say anything at all."

It's pleasent for the receiver of critisim, but a naive approach in many instances.

Taking liberties from Bossidy in both Execution and Confronting Reality. Polishing the scratches and dents in a pig of an idea just makes the pig of idea look shiny and new, but its still a pig of an idea.

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