One thing I've noticed is that a lot of colleagues don't kno...

One thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of colleagues don’t know how to give good situation reports. One common error, especially amongst engineers, is to start from first observations and work towards a conclusion. This is exactly how one should think about technical problems, but it’s not a very effective way of communicating, especially when you’re trying to relay information up a chain of command.

Here’s how I learned to give a situation report during my brief stint in the armed forces:

  1. “I am” (identify yourself & other parties involved; give location where appilcable)
  2. “I see” (What is on your radar? What’s the problem? What situation is developing? Which milestone have you reached?)
  3. “I’m doing” (How are you responding to what you see?)
  4. “I want” (How can your interlocutor help? What resources do you need?)

The mnemonic for this is rather funny: “I’m lost. I can’t see shit. I’m doing fuck all. I want to go home.”

I think it works rather well in civilian life, too: “I’m working on $FEATURE. I’m noticing that page load times have doubled. I’m caching the results to try to reduce that a bit. Could Bob have a look at the database indexes?”