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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Four Principles for Understanding and Improving Systems



Edwards Deming is well known for his 14 Quality principles.

What is less well known are the four basic principles of Systemic Improvement that he identified and which underpin all his work. He called these his System of Profound Knowledge. We could do well to revisit them whenever we~
  • Look to introduce new tools and processes
  • Do Requirements gathering and Functional design
  • Solution architect
  • Build Project plans and Programme manage.
In this article, lets unpack the principles and at the same time (for illustrative purposes) frame them in the context of Function Point Counting:
  1. We must have a deep appreciation of our systems and processes.

    DEEP Appreciation!?
    What's that?
    Why Deep? And what's that mean ~  "Appreciate"??

    Well, it’s certainly more than a process flow diagram, or a set of documentation, I assure you!

    • Its an understanding of the process from the point of view of its strengths and weaknesses, its bottlenecks etc;
    • Its knowing more than the Main process: it's knowing its tributaries and Streams, and why they exist, and how they came about;
    • Its knowing the expedient things that happen off the record, and why these have never been formally incorporated;
    • Its knowing the shortcuts that people take, and why; and
    • Its knowing where the controls sit, and how they protect/limit/constrain the process

    How else do we take advantage of the good things, buttress weaknesses, and find points where improvement is necessary or possible? All the roles, values, responsibilities of the process need to be thoroughly understood in this fashion, and the impact of changes to the process understood/predicted in the same way.
  2. Introducing FP counts must follow this principle: ie know exactly where an FPC is applied, what Gap it is filling, what it replaces or supplements, when it is pertinent, how this feeds back into the wider project, what the window of its value is, exactly: and how that is applied in the project and without. This does not require an expensive analysis with lots of consultants: just knowledgeable people who work within the system capable of collaborating and motivating back to Management.

  3. Simply put: if you cannot measure, you cannot improve.

    This feeds directly back into the first principle, because the importance of measurements is knowing what to measure, when, why, to what level of granularity (because measurements abstract as they accumulate), for how long the measurements remain appropriate, and the time-window within which it is most important to act.

    It is impossible to set these things without that deep appreciation that he spoke to. As a corollary, if you do not have mechanisms to measure and improve, then improvement tools are a drain on the organisation. Function Points are layered measurements, by which I mean they can act at several levels.

    • The first of these is their obvious role as an estimating tool for sizing projects, and as an assist/traffic light in committing to work.
    • A second is across the project, to see how the delta between what was understood/designed early and what was delivered later conforms to a norm.
    • Both of these are project focused.

    • They can also be used to normalize other metrics, as a way to make apples and pears comparable: particularly iro scale. You can do this by referencing other metrics to the FPC baseline. Getting this right is not trivial.

    All this goes to usage: how do we intend to use the FPCs now, at what point do they reach the point where we are confident that the counts are consistent; at what point we become confident that their ability to provide accurate estimates occur; and at what point they shift from measures within a project, to measures that contribute to continuous improvement: the point where Deming’s second principle is met.

  4. The underpinning theory of knowledge must be well understood [from a training point of view and from a Knowledge base point of view]

    • Training because we must know who to train and what to train them with, the depth of their existing skills which make it possible to absorb the content, when and how often to train, what the context of the knowledge must be for its users, this most importantly, because we must at any time be able to justify its value in driving the organizational framework.
    • We also need this Theory of knowledge to guard against using tools/measures/processes/whatever inappropriately. Somewhere, someone in the organisation must be able to think things through and watch the process unfold: this is the point at which the first 2 principles converge because raw data becomes organisational Knowledge - ip.

    From an FPC viewpoint, what's needed is an owner who is process oriented, Business driven, and Technically adept. And who is not fooled by Statistics and statistical mumbo-jumbo.

  5. You must understand the psychology of the workplace because everything is done through people, and (crudely put) without the goodwill of your workers up and down the chain: find something else to do.

    In the context of FPCs,
    • The counters must understand and buy into the counts they are doing, and must feel that what they are doing is valuable. This protects the integrity of the counts.
    • We must remember that they are not (yet) recipients of the value of their work. This only happens when time has passed. It is easy for them to become disheartened and (more serious) disinterested.
    • A QA process is needed to maintain the standard of the counts, this builds Business confidence in their efficacy.
    • There must be consequence management for those who do not apply themselves, meaning that there is also a KPA implication.
    • The users of the outputs must understand both the value in their existing projects, and the long term value (lessons learned).
    • And most crucially, Business (in particular) and IT must be confident that the tool acts as the intended bridge between estimation and reality.
Especially for corporates - tier 1 companies, and the majority of tier 2 companies – they must be clear on their goals (in itself not an easy thing!), and act on them confidently and with insight.

In tier 3 companies (and to a lesser extent, tier 2) this can often be done without a great deal of formality: a POC can be rapidly deployed and the intent made understood. Value can be extracted through the direct oversight of Line Management.

In tier 1 companies this is commonly not the case. They can prove it locally, but to roll out widely (and quickly) demands hard work and attention to detail, more than many have been able to apply until now, for reasons such as short-termism and cost containment.

Last Word

Stepping away from FPC's and back to the original argument. Deming's 4 principles apply to every endeavour, but they are especially pertinent for Project Managers and Business Analysts, for whom context and understanding is everything.

So the Lesson is, surround yourself with line-of-business people who have that deep appreciation of the nature of their business and then tease out from them the implications of the other three principles.

Buzzword corner

  • FPC - Function Point Count
  • ip - intellectual property - what you know about the Business, what makes it different and gives it it's edge, what you don't want to give away, and what you want everyone inside to use to make the difference
  • POC - Proof of Concept
  • Tier 1 multi-national
  • Tier 2 Regional (national, or in the case of the US, State-wide)
  • Tier 3 Local

Further Reading


Image (c) Author

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Latent Defects: When software has something to hide

Just recently, I've been working with Service Level Agreements.
And, in trying to set up the right performance indicators and measures that will allow everyone a fair deal, the problem of how you handle latent defects resurfaced.
   Most surprising was that neither the client nor the supplier really understood what latent defects are. So here is my definition, as well as some of the downstream implications, and issues that arise.
Let's start with a definition:
Latent Defects: Systemic Flaws that are hidden in the preexisting and current production system which will manifest at some unforeseen time in the future.
   The idea of latent defects comes from the building industry. There's a slew of laws which protect the buyer of a property or home from dishonest sellers and developers. Essentially, the latest defect is a problem in the property or home that no reasonable person would have been able to find there, even with the most careful inspection. This idea is carried over into software development.
   Latent defects are therefore defects that still remain after the software product has been placed into production, and which pass the normal tests of reasonability both in terms of pre-production testing and extended use. They lurk there, hidden deep in the woodwork when nobody would think to look.
   Typically, the triggering of the defect is the result of an unusual or rare set of conditions, or an outcome of usage over an extended period of time. Latent defects will manifest a considerable period of time after being placed into production.
How do you know it's a Latent defect?
   The easiest way is to process the set of triggering events against older versions of the software and find that the bug has been hanging around from some distant time in the past.
   In the building industry, the rule of thumb is: if you could have founded by inspection, then it's not a latent defect. You just didn't put enough energy into looking for the problems. The same rule of thumb applies in the software industry. You don't get to call a bug a latent defect if you haven't paid enough attention to testing the system properly. That's just negligence, no matter how long the bug has been hanging around!
Compounding Issues
   Because they have lain undetected for a long period of time, there is a risk that the cumulative effect of Latent defects is to cause data corruption and mis-reporting. To correct this it is probable that there will have to be data fixes to the System's databases, and adjustment entries and explanations to Stakeholders.
Downstream Implications
   Sometimes the cost of making good is too high to justify full systemic repair, in which case the errors are left unrepaired, and the organisation makes do with manual adjustments and explanations to Stakeholders. This can (and almost invariably does) cause a high percentage of failure when the system is retired and replaced by a new System. The data errors present unpredictably to the normal conversion programs causing them to fail, and this leads to substantial delays and project cost overruns. Routinely, each data error must be examined manually using tracing processes that involve a disproportionate amount of cross-checking: line by line and record by record.
   The lesson is: as far as possible fix the problems as early as you can, and don't leave them for the next generation!
Latent Defects and their placement in an SLA
   Amongst many other things, an SLA determines the performance profile, quality measurements and Service checkpoints for the associated contracts. It governs the behavior of the people tasked to do the work.
   The intention is as much to encourage good work as it is to punish bad performance, and it does this by ensuring that the proper expectations of the service are recorded, monitored and acted upon.
   Latent defects skew the relationship. This is because, being unusual, the time to repair almost always breaks the SLA conditions. Until they are resolved, they impact on the remediation work everywhere else. Latent defects come in from left field, and can and do confuse managers and workers; so fixing them might well impact everywhere.
   That's why we put a clause into the SLA that ensures that Latent Defects are accounted for, we handle them separately in the SLA.
   They are the Black Swans of the Software Services world, and as such we expect them to be rare, and to handle them and move on.
   If they move out of the rare space - then there is something fundamentaslly flawed with the system - and that demands much more than the SLA is designed to handle.
Illustrative SLA Entry:

Failure arising from Defects in the Configuration
Where the number of defects in Production arising from bad workmanship in the   Service team results in re-work, the following shall apply:
Latent Defects:
The cumulative work effort arising from these defects as measured  over the 3-month measuring  period exceeds 5% of the total
After due consideration and review by the GM (operations-Client) and the Service Delivery Manager (Supplier), Supplier will either refund or provide a credit for  an amount calculated by the product of (the sum of the hours spent by the Service team) and (the prevailing Blended Rate) of the excess over the percentage.
Arising from Production defects:
The cumulative work effort arising from the defects as measured  over the 3-month measuring  period exceeds 10% of the total
After due consideration and review by the GM (operations, MIH) and the Portfolio Executive (SDT), SDT will SDT will either refund or provide a credit for an amount calculated by the product of (the sum of the hours spent by the Service team) and (the prevailing Blended Rate) of the excess over the percentage.
Review of limits:
The limits imposed above shall be reviewed annually with an expectation of steady improvement to the escalation limits:
·           Latent Defects: 1%
·           Service Team Defects: 5%
The outcomes of an improvement or regression shall be a material input to the re-negotiation of the contract



Other views of Latent Defects:
Some authors and authorities define Latent Defects as any defect that occurs once the system is placed into production. This is a way of distinguishing between defects discovered during construction and those discovered in production. This moves somewhat away from the original intention, so be careful to ask the question and set the tone when discussing with peers and academics. An example of this approach is found at the Open Process Framework site (OPF) here: http://www.opfro.org/index.html?Components/WorkProducts/RequirementsSet/Requirements/LatentDefectRequirements.html~Contents 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

It's a new Spring for me, Same old winter for them


If you don't know what you don't know ~ Honour those who do: 
A Season's lesson in looking after core values,
honouring and respectng knowledge, 
and rewarding the people who work in the Engine Room

A little over a year ago I had breakfast with a stranger in a coffee shop not too far from where I am typing this. Chance had brought us together: I had resigned from my previous job because my daughter was coming back from far-away lands and I wanted to free myself up to be with her. The question of gainful employment was furthest from my mind. He was looking for someone to fill a hole, help to move his ship from its present rocky course back into navigable waters and safe passage.
..
It was a cold winter's morning in July, and we had been brought together by a mutual third party. As we sat and drank steaming hot coffee and spoke about the challenges he had, and his vision for the journey, we both felt a sense of a common destiny and purpose. He had a clear understanding of the issues, and I could see clearly where I could make a contribution. We shook hands on it, a mutual agreement that once the space opened I would Lead that part of his convoy. Today marks the end of that venture, and it ends, bittersweet, with both success and failure.
..
The ship has changed course, and sails on a safe passage. There lies the success.
But the crew is decimated, the best have left and callow youths stand in their stead.
The ship's owners, knowing little of the work at hand, what it takes to deliver, or the carrying capacity of their crews, have responded to the successes by raising unrealisable expectations and punishing the shortfalls.
..
This is an analogy of course: in reality we are talking about COTS Software and IT systems:
the "crew" delivered a 51% increase in turnover, 47% increase in profit, the clients were universally satisfied and new, more equitable and sustainable deals were on the table. The owners responded by cancelling all bonuses and cutting back increases: excellence is not sufficient when there are shareholder pockets to be lined.
..
The collapse has followed quickly. How do people respond when they find their rewards yanked, and their targets raised still higher? The best go immediately, the second tier follow in the months to come. Delivery is curtailed, Sales dwindle, existing work can no longer be resourced, and quality drains away as juniors replace seniors. Expectation from existing clients were raised: the new course is working, but alas! The crews do not have the know-how or experience anymore, and those few who remain are worked to the bone: one by one they slip away. Without the leadership and navigational skills, the ship strays once more towards the rocks and shallows.
..
Deming said that you need a deep appreciation of your systems in order to create sustainable processes. If you lack that appreciation, then employ people who do, or who can realise it if there's time. Our owners did the reverse: With the best gone already, and income shrinking, they took to the fire pumps: sideline Management and start a round of retrenchments.
..
Let us change analogies for a moment:
I am reminded of a passage in The Call of The Wild, Jack London's story about sled dog teams in the deep of Alaska ... we are at that point where the team, dogs, harnesses and sled have been sold to a family of Southerners, who know nothing of travelling (or indeed, life!) in the near-Arctic. They know only of the gold they are hoping to prospect, and the smell of it is in their nostrils. They make slow time, they overburden the team, they quarrel and bicker amongst themselves. Time passes and they reach a moment where the lead dog, knowing what is coming on the trail, exhausted (as is his team) by overloading, lack of sleep and poor food, refuses to go further. They beat it half to death, then are forced to cut it loose and leave it on the trail.
..
As they move off, the dog lifts its head and watches as his team staggers out onto the ice, watches as the ice cracks and gives way, watches as the whole lot of them, men, woman, dogs and sled slide to their doom.
..
To reality:
The Leader is gone.
The lead dogs cut loose, and
the best of the pack have long since fallen by the wayside.
Those who remain answer to a Management of lawyers, and chartered accountants, and a sprinkling of old timers who have doubled their salaries by returning as consultants.
But since that was never my way, I refused that offer and will watch them from afar.
..
As for the Stranger and me: we are strangers no more, and the long journey has moulded us both. Its a new Spring for me, and I expect the same for him: but its the same cold winter that waits on them.
__________________

Jack London's "Call of the Wild" is generally taken to be a rather dated childrens story.
That's a great pity.
It tells us a lot about life and what we do to cope and survive.
You can read it on-line here :)

__________________
The images are from the original publication back in 1903, and can be found at the link above. To the best of my knowledge, they are in the public domain

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Professionalism and You in the IT Industry

Being Professional
Everyone and his dog (or her cat) claims to be a Professional these days.
Every organisation likes to lay claim to that too.
Hey, and every product has a "Pro" version: For the Pros.


"I'm a professional"
"We do things professionally"
"Hi, I'm the Professional Services Manager"

Oh Really?

Let's look at that.
Webster says a Professional is ...
Webster describes the word "Professional" as many things, but this one sticks out for me

3: following a line of conduct as though it were a profession

But wait, there's more:
A person who is in a Profession gets to Profess (that's the root for all these words).
Let's give that one a gander ... Profess ... 4 a: to practice or claim to be versed in (a calling or profession)
Getting a bit incestuous, aren't we?
Maybe we need to look at some Real Professionals for a bit of guidance. Those that the Law says are professional, and one which has legal restrictions about who can, and who can't be in.
Other Professions?
Here is a quick list:
  • Doctors and Dentists
  • Lawyers & Attorneys
  • Chartered Accountants
  • Architects
  • Engineers
  • Religious Ministers (well, the law doesn't really apply there ~ but they seem to belong somehow)
I know what I know....
Well, if you want to be in one of those Groups, then Guess What?
Going to have some Education: High School is not enough.
Some Education? Oh no, no, no. Lots of education. In fact, a life time of it.
I hardly want to be treated by a Dentist who still believes in pliers and forceps!
There is a deep commitment to formal knowledge, and skills.

But wait, there's more:
You know that I know what I know: Oversight.
Qualifying is not enough.
You don't get to be a doctor, or Engineer, or CA just by studying.
You have to serve some time.
Experience is built into the process.

Got a medical degree? Go onto an internship before you get your ticket.
Or Articled Clerk. etc.

There is an oversight process, and it's built in.

To summarise so far: You need formal study, followed by education, followed by a minimum of experience before you get let in by them. "THEM??" eh?
Professional autonomy
That's right.
There is registration with a formal body and THEY let you in.
NOW you can call yourself a professional working in a real profession.
But wait, there's more:

Now that you are in, suddenly you find yourself part of a trust regime.
The community trusts you to do a good job.

And if you do a bad one, you get reported to the governing body which has extensive powers to reign you in, discipline you, and even set the law loose on you.

The important thing though, is that the community grants you the right to practice largely unhindered and expects the profession to look after its own affairs.
I do what I do
These guys have a mission, folks.

There is a code of conduct, and a clearly defined end goal in sight: "Mission" and "Vision" isn't some namby pampby limp wristed marketing con. It runs deep (witness the Hippocratic Oath). And people live it out in their lives. It drives them forward to long hours of sacrifice and hard work. And despite what many think, a lifetime commitment to your discipline demands long hours of study and catch-up, which ain't easy: personal life, family life, all live on it's edges.
Morality and Ethics

Would you go to an unethical doctor?
Well, maybe a lawyer!
How do you feel about an unethical priest?

As I noted earlier, to belong to a Profession you also subscribe to it's code of conduct.

Failure to hold a high moral standard is regarded as anathema, you can get drummed out for failing to behave in the way that the profession and the community expects.
To answer the question…
Here are the four key characteristics that I believe we must take on board if we are to call ourselves Professionals …
  • Specialized skills & knowledge
Tools, skills, education, process
  • Professional autonomy
Metrics, communication, delivery
  • A Distinctive Goal
Value Realisation towards a Community
  • An Ethical Motivation
Driven by our behaviour to each other and to the Community
Coming next
In the third part part of this 2-part series (*grin*) I will look at how these characteristics play out in our lives.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Putting profesional into "Professional Services" - Part 1. The Conversation

Professional did you say? Project Managers, Programmers, Business analysts? The rest of the pack of running wolves that make up the IT Industry?

Says who?

So we are sitting in the evening talking about this and that, and the conversation turns to doctors, lawyers and other professionals. The sun is slipping down and that’s OK, because generally that’s about the time that the kids have been tucked away and the non-PC stuff will soon come out: deep glasses with the remains of red wine make way for whiskey glasses, cigars and Port.

Professionals they are not, says Sarah. She has survived a greedy surgeons grasp, largely because her husband Tim insisted on a second opinion. And a third, who confirmed number 2's. Yes, says Keith. We nearly ended up paying for our attorney’s summer vacation. One by one the stories pop up, everyone has one, even if it is only second or third hand.

Several days later I am sitting in an office. A mid thirties man is giving me the Consultants con. Suited and tied, cuff linked and silver tongued. He’s from a big consulting firm, and they have just pitched for, and won, the outsourcing for entire IT department for the large firm my little one consult to. We are a professional company, he says. We won’t steal your staff, or terminate your contract. After all (and he gives a little chuckle) we are all in this together: not enough qualified people out there, after all: must work with folk like you.

He is lying through his gold plated teeth, of course. My ears prick up “We are a Professional organization” he’s saying, and before he can complete the sentence I butt in “what do you mean by that? Professional, that is. What does it mean, you’re ‘Professional’ ... ” I leave the dots hanging in the air. Last Sunday’s conversation has intervened between us, its there now, in the back of my head.

He’s nonplussed, but recovers himself quickly. Giving me a hard, careful look now, he repeats sections (no doubt memorized by heart) from the Corporate Brochure, while looking over my casual outfit, chinos and checked shirt. I can see that he does not rate me. I fleetingly regret not having come in more formally dressed, and I think to myself “We’re a damn sight more professional than your lot, Mr, with or without the fancy words.”

It’s the service that counts. After all, we sell “Professional Services” don’t we?

But while he didn't answer the question to my satisfaction, I didn’t have the answer myself. Well, not off pat, in any case. It needed some thinking.

That was some months ago: and having been on the mission, I think I might be able to answer the question. Its in part 2 of this mini series :)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

My Advice to Allan


Charting a way forward from the open door trap

So what should Allan do about his predicament?

  • Is it all Doom and Gloom, or
  • does he have any positives?
  • Should he up and leave? (There's that should word again! . . . I'll talk to it one of these days) and
  • if not, how does he behave going forward?
  • and what about the company? What's all of this doing to the organization itself?
Lets take these one at a time, and look at the advice I gave him.

What are his positives?
Well, to begin with he has a case for constructive or wrongful dismissal in the future. Clearly, the employer has caused a number of unfair conditions to arise:
  • He has been disintermediated in his functional role
  • Time has passed to such an extent that he can no longer be held solely accountable for any further collapse in morale (if there was a morale problem!)
  • Senior Management have behaved negligently towards its shareholders by allowing the situation to persist
The first two bullets are clearly prejudicial to him and if he ever is dismissed or disciplined on their account he will have a strong case to make against the company. He is fortunate in that he knows that the situation is unfolding, so he can do some things to protect himself from downstream troubles:
  1. Keep a daily Journal
  2. Maintain his professional conduct and behave scrupulously fairly to everyone in the team
  3. Be fully transparent in all his dealings with the team and the client
Go or Stay?
Now that's a contextual question. To quote the shyster lawyer "it all depends".
My answer is Stay if a suitable combination of the following apply:
  • he is persuaded in his own mind that he has retained the goodwill of the key influencers in the team
  • its not personal (i.e. the attack is on the team, and he is merely the quickest target to bring the team down)
  • he can continue to fulfill his role without damaging his cv
  • he can maintain his personal integrity and keep his sense of injustice in check
  • there is no succession plan to hand over his duties (start immediately to set that to rights!)
  • he is approaching a milestone that will allow him to disengage gracefully
Otherwise, get out as fast and as gracefully as possible. Without recriminations. This is a time to resign without apology or explanation: serve notice and go. Its a small world out there, and one doesn't want to get into a "he said, I said, they did, I did" discussion.

How to behave if one stays
Over and above the three points above ~
  1. Try to avoid one on one situations. That way one won't land in the "he said/she said" situations.
  2. Do NOT try to double guess who your accuser is. There lies a pathway to madness which will surely undo one. Let go of all personal feelings in this matter. In many cases, people who push back hard are merely behaving in accordance with their natures: its not personal. It's easy to fall into the trap of believing that people who don't share one's opinions are necessarily working for one's downfall. "If you can't let go of your paranoia, then get out of the situation".
  3. Observe my Grandmother's first Rule: "If it's not written down, it don't even exist". Confirm everything within the team in writing. This is a great rule to keep in any situation. Sometime in the future I will blog it.
  4. Build a succession plan. Plan to get out of the project, by empowering Junior Management and handing over duties.
  5. Build a collaborative structure. This is a great time to build a collaborative work structure, its the best defense against team mates who wish to undermine Management or the team. Its also the best defense if the project is under attack, rather than the individual.
And what about the Organization?
Well, now, the cliched quote goes that a fish rots from its head, not its tail. But, as Joseph Wambaugh noted, "the whole fish still goes bad". So this is a company that is headed in directions that no sane person would want to stay with. It appoints Managers, and then acts in ways that disempower them. It allows Kafkaesque situations to arise. It encourages a playground attitude. It's Senior Management is clearly immature and naive.

My long term advice to Allan is: Sooner or later, leave. You deserve better.


Trapped in an open door

or, how to turn your a Project into a Soapie

How an open door policy became a trap door for Middle Managers


Consider the plight of my friend Allan. He's a program manager with a bunch of people reporting to him. Up till now he has thought of them as "his team": and in fact, all things considered, they are.

His Manager is Bob, who reports to the Head Honcho Chris. You see, reporting and escalation should be as simple as ABC.

Except it isn't. We have to deal with that "should" word here.
Lets Pick two team members: Tom and Jerry.
Tom does not like the way Allan handled an incident that involved Jerry.

Several months later, he decides to escalate his concern.
Because all Managers have an open door policy, he goes straight to the Boss Chris.
Chris Listens, and goes to Bob. The conversation goes something like this:
Chris: "Someone has complained to me about Allan. He is not happy that Jerry's incident was handled right" Bob: "Ok, tell me who complained and I will set up a round table" Chris: "I can't. Then I would compromise the open door policy" Bob: "So what do you want me to do? I don't know who complained, I don't know what the complaint was, and Tom himself is OK with the outcome." Chris: "I am concerned about the Morale of the team ..."

So Bob Speaks to Allan, but since they don't know what to fix, or who to fix it with, Allan is told to "be more aware".

Thereafter, once a month, Chris confronts Bob with a demand to know "What
you are doing about the morale issue". Discussions take place about how Allan behaved in this context or that context, but (of course) no-one discusses the substance with Allan, who continues to Manage with the cloud over his head, and the awareness that a "case" is open (and building) against him.
Kafka could not have scripted it better.
What has the Team learned from this?
Of course, the bush telegraph gets a hold of this. As the months go past, and nothing happens, beyond the obvious discomfort of the PMs, the team learns one important lesson:

We can make any accusation we like, and it won't be tested,
if we claim that it is done:
"in confidence, in the best interests of the Team/Company,
or if we might be "picked on" afterwards.


Which, dear friends, is a central theme for the plot of any Soapie ever written ...


As for Allan, he's looking for a new Assignment: and so would I.