Archive for September, 2009

Video & Slides from “Limits of I’ll Know It When I See It” Talk at SFBay ACM

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Books, Events, skmurphy did a nice video of my Wed-Sep-16 talk at SF Bay ACM on “The Limits of I’ll Know it When I See it.” Here are the slides in PDF format (see below for an outline with hyperlinks to references).

The talk was well received and garnered the following comments on the feedback forms.

  • “Nice distillation of  fundamentals in applying expertise effectively.”
  • “interesting ideas”
  • “a bit too fast, would appreciate a list of references.”
  • “Learned about new authors to check out, learned about new methods to work on teams.”
  • “References are Appreciated”
  • “Very Good Event!!”

Outline for The Limits of “I’ll Know It When I See It” Wednesday, Sep-16-2009 at  San Francisco Bay ACM Chapter

  • Overview
    • Individual Expertise
    • Effective Delegation
    • Blending Expertise In a Team
  • Questions for Audience: Role
    • Individual Contributor
    • Manager / Project Manager
    • Consultant
    • Solo Entrepreneur
    • Startup Founding Team
  • Questions for Audience: Discipline
    • Engineering
    • Sales & Marketing
    • Finance & Operations
    • Executive Management
  • Individual Expertise
    • I’ll Know It When I See It
      • Unconscious Competence
      • Not Available To Introspection
  • “I’ll Know It When I See It” Examples
    • Reading A Pap Smear
    • A Gestalt: Whole Is More Than Sum Of Parts
    • A Detail You See That Is Often Overlooked
  • What is Expertise?
    • “Experts perceive things that are invisible to novices, such as the characteristics of a typical situation. They make high-quality decisions under extreme time pressure. When difficulties arise, experts find opportunities for improvising solutions.”
    • Source: Gary Klein “Sources of Power
  • Example Of Expertise: Physician
    1. Elicit Symptoms (May Include Tests)
    2. Offer a Diagnosis (Root Cause Analysis)
    3. Explain Differentials (Sensitivity Analysis)
    4. Suggest a Prescription (Course of Action)
    5. Outline Prognosis (Likely Outcomes)
    6. Use Outcomes to Refine Rules & Models
  • Expertise: Personal Mastery
  • Expertise: Holistic Intuition
    • Unconscious Competence
    • Pattern Recognition
    • Muscle Memory
    • Backtracking & Self-Evaluation
  • What’s The Difference Between
    • Talented Contributor & Effective Manager
    • Solo Entrepreneur & Entrepreneurial CEO
    • Answer: Effective Delegation
  • Two Types of Delegation
    • Crystallize & Codify
    • Form A Small Team With A Shared Mission
  • Crystallize & Codify
    • Externalize Insights
    • Formalize Approach
    • Thought Process Available For Evaluation
    • Basis for Self-Improvement
    • Defined and Repeatable Process
  • Approaches To Crystallize & Codify
    • Sketch A Drawing
    • Run A Google Search
    • Craft A Metaphor (e.g. Computer Virus)
    • Write A Program To Solve Part Of Problem
    • Build A Spreadsheet
  • Examples of Crystallize & Codify
    • Rules Of Thumb
    • Checklists
    • Recipes
    • Model or Simulation
  • Now That It’s Out Of Your Head
    • You Can Have Conversations
    • Solicit Suggestions For Improvement
    • Compare Notes With Other Experts
    • Refine Based On Broader Experience
  • Questions For Audience: Crystallize
    • How Do You Capture Your Expertise?
    • I Will Jot Or Sketch On a 3×5 Card
    • Anyone Want to Offer an Example?
  • Recap: The Difference Between
    • Talented Contributor & Effective Manager
    • Solo Entrepreneur & Entrepreneurial CEO
    • Answer: Effective Delegation
  • Two Types of Delegation
    • Crystallize & Codify
    • Form A Small Team With A Shared Mission
  • Keys To Forming A Small Team
    • A Common Mission or Desired End
    • Metrics For Measuring Progress
    • Shared Situational Awareness
    • Each Member Can Link Actions to Goals
  • Limit of “I’ll Know It When I See It”
    • Problem Grows Bigger Than One Person
    • You Need a Team
    • Often With Several Experts
  • Product Team Example
    • One Table / Two-Pizza Meeting
    • Need Different Engineering Experts
    • Power, Mechanical, Software,
    • Engineering Is About Trade-offs
    • Cost, Performance, Development Time
  • Individual Expertise vs. Team Decision Making
    • Two Key Differences
      • Trust
      • Shared Situational Awareness
    • New Challenge: Blending Expertise On A Team
  • Models That Blend Expertise For Team Decision Making
    • Recognition Primed Decisions – Klein
    • Principles of Maneuver Warfare – Lind
    • Decision Tree Model – Howard
    • Analysis of Competing Hypotheses – Heuer
  • Recognition Primed Decision
    • Useful in Emergencies and Crises
    • Depth-First Search of Possibilities
    • Agree On a Model of Situation
    • Generate Possible Courses of Action
    • Select First One That Works
    • Source: Klein “Sources of Power” & “Intuition
  • Principles of Maneuver Warfare
    • Useful For Rapid Decision Making
    • One Mission / One Main Effort
    • Push Decisions Down (Close to Facts)
    • Reconnaissance Pull: Guided By Facts
    • Source: Lind  “Principles of Maneuver Warfare
  • Decision Tree Model
    • Used to Organize Sequence of Decisions
    • Helps Bound Uncertainty
    • Identify Choices and Probable Outcomes
    • Each Outcome In Term has New Choices
    • Example: Fault & Diagnostic Trees
    • Source: Howard “Decision Analysis” (See also Howard’s papers)
  • Analysis of Competing Hypotheses
    • Offers Clarity on Facts & Key Hypotheses
    • Avoids “A vs. B” Thinking; More Options
    • Make a Table
    • Hypotheses In Columns, Facts in Rows
    • Cell: Fact Supports, Contradicts, or No Effect
    • Shifts Focus to Getting New Facts
    • Source: Heuer “Psychology of Intelligence Analysis
  • Improving Team Decisions
    • Gary Klein’s Pre-Mortem Technique (See “Performing a Project Premortem“)
      • Assume Project Has Failed
      • Identify Possible Sources of Failure
      • Add Risk Mitigation Efforts to Address
    • Russell Ackoff s Decision Record (see Chapter 21 of “Ackoff’s Best“)
      • Each Participant Writes Down Separately
      • Reasons for Decision, Likely Outcome(s).
      • Review As Impacts Become Clear
  • Recap: Limits of “I’ll Know It When I See It?”
    • Moving Beyond Personal Expertise
    • Two Types of Delegation
    • Crystallize & Codify
    • Form A Small Team With A Shared Mission
    • Effective Teams Have Many Experts
    • Requires Clarity on Facts and Hypotheses
  • SKMurphy –  What We Do
    • We Offer Customer Development Services
      • New Technology Introduction
      • Focus: Early Customers & Early Revenue
    • We Assist On Strategic Decisions
      • Niche Identification and Selection
      • Pricing
      • Negotiation Sequence and Framework
  • Please Turn In Evaluations
    • Help Us Improve The Recipe for This Talk

Update Sat-Mar-13: For an elaboration on the Expertise / Personal Mastery slide’s “Master Not Only The Technical But Also Emotional Aspects Of a Problem” see “Recurring Problems Have Both Technical and Psychological Roots

Startup Maturity Checklist Session Sun-Oct-4 1pm at SV Code Camp

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Events, skmurphy, Startups

Athol Foden‘s encouragement I have submitted the following session (links added) for this year’s

Silicon Valley Code Camp has now finalized the session schedule and my Software Startup Maturity Checklist session is set for Sunday, October 4 at 1pm in Room 5501. The description follows:

This session is for both aspiring and active entrepreneurs. We will walk through a 36 point checklist that covers Product Development, Customer Development, and Business Operations. You will leave with a better understanding of where you are today and what some logical next steps are for each of these stages:

Primary focus is on bootstrapping, there will also some discussion of what is required for a business to deserve outside investment. If you are thinking about doing a startup or you are underway and looking for a quick diagnostic on what to focus on next, this session will offer practical guidance based on the specifics of your situation.

This session does not require but will build on Athol Foden’s session on “From Code to Complete Product to Brand.”

The Startup Maturity Checklist is the first module in our “Idea to Revenue” workshop, which is next offered in January 2010 (Sign up to be notified).

Code Camp takes place Saturday October 3 and Sunday October 4 at Foothill College 12345 El Monte Road (Parking Lot 5) Los Altos Hills, CA 94022

As the description indicated, my session is a companion to Athol’s “From Code to Complete Product to Brand” which also looks good:

Before you can go out and market your code, you need to productize it. Whether it is for a small downloadable utility or an enterprise application, software seldom sells itself. Even for Open Source, it has to be packaged, promoted and presented correctly… and that is the start of your branding for the long term. For startups, product and company may both be dependent on this proper execution. This overview session will give you the highlights and a check list to do a proper product packaging and launch. For startups, continue this subject with Sean Murphy’s startup checklist talk

Update Sep-30: I got an E-Mail this morning from Peter Kellner, the Silicon Valley Code Camp coordinator, which clarifies what registration means for a session:

We have gotten a lot of questions regarding what “Plan to Attend” means so I thought I’d take this opportunity to explain what that means to us.  First, we are very grateful to Foothill College for providing such a great facility for us.  They let us use about 20 rooms for every session time.  These rooms can handle from 35 to 120 people at a time.  We use the “Plan to Attend” information to allocate sessions to rooms at each time period.

For the past 3 code camps (this is v4), we have come close, but still, there have been some rooms that filled up and we had to turn people away to other sessions.  We have no reservation system so it’s first come first sit.

We are sorry if you can not attend a session you want, but are proud in that we have many other sessions people can go to.

So if you plan to attend please register for the session, you might be advised to arrive a few minutes early as well.Please note that it’s in Room 5501.

Getting More Customers – A 90-day Plan

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Events, skmurphy

Update Tue-Oct-20: we are sold out, no walk-ins accepted.

Saturday October 24 8:15 AM – 1:00 PM (Lunch Included)

Pacific Business Center 1250 Oakmead Pkwy Suite 210 Sunnyvale, CA 94085 (408) 501-8800

Click here to Register:

We will cover a variety of proven marketing techniques for growing your business: attendees will select one or two that fit their style and develop a plan to implement them in their business in the next 90 days. As a part of your workshop registration, we will also follow up via e-mail and brief phone calls at two weeks, four weeks, 8 weeks, and 13 weeks to help you track your progress. You will leave with a one page action plan, a workbook, and 90 days of access to a private workspace with the workshop materials to enable you to execute one or two marketing strategies to bring your business more customers.

Cost (Lunch Included):

  • Early registration: $76
  • After Oct 15 $98 and free online workspace
  • After Oct 22 $145 and online workspace $28

Click here to Register:

“This workshop provided great material to bounce off of. SKMurphy created a fertile space for me to think about my business and plan a concrete step forward. Thank you.”
Paul Konasewich, President at Connect Leadership

About the Workshop Leaders

Sean Murphy has taken an entrepreneurial approach to life since he could drive. He has served as an advisor to dozens of startups, helping them explore new options and bring their businesses to new levels. His firm, SKMurphy, Inc., focuses on early customers and early revenue for software startups, helping engineers to understand business development. Prior to SKMurphy, Sean worked in a variety of areas including software engineering, engineering management, application engineering, business development, product marketing and customer support. He has worked for Cisco Systems, 3Com, AMD, MMC Networks, Escalade and VLSI Technology. Sean holds a BS in Mathematical Sciences and an MS in Engineering-Economic Systems from Stanford University.

Steve Moore has over 25 years experience in the RF/wireless industry including roles in design engineering, product management, applications, marketing and sales. He has worked for both large companies (Watkins-Johnson, Trimble Navigation, Symbol Technologies and Micro Linear) as well as for small start-ups (Wireless Access, SiRF Technology and Telencomm). He has a BS in Electrical Engineering from U.C. Berkeley and a MS in Management from Santa Clara University. Steve has spoken on practical aspects of RF/wireless integration strategies at numerous conferences worldwide and has 6 published articles.


  • 8:15 AM Breakfast & Registration
  • 8:30 AM Workshop begins
  • 12:30 PM Lunch & De-brief

Seating is Limited. Sold out, no walk-ins accepted.
For more information contact: Theresa 408-252-9676

Reminder: Limits of “I Will Know It When I See It” at SFBay ACM Sep-16-2009

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Events, skmurphy

Just a reminder I am speaking tomorrow night at the SFBay ACM on “The Limits of ‘I Will Know It When I See It” tomorrow night, Wednesday September 16, at 6:30pm.

Recognizing Terry Frazier as a Partner and Advisor

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in skmurphy

I first met Terry Frazier at the Accelerating Change Conference in 2003 and within five minutes we had progressed from small talk to a serious conversation about the future of information technology and I knew he was someone I needed to keep track of. I am way overdue in recognizing him as a partner and a significant contributor to our success.

Like many talented people he wears several hats, and we have have fortunate to work with his Nearline Pubs firm on our workbooks. We enjoy working with Terry because he continually challenges commonly accepted wisdom in business and IT strategy to address the practical realities of organizational communication and information management. He has been extremely helpful in the development and delivery of the workbooks we use in our workshops; we continue to draw upon his expertise to craft our corporate strategy.

Take a Minute to Recall 8 Years Ago Part 2

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in skmurphy

I came across a great way to translate 9/11 memories into action by James Lileks in Brian Dunbar’s “Remember

But move forward, too.
Light a candle, yes.
But also drive a rivet.

It’s from a longer post Lileks wrote on Sep-13-2004 looking back on 9/11. Here are the closing paragraphs.

I had thought about 9/11 when I got up. […]


But move forward, too. Light a candle, yes. But also drive a rivet.

The block is old enough to have suffered the first wave of Dutch Elm Disease, years ago. You can tell: the south end of the block is still a little light on foliage. You can tell: now and then a square of sidewalk has a circular indentation that marks the spot where once a massive ancient elm trunk stood. The tree’s gone; the accommodation remains. Even the stump has faded back into the earth.

There are three giant elms on the block. Two wear the fatal orange stripe, indicating they have been infected. One’s on the east side, one’s one the west. They are the tent poles around which the party lights are wound. In the next few months the crews will arrive and bring them down. Three days, at most – one to shave the fractal branches, one to carve the thick limbs, one to sunder the trunk and feed it to the chipper.

“How are we going to string the lights next year?” my old next-door neighbor wondered as we discussed the plight of the trees. He shrugged and took a pull off his beer.

“We’ll figure out something,” he said.

Then we had burgers and chips and beer and watched the children run and laugh in the shadows. Is it too much to believe it will be this good next year? No. And that’s something

Hell, that’s everything.

Tim Bonneman wrote in yesterday to recommend the documentary 9/11 which I highly recommend as well. It was shot by a French film crew that was following a new fireman (a “probie”) as they went about their normal business. Except that they get called to the Twin Towers. Tim said it was “a remarkable story and a rare historic document” and I agree.

Another documentary I remember detailed the incredible resilience of average New Yorkers as they dealt with the many challenges in the days and weeks after the atrocity. They reached out to form all kinds of ad hoc support organizations that helped get people the resources and medical care that they needed. I believe that it was shown on A&E but I have not been able to find a DVD version. I welcome any suggestions for a title or a place to view it or buy it on DVD. I would like to watch it again.

Take a Minute to Recall 8 Years Ago

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in skmurphy

It’s hard to remember a state of complete confusion. I had dropped my boys off at school and was listening to one of least funny morning comedy routines that I had heard in a while. Something about the airport but I couldn’t make any sense of it. We were scheduled to fly to St. Louis tomorrow to attend a high school re-union.

I called my wife and said “I think something has happened, I am not sure if we will be able to fly out of SFO tomorrow.”

Ever the practical women she said “Don’t worry about it, I am sure that they will have it cleared up by tomorrow.”

At work I watched two huge buildings fall to the ground over and over again, alternating with people jumping off of them holding hands as they fell. A crowd had gathered in the conference and everyone was stunned.

At home, I watched television until three in the morning, flipping across the different news channels watching the same ten to fifteen minutes of content that each one had get recycled until I had memorized it all.

I felt like I was sucking on a straw at the bottom of a glass full of ice. You can get a little bit of water for a lot of noisy effort, and then you have to wait a while for more ice to melt. There was only so much information I could pull out of the television and now I would have to wait a while.

I remember thinking that I might not be leaving my sons a better world than the one I had been given.

Total confusion.

But many stories of heroism and sacrifice. Worth taking a minute to remember some time today.

“I got up on the morning of the 12th. It wasn’t much sleep, maybe it was 45 minutes. And I got up to actually watch the sun come up, to make sure it came up. When I saw it come up, I had this great feeling of strength…Now we’ve got to fight back.” Rudy Giuliani

Conference Testimonial from Achilles Test Systems

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in EDA, Testimonial

When we first started working with SKMurphy our product was complicated and our message was even more complex.  SKMurphy helped us focus our product on a market that we could succeed in and create a message that was sharp, crisp and quickly show value add.  They helped us understand that people’s attention spans were short, and that you only have a very limited time to send your message.  Quality and relevance were of the essence, not quantity or complexity.

SKMurphy helped us select potential customers, set up presentations and demonstrations, and listen carefully to what the customer was saying.  They helped us differentiate between customers that had a real need and what their pain points were from the customers that were just being polite and would potentially lead us on and waste our time.   They gave us advice on how to negotiate evaluation and pricing terms, how to close a sale and strive for a purchase order.

In very short time, SKMurphy helped us get ready for two trade-shows, DVCON and DAC.  Without interfering too much with our day to day business we were able to organize and successfully execute two shows.   Being a small company keeping expenses down was a must.  They knew how to get the most out of a tradeshow with the least amount of money.

Their experience with tradeshows is immense.  They knew what the important things to do were.  And a lot of time these things could be done very inexpensively.  They helped us with slide shows, demonstrations, posters, banners, press releases, press interviews, and all the detail logistics that go into making a show.  Both or our shows went effortlessly and flawlessly. We were not distracted by any unrelated to business and 100% of our energy could go into sales and lead generation.

Sean Murphy’s knowledge of the industry, the individual companies and the people involved is enormous.  He has good instincts determining which people to spend time with and which people to avoid.  He knows which people are going to help you and have upside potential for your company and which people are not, are clear competitors and should be avoided.


Send Personal E-Mail

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Rules of Thumb, skmurphy

I blogged about mass E-Mails in “Please Take Me Off Of Your E-Mail Distribution List” in Sep-2007 but I got the following E-Mail recently which gave me some pause (names change to protect the repentant).

Hi Sean,

How is your summer going? Things are going great here at [XYZ Co]–in the past couple of quarters we’ve grown steadily, been featured in [Famous Magazine], and are starting to really see the benefits of adding a [Engineering Discipline] group to [XYZ Co].

The past two quarters have been fantastic for us. We grew 57% over the same time last year, and our lab in [Country A] has doubled in size. Our [Country B] labs continue to grow, and with our [Engineering Discipline] group, we’re tackling more and more projects.

In April we were recognized as the third fastest growing company in [Region] by [Another Magazine]. You can read the article here: [URL]

One of the big highs for me this summer was being featured in [A Magazine I Have Never Heard Of] in an article about [Country B] companies doing business in Silicon Valley. [Name of Someone I Know] and I spoke with writer [Writer] about our new office in California, the market opportunities, and why we think [Country B] companies have a unique advantage in California. You can read the whole article here: [URL]

Hope business is going well for you and you’re finding time for vacations this summer. If there’s anything we can ever do to help, don’t hesitate to contact me directly.

[First Name of Someone I have Never Met]

I read it one or twice and realized that it was just a horoscope, a one size fits all e-mail broadcast to get 2% of the respondents to smack their foreheads and say “Wow, I haven’t talked to  [First Name of Someone I have Never Met] at [XYZ Co.] in a while, I should call.”

I wrote back to [Name of Someone I Know]

Did you put me on this list? I think these faux personal E-mails do much more harm than good.

Better to distribute it as a newsletter where you at least acknowledge that it’s impersonal.

The first and second paragraphs are redundant and it’s all about [XYZ Co.], not any info that I can use.

He wrote back “Point taken, thanks for the feedback.”

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