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Dan Slimmon: An Incident Command Training Handbook

Dan Slimmon: An Incident Command Training Handbook


How to structure and lead an incident response. The five questions of a status update. How to manage information flow effectively.

Slimmon's writing style is direct and simple. It's a mid-length article with some detail, but you could follow it in a high-stress situation (like mid-incident) and benefit immediately.

Best case scenario is to have the whole team read it ahead of time to understand the structure. When it's showtime everyone can slide into their roles and know their responsibilities.


An Incident Commanders job is to keep the incident moving toward resolution. 
But an Incident Commanders job is not to fix the problem.

As Incident Commander, you shouldnt touch a terminal or search for a graph 
or kick off a deploy unless youre absolutely the only person available to do it. 
This may feel uncomfortable, especially if your background is in engineering. 
It will probably feel like youre not doing enough to help. 
What you need to remember is this: whatever your usual job, when youre the Incident Commander, your job is to be the Incident Commander.

Managing information flow is the single most important responsibility of the Incident Commander.


Sometimes the most effective thing you can do is coordinate the experts.

Michael Lopp: Out Loud

Out Loud

Author: Michael Lopp


Tips on delivering a compelling presentation from Rands in Repose. Editorial choices, practicing out loud, consolidation, and timing.

Pixar in a Box

Pixar in a Box: the art of storytelling

Author: Pixar

Summary: A Khan Academy course. Pixar walks us through building stories, with an emphasis on movies. Character development, plot, reinforcing the story with visual choices, pacing, and making a pitch.

This recommendation was in an article on more compelling technical presentations. Not really a fit for the format and time limits of a tech talk, but still interesting.

Tanya Snook: Storytelling

Storytelling: Building Compelling Stories for Any Audience and presentation notes

Author: Tanya Snook

Excerpt: "This presentation explores storytelling at work. Not milk-and-cookies-time-around-the-campfire storytelling, but using storytelling methods to build and deliver messages in a compelling way. Using empathy to draw your audience in and help them to hear your message, and hopefully create a memorable experience in the process."

Docs for Developers: An Engineers Field Guide to Technical Writing

Docs for Developers: An Engineer's Field Guide to Technical Writing

Publisher's Page

Author: Jared Bhatti, David Nunez, Jen Lambourne, Zachary Sarah Corleissen, Heidi Waterhouse


How to write maintainable docs that help your customers use your software.


"Docs for Developers demystifies the process of creating great developer documentation, following a team of software developers as they work to launch a new product. At each step along the way, you learn through examples, templates, and principles how to create, measure, and maintain documentation, which you can adapt to the needs of your own organization."


This struck me as the devops of documentation - turn these high level ideas into something we can live in. On my To Read pile.

Cederic Chin: An Easier Method for Extracting Tacit Knowledge

An Easier Method for Extracting Tacit Knowledge

Author: Cederic Chin


How do you distill expertise into teachable lessons? Chin explains Applied Cognitive Task Analysis framework (ACTA) in part 5 of his series on tacit knowledge.

ACTA was created by Laura Militello and Robert Hutton. They lead experts through four processes:

  • a task diagram to create the big picture of the process

  • a knowledge audit to identify how expertise is used in the process

  • a simulation interview, describing how they used their expertise in an incident

  • a cognitive demands table, that synthesises the prior steps

The cognitive demands table becomes the basis for training materials.


The simuation interviews remind me of post-incident retrospectives.

This would be handy for creating troubleshooting docs, to help flush out the knowledge we don't realize we have.

Michael Lopp: How Not to Throw Up

How Not to Throw Up

Author: Michael Lopp


Practice endlessly and improvise. Practice beforehand until the content moves from the planning side of your brain to the other side.

During the presentation, adapt your manner to the the moment. Who's in the room? What's the energy level? Make room for them to participate.


"This article is about presentations, not content. Both are equally important, but I’m not here to help you write your content, I’m here to transform that content into a presentation that doesn’t suck."

"Confidence is going to come not when you memorize your slides, but when you move the content from one side of your brain to the other. Right now, your slides are sitting in the linear left side of your brain, the practical side. This is a fine place for the slides to be while you’re creating them, but before you get up on stage, you need to move them to the right side of your brain, the creative side. You need to be able to feel your slides."

Rod Begbie: Being Right is Only Half the Battle


“The secret to career growth is having increasing impact over larger groups of people over time.”

”This isn’t being manipulative. This is doing your job.”


It's not enough to be right. "The most important part of our job as we level up in our careers is dealing with people." Begbie describes three techniques to get your ideas adopted: ask questions, share strategy, and circulate ideas. Or, as he puts it, three superpowers - how to read minds, how to control reality, and how to predict the future. These help scale up your impact and set direction.

How to Read Minds

Ask questions, especially when your first reaction is to push back and convince. You can only influence people if you understand what they believe. As you ask && listen they begin to understand you. Listening builds relationships. Three techniques: * The playback: repeat what you understood them to say. “What I heard you say is…” Makes sure you're on the same page. * Look for blur words, like ‘on time’ or ‘done’ - “What does mean to you?” These are places where misunderstandings creep in. * Elicit the next step. "On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy are you with the current state of our _?" Ask how to get from the current step to the next one. Start with the incremental thing.

How to Control Reality

Strategy done at the right level is the best tool for driving change. Make it explicit and share it.

Strategy techniques: The “Even Over” maneuver : “We will value Good Thing A even over Good Thing B”. We will value security even over shipping new features. Write it down and share it. That will surface disagreements early. This will help people make decisions the way you want - gives guidance so people can make their own decisions. you don't have to micro-manage.

How to Predict The Future

Circulate your ideas. When you have an idea, get feedback on it at an early stage. Get people used to it. Don't wait until it's perfect. Share it casually, it doesn't have to be a big formal presentation.
Ask questions to surface concerns and objections. “How would you react if I said…” , ”What would worry you if we…” Use that to refine your idea.
Build up your audience gradually and broadly: your team, peers, stakeholders, implementors, up, down, sideways.
Give ideas names. It’ll become true. Acknowledge objections. Write things down: what decisions were made, why they were made. It's shareable and reminds people about past discussions. Before a decision-making meeting, have a team huddle. Make sure you know what’ll happen before a meeting. You're more likely to achieve your goal.


Begbie is a good speaker. Humorous, engaging, and Scottish accent. Blur words