Working Up

Working Up in Project Management, Systems Engineering, Technology, and Writing

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April 27th, 2015 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

Sometimes you just want a system to be operating in some usable state. You will come back later and finish the job.

Some 21st century software companies called it “good enough software.” The idea was that you had software that did something useful for the user. Once it reached that state, you shipped it. You continued to work on the software and improve it with regular updates for the user.

Those ignorant of systems development history hailed this as some sort of milestone in the progress of mankind. Sorry, it was just the movement from IOC to FOC. Wikipedia has some good articles on IOC and FOC.

Initial Operational Capability is the good-enough software of general systems. Reach that point, and the users have something useful. Final, or Full, Operational Capability is when the system does just about everything the user wishes.

We recently moved my mother from a house to an apartment. The move was rushed due to several constraints. We reached IOC in a couple of days. We are not at FOC, yet. For example, it is summer time and we didn’t move her winter clothing yet. We will one day.

There are many systems in daily life that can use the IOC and FOC concept. Everyone seems to know that already, and most people seem to use that already.

Sometimes, however, it is good to remind ourselves that these are neither new nor earth shattering. Just formal use of concepts that are common sense, but not in common use.

→ No CommentsTags: General Systems Thinking · Systems

Systems Engineering and System Administration

April 23rd, 2015 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

As a job seeker, I often run into inexplicable confusion between these two job titles.

I am a systems engineer. I do systems engineering. I am not a systems administrator. I do not do systems administration. A quick read of the two Wikipedia articles linked above shows that the two professions are not even close.

At some place at some time in our recent history, someone confused the two professions. Someone decided that it was okay to call system administrators “systems engineers.” I am not sure what no-doubt-well-meaning person decided this, but they did the world of engineering and science and technology a great disservice.

I wish someone in authority would correct his mistake.

→ No CommentsTags: Communication · Employment · Engineering

Efficiency May Not Always be Good

April 20th, 2015 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

Efficiency (let’s call it hyper efficiency) is abounding. Maybe it isn’t always good.

Amazon delivers wonderful cloud computing with their Amazon Web Services (AWS). They have found a way to activate virtual computers on demand, run them, deactivate them, and start over again. They have rooms of real computers that they share among millions of users. They start, allocate, reallocate, and so on in microseconds. The efficiency of their operations is amazing. Amazon is not the only company that provides such hyper-efficient cloud computing.

Many companies today are operating at efficiencies that mirror those of the cloud computing providers. They have reduced staff to a minimum while still providing goods and services. Unemployment has grown, so those people who have jobs are faced with either job loss or lower wages. We all choose the lower wages.

Articles about such hyper-efficient businesses abound. One is here and another here.

Perhaps we have become a bit too efficient in business. We have reduced the number of employees to some minimum value. A side affect is that we have reduced the number of consumers for our goods and services. What benefit is there to offering high-profit, low-cost goods and services and there are almost no persons with the jobs and money to be consumers?

→ No CommentsTags: Culture · Employment

Cultural Adjustment and Technology Runaway

April 16th, 2015 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

Technology appears to be changing so fast that culture and jobs cannot keep pace. This leads to a large group of people whose newly acquired skills never give birth to a new job.

Culture adjusts to technology. The automobile displaced everyone in the horse and buggy industry. The culture and the economy adjusted and jobs increased.

Cultural adjustment takes time, an amount of time that is greater than zero. Let’s denote the time required for cultural adjustment as Culture_Time.

Today, technology is changing quickly. Let’s denote the amount of time that it takes technology to change as Technology_Time.

One of our great problems is that Technology_Time is small and decreasing. In many areas, Technology_Time is much less than Culture_Time. This means that people in the culture and the economy (mainly jobs) are still trying to adjust to a tech change that was three or four changes back. When the people adjust, the new jobs have already been replaced several times. This leads to a class of people who are in perpetual pregnancy.

Their newly acquired skills never give birth to a new job.

So what do we do? No one seems to have a good answer as we haven’t run into this problem before.

Try to move into a line of work that isn’t changing so fast, e.g., be a barber or the guy who serves cool drinks to the new tech millionaires who are lounging on the beach in the Bahamas. Those jobs don’t pay so well? Ah, too bad. See above discussing the novelty of this problem.

→ No CommentsTags: Adapting · Change · Culture · Education · Employment · Technology

Last-In, First-Out Requirements

April 13th, 2015 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

I review a requirements-management scheme that indicates no requirements management.

I once worked in an organization that built systems. Everyone worked very hard and very long hours. There was one problem:

We never delivered a single system

Why not? The problem was with managing requirements. Each month we held a requirements meeting. Someone would state a requirement for a new system. That new system was more important than any system ever requested. Hence, work on all other systems must cease, and all resources must go towards the new requirement.

This was a simple scheme:

The last requirement stated was to be implemented first.

Ah, nothing ever finished. The entire situation was a failure to manage the requirements. No one wanted to decide what requirement was truly the most important and hence should be implemented first. Decisions implied thought and responsibility. Yikes. We didn’t want any of that.

People were given awards for stating important requirements. People were given awards for working hard on building systems. No one ever delivered anything; no one ever accomplished anything. Appearance of effort and intention was everything.

→ No CommentsTags: Management · Requirements · Systems


April 9th, 2015 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

We all say that we are people of integrity. But are we?

I hate to write this blog post. I know I hate to do it because I have been meaning to write it for seven or eight years, but still haven’t done it. Well, here goes.

We like to say that we have integrity. Of course we do because if we are not people of integrity we are people of duplicity. Yikes! Who wants to be duplicitous?

Consider the following situation:

A “manager” sits in a meeting with his subordinates. A “subordinate” mentions some bad news that should be sent up the chain to the manager’s “superior.” (I use the quotation marks as your organization probably uses different job titles.) The manager states, “Don’t worry. We won’t tell that fill-in-the-blank-with-your-favorite-derogatory-adjective superior.”

The manager has just told the subordinates:

Tell me (your superior) the truth. I won’t tell my superiors the truth.

This is duplicity; this is the complete lack of integrity.

Consider this similar situation:

A manager and several subordinates meet with some customers. During the meeting, the manager praises the customers for their work and ability. When the meeting ends and the customers leave the room, the manager says, “What a bunch of fill-in-the-blank-with-your-favorite-derogatory-noun.”

The manager has just told the subordinates:

I call people one thing when they are here and something else when they are gone.

Once again, this is duplicity; this is the complete lack of integrity.

Hey managers and the rest of us:

People observe what we do. Do we show integrity or duplicity?

→ No CommentsTags: Integrity · Management · Meetings · Observation

Can’t versus Don’t Want To

April 6th, 2015 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

A recent experience with a customer-service organization illustrates how much of today’s “can’t” is merely “I don’t want to.”

The topic of this blog is nothing new. That is one of my frustrations as this is an old habit that I wish and wish had gone away in today’s world of inter-networked everything and limitless choice and all those we-are-nearly-at-nirvana promises I often hear.

I have been working with a customer-service organization to get a simple form. I worked on this for six weeks. The customer servers routinely told me, “I will do this, but I cannot do it now.” The customer servers followed this with ten minutes of detailed explanation of how the greater world processes made it impossible for them to do anything now. It would take days.

I immediately called someone else in the greater customer-service organization where I spoke with someone who could—lo and behold—do that impossible-for-today task immediately.

Hmmm. If I could find someone in that organization who could do it now, why couldn’t the first person find that miraculously empowered person? Person the first person had a case of “I don’t want to” vice “I can’t.”

Yes, even in today’s all networked, all empowered, all mobile, all is possible now world…we still find the “I don’t want to and you can’t make me” customer (non)servers.

Nothing to see here. Move along.

→ No CommentsTags: Expectations · Life · People

The Ever-Growing Digital Divide

April 2nd, 2015 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

The digital divide grows wider as the almost plutocrats are educating their kids in a way that will make the kids the true plutocrats of tomorrow.

It appears that many who have become rich in today’s technical world are educating their kids at home. They have every right to do so, and if I were in their position I would certainly consider the same.

This is taking us back to the 1700s and prior centuries where the rich educated their children themselves. Well, they paid for a teacher to come live with them and educate their children. The children of the not-so-fabulously rich weren’t educated. They worked on farms or in factories. Perhaps they learned enough arithmetic to  be paid and buy staples of life.

I wish the new technical rich would donate their money to educating the children of other people. That is merely a wish, but I think it to be a good one.

So what are we to do? Our schools are failing, but experts have said so for decades. Our schools our failing, but experts have argued for decades about what to do. Our schools are failing, so the rich are educating their children like the rich did centuries ago.

Let us not be surprised if we have technical plutocrats in the year 2035.

→ No CommentsTags: Education


March 30th, 2015 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

Is this person who and what they claim? Is this person authentic?

The term “authenticity” is being tossed about much recently. I once worked in a job where determining the authenticity of a person was important. I struggled to understand what that meant. Here is some of what I learned.

Is this person who they claim to be?

Is this person as “caring” as they claim to be? (Substitute any attribute for “caring”)

Is a person authentic? Do they stand up and say,

This is who I am


This is who I want to be

Failure to be authentic can be quite humbling. See, e.g., NBC’s Brian Williams.

→ No CommentsTags: Authentic · Communication


March 26th, 2015 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

It seems the world has redefined what it means to be an engineer.

A recent story on the web discussed how Twitter will change the appearance of its home page. Involved in the story is Twitter’s Vice President of Engineering.

I am an engineer; I have been an engineer for several decades. I don’t understand why the VP of Engineering is involved in a change in how a home page looks. I understand how graphics designers and such would be involved, but really, the engineers?

Perhaps someone can enlighten me on this one.

→ No CommentsTags: Engineering