Working Up

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

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They Want You to Fail

September 22nd, 2016 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

Sometimes people give you a task they know you will fail. That is because they want you to fail.

Sometimes we are all dysfunctional. In government and business and everything else, sometimes, some persons give tasks to other persons while wanting them to fail.

The giver of the impossible task puts the failure of the worker in their back pocket. Sometime in the future, the giver of the impossible task pulls this failure out of their back pocket and proclaims, “Oh, you’re so good? What about that time you failed me? Let me remind you!”

Of course this is immature and childish. I could use many more negative adjectives to describe this behavior. It exist. Recognize it.

What do you do if you are the recipient of the impossible task? Several options:

1 Play along with the gag.

2 Quit the relationship

3 Be candid and say something like, “Excuse me. Do you expect me to be able to do the impossible? Is there something happening here that you want me to know? Let’s remove the veils and have an open discussion.”

I like #3, but it often leads to, “You’re fired.”

→ No CommentsTags: Communication · Customer · Failure · Fear

A Numbers Game

September 19th, 2016 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

This is simple. Have more people working with you, and success is much more likely to come your way.

This one cannot be overstated. Linus Torvalds is famous for stating it, but many others have also stated it many times over many years.

Anything that increases the number of people working a problem is good. This is how hackers break into unbreakable systems, they have more people working on breaking the system than the builders had making the system.

This is the “secret” of open-source software and the new news media and so on.

  • Everyone is a sensor.
  • Everyone is a photographer.
  • Everyone is a writer.
  • Everyone is a public speaker.
  • Everyone is a publisher.
  • Everyone is a programmer.
  • Everyone is a hacker.
  • Everyone is in the game.

Fighting everyone? Good luck. The numbers are against you.

→ No CommentsTags: Communication · Culture · Freelance · Group

The Free Solution

September 15th, 2016 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

Designers design solutions. The most despised solution a designer can design is often the one that is free.

Designers design solutions to problems. In today’s employment vocabulary, designers are called Solutions Architects. (I find that title an insult to architects and the English language, but that is just me. Anyways…)

For this blog post, I find there are three types of solutions designers design as they relate to the persons who are to build or implement the design or solution.

  1. Those designs you cannot build
  2. Those designs you can build
  3. Those solutions you don’t have to build, i.e., they are free solutions

Designs you cannot build: There is a story from the first world war about fighting the German U-boats. The story, who knows if it is true, is that a designer designed the ultimate solution: freeze the ocean. This is a design you cannot build. It would work, but… Exaggeration aside, there are many fine designs that flop because the persons tasked to build them cannot do it. There are many reasons why the builders can’t build, but we shall not go through those here.

Designs you can build: This is the case found most often. It is usually boring as building becomes a straightforward exercise. Now that every builder hates me, let me note that we all see things being built in front of us every day. Yes, there are many instances of building build-able designs that require great perspiration and distress of the builders.

Designs you don’t have to build: These are the free solutions. Everyone loves free solutions. Right? Wrong. Free solutions often come with the statement, “Look, you don’t have to build or buy anything. You already have everything you need.”

Ouch. Gnashing of teeth.

The free solution often comes with today’s cliche, “Do your job.”

Few persons like to hear that they are failing simply because they aren’t doing what they are supposed to do with sufficient resources they already have. That implies they are deficient in some fundamental aspects of competence.

Here is a tip for designers:

Suggest the free solution carefully and only after great thought (and circulation of your resume)

→ No CommentsTags: Competence · Design · Uncategorized

Not a Good Fit – Part 2

September 12th, 2016 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

The second major explanation of what “not a good fit” means.

Now for the second explanation (the first was in the immediately preceding post). This explanation is a bit more complex. Basically, it is the interviewing organization is mismanaged, a.k.a., they don’t know what they are doing.

The interviewing organization is overworked. Their employees are working ten-hour days with no end in sight. Just when things seem under control, yet another disaster hits at 4:45PM on Friday.

These guys need someone to help them so they can go home on time each day. They’ve even hired a few people, but they are all still working too many hours. The new hires just didn’t fit and didn’t cut the hours and didn’t last more than a few weeks.

What is wrong with the job applicant crowd?

Aren’t there any qualified people out there?

Problem 1: The Job Description. The interviewing organization just can’t quite get the job description right. Each round of hiring brings the job description a little closer, but not what is needed.

Problem 2: Something Else. This is the one that hurts the most. There is something else out there that gets in the way. That something else is mysterious, but deadly. We just can’t put our finger on it.

The Answer 1: We don’t know how to manage the work, any of the work. This includes the work of writing a job description and interviewing candidates who are qualified.

The Answer 2: We need to hire our boss. None of us know how to manage the work. We should hire someone who will tell us what to do. That includes tell us to go home on time.

The Answer 3: We won’t admit to answers 1 and 2. Hence, we blame the persons we interview because they just are “not a good fit.”

→ No CommentsTags: Competence · Culture · Integrity · Management

Not a Good Fit – Part 1

September 8th, 2016 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

The first explanation of what “not a good fit means.”

I apply for a job. I interview face-t0-face with a team of persons. Several days later I receive the form email stating, “sorry, you are not a good fit.”

What does that mean? I have two main explanations. This post will give the first and the next post the second.

The first explanation for “not a good fit” is that a person is not the right

  • race
  • religion
  • gender
  • age
  • veteran status
  • disability status
  • culture

Ouch. This is a bit ugly and more than a bit illegal, but hey. You can’t prove anything in court, and since you are unemployed, you can’t afford the legal challenge.

Almost all the above “you can neither inquire nor consider” items are plainly asked on all job applications. Someone requires this information for some reason, and certainly these items are considered.

“Not a good fit?” Too bad for you. That’s a fuzzy answer, and persons hide behind the fuzz with, “we really can’t put it into words, you know. Good luck to you. You have great qualifications and we’re sure you’ll find a job real soon now. Be sure to continue looking on our careers website and…”

→ No CommentsTags: Culture · Employment

Expanding the AI Problem Set

September 5th, 2016 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

First you work on a small problem set. Once you learn from that, you expand the problem set.

Google recently started hiring speakers with accents to help train its speech recognition software systems. Why didn’t they do this sooner? Why did they only use middle-America, white-bread Americans, or some other Johnny Carson, no-accent accent cliche you like? Several years ago the creators of a a face-recognition system were embarrassed (actually scorned and derided) when their system failed to recognize faces of persons who didn’t fall into the middle-America…and so on. You get the picture?

Are tech companies run by racists who disdain those with accents or facial features they don’t like? I don’t think so. I think these companies are run by problem solvers who have some experience in attempting to solve difficult problems.

A common, experience-born approach is to attempt a subset of the entire problem set first. Why? Because it is easier. You learn. You don’t stumble so hard. You move on to a larger subset when you have an idea of what you are doing.

It appears unfortunate to some that middle-America, etc. persons—who are about one-third of the world’s population, a good subset—have about two-third’s of the world’s money. That is a public relations problem, not a technical problem.

Perhaps tech companies would be better served if they asked a public relations expert for some tips.

→ No CommentsTags: Adapting · General Systems Thinking · Learning · Problems · Process

A Big Step to Higher Quality

September 1st, 2016 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

There is a simple step that will push you and yours to produce better goods and services.

Want higher quality? Want people to delight in your products? Want to accomplish these and other quality improvement goals without spending any money? Yes, yes, and Y E S!

Here it is:

Put you name and address on your products and services.

Not some, Contact email address that no one ever reads. Not some 800 phone number that goes to a robot answering service. Your name and your V E R Y personal contact information.

It is amazing what that might do for your quality.

PS: thanks to Seth Godin for the basic idea here.

→ No CommentsTags: Competence · Integrity · Management

I Want My Mommy

August 29th, 2016 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

Let’s be honest about all these calls for better personal digital assistants.

This one has to be the worst. This guy wants a drone to follow him, record his life, and do all the little tasks he mumbles during the day.

Where ever you are right now, imagine a small object hovering above the head of every person you see. Ridiculous? I think so. What is this? Let’s face it: a lot of tech “visionaries” have one thing in common:

They want their mommy.

I was blessed with wonderful parents. They fed, clothed, housed, and educated me. They put me to bed at night, woke me in the morning, washed my clothes, took me to the doctor, took me to baseball practice, and did all those countless other things I couldn’t do for myself.

I was a child then. I am an adult now.

Some visionaries don’t seem to get that last point.

Do you want to apply technology to real problems? How about a system of drones that work in disaster areas to enable the movement and delivery of rescue goods? How about software that coordinates all the non-coordinated organizations that try to help?

Software that anticipates your needs and makes restaurant reservations for your? Call you mommy.

PS: If the above sounds harsh, that was the intention. Some persons in the tech world need a different perspective.

→ No CommentsTags: Technology

Writing—One Step at a Time

August 25th, 2016 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

Contrary to famous success stories, writing comes one step at a time.

The writers most of us know are exceptions. I advise everyone else to take things one step at a time.

Write a story (fiction) or an essay (non-fiction). Start to finish. Done. Good. We got that out of the way. The piece may not be great, but it is finished. We have proved that we can actually do it—actually write.

Write something that is “published” somewhere. This is a bit more fuzzy than it used to be. Find someplace other than a personal blog to have my writing appear. No money involved, but that is another step.

Now, write something for money. The paycheck could be a free magazine subscription or $5. It is, however, a paycheck and now we are professional writers.

Agents? Maybe, maybe not. Million-dollar paycheck? Not likely, ever. That doesn’t matter. We are now writers. We finish what we start. Other people read what we write. We bring in a little money. That JK Rowling stuff, well, luck and random events have a lot to do with that.

→ No CommentsTags: Writing

Something for Nothing, Nothing for Something

August 22nd, 2016 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

A new deal where we are offered something for nothing indicates that the provider has been delivering nothing for something.

This isn’t just a rant at McDonald’s or Starbucks. It holds for any situation where we expend some resource from some product or service. Someone is “improving” their offering at the same price.

  • More computer memory, same price
  • More burger, same price
  • More coffee, same price
  • More service, same price

Sometimes there is a technology breakthrough that allows a provider to offer more at the same price. Sometimes.

Nevertheless, in general, what have they been doing to us in the past? Why were they charging more money for the same product or service? Does the new offering come with an apology for over-charging in the past? Why not?

→ No CommentsTags: Change · Communication · Customer · Expectations