Working Up

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

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Forward to the Past, Yet Another Time

October 30th, 2014 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

Google, Adobe, Chromebooks, and Creative Cloud take us yet again forward to a day long ago.

Google and Adobe have just announced that we can run Adobe’s Creative Cloud on a Chromebook. Wow. I am not trying to be flippant. This is a big deal. You buy a $200 or $100 Chromebook and run Adobe’s software.

Of course you are not running the software on the Chromebook. It would take hours to load a video and do the simplest, smallest edit to it. All the software is running in the cloud on an Adobe computer. The video or whatever is sitting on a Google disk drive or one that Google and Adobe shares.

Once again we go back to days gone by (wasn’t that the title of a Walking Dead episode? But I digress.). In decades past I would sit in front of a relatively inexpensive computer and run software on a relatively expensive computer. The computer in front of me, we called it a “terminal” back then, would merely display things to me and take input from me via the keyboard.

The Chromebook today is the terminal of old. I think people call this “thin client” or something like that now. “Thin client” sounds so much better than “terminal.” Well, I don’t think so. I like the term “terminal,” but, then again, I am old.

→ No CommentsTags: Computing · Technology

Too Close for Comfort

October 27th, 2014 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

For many of us, being close shows us the details, and those details make us sick.

I give to several non-profit organizations. One of them is based ten thousand miles away. Another is based five miles away. I see many details of the one that is five miles away. I don’t like what I see. I see few details of the one ten thousand miles away. I am happy with the situation in that one.

I guess this is part of my temperament. Details cause me to think, rearrange, imagine, and make things perfect in my mind. Details cause me to notice all the intricate problems and how they might be worked better. Sigh.

In many ways, I am happier when I am ignorant. I try to use this; I try to be more ignorant about the non-profit that is five miles from my home. I find myself less critical and more happy.

Such is one of the odd things about life.

→ No CommentsTags: Competence · Expectations · General Systems Thinking · Problems

Progressive Government IT—Decades Behind

October 23rd, 2014 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

A look at 21st century Digital Government shows that government is still decades behind.

Look at this ground-breaking document from our Federal government. It describes how to achieve 21st-century excellence in IT services for the citizen.

Okay, enough of the hyperbole. Let’s look at the document. It shows IT in three layers: information, platform, and presentation.

WOW! Where have I heard that before? How about the ISO seven-layer model from 1994? How about just about any description of object-oriented programming from the last three decades?

Groundbreaking government stuff. Decades behind schedule. I guess I should be impressed by something here, but …

→ No CommentsTags: Government · Systems

Great Ideas and Those Who have Them

October 20th, 2014 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

A great idea is merely a requirement; it is not a design. The thinker of the great idea is important, but so is everyone else involved in the endeavor.

Allow me to start with a blunt statement:

Steve Jobs did not design the iMac, the iPod, the iPhone, and nothing else that made Apple what it is today.

Allow me to soften that a bit:

Steve Jobs did state the requirements for those products that made Apple what it is today.

Jobs was the “idea man” at Apple. He stated what he wanted the iPod (just one example) to be.

  • Real designers designed a build-able product.
  • Real testers tested the product.
  • Real builders built  the product.
  • Real manufacturers manufactured the product.

I’m not picking on Steve Jobs. He is merely a well-known example of a person who has a great idea. Let’s try this statement:

A great idea is an important requirement.

The designers, builders, testers, and everyone else involved in the endeavor carry the requirement to fruition as a product. Without them, the great idea is merely science fiction; with them, the great idea is a great product.

→ No CommentsTags: Design · Ideas · Requirements

Job Interviews and Consulting Sessions

October 16th, 2014 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

Take care in a job interview as you may find yourself giving work to someone who will not hire you.

A few months back I tried to get a job with a publisher as an editor. First, I had to take an “editing test.” They sent me a ten-page piece of writing and I had to edit it. The writing was terrible. I spent fifteen minutes editing the first page and emailed them that one page was enough to ascertain if I could edit for them. I never heard back.

A few months later, I tried to get a job with another publisher as an editor. This time, the publisher was well-known (I won’t give the name to protect the guilty, but everyone would recognize it.). I spent twelve hours on the editing test. I really wanted the job, so I completed the task.

I didn’t hear back from them. Six weeks passed with no word. I  finally found someone on the phone to discuss the matter. Within fifteen minutes I received an email saying my editing skills were insufficient. Imagine that! Six weeks and no one looked at my test, and in fifteen minutes they knew I was not up to their standards. Smells funny to you?

Then I learned about editing test scams. Basically, your “test” is real work. The publisher is being paid by someone to edit their writing. You edited it for free, they charged the writer for you work, and so it goes.

I just read about a programmer test that runs the same scam. The programmer being “tested” is actually doing work for the company. The company replies that the programmer is not skilled enough for them, but uses the programmer’s work in their product.

I have also found the same scam in job interviews. They ask, “what would you do in this situation?” They are facing that situation now, and will use your answer on the job. They will not hire you and they will not pay you for your solution to their problem. It is a scam.

Here is a legitimate job interview question:

Have you ever dealt with employees who are late to work?

Here is a scam question:

How would you deal with employees who are late to work?

That is a question you ask a consultant, and you pay them for their answer.

See how quickly a job interview becomes a consulting session? See how quickly it becomes a scam?

→ No CommentsTags: Consulting · Employment

Finding the Question

October 13th, 2014 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

Perhaps we should stop teaching kids to find the answers and switch to teaching them how to find the questions.

I read much these days from older people complaining about how younger people just look up the answers on Google. These younger people don’t know anything; they don’t learn anything.

Well, the world has changed. The knowledge of mankind is at our fingertips on the Internet. Give me a question, I can find the answer. Show me a younger person who can’t do the same, and I will be terribly disappointed.

We have collided with a brick wall called the education system. In school, teachers ask questions and students find the answers. In the past, finding the answers meant reading the texts, sometimes many texts, and formulating answers. Sometimes it meant calculating the answers after reading the texts that taught calculations.

Nowadays, finding answers is almost trivial, and that infuriates teachers.

Okay, what do we do? The Internet has made the second half of education almost trivial.

Perhaps, we should shift education:

Teachers stop giving the students the questions.

Teachers start teaching students how to find the questions.

I doubt anyone will adopt my recommendation for education reform. Nonetheless, I give it.

→ No CommentsTags: Education · Internet · Knowledge · Learning

Why Innovation Doesn’t Occur in Government

October 9th, 2014 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

Here is a brief explanation of why innovation doesn’t work in government. Too bad as there are clever, innovative people in government.

I worked several decades inside the US Federal government. There are plenty of dedicated, smart people working inside government. They often have good ideas for things and gadgets the government and the taxpayer can use. It is unfortunate that these ideas don’t come to fruition.

Here is how it doesn’t work with your clever idea:

  1. You are not the only clever person in the world
  2. Other clever people (outside of government) probably have the same idea
  3. #2 make that a hundred other people
  4. You work the government system to fund and begin work
  5. A dozen of #2 start working right now
  6. Several of #5 turn the clever idea into an actual product
  7. A few of #6 compete in the market
  8. A couple of #7 become market leaders
  9. By the time you have your program finished, you can buy the thing for $19.95 at Best Buy

The killer is step #4. It can take three years, if you are lucky, to gain approval, gain funding, and begin working. People outside of government begin working today. If you are excellent, you can never compensate for that three-year head start.

Just be patient and go to Best Buy.

→ No CommentsTags: Agility · Competence · Government

It’s Called “Winning the Pennant”

October 7th, 2014 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

This is a repeat post from October of 2011. I find it unfortunate that the sorry situation is still the same.

<rant>Baseball now (soon) moves into the World Series. You take the pennant winners from the National and American leagues and play a best-of-seven series to see who is the best in the world.

Now, let’s see if we can ruin this. People must be trying to ruin this, because they are succeeding at that.  They are trying to turn the World Series into the Super Bowl. It isn’t the Super Bowl; it is a series between the best of the two leagues.

When a team wins a league championship in baseball, they win the pennant. They actually get a pennant or flag to fly in their ball park. That is the prize.

Recently, however, some people who want to kill the game are trying to change the names. They now call the winners the “winner of the League Championship Series” or L-C-S. I’m sorry, “L-C-S” sounds like a disease or something. Maybe it is the Last Child Syndrome or the Lowest Calorie Syndrome or something like that.

Just remember, it’s called

Winning the pennant

not

Winning the LCS.

</rant>

→ No CommentsTags: Culture

Finish the “We Can’t” Statement

October 6th, 2014 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

We often state that we can’t do something. We rarely finish that statement with a reason. The reason usually leads to a solution.

Several years ago I was working on a project where we were building a small gadget. The user was to take the gadget outdoors (backyard) and attach it to their grill. We created a design for the gadget, but the response was:

We can’t use that.

Disappointed that the user couldn’t use our wonderful design, we pressed the issue. The response was:

It is too small.

We were very disappointed as we felt a small gadget was quite an elegant design. We pressed the issue. The response was:

We can’t install it with our hands.

Aha! was the response of one colleague. We’ll do it this way. He quickly drew a tool that would hold the gadget and allow a person to install the gadget easily. The user was happy.

Let’s review the conversation. The user statement went from:

We can’t use that

to

We can’t use that because it is too small to install with our hands.

The user had finished the “we can’t” statement. The designers were then able to design something that worked around the user’s situation.

Here are a few more examples:

We can’t use that (because it is too expensive (it won’t fit in this year’s budget))

Solution: We can spread the cost over the budgets for several years.

We can’t use that (because it is too complex (our current workforce doesn’t understand the controls))

Solution: We can change the controls and include a video tutorial with it.

The extra statements from the user are not easy to obtain. We have to ask for them; we have to ask for more information. People don’t often like to provide more information, especially if that information explains one of their shortcomings (we can’t install it with our hands, it won’t fit in this year’s budget, our current workforce doesn’t understand the controls, etc.).

Patience and tact are usually required and may not be present.

→ No CommentsTags: Communication · Design · Problems

In Search of the Almighty Grade

October 2nd, 2014 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

We often create systems and then complain how persons act in our systems.

Many years ago, I attended college. I often heard professors complain,
You aren’t interested in learning, all you are only in search of the almighty grade!
I found that us students were guilty. We did worry about our grades. We, I led the way on this one, would ask the professors which pages of the textbook to study and which ones to skip because they wouldn’t be on the test.

I had good reasons:

  • I had limited time
  • Failure to achieve good-enough grades resulted in being dismissed from college

People were actually dismissed from college in those days (the 1970s). An academic standard was more important than tuition payments into the college. Funny how quaint that seems today, but that was in the day of the dinosaurs.

This confused me. The professors created the system whereby if your grades were low, you were out. Then the professors complained because we tried to keep our grades above the you-are-out threshold. If they didn’t want us to pursue the almighty grade, why did they make the grade almighty?

I have encountered many such situations since college.

  • The persons in charge create a system of rules.
  • The other persons in the system follow the rules.
  • The persons in charge complain about the other persons’ behavior.

Oh well, such is our plight.

→ No CommentsTags: Education · General Systems Thinking · Systems