Archive for July, 2009

New Work Ethic: “Do It for the Credit”

July 27, 2009

I am appalled by a conversation today with a much younger good friend about our jobs who quipped, “Why do it if you don’t get the credit?” I replied that, “… there are some things you do because they need to be done!”  To which my friend replied, “If I don’t get credit, I had better at least get paid, or why do it?”

There is a wide divide here between the two of us – it is a good thing we aren’t “joined at the hip” because we would pull in quite different directions at times.

In my job, I invest in “good will” and I invest in friends, and I invest in learning, and I invest in inspiring someone who might hold some promise. In my spare time, I invest in endeavors that simply “need” someone to do something to propel a small part of the world forward – I am President of my neighborhood HOA, and the sys admin for my local university alumni association. None of this pays me money, and little of this garners me any credit of note.  It generally feels good, and often there is a measurable benefit if one looks from just the right point of view.

Yes, there are days when I step away from my office thinking to myself that I did something meaningful – maybe even remarkable. And when I step outside into the company of a city full of strangers, it is apparent that none of these people will ever know what I did, or even care if they could know.

But I know.

Sometime, I “do it” for the credit – that only I can measure.

Experience is often undervalued

July 20, 2009

The value of experience is often overlooked or understated. That is my opinion, born of “experience”… I say that tongue in cheek, but time and again I am taken aback by the naive attitude of many managers I talk to every week who look to hire talent with solutions for the problems at hand.

A job posting two years ago by a well known company calling for 20 years of collective experience was filled by a young man who, apart from his “short time in the chair”, was otherwise qualified and obviously talented. With only six years of experience, though, and a high risk product management problem to solve, my own judgement would have been to “keep looking”, but this young fellow was hired! Hired, failed, fired, sued – what a mess transpired…

A year ago, I volunteered to help pick up the pieces – for a fee. But, my offer was refused, “… we can fix this problem ourselves without any high caliber, highly experienced outside help.” The company’s problems persist to this day, and law suits and countersuits continue to distract this company from its vital business mission. The reason that a less experienced applicant was hired? He was inexpensive at probably half the salary of a fully experienced hire. There is huge value in experience and relationships – when needed most, it is like “gold”.

I called this company today to offer my services once again. The answer from the person who by now I know fairly well was, “Our product management problems today are relatively ordinary and mundane. Today, we really just need a good attorney… Do you know what they charge PER HOUR?” (yes, I do…)

So I preach to my clients, “Hire the best you can, but hire experience rather than a credential if you can, because you will benefit in the long term – it will save you money.” I can’t prove it, but I know “from experience”.

We went to the moon… Now what?

July 19, 2009

40 years ago tomorrow after lunchtime, we landed on the moon. I recall being home in front of the TV all day and into the night with my face almost pressed up against the picture tube. My mother brought me lunch and dinner so that I wouldn’t miss a moment of what was surely history in the making. Humankind landed on the moon six times, and it became “old hat” and uninteresting to many if not most of the tax payers in the US. And then, human space exploration just stopped. Sure, people go into space fairly often today, but now we stop at Earth’s orbit.

The Apollo space program inspired me for a lifetime. I read about the solar system and the stars, and when I ran out of technical material, I cracked the spine of a good Asimov or Heinlein or Clarke sci-fi novel. When the elementary school library went to order books every month I submitted my request list, and over the years the “complexion” of the subject matter in the library evolved to a reflect my science interests. After a few years, the school Principal started to take me to the nearby high school library over lunch several times a month to check out their books on electronics, and I built a radio receiver that could receive the transmissions from the Apollo capsules in Earth orbit to the ground while the astronauts were immediately overhead. Yes, I was inspired. I still am, and the historical TV programming about the first lunar landing I watched today gave me goose bumps!

And sadly, Walter Cronkite, the newscaster I watched who covered every space launch died on Friday.

In my business, I recognize that there is value in promotion. I council businesses that have an exciting idea on where to introduce their products and services, and where to socialize potential extensions of their wares. Sometime, it is essential to fully socialize good ideas before they are ever born to elicit a buy-in from partners and customers and arrange for participation ahead of time. But sometime, it is necessary instead to stand up and say that you have a dream and to reach for it and let people simply get swallowed up in it with you and follow behind you as you pursue your objectives. The exceptional leader, though, follows both of these approaches simultaneously and uniquely with different audiences to launch a truly inspiring idea. Marvelous things rarely happen AIBM – as if by magic – there is invariably orchestration required to realize success. I think that President Kennedy must have been a brilliant leader to have put us on the road to the moon.

We went to the moon… Now what? What will truly inspire the world? Who will “sell it”? I am afraid I don’t know, but I’ll “think on it”. I don’t believe that going to Mars is the next “biggest thing”, but I for one would sure like to go there…

Gasoline – let’s save 15 Billion Gal/Yr

July 7, 2009

I write my politicians annually with a “mission” for them to execute in Congress. One mission objective I harp on is improving energy independence. The facts are astounding. I like this US Government website:

DOE – Quick Oil

Petroleum provides about 37% of the US energy supply, and 71% of petroleum production is devoted to fueling transportation. But, to put this statistic truly in perspective, the US consumes 390 million gallons of gasoline every day (a 2008 statistic). WOW!

We drink oil non-stop…  What if…

I like to “What If…” with clients – it often leads to interesting brainstorming and opportunities previously unconsidered. So, what if a car never had to stop at red lights? How much gasoline would that save us a year in the US?

Off the cuff accounting (I hate unsubstantiated facts) suggest that between 3% and 10% of gasoline is wasted by the start-stop of city driving. That amounts to 4.27 billion gallons of gasoline per year wasted in the USA – at red lights assuming the 3% waste rate. Gasoline waste approached 15 billion gallons annually in the USA at the 10% rate, and I believe this is more realistic.

What if you could know if the upcoming stoplight would be red or green when you reached the intersection? You could adjust your speed to coincide with an upcoming green stoplight. Would drivers with this information form “packets” of cars instead of clusters of cars that randomly expand to a homogeneous distribution as cars currently behave today?

This is not a new concept – in Europe, the Intelligent Car initiative (see this link) has lots of “smart car” ideas… One includes the announcement of upcoming stop light status with a cue to the driver to either accelerate or ease off the gas…

Intelligent Car Initiative

I don’t think that intelligent cars are the answer – I am more inclined to think that the secret to success lies in “intelligent roadways”. While many couple these two ideas, the reality is that the Intelligent Car Initiative relies upon all cars to participate for the collective benefit – the vast majority of cars would have to be intelligent for effective “packetizing” of cars, and it may take a decade or longer to turn over the inventory of cars on the road so that a critical number are intelligent. On the other hand, an intelligent roadway and a signaling system to inform the driver potentially works for every car without any requirement placed on the car (just on the car’s driver).

So, what if… What if there were “intermediate stop light signals” – if you passed one of these devices and the indicator was green, you would know that you would have a green light at the next intersection if you continued to proceed at the speed limit. With several of these indicators in view down the road, you would know whether to speed up (you passed a red light, but the ones in front of it are all green) up or slow down (you passed a red light, and the ones in front of it are also red). This solution is technologically very simple – good for anywhere in the world. All you need is a delay function, some power and wiring and a few light housings.

Sometime, simpler is better. You don’t need to make the car smart to make the driver smart… And save 15 billion gallons of gasoline a year.