Archive for June, 2010

Pete and Repeat (Progress Misperceived)

June 20, 2010

A Joke:

Pete and Repeat were on a boat. Pete jumped out. Who was left on the boat?

Every child loves this joke… Engineers love this joke, but managers hate this joke… Just ask a manager, and they will bristle and tire of the joke before the end of its first cycle.

The Management Process (from the highest level):

1) Delegate Objectives; 2) Orchestrate Execution; 3) Measure Results

The Engineering Process (from the highest level):

1) State Requirements; 2) Design Solution; 3) Test Solution; 4) Refine Solution (repeat…)

Repeat… Get the tie-in to the joke?

I work with engineers and technical managers, and each has a distinct “viewpoint”. From the manager’s perspective, the requirements process and the refinement process often seem to be unproductive time. One element of engineering that I coach on is “perceptions”. The manager must perceive real and actual progress even when none is immediately visible. From the manager’s point of view, perception can be everything.

This lesson was learned the hard way about 20 years ago when my manager burst into my office one day panicked and anxious and said in his most painfully exasperated tone of voice, “Don’t just sit there – do something – DO ANYTHING!” Well, I had everything under control, but he couldn’t “see” it. I was late with a design after a customer changed requirements, and progress in the refinement process was invisible to him. I was waiting for automatic systems to report final changes and impact, and in the mean time, I was working on another project. Had my manager arrived just a few minutes later, I would have had proof of progress in my hands, but as it was, he perceived I was doing nothing at all…

“Repeat” is the most painful process for a manager because the perception is usually negative as nothing seems to be happening when in fact the process is advancing “invisibly” – the process is apparently not complete and everything appears to be inexplicably delayed. Sometime, perception is everything, and a good engineer must deliberately paint an accurate perception of progress for their manager.

Lesson learned – and I pass it on every chance I get.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, REENGINEER

June 6, 2010

A friend of mine has been preaching (to the choir, I tell you) that the end of the world as we know it is near at hand if we don’t change our ways as a society and “Go Green”. Yes, I agree with much of this message:

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

But this message leaves out one vital fourth strategy: REENGINEER.

I am an engineer – I know that most things around me can be improved – and many things can be improved in many ways… It is quite frustrating to see shortcomings, omissions and cut corners in so many things when I shop. The lack of refinement causes many consumers to repeat buy until they are satisfied, or until the alternatives are exhausted, or until they surrender to a disappointing solution.

As an engineer, I also know that many things we do are born out of habit or ritual, and not out of a quest for any optimization. Further, much of what we do day to day is shaped by the tools we have at hand, and it frequently is not easy or convenient – or even possible –  to adopt an alternative way of doing something.

SO, I am here today to advocate REENGINEERING.  “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” is a mantra that addresses the easy changes to the status quo – a very good “first step” indeed because it can be adopted by the masses fairly easily. But that strategy needs a dedication to REENGINEER – not just new refinements to current designs, but new designs for new things and new ways of doing what we do everyday…

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Reengineer

Let’s add a fourth corner to the “green pyramid”.

More on this in a future post!