Archive for the ‘Discussions’ Category

PostHeaderIcon “We Need a New Moon-Shot Mentality Here”

One of my favorite writers on the topic of business and economics is Ben Stein (“Bueller, Bueller…”). I read his article “Everybody’s Business” published in the Sunday business section of the New York Times. What I find interesting about his writing is his desire to write about topics that should be important to everyone in America. Although affiliated with the Republican Party (he was a speech writer for Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford in the 70’s), his views seemed to be very “democratic” and “of the people”.

So, what made me want to write about him? I read his article in the NYT (5/25/08) business section where he discusses the high price of oil and its derivatives, and whether prices will recede. His opinion is that ”we are now in a short-term oil bubble” and that “it will pass and correct”. He goes on to say that, the real issue here, is our (America’s) addiction to gasoline and our inability to curb our appetite even as prices go through the roof! He also states that the supply of oil is not limitless (obviously) but that maybe this crisis might finally be a call to action for American’s to work together and figure out a way to reduce our dependency on foreign-produced oil.

As a technologist, I agree with the comment made by Glenn Beck (and mentioned in the article) “we need a new moon-shot mentality here”. As we have seen from the past, and with good results, when there is a crisis that a nation can rally around, problems get solved!

PostHeaderIcon Enlightened Management

I had an interesting conversation with my brother the other day about “enlightened management”. He is a managing director at a small manufacturer of high-speed intelligent vision inspection systems for the global food, beverage, and container industry.

He was having all sorts of problems with his work computer. It came installed with Windows Vista :( .  The IT guys decided to “fall back” and install Windows XP. Needless to say, he was still having problems.

That launched us into a discussion of IT and the IT staff at his place of employment. I have a personal bias against IT and will always make a differentiation between IT (a support function) and engineering (where the real work gets done!). The discussion went along these lines of “what knuckle heads these IT guys are” and “They don’t look at the bigger (business) picture and that they make very parochial decisions”.

One of these decisions is to put monitoring and filtering on web browsing inside the company. One of the IT guys asked my brother, a managing director, why he was looking at certain websites and generally browsing the Internet. My brother’s response…”none of your f***ing business”. The IT guy then says “too many people inside the company are excessively browsing the Internet and are doing things like personal shopping”.

Excessive browsing on the Internet, hmmmmm………what does that tell you? Maybe some employees are bored or underutilized? Maybe you have too many employees for the amount of work at hand? So my brother and I concluded that maybe instead of coming up with a short term solution to solve an immediate issue (a solution created by that parochial IT guy), maybe management should be informed of this issue (they probably were but chose to ignore it) and address it in a more strategic way that could affect the business in the long term. This means that management would actually need to think about these things. They would need to think about the organization and the people in it. Some thoughts:

  1. Do we have too much staff for the work at hand?
  2. Do we have the RIGHT staff in place?
  3. Does some of the staff have to be moved into more strategic roles in the business (this would mean that a dialog with the staff has been established and that management has some understanding of the employee’s career desires)?
  4. Do we have the expertise in-house or do we have to obtain it (mentoring junior people, building domain knowledge, etc.)?

So what did my brother and I finally conclude? After both us enduring bad management over 25+ years in industry, we concluded that it was “not my problem”. Not a good attitude; maybe that is whats wrong with industry in the US today.