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Archive for June, 2018

Revolutions…

I enjoy a good debate about the 21st century workforce.  Companies like mine invest great time and money trying to create an environment that “motivates” employees.  Stand-up desks; pool tables; cafes on every floor; you name it.  I know other companies that are even more flamboyant with office accoutrements.

Young workers want to “revolutionize” work processes.  New leaders “revolutionize” what old leaders had in place.  After all, it’s the Information Revolution now.  “Knowledge workers” are keen on changing things:

A knowledge worker is someone whose job entails having really interesting conversations at work. 

Rick Levine

Exactly what is the Information Revolution about?  “Information”; “Revolution”; change for the sake of change; being “interesting”; keeping employees “engaged” (aka “entertained”)?

My sources may be unreliable, but their information is fascinating. 

Unknown Sage

I’d like to believe there is more to our companies and our leaders than that.  I mean, we proclaim America is the “greatest industrialized country in the world”, true?  Of course, our trade imbalance with China and our massive budget deficits might just indicate we are better at proclamations than production.  But I digress.

I know we are long past the era of our Industrial Revolution.  The thing is I like to study history; learn from what went well (and what didn’t); apply such lessons learned to get better today at what I already do best.

During our Industrial Revolution we endeavored to perfect the technique of studying what went well (and what didn’t) in order to perfect our ingenuity and productivity.  One example of such was time-motion studies.  According to Wikipedia:

A time and motion study (or time-motion study) is a business efficiency technique combining the Time Study work of Frederick Winslow Taylor with the Motion Study work of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth… It is a major part of scientific management (Taylorism). After its first introduction, time study developed in the direction of establishing standard times, while motion study evolved into a technique for improving work methods. The two techniques became integrated and refined into a widely accepted method applicable to the improvement and upgrading of work systems. This integrated approach to work system improvement is known as methods engineering…

Way back then, we even learned about how over-study unleashed the “Department of Unintended Consequences”.  Returning to Wikipedia:

The Hawthorne effect… is a type of reactivity in which individuals modify an aspect of their behavior in response to their awareness of being observed.  The original research at the Hawthorne Works in Cicero, Illinois, on lighting changes and work structure changes such as working hours and break times was originally interpreted by Elton Mayo and others to mean that paying attention to overall worker needs would improve productivity. Later interpretations such as that done by Landsberger suggested that the novelty of being research subjects and the increased attention from such could lead to temporary increases in workers’ productivity.

I worry about today’s Information Revolution.  Is the increased attention leading to temporary productivity increases?  I know today’s workforce loves “flexibility”; “interesting work”; “variety”; etc.  But will we remain “productive”?

Two hundred years ago, the Industrial Revolution centralized the workforce.  The Information Revolution will reverse the process eventually sending half or more of us back home, either to work or to draw unemployment. 

Don Peppers

In the sales profession we often refer to that fictitious company making those fictitious products known as widgets.  But if we had to build a factory and hire employees to produce that widget, would the knowledge workers be able to from home?

GAP

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To Dad…

Happy Father’s Day coming this Sunday!  Aren’t fathers and grandfathers great?  The memory of my father brings a proud smile to my face (and my heart!).  If you’re lucky enough to have living fathers and grandfathers, give them more than a handshake on Sunday.  Hugs are the tradition.

Traditionally, men are not renown for showing our emotions, true?  “Be a man”; “cowboy up”; and the like continuously profess our masculinity.  They say a father can only be as happy as his most unhappy child.  My Dad had his periods of unhappiness during his lifetime from the trials and tribulations his sons faced, among others.

I too, have witnessed first-hand the ups and downs of my children and grandchildren.  Their downs are my downs.  Thankfully, I know God only burdens us with the amount of heartbreak we each can handle.  But my children’s ups; their accomplishments; their happiness?  Thankfully, those blessings are boundless.  When my children are happy it brings a smile to my face (and my heart)!

My sons have children in their lives so I get to be the grandfather too!  Grandfathers have responsibilities:

Sometimes the only difference we can make is passing our wisdom on to someone else who will make the bigger difference. 

Linda B. Gray

The older I get the more appreciative I am of the love and devotion I received from my father.   He wanted his sons to make a difference.

He wanted us to be patient with some of his quirkiness, also.  I remember after my Mom died, my Dad ate his dinners at the hospital cafeteria two blocks from his house.  It might have been for the convenience; maybe for the memory of the last place he saw his wife alive.

This lasted every evening for over twenty years.  The employees thought Al Pokorn actually worked there.  One summer, he was even invited to their company picnic!  I didn’t mind this quirky tradition.  But when he won a TV in the employee raffle, I told him he had to give it back.

We Dads are all a little quirky I suppose:

Tell a man there are 300 billion stars in the universe and he’ll believe you.  Tell him the plate you’re handing him is very hot and he’ll have to touch it to believe it. 

Mike Jaeger

Today when my children use one of my little sayings, or demonstrate a family value or tradition that has been passed down from father to son, it brings a proud smile to my face (and my heart)!

Hopefully, our children and their children will carry on the values and traditions we learned from our fathers and our fathers’ fathers.    For Dads, this is one of fatherhood’s most satisfying accomplishments we can witness while we’re here.

Was it Mickey Mantle who said?

If I knew I was going to live this long I would have taken better care of myself.

Of course, someday our little angels may turn on us; they’ll want to take away our car keys before sending “Gramps” to a home.  And when that day comes we will think of our forefathers again:

When I die, I want to die like my Grandfather who died peacefully in his sleep.  Not screaming like all the passengers in his car.

Unknown Sage

Brings a smile to my face (and my heart!).

So, here’s to my Dad; and your Dad; and Dads across the world.  They have helped us all make a difference – a tradition to be passed down.

GAP

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Documentation…

I write a lot in my professional life (in my personal life too – Thank you in advance for reading today’s little ditty!).  I wonder how long “writing” will continue in our society what with voice recognition technology advancing the way it is.

They say to be effective at writing; you have to “grab” your reader quickly.  Otherwise, short attention spans take over.  I even attended a Training and Development seminar recently where the focus was on “micro-training”; 180 to 300 second training pieces to match the short attention spans that dominate – maybe even “control” – people today.  I guess writers of User Manuals didn’t get the memo about this “grab them quickly” concept.

But being “trained” 3 to 5 minutes at a time, WOW! Add in “machine learning” and it makes me wonder who’s doing the learning; us or the machines?

Documentation goes well beyond the Training and Development field.  Just about everything in our world can be improved when it’s properly documented.  However, there is “meaningful” documentation and then there’s “fluff”:

The bad news about formal proposals is that most are poorly composed, poorly written, include a lot of unnecessary information, are hard to comprehend, and are usually much too long.  The good news?  Nobody reads them anyway. 

Mahan Khalsa

I believe documenting what you do makes you better at doing it.  Remember the almost fanatical commitment to documenting step-by-step procedures in the movie Apollo 13?  No place for “fluff” on the way to the moon and back.

I recognize not every task we do at work carries equal importance.  In fact, according to our favorite Unknown Sage:

Cohn’s Law

The more time you spend in reporting on what you are doing, the less time you have to do anything. Stability is achieved when you spend all your time doing nothing but reporting on the nothing you are doing.

That’s one way to reach stability I suppose.

Nonetheless, the VPs at my company are committed to meaningful documentation.  My program (and my colleagues’) must be properly documented whether we believe anyone actually reads it or not. That’s OK by me; I don’t mind doing the work.  But I confess that sometimes I wonder:

Written reports have purpose only if read by the King. 

Wess Roberts

How hard would you work at documenting your job if you thought the King wasn’t reading your reports?  Assuming you don’t work for NASA, of course.  Said differently by Charles Kingsley:

The measure of a man’s real character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out.

I know I should do the best job I’m capable of doing regardless of inspection by others.  And as I stated above, documenting what I do makes me better at doing it.  I will know, as will my clients, whether I deliver quality work or not.  Pride in that quality should be motivation enough.

Yet I confess when it comes to documentation that Unknown Sage has me worried:

Arnold’s First Law of Documentation

If it should exist, it doesn’t.

Arnold’s Second Law of Documentation

If it does exist, it’s out of date.

Arnold’s Third Law of Documentation

Only useless documentation transcends the first two laws.

Especially, that Third Law!

So, I’m documenting for you today the details behind my personal and professional documentation activities.  In so doing, I hope it improves the quality of my work.  And thankfully, someone took the time to document all those laws for us kings to read and contemplate today.

GAP

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