Monday funny – When management gets too top heavy

Posted by Madbot on Oct 9, 2010 in Human Observation, Workplace Observation

A good friend sent me this little gem:

A Japanese company and an American company decided to have a canoe
race on the Missouri River. Both teams practiced long and hard
to reach their peak performance before the race.

On the big day, the Japanese won by a mile. The
Americans, very discouraged
and depressed, decided to investigate the reason for
the crushing defeat.

A management team made up of senior management was
formed to investigate and
recommend appropriate action. Their conclusion was the
Japanese had 8 people
rowing and 1 person steering, while the American team
had 8 people steering and 1 person rowing.

So American management hired a consulting company and
paid them a large
amount of money for a second opinion. They advised
that too many people were
steering the boat, while not enough people were rowing.

To prevent another loss to the Japanese, the rowing
team’s management
structure was totally reorganized to 4 steering
supervisors, 3 area steering
superintendents and 1 assistant superintendent
steering manager.

They also implemented a new performance system that
would give the 1 person
rowing the boat greater incentive to work harder. It
was called the “Rowing
Team Quality First Program”, with meetings, dinners
and free pens for the rower.

There was discussion of getting new paddles, canoes
and other equipment,
extra vacation days for practices and bonuses.

The next year the Japanese won by two miles.
Humiliated, the American
management laid off the rower for poor performance,
halted development of a
new canoe, sold the paddles, and canceled all capital
investments for new equipment.

The money saved was distributed to the Senior
Executives as bonuses and the
next year’s racing team was outsourced to India.

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Unintended visit to Osaka

Posted by Madbot on Mar 23, 2009 in Human Observation, Japan, Madbot Madness, Workplace Observation

Madbot says:

As we boarded the plane in Sydney airport today, an announcement was made that there was an accident at Narita airport and the airport is now closed. 9 hours later the plane landed in Osaka airport and we began the long trek crossing japan to get back home (Tokyo).

What this has done though, is to take me to cities I have yet to visit. Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya and so on via the bullet train. This has been the biggest trip I have ever done in japan – pity I can’t really see out the train.

The photos are upside down – guess it hasn’t adjusted to the change from south hemisphere to north hemisphere yet..

Update: it turns out a Fedex plane crashed at Narita due to crazy wind. Both crew members died in the crash. Bad story.


The Percentage game

Posted by Madbot on Jun 26, 2006 in Human Observation, Madbot Madness, Workplace Observation

Madbot says:

Some people frequently refer to the 80/20 rule to describe situations where 80% of profit comes from 20% of your customers while 20% of profit comes from 80% of the customers – some customers are better than others. Or 80% of your efforts are spent on servicing 20% of your customers while the rest 80% of customers only require 20% of your efforts – some customers require less efforts than others. Your percentage may differ.

I learned that life is really a percentage game – there are no fixed rules, just a % of how much of the overall the “rule” applies to. There are always “exceptions” to the rule and the percentage rule simply states that these exceptions are an integral part of the formula (always present) but simply a minority part of the outcomes.

For example, you may describe that a school or college or company is full of smart people. We all know that this is part of the marketing and while the people from this organisation may be mostly smart, you will undoubtedly still always find some idiots in their ranks – it’s just that the total number of idiots may form a lower percentage of the general population than an average school or college or company. And therefore the percentage game.

What organisations do to manage this percentage (if they are aware of it) is to implement systems that help filter out certain types of people who don’t “fit”. Systems such as an IQ test to discover your likely level of intelligence, face to face interviews to see if you fit with the team, etc. They aim to increase the % of the people they like and in the process reduce the % of the people they don’t like. Again, systems are not all perfect and they are only x% successful – and therefore you will still have x% of people getting through the system.

Organisations can then put in more safeguards by implementing systems instructing people to behave in certain ways – training, manuals, incentives to achieve the company goals, etc to reduce the chances of people acting like idiots.

This percentage game applies to EVERYTHING. Last time you bought a Mitsubishi car and it turned out to be a lemon? Does this mean that all Mitsubishi cars are lemons? Probably but likely it is a percentage game. The percentage of their cars being lemons may be higher or lower depending on your experience and perception but unlikely to be 100%. The exceptions must exist.

When that terrorist organization first made it big time by destroying the WTO (conspiracy theories aside), many people speculate that this is these guys are smart, well organized, and they meant business – otherwise how could they infiltrate the safeguards in the system to do what they did. All I could think of was that this is still a percentage game. These people may have a higher percentage of better organised or higher intelligent people – but there must still idiots there.

There was a recent video recording of the no.2 leader from this organisation (who is now deceased) looking mean by firing machine guns demonstrating his strength (?) and leet skillz – except the opposing faction soon pointed out that the ex-no.2 leader fumbled and didn’t hold the weapon correctly – and therefore his shots were uncontrolled and going everywhere. Probably killed a few innocent camels. Last but not least some poor guy who took the gun from him had his hands burnt from not realising the gun barrels were hot. The percentage rule applies again.

So the next time you deal with a company who’s supposed to be smart, a government agency, or some other organisation, just remember – which % is it that you’re dealing with now..


Steve Job’s speech at Stanford – Find what you love

Posted by Madbot on Jun 1, 2006 in Madbot Madness, Workplace Observation

Madbot says:

Emma has been invited to return to her high school and do a speech on careers, life and all that important stuff.

We had a quick chat about it last night on what she was going to say and a few ideas came out. And I remembered reading earlier this speech Steve Jobs (co-founder of Apple) made at the Commencement of the grduation ceremony at Stanford on June 12, 2005.


I really enjoyed the speech the first time in 2005 and it’s again great when I read it again just now. It’s interesting that he also thought of the ‘connecting the dots’ idea, which had made me think that perhaps my life was pre-planned as many things would not have happened if I hadn’t been in the right (or wrong) place at the right time. Or maybe things simply make more sense when you look back.

In any case, the speech has been reproduced here in text. Stanford has also made available a video recording of the speech via Apple iTunes – haha what else..

Read more…


Madbot’s Workplace Observations – 4.1

Posted by Madbot on Apr 12, 2006 in Workplace Observation

There is a recent Slashdot post on ‘Corporate Speak invading the IT department’.

It’s a clear case of ‘Bullshit baffles brains’ syndrome described in an earlier article – ‘Madbot’s Workplace Observation – 4 – Bullshit baffles brains‘ This slashdot poster has been fortunately enough to avoid this situation and thinks it’s a recent development.

Many posters who commented on this post shared the same thoughts. From poster Simon:

An example from one of my previous rants on this topic: “You can use the leviathan forces of attention and enthusiasm that are swirling around Web 2.0 these days as a powerful enabler to make something important and exciting happen in your organization.”

This is a fairly typical management-speak sentence but what does this actually mean? The sentence essentially boils down to a simple statement: You can use new technology as an opportunity to improve the operation of your business. I think most would agree this is an obvious, uninteresting statement and this is precisely the point I’m trying to make. People who use this language are trying to sell you something that’s obvious; to sell the emperor his own clothes. If somebody can’t make their point in plain english then they likely don’t have a point that’s worth hearing at all.

So how do you fight it? I find the following techniques work:

  1. Ask them to explain what each term means. Example: What is Web 2.0 anyway? I haven’t seen a new W3C standard called Web 2.0.
  2. Repeat what they just said in English. Rather than agreeing with what they said get them to agree to your formulation of the statement instead.
  3. If your in a position of power, if anybody submits a proposal to you using flowery terms, get them to revise their language. Tell them why you think clear language is important.

I love our language and I love the mutual heritage shared across the many countries that speak it. Work with me to remove this cancer from our workplaces because our language is part of who we are. We simply can not allow something so abhorent to become part of our definition.


Compliments and other positive forces

Posted by Madbot on Mar 7, 2006 in Workplace Observation

This will eventually develop into a workplace theory of sorts..

Taking an extended break from work is like a breath of fresh air. Sure, it didn’t do the bank balance any good and the “extended” part of it means I have some catch up to play, but it did give me a different look on what goes on at the workplace.

Earlier this year, I had noted to myself that it’d be a good idea to lose the cynicism and focus on the positive side instead – but wait, would my friends still recognise me if I’m no longer the cynical prick? Oh there I go again and how the hell did I become this way? Anyway, it has been a curious journey the last month or two as I made a point to pay more attention to this aspect of life.

The truth is, it’s easy to fall back into being cynical – it’s easy, I know how it works, I’m comfortable with it, there is little risk and there is little commitment. Over the past month or so I was lucky to be involved in numerous situations where I could observe different personality styles, one of which is “being positive”.
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Madbot’s Workplace Observation – 6 – The Office Cockroach

Posted by Madbot on Aug 3, 2005 in Workplace Observation

If you’ve ever worked in an office, you’ve met the likes of these.

Introducing – the office cockroach!


What is an office cockroach?

Read more…


Madbot’s Workplace Observation – 5 – How to look busy

Posted by Madbot on Jun 8, 2005 in Workplace Observation

Today we present the different methods at your disposal to appear busy – and hopefully avoid extra work.

The previous workplace obsevations have demonstrated the point that it’s usually not your skills, or talents or anything else really that lead to earning you the big bucks or the recognition. More often, it comes down to dumb luck. But what happens when it is not yet your turn to receive this dumb luck? Are you to suffer the daily insults on your intelligence and swallow the bitter tears as you see others, more suitably called morons, receive their dumb luck (maybe there’s a relationship there) for nothing but wasting everyone’s time and doing bugger all?

Worry not, every dog will have its day. But until it is your day, here’s a few pointers that will help you through your day. Use these jedi mind tricks to conserve your intelligence and energy for when your day comes and it is your turn to shine.
Read more…


Madbot’s Workplace Observation – 4 – Bullshit baffles brains

Posted by Madbot on May 31, 2005 in Workplace Observation

Bullshit baffles brains.

It’s that simple. This is one of the foundations of all workplace theories and it applies equally well to life.

How is this so?

It’s very similar to the “offence is the best defence” method. When you talk bullshit, it’s like you’ve thrown a baseball at someone – it is up to them to consider what you’ve said, ie. to catch the ball. It is up to them to understand or respond what you’ve said.

If your words are made up of some big meaningless words which take your audience time to understand, then you’ve achieved your goal. Most people, who do not want to appear foolish, will happily nod and agree with you just to be seen that they’ve understood to avoid embarassement.
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Madbot’s Workplace Observation – 3 – Evolution of the Worker Bee

Posted by Madbot on May 30, 2005 in Workplace Observation

Working class men, blue collar, plebs – there are all sorts of names to represent the workers of our society.

Most of us entered the workforce because:

1 – need money
2 – need something to do with all that spare time!
3 – it’s the logical thing to do
4 – fulfill the ambition

Whatever the reason is, we entered the workforce and became a part of the statistics. But do we want to stay at the same position when we first entered the force forever?

The average worker bee goes through an evolution, or even a “career path”. We all have dreams of glory or, for some, a quiet and prepared retirement at our choosing. But achieving our dreams is not an easy task. Too many times we simply “live” the path without thinking and years later we find ourselves in a different place to where we thought we’d be. The lucky ones end up somewhere they enjoy. The rest end up wondering what the hell happened and how we get ourselves back on track – and this time, how do we identify and stay on the right path.

The evolution of the worker bee is an interesting one. Much like human evolution, we evolve from a simple individual to a vastly more complicated identity educated by our new learned skills and daily experiences. Philip Vago (aka Peter Hawkes) prepared this illustration.

Read more…

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