Sunday, July 14, 2013

With apologies to Stephen Fry

I recently picked up a copy of "The Ode Less Traveled" by Stephen Fry on the recommendation of a poet I follow on Google+.

The sub-title , "Unlocking the Poet Within" explains all.

What follows is my attempt at exercise 2 - Iambic Pentameter. I'm afraid the reasons for the pre-emptory apology number about twenty and are all too self evident.

The grass calls out. It wishes to be mowed.
The mower chokes on clippings in it's throat.

The water pump comes on when pressure's low.
When pressure crests the top it cycles off.

Today I cooked the eggs with herbs and salt.
I added milk to keep them moist and soft.
I baked the bacon in a foil lined tray.
The cleanup thereby rendered into play.

Earthworms wriggle in the potting soil.

The Doctor is a countryman of yours.

In Hallowell the path becomes the street.

The blanket on the chair needs to be smoothed.

The state of plans at work are desolate.

Coffee after eight keeps me from sleep.

Duke, the dog, is laying in his bed.

The water's smell came from the dead chipmunks.

Progressive lenses make me turn my head.

My wife turns roving into woolen art.

In afternoon the deck gets very hot.

And here's a bonus. In the course of the exercise. I realized that this tweet, resulting from frustration with the weather, also meets the criteria:

Rick Andrew (@fmandrew) tweeted at 6:27 PM on Thu, Jul 04, 2013:
This rain, in Maine, is really quite a pain.

Well Professor... Worth any extra credit?

Friday, July 12, 2013

Rank x IQ = Constant

Better is the enemy of good enough.

Rank x IQ = Constant.

These words on the blackboard welcomed me to my first graduate engineering course. The professor was trying to break the ice with a new crop of grad students, many of whom had been away from the academic environment for nearly a decade.

Although his words were chosen to lighten the moment, they were imbued with serious truths relative to all large scale human endeavors. Strangely enough, out of all the things I learned in the course of that program, these two are the ones that have stayed with me the longest and resonate with my day-to-day activities. Not that they are static. Time and experience have revealed the color and nuance in these truths.

We will leave the first for another time.

Rank x IQ = Constant.

Math is a language used by scientists to describe the truths of nature. It is used by engineers to describe the schemes by which they intend to bend nature to their will.

The "scientific truth" expressed by the equation above is that higher authority is out of touch and rendered dim by successive promotions.  Stated in mathematical terms, rank and intelligence are inversely proportional. Every promotion brings with it a commensurate reduction in mental capacity.

The fact that this equation elicited wry smiles from every member of the class indicated that each of us grasped the fundamental mathematics and had, at least in concept, experienced the validity of the equation in some real world application.

The "engineering scheme" springs from a thorough understanding of the nature of rank which reveals an opportunity.

Fundamentally, rank represents an individual's position in the hierarchy or chain of command of an organization. If span of control is considered an integral attribute of rank, a promotion implies a broadening of responsibility over a larger swath of the enterprise, it's products, processes, and people. This new expanded context must be considered at each decision point. Calculation of specific outcomes becomes more complex and takes more time. The prudent executive becomes more thoughtful. This might be perceived as a loss of effective intelligence.

Where is the opportunity in this? If the nature of decision points can be tailored by rank and projected farther into the future with increasing rank, so that today senior management is considering strategic policies which impact  business relatively far in the future, while the front line supervisor is focused on tactical decisions regarding work on the floor, the truth of the equation will be harnessed to provide a continuum of preparation.

Of course this is easier said than done and requires a willingness on the part of the recently promoted to step back and release their old, tactical jobs to qualified subordinates. It also requires customer understanding and acceptance of the strategic product horizon.

Thanks for listening.