Corporate phrase: “Investment resource”

Corporate phrase: “Investment resource”

Explanation:

An “Investment resource” is somebody that does not bring anything obvious to the team. But you’re willing to give them a go in the hope that they do. They are in contrast to an S.M.E. (Subject Matter Expert), who brings something very obvious to help, be that technology, Business experience or something like that.  

An “Investment resource” is a nice way of saying they need help to get up and running. the team are going to have to spend time and effort on the resource that will be taken away from delivering on the project. But are doing it in the hope that they will actually come up with something useful and long term, and will give back more than you require, so will be worth it.

The positive use of it is with graduates who are learning and just need some coaching, but it is also used for an external contractor who doesn’t quite have the skill sets you need, but is jammed in as a warm body in the hope that they will get the job done (make sure you get a discount on them if a consultancy tries this) and lastly it is sometimes used with senior people who just want to be in on the cool thing, take up the teams time with meetings and confuse things by taking credit.

“The value of your investments can go down as well as up”

Disclaimer: As always these posts are not aimed at anyone client or employer and are just my personal observations over a lifetime of dealing with both management and frontline associates.

Welcome to the Fantasy Zone, Get ready!

This article came from a question asked by a young software developer. Recently out of university he was challenging a decision that I had made for how his time was to be spent and the methodology used to allocate that time.

The thing is, that everything he challenged and everything he said was utterly, utterly true. But also not practical. So I faced up and instead of giving him the normal platitude answer or just ordering him as his boss, I gave him the complete and utter truth.

Being a smart human he accepted it. He didn’t like it, but he did understand and accept it. and it came to me that we really should lay this kind of truth out more. It’s probably already been laid out in thousands of books already, but I want to lay it out in a way that makes sense to me, so here we go.

In any large organisation there are 3 basic zones of decision and information.

The Coalface:

Zone one, the operational zone, or as we will call it “The Coalface”. This is the zone where the truth lays, where actual work is done. This is where you sell to customers. This is where you deal with real data. This is where you deal with the minutiae of small problems,

If you live in this zone your main issue is that you are so close to the immediate needs of your problems and their delivery that large scale threats are tricky to see.

The Fantasy Zone:

Zone three, the upper zone, which I’m going to call the Fantasy Zone, This is where dreams come from. Goals are designed, The big thinking, the blue sky decisions, all that kind of stuff, where the directors live.

Its main issue is that the people who live here often have no idea of the impact their wishes have elsewhere and in the worst cases they don’t care, also its residents are so used to people telling them they are right, they start to think that any decision they make will by definition ALWAYS be right.

( The Audio clip is from the arcade game Space Harrier, which I always think of when I hear the words “Fantasy Zone” ) 

The DMZ:

And the middle zone, which we will call the DMZ. This is where management skulk.

Their true job is to convert real life issues into the simple statements that the senior people can understand, and by response turn the blue-sky thinking that directors come up with into actions that make logical sense to people at the Coalface

Its main issue is that people in this zone, spend so much of their time trying to smooth out and simplify the real work hump/bumps and delays that happen in the coal face that they end up believing that a happy fantasy zone resident IS the actual deliverable, rather than a genuine quality product or result.

The Problem:

So now the question is, how do we solve this problem of different people with different perspectives working together?

And I think the answer is, you can’t!.

Humans are humans. Humans are weird. You will not get people to prioritise other peoples problems over their own. All we can do is to give them better communication and the opportunity to work in a less self centred way and show them the advantages of doing such.

From one side we can explain the issues to the people in the Coalface, that the Fantasy zone are facing.

Let us take our young software developer as an example. He wanted to know why we were breaking with the most efficient way to solve a long term problem, And the reason we were breaking it, was that we had a short term delivery that we had to meet. The short term delivery was purely a Fantasy zone delivery, it made no difference to the coalface but as the money that needed to be allocated to the coalface came from the Fantasy zone and this short term deliverable was a threat to that money. Then the Fantasy zone’s short term delivery overrode the most efficient long term solution in the coalface, a point of view that people in different zones can work with.

And understanding going the other way is just as important. One of the core parts of understanding that the fantasy zone needs to grasp is that all the members of the coal face are not interchangeable cogs. They’re all humans with foibles. The fantasy zone members may not like that. But there are holiday time periods for people that are at the coalface that force things to go on slowdown. There are difficulties in yanking people up and moving everybody wholesale to a different problem that will damage long agreed delivery times, etc etc, they might not need to get into the nitty grtty, but they should understand real world problems in broad brush strokes,

People in the DMZ have to take on this responsibility. and rather than just going for a meeting and hoping to escape with only kind words from the fantasy zone, you will occasionally have to bite the bullet and provide detailed information on Coalface issues to help one zone understand another.

As a final fun note, I was so pleased with the neatness of “Welcome to the Fantasy Zone, Get ready!” that I wanted a t-shirt of it, thankfully there is a great redbubble one 

Disclaimer: As always these posts are not aimed at anyone client or employer and are just my personal observations over a lifetime of dealing with both management and frontline associates.

Corporate phrase: “Crisis Merchant”

Corporate phrase: “Crisis Merchant”

Explanation:

“Crisis Merchant” is the new term that now fills the space historically occupied by “Drama Queen”, “Drama Queen” is now universally accepted as both offensive and misogynistic, but we still need a term for a person who hypes up all issues to the “Crisis” level, takes joy in reporting and confusing issues and generally revels more in the problem than in finding the solution. “Crisis Merchant” fits that role perfectly and is both gender neutral and instinctively understood. 

Disclaimer: As always these posts are not aimed at anyone client or employer and are just my personal observations over a lifetime of dealing with both management and frontline associates.

 

All columns in a database

This is just an aide memoire for a function I use seemingly every week as part of my data integration work. It’s often easier to work through an Excel spreadsheet when you are doing data mapping rather than a SQL tool, as you can search for text and the like to help find a field.

This is just the SQL for doing that for the major SQL databases that you can come across.

Microsoft SQL

select schema_name(tab.schema_id) as schema_name,
tab.name as table_name,
col.column_id,
col.name as column_name,
t.name as data_type,
col.max_length,
col.precision
from sys.tables as tab
inner join sys.columns as col
on tab.object_id = col.object_id
left join sys.types as t
on col.user_type_id = t.user_type_id
order by schema_name,
table_name,
column_id;

Oracle

SELECT *  FROM all_tab_cols ORDER BY table_name, column_name, column_id

DB2

Select c.tabschema as schema_name, c.tabname as table_name, c.colname as column_name, c.colno as position, c.typename as data_type, c.length, c.scale, c.remarks as description, case when c.nulls = ‘Y’ then 1 else 0 end as nullable, default as default_value, case when c.identity =‘Y’ then 1 else 0 end as is_identity, case when c.generated = then 0 else 1 end as is_computed, c.text as computed_formula from syscat.columns c inner join syscat.tables t on t.tabschema = c.tabschema and t.tabname = c.tabname where t.type = ‘T’ order by schema_name, table_name

MYSQL

select column_name from information_schema.columns
where table_schema = ‘your_db’
order by table_name,ordinal_position

Management Nugget No 14: “Are you a project Risk?”

Nugget 14: “Think of your actions as if they were a project risk”

Explanation:

When you ask for an admin or non deliverable based task to be done, try and think of it as if it had come from an external party, would you still do it? or are you just banking on the fact that it’s Your team to make sure it gets done?.  The invisible admin tasks that come from internal team management chew up far more time than you would believe, treat all internal and external task as if they were project risks, you will find it really cuts down on the things you ask for.

Disclaimer: As always these posts are not aimed at anyone client or employer and are just my personal observations over a lifetime of dealing with both management and frontline associates.

Stress Tip No. 3 : Guilt Managment

I used to know it as the “Protestant work ethic“, in which you work to keep sin at bay, but looking at it honestly it is merely work guilt, the management of this work guilt is key to your work life balance and success long term in a corporate environment. 

Before we get started, I want to make it clear that this is aimed at what I class as a non timed corporate permanent job, you don’t have clock in and clock out hours, instead you have fluid expectations on delivery, and in certain situations this is what can lead to guilt at work, Also I realise that this is a practical personal way of dealing with the problem, it is not the ‘correct’ way,

I class guilt as a key part of the burnout cycle and it’s application by both yourself and your work environment, often in the form of: “Take one for the team” , “Your letting us down”, and “Don’t you want to succeed” etc etc, it’s something that appears both in a genuinely innocent way and in a hard cynical fashion in nearly every work environment. 

You can receive guilt in lots of different ways and I’m not even going to attempt to touch the ones that involve people’s personalities or good and bad behaviour from managers.

However ultimately it all comes down to the fact that you don’t feel you have done a job properly.

One of the simplest but hardest ways of doing this is to look what you’re doing and allocate how much effort you think is reasonable for your job. then construct a frame work round it that you feel you can mentally defend.

To explain, lets work through an example for a reasonably demanding or technical office job:

You have a standard work week, 9am-5pm with officially 1 hour for lunch, so 7 hours a day. 

We all know that you wont be able mentally or practically to defend working like this in an expectation based role, your reviews and thus any bonuses you might make would suck, and you would stand no chance of progressing in your career, so there would be little point in being in this type of job, move back to a hours based job and remove the guilt.

At the opposite end of the scale, there is what most businesses would love, for you to live only for your job, experience has shown me that that is about a 16 hour work day, maintainable but only at the cost of everything else, true it absolves you of guilt but robs you of a life.

So our min is 7 hours a day our max theoretical is 16, Lets work something out in the middle that feels good in your mind and you can defend.

On a personal physical level 12 hours is about my sustainable max output, above that, I start to burn too hot and slowly damage my self, if the job needs more than that, then I am in the wrong job, don’t feel guilt, look for another job.

Now we are between 7 and 12 hours in a day, look at the work environment around you, what time do the emails start flying by the general team, and what time do they finish, again based on experience, I’m going to guesstimate, between 8:30 local time and 18:00,

So 9.5 hours is the environmental average, that is inside our 7-12 hour window, so valid, but if you did that would you still feel ‘bad’ and not able to relax, if so then add a tiny bit just enough to remove the guilt.

Now a 10 hour day results in me personally being resolved of guilt. If I work properly and do 50 hours of decent value work, Then I can push back on the never ending expectations, I know I am delivering more than the average but not to the point of damaging my self, you may wonder why I don’t mention how many hours are needed to do the job in any of this, and that is because on an expectation based role, there is no upper limit to the work you will receive, there is a quote “if you want a job done give it to a busy person“, it is valid.

Reading this you may think that this is a terrible idea and you should just work what you are paid to work, but I am going to disagree, 1) As I said this is not for an hours based role, this is for an expectation based role and, 2) Its an ultimately honest and self defining way of looking at your work, now you can look at what your ACTUALLY doing in your role and match it against the remunerations and opportunities your role provides, to see if you are valuing your self correctly. 

Your work puts a value on your time, should you not know what that value is your self? and in knowing that value, know you have matched it and can therefore remove this as a point of guilt and ultimately stress.

Management Nugget No 13: “9 Women Can’t Make a Baby in a Month”

Nugget 13: “9 Women Can’t Make a Baby in a Month”

Explanation:

When dealing with senior Management its hard to find a good way of saying “No you can’t have this, No matter how many people you throw at it”

However on Saturday night I was finally introduced to the phrase: “9 Women Can’t Make a Baby in a Month” and I love it, even if I’m late to hearing it.

Now there have been many many attempts to gently but firmly say to senior management, that they can’t have something, no matter what they do. Money won’t fix it, People wont fix it, only time doing a job properly we’ll fix it.

When you got a project like this back in my early programming days we used to call them “Death Marches”, and it was very common for management to try and deal with a death march buy hiring lots and lots of people in a short period. This rarely worked because when you threw such people at a project, they needed training, and that was a drain on the people that could fix a project, so in the end, it didn’t work.

However, I was talking to a programme manager in the gaming industry last night, and she introduced me to this phrase, and its perfect, It’s a hard no and it is a good solid biological hard no at that, that not even the most clever or flippant answer can discount. 

I love days I learn something new.

Disclaimer: As always these posts are not aimed at anyone client or employer and are just my personal observations over a lifetime of dealing with both management and frontline associates.

Stress Tip No. 2 : A Change is as good as a feast

I love this misquote of “A change is as good as a rest”, as I feel it is actually more appropriate.

The misquote originally comes from, My family and other animals by Gerald Durrell. To me, it is actually more realistic. A rest is something deep and meaningful, A solid break. A holiday. It revitalises you all the way down. Whereas a feast gives you new energy and a boost .

But back to the point, for me when I’m dealing with stress, I find that a “feast change” can be something really small and easy to implement. My personal favourite is changing clothes, but also merely moving my desk to a different room or a different area, if only for a couple of weeks will provide enough change to shake me out of my current slump and help with any problems I might be having. It also gives you a slightly different perspective, all of which aid when dealing with stress.

It also has a slight extra feature in terms of dealing with your colleagues/clients/bosses. It provides an indication that all is not as normal with you, you don’t even have to say anything, but suddenly starting to wear suits when you normally wouldn’t. Or suddenly turning up at a slightly different time or a slightly earlier time. Will make any managers worth their salt suddenly pay attention to you, but without making any overt fuss.

Often they will reach out to you to with a query, which opens the gateway to providing a better longer term solution, rather than the stopgap change that you have implemented. So it is truly a win win.

It has the final fun thing when dealing with your colleagues or bosses, In that you have not made a fuss or complaint. You have merely changed something, and that I find in most major corporations provides a far better indication that something needs resolving than all the complaints in the world. Senior managers and corporations deal with complaints in a never ending stream, they’re just part of their lives. Someone fixing or changing things for themselves on the other hand, that’s different, if they can fix things themselves, then they are valuable and valuable people need looking after. 

I also see this happening from the other side of the tracks, a change in a team member can signify unhappiness that they don’t want to make a fuss over, and being awake to this can prove to people that you think of them as people and not just a project resource.

Management Nugget No 12

Nugget 12: When demanding truth of people who work for you, consider how much truth you give your boss’s.

Explanation:

Another really obvious one. But watching the puzzlement on people’s faces, particularly relatively senior management, when they don’t get completely honest and open statements from their team members, when they themselves guard and only pass out limited information to their own boss’s or bosses bosses really shows that people don’t think this way.

As always with this kind of thing, it’s quite simple. Just put yourself in someone else’s position. If you will not tell your boss or your boss’s boss the complete and open truth. How can you expect your team members to do that for you? What makes you special?

Don’t think that suddenly you are one of the gang. or are somehow exempt from human behaviour. It only takes one rant, when you’re having a bad day or one act of taking it out on someone else. and suddenly you’re a boss and you’re a boss forever.

You can’t get it back, so if you want total truth from the people who work for you you will need to either PROOVE you are someone that can be trusted, or be as truthful to others as you want them to be to you.

Disclaimer: As always these posts are not aimed at anyone client or employer and are just my personal observations over a lifetime of dealing with both management and frontline associates.

Mobile Painting : Updates for the Day: fans in an heat wave

Today’s painting update is a battery powered desktop fan

USB powered fans have come on a long way since they first came out, and these are not the noisy things that drive you crazy and don’t put out any draft, these have a good nine inch set of blades and shift a lot of air. Their battery power is 10,000 milliamp, they charge off 2 different USB port types and they run on full blast for about six hours or 24 hours at lower level, which is good, as even in the heat wave that we’re having in England at the moment, bad moon cafe is packed. We had found that it was actually a little bit warm in the café area even on a normal day. So invested in a couple of these and they are just perfect to keep us cool and able to concentrate for the full day. they are easy to adjust with good strong clamps that hold them on the top of the painting case. Totally recommended.