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A friend and fellow securities investor provided some unsolicited but constructive feedback on my blog. In his experience, blog quality is directly proportional to the perceived effort invested to maintain it. That is, the minimalist nature of my blog looked like a second-rate rag not worth reading.
In consulting, the word "rate" implies measuring some quantity against units of time. Dollars per hour, meters per second, sick days per year, etc. For decades, the world-renowned consultant Alan Weiss has lambasted the use of time-based fees in consulting. I want to summarize his arguments using my own words, thought processes, and examples.
In his 2013 book titled "Gemba Walks", 2nd edition, Dr. Jim Womack makes the statement that "quality is free". The claim is made within the context of a manufacturing environment where rework (the process of repairing defects on products just built) is far more expensive than doing it right the first time. Womack is not alone. Phillip Crosby's 1979 book "Quality is Free" coined the term.
Last spring I saw the writing on the wall. My efforts to help a longtime customer build a world class service provider network finally paid off. The problem was, they didn't need me anymore, and quickly started to hold my opinions in progressively lower regard. Despite extraordinary operational impact and commensurate acclaim, I was unhappy. I felt disrespected and discarded. Renowned or not, I stayed long past my useful shelf life.
I've written about the time value of money before, and I think all people have an innate understanding that time is money. Employees sell fixed units of time to their employers in return for fixed sums of money. When the time unit is one hour, we call this a wage. When its annual, we call it a salary. But what do we call spending (or losing) money in return for time? Unpaid vacation?
I'll come out strong; I hate this excuse. It's a thinly-veiled attempt at propping up what is likely a failing status quo mindset around a challenging problem. Now, with that out of the way, let's examine why people say it.
I've written about kanban before, and many of you know that I use it extensively in my personal and professional lives. In my 16 March 2019 blog about kanban and scrum, I ended by saying kanban surfaces problems. What does that really mean?
We've all heard it. Maybe we've even partaken in it. Someone makes a comment that is generally correct or reasonably illustrates a point. Perhaps the statement was incomplete or too vague. Either way, the "well, technically" brigade comes out in force to pick your pithy remark apart with minutia. How to react?
This blog might seem like clickbait for the technically-minded who expected a sermon on how to build highly-available data communications networks. Not so. I'd like to share my thoughts on risk management instead, and for the techies, I'm sure you'll see some obvious parallels.
The name of this blog is sure to rile up the cynical folks in the crowd and perhaps drive you one step closer to nihilism. I want to provide a few simple examples of winning together in the business world, and specifically, beyond company boundaries.
"The soul of a free man looks at life as a series of problems to be solved and solves them, while the soul of a slave whines, 'What can I do who am but a slave?'" writes George S. Clason in his 1926 book "The Richest Man in Babylon". No, this is not a blog post on the heinous act of slavery. It's not a money talk, either. It's a blog post on overcoming problems using mankind's inherent gift; critical thought.
This comparison has been beaten to death on the Internet by people much smarter on these topics than I. I'll briefly review both and explain how I've seen these methodologies work firsthand outside of software development.
In late 2017, I was struggling to understand some of the core concepts underlying DevOps technologies. I knew deep down that I simply did not have time to sit and read traditional books. Some of you are saying this is an excuse. With a full time job, a wife that works full time, and a 1 year old daughter at the time, it just wasn't going to happen. Both my wife and I are regular gym-goers and aren't willing to sacrifice that. Many of you have followed me on the web for years and know how much I contribute to the community, and I'm not willing to tune that down, either. I had to find a way to keep expanding my knowledge without investing more time.
I'm not going to hold anything back. Get rid of your television. Being entertained via TV programming is probably the most passive activity in the world, except for sleeping. I'm not knocking it because it is physically lazy (although it certainly is), but rather because it has the capacity to completely transform someone's life in a negative way.
If you are a professional accountant, investor, or business owner, you can stop right here. This blog is for the financially-challenged technocrats among us. It wasn't until early 2017 that I realized how ignorant I was on these topics, so I picked up a $10 Udemy course by Chris Haroun titled "An Entire MBA in One Course". It's a great place to start and one of the best $10 purchases I've ever made.
The age old pseudo-adage says that you can only choose two attributes from the list of "good, cheap, or fast". I've seen all kinds of fancy mathematical graphs depicting a three dimensional parabola that shows the limits of how the inputs of quality, cost, and lead time all interact. The CAP theorem for databases similarly suggests you can choose consistency, availability, or partition tolerance, but never all three. You can choose two, we are told, and trade-off the third. Intuitively, this makes sense, but is it a general truth? Let's examine all three possibilies.
Robert Kiyosaki's 1997 book "Rich Dad Poor Dad" suggests that we all "mind our own business". He's clear in stating that your "business" isn't your place of employment, but rather what you do to make money. Are you an author, podcaster, weekend lawnmower, investor, or something else? Figure out what topics interest you, and start thinking about how you can deliver unique value in those spaces. Note that non-profit or charity work qualifies as a "business" too, so long as you aren't someone else's employee while you do it.
Perhaps a controversional topic, but an important one. All sectors of all industries have their share of eternally "busy" people. They peck away at their laptops during strategic meetings, dial into back-to-back conference calls, and contort themselves into cogs that fit perfectly into the machine that preserves the status quo.
"That makes no sense", I told a business manager. "Why would we pay $100 per month for that service when we could buy a compute platform to run it for $3000? It pays for itself in two and a half years." I was convinced that these office-dwellers had no idea how to multiply.
At Cisco Live US 2018, attendees could volunteer to support an effort known as "Clean the World". Volunteers would create support packages for the world community where sanitation is poor or nonexistent. I always volunteer for things like this because it is good for humanity and doesn't take much time.