Archive for the ‘management’ Category

A dose of the strongman medicine for USA? No, political education is better

Saturday, August 11th, 2012

USA is facing the serious problems of runaway public debt, overstretched army, and especially political machinery which is unable to effectively deal with the above problems.

Some countries and empires, at this stage of their evolution, got to be led by a strongman (dictator).  The dictator was either someone who rose inside them or someone who invaded the country (like Genghis Khan’s invasion of China).

In today’s world, the primary means of invasion is economic/political rather than by army force.  Army actions are now blocked by the existence of the devastating nuclear option, and by public opinion.  Soldiers, after all, are part of the public, and won’t fight unless there is enough public opinion backing war.

How would USA get out of the present crisis?

At 1985, Israel was going to have an economic collapse, of the kind that leads to dictatorship.  There were calls for a strongman to come to power and put matters to order.  Somehow, enough people of power were persuaded that something must be done and a new economic order was put in place and since then the economic situation improved in a big way (I am not sure that Dafny Leef and her cohorts would agree with me).

I do not see indications for such a political consensus in USA. What would then be a possible route to improvement in USA?  The two-party system is notoriously bad at allowing real leaders to rise to the top.  They must have all kinds of irrelevant qualifications, the inevitable skeletons must be well hidden in closets, they must be good looking and not be obese.  They must be excellent orators as well, and not start their adult career in an unacceptable profession (Ronald Reagan withstanding).

There is, however, another route to power in USA.  One makes a lot of money and leverages it for power in big Wall Street banks and other investment institutions.  That person (man or woman) would then be able to pull the strings behind the stage and push for the right kind of political changes.

A difficulty exists.  That person’s route to richness and power needs to leave him/her free of any commitments to take care of his/her Wall Street colleagues.  So that person would not be obligated to cater to Wall Street’s special interests.

Of course, since such a person would not gain power by democratic means, it is impossible to have an assurance that he/she would in fact operate for the good of the public rather than for any group of special interests. For such an assurance, the political process needs to work properly - and this failure is the underlying cause behind the present problems.

George Soros, anyone?

A better and safer alternative would be a massive educational process, which educate the populace about political processes, how they function, how they are supposed to function, how to wisely choose leaders, how to properly balance relatively minor improprieties vs. major leadership and management failures, how to tell legitimate criticism apart from propaganda by special interest groups, whose interests are damaged by a good leader’s efforts.

The hospital which demands that its surgeons operate in non-sterile theaters, with inadequate equipment and without enough help

Monday, December 8th, 2008

If what Alan Carter says in his The Programmers’ Stone blog is right, then the way our society treats software developers is like requiring surgeons to operate in non-sterile theaters, with inadequate equipment and without enough help from other doctors and nurses.

What is the most important thing in administering a Linux (or any other) system?

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

Ken Hess listed 5 Things Every Good Linux Administrator Knows and left out the most important thing. It is more important than uptime. It is more important than controlling the network services. It is more important than making users happy. It is more important than documentation.

REGULAR BACKUPS!

UPDATE (2008 Nov 07):
A day after I wrote the above, Ken Hess added 3 More Things Every Good Linux Adminstrator Knows, the first of which is regular backups.

A Vista Conspiracy Theory

Saturday, July 19th, 2008

One possible reason for the stupidity of Microsoft in handling MS-Vista, especially in its attempts to ram MS-Vista through its customers’ throats instead of MS-Windows XP, is as follows.

Shortly after SCO sued IBM and other companies due to violation of its Linux copyright, IBM and possibly other big companies decided upon two-pronged counter attack.  First, they would fight SCO in court to the bitter end.

The conspiracy theory expoused below has to do with the second prong.  The goal here is to cause Microsoft to bleed as much money and as quickly as possible, so that it’ll not have the financial means to continue to support SCO until its defendants wear out.

For this purpose, moles may have been installed in Microsoft (or maybe Microsoft employees were bribed) to deliberately make the wrong managerial decisions, to sap the morale of the working software developers, to entangle the projects in cobwebs, to bog the projects down in intricate dependencies and frivolous compatibilities with the past, to surrender too easily to Hollywood moguls when they ask for DRM measures to be built into MS-Vista.

Since Microsoft had the fatal combination of de-facto monopoly position and huge cash reserves, both had to be attacked.  The monopoly position was attacked by making MS-Vista incompatible with MS-Windows XP, so that people would find it just as easy to switch to Linux or to Mac OS as it is to MS-Vista.  The cash position was attacked by turning MS-Vista into huge cash drain.

World was created by both God and Devil

Friday, June 27th, 2008

According to 2 rules for better design teams, you need both Design Dictator (aka God) and Devil’s Advocate (aka Devil) in your design team.

In other words, design has entered Kabbalah territory!

Be prepared!

Friday, June 27th, 2008

Head over to Amanda Ripley’s Web site and read her blog!

Highlights (my own summary):

  1. People behave in disasters differently from what you were taught about people.
  2. You can develop the personality traits needed to survive and help other people survive in disasters.
  3. Be prepared.
  4. Familiarize yourself with your surroundings.
  5. Your chances of survival are better than what you think - IF YOU REGAIN YOUR ABILITY TO THINK.

Blogs vs. Newspapers

Sunday, September 23rd, 2007

One important difference among blogs and newspapers (paper or Web sites) is the fact that no one expects bloggers to verify their sources, or to be objective (unless the blog claims otherwise). On the other hand, newspapers are supposed to be authoritative. This means that newspaper journalists should be verify their sources, get a response from people being covered in news items, etc.

Five Unpublicized Anecdotes (in Hebrew) has accounts of five instances, in which journalists and/or newspapers violated ethics or professionalism. The anecdotes can be summarized as follows:

  1. One journalist steals a news item from a colleague, without giving due credit.
  2. A journalist publicized embarrassing personal information about a politician among the politician’s network of friends, rather than publicize it. The information in question was the politician’s very explicit cellphone talk with his mistress.
  3. An embargo agreement between a police investigator and a journalist, not to publicize anything about a certain sensitive investigation before it ends, was not honored by the journalist’s newspaper due to changes in personnel.
  4. A journalist was careful and refused to publicize unconfirmed rumor, and was eventually fired as a result of this refusal.
  5. Another journalist publicized a fabricated news item, which had no basis in fact.

Won’t it be great if bloggers could volunteer to monitor the news items publicized by newspapers, and keep the newspapers and their journalists honest?

Bloggers could catch textual duplications between different newspapers (anecdote 1), and call out newspapers for publicizing false information (anecdotes 4,5).

At present, the only mechanism for keeping newspapers honest is the threat of libel lawsuits. This does not work for keeping out fabricated news items, which damage no one’s reputation. False but non-defamatory news items about people do not lead to libel lawsuits either. People also sometimes let libelous information pass by, knowing that their personal acquaintances know better.

How to implement such a newspapers’ monitoring network?

One approach would be to observe the mechanisms being developed by the Wikipedia for ensuring the correctness of the information in its articles, as well as academic research about trust and reputation networks. Then try to adapt them to set up a network of newspaper monitoring bloggers.

Three practical philosophies

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

Summary

In addition to major life philosophies and religions, there are also various philosophies and methods which aim at doing better various things in life. In this post I write about three such “minor” philosophies.

Feldenkrais Method

The Feldenkrais Method belongs to the realm of complementary and alternative medicine. It stresses user physical movements. It is applied by people like dancers or musicians, who want to improve their movement repertoire, and by people, who want to reduce their pain or movement limitations. One famous student of the Feldenkrais Method was David Ben-Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel.
Wikipedia article (also source of this summary): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feldenkrais_Method
The Feldenkrais Method Center: http://www.feldenkrais-center.com/INDEX_ENG.HTM

Eliahu Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints

The Theory of Constraints (TOC) belongs to the realm of business and organizational management. Each system (business or organization) has a goal to be maximized. Each system has also a key constraint, which limits the system’s performance relative to its goal. In order to manage the system’s performance, the key constraint must be identified and dealt with.
Wikipedia article (also source of this summary): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_Constraints

Steve Litt’s Universal Troubleshooting Process

The Universal Troubleshooting Process (UTP) belongs to the realms of repairing malfunctioning equipment and software debugging. It is a method for troubleshooting reproducible problems and ensuring that once they are fixed - they stay fixed.
The core of this process is a 10-step process, which covers preparations, actual diagnosis, repair, and post-repair work.
Longer description of the process: http://www.troubleshooters.com/tuni.htm

Organizations need more people with leadership skills than you think

Saturday, August 18th, 2007

I would like to take issue with a point made in Why do we persist in trying to turn ourselves (and other people) into what we and they plainly are not?

The writer believes that only one or two leaders are needed to work with a very large number (tens or hundreds) of people. The following are counter-examples and counter-arguments.

  • A committee typically has between 5-10 members. It needs a leader to function effectively.
  • When an emergency, such as fire, earthquake or serious equipment malfunction occurs, there is not always time to bring the leader (assuming that the leader is not already busy putting out a fire elsewhere). At least one of the people dealing with the emergency needs to have leadership skills and be able to organize his colleagues as necessary to deal with the emergency.
  • People with leadership skills have also better team membership skills. They would support the current endeavor’s leader and make him more effective.
  • It is easier to restructure and expand the organization if external circumstances so require, if it already has high percentage of people with leadership skills.
  • People with genuine leadership skills would not indulge in petty politicizing to the detriment of themselves and their fellows.

Freedom of expression for primary and high school teachers

Thursday, August 16th, 2007

I was prompted to write this by a request, which I received today.

Some background information: large part of the contents of my DEAF-INFO Web site is material, which was posted to the DEAF-L mailing list by various subscribers over the years. When the mailing list was active, I saved the best posts and put them in the Web site, with attribution to the original contributor.

The request, which I received today, was to remove the attributions to a particular contributor.

In the past I received similar requests. Upon further questioning, it turned out that most of those requests were made by people, who expressed their strong opinions about various deafness related issues, while they were students. Few years later, they were to get jobs as teachers in schools of the deaf. Then they were concerned that they’ll get into trouble because of the opinions, which they expressed in the past.

I asked someone, who teaches in a regular primary school, about this. She explained to me that teachers are forbidden to publicly express their opinions. The teachers are usually state or county employees. The only people authorized to publicize opinions are the employer’s public relations specialists.

I believe that this state of affairs is rather unfortunate. Teachers work “in the trenches” - they deal with pupils with learning disabilities, they deal with non-working educational methodologies, they deal with poorly-designed materials. They should be able to criticize non-working methods of instruction. If their school principal does not improve the methods, the teachers should be free to publicize their criticism. This would allow parents to ultimately have a say in improving the quality of instruction their children receive.

This is important especially in the area of deaf education, which is especially rife with conflict among different goals (integration vs. separate identity), philosophies (oral vs. Sign Language) and a bewildering choice of communication methods.