Tag Archives: associates

Can We Have a Little Empathy Here, Please?

Happy Birthday, Whoever You Are

And Many More . . . .

I keep discovering new ways that Facebook has changed my life. I began noticing that every time the birthday of one of my FB friends would show up in the top right corner of the page, I would take a moment to click on the person’s name and send them a greeting on their wall. At first I would note how Facebook was slowly eroding the old saw about men never remembering birthdays. Obviously, it wasn’t me who was doing the remembering but, nevertheless, I was aware of the existence of the birthday and was able to extend my wishes for an enjoyable one.

Frankly, I had always felt a little guilty about not remembering birthdays because I kind of enjoy experiencing mine. However, in all honesty the guilt wasn’t quite strong enough for me to always remember when birthdays occurred. I had made some valiant attempts, through entering the dates for most of my family in my Outlook calendar, which I transported from computer to computer over the years . . . sometimes ending up with multiple listings such that I began to tune the whole business out. Additionally, there were recurring periods where I just wasn’t very good at checking my calendar.

This has been an ongoing struggle, but it’s only been 64 years (a week from this Saturday, but I’m not fishing), so perhaps there’s hope for me yet. When I was in the corporate world, it was always one of the things I put down on the mandatory list of items I needed to work on – “improve my use of personal organizational tools to increase efficiency and effectiveness”.

Now I’ve got Facebook, which keeps improving my ability to track things I otherwise never paid much attention to. Of course, birthdays don’t exactly make all that big a difference in my professional life, so there are numerous other tools I’ve come to use. However, the concept of gathering information from my contacts, associates, friends, family, etc. such that I can keep continuously better track of the things that matter to me most, is an awesome thing. Facebook, despite whatever shortcomings we may all ascribe to it, has played somewhat of a major role in this continuous development. For that I’m thankful.

BTW – I was reminded of this cultural shift by Euan Semple, a wonderful blogger and someone I’m happy to say is a Facebook friend of mine. Euan’s birthday is today and he posted the following on his wall: “I turned off posting to my wall because of the amount of hacking Facebook was suffering but doing so just before my birthday and preventing people sending birthday wishes was a bit dumb!” I guess that about explains it for me. I am getting no small amount of joy from being able to send birthday wishes to my friends; all because of Facebook. I like to think, in some small way these acts are bringing us closer together. Has Facebook changed the way you interact with your friends, etc.?


We Don’t Need No Stinking Meetings!

The Ubiquitous Conference Room: Where Collaboration Goes to Die

Before you get your panties in a bunch, I’m not really advocating the complete abolition of meetings. I always loved getting together with 20 or 30 of my closest associates and spending the first ten minutes – of what always managed to completely fill the exact amount of time allotted to it – with banter about our kids, our pets, our plants, and our plans for retirement. Regardless, it always seemed to me there were just a few too many of them, and many were just . . . well . . . kind of unnecessary. So I’m just saying maybe we should consider there are meetings that are a complete – or near complete – waste of everyone’s time. Allow me to provide an example and, hopefully, I won’t piss off my former employer too much by sharing this.

Quite a few years ago I was a member of the High Pressure Fuel Turbopump team for the Space Shuttle Main Engine program at a famous, but not very well-known organization. [Pop Quiz! Who designed the engines that powered the Saturn vehicles to the moon?] At the time, another company was in the process of certifying their design for the same pump, as (Warning! the following statement may be hotly disputed by the parties, and they are only a partial recollection from a limited perspective) NASA had determined their (the other company’s) design was more reliable and, therefore, more safe. Unfortunately, this other organization was having trouble with some of their design and they weren’t meeting their certification and delivery goals. For this reason, we were given a contract to produce ten more high pressure fuel pumps.
For a length of time I can no longer recall (this was in the late 1990s, I believe, and the experience was somewhat painful), but let’s say it was around or over a year, we had a stand-up meeting every day to discuss what had happened the day before and what we wanted to happen that day. There were always between 15 and 20 people in attendance. However, on most days only a few of these folks actually had to be there. Unfortunately, it was impossible at the time for anyone to know whether or not they were needed without attending the meeting to see and hear what was talked about.
At the time, Macromedia had a product they called Generator which, as the team’s webmaster and web content volunteer learner guy, I had discovered. Generator worked with Flash to create animated displays. Among the things you could do with it was to create a ticker tape that would run a stream of updates at the bottom of an employee’s display. I knew nothing of “social” back then, but it sure seemed to me that having people update their activity through the use of this ticker tape would obviate the necessity for at least half (probably more like 80%, thank you Mr. Pareto) of the meetings we were having. This seemed a significant savings to me. Unfortunately, I might as well have been standing in the corner talking to it.

Now that this occurrence has faded in my rearview mirror, I can look at it a little more rationally. At the time, it was just one of numerous ways in which I saw us spending far more money and effort than necessary to get things done (don’t get me started on how click-to-talk phones could have sped up the flow of components through the shop). It wasn’t to be.

Although I’m no longer in that world (corporate, that is), I have good reason to believe things haven’t changed much in all this time. I know they hadn’t by the time I left (May of 2010). Are you still having meetings that accomplish little other than to fill up the hours? Here’s a suggestion. Read the book by Patrick Lencioni – “Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable“. It’s a great business book masked as an entertaining fable, in the mold of Eli Goldratt’s “The Goal“. See if you can’t turn your meetings into what they should be, a vital and invigorating component of running an organization rather than a time-wasting drag on everyone’s energy and enthusiasm.


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