Wednesday, November 25, 2009

So What?

A piece of advice that I was once given asked me to develop an argument in light of the question "So What?" It is apparent to me that my last post did not develop the argument. So allow me to divert.

A favourite monthly read for me is Wired magazine. It was in the September edition that an article (Good Enough) caught my attention more than most. This article discusses the emergence of technology that is in a traditional sense inferior to what is offered in the market. ">Robert Capps cites Skype, Kindle, netbooks, text advertising, Google SketchUp and the Predator.

The sense of inferiority is something similar to "Keeping up with the Jones", some inspired efforts from a bygone era of consumerism and capitalism that exists today. The age of getting the latest incremental upgrade now featuring 1080p HDTV embedded into your washing machine. As a self-confessed geek, it is a hard argument to make that the latest tech doesn't need to be acquired but there is an element of needing the new extension or simply having the need defined to keep a marketing company in business (I think this may be a rabbit hole which incorporates Joss Whedon and my hatred of Reality TV).

The technological leaps that need to be followed and are advocated in the "Good Enough" article are those that enable accessibility, availability and are often "Like Free". This approach to a redefined quality is intuitive to the current generation (I would like to avoid citing Zs and Ys but I hope you take my meaning), they have seen and value the emergence of the technologies that are mentioned above. It is harder to break the old definitions of quality in generations (individuals?) who don't intuitively understand tech like Twitter.

Where this diversion refers back to the "So What?" is the MQ1 Predator, this is a product provided in a framework that is the antithesis of "good enough". Airworthiness and Military are frameworks that are inherently (and often for the best) conservative, but unmanned vehicles have found a gap in the frameworks. Put most simply, the airworthiness frameworks relax somewhat once the vehicle becomes light and reduces passengers to a minimum (i.e. 0). The military gets very excited when the platform can be available all the time.

Now the implementation of unmanned vehicles can be achieved by the old and bold methods (applying every standard required for Civil/Military aircraft) or an innovative approach can be applied by those who intuitively understand "Good Enough". To implement the former will continue trends of procurement overruns (schedule & cost) and allow others the opportunity to implement air power on a scale that can achieve greater mass for the same price.

There is a balance required, which ought to be achieved by an 'Up or Out' policy ensuring that fresh ideas and bodies are moving through the rigid structures to make sure it is the best and most innovative it can be

Monday, November 23, 2009

Forming a Tribe

Yesterday, I posted a link to a TED Talk in which Seth Godin challenged each of the listeners to go forth and form a tribe. Now I have posted about Seth before, and I have listened to his Audiobook and found inspiring in the ways that I found Gladwell. But what is pertinent about the timing of this TED Talk, is the proximity to my final subject of a Master of Engineering Science (Aerospace)... Well actually, let me take you back.

In 1999, I was in my first year of a Bachelor of Engineering in a fully sponsored position by my employer. This employer was wrestling with the results of HR policies that lead to the attrition of it's Mid-level Aerospace Engineers (namely the Design Engineers and Deputy Senior Design Engineers). The HR policies (and notably lack of management) had allowed a level of stagnation in the higher levels thus not providing pathways for promotion.

Significant effort was devoted to creating an Engineering Sustainability Program that improved many aspects of the management of Engineers. These included access to Continuing Professional Development opportunities, close arrangements with Engineers Australia (CPEng et al.), access to a Masters program (to which I referred earlier) and a 'Retention Benefit' (arguably the least effective component).

Despite an incredible economic boom, engineer retention was healthy and life was good. So good in fact, that in 2009 we are once again clogged at the Senior Design Engineer level.

Yesterday, the Deputy Senior Design Engineer level was informed that there would be no promotion for 2011 and that there would be limited opportunities for Design Engineers. This has also resulted in the reduction in the initiatives of the Engineering Sustainability Program (due to retention not being a problem).

It appears to me that we are hell-bent on repeating the cycle through myopia and absence of active management. Is it really that much to expect that the Career Managers could actually impose an 'up or out' approach to maintain a healthy and balanced workforce of the BEST ENGINEERS for our organisation.

So my movement: Anyone who is interested in railing against indoctrinated and dogmatic behaviour; Anyone who can't abide the cost cuts in the name of savings; Anyone who thinks efficiency can be systemic and not incremented through paper cuts; This is our movement

TEDTalks (video)

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