This should have been titled “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective – but incredibly rigid and hard to to please – People” by Stephen Needs Coffee.
I’m sure I have read more boring texts … but I cannot recall – maybe in my philosophy of ethics class?
There may be some nuggets in Covey’s writing, but other than to-do lists (which everyone recommends), I can’t find them.
Definitely happy I didn’t waste $12 on this book.
Many (if not all) companies have provisos when you become a salaried employee that you not discuss your salary/compensation package with other employees.
Most people have been raised in a mindset, largely because their parents have worked for companies like this (and maybe their grandparents, too – it is 2013, after all, and this is not a new phenomenon), that they shouldn’t ever discuss how much they make doing job R when their friend does job H – even at a different company.
Let me state, first, that I am not going to promulgate the idea that everyone should go around bragging about how much they make – especially if you are in front of either mixed company, or in front of someone you know is having a difficult time financially- after all, who wants to be the one guy in the room making $35000 when everyone else is in the 6 figures and gloating about it? I sure wouldn’t.
However, (and maybe I’m weird – though I don’t think so) I have never cared about how much you made in comparison to myself. If we are doing the same work with the same experience and we do not have the same compensation, it implies that one of us negotiated better (I have some thoughts about negotiating, too, both published and not). If you manage to get an extra $1 an hour ($2080 more per year), that’s awesome.
Given that the previous paragraph, outside of “basic” jobs like warehouse work, cleaning cars, etc, never happens – why should anyone be surprised that not everyone has the same compensation as the next guy? Somewhere along the line we got the idea that salary+benefits needed to be “fair”. “Fair” is a concept that only exists in economic theories not based on effort. (The first thing to know about compensation is encapsulated in the book Everything is Negotiable – and a related, but highly specifized1 form for salaries.)
There are services like Glassdoor that help to provide “competitive” salary information … but salary is only a small portion of compensation. Let’s say you and I both make $5000 a month ($60000 a year – make the math easy). But you have 2 weeks of vacation, and I have 4. But I took the lower-deductible insurance option, and you took the higher. Which one of us is bringing home more per month? Who cares! My individual desires and needs are, apparently, being met on my package, and yours are with yours. So why does it matter that we not discuss salary information with each other? Transparency is vital in the security world, it also is internally in a company. And between friends (though, of course, the amount of data we dump, and the methods we choose, will vary) it establishes trust.
Do I care if everyone in the world knows how much I earn per year? No. Tax returns are not public, but they’re not exactly private, either (they’re not that difficult to get if you want them). House sales prices are matters of public record. And from a house sale, along with known mortgage rates at the time of sale, you can determine how much someone is spending on their housing payment every month within a decent error margin (eg, $200000 home, 4% interest, 30 year mortgage, 10% down, you have in the ballpark of a $1000 base mortgage payment2 – within about 5-10% (to cover taxes, insurance, and PMI)). Presuming you’re not living on your credit cards, that means you’re making at a minimum $1500 a month ($18000 a year) just to afford to have a house payment. Add-in other normal essentials of 21st century America (car insurance and maintenance (or bike/bus money), groceries, phone, internet, tv, student loan, etc), and you’re at least at the household income level of $40000 (pretax). Likely quite a bit higher – especially if you have a car payment of any kind.
Why go through the miniature exercise above? Because no one seems to mind comparing they car insurance premiums. Or how often they eat out. Or what they like to cook at home. But SALARY! Heaven forbid you ever talk about THAT! That’s the one no-no in discussion of financial data between friends and coworkers. But it’s irrational when in just a few second you can ballpark the minimum someone earns.
We can compare generalities – vacation time, insurance plans, sick policies, maybe even bonuses (but only as percentages – don’t you dare use real dollars when discussing them) … but not the salary.
Publicizing (at least internally) salaries (even if it’s in bands, a la FogCreek, HP, IBM, or the Federal Government (and Military)) is extremely positive. It doesn’t disclose stock options, bonuses, etc, but can give some kind of indication between colleagues of their relative value to their employer.
At one former employer, I found out shortly after I started that another recent hire (with more years of support experience) was being paid barely more than half what I was. And had had no options when he started (just weeks before me), when I had a modest issuance. Neither of us was upset about how much I was being paid, but I was disappointed to finally see “in the real world” such salary discrimination going on. The entire reason he was paid so much less than me? He didn’t negotiate well.
It was technically against company policy for him to tell me how much he made. And me him. Technically, it was a dismissable offense.
That’s the ridiculous part of not sharing compensation data – that by sharing it you can have your employment terminated. Employers who are worried about little things like whether a given employee knows another employee’s salary are [most likely] micromanaging – at least from the Personnel Department3.
Additionally, if the company is concerned that finding out how much someone else is earning is going to cause unhappiness amongst the team, they’ve done several other things wrong. They’ve [at least]:
- hired people whose only motivation is money (or believe that’s the only motivator)
- intentionally tried to undervalue their team
- established an immediate sense of distrust
- decided to treat their employees like children instead of adults who can rationally and intelligently discuss differences between themselves – and not just on their preferred lunch joint
I would love to see this aura of distrust disappear.
If you really do have people whose only motivation is money, you need a better team: they’ll jump ship as soon as something more lucrative comes along – instead of changing only when the work becomes more boring .. or more interesting elsewhere.
1 I know it’s not a word – I’m using it anyway
2 Divide the mortgage amount by 180, and you have the rough base payment on a 30 year mortgage (for the under 5% mortgages I see in mid-2013); your base payment is the home’s cost *2 / 360 (number of months in 30 years) – or just price/180
3 I positively despise the term “Human Resources” – employees are only “resources” to the MBA types: they’re people, and should be accorded good treatment (including referentially) as such
I have been interested in volcanoes for a long time. I first wrote about them for a college essay in 1999, but my attraction to them began far earlier. Most likely it was triggered by hearing from my mom that her wedding day was the first time she’d ever really had allergies – just 6 days after Mt St Helens exploded, the cloud o’ crud had wafted its way across the North American Continent, and helped trigger lots of folks’ allergies, including my mom’s.
I used to have a bumper sticker on my car that read, “Save The Volcanoes!”
It was quite the conversation starter. (And short satirical essay fodder.)
My dad thought it would be brilliant to dump most of our trash into Kīlauea or Mauna Loa – what better place to incinerate garbage than a pool of liquid rock? (Side benefit: no need to use fuel to burn it, just to transport it!)
I remember Pinatubo exploding in 1991. It ejected about 2.4 cubic miles of crud into the atmosphere. That was 10x more than Mt St Helens burped.
But only half of what Krakatau did in 1883. Krakatoa (the spelling forever etched in world memory, through the typo of a Times of London editor) chucked about 6 cubic miles. It is claimed that it is the loudest sound ever recorded in modern history, and the air-borne pressure wave of the explosion was measured around the world on barographs, as many as 7 times.
(Tambora in 1815 was even bigger (estimated at up to 38 cubic miles), but it was in a relatively unknown (to “modern man”) part of the world, and certainly did not capture the attention of the world they way Krakatoa did 68 years later after the advent of near-instant global communication (the telegraph) and pop culture’s attention to “science”.)
It was this eruption that helped set the stage for a variety of modern scientific fields of inquiry and practice, including a better understanding of geology, meteorology (the beginnings of figuring out the jet stream), and plate tectonics (though not formally accepted globally until after WWII).
Simon Winchester did a masterful job in his book, Krakatoa: the Day the World Exploded, August 27 1883. It is one of the few books I have read as an adult in which my reading was slowed due to vocabulary. Winchester’s writing showcases his vast vocabulary, his scientific bent, his Oxford education, and his deep interest in his topic. But he manages to use an extensive lexicon without ever appearing to talk down to his audience – an exceptional gift. He also writes in a very precise manner: every word he uses feels like he meant for it to be there because it truly describes what he wants to say the best.
I take a few minor issues with his worldview, because I do believe in a literal Creation Week 6000-12000 years ago, but excepting his ongoing references to millions and billions of years, I could find nothing in the book to complain about.
Krakatoa provides a deep history of the Indonesian region, both geologically and politically (starting, on the latter, with the VOC (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (or Dutch East India Company)) takeover of Portuguese influence in the region) and spans far and wide through a variety of then-unrelated sciences which presciently foreshadowed modern geologic, biologic, meteorologic – even astronomic – advances.
If you are at all intrigued by history, geology, volcanoes, or disaster, you should read Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded.
I can’t wait to read several of his other works.
Starting this week, and continuing over the next several weeks, there will be several updates and expansions coming to my published Connexions Collection (original publishing comments), “Debugging and Supporting Software Systems“.
I would love to collect feedback and be able to incorporate any suggestions for improvement that you may have.
Please feel free to either email me via the “E-mail the collection author” link on the CNX site, or via comments hereon.
It’s probably the only “self-help” book I’ve ever read that didn’t either talk down to you, nor treat you as superior for having read it.
The book is constantly interspersed with personal anecdotes and does not present itself as a directive, but as a set of examples (positive and negative) that you can pick and choose from, but which should be mostly “picked” and “chosen”, and not so many left behind.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I also think that you cannot read (and reread) this too young.
To maintain your independence you must always be needed and wanted. The more you are relied on, the more freedom you have. Make people depend on you for their happiness and prosperity and you have nothing to fear. Never teach them enough so that they can do without you. –Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power (review)
But she did, so she’s not.
I am still thankful that after another several years, I still cannot dredge-up any negative memories of the entire time I knew her.
And I can say with confidence I will see her again – she’s merely gotten to start enjoying paradise a little sooner than will I!
I have been working in the realm of “automation” – specifically data center automation – for several years.
Merriam-Webster defines “automating” thusly:
- to operate by automation
- to convert to largely automatic operation <automate a process>
Notice the subtle difference with M-W’s definition of “automation“:
- the technique of making an apparatus, a process, or a system operate automatically
- the state of being operated automatically
- automatically controlled operation of an apparatus, process, or system by mechanical or electronic devices that take the place of human labor
These words tend to be used interchangeably – but they are different. Most of the customers I have worked with think they are “doing automation”, when in actuality they are only barely starting to “automate”.
What do I mean by this?
Most customers that bring automation tools in-house (whether simple
cron jobs or complex tools like HPSA) take their current, manual processes and merely write wrappers around them to make them “automatic”. That is the first step of automation – but it’s only the first step.
Too many people try to take new tools and make them fit their current processes, procedures, and policies – rather than seeing what policies, procedures, and processes are either made redundant by the new tools, or can be improved, shortened, or – wait for it - automated!
Think of a physical example – you’re a Shaker Cabinetmaker in the late 1800s. You’re making end tables. Cutting dovetails with a dovetail saw. Sanding with a block and sandpaper. Cutting pieces to size by hand. Drilling mortises and cutting tenons with a manual auger and small saw. Lathing on a treadle-powered lathe.
Jump forward 100 years. You’re WGBH in Boston wanting to come up with a how-to program to air weekly. You find a fellow named Norm Abram, and pay him to do the show. You put New Yankee Workshop on TV for years. Norm visits places like Hancock Shaker Village for inspiration. But Norm doesn’t use loads of hand tools – he uses radial arm saws, drill presses, table saws, routers, joiners, etc. Why? Because he wants to make a prototype or three in a few days. And then wants to film a show in two (or occasionally longer for big projects) and be able to give you the confidence, along with a set of measured drawings, that you could, more-or-less, replicate what he did in your own home.
Which approach is better? Neither – they both yield end tables. Which approach is more repeatable – especially by someone with little experience? That’d be Norm’s method: the automated method. But the New Yankee Workshop is only slightly down the road of automating the entire process.
Automation (in the furniture world, at least) is found at Ikea. Thousands of identical Ingos and Karls roll out the door every year. Produced by automated machinery.
The job of the Information Technologist has a great deal of art to it – but it’s also a science: at the core of everything that a computer does is logic (perhaps poor logic, but logic nonetheless). Everyone in information technology (especially, though it’s applicable to myriad other industries) should be striving to make themselves replaceable – because no one is irreplaceable. I’ve seen it come true in scores of settings: the person who makes themselves “irreplaceable” never gets promoted, and is eventually replaced by someone else: either management removes him or finds a way around him, or he leaves the organization.
There’s a secret to making yourself replaceable – and that is that when you can show that you’re replaceable, especially in the world I work in, you tend to be promoted. You also tend to grow because you’re learning more. Because you learn more and grow, you become more valuable. Because you become more valuable, you can move up the chain as you like.
Do artisan works still have a market? Of course – go look at any “artsy” type store that showcases “local craftsmen” in almost any part of the country: they’re offering their hard work for your consideration … at a hard price.
Is the artisan chair fundamentally any better than the Ikea chair? Maybe, maybe not. It sure looks better. But it’s not as repeatable.
And repeatable tasks get automated because if you have to do it twice, you need to write it down. And if you have to do it more than twice, you need a process anyone can follow. But processes are always open for refinement and replacement. The process to get a piece of lumber from a tree is not completely dissimilar to day from how we did it before the advent of the sawmill – but with laser-guided blades, the sawmill of 2013 can optimize lumber out of a log in a way very very few people ever could .. and can cut the log into its constituent boards faster than any person.
The process for manually provisioning a RHEL server is pretty simple – but shortly after introducing Anaconda, Red Hat introduced the kickstart (modeled after jumpstart). Microsoft, likewise, has
unattend.xml (for either the DOS or WinPE methods of installing). And SuSE, HPUX, and AIX have their systems (AutoYaST, Ignite, and NIM).
Why do these tools exist? It’s so administrators can rapidly deploy machines without having to do a lot of extra setup work by hand. The same can be asked for why do chainsaws, table saws, and circular saws exist? It’s so you can cut wood more rapidly and more repeatably than by hand. You can fell a tree with an axe. You can fell a tree with a saw. But for a single person, felling a tree with a chainsaw is best. Or you can use a Tiger Cat.
The first step of automating needs to be building wrappers to reliably repeat manual processes.
The second, and far more important, step in the paradigm shift from manual methods to automation, is to systematically go through all of your processes, procedures, and policies and see what can be refined, what can be replaced, and, most importantly, what can be removed.
What legacy activities are you doing that should be eliminated, updated, or cleaned-up?
This month we hit 60% on our funding target!
We have a ways to go, but we have our referral fee, and one flight covered ~ish.
Thanks again to everyone who has helped, who would like to, and to those who are just keeping us in their thoughts and prayers.
Our main adoption blog.