Archive for August, 2008

Too big


Having already left my kids at school, I was driving to my office. I wanted to avoid heavy traffic, so I choosed a secondary street. The traffic flow stopped and this time the cause was an accident about fifty meters ahead. After a couple of minutes and realising that this was not going to be solved quickly, I started to signal the cars behind me to go backwards, task that seemed easy given that there were only three cars to the last corner. I saw through the rear mirror that one of the drivers was having a very difficult moment going backwards: he could not maneuver his four wheel drive truck going backwards, turning and avoiding parked cars at the same time. After some minutes, I managed to left the traffic jam, while the truck driver was still trying to maneuver. He almost pissed me off.

Having left the problem behind, I realized about how nice and new was that truck. And big, surely big. I use to fantasize a lot about how nice would be to drive a car bigger and taller than mine in this streets, with a better view of the ahead traffic and without worrying about other drivers crossing their cars over mine. But I never imagine a thing about this problem: can I manage to drive that monster? And I mean really dominate the car.

It seems to be a fairly extended problem: seeing the benefits without taking into account the responsabilities, or simply the abilities, necesary to accomplish the task. It is very probable that the mentioned driver has been using his truck for weeks without a problem and, if not having this problem, going on for lot of weeks more, as far as he was driving forward or only parking on his private, jumbo size lot.

At work, lots of people try to get higher responsabilities, seeing that they can manage very well their jobs. And they probably can get those promotions they were after, and they can do it very well once promoted. Off course, as long as they are driving forward. The really suitable people is seen when the problems arise and this can happen in any moment, or never. So, there is even a possibility that a person is promoted a couple of times before that truth moment.

Sadly, it is very difficult to pretest this persons; there is no “test drive” available. You can do any kind of test or simulations, and not knowing how he will perform at that moment. And, most of the times, there is no chance to get back: it is kind of “up or out”, or more precisely, “solve it or out”. It is a one way trip: good performance, promotion, not good performance, out?

As middle managers, we are the company’s reps closest to the people who is trying to get a promotion; so, we know them better. It is our responsibility to advise our people if we think they are not ready, as is to help them if we think they are.

The same applied to ourselves: the grass of the neighbor is always greener; but we can be blind to all he does to his garden and the problems he solved to give it this England green.

It is part if the human kind to try to be better everyday, but trying to manage something bigger than we can could be, at the same time, stressing and frustrating for ourselves and for others who depend on us.

I have been offered a very cheap Scania 112H; should I give it a try?

    Diego :D


Bad signalling


A couple of weeks ago, I was driving behind a cab, ready to turn left in the next street, when I was surprised by the taxi driver turning on his turn-light, signalling me he was also going to turn left. I smiled internally, thinking of my previous blog entry about signalling, but the driver stopped a couple of meters before the street, and waited there. Of course, with myself stucked behind him and trying to maneuver to follow my way. He pissed me off, but for not too long.

I talked about the importance of signalling, being it to get help from others or to help others to plan their actions. In the case I mentioned, the taxi driver’s action of using the turn light was as if he were saying me “Hey, no need to overpass me! I will turn shortly”. But no, he was not. It was a terrible signal. I understood he was helping me, but his action made me change my probable course of action and I ended worse than with no signalling at all.

In fact, it can be a hell of a strategy. You signal a competitor that you are going to increase your prices, for example, and you do nothing after his price increase. Or you can tell your team you will probably go to another area so they fight for your future vacant site, increasing some performance figure, but do nothing. It has its drawbacks, also: people learn. The human being is no stupid. Someone said that one can fool few people for a long time, or many people for a short time; but even that truth is limited: those few learn and next time will be very difficult to cheat.

I really prefer not to bad signal. I have a reputation and that reputation is my presentation letter, and the reason why many people at my company trust me and my decisions. It is a way of life.

Going on with the taxi driver’s case, I finally maneuvered to overpass him and, ready to curse him, I saw his front yellow turn-right light turn on and blinking, as I saw the rear-left one. I understood immediately: the driver put the emergency stop lights, not the left turn light, but probably the rear-right light was burnt off. His real message was “Hey! Overpassme, since I will stop and I don’t wat you getting stuck behind me”. A lesson to learn.

Being my main professional background about communications engineering, I could easily explain the problem as “line noise”. A message is deliverd, another message arrived, and was the message arrived which was interpreted. I didn’t misunderstood the message; I was interpreting the incorrect one. Anyway, the lesson here would be: ensure about the understanding of the receiving part is coherent with the message you intended to send. People’s histories are very different, and each history lead us to interpretation of a message in a different way. And that is not taking into account the different cultures, where the gap can be larger.

Speaking about signals, please, can someone signal me that this post is being read?  Any kind of signal :-)


    Diego :D