Judgement of Worth : I got an award, but…

Our company has some yearly awards. We nominate people who we think have made a significant contribution to some aspect of the company. There is a longlist of nominees for each category. Those people get shortlisted, and a winner is picked for each category. The longlist and shortlist are also published internally, so people get to see if they’ve been nominated, which is nice…

This year I won an award for Continuous Improvement. That’s good for my ego, which is no doubt in part why I am mentioning it, and it shows you *can* teach an old dog new tricks. But it made me want to talk about the judgement of worth again. I’ve mentioned this before in posts like visibility vs results. Judging worth is really difficult, and it potentially highlights a whole load of bias.

For someone like me it is really easy to stand out. I like to think I’m pretty good at what I do, but I’ve also developed good written and verbal communication skills over the years. On top of that, I’m always talking about what I’m doing, so I’m no shrinking violet. That gives me an unfair advantage over someone who may be doing better work than me, but is not so loud about it. This is why I ask to be removed from the running each year…

From a personal development perspective, I give some advice about improving your writing and speaking skills in the visibility vs results post. Please develop these skills so you get what you deserve!

From a management perspective, it’s really important you start judging your staff based on what they actually deliver, not on what they say. It’s the only way to be sure you are not being biased when you are thinking about who is productive and who is not. This β€˜Self-promoters’ do nothing but still get ahead at work story shows that it’s really easy to make people think you are working hard, even if you are not.

This links back to my gripes about the negative stories related to productivity and working from home. Managers have to be able to track results/deliverables. It’s the only way to know if someone is doing busy work, or actually being productive.

I’d just like to say thank you to my colleagues who nominated me for this award. I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but next time perhaps it would be better to use your nomination to lift up someone who needs the exposure a little more than me. πŸ˜‰

Cheers

Tim…

The Efficiency Paradox : Same Term, Different Meanings?

I’ve recently come across the term “Efficiency Paradox” being used by different people, in different contexts, and giving it different meanings. I thought I would share them…

The Efficiency Paradox in Economics

In 1865 William Stanley Jevons postulated, the more efficient a process gets in terms of resource usage, the higher demand you will see for that resource. This seems counter intuitive, as you might think the more efficient a process is, the less resources it requires, and therefore total resource usage would go down. Instead as a process becomes more efficient, costs drop and that drives demand, which eventually can result in more of the resource being needed. This is the heart of the Jevons Paradox, which is also referred to as the Efficiency Paradox by some sources.

Cost is always an important factor. We are currently going through a cost of living crisis in the UK. One of the factors affecting this is the cost of power. People are looking at ways to save money by reducing their power usage. When power was cheaper many people didn’t pay any attention to saving power. Now it is expensive, every little bit matters.

The Efficiency Paradox in Gaming

I watched a video by Josh Strife Hays, where he discussed the impact of guides and wikis on the enjoyment of playing video games. The term “grinding” refers to highly repetitive tasks that you must do to achieve a goal. Grinding can be exhausting, but when you achieve your goal there is a sense of satisfaction. Some games require a certain amount of detective work, where you try to figure out how to progress. Once again, the effort of trying to figure out how to progress can be exhausting, but the satisfaction on completing the task is high.

With the advent of the internet, there are loads of videos, wikis and websites dedicated to helping you play games in the most efficient manner possible. They might tell you how to minimise grinding, or flat out give you the answer to puzzles. These guides reduce the amount of time it takes to complete a task in a game, making you more efficient, but because you never have to deal with the adversity, you never get the same satisfaction when you complete a task.

So the efficiency paradox in gaming is, the more efficient you make the game play in an attempt to help the player, the less satisfying the game may become. Of course, if it is too difficult, they might leave before completing the task. There is a balance…

The Efficiency Paradox in Lean/DevOps

The previous versions of the efficiency paradox are interesting to me, but it’s this version that is really the subject of this post. In Lean and DevOps people often use the term efficiency paradox in subtly different ways, but invariably they are talking about resource efficiency vs. flow efficiency. Specifically, a focus on maximising resource efficiency resulting in less overall efficiency.

Lost Time : I’ve written about lost time before here. Lost time is about work waiting in queues while passing between siloed teams. Each team believe they are working efficiently because they have maximised their resource usage. All their staff are busy, but the flow of work through the chain of teams is really slow, making the flow efficiency low, and reducing the quality of work.

To counter this, some companies reorganise into self-sufficient teams that can progress a piece of work from conception to delivery, thereby reducing the hand-offs between teams. Some may retain the silos, but use automation to deliver self-service tools and APIs that others can pick up and run with. Regardless of the approach taken, they are attempting to reduce the constraints on the flow of work to improve flow efficiency.

Work in Process (WIP) : I’ve written about WIP before here. Most people can’t multitask well. Some think they can, but they just end up doing multiple things badly. Problem solving requires concentration, and it’s really hard to concentrate when you are being distracted by multiple projects competing for your attention. In an ideal world your WIP would be 1. You would work on a single task to completion, then move to another task. This can be tricky if you are constantly being blocked by other people and teams/silos, but it’s also complicated when a company wants to see staff being “busy” all the time.

In an effort to maximise resource (staff) usage, they increase the WIP, so there is always something for people to do. On the surface this increased resource usage looks like it is increasing efficiency, but often the work degenerates to the point where people are spinning plates, without actually achieving much. Also, the reduced attention on a specific task results in a lower quality of work. You should always try to keep WIP low, even if that means some people have idle time. If the idle time is excessive, it probably means there is a problem somewhere else in the organisation that needs to be fixed. Deal with the root cause, not the symptom!

Ultimately we have to forget about the resource efficiency and focus on flow efficiency. We can often see this in our normal working lives. We have some processes we know are going to take weeks to complete. Then there is a “Priority 1” incident that means we need to complete something ASAP. The P1 instantly aligns every team giving them the same priorities, and we race through and complete the work in a few hours. Once the P1 is over, every person goes back to their silo, with their differing priorities, and the process returns to taking weeks to complete again. We have proved it can be done in hours, but because of politics and the internal company organization, fast never becomes the norm.

Conclusion

I thought it was interesting that the term efficiency paradox came up in three different contexts in the space of a few days, so I thought I would write about it. The important point is that in all three cases people are often making incorrect assumptions about efficiency. People are doing things that they think will improving efficiency, but it is not having the desired result.

Cheers

Tim…

Life Update : Dude, what’s wrong with your face?

I just thought I would give people a quick update on what has been happening to my face recently. If you’re eating, you might want to save this post for later…

My family has skin that is very sensitive to sun damage. My mom used to have a darker complexion, but the rest of us are/were really pale skinned. My mom had skin cancer when I was a teenager, so from that point onward I’ve been pretty careful about my sun exposure. Since then every member of the family has had some sort of skin cancer. There are several types of skin cancer. Some are bad. Some are not so bad. My mom had the bad sort, recovered, then later got the not so bad sort. She’s still fine. My sister died of the bad sort. Both my brother and dad had treatments for skin cancer, but with no major drama.

Since my sister’s death in 2011 I go to get checked pretty regularly. It’s good to find this stuff early. Towards the end of last year I went for a check up and was told I’ve joined the family tradition. Luckily it’s not the life threatening sort of skin cancer. πŸ™‚

Procedure 1

In December I had the first procedure to remove some skin from the right side of my face and get a biopsy on the left side, which wasn’t so well defined. The biopsy came back positive, so at the start of the new year I had the second procedure to remove some skin from the left side of my face. The second procedure was a bit more complicated, but it actually ended up with less scaring. Happy days…

Procedure 2

After that I had to wait a couple of months for things to heal, then it was on to the final procedure, which was effectively a skin peel. You put chemo therapy cream on your face twice a day for 4 weeks, and anything that is cancerous or pre-cancerous gets burnt off. The pictures below were from a couple of days before I finished the treatment. You can see there wasn’t a lot of good skin left on my face after the 4 weeks. πŸ™‚

Procedure 3 : after 4 weeks

It’s about two weeks since the treatment finished, so things are starting to calm down a bit. For the first week most of my face had a really fine scab on it, that kept flaking off and being replaced. It felt a bit like really bad sunburn. By the end of the second week the scabs had gone, but I still have some peeling from time to time. The skin looks OK now, but it’s still a bit red and I’m having to moisturize like it’s going out of fashion. I’m so pale so I think it’s going to take a few weeks to look totally normal again.

Procedure 3 : after 4 weeks

A few people in the community already know what has been going on. I turned down some online conference spots, and I felt obliged to explain why.

I don’t go out a lot anyway, so it hasn’t been that much of a problem. It’s a bit embarrassing going out food shopping with a hat, mask and my collar up to cover my neck. I look like I’m going in to rob the place. πŸ™‚

Procedure 3 : after 4 weeks

Anyway, that’s my little bit of drama. By the time any of you see me in public my skin should look normal again, and I’m guessing you probably won’t even notice the scars from the bits that have been chopped off. If you do, I’ll probably say it was from a fight with a crocodile or something cool like that…

Cheers

Tim…

Update: It’s nearly 2 months later and I’ve just had another consultation. I’m all clear now, so I don’t have to go back to see them for a couple of years. There is still some discolouration, but only because my skin is so pale. That will fade over the coming months. Happy days. πŸ™‚

Chasing an Audience

I’ve touched on this subject in my writing tips and public speaking tips, but I wanted to elaborate a little, so here goes…

If you are creating content, at some level you want people to see that content. I always say I write for myself, and I do, because I have a terrible memory and I like to be able to reconnect with a subject. The best way I know how to do that is to take notes that I can refer back to later. Having said that, 22 years ago I made the choice to make my notes available on the internet, and so some part of me wanted people to read them. If not, I would have password protected them…

So what do you create content about?

This is where we get on to the subject of chasing an audience. I always say you should write about what is important to you. I think that’s the only way you can sustain any level of output for a prolonged period of time. Over the last 22 years I’ve seen many people come and go. Many! If you happen to be producing content that has mass appeal, you may well get a lot of readers and followers. If you are producing content on a niche topic, the likelihood is your base of followers will be smaller. I figure that should be obvious. Either way, you should do what you care about.

Are you pleasing your audience?

Even when you have built up an audience, not everything you produce will resonate with them. My website is predominantly known for Oracle DBA, SQL and PL/SQL articles, but in my day job I’m an allrounder. I have articles on the website about a range of things including general Linux topics, Terraform, Ansible and Containers. Invariably anything I produce that is not about core Oracle technologies performs really badly in terms of hits/views. A good example of that is my recent run of 10 videos about Ansible (YouTube playlist). From a views perspective is was a disaster. πŸ™‚ I can’t lie and say that’s not a bit disappointing, but if I’m honest I knew it wouldn’t go well. It’s not what I’m known for, and it’s not a subject a lot of my core audience care about that much.

The important point is I wanted to make those videos, so from that perspective I achieved what I set out to do. Was it good for my core audience? No. Do I care? No. πŸ™‚

I think you have to cut yourself some slack and understand not everything you produce will strike a chord. That’s fine. Don’t sweat it…

Does your audience span multiple platforms?

When I started my YouTube channel I figured I would get loads of subscribers and views because my website was so popular. I very quickly found out that was not the case. Most of my core audience don’t really care about watching videos on Oracle topics. Sure there is some crossover, but not that much. If I compare the stats for an article and a video on the same subject, the article out-performs the video by several orders of magnitude. I’ve pretty much had to build my YouTube following from scratch.

If you are producing content on multiple platforms, don’t stress about this. You will always have some platforms that work better for your content than others. If you enjoy pushing content to multiple platforms, do it. If not, stick with the ones you are happiest with, even if they aren’t the best performing…

Controversy sells, but…

I’ve said this numerous times before. If I blow my stack in a blog post, or on Twitter, it’s easy to get a lot of attention. On several occasions I’ve written negative posts about Oracle and had people reach out to me from the press for a quote. They love that “Oracle fanboy attacks Oracle” angle. Controversy sells, but the attention from controversy is fleeting. You’ve either got to keep doubling down on things and getting more extreme, or you will lose that attention.

Personally I think it’s important for the message to remain positive. I made a decision many years ago that I would try to keep my main website free from opinions, but allow myself some more latitude on the blog. I often say the website is for facts. The blog is for bullshit. πŸ™‚

I do throw in some clickbait, like “The Death of the DBA” type articles, from time to time, but that’s because I think people are sleeping on a subject and I want to give them a kick. I don’t want people to wake up one morning and realise they’ve been left behind. So I could argue this type of “negativity” is done for a positive reason…

It’s not for me to tell you what you should write about, but I think you need to consider if you are looking for a viral moment, or something more sustained. I don’t think controversy is sustainable.

What about professional content creators?

If your job is being a content creator, you are going to have a lot more invested in pleasing an audience. If nobody is reading or watching your stuff, you aren’t going to get paid. You’ve got to look for subjects that pay the bills. I understand that, and this post is not really directed at you. πŸ™‚

Conclusion

Some people may join in for the ride. Some people won’t be interested. Ultimately it doesn’t really matter. You do you! πŸ™‚

Cheers

Tim…

Happy Holidays and Cameos Video – Vol 5

I probably won’t put out another post until the new year, so I’ll take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy holiday period, and I hope things will get better for everyone next year!

You may know I have a YouTube channel, and I include cameos of people saying “dot com” at the start of every video. Every now and then I put out a compilation of those clips, and here is volume 5, made up of the clips I used over this this last year.

Thanks to everyone who got involved. These clips are my favourite bit of the videos. πŸ™‚

Stay safe, and see you next year!

Cheers

Tim…

Stagnation : Population Me!

This is a bit of a life update. As you will have seen from the title, I’m living in a town called stagnation at the moment…

Work

When I read Accelerate there were several mentions of bringing joy to developers. I’m not sure I had thought about it before, but I realised my job does not bring me joy. In fact, it’s the polar opposite of joy. One of the problems with being capable is you get dragged into all sorts of stuff that you don’t really care about. You end up spending loads of time doing things that you are crap at, because your “crap” is better than other people’s “good”…

What’s worse, you have so little time to do things you are good at, you end up doing a crap job of those things, which is really frustrating. It doesn’t matter what people think, when you know you are capable of more it’s depressing. There is no joy here!

So why don’t I just leave? I don’t even need to work, so the sensible option is to just walk away, but that comes with its own set of issues. As with everything in life there is a balance. Clearly at the moment the balance is in favour of not walking out, or I would have done it already, but I’m not sure how much longer things will remain that way.

The biggest issue is I don’t know what I want to do with my life. I can do pretty much anything, but what? If I knew what I wanted to do, I would do it.

As a result of this, I’m permanently set to “Angry Mode”, which isn’t really good for me or anyone else.

I guess the only positive is I’m working from home, so I can scream and swear at the wall, rather than doing it to people’s faces!

Website, Blog and YouTube

The website is business as usual. I write what I want to write, when I want to write. Similar with videos on YouTube. I’ve dropped back to one video every two weeks, because I’m running short on inspiration, so I’m rationing the topics I have in the pipeline to keep somewhat of a regular schedule.

The blog has been relatively quiet of late. There hasn’t been a lot I’ve been willing to say publicly. I don’t want to keep dumping out negativity, so I’ve chosen to stay silent most of the time. I’m sure if my mood changes, there will be an uptick in positive thoughts and the content will flow again. Blogging is more about headspace than anything, and I’m not in the right headspace at the moment.

Presenting

I don’t. I’m not sure if this is a permanent situation or not. Currently I’m turning down all offers. If I change my mind, so be it. If I don’t, that is good too.

Life

As you know, I have no life, so I guess it’s same old, same old…

Cheers

Tim…

Working From Home : Again

I just read this article on Wired.

I’ve written about my thoughts on working from home here, but I’m going to have a little rant…

I keep expressing my opinions in meetings, but I’m often countered by various points, which I think are flawed, but I want respond to here.

It’s not healthy to be remote all the time

I tell you what’s also not healthy. Making people go to the office when they don’t want to! Making people do crappy commutes that drain their souls. Making people waste several hours of their day, when they could be doing other things that more positively affect their wellbeing.

If people feel more healthy working from the office, they should work from the office. If they would prefer not to, they should be allowed to make that choice. You can’t use the “healthy” argument in favour of one stance and ignore the “healthy” argument for the other.

Some staff can’t work remotely

No shit Sherlock! I don’t expect an ER doctor to get approval to work from home when all the patients are waiting to be seen in the ER. If a job role is customer facing, then clearly working from home is not an option, but many people in organisations are not customer facing, myself being one of them.

Some people can’t work from home because they don’t have a suitable work space. Those people either have to work from the office, or move house to a place with a suitable work space. You can’t stop other people working from home because Billy lives in a bedsit with his wife and 3 kids…

We don’t want 100% remote work

Fine. I’ll come in for 1 hour a year. Thanks.

Having arbitrary quotas is wrong. It should be based on the person and the role. Remember, I’m not demanding you work from home. I’m saying I want to!

We need to bond as a team

I don’t touch people at work. My bonding is done equally well on a video call. If you want me to “bond with the team”, you can start off by getting rid of all the idiots I dislike, and the people who are not pulling their weight.

This argument is even more flawed when companies agree to working 2-3 days from home. Are you even going to see members of your team on the days you choose to be in? Does the whole team have to be in on the same days? How does that work with hot-desking and space saving? I think this is a weak argument.

We need to do workshops and brain storming meetings in person

Sometimes this is true. Sometimes it’s not. The vast majority of meetings are unproductive, with people wasting time walking between buildings to achieve nothing. It’s actually a lot more efficient to use tools like Zoom or Teams…

I don’t think many people would argue with coming into the office for a specific event if it actually added value, but that is not the same as discussing the same old rubbish for hours on end, that nobody is going to own or progress.

I’m also irritated by people complaining of back-to-back meetings with no breaks. Either don’t accept them, or switch to a 45 minute meeting format. You know you just spend the first 10 minutes waiting for people to turn up anyway. This is another example of a dysfunctional business practice being used to argue the point.

People are scared from a health perspective of returning to the office, we need to show them it is ok

Is anyone else thinking of the scene in Jaws where the Mayor is forcing people into the water to “prove” it is safe? In my company we’ve had several “back to the office” pushes, that have ultimately been cancelled due to new lockdown restrictions. I am not surprised people are worried. I believe they should be.

Me not being in the office makes the office a safer place, because there is one less person who could transmit a virus. I’m happy to work from home, so there is no need to thank me for the service I’m am doing to office health!

People will be lazy

Well, the evidence seems to counter that argument. My own boss has seen an uptick in productivity since we’ve worked from home. So you want us to come back to the office so our team can get less work done?

I covered the flaws in this argument in this post. Suffice to say, if a manager thinks this, it just shows they are a rubbish manager, who manages by presence checking, not actual work done. Grow up!

Conclusion

I know I’m going to get some responses from people saying their preferences, and I would just like you to remember, they are “your preferences”! I would just like to reiterate the following.

  • These are my opinions.
  • I am not forcing everyone to work from home. I am pro-choice in this matter.
  • If you think differently, that is fine, but it doesn’t negate my feelings on this matter!

Cheers

Tim…

You’ve got to learn to walk before you can run!

This is going to be a rant. If you are not into reading rants, please don’t continue.

I put out a tweet yesterday that said this.

“I’m so done. People can’t follow basic instructions, but expect to jump straight into building something complex on day one, then expect me to help when it inevitably goes wrong. You’ve got to learn to walk before you can run!”

I’ve had a few incidents recently that have nearly brought me to breaking point.

  • Someone wanted to install an Oracle database on Linux, but didn’t even know what an environment variable was. They claimed to have Linux experience, but literally couldn’t grasp what it meant to set or reference an environment variable, even when it was on the page in front of them.
  • Someone was “following” one of my installation guides, and said it was well written and easy to read, but wanted a step-by-step breakdown of what they had to do. What? I know I’m not perfect, but that is literally what the article was.
  • Someone else seemed incapable of pasting code into a shell. Having said they were doing exactly what was in my article, it became clear they were doing nothing of the sort.

These are just three incidents, but they are the tip of the iceberg.

Back in the day there used to be a forum on my website, but I closed it down because I was wasting loads of my time trying to help people, who had no intention of helping themselves. I wrote some posts about it over the years.

Over the years I’ve had several discussions about this with other members of the community. I know this happens a lot to everyone.

Part of me feels really bad, because I’m supposed to be this community guy, but I really can’t cope with people who have not even tried to get some basic skills under their belt before launching into something more complicated. I’m sorry, but if you’ve never seen Linux before, you probably shouldn’t be trying to install Oracle RAC on it. If you’ve never installed a database before, you probably shouldn’t be thinking about installing Cloud Control.

How many people turned up to the Olympics this year with no previous experience and took home a medal? How many people sit university final exams without ever studying the subject before? It sounds bloody stupid right? Yet people expect to do complex tech stuff without any grounding in basic skills.

I don’t know if these people are delusional. I don’t know if their boss is an idiot, and asking them to do something that is clearly beyond their capabilities. I feel sorry for them if they are under pressure to do this, but I can’t work miracles, and I’m not being paid to do their job for them. Simple as that.

I look at my website stats and I’m clearly helping a large number of people, so I think I’m doing my share already. Sorry, but not sorry!

Cheers

Tim…

The Death of Critical Thinking

I’m repeatedly getting into exchanges with people who seem to be incapable of critical thinking. Here is a quote from the Wikipedia definition of Critical Thinking.

Critical thinking calls for the ability to:

  • Recognize problems, to find workable means for meeting those problems
  • Understand the importance of prioritization and order of precedence in problem-solving
  • Gather and marshal pertinent (relevant) information
  • Recognize unstated assumptions and values
  • Comprehend and use language with accuracy, clarity, and discernment
  • Interpret data, to appraise evidence and evaluate arguments
  • Recognize the existence (or non-existence) of logical relationships between propositions
  • Draw warranted conclusions and generalizations
  • Put to test the conclusions and generalizations at which one arrives
  • Reconstruct one’s patterns of beliefs on the basis of wider experience
  • Render accurate judgments about specific things and qualities in everyday life

They are all important points, but there are some bits that jump out at me. I could write about all of them, but that would get a bit boring, and these are the bits people seem to really struggle with.

Gather and marshal pertinent (relevant) information

It’s surprising how many people don’t go back to the source material, and are happy to rely on someone’s interpretation of it. That’s problematic, as people often focus on what they think is important, and have a habit of conveniently forgetting about material that contradicts their view point. You can twist almost anything to agree with your perspective if you carefully omit some of the content and context of the source material.

It’s important you check the source material to make sure it actually exists. In a recent interaction someone was using a quote by a university professor in support of their argument. I checked on the professor in question, and they did indeed say those words, but they were citing sources that did not exist. The professor’s statements were pure fabrication, and they’ve subsequently been removed from student interactions. I suspect they will lose their job at some point. It’s not good when scientists openly lie…

You also have to consider the source of the information. Is the person really qualified to be speaking about the issue in question? That can be quite difficult to determine for some people. If we were talking about cancer, a doctor would be the correct person right? Well, I would take the opinion of an oncologist over my general practitioner any day of the week. When discussing a virus, would you take the opinion of a doctor (unspecified discipline) over a virologist or immunologist? It’s easy to be fooled into thinking someone is a credible source, when they may have lots of qualifications, but in the wrong field. I have a PhD in genetic engineering, so I’m a doctor, but you probably shouldn’t ask me for gynaecology advice. πŸ™‚

Gathering the pertinent information does not mean finding the one paper or person that agrees with your point of view. You should consider the available information as a whole, not cherry pick what suits you.

Recognize unstated assumptions and values

Ultimately, you need to go back to the source material, and then look for unstated assumptions and values in that. You might for example assume a bias if the writer is employed by a specific company, or has a long history of pushing a certain message. You can’t totally discount this information, but you do need to take that context into account when coming to any conclusion about it.

When you start using “second hand evidence” this gets really tricky because you can lose some of the original content and context. We all come with our own set of biases, whether conscious or unconscious. If I suspect someone has a strong bias in favour of a specific stance, I am less likely to listen to their interpretation of the source material, because I’m expecting their bias to influence their interpretation. If I see something that reads as a balanced argument, I will usually give it more weight. That could still be a mistake, as it is not the source material. I may still be getting fooled.

Comprehend and use language with accuracy, clarity, and discernment

People often quote scientific papers as a means to justify their point. When you check the source material, it’s clear the person in question has totally misunderstood it. Scientific papers can be quite difficult to read. Different disciplines use language differently, and it’s easy to get the wrong end of the stick. That’s why it is super important you have more than a passing understanding of the subject matter before you launch into reading scientific papers. You need to be able to question your own understanding of what you are reading, to confirm you really do understand it. Even an abstract for a paper can be quite misleading when taken out of context.

As you read more source material, you will get a better feeling for the language used, and you will also be able to go back and check your previous understanding of things you’ve read. This is why it’s really problematic if a newbie reads a single paper and decides that is definitive proof of their opinion.

Interpret data, to appraise evidence and evaluate arguments

The process of appraising evidence is really important. It comes back to the point about source material verses other people’s interpretations. The source material could be considered the highest quality, but it will include outliers. Meta-analysis is often considered superior, as it reduces the importance of outliers. Most information on the internet is not source material. It is many layers divorced from the source material. Using a news story, blog post or tweet as part of your data set could be seriously skewing your results because of the volume of content written by unqualified people.

The weight of evidence has to be taken into account. If 99% of the quality material says X and 1% says Y, it would be a brave person who assumes that Y must be the correct answer. There is a thing called consensus. A conclusion has been made by a group of qualified people based on the body of evidence as a whole, not just a couple of outliers. Remember what I said about meta-analysis.

Consensus can change over time. As more information is gathered, the weight of the evidence may change. It’s perfectly fine to find out what you believed is wrong. You made the best judgement you could using the information at your disposal. As more and better quality information arrives, it needs to be evaluated, which could in turn alter the consensus.

Reconstruct one’s patterns of beliefs on the basis of wider experience

What I believe today may not be what I believe tomorrow. Today I side with the consensus. I am willing to adapt as that consensus changes, based on new information.

I don’t just fall in line with the opinion of a specific spokesperson. They have their own beliefs and biases. It is the underlying consensus that matters to me.

Cheers

Tim…

PS. I’m not trying to make out I’m the boss or gatekeeper of critical thinking. We all jump to conclusions based on little evidence from time to time. You’ve just got to get enough self-awareness to notice you are doing it, or accept you’ve done it when someone challenges you on it.

Working From Home : Here come the hit pieces!

At the start of lockdown there seemed to be story after story extolling the virtues of working from home. There was the odd smattering of people concerned about the mental health of workers, but most of what I saw seemed to be talking about working from home being the new normal. I was fine with that as I like working from home, but I know it doesn’t suit everyone.

Now that we in the UK are starting to ease lockdown restrictions, I see more stories about companies who are pushing to get everyone back in the office, or telling us how bad working from home is for us.

Why?

It feels like something dodgy is going on here, and here are two possible explanations.

  • Companies never really had any intentions of making working from home the new normal, but were telling us they were to try and get us into that frame of mind, so we didn’t make any waves. Now they see the “light at the end of the tunnel”, they are starting the reverse campaign, trying to convince us being in the office is best for us.
  • Companies thought working from home would work, but found out it didn’t, and want to return to the more productive state.

I know which one I think it is! Here’s a clue. The first one! I’m sure there are some companies or roles where a face to face is better, but I’m sure much of that is due to them not embracing technology and not understanding how to address their issues.

But what do people really want?

During the initial part of lockdown I often felt like a lone dissenting voice at staff briefings when I expressed my preference to work from home. Much later we did a staff survey where the vast majority of people said they would like to work at least some of the time from home. A more flexible approach to work you might say.

I think the reality is there are some people who are desperate to get back to the office, some people who are dreading it, and some people who want a mix of the two.

My own company had a very backward attitude to flexible working. It was all over the website that flexible working was a thing, but when you tried to do it there were roadblocks. There was always a “good reason” why it was a bad idea.

Over the course of lockdown there have been waves of softening and hardening of attitudes to this, but I find myself in a position where today I’m signing a petition to encourage my employer to take flexible working seriously. Several hundred other people clearly aren’t confident the current attitudes to flexible working will remain once we are out of lockdown. This despite the results of the staff survey, and numerous reports of benefits of flexible working…

So what do you want?

I want employers to understand there is a spectrum of attitudes towards working from home, and they should accommodate that. If you want to get the best out of your people, you’ve got to put them in a position to excel. Forcing undesirable working arrangements on people will result in a long term negative. Acceptance of flexible working arrangements seems the only sensible way forward to me.

But what about X?

I see so many excuses about why working from home is bad, and to be quite honest most of them are clearly bullshit.

People will be lazy and slack off. If you have no real measure of productivity, then you are a bad manager/company. If you do have a real measure of productivity, then you will know if someone is slacking off or not, and you should deal with them accordingly. I’m guessing those same people will be slacking off in the office too! Being physically present in an office is not going to make a lazy person into a productivity fiend.

It makes meetings hard. Oh FFS, there are so many ways to make meetings more efficient, the main one being don’t have so many meetings in the first place. I can’t tell you how often I’m invited to meetings with no agenda, which result in no real action points. Most of the time they could be replaced with one email saying, “This is what we plan to do. Shout up if you think that’s a bad idea or have any questions.” There is an obsession with meeting culture. For some people, their role is 90% meetings. Maybe that’s necessary for them, but it doesn’t mean it’s the same for all of us, and it doesn’t mean that we can’t cope really easily with online meetings.

What’s going to happen?

I don’t know. What I do know is after working from home for over a year, many people have a rose coloured view of working in the office. Once they start having to commute again, wasting hours of their day, wasting lots of money, and having to deal with “that annoying prick” face to face again, some will think about how things were in the good old days of lockdown…

What’s my preference?

If someone gave me the option of 100% from home or 100% from the office, I would pick 100% home. I’m not totally sure how I feel about a mix. I think it’s a bad idea and I would like to be 100% working from home, but maybe my mind would change after a little time in the office. What I do know is if my company push hard for 100% office-based work, or even a majority of time, I am not going to be happy.

I’m happy to hear other opinions, but remember your opinion is not shared by everyone. I’m expressing my opinion. I’m not assuming the world agrees with me. You are entitled to be wrong. πŸ™‚ That was a joke!

Cheers

Tim…