Resource Allocation: Race or Rate?

I was recently in a review with a team that was asking for additional resources. I strongly agreed that this team needed more resources but when I listened the case they made, I was not convinced. I thought I would share with you the coaching that I gave them.

Successful communications is all about what is heard, not what is said.  In order for the message you want to send to be heard correctly, you need to speak into someone’s listening. That is to say, the conceptual model that people have in their head is what defines what they are able to hear. You need to understand someone’s conceptual model and craft your communication accordingly. If you make case for additional resources that does not fit an executives conceptual model, they won’t hear your argument and you won’t succeed.

How do executives think about resource allocation?

Good executives think about resource allocation as Race or Rate?.  For any project, you are either in a race or your are making progress at a rate.  In a race, there is typically a time period where at the end, there is a winner and a loser.  When an executive decides that they are in a race, they allocate whatever resources are required to win.  You encounter few true races.  Most projects fall into the rate category – you are working towards a set of objectives and making progress at a particular rate. For the vast majority of projects, the only question is whether the rate of progress is appropriate.

The project under review had done a good job year after year and now were asking for additional resources.  It was clear that this would not get funded because they were not in a race and they did not make the case for why the rate of progress needed to be accelerated.

Now that they understand how executives think about resource allocation (Race or Rate?), they are getting crisp about their argument. When I drilled into their case, what they were really saying was while the rate of progress has been good, the competition is getting better faster than we are. Success is not assured. They need to gather the data to support their hypothesis but they are now on the path to make an argument that executives will hear and understand.

If you want to have effective communications, understand the conceptual model of the person you are communicating with and craft your argument so that you speak into their listening.

Identifying Problems

Problems, like the poor, are with us always.  The trick is what to do about them.  I recently told my boss about a previous job where someone had resigned and during the exit interview, they cited a particular problem as the reason for leaving. Had I known about the problem, I would have happily addressed it but I didn’t know about it until the person was leaving the company.  The lesson is:

People can only solve the problems they know about.

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Evolution of a Script: Timing Operations

I just love PowerShell!  One of the things I love the most about it is that you can pick the level of programming you want, write a script and then evolve it to meet whatever need you have.  Sometimes you want something quick and dirty and other times you want something you’ll share with others and then other times you want something that is going to be used in production. Continue reading

On Heroes

Technology heroes are always difficult subject.  As an engineering manager, I remember the first time I participated in a “life boat” drill where you have to produce a stack rank of your engineers.  Someone explained the process saying, “The task is to figure out if you had to throw out one person from a lifeboat, who it would be?  After you figure that out, then you decide who would the next one be, etc. until you have a fully ordered list.”  I chewed on that a bit and asked, “How many people are going to be left in the lifeboat?”  When they asked me why, I replied “Because if there is only one person left in the lifeboat, it would be Mark but if there was more than one person left, Mark would be the first one I’d throw out.”  Mark was a technical hero.  Able to accomplish a great deal but at a great cost to the the organization. Continue reading

Iranian Drone Hack and Technical Debt

This week I read the story about how Iran hacked and captured one of our most sophisticated military drones. It struck me that this was an excellent example of the potentially disastrous ramifications of ignoring technical debt.  It appears that the potential to spoof GPS was known and ignored for many years.  Acknowledging and managing technical debt is an issue that separates the whiz kids from the graybeards in the tech industry.  Let me start by saying that a military boof-a-rama of this magnitude is, by necessity, going to be followed up with multiple misinformation campaigns so I doubt we’ll really know what really happened for a few decades.  Nevertheless it provides a teachable moment for us so let’s explore this topic. Continue reading

Days Till Xmas

This morning my daughter asked my wife how many days there were until Christmas. That conversation didn’t go so well.  🙂   Seriously though, this year things started super early.  The local store started selling Christmas stuff before Halloween and a couple of weeks ago our neighbors put up their Christmas lights.  I can understand why my daughter is getting whipped up into an Christmas frenzy.  That said, as my wife contemplates a big day of effort for Thanksgiving, I can understand why questions about Christmas are not welcome. Continue reading

On Rumors

I often get people asking about this or that rumor.  Invariably my response is, “I’m sure it is true but I wouldn’t worry about it”.  This blog explains that perspective and has nothing to do with any specific rumor.  I hope it will help reduce your anxiety the next time you find yourself confronted with a wave of rumors. Continue reading