Coping: Is Your Boss an Idiot?

Some discussion about the joys of Structured Thinking seems like a fitting end to the week.

Been chatting back and forth with a long-time reader in what will turn into a Peoplenomics report this week: The Topic is Retirement: Should I Go or Should I stay?

Got my tax bill advance in the mail this week: $750 for the year. Can’t grouse about that. Staying in the woods (at these prices anyway) makes sense.

While chatting with this reader – and following on to Thursday’s “What Gets Measured Gets Done” column, I thought it would be useful to have a short discussion about the intelligence of your boss, and in turn, the intelligence of your company. And of course, you.

Thinking skills are totally under-rated in today’s world. People don’t like to think, near as can figure, because structured thinking is a lot of work.

No, sitting around, sucking down a beer and passing a bowl, is not structured thinking. That is a different process called “Blue Skying.” It is only a subset of structured thinking.

Structured Thinking can be arranged any number of ways, but the gist of it falls into the category of process design.

Let’s say you have a terribly complicated question like where to retire and do I keep my business, or sell it?

Not a simple question, for sure.

So in the conversation (long emails back and forth) we kick through some ideas, I ask questions, and even offer my client book about how sales and marketing gets done. The how doesn’t matter so much as the whole Measure and Learn from the Numbers that is wrapped up in it.

Structured Thinking involves beginning with process before even really thinking at all about the specifics of the question.

One of the best examples EVER was Apollo-13. The question wasn’t so much Can we get to the Moon. The question was “How do we get back and what can we do with the parts on hand.

Loved the story and the concept.

Yeah, getting to the moon was bitchin’ cool and all, but Apollo-13, that was best of all. It taught oceans and gobs about the American “can do” mindset. In the end, it’s one of two or three key values that we have sadly decided to scrap as a country without putting anything even half as worthy in its place.

Too young to remember it?

“Apollo 13 was the seventh manned mission in the American Apollo space program and the third intended to land on the Moon. The craft was launched on April 11, 1970, at 13:13 CST from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, but the lunar landing was aborted after an oxygen tank exploded two days later, crippling the Service Module (SM) upon which the Command Module (CM) depended. Despite great hardship caused by limited power, loss of cabin heat, shortage of potable water, and the critical need to make makeshift repairs to the carbon dioxide removal system, the crew returned safely to Earth on April 17.”

The movie was awesome and one of the few times Hollywood actually got something right.

Now, that’s the up side of America.

Which of the two candidates do you heart of heart think you would want in Mission Control during that? I will table that as being a question for you and God to work out.

But I will tell you that Structured Thinking is the stuff of legend and genius.

Most of the time, any problem in Life can be approached with it.

Steps I like include:

1.Problem definition. A very simple statement of “What are we trying to solve here?”

2.Goldilocks the problem. Remember the three bears? One said the porridge was too hot, one too cold, and one was just right. Gold plated shovels may be over the top, but a rusted out one undershoots. Which is why Frederick Winslow Taylor found 22.5 pounds per shovel full allowed an average working man in good shape to move the most raw material in an 8-10 hour shift in the steel mills. Father of time and motion studies.

3.Weight and Scoring method. This is where, before even getting into the problem solving, we think through what will be the stastistical method (say STQM, lol) by which we will score the answers we get? In other words, if we get the right answer, how would we score it so it really stands out?

4.Blue Sky All Possible Answers. We talked about this. This is where you list every option you can think of. If done with a smoke or a beer, might want to wait 8-hours before the next step.

5.Apply Scoring. Each of the Blue Sky options is in there. Score each.

6.Pick and Commit. The best score. That is what you are after. Take the best data you can get, do the scoring and go with what works.

If you have your “big girl/boy pants” on, this is called management science.

Now for the fun part.

How would you answer the question: Is my boss an idiot?

You know the steps and it should become quickly apparent that your boss (and the whole company for that matter) are idiots or geniuses.

I often offend people by trying to get black and white on evaluations of important business tactical questions like these. Reason? Wishy-wash kills: Kills time, kills resource, kills through opportunity cost. Often a quickly made decision – one you’ve committed to – will have a better outcome even when wrong that one no one has signed up for.

Which gets us to the Friday for the hell of it:

Apply scoring and method to yourself every night over a cold beverage. Vow to do better tomorrow.

Start on a Friday, and remember you have a weekend and if you don’t hav e two jobs already, this is an excellent time to hire yourself, find worthy tasks (and Pokémon births aren’t on the list) so you can definitively answer the question Monday Morning:

“No, my boss is not an idiot.”

When you own your own life you are your own boss. The sooner people learn that and start acting as co-owners of their own employers, and Ico-owners of our own government, the sooner we can get out of this screwed up craphole we’ve descended into.

See you Monday….. Where to Play the End Game is on tap for Peoplenomics readers tomorrow. Gentle reading after our Wednesday nightmare…but like hamburger joint said “You deserve a break today” and we have much antenna work to get done.

And yeah…a retired Major and a business process fanatic…should be an interesting weekend, indeed.

Drop by Monday:  Re-engineering prepper’s canned food is “on the menu.”

Write when you get rich,

6 thoughts on “Coping: Is Your Boss an Idiot?”

  1. Lol. Had emailed you yesterday to see if we could arrange a meeting next month – this fits quite well with the issue that I/we would be bringing to the table. Cannot tell you the exact number of times I’ve read your column and wondered how you managed to get a stenographer on site who also read minds while looking over my shoulder…

  2. Here is a project for somebody to look at this weekend, even if they are rained in, or too banged up to do manual labor.

    Search “McDougall diet”. It might save you $500 a month on groceries, which is like having a rent house with no tenants, taxes, maintenance etc. And the groceries are mainly shelf stable.

    Executive summary: Dr McDougall was the doc for a Hawaii sugar plantation with 6000 residents, mostly Asians. He noticed that those raised in Asia were much healthier than their American descendants living under the same roof, and each generation was fatter and sicker. So he looked at their diet, etc. and was shocked that the ones from Asia ate at least 80% of their calories as starch, and had very little added. Fat or meat. Americans were about opposite.

    50 years later he has clinics where people live in for a couple weeks, eating at all you can eat buffets which match the starch levels above. Typically, they lose half a pound a day, get off blood pressure meds and reduce or eliminate diabetes symptoms.

    So I tried it for 10 days, so far. 9 lbs. lost. Never hungry, even cooking steaks for others. I had a grilled portobello instead, which really tastes good in a burger with everything but mayo and cheese, btw. Startlingly cheap. And potatoes can be grown almost anywhere, in barrrels. And as far as prepping goes, do the math. 25 pounds of premium jasmine rice is $20 at our Asian grocery. Try and eat more than a pound a day.

    I think McDougall is a bit messianic about vegetarianism, saving the planet, etc., but his base point is that humans have 6 copies of the gene for digesting starch, where other mammals have two or less. So we are satiated by starch, because we are designed to eat it.

    I have noticed that adding some fat to a meal with starch greatly increases my hunger, during the meal. I also noticed that potatoes, rice, bread, etc. taste great by themselves, with simple things like salt and pepper.

    Anyway, rice, flour, pasta, and potatoes are really cheap, and most store easily with added bay leaves. What have you got to lose? At least you can look at the peer reviewed data.

    And yes, I have been consuming alcohol during this experiment.

    • There’s definitely truth here, though individual variation exceeds by far what most people imagine. Some people need meat in their diet, others are helped by eggs or raw vegetables. An important point is that most Asians cook from scratch from good food stock. Most Americans either microwave, eat out, or eat pre-prepared frozen food, often due to their underplanned and overworked lifestyles.

      Couples eat far better than those who aspire to be couples. That’s a given, since finding a proper mate is terribly time consuming.

  3. My Boss? Stand up guy. His Boss? Paranoid Incompetent Micro Manager (PIMM). The Ventriloquists Dummy. Calls the next higher level sociopath to ask every question asked of her, hence Dummy status. The Ventriloquist is completely disconnected from the operation and can’t be bothered to insist that the Dummy be engaged, or engage himself. Interviewing at a different company next week.

  4. ‘You know’ there is a high probability that one’s boss is an ‘idiot’. Even if your boss is intelligent, in a structured environment, their boss might well be clueless, and not know a whole lot, meaning that they don’t know how to react in a crisis. I would love to say that this was not common, but I have in the course of my working life run into a slew people who were close-minded and very reactionary – good luck!

  5. I worked in a manufacturing plant.. a big one.. lots of money turned hands.. there was an idiot.. His job was to cart supplies back and forth to one of the machines.. the ceo and vice managed the work force at the time.. the idiot couldn’t use a tape measure and had great difficulty doing his job with the supplies for the machine.. One day the maintenance man went to work on a piece of equipment a ventilator that was well over thirty feet above the floor.. management came in seen the haze in the air and instructed someone to turn on the ventilator..
    It came on flipping the maintenance man to the concrete below.. he was in intensive care for months totally in a coma and when he came out of it.. he was dissabled.. the lawyers had a hay day with the company the maintenance man ended up becoming quite wealthy.. he had to have twenty four hour care and those running his affairs ended up buying a big place just to take care of him..
    anyway.. because of that.. the guy that was inept at his job was called into the office and told he was the new plant manager.. that their instructions would go down to him.. but he would be the one to make sure they got done..
    so yup.. my boss was an idiot.. LOL

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