Coping: Millennial’s Book 2: [keyword: Process]

(book title then article begins if graphics are down)


Reader Note: If you are just catching on, each Thursday we’re are doing a chapter each week of a book I’m writing for Millennials – teaching the insights that will (hopefully!) allow them to live long and prosper – and be around to clean up after us Old People who made a mess of getting civilization this far.

There are three sections to each chapter. Something you can read to children, a general reader part, and the advanced/business section.

We pick up with morning like so…

We established in the first chapter that there is Recipe for everything we do.

Today, we will establish that everything is also rolls as a PROCESS.

The Baker’s Nightmare: A Tale of Process

Once upon a time, in a land far away, Tom the Royal Baker we met in Chapter 1, was having a jolly time.

Ever since becoming the Royal Baker, his life had been soaring. He was given a fine new horse to ride and a gold-leaf sign saying “Baker to the King.” He had gotten a raise and with more money and better clothing, people were starting to look at him with a new kind of respect. He was living large.

Until this particular Thursday.

As always, Tom was baking the King’s bread. A man approached him, looking like a ruffian. He was accompanied by two dangerous-looking men who were carrying clubs.

Unrolling a scroll he was carrying, the first ruffian read as follows:

“By order of the government, you are required to extinguish that fire because it is causing air pollution and that is illegal. Persons found creating pollution will be arrested and thrown in the Royal Dungeon!”

With that, the two other ruffians grabbed the helpless Tom and kick out his fire with dirt and in the process, they also destroyed the day’s bread Tom had been baking for the King.

Tom was taken back to the castle where he was thrown in jail by the self-righteous enforcers of the law. They reported to the Sheriff that they had arrested Tom the Royal Baker.

Nothing happened for the rest of the day, or into the next morning. Tom spent a miserable cold, damp night in a stinking dungeon cell with no food and only some stale water to drink.

Tom didn’t know it, but in the Royal Court, the King was about to change his life.

“Where is my Royal Bread?” he demanded of all present.

The Sheriff who had been told of the arrest of Tom the Baker stood up and said: “Agents of the Royal Environment Police have jailed Tom for violation of air pollution statues that you, yourself Majesty, have decreed as law.”

“What!!!??? Where is Tom the Royal Baker right now?” The king’s face became red with anger. Bring him before me right now…where is he?

“He is in the Royal Dungeon, sire…” said the Sheriff.

A murmur went around the room. Everyone was shocked at how stupid the Sheriff was. Didn’t he realize that there was nothing the King liked better than his crunchy on the outside, moist and chewy on the insider bread and rolls that Tom the Royal Baker made?

A few minute later, Tom stood before the King.

“Tell me what happened, Royal Baker!” the King commanded.

“Well, I was baking your bread yesterday, just as I do every day, when these three men – ruffians from the government – showed up. They kicked out my fire, ruined your bread, and threw me in jail for the night, your Highness.”

“Sheriff – tell me what say you to this?”

By now, the Sheriff was beginning to catch on that he had missed a little something in Life. It is a simple Recipe people are supposed to learn early on. It is called R-H-I-P and in the land far away it meant Royalty Has Its Priviledge.

“All Men and Women are exactly equal under the Law, your Highness. I – through my men – the ones Tom called ruffians – was only enforcing the Royal Decree issued by you, yourself, your Highness.”

The King sat back, stroking his beard, not quite sure what to do. Tom was doing the King’s work for him, but then so were the ruffians from the Sheriff. What to do….hmmm…

“Bring me the Royal Consultant!” Commands were really flying this day.

Presently, the Royal Consultant arrived and the King laid out the problem for him. After thinking about it for a moment, the Consultant offered his advice.

“Your Highness, you have encountered the classic case where Recipes collide. To Resolve this affair, we need to invent something called Process.”

The King looked perplexed. “What is Process?”
“Well,” said the Royal Consultant, “It is a kind ofg Master Recipe or Decree that decrees how smaller Recipes are to be used, King.”

“What do I put in this Master Decree?”

“Oh, a simple decree like ‘No Decrees will be enforced against Royal appointments.”

“But what if there are some Decrees I want applied to everyone?” The King was worried about this new kind of Decree. It sounded like he would be making new Kings…

“Not to worry your lordship, you simply add an “Except when” clause to the Master Decree and your problem is solved. In fact, I would add a first exception right now: Except where the King’s power, authority, and convenience are concerned.”

The King looked relieved. He decreed it so.

Also relieved was the dimwitted Sheriff and so was Tom the Baker.

“Sheriff, have your men who ruined Tom’s oven and fire rebuild them at once!” ordered the King.

With that, great bread was returned to the King’s table by nightfall and the Sheriff still had his job.

And his head.

For General Readers

To live “outside the box” as a few of us Old People do, you need to grok the distinction between Recipes and Processes.

Recipes are a “specific way to do something” while processes are “the order or arrangement of doing Recipes.”

Let me give you an example from the early life of George II:

Case #1: George and the Pizza

In the fall of 1998, my son, George II, called me from home while I was at the office, to announce that he had been kicked out of school (again). This time, his offense was ordering several pizzas on his cell phone, while suffering through “in-house detention” for some sin or other against the sensibilities of organized education system the previous week.

It seems that the teacher, assisted by a vice-principal, had confiscated George’s pizzas when they were delivered to him at the school.

After being forced to hand over the hot lunch, George told me he had called the vice-principal “a bitch” but he only did that because he was so mad –outraged– that the school had taken his pizza. His pizza; bought with his own hard-earned money. He had ordered enough to share with his classmates in detention so it was not “eating in front of others.” He had been humiliated in front of his peers, too.

Making matters worse he was out about $23 on his MasterCard, not to mention getting suspended for three days. He was definitely not very happy about it.

The story took a bizarre turn when his friends reported that school staff had consumed the confiscated pizzas! Pictures!

Needless to say, George wanted justice. He ranted about committing a revenge crime directed at the school district and the persons -and he went on for a number of minutes till he finally settled down.

Finally calmed enough to where he would listen to the voice of parental reason, I laughed at his predicament.

“Look, George”, I told him “the school district is operating at a major disadvantage here and you have the upper hand. You just don’t know it.”

“You’re nuts Dad! Those jerks stole my pizzas and they get away with it!” he protested.

“Yes, but only for a day. You must understand that the school district is a unit of government and government must follow rules. Know the rules they must follow, and you will know their recipe. Your advantage here is that you don’t have to follow any of the rules they’re bound to. You have the power to write a better Recipe and implement the hell out of it.”

I then reviewed with him how Process works. Organizations, regardless of size, tend to develop both Stated and Unstated rules of conduct. In the case of the Lake Washington School District, there is a Rule Book. The Rule Book of the school district is the Policies and Procedures Manual. We could get that, although we wouldn’t need it to beat the District with Process.

I volunteered to take his case to the school authorities on his behalf.

At first, the school district said the whole affair was of no matter to me because I was not the custodial parent. They pointed to their Rulebook and said that according to District Policy, the non-custodial parent had no standing to discuss a discipline matter with the district. George’s mother and I had divorced some years earlier. The school district held to the view that only the custodial parent had a voice in the matter. That wasn’t me. And I got pissed.

My attorney, a brilliant family law practitioner named David Kastle, advised the District in no-uncertain terms that no, the divorce decree granted me equal say in important matters of a child’s upbringing should I wish to exercise my my rights. That was a Court decision, not a matter of Administrative Policy. David explained that father Ure’s rules came from a Court and their rules came from Administrators.

Remember the kid’s game “paper, rock, scissors”? There’s a paper raps rock Recipe in law that says essentially that Court (paper) raps rock (Policy book). The district was about to learn this.

You’ll find, as you start to view the world through process-oriented Recipe eyes, that when processes (and Recipes) conflict, the winner is invariably the side with the most powerful Rulebook. Courts rule over Administrative policies, which in turn rule over Verbal Traditions and Customs. Policies in writing prevail over verbal, just as in Contract Law, the written Contract is superior to the verbal contract.

Armed with this, I confronted the district with a choice: My son gets reimbursed his pizza money, or I would escalate to a higher level of confrontation. I made it clear that I was prepared to spend a fair amount of money to buy some Justice in this case. It was important for my son to learn that when you’re right, you can usually win, if you’re willing to spend enough time or money to do so.

“Picture this skinny clean cut looking boy on television explaining how the school district stole his food and ate it!” I advised the principal of the school at one point. “Then picture a non-deadbeat Dad, who’s a respected executive and one time broadcast journalist, explaining how the school district won’t let him become involved in his son’s education despite a Court ordering it so. How will that play on prime time?” I may have hinted at civil action, damages and such, too.

“There’s nothing in district policy that will let you steal food from a student and eat it”, I repeated. “That’s what you did and that’s not legal. I can prove that in court where I’m willing to go if you folks don’t step up and give the kid his pizza money back. I’ll hold the press conference with my attorney right in front of your school to announce it, too.”

Reason prevailed at George’s high school. I had them “dead to nuts” on the rule infraction for confiscating a student’s food and allowing staff eat it. They had screwed up and I found their pants down around their administrative ankles.

I let the three days suspension remain for calling the vice principal a bitch. I could have won that point too, because it could be presented as entrapment. But George II had a short enough fuse back then anyway and learning to hold his tongue in check a bit would be a good thing.

What about the money for the confiscated pizza, you ask? That was refunded upon presentation of his bankcard statement proving the amount due. What I got out of it was a slight reassurance that you can still get justice in America, but sometimes you have to buy it.

You have to know the Recipes and play Processes against one another.

For Advanced Readers

Let’s talk DJ names in the 1960s and 1970s when I was splashing in the broadcast puddle.

There was a process used to come up with DJ names. Names were tested for their stickiness by Program Directors. Like jingle packages, DJ voices and their names, and how they communicated with an audience determined station identity.

So great efforts went into the naming process. Every other country station had a Tex and you had to saw “Howdy” just so. Rock and roll required a name that fit with the machine-gun delivery made popular by the Drake-Chennault stations. 

Everyone was trying to leverage marketing and the names got to really be something:

World Famous Tom Murphy (also known as Tiger Tom), Rhett Hamilton Walker (the Third), Emperor Smith…well you get the idea. My first on-air name (assigned to me) was “Rick O’Shea” – one of several dozen around the country in the era of formula/Recipe rock and roll.  I worked for one of the dozens of Buzz Hill’s at the time.

Later, after reading that Greta Garbow’s name was not here own, but that it was a California university study that found hard G and R sounds scored highest on recall, I changed my “on air” name to George Garrett for use in Radio; for much the same reasons that Greta Lovisa Gustafsson had changed her stage name to Garbo.

I mention this for several reasons, not the least of which is to point out that there’s a ton of process (Recipe organizing) done in broadcasting. And mostly it works.

Next consider Process testing.

The star of this is Frederick Winslow Taylor (which would have been a good DJ name except he was born before radio back in 1856). Taylor founded the scientific approach to management. His monograph Principles of Scientific Management is summarized here.

I mention Taylor’s work because he was a Recipe detailer. In his studies of shoveling coal at Bethlehem Steel, he was the king of on-the-job performance measurement.

He approached the problem of finding the right way to move most material in an 8-hour shift with great precision; eventually settling on a 22.5 pound shovel working out best.

In the business setting this was optimizing a Recipe, but Taylor (with colleagues) were busily looking wider, too – at Processes. They looked at the whole industrial process model always with an eye to improvement.

Wherever you have two or more Recipes, you have Process. There’s a matrix you learn to think about: Recipe #1 first, then Recipe #2…or could we flip that around? Can we do them together? Are there dependencies between recipes?

To many of the Millennials coming up, this stuff is totally crystal, but if you’re in Senior Management and are among the Old People, algorithmic thinking may not have occurred to you yet, applied widely and to all aspects of your life except in drib and drabs that don’t frame your consciousness. It’s there but not ruling your head.

Today’s New People – certainty those with exposure to programming – use algorithmic thinking as second nature.

The “Recipe” is a discrete processor or SQL function call, action or routine, but the “Processes” all work together either in order, concurrently, or as discrete calls. I trust you remember GOSUB? That’s pretty basic. But the command in the process controller while that subroutine is a Recipe.

Similarly management of an enterprise follows basics of algorithm development. Usually the highest pay-back in terms of improved organizational performance is process optimization or what consultants call BPR – Business Process Re-engineering.

Like editing code, businesses may be optimized until an ideal state is reached. You may have to move pieces around, but in the end if you add bonuses or change personnel in the slow spots you can arrive at Taylor-like results.

Focus on your business processes as an Electric Railroad that runs customers on a track (the network). Then look at who is putting “what information” about the customer and order in at which work position. Could the information being collected be done earlier in the business process? Could it be done later?

In this way, process management optimizes throughput, just as that (not-quite DJ fellow) Frederick Winslow Taylor did with shovels and workflow/process studies at Bethlehem long ago.

Present-Day Applications:

Don’t see Processes in collision? Look again.

Recipe #1: President-elect Donald Trump totally grounded in Real Estate. He understands the business models of brick and mortar commercial building tenants. He is sympathetic to their future because it is intertwined with his own family’s. Fixed income managers at pension firms and insurance companies love commercial real estate.

But it’s quickly becoming a large CAPEX buggy-whip. Who needs an office if you have a phone and a brain?  Speech to Text keeps getting better, too.

Recipe #2: Amazon had great Christmas sales season. Amazon’s fleet of cargo jets is now probably up to the third largest air cargo fleet in the world. It was fourth largest when Peoplenomics began tracking this last year. We expect the number of stock-picking robots is now approaching (if not already more than) 70,000.

Processes in Motion: Here’s how the collision works: Macy’s is planning to close down 68 stores including one up the road from us in Tyler, Texas.

Unfair to mall owners at 68 locations?

We trust you remember the November report “Donald Trump said Amazon and Jeff Bezos have a ‘huge antitrust problem.’ Now they may.”

Meantime, trouble is opportunity for the King of Retailers as Wal-Mart’s online system is going great guns as a middle-ground, with their bricks plus clicks model.

I did mention my Wal-Mart supplied 49” Avera 4K TV (sale when I ordered at $267.50) arrive unharmed and works great?

We generalize the Business Models as three Process approaches: Bricks, clicks, and bricks-n-clicks.

Under more normal circumstances, we would bank on real estate interests since they “own the processes” since they have Big Money (especially with something of a “captive president” who came up to the WH because of mastery of that model).

But now? It’s all up in the air and we’ll have to wait and see who owns the high ground four years from now.

Neither political party has recognized (to the point of being able to articulate it) that robots and software are coming for us all and we need a new way of allocating resource other than made-up paper money worth 4% of what it was valued at (purchasing power parity) in 1913. Debt dilution, huh?

It seems to me that as powerful as Trump will be (shortly) he may have a tough time finding anti-competitive angles to go after Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. And since Bezos web services group is in tight with the Intelligence Agencies…Trump ought to watch his steps. We recall the Kennedy case. Like the Twin Towers, too many questions linger for those on the fringe and those who question.  Fake News is just not becoming mainstream, but was it long, long ago?

All parties in the current showdown have processes they can implement to defend their models and this fact alone will make 2017 a very instructive year for the aware student, indeed.

It also explains why the first/working title of this book when drafted in 2001 was “Victims of Process: How Unwritten Recipes Run Your Life.”

16-years later, it’s still how the World rolls.

Next Thursday:  [keyword: Invention]

Write when you get rich,

5 thoughts on “Coping: Millennial’s Book 2: [keyword: Process]”

  1. Could George II as a minor have a credit card in his name or as an authorized user on your card? Who was out the $23.00?

  2. I would appreciate it if you could give a brief example of how these methods can be applied to our personal lives. I am retired, and due to health, will not be returning to employment nor starting a business. How would these principles apply to personal decision making for example?

  3. Fake News is just not becoming mainstream, but was it long, long ago?
    The following remarks were apparently made by John Swinton in 1880, then the preeminent New York journalist, probably one night in during that same year. Swinton was the guest of honour at a banquet given him by the leaders of his craft. Someone who knew neither the press nor Swinton offered a toast to the independent press. Swinton outraged his colleagues by replying:

    “There is no such thing, at this date of the world’s history, in America, as an independent press. You know it and I know it.

    “There is not one of you who dares to write your honest opinions, and if you did, you know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinion out of the paper I am connected with. Others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things, and any of you who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job. If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my paper, before twenty-four hours my occupation would be gone.

    “The business of the journalists is to destroy the truth, to lie outright, to pervert, to vilify, to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread. You know it and I know it, and what folly is this toasting an independent press?

    “We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes.”

    (Source: Labor’s Untold Story, by Richard O. Boyer and Herbert M. Morais, published by United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America, NY, 1955/1979.)

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