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Consultant Value May 30, 2009

Posted by Jason in Daily PM.
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Buyers will always be looking for the “good deal”.  In fact, I recently had a conversation during which it was stated (not by me) that, “Each party has to think they are ‘winning’.  The buyer has to believe that he is getting something worth more than he is paying, and the seller needs to feel that the buyer is somehow getting less than he is paying for.”  First off, while it may be true that we need a psychological motivation to justify a transaction, I don’t think it can be distilled down to that kind of emotion.  Sometimes, though, a different perspective is all that is needed to see how silly some of our attitudes can be. (more…)

Working With Your Hands May 28, 2009

Posted by Jason in Daily PM.
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I  can’t even begin to lay out the many ways that Matthew Crawford has put into words some of the things that I have observed during my engineering career.  He has written an extremely well-crafted essay based on an upcoming book entitled “Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work”.  He makes some excellent comparisons between today’s “knowledge workers” and more blue-collar “dirty jobs” that force us to observe the realities of the machines and tools we use.

It also raises the question (if it even needed any further raising) of how Americans will continue to succeed as a society if we continue sending our children to college regardless of what their real interests are — especially if those interests lead to such jobs as mechanics and technicians.  There are simply too many tasks that cannot be outsourced but that still require a significant level of skill and training (not from college) to undertake.

I encourage you to read through the article, and I personally am looking foward to the book.

Market Your Value May 27, 2009

Posted by Jason in Insider's View Relapses.
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Many firms have cut deeply in response to shrinking revenues, including making the hard choice to let staff go. It is always difficult to know that leaders have made the right decisions, even when faced with an absolute necessity. Under these conditions however, those remaining have opportunities to slow down and observe how other aspects of the business operate. It is a good time to highlight an important attitude that may have escaped those who spend their time “in the trenches” on design. (more…)

It is Us May 19, 2009

Posted by Jason in Daily PM.
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Can you imagine a time in which your predictions about the future were spot on?  What about completely off?  What if every prediction you made in the last six months about the next six was totally wrong?  Is your firm prepared to deal with the consequences?  How closely are you watching the outside world while keeping the firm going day to day?

SWOT analysis (or any similarly structured evaluation) can yield some surprising insights, especially when performed with an actively brainstorming group.  Objectivity is important, but if your firm struggles with strategic planning, groupthink may be an acceptable initial price to pay to gain some first-step ideas.  As I mentioned before, however, the external “threats” can often be a hard item to objectively evaluate. (more…)

Ethanol Scam May 17, 2009

Posted by Jason in Daily PM.
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A short while back, I wrote an article on biodiesel, published in the Green Directory here in Montana.  Following is the intro and a link to the original piece:

With President Obama’s emphasis on energy independence, sustainability, and environmental protection, we have heard more and more about production and use of biodiesel fuels. Especially in Montana, with our agricultural history, you may wonder what the effects of the biodiesel economy will be on farmers, local industries, and everyday consumers. Is biodiesel really all it is promised to be? pub.date: 2009-02-20  More…

In that article, I alluded to some of ethanol’s drawbacks and made a general comparison of ethanol to biodiesel.  While the piece was intentionally non-technical, I found some additional information that really drives home the point that ethanol is not the path to energy righteousness.  Please follow this link to read Ed Wallace’s excellent BusinessWeek article about the real-life, everyday effects of ethanol on your vehicle.

Corporate Strategy May 10, 2009

Posted by Jason in Daily PM.
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There are numerous acronyms in the business world that represent various fads of productivity enhancement, corporate communication, and financial strategy. Many of us have probably learned about, implemented, or been affected by things such as ISO, TQM, QMS, or 6-Sigma. Most of these programs represent significant investments in time and human resources to maintain, which may be an impediment to many small engineering firms. However, one technique in particular can be a valuable addition to the corporate strategy: SWOT analysis. (more…)

Sustainability May 3, 2009

Posted by Jason in Insider's View Relapses.
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Whether one defines sustainability broadly with respect to the global environment or narrowly with respect to a particular industry or technology, one characteristic stands out as a hallmark trait. In the broadest terms, sustainability is the idea that our actions today should not ignore the effects on future generations of life on our planet. This of course gives rise to the notion that were it not for humans, nature would be inherently sustainable for eternity, which is a fine point for philosophers and astrophysicists to argue, but not practical for our lifetimes. We have the ability to alter our environment to meet our present and future needs in a way that other species do not. This is no surprise, but there are critical implications for our future depending on our implementation of this philosophy in the present. (more…)