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Business Safety March 25, 2010

Posted by Jason in Insider's View Relapses.
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Civil engineers should be familiar with a construction site’s safety hazards. If not, perhaps they need to get out in the field more often; but that’s something for another time. One of the great challenges of construction — or its cousin, mining — is maintaining a “safety culture.” It is not hard to imagine that a roughneck crew of operators or miners (more…)

In My Estimation January 27, 2010

Posted by Jason in Daily PM.
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A long time ago, I wrote a piece about estimation.  It talked about the need for caution when faced with a client or manager who wants a ballpark estimate for a project or task.

This was reinforced recently (though not in the way you think) during an experience with a business case study.  It involved an estimate of a number that is in the hundreds of millions, and which made use of a number of units in the billions.

The problem is that without a clear, methodical approach to such an estimate or some prior anchoring point for the result, there is no way to “gut check” these numbers.  They are simply too big.  200,000,000 is way more than 100,000,000… or is it?  It’s the difference between 10% and 20% of 1 Billion.  Could be important, maybe not…

The point of the original article was that – at least in the civil engineering context – we depend on having that prior knowledge, anchor, or experience from which we can judge the validity of a high-magnitude number.  However, as I found out, that’s not always possible.  It then becomes necessary to carefully vet each assumption and calculation to ensure you’re heading down the right path.   Careless calculations lead quickly to a dead-end, or worse, circular assumptions that invalidate the result.

…But Not Too Boring November 18, 2009

Posted by Jason in Daily PM.
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A while back, I wrote a short response to an article about leadership – one that went out on a limb to say that “boring” leaders may be more successful than the high-profile, charismatic types that we might otherwise envision as fitting that role.

More recently, however, Seth Godin wrote, “As an organization grows and succeeds, it sows the seeds of its own demise by getting boring.” So, what’s going on here?  How is it that “successful” leaders – those with “attention to detail, persistence, efficiency, analytic thoroughness, and the ability to work long hours” – appear to be heading down exactly the wrong path? (more…)

Embracing Risk July 27, 2009

Posted by Jason in Insider's View Relapses.
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The latest big news in the healthcare industry has been the recent law providing for Food and Drug Administration regulation of tobacco as a drug. While it may not affect you directly, the law of unintended consequences is likely in full effect here, and it remains to be seen just what the eventual outcomes will be. Aside from the legislation itself, however, we can observe how a high-profile organization has attempted to shift government regulation—normally considered something of a risk—into more of a marketing tool. (more…)