Posts Tagged ‘drift’

The Soul of a Project #28: The Wisdom of Doubt!

by Gary Monti on November 1, 2012

On Apollo 1 what would have happened if someone had asked, “What happens when you combine a spark with elevated oxygen levels in an iron rich environment?” Those 3 astronauts might have gotten to live out their lives telling their grandchildren stories about the early days of space flight. Avoiding Monday-morning-quarterbacking, the question is worth asking in terms of determining when confidence bleeds over into over-confidence. In resilience engineering that bleeding over is referred to as drift.

What stems drift is doubt. A muscular approach to projects can easily push out doubt, which is unfortunate. Doubt has a real value. It encourages us to seek others opinions and get as many eyeballs as possible on a problem or solution. Evolutionarily it has a real benefit. Darwin talks about the survival of the fittest. It is commonly thought of as the strongest. That isn’t what he meant. Survival of the fittest refers to having the best fit, i.e., finding the sweet spot among all the possibilities when swimming in a sea of possibilities.

Doubt is connected to another important evolutionary development – a conscience. In The Sociopath Next Door Martha Stout, PhD, explores the social consequences when a conscience is lacking and the associated lack of doubt. It is a very interesting read.

You might be wondering where this is going. After all, we need to develop a sense of confidence so we can get things done. But if my confidence is high does it mean I’m a sociopath? What to do?

The answer lies in wisdom.  Wisdom is choosing what to do (or to be still) when there isn’t a clear-cut path that would bring a tear to Euclid’s eye. And this is where we get back to the group. Use doubt to provoke, to dig deeper, to make a game of the situation. A little cage rattling will go a long way towards waking people up and getting them energized, which leads to better solutions and gives everyone on the team a chance to feel significant. At that point work is no longer a job, it’s a quest. It’s a chance to get lost in the problem and feel alive!

Resilience Engineering #2: Drift

by Gary Monti on June 14, 2011

Last week introduced resilience engineering and started with two critical concepts, robustness and resilience, with robust systems being unchanged but pushed to provide performance in a challenging environment and resilient systems adapting to the challenge and evolving.

This week we’ll look at the costs that can accrue with robust systems and the potential for introducing a potentially dangerous behavior called drift. Before getting to drift a little background information will help.

Resilience engineering is especially useful in resource-limited, constrained situations; situations where trade-offs must be made almost on an ongoing basis. One such trade-off that must be considered is how far to push the current system in terms of both technology and people vs. making necessary changes.

The Importance of Time Horizons

The distance to the client’s, customer’s, senior manager’s, or any other powerful stakeholder’s time horizon has a big influence on whether or not a robust or resilient approach is used. A client situation that had very real consequences might help explain. The client firm wanted to purchase another company. Due diligence was performed. However, it was constrained by shortsightedness. The client wanted to enter the market and generated emotionality regarding the issue. As the urge to purchase increased so did the shortsightedness.

The financials looked fine. The concern for the client was the physical plant, comprising four locations. The shortsightedness mentioned earlier won out and the purchase went through. The entire situation ended up slowly turning into a nightmare ending with the client selling at a very reduced price several years later to get out of the situation.

The Cost of Robust Behavior

What had occurred was a classic case of the seller making the company look enticingly resilient while actually working it in a robust manner. A simple metaphor for the situation is brakes on a car. Imagine you want to buy a used car and you ask, “Do the brakes work?” Truth be told; the answer is, “Yes, they always have.” Sounds good. But what if a different question were asked, “How much life does the braking system have left in it?” That might yield a totally different answer, e.g., the rotors/drums need replaced, the hydraulic fittings are corroded and will need replaced if a wrench is put to them, etc., etc. In actuality the braking system is on the verge of failure and an additional $1,000 or more is needed to make needed repairs…and the repairs can’t be piecemeal, the entire system needs replaced at the same time. However, if the purchaser is satisfied with the fact the car has always stopped well in the past then the issue of overuse, of being pushed beyond a safe limit, will be missed and the dreams of where this car can take him will continue. This overuse of the braking system to the point where it is close to being a safety issue is called drift. Formally,

Drift is the incremental movement of a system towards, and eventual crossing of, a failure boundary. This all occurring while belief is maintained that all is well.

Using the brake metaphor, the seller had let the system (physical plant) drift towards failure while increasing performance pressure in order to be able to say, “See, it is giving the desired results.” In the previous blog it was mentioned there was a cost associated with this behavior. In this case it was an insidious cost. Money that should have gone into maintaining the physical plant was shifted towards the bottom line.

The seller pushed the system to perform in a robust manner, i.e., continue generating profit and have them falsely increase by siphoning off money needed for the physical plant to maintain and adapt to the increasing performance pressure.

This made the purchase look that much more enticing causing the client, only looking at the bottom line and blinded by emotionality, to pay too much, essentially taking a mortgage to cover profits extracted by the seller – profits that really weren’t profits but maintenance dollars. On top of that the needed repairs and equipment costs still needed to be incurred.

Another issue was inability to grow since there was no resilience. With the assumption that the plant was fine the belief that current systems could be integrated into the changes envisioned turned out to be bankrupt. Not only did current systems need work, they were close to obsolescence.

Probably enough said for such a dark and dreary topic. Next week we will look at a brighter story, a story where a firm split but did it amicably through a resilient approach.

Can we avert failures in our life?

by Vijay Peduru on May 3, 2010

All of us want to start a business or change a career and we keep postponing it.
If we analyze deeply, we postpone because we need to learn new habits and skills and accumulating these habits and skills seems harder. We keep saying to ourselves that we will learn these skills once we achieve the position or once we start the business.  Days, months and years pass by and we still do not reach where we want to reach. What can we do to stop this drift? We can start in baby steps right this moment ( ok,.you can wait till you finish reading this post!)  and keep growing gradually..
The following quotes from Jim Rohn summarize this very well.
Quote #1

“You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight”
All too often, we are worried why we are not reaching our goals (our destinations), it is just because we are travelling on the wrong road (habits). To reach our destinations, we need to change the direction and we will almost surely reach our destinations.
Quote #2

“Failure is nothing more than a few errors in judgment repeated every day”.
For example, drinking an “obesity causing High fructose corn syrup filled” cola daily will cause health problems in later part of our lives. We won’t know it now, but it will haunt us in the later part of our lives. The same is true with starting a business – Not reading books or actively finding a mentor now will haunt us later on because the consequences of not reading books or actively finding a mentor NOW, will show up LATER; perhaps in the form of us being unable in starting the business.
Fortunately we can reverse our direction now to reach our destinations.
Quote #3

“Success is a few simple disciplines practiced every day”.
For example: Learning to enjoy Orange juice instead of cola daily, actively learning from successful entrepreneurs daily are all examples of being directed with discipline.

So, if we take any area(health, money, joy)  in our life, we need to start accumulating new habits and skills now. We can start with baby steps and keep moving. A few baby steps are:

  • Health: We can start doing yoga or exercise joyfully ten minutes a day starting today
  • Money : We can start reading books for thirty minutes every day by entrepreneurs on how to serve people and make money starting today.
  • Joy:  We can read spiritual or books on the wisdom of leading a joyful life for 10 minutes a day to learn how to be joyful starting today.

Averting failures, however unattainable and insurmountable it might sounds, is a simple art of going in the right direction, in a disciplined manner.