OT: Management and spacecraft

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Most large companies with an engineering department have rules that
require anyone at a given level of engineering management to have a
certain minimum number of direct reports. After some thought, I have
realized that this is because there is a staggeringly exact analogy
between the task of engineering management and the problem of thermal
management on spacecraft. A stationary spacecraft will freeze on its
shadow side and boil on its Sunward side. A spacecraft wholly in the
umbra of some other object needs to have its own source of heat to
replace radiated losses. All temperature-sensitive equipment needs to
be mounted and monitored with careful thought to internally generated
heat. The spacecraft is covered in foils, paints and blankets designed
to reject solar radiation. Complex arrangements of fins and heatsinks
are required to dump internally-generated heat, plus whatever solar
radiation leaks in, out the night-side of the craft.

Replace the concept of "solar heat" with "ire from upper
management" and the analogy is clear. A successful manager spins
gently at all times, like the Apollo Command and Service Module in
lunar coast mode, so that no single surface receives 100% of incident
anger. The anger wattage decreases exponentially as the manager moves
further away from upper management.

Direct reports are a manager's heatsinks; they cling to the main body
of the craft and increase the surface area available for radiating
anger away from the craft. Under some circumstances, they also form the
basis of a sublimation cooling system; the coolant absorbs as much heat
as possible, then is boiled into space.

Since incident anger is directly proportional to the manager's stature
in the company, the heatsink area required to dissipate that anger
naturally also has to increase as the manager is promoted. Company
policies about the number of direct reports necessary for a manager to
hold a specific title reflect the amount of anger that title is
required to dissipate.


Re: OT: Management and spacecraft

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snip


This analogy is entertaining, could it be called the fan out of
the manager?

But why this sudden reflexion is it caused by the ageing process?


Re: OT: Management and spacecraft
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Sure, this way the distribution of memos can be modeled as propagation
delay and the rumor mill can be modeled as crosstalk (since at least
where I work, 75% or more of the rumor mill consists of
mis-eavesdropped conversations in parallel management streams).

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I have these philosophical moments at least a couple of times a week,
either when shooting the breeze with a couple of coworkers, or when at
a bar or coffee shop (it is depressing that I earn >10x more cash using
my PDA and cellphone to work on technical writing and contract work
from Starbucks than in my day job. I telnet into my PowerPC development
system at home using the PDA).

So I've decided to lead in every chapter in my upcoming book with an
insane story like this. The introduction tells people that if they
don't find them amusing, to put the book away for five years, become an
embedded engineer, then read the stories again, at which time all the
stories will make sense.

I'll illustrate with another such theory I developed quite recently
while in some excruciating "training" required for all employees who
have the potential to become management.

I won't mention what particular buzzword the training concerns, because
that would identify my employer. Suffice it to say that the training
was marginally useful for people trying to develop a new accounting
system but worthless for a design engineer.

Anyway, if you've ever read a management or marketing textbook, you've
probably seen the weird pseudomathematics they use to salt their
drivel. I think that in their minds, the writing process goes something
like this: "Fluff... platitude... blinding flash of the obvious...
irrational generalization" and then they realize that such a document
will only capture part of their target market. In order to capture more
people, they need to make it "scientific" and so these process trainers
are hell-bent on characterizing processes as mathematical functions.
Hence, you'll see a lot of statements like "f(x) = y where f is the
process, x is the inputs and y is the finished goods". They then apply
a lot of pseudoscience of the general caliber of "Three apples plus
five oranges equals eleven persimmons plus an angel's feather".

After listening to this nonsense and doing numerous silly exercises
with paper and rubber bands, I came up with my own corollary.

For every f(x1,x2,...,xn) = y1,y2,...yn, where f is a manufacturing
function, x1 through xn are raw materials and y1 through yn are
products, there exists a complementary function f'(y), the inputs to
which are finished goods and the outputs of which are raw materials and
leisure time.

I've yet to be seriously challenged on this and I am tempted to see if
I can get it surreptitiously included in the next revision of the
training materials for that course.


Re: OT: Management and spacecraft
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Sounds like WEEE to me.  :)

Kelly

Re: OT: Management and spacecraft

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If only WEEE generated leisure time!


Re: OT: Management and spacecraft
On 4 Sep, in article
....
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Sounds more like the good old Super High Intensity Training....

--
Paul Carpenter          | snipped-for-privacy@pcserviceselectronics.co.uk
<http://www.pcserviceselectronics.co.uk/ PC Services
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Re: OT: Management and spacecraft

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Heh, this reminds me of a very misguided "quality" training
program that was forced on us at a former employer.

Mandatory for all employees from clerical staff to design
engineers.  The second sign of problems was a basic statistics
refresher that took 3 sessions.  Finally got around to their
real thing which was continuous process improvement.  Too bad the
manufacturing plant was 4000 miles away and the sustaining
and product engineering guys were too busy fighting fires to
go :-)

I kept asking how to apply their ideas to ASIC design, and after
numerous examples of the great things quality did for band-aid
adhesive application processing (apparently these guys had been
at Johnson & Johnson) I decided to risk the ire of the quality
police, found my boss, told him it was entirely stupid and a
waste of time.

I have nothing but admiration for whomever sold this boat-load
of crap to management :-)

(At another company I later went to a really good quality class
at Motorola, and that was very worthwhile and applicable to
design, so please don't conclude I am against quality quality
training.)


Re: OT: Management and spacecraft
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Ah, I think I know exactly what you're talking about, because unless
I'm much mistaken it was the same underlying buzzword as the training
I'm talking about (it was the three-day statistics refresher course
that led me to this conclusion). I sincerely hope you have put this
trying time behind you and completely forgotten all the acronyms and
hokum you were fed.

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You'll be pleased to know that all the principal sponsors of the
program abandoned it long ago.


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