Monday, March 20, 2017

Sunday Snippets + Monday Forum

I am again combining the Sunday and Monday Forum posts. The Sunday part just records some of the things that I have noticed, been interested in, but have not found the time to write about. The Monday part is open to any direction whatsoever.

It's been quite wet in parts of Northern NSW. The road between Armidale and the coast is called Waterfall Way. This ABC shot of the road down the Dorrigo mountain suggests why. The road was closed soon after this photo was taken.

For entertainment. This YouTube video attempts to explain some of the intricacies of Brexit - and the UK..

Staying in the UK, both Helen Dale and kvd pointed me to story in the Guardian: 'London Bridge is down': the secret plan for the days after the Queen’s death. It's a long but very interesting piece, drawing out some of the logistic and political complexities involved in responding to the death of such a long serving and respected monarch. Queen Elizabeth the Second became Queen on 6 February 1952.

The first annual meeting of the G20 since the election of President Trump has been held in the German spa town of Baden-Baden. The consensus communique released following the meeting deleted previous references to climate change and free trade. The BBC report states that after the meeting ended, US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said he would not read too much into his country's desire to change the language behind the communique, as "what was as in the past" releases was "not relevant".

Mr Mnuchin added he had been "very clear that we do believe in free trade but we believe in balanced trade". .

The Australian Financial Review provides this comparison of the wording between 2016 and 2017.

In the same story, the paper reports claims by the Australian Treasurer that he and his Canadian counterpart worked hard to get some trade reference that was acceptable to both sides, at least keeping a trade reference in. Australia has pushed global freer trade because it is in the country's interests as a smaller relatively open economy.

There has actually been a lot of economic news recently that I am still trying to absorb. However, one point that is worth noting now is the way that first the NAB and then Westpac immediately raised their Australian domestic home loan interest rates in response to the official interest rate increase by the US Federal Reserve.

The reason given was the impact on bank funding costs. The Australian banking system raises around 40% of its funds on the international market. I expect further increases independent of any Australian Reserve Bank action as the slow process of unwinding the responses to the Global Financial Crisis continues.      

The interest rate rises have obvious implications for the apartment building splurge that has been reshaping Australia's biggest cities. There are a number of interconnected issues here that are current hot topics.

One is the supply of affordable housing, especially in the bigger metro cities. I hope to write something on this. My central concern is that there is no such thing as a free lunch or, alternatively, silver bullets. Some of the proposed solutions will introduce their own distortions and inequities

A second issue interconnected with the apartment boom are the planning failures now being revealed in the supply of services including especially education. Forecasting errors are central to those failures, a topic in its own right, as are the nature of decision lags and processes.

Another related issue is the use and abuse of quantitative measures. Here I record for later use (hat tip Legal Eagle) Every attempt to manage academia makes it worse.

The running Australian soap opera called energy policy is another example of planning failures accentuated by the application of ideological models independent of evidence. The problems Australia now has go back
in part to decisions made in the 1990s, compounded by the subsequent inability to bridge ideological and political divides despite all the evidence of emerging problems.

Finally and for something different, for lovers of dark chocolate, the Huffington Post has provided nine reasons why you should it some every day.

I'm not saying the paper is right, but I do like dark chocolate.


Anonymous said...

From LE's link:

But could it be … could it possibly be … that the best way to get good research and publications out of scholars is to hire good people, pay them the going rate and tell them to do the job to the best of their ability?

From the author/about page:

Darren is an omnivore, and works on pretty much every group of tetrapods: in the past few years he’s published on sauropods, theropods, ornithischians, sloths, birds, ichthyosaurs, pterosaurs, turtles, all sorts of critters. Matt and especially Mike are a bit more focussed: Matt works on sauropods and, to a lesser extent, theropods including birds, especially in relation to skeletal pneumaticity; Mike works on partial mid-to-posterior dorsal vertebrae of sauropods.

(I believe Mike wrote this article)

So, I searched for a word, and the very best I could come up with was: naive and needy. Sorry; that's 3 words.


ps: what's the 'going rate' for working on "partial mid-to-posterior dorsal vertebrae of sauropods"?

Anonymous said...

The best way to get good (insert desired result) out of (insert job description) is to hire good people, pay them the going rate and tell them to do the job to the best of their ability.

Works for me; just embarrassed I didn't think of this approach first!


Anonymous said...

Because it's Monday:

I always liked Hobart, but: Cons: Elevated risk of death by thylacine; only one phone line for the entire state; - so, perhaps not.


Jim Belshaw said...

That was actually a very strange Domain piece,kvd. I am prepared to risk death by Tasmanian Tiger, but being lulled to sleep by Eric A? More after dinner

Jim Belshaw said...

kvd wrote: "The best way to get good (insert desired result) out of (insert job description) is to hire good people, pay them the going rate and tell them to do the job to the best of their ability.

Works for me; just embarrassed I didn't think of this approach first!"

I'm sure that your approach was modern best practice, kvd. You defined the required competencies you were looking for, creating a matrix that would allow tick box assessment by the interview panel and (hopefully) self-assessment by the candidate. To ensure consistency and make it easier for all parties you developed a clear English guide. I know that it was a little long, 50 pages, but your heart was in the right place.

Acting on advice from an HR consultant, you introduced a performance measurement system based on a small number of key indicators. Concerned about clients, your guide to ethics and performance emphasized ethical client service. It wasn't you fault that your measurement and performance systems created a conflict between your vision, values and actual staff requirements.

Each month (or was it quarterly?; I can't remember), you reviewed the performance data and took corrective action with staff who were under-performing, who were failing to make targets. When you recognised that there were other problems emerging, you emphasised and re-emphasised the need to consider broader considerations. Indeed, you became something of a leader on the issue within your sector and beyond, including Government.

To improve overall performance, you created new structures, added to central monitoring, risk assessment and quality assurance staff, refined competency based approaches and introduced new training. However, staff were still expected to meet the original performance targets while complying with the new requirements.

Sadly, this didn't quite work. And so the cycle began again.

Anonymous said...

"To improve overall performance, you created new structures, added to central monitoring, risk assessment and quality assurance staff"

Right there's one of your problems, Jim.

Throwing more bodies at monitoring the performance, when blind freddy could see that more bodies were needed to actually perform the task/s. But I do admire the Pythonesque scenario you outline :)


Jim Belshaw said...

I was just praising you as a modern manager, kvd!

Anonymous said...

"The way they write about them is really cliched," she said. "They say, 'they look like animals', 'none of what they do is civilised', 'they're all terrible'.

"And I just thought, how can this be true? There's so much obvious bias in these sources. What was really going on?"

Now there's a woman who has a mind of her own, and maybe has seen through the veil - and good for her! And she wasn't talking about critics of Donald Trump and his supporters; she was talking about, well read it yourself:


ps Jim: given up managing. These days I just do it myself. Much quicker :)

2 tanners said...

Donald Trump is obviously doomed. The opinion writers say so.

More realistically, IF someone successfully brings a high court case re his overseas holdings, and IF he refuses to do something about it, something might happen, but my guess is that too many Republicans will be too scared to try and impeach him anyway. I think it requires a 2/3 majority, so he'd really have to have them scared to be associated with the Trump brand. Summary: Just not happening.

My reading is that now that he is in Government, Wikileaks might not remain the great patriotic institution that he regarded it as in the second half of 2016. I assume their main agenda is to bignote themselves so taking down the front runner in 2016 and the incumbent president in 2020 would be high on their bucket list. Especially if the Democrats ran a Sanders-like figure.

Jim Belshaw said...

Morning all. Sorry for my absence.

Remembering a past discussion, kvd, I do think that we established that you were a micro-manager, so it is almost certainly easier for you to do itself. Its a pity that management has largely disappeared as an art from, replaced by leadership on one side and systems and compliance on the other. The idea of getting best results from the people you have is sadly in abeyance!

Interesting SMH piece, although it did take me to my SMH limit for the month. I'm not going to disagree with the points made. History is always written from inside looking out.

So, 2t, you have given up on the idea that we must give Mr Trump at least 100 days? Or is it just the opinion writers? Perhaps the latter. For what it's worth, the reality checks he is now receiving may actually save his presidency. Its all a rich learning experience.

Anonymous said...

Jim, I suspect if I thought too deeply about your 'micro-manager' diagnosis, I would probably feel somewhat affronted :)

Let me restate what I believe is the basic operating principle of modern-day management:

Blame avoidance; blame-amelioration; tick-all-the-boxes; and CYA.

In no particular order and yes - 4 terms, not one - so I will leave it to you to assign designators between (among?) the managers you have encountered :)


Jim Belshaw said...

I would never wish to cause affront, kvd. Perish the thought! I will surely pick those points up at some stage.