They Don’t Make ’Em Like They Used To

If you can get to the New York Times, read Henry Petroski’ lament. Do you agree, or is it a cloudy memory of times gone by?

Workmanship has declined in parallel. There continue to be expert craftsmen — carpenters, roofers, painters — who work with precision and pride, but they are increasingly being pushed out by cheaper labor with inferior skills (which is, of course, why the labor is cheaper). I have had paint jobs that blistered within days and had to be redone — at my expense. And I have heard and read of many analogous experiences.

This is not the fault of homeowners, but of the industries whose practices favor the use of inferior products and labor that drive modern construction: the developers, lenders, builders and Realtors who, to make quick money, have created a stock of domestic and commercial infrastructure that is a waste of resources and will not last.

Citicorp design error

An interesting story about the design error in the Citicorp skyscraper. Imagine working in a building that could blow over at any time and no one telling you… Thanks David for the link!

Citicorp design trouble – link

According to LeMessurier, in 1978 he got a phone call from an undergraduate architecture student making a bold claim about LeMessurier’s building. He told LeMessurier that Citicorp Center could blow over in the wind.

The student (who has since been lost to history) was studying Citicorp Center as part of his thesis and had found that the building was particularly vulnerable to quartering winds (winds that strike the building at its corners). Normally, buildings are strongest at their corners, and it’s the perpendicular winds (winds that strike the building at its face) that cause the greatest strain. But this was not a normal building.

Bridge piers tilt

I-495 is no es bueno.

Four pairs of 50-foot-tall piers supporting the bridge are leaning to the east, officials said. The worst pier is 4 percent out of vertical alignment, placing the top of the pier about two feet out of line from the bottom. The shift has also tilted the concrete footer upon which the 5-foot-wide columns sit, as well as the concrete bridge deck, said Barry Benton, assistant director of DelDOT’s bridge section.

And coffee break stuff.

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When money is not enough

A good article on the needs of employees beyond the money.

Link to mobile site (I’m on my phone)

Put simply, the way people feel at work profoundly influences how they perform. What our study revealed is just how much impact companies can have when they meet each of the four core needs of their employees.

Renewal: Employees who take a break every 90 minutes report a 30 percent higher level of focus than those who take no breaks or just one during the day. They also report a nearly 50 percent greater capacity to think creatively and a 46 percent higher level of health and well-being. The more hours people work beyond 40 — and the more continuously they work — the worse they feel, and the less engaged they become. By contrast, feeling encouraged by one’s supervisor to take breaks increases by nearly 100 percent people’s likelihood to stay with any given company, and also doubles their sense of health and well-being.

Value: Feeling cared for by one’s supervisor has a more significant impact on people’s sense of trust and safety than any other behavior by a leader. Employees who say they have more supportive supervisors are 1.3 times as likely to stay with the organization and are 67 percent more engaged.

Focus: Only 20 percent of respondents said they were able to focus on one task at a time at work, but those who could were 50 percent more engaged. Similarly, only one-third of respondents said they were able to effectively prioritize their tasks, but those who did were 1.6 times better able to focus on one thing at a time.

Purpose: Employees who derive meaning and significance from their work were more than three times as likely to stay with their organizations — the highest single impact of any variable in our survey. These employees also reported 1.7 times higher job satisfaction and they were 1.4 times more engaged at work.

Meetings – Soul suckers or a valuable tool?

I’m not a fan of meetings but they seem to be on the increase.

Psychologytoday had an article on meetings and came to some eye opening conclusions.

In a survey reported in Industry Week, 2000 managers claimed that at least 30 percent of their time spent in meetings were a waste of time.

According to a 3M Meeting Network survey of executives, 25-50 percent of the time people spend in meetings is wasted.

And according to a survey by Office Team, a division of Robert Half International, 45 percent of senior executives surveyed said that their employees would be more productive if their firms banned meetings for a least one-day a week.

That is a lot of wasted time. I find that most meetings go off track into side conservations that have nothing to do with the question at hand.

If you must meet, consider the following.

Always start the meeting on time, regardless of people who are late;

Do not review the contents of the meeting with the people who are late for the part they missed;

Reduce the length of meetings to one hour maximum, and preferably less—try 30 minutes, even try 15 or 10 minutes;

End the meeting on the agreed-upon time, even if the agenda is not finished;

Invite fewer people to the meeting—productivity goes down with increasing numbers of participants;

Allow the right for employees to decline their attendance, without having to justify themselves and without penalties;

Reward those people who show up on time and even early with some kind of small gift or reward;

Don’t let people who are late to the meeting by more than 15 minutes join;

Don’t allow individuals to hijack or dominate meetings by frequent and endless conversation. It’s the responsibility of the meeting leader to control this;

End meetings early. People will be more positive about participating as a result;

No laptops or phones are allowed to be active in meetings. Allowing people to be interrupted or diverting their attention lowers the value of the meeting;

Don’t tolerate meeting participants working on other things during the meeting. Ask them to leave;
The meeting leader should enforce only one person speaking at a time, and to the point;

Ask each meeting participant to prepare for the meeting in advance in response to a meeting question that will be dealt with in the future, not a rehash of the past (not just an agenda item);

At the beginning of the meeting, ensure that the desired outcome(s) are stated clearly;

Limit the action items of your meeting to no more than three;

Interrupt people who either repeat what they have said, or repeat what someone else has already covered. These are time wasters.
Whoever calls the meeting should “own” the meeting; don’t allow someone in the group to try to take it over;

Table any discussion that is not relevant to the agenda.

This is what I accomplished at my last meeting…..

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What’s in it for the average climate change skeptic?

This article by Katy Burns pretty much sums up my questions about climate skeptics. Why are Americans so anti science?

Do climate change deniers ever wonder whether they just may be wrong? Do they ever allow a niggling doubt to creep into their certainty?

Do they ever ask themselves what might happen if that which they have so firmly and loudly insisted will not occur does in fact occur?