Monday, September 14, 2009

MIND Over Matter: If You Don't Mind Then It Doesn't Matter


If you don't already subscribe to the Mind magazine, may I suggest that you consider it. Drop by your local magazine store or book store and take a look at what is on the shelf and then save a few coins by subscribing to the magazine on an annual basis. Why? OK, here's a couple of thoughts that I got from one of the more recent issues:

Do you remember the last (or next to last) session of M.A.S.H. on TV? It seems that there were some villagers trying to hide from some enemy soldiers and, if caught, all would be killed. One of the young mothers had a baby with her and the baby, as they will do from time to time, was scared and began to cry. The rest of the villagers kept telling her to be quiet or they all would die. The mother ended up suffocating the baby in her attempt to keep it quiet. Questions: Was she right to kill her child to keep the other villagers from being found out and not only killed but probably tortured as well? What did this have to do with MIND magazine?

It seems that whenever the mind is presented with a conundrum such as this that certain portions of the brain are activated. In younger minds, they are, basically, stored in one location. In older minds, the job is distributed out to more than one part of the brain. What I think is happening is that older minds have to consider more than one answer and that the outcomes are different depending on which solution is implemented and when it is done and how it is done. This comes all the way back around to rulebased systems: It's the Senior KE, the Senior Knowledge Engineer, the Rule Architect that will make a huge difference in the overall outcome.

Why? Because that Senior KE has seen the pitfalls of what happens when certain logical paths are followed and has experienced the outcomes of failures in the past. What was it that George Satayana said? "Those who will not learn from history are forced to repeat it." (Often attributed to Ben Franklin but supposedly he got it from George...) We learn from our mistakes. The more intelligent ones learn from the mistakes of others. It seems that some never learn but have keep making the same mistake over and over and over. My favorite is the company that hears about off-shoring work at really, really cheap rates. What they don't hear about are all of the problems connected with different cultures, different languages, different work habits, the advantage of face-to-fact meetings, etc.

The other one is when a company refuses to pay the higher rates of a senior consultant and hires a programmer who is really, really good at Java or C/C++ and assigns them to do the work that truly needs a Senior KE to direct the effort. the project goes down the porcelain receptacle reserved for such sludge and management brazenly decides that a rulebased solution was not needed for a project such as this. No one really loses their jobs because the smart ones bailed out after the first few months and went on the bigger and better things. Those stuck with the smelly thing can then blame those who started it. Those who started it blame those who followed it with not carrying out their particular vision and, of course, it went bad.

Now, wasn't that fun? And I'm sure that most of the senior guys have been on the Project From Hell, Death March, etc. By whatever name, it wasn't much fun if you were on the final march and, as consultants called in to save such a fiasco, it's usually impossible with what is left of the budget. But, once in a while, it is possible and what remains of management is so desperate that they actually let you do the right thing. And you get to be the hero. One or two of those go a long, long way toward making up for all of the fiascos foisted upon you in the past.

So, what is the lesson to be learned here? Take care and be wary of what you accept when management is willing to pay a higher rate plus expenses. There HAS to be a catch somewhere and I'll bet it's because some ninny has already messed up the playground.

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