THE WELCH COMPANY
440 Davis Court #1602
San Francisco, CA 94111-2496
415 781 5700
S U M M A R Y
DIARY: October 20, 1992 08:00 AM Tuesday;
Attend Cal Tech Project Management seminar.
2...Lower Wages & Management Productivity
3...Good Management Requires Using Good Practice Consistently
5...Space Program, Manhatten Project, Panama Canal
6...More People or Automation
....Resistance to Change
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0201 - Cal Tech 818 356 4041 fax 795 7174
020101 - Ms. Delores Lee; Seminar Registration; Seminar Program Department
Seminars/speeches as sales presentation seminars
Education, institutional courses
Cal Tech PM Seminar, 920924
Developing Leads, Industry Contacts
TQM Objectives, 930204
Bay Bridge Example, Fewer Enginers Reduces
Management productivity, Needs Integration
Consistent Good Practice Needs Metrics,
1210 - ..
1211 - Summary/Objective
121201 - Received list of attendees, ref DRT 1 0000
121204 - A couple of interesting asides emerged today on management trends.
121206 - Attendees from major corporations and the instructor said that the
121207 - ideas of "Total Quality Management," and "Quality Circles" have pretty
121208 - much lost favor in corporate America due to tight budgets.
121210 - I had expected this would occur, since these practices
121211 - essentially amounted to more of the same: trying to build the
121212 - job with conversation, instead of the project record. These
121213 - efforts dilute the time managers have to think and plan, so even
121214 - though good ideas may be generated, there is no time to
121215 - implement them. There is no way to consistently convert plans
121216 - into action, because there is no link between information and
121217 - time.
121220 - ..
121221 - Lower Wages & Management Productivity
121223 - Vu Long who sat next to me had some interesting observations on this
121224 - point. He is a ship building manager with Arco Marine, in Long Beach.
121226 - Vu said the main advantage of off-shore ship building is simply
121227 - lower wages. He feels the Japanese constructon standards are
121228 - getting close to those in the US, but their cost structure is now
121229 - comparable to the US.
121231 - Vu indicated that other foreign countries present a lot of
121232 - management problems in terms of poor construction standards, low
121233 - productivity and language/culture barriars, yet because of a lower
121234 - wage structure, they are able to apply a much larger pool of
121235 - talented engineers to each project, which in the end seems to
121236 - achieve an adequate (often superior) result at lower net cost.
121239 - ..
121240 - Good Management Requires Using Good Practice Consistently
121242 - We reviewed breifely reflections in 1975 by Ben Robinson, Caltrans
121243 - Resident Engineer on the Benecia-Martinez Bridge, Pier 11 Fender
121244 - project.
121246 - [On 930728 discussed this example with SMP, ref SDS 7 3221.]
121248 - [On 950327 defined Communication Metrics, ref SDS 9 0023.]
121250 - In July 1975, in a boat on way back from the Pier 11 bridge pier after
121251 - a concrete pour, Ben mentioned he would be retiring after completion
121252 - of our project.
121254 - I asked how long he had been with Caltrans?
121256 - Ben said he worked on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay bridge in the
121257 - 1930's, so he had had a long career and witnessed a lot of changes.
121259 - I asked how much modern methods of CPM and computers have improved
121260 - managing projects since those days?
121262 - Ben said CPM and computers are a big help, but the quality of
121263 - management overall is poor compared to constructing the Bay Bridge in
121264 - the 1930's.
121266 - [On 980905 Morris Jones made similar point. ref SDS 11 0714]
121268 - He said those were depression years so there were very many highly
121269 - talented engineers employed at a low wage. This large pool of talent
121270 - made it possible to apply good management practicees CONSISTENTLY on
121271 - complex projects. Everyone was sort of on edge to work hard in order
121272 - to keep their job, because of the depression. With a lot of very
121273 - talented people assigned to perform simple administrative tasks,
121274 - everything worked pretty well.
121276 - By 1975 Caltrans could not afford to assemble as many talented people
121277 - on one job because wages were too high. He recalled in the 1930's the
121278 - main focus of the Department was on building a good bridge, but by
121279 - 1975 the focus had expanded to include things like the environment,
121280 - monitoring wage rates, equal employment and so on, which are
121281 - important, but dilute attention from building the bridge on time and
121282 - within budget.
121284 - Fewer engineers were working on more things, so administration didn't
121285 - work as well.
121287 - Ben felt that as a resident engineer he had noticed a drop over the
121288 - years leading up to 1975 in attention to details and coordination in
121289 - the design stage, and less responsiveness of engineers during
121290 - construction to correcting design issues.
121292 - He felt part of the problem was just the growth of the organization.
121293 - There were more people, but, also, a lot more projects and a lot more
121294 - organization structure. This creates complexity that requires a big
121295 - effort to maintain alignment with objectives.
121297 - Ben cited efforts to "automate" management begun in the 1960s, take a
121298 - lot of time to learn and for systems to be refined through trial-and-
121299 - error so they are productive. He noted, however, that systems are
121300 - usually replaced before they become productive, so there is a constant
121301 - cycle of learning something new that never gets to the point of
121302 - helping manage the work. This focuses attention away from the actual
121303 - work, so things get overlooked, i.e., "fall through the cracks."
121305 - As a result, it took longer in 1975 to get things done than in the
121306 - 1930's. Managers spend more time fixing mistakes because there isn't
121307 - enough time to use good management practice consistently. So there
121308 - are more claims and these take more time for engineers to resolve. He
121309 - felt being an RE was more frustrating in 1975 than when he began his
121310 - career, and so was looking forward to retirement.
121312 - [On 971008 USACE reported on cost savings from eliminating rework
121313 - caused by management mistakes. ref SDS 10 1273
121315 - [On 990413 report that legacy systems from 1960s still being used
121316 - at Caltrans. ref SDS 12 5002]
121319 - Japan
121321 - Vu commented that the same phenomona contributed to Japan's strong
121322 - performance the past 30 years. However, within the past 5 years,
121323 - Japan's wage structure has been normalized relative to the US, and
121324 - this has led to a flattening of their productivity gains.
121326 - [This was applied later at ref SDS 8 line 202.]
121330 - Space Program, Manhatten Project, Panama Canal
121332 - Another example is the Space Program. Virtually unlimited funds were
121333 - made available with a highly focused mission to get to the moon.
121334 - Additionally, there was total commitment by the political structure.
121336 - Histories of the Manahatten Project to build a nuclear bomb and the
121337 - Panama Canal, reveal that a lot of talented people can do great
121338 - things. It redounds to the homilie that with enough money and time
121339 - anything can be accomplished.
121343 - More People or Automation
121345 - This record suggests that as the cost of managers increases, it
121346 - becomes less concentrated, causing mistakes that impact cost, schedule
121347 - and quality. It appears that good management can only be achieved
121348 - through more people or automation so fewer people can do more. My
121349 - sense is that people are hoping they can get by without careful
121350 - management, but in the end this fails. At any given time, it appears
121351 - that a procedure is not "really needed," that it is "overkill." Six
121352 - months later it turns out that failure to peform the procedure that
121353 - formerly seemed like overkill, "kills" the project through "Murphy's
121354 - Law," ref SDS 2 3S6H
121356 - We are now going through an economic adjustment, a recession. Real
121357 - wages are trending down, and so a new balance may be struck, but
121358 - only after a lot of pain and suffering. The alternative is to
121359 - increase management productivity of individuals through automation.
121362 - Automated Management
121364 - The tricky question is figuring out what to automate. POIMS theory
121365 - says that management is primarily an integrating function through
121366 - communications, so the thing to automate is the ability to think,
121367 - remember and communicate. Of course we are not really going to
121368 - automate these biological functions. But we routinely leverage human
121369 - capacities with the same effect. The telescope leverages eye sight.
121370 - An automobile "automates" mobility by leveraging our capacity to carry
121371 - things farther and faster. A book or memo leverages our ability to
121372 - remember. What leverages our ability to "think" and to communicate.
121374 - So we have to start by defining thinking and communicating. What is
121375 - going on in the human mind when we think, remember and communicate?
121377 - I asked about this during class today, but there was not a lot of
121378 - interest in this topic, and so I did not pursue it.
121380 - Resistance to Change
121382 - I think managers are sensitive about this because a lot of high
121383 - hopes have been dashed, ref SDS 1 line 215 and Morris at ref SDS 4
121384 - line 371.
121386 - Automating management is not an easy task, because management per
121387 - se, is an art of tracking a wide variety of details, including
121388 - subjects, integrating disparate functions, objectives and interests
121389 - relative to limited resources. Those who are willing to automate,
121390 - don't really know what to automate, nor that integration is needed
121391 - as well as automation.
121393 - This, it seems to me, is the window of opportunity for SDS.
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