Thursday, January 29, 2009

Setbacks are like Power Petrol

My week is getting better and better - like the saying when it rains it pours - one challenge after another is coming my way. 

When you are living through one of these setbacks it sucks big time. You really wish it passes off fast and the proverbial bend around the corner comes so things suddenly become alright. From my personal experience I have started appreciating these setbacks. When I look back at all the setbacks I ever had - each one of them has helped me add an important skill/value.

I once lost a job interview, and I became good in Performance tuning. We goofed up in a UAT drop and that lead to a foolproof automated deployment system. I lost a lead but now I know why and I am working on filling the gap. Each setback teaches something new.  

How do we deal with setbacks?

1. Try to get to the bottom of a setback - I recently read about 5 Whys technique used in Amazon's fulfillment center. An employee cut his finger and they asked 5 Whys to go to the bottom of the truth. Its not easy to find out the final why  - but it is a start.

"1.Why did the associate damage his thumb?

Because his thumb got caught in the conveyor.

2.Why did his thumb get caught in the conveyor?

Because he was chasing his bag, which was on a running conveyor.

3.Why did he chase his bag?

Because he placed his bag on the conveyor, but it then turned-on by surprise

4.Why was his bag on the conveyor?

Because he used the conveyor as a table

So, the root cause of the associate’s damaged thumb is that he simply needed a table, there wasn’t one around, so he used a conveyor as a table.  To eliminate further safety incidences, we need to provide tables at the appropriate stations and update safety training.  Also, look into preventative maintenance standard work."

2. Try not to get depressed - I know it is not an easy thing. Even recently I went into bouts of depression but try to get out of it quickly. Try to do something fun - eat that 3 scoop Banana split of Baskin Robbins and brood why. You will be enlightened in the end ( and a little fat :) ) 

3. Identifies the gaps in you - No one is perfect. Even the almighty iPod has some design failures ( when you use coverflow it stutters, videos take a long time to start) - but each revision removes these gaps. You might be an expert java developer but perhaps you do not know much about deployment and linux - It is a gap. Once you know it and you do something about it - you inch closer to perfection.

4. Negative feedback is extremely valuable - In Control Systems, positive feedback leads to an unstable system. Only negative feedback ensures system stability. There is mathematic proof for this ! If  you keep getting one success after the other, and everyone keeps praising you - start suspecting. There is going to be a mighty fall ( eg. golden peacock award year after year for one Mr.Ramalinga Raju of Satyam ). Start appreciating the negative feedback that setbacks give you.

So now do you agree with me that setbacks are like power petrol. They fuel you to great heights. 

1 comment:

  1. 5 Why technique is a "lean" technique used by Toyota to identify root cause of problems. This is popularized in the "The Toyota Way" book. Its a very interesting read, if one is able to apply manufacturing principles to software.

    Few common issues with 5 why are present @ wikipedia -