Highlights for Financial Strategy for Public Managers

Boeing’s executives expect their managers to know this information, in real time, if the company is to remain profitable.

Managers need good information about costs to set prices, determine how much of a good or service to deliver, and to manage costs in ways that make their organization more likely to achieve its mission.

Public financial resources are finite, scarce, and becoming scarcer.

CVP is a powerful tool that can directly illuminate many important management decisions.

For most public organizations personnel costs are the largest and most visible budget inputs. That’s why effective budgeting for public organizations starts, and often ends, with careful attention to budgeting for personnel.

Public managers must know what portion of the costs for which they’re responsible are fixed, variable, and step-fixed. They must also understand how different cost items connect to service delivery outputs, and how their cost center is assigned indirect costs. And perhaps most important, they must understand how their program’s cost structure and cost behavior will change under different performance scenarios.

For instance, for organizations with mostly fixed costs one of the best approaches to manage costs and bolster profitability is to “scale up.” Since fixed costs are fixed, one way to manage them is to spread them across the largest possible volume of service. However, for organizations with mostly variable costs, scaling up will simply increase variable costs. The better approach in that circumstance is to invest in new technology, procurement processes, or other strategies that can drive down variable costs.

The best we can do is understand these trends, forecast them to the best of our ability, and help policymakers understand the trade-offs these trends put in play.

But fundamentally, budgeting is a form of politics. Resources are scarce, and budgeting is the process by which organizations allocate those scarce resources. As such, budgeting is about managing conflict.

For budget policymakers, conflict and compromise is often around that annual percentage change, or increment. This assumes, of course, that last year’s budget – or base budget – was a fair representation of the organization’s goals and priorities. If this is not true, then debating incremental change will only amplify that disconnect between resources and priorities. In fact, for most public organizations, that disconnect is persistent and pervasive.

Legislators and board members are generally willing to appropriate small amounts of money to try “innovative” approaches. With time, many of those small experiments morph into large-scale programs.

Highlights for Blood Meridian

“We are dealing with a people manifestly incapable of governing themselves. And do you know what happens with people who cannot govern themselves? That’s right. Others come in to govern for them.”

There is no such joy in the tavern as upon the road thereto, said the Mennonite.

Sproule sat without moving. The kid looked at him but he would look away. He was wounded in an enemy country far from home and although his eyes took in the alien stones about yet the greater void beyond seemed to swallow up his soul.

But the kid only spat into the darkness of the space between them. I know your kind, he said. What’s wrong with you is wrong all the way through you.

And so these parties divided upon that midnight plain, each passing back the way the other had come, pursuing as all travelers must inversions without end upon other men’s journeys.

They’d been skinned and I can tell ye it does very little for a man’s appearance.

The way of the world is to bloom and to flower and die but in the affairs of men there is no waning and the noon of his expression signals the onset of night. His spirit is exhausted at the peak of its achievement. His meridian is at once his darkening and the evening of his day.

Their arms aloft pulling at their clothes were luminous and each obscure soul was enveloped in audible shapes of light as if it had always been so.

The horse screamed and kicked but the bull had planted its feet and it lifted the animal rider and all clear of the ground before Miller could get his pistol free and when he put the muzzle to the bull’s forehead and fired and the whole grotesque assembly collapsed he stepped clear of the wreckage and walked off in disgust with the smoking gun dangling in his hand.

Each man scanned the terrain and the movements of the least of creatures were logged into their collective cognizance until they were federated with invisible wires of vigilance and advanced upon that landscape with a single resonance.

Moral law is an invention of mankind for the disenfranchisement of the powerful in favor of the weak.

Of such corporal histories even as these he bore no tidings and although it was the custom in that wilderness to stop with any traveler and exchange the news he seemed to travel with no news at all, as if the doings of the world were too slanderous for him to truck with, or perhaps too trivial.

Highlights for the Argonauts

“I was so happy renting in New York City for so long because renting—or at least the way I rented, which involved never lifting a finger to better my surroundings—allows you to let things literally fall apart all around you. Then, when it gets to be too much, you just move on.

But any fixed claim on realness, especially when it is tied to an identity, also has a finger in psychosis. If a man who thinks he is a king is mad, a king who thinks he is a king is no less so.

This slice of truth, offered in the final hour, ended up beginning a new chapter of my adulthood, the one in which I realized that age doesn’t necessarily bring anything with it, save itself. The rest is optional.

To devote yourself to someone else’s pussy can be a means of devoting yourself to your own. But whatever sameness I’ve noted in my relationships with women is not the sameness of Woman, and certainly not the sameness of parts. Rather, it is the shared, crushing understanding of what it means to live in a patriarchy.

In fact I have come to understand revolutionary language as a sort of fetish—in which case, one response to the above might be, Our diagnosis is similar, but our perversities are not compatible.

We haven’t yet stopped trying to explain to each other what these words mean to us; perhaps we never will.

Over time, I have come to suspect that my affection for Bubbles may have less to do with its endorsement of the rule of negative gynecology, and more to do with its ridiculous title, which it shares with Michael Jackson’s pet chimpanzee.

But the tacit undercurrent of her argument, as I felt it, was that Gallop’s maternity had rotted her mind—besotted it with the narcissism that makes one think that an utterly ordinary experience shared by countless others is somehow unique, or uniquely interesting.

It reminds us that any bodily experience can be made new and strange, that nothing we do in this life need have a lid crammed on it, that no one set of practices or relations has the monopoly on the so-called radical, or the so-called normative.

These are the voices that pass for radicality in our times. Let us leave them to their love, their event proper.

Leave it to the old patrician white guy to call the lady speaker back to her body, so that no one misses the spectacle of that wild oxymoron, the pregnant woman who thinks. Which is really just a pumped-up version of that more general oxymoron, a woman who thinks.

Who cares what SHE feels like doing? It’s her conjugal duty to get over a massive physical event that has literally rearranged her organs and stretched her parts beyond comprehension and brought her through a life-or-death portal as soon as humanly possible.

These are solid guidelines to which I have long aspired. But now I think we have a right to our kink and our fatigue, both.

If all goes well, the baby will make it out alive, and so will you. Nonetheless, you will have touched death along the way. You will have realized that death will do you too, without fail and without mercy. It will do you even if you don’t believe it will do you, and it will do you in its own way. There’s never been a human that it didn’t.

Once he came to, he called her collect; she didn’t accept the charge. She threw up her hands as she told us this story, saying, I didn’t have the money! But we also heard her saying, I can’t carry him anymore.

The mother of an adult child sees her work completed and undone at the same time.

Highlights for UX for Lean Startups

Nothing will bias a session faster than you trying to sell him on your ideas. You’re not there to talk. You are there to listen.

Nobody in the world can possibly tell you whether some abstract concept you just explained will solve a problem that they have. Even if they could somehow understand the wild abstractions you’re presenting them with, they couldn’t honestly tell you whether they would pay money for your solution.

They hear “listen to your customer” and think that we want them to blindly accept every ridiculous feature request made by somebody with a credit card and an opinion.

The point was, whatever changes we made, we had an objective way of determining whether or not the design was a success.

You see, if you’re designing something interactive, you need to design it to be…well…interactive.

One of the most common problems, and possibly the toughest one to overcome, is the tendency to accept solutions from users without understanding the underlying problem.

If you trust your engineering team to make some interaction design decisions, then you can present them with lower fidelity mocks and work through things like corner cases with them as they build.

I’ll just mention that, if you’re working with an outside agency of any sort, it is almost certainly spending time making its deliverables attractive. I

It may not be immediately clear how that relates to UX, but in my experience, Agile, iterative, efficient teams create better user experiences every time.

Design is not art. If you think that there’s some ideal design that is completely divorced from the effect it’s having on your company’s bottom line, then you’re an artist, not a designer. Design has a purpose and a goal, and those things can be measured.

The best alternative is the cross-functional team.This can be a tough change for people who are used to working in their own little silos, but combining people into one product team lets you go much faster.

The reason this works is that everybody is working on the same thing at the same time, which means that there are no handoffs where information gets garbled or lost.

Highlights from Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built

The idea is that by sharing orders, delivery status, and customer feedback each member company can improve efficiency and service quality, while remaining separately owned.

Alibaba encourages a sense of informality at work. Every employee is asked to adopt a nickname.

With its constant emphasis on culture and ideology, people at Alibaba refer to HR informally as the “Political Commissar” (zheng wei).

reducing “time to market,” launching products that they can perfect later, an approach some refer to as “running with short steps.”

“English helps me a lot. It makes me understand the world better, helps me to meet the best CEOs and leaders in the world, and makes me understand the distance between China and the world.”

Then trotting out one of his favorite sayings: “Today is brutal, tomorrow is more brutal, but the day after tomorrow is beautiful. However, the majority of people will die tomorrow night. They won’t be able to see the sunshine the day after tomorrow. Aliren must see the sunshine the day after tomorrow.”

Because schools teach knowledge, while starting businesses requires wisdom. Wisdom is acquired through experience. Knowledge can be acquired through hard work.”

Taobao.com’s tagline was “There is no treasure that cannot be hunted out, and there is no treasure that cannot be sold.”

But this contrarian stance is vintage Jack.

A small contribution to apple/swift

I saw a starter task fly by in the Swift Weekly Brief and jumped on it. Now it turns out that the Swift project has a util directory full of various Python scripts that perform various tasks including cloning and building the project.

One of those python scripts needed to print out a message if somebody calls it without the –clone parameter. If you don’t do that, it doesn’t clone all the repositories that you need to be able to build the project. I did some path fiddling and testing against a sample of directories that should be present and there is PR #12856 that got merged into the project (and got mentioned in the next Brief).

I had to run the thing by the people who have testing/merging privileges a couple of times mostly because of how stringent Python linting is these days. Writing code that adheres to PEP8 is no joke but I’m glad that people have set such a high standard for themselves and the community. I got commit access to another project1 and figured out how to run the linter there until it was happy with the code on my machine.

There is also lots to do even just in the python part of the Swift codebase without me even having to dive into C++. I also have 15+ years of python experience to draw from vs. two months or so of C++. I’ve been looking around for some other python starter tasks to contribute some more stuff but still have to find the time to do them. Whether I’ll get around to ever contribute to the core project is still open, but knowing how to build and run Swift is useful if I want to try out some of the interesting new proposals.

I’m very glad too that the Swift project itself has chosen for python as its scripting language. Too many iOS tools to my taste are written in ruby a language I have zero inclination to learn. I taught myself a bit to be able to get a plugin into fastlane, but that was more than enough. But it looks like we may be able to get rid of ruby in the future since more and more functionality of fastlane is being rolled into Xcode and cocoapods is being superseded by the Swift Package Manager. SPM especially is a project where there is still a lot of rather accessible work to be done which will yield huge improvements in the quality of life of lots of developers.

  1. Ask me how much fun it is to maintain a project to work on both Python 2.7 and 3.6.

Highlights from The Dispossessed

There were walls around all his thoughts.

You know how it is, what women call thinking is done with the uterus! Of course, there’s always a few exceptions, God-awful brainy women with vaginal atrophy.

“Entirely on your own initiative,” said Oiie. “It is the only initiative I acknowledge,” Shevek said, smiling, in dead earnest.

All such luxuries which if freely allowed to the public would tend to drain irreplaceable natural resources or to foul the environment with waste products were strictly controlled by regulation and taxation.

The meetings of such groups, the vehicles of both social action and sociability, were the framework of life in any small community, but here in the city they seemed much less important.

Even from the brother there is no comfort in the bad hour, in the dark at the foot of the wall.

In a human sacrifice to deity there might be at least a mistaken and terrible beauty; in the rites of the moneychangers, where greed, laziness, and envy were assumed to move all men’s acts, even the terrible became banal.

figurines and souvenirs and kickshaws and mementos and gewgaws and bric-a-brac, everything either useless to begin with or ornamented so as to disguise its use

After all, work is done for the work’s sake. It is the lasting pleasure of life. The private conscience knows that. And also the social conscience, the opinion of one’s neighbors.

“It’s always easier not to think for oneself. Find a nice safe hierarchy and settle in. Don’t make changes, don’t risk disapproval, don’t upset your syndics. It’s always easiest to let yourself be governed.”

Oiie was an ethical man, but his private insecurities, his anxieties as a property owner, made him cling to rigid notions of law and order.

You’re thirty, aren’t you? By that age a man should know not only his cellular function but his organic function—what his optimum role is the social organism is.

The individual cannot bargain with the State. The State recognizes no coinage but power: and it issues the coins itself.

The thing about working with time, instead of against it, he thought, is that it is not wasted. Even pain counts.

We left with empty hands, a hundred and seventy years ago, and we were right. We took nothing. Because there is nothing here but States and their weapons, the rich and their lies, and the poor and their misery. There is no way to act rightly, with a clear heart, on Urras. There is nothing you can do that profit does not enter into, and fear of loss, and the wish for power. You cannot say good morning without knowing which of you is ‘superior’ to

Somebody had told Bedap that Rulag was an engineer, and he had found in her the engineer’s clarity and pragmatism of mind, plus the mechanist’s hatred of complexity and irregularity.

The only security we have is our neighbors’ approval. An archist can break a law and hope to get away unpunished, but you can’t ‘break’ a custom; it’s the framework of your life with other people.

What’s the good of an anarchist society that’s afraid of anarchists?

Highlights from What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Successful people consistently compare themselves favorably to their peers.

People who believe they can succeed see opportunities where others see threats. They’re not afraid of uncertainty or ambiguity. They embrace it. They want to take greater risks and achieve greater returns. Given the choice, they will always bet on themselves.

Successful people have a unique distaste for feeling controlled or manipulated.

If you press people to identify the motives behind their self-interest it usually boils down to four items: money, power, status, and popularity.

That’s the fallacy of added value. Whatever we gain in the form of a better idea is lost many times over in our employees’ diminished commitment to the concept.

It’s obvious that the best course of action for dealing with people like this is to not let them make us angry. Getting angry doesn’t improve the situation and life’s too short to waste on feeling bad.

But once you appreciate the payoff of saying nothing—that if you’re silent, you cannot make an ass out of yourself or make an enemy out of someone else—then you might have a chance of getting better.

I also suspect that’s a big reason why so many of us withhold information. It’s not that we want to keep people in the dark. It’s simply that we’re too busy. We mean well. We have good intentions. But we fail to get around to it.

If the answer was “yes” he gave them some very quick recognition, either by phone, e-mail, voice mail, or a note.

Stop blaming others for the choices you made—and that goes with double emphasis for the choices that turned out well.

No one expects us to be right all the time. But when we’re wrong, they certainly expect us to own up to it.

It’s not about you. It’s about what other people think of you.

Basically, we accept feedback that is consistent with our self-image and reject feedback that is inconsistent.

1. Let go of the past.  2. Tell the truth.  3. Be supportive and helpful—not cynical or negative.  4. Pick something to improve yourself—so everyone is focused more on “improving” than “judging.”

It’s my contention—and it’s the bedrock thesis of this book—that interpersonal behavior is the difference-maker between being great and near-great, between getting the gold and settling for the bronze.

Even though we may be able to deny our problems to ourselves, they may be very obvious to the people who are observing us.

Some of the best feedback comes from what you observe. If you accept it and act on it, it’s no less valid than people telling you the same thing at point-blank range.

In each phase you must target a different constituency. In phase 4, you woo up—to get your superiors to approve. In phase 5, you woo laterally—to get your peers to agree. In phase 6, you woo down—to get your direct reports to accept.

All I’m saying is that you cannot rely on other people to read your mind or take note of the changed behavior you’re displaying. It may be patently obvious to you, but it takes a lot more than a few weeks of behavioral modification for people to notice the new you.

There’s the part where we actually listen. And there’s the part where we speak. Speaking establishes how we are perceived as a listener. What we say is proof of how well we listen. They are two sides of the same coin.

Asking, “Is it worth it?” engages you in thinking beyond the discussion to consider (a) how the other person regards you, (b) what that person will do afterwards, and (c) how that person will behave the next time you talk.

The ability to make a person feel that, when you’re with that person, he or she is the most important (and the only) person in the room is the skill that separates the great from the near-great.

Eventually, you’ll come to see that expressing gratitude is a talent—a talent that goes hand in hand with wisdom and self-knowledge and maturity.

But injecting Jim into the mix—a friendly sympathetic human being whom, on the one hand, I do not want to disappoint (that’s human nature) and who, on the other hand, provides constant encouragement and input—brings it more in line with the follow-up process I’ve been describing here

Successful people have a high need for self-determination and will tend to accept ideas about concerns that they “own” while rejecting ideas that feel “forced” upon them.

What’s interesting (and reassuring) about this story is that it’s an example of a boss accurately assessing his shortcomings and his employee agreeing with him. That isn’t always the case. Sometimes the gap between what a boss says about himself and what the staff believes is wide, very wide.

Your memo has to be brutally honest. Your employees have to believe it is accurate. And most important, they must believe it matters.

Let them figure out what they should be doing on their own. Let them tell you where you’re not needed.

If you manage your people the way you’d want to be managed, you’re forgetting one thing: You’re not managing you.

Most leadership development revolves around one huge false assumption—that if people understand then they will do. That’s not true. Most of us understand, we just don’t do.

I tell people that change is a simple equation: Stop the annoying behavior and you’ll stop being perceived as an annoyance.

The smart ones believed that their corporation would “drop them in a flash” when they no longer met the company’s needs, so they in turn were willing to “drop the company” when it no longer met their needs.

As a general rule, people in their 20s want to learn on the job. In their 30s they want to advance. And in their 40s they want to rule.

Let that be your model for dealing with needy, demanding, allegedly “selfish” employees. To ignore them and resent them is to misunderstand them—and eventually lose them. You’re committing the corporate equivalent of a hate crime.

Managers at smart companies are catching on. They’re beginning to see that their relationship with top talent resembles a strategic alliance rather than a traditional employment contract.

Stop trying to change people who don’t think they have a problem.

Highlights from Discontent and its Civilizations

But if globalization is capable of holding out any fundamental promise to us, any temptation to go along with its havoc, then surely that promise ought to be this: we will be more free to invent ourselves.

What distinguishes the “war on terror” is that it is a war against a concept, not a nation. And the enemy concept, it seems to me, is pluralism.

Civilizations are illusions, but these illusions are pervasive, dangerous, and powerful.

On our globalizing planet, where the pace of change keeps accelerating, many of us are coming to feel at least a bit foreign, because all of us, whether we travel far afield or not, are migrants through time.

It’s a funny thing to lose your first language.

Yes, babies could look cute. But I’d been in enough relationships to know looks only go so far, particularly when they’re packaged with a high-maintenance need for constant attention.

Ours is a large extended family: my mother is one of nine, my father one of four.

And there will be people like me, with our powered exoskeletons left often in the closet, able to leap over buildings when the mood strikes us, but also prone to wandering naked and feeling the sand of a beach between our puny toes.

But a crisis can be an opportunity. It incites change. And the novel needs to keep changing if it is to remain novel.

Civilizations are illusory. But they are useful illusions. They allow us to deny our common humanity, to allocate power, resources, and rights in ways repugnantly discriminatory.