Matching capabilities to oversight

I’ve been in the machining business for many years. During that time, I’ve worn many ‘hats’ in the industry, from being a machinist operator to owning a CNC machine shop. It has been my experience, that many times, shop supervisors have very limited knowledge of machine shop practices and procedures.

This can be detrimental to the productivity of a shop, if that supervisor insists on implementing ideas and/or procedures, that run contrary to common machine shop practices. This is because many common shop practices have been developed over time, and are fundamental to running a shop in a very precise way.

Shop practices can range from how machining processes are accomplished, to how work flows through the area. These practices can also be used to delegate responsibilities to key machinists… responsibilities that may encompass who and when tools are ordered, whose job it is to maintain the machine tools, and the best way to machine a job. For this reason, the most qualified machinist, is usually the shop lead. The shop lead’s primary purpose is to interface with the supervisor.

Because the lead and the supervisor are closely tied to one another, it is imperative that they share a common view and understanding on how the shop set up, staffed, and run. Supervisors don’t typically have much machining knowledge, but the shop lead does. In theory, one compliments the other, to make a functioning whole.

In a perfect world, both the supervisor’s and shop lead’s overall abilities overlap. Where one’s skills may be lacking, the other compensates. The reality is that many times, because the supervisor hasn’t the depth of knowledge the lead possesses, instances arise in which they end up working against each other. This breakdown impacts the working relationships of the personnel on the floor and the productivity of the shop.

So, how do we match supervisors to shop leads? I think the best supervisors are those who have been machinists on the floor, but that’s not the world we live in. As I’ve said before, they should compliment each other. Understanding that, in most cases, the supervisor has very limited machine shop experiences, we should seek out a lead that fulfills the deficits of the supervisor.

Three keys to matching a supervisor to a lead are Scope, Depth, and Knowledge. These are defined below.

Scope: the area of responsibility of the individual

Depth: the amount of influence one has over their work environment

Knowledge: level of mastery in the area of your responsibility

When we assign values to these three areas, for both the supervisor and the lead, we should see an overlap that fills the voids of one with that of the other.

Here’s and example of a typical Supervisor’s radial chart…

A supervisor has a lot of Scope (7.0) but can be restricted by higher up management, thus limiting their Scope below the maximum value of ten. Their Depth (6.0) does have a meaningful impact on how the shop is run. As we can see, their limited Knowledge of the machine shop translates to a two. This level of Knowledge makes it that much more important to select a qualified Lead. The Lead needs to be able to backfill the supervisor’s gap in Knowledge.

Below is an example of that Lead’s radial chart…

Admittedly, the chart seems overly optimistic in contrast to the Supervisor’s. But, keep in mind… the Lead is usually the most seasoned machinist with a vast amount of experience in the industry. While a Supervisor may have a more broad work experience, that may include non-manufacturing jobs, a Lead is more prone to only have very specific work experiences dealing with manufacturing exclusively.

Those two previous charts are best case scenarios. What I’ve found in my personal journey in the trade, looks more like this for a Lead…

The Scope for this hypothetical Lead is a four. The Depth is a miserable two. And the Knowledge is also a two. WHY??? Well, as is often the case, “it’s not what you know, but who you know’. I’ve found many Supervisors want to micro-manage their work environments. In doing so, they place mediocre people into Lead positions. These Leads are easily cowed and lack the Knowledge or Scope to ‘push back’ against a Supervisor who is negating common machine shop practices. The end results are a poorly run shop floor and a general lack of respect for the Supervisor and incompetent Leads. Job apathy becomes the norm amongst the other, more qualified machinists.

 

 

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Finding common ground

In the world of everyday interactions, it’s commonplace to have misunderstandings in communication. Lacking the social and facial cues that could be gleaned from face-to-face dialogue, emails and texts can be misconstrued depending upon the recipient’s frame of mind while reading the correspondence. The written word can easily be taken out of context.

People are complex and each one of us has a unique way of processing written and verbal communications. When we read or listen to written and verbal communications, we tend to process that information through our internal perspective filters. Perspective filters are how we interpret our world according to our views on religion, political ideals, world views, etc. That perspective filter can also be affected by our emotions. Reading a correspondence while we’re in a positive mood does not always have the same meanings if we’re in a negative mood. The content is the same but the context becomes skewed.

How do we limit communication breakdowns?

I believe we can become more effective in our communications if we start from a common ground. We’ll never eliminate all the variables that contribute to poor communications but we can try to minimize them. Using the correct mode of communication is very important. While it isn’t required in most situations, follow up verbal conversations with an email to reiterate what was discussed. This is especially true in business environments.

Written communications

I’ve found in my personal and professional life, that it helps if you keep texts and emails brief. Use clear language and simplify the content. Focus on words that promote unity instead of division. Avoid information overload. Try to read received content in a neutral emotional state. If you’re not quite sure about what is being communicated, ask for clarification. Don’t assume. When sending emails, review what you’ve written for grammatical errors and words that could be taken out of context.

Verbal communications

Let’s face it. Most of us say things without putting much thought into the words we use or how it may be received. This can cause hurt feelings and negative reactions which limit the effectiveness of further communications. People shut down emotionally when they’re offended and it becomes much harder to then communicate.

Verbal communication, done face-to-face, can give your intended audience subtle cues about your intentions when sharing information. The words you use, the tone of your voice, the cadence of your speech, can all be received either negatively or positively. It’s important to understand perceptual and language differences that could cause miscommunication. When speaking, actively ‘listen’ to the verbal and non-verbal cues of your audience. Do not to assume your words are understood by others.

I’ve found that when you initiate a conversation in which you’re seeking to sway the other party, it’s helpful to engage them on friendly ground. How do you achieve this? Ask them about their day. Compliment something about them. Promote an atmosphere of friendship. People are much more receptive when they feel a sense of appreciation or gratitude from another. Adversely, if you are confrontational when speaking to someone, they’re likely to emotionally ‘shut down’ and not be at all receptive to anything you have to say… no matter how correct your points may be. In the attempt to sway someone, you’ve lost before you began.

 

 

 

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Mucking about

Quite often, I find myself bored to tears. My everyday life is filled with monotony. Things that hold my interest for any length of time, are hard to come by, so I tend to create things that occupy my time. Those things could be some sort of word game, designed to engage others and study their reactions… using language that can be easily confused, to see if the other person knows or catches the usage. Purposely mispronouncing words while watching the eyes of the one to which I’m speaking… It can be fun, I must admit.

Or, I would take whatever I had in my environment and ‘do the math’. ‘Doing the math’, might involve trigging out distance to objects from my immediate location, or the steps people would take between certain known points within the room and figuring out the length of their strides, and maybe… the quantity of the many shapes around me, the squares, hexagons, etc., that populate my surroundings. Anything, anything to break up my days into bearable segments.

At one small company many years ago, a couple of us would play word games with one of the owners. We’d choose a ‘word of the day’ and use it in our conversations with the select owner. The word chosen could be something purposely mispronounced, or so obscure that to hear it once would be unusual, but to hear it several times in one day, would be highly suspect. It would go something like this…

Example 1

Owner: “What does the production report look like this morning?”

Reply: “Well, we’re ejactly on track to meet our goals and should incur no penalties by coming in ahead of our deadline.” Ejactly being used in place of the word ‘exactly’ and the word ‘penal’ in the word ‘penalties’, stressed heavily.

Example 2

Owner: “How much material do we need to order to produce the job quantity required?”

Reply: “I think we can order 10 feet of material. That will give us enough to do the job and leave a tittynope in case we need it.” A tittynope is a small amount of leftover, in this case material. It’s also a word no one expects to hear several times a day.

It’s the little distractions that make my day more interesting and helps to pass the time. And, in a round-about way, I learn about the people I involve with my word games. How they react, respond, etc., gives me insight into their educational level and attention to details.

 

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The product of our choices

We’re constantly bombarded with ‘poor pitiful me’ stories from the media outlets, to include social media. Sure, bad things do happen to good people, but I really do believe that the primary reasons why those ‘bad things’ happen, are a direct result of decisions we’ve made in our daily lives.

I’ve always been the type of person who is curious as to why things are the way that they are. Why people do the things that they do. The motivations, or lack thereof, for people’s life decisions.

Many choices we make daily have little bearing upon our lives as a whole. But… I do think the underlying reasons behind those daily choices, do set us upon a path that ultimately defines how our lives turn out.

I also believe that economic factors can influence poor choices. People are creatures of habit. We tend take refuge in things that are familiar to us. Often, our decisions reflect our habits. Growing up in poverty can put people into the position where they trade short-term gains for long term stability. It can be difficult to think about your economic future when you’re struggling to live day-to-day.

If you’re in this cyclical situation, what do you do? No one solution works for everyone. Starting with making wiser short term choices is one approach to improving the direction of your life. It could be relatively insignificant things, like being more conscious in how you spend your monies… not buying that cute dress you want, that pack of cigarettes you crave, etc. Instant gratification is so alluring. It’s easy to say to ourselves ‘it’s just a couple of dollars’, or ‘this purchase isn’t going to break me’. True, in both cases, but those small decisions often set us up psychologically, in making larger financial decisions.

Break the decision cycles that keep you tied to a life you’re not happy with. While we may not be able to achieve that perfect life we dream about, we can determine the path that leads in that direction. We are, essentially, the product of our choices.

 

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The pathway ahead…

It was dark. The pathway ahead was faintly visible and the ground felt soft, absorbing my footsteps as I passed over it running. The air was cool and damp from a recent rain. At first, running was easy. A slight breeze was blowing towards me. As I increased my pace, so did the resistance from the breeze. I reached a point in my speed that the breeze subsided… almost as if I had ‘punched’ through the resistance. My running became easier.

This went on for a while, so I decided to increase my speed again. The breeze returned and this time it was stronger. Again, I ‘punched’ through the resistance and it was somewhat less turbulent. I increased my speed… the resistance returned more strongly than before. Increased speed certainly meant more wind resistance. But this was a dream and I was well aware it was a dream. I had the distinct feeling that these breezes were in essence, more like walls. Each wall that I passed was met with more walls and more resistance. As I eclipsed each breeze wall, my strides became longer and the distance between the walls decreased, meaning that I was transcending the breeze walls more rapidly and not enjoying the reduced turbulence before encountering the next wall. I was caught in a constant state of buffeting air. It was interesting and annoying at the same time.

It’s funny when you’re dreaming and you know it’s a dream. Yet, it’s frustrating. Things happen in dreams with which we’re given very detailed feelings we can’t describe, and information we don’t know quite how to fit together. I don’t think this was a very hard dream to analyze. I’m no Sigmund Freud, but this dream felt very much like I was running towards goals and meeting resistance all along the way. The goals achieved were met with more resistance in accomplishing the goals ahead.

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“Above the Dirt”

Yesterday was very trying. Like most mornings, I laid there thinking of reasons to get out of bed. I did get up… my heart just wasn’t ‘in it’. I arrived at work a short time later and started my day. As the hours slowly ticked by, I grew more and more uneasy. I finally reached a point when I couldn’t take it any longer. I filled out a form acknowledging that I was leaving work before my scheduled quitting time, and placed it on my lead’s desk. Truthfully, I wasn’t sure if I’d come back… ever. I drove the short distance home and parked the car. I must’ve sat there a good fifteen minutes, lost in my thoughts. I climbed out of my car and went inside. Closing the front door behind me, I quietly ascended the stairs. Looking in my son’s room, I saw that he was still asleep… so peaceful. I envied him. Now, I don’t have many things my life in which I take pride and joy, but in my son… I have both. He’s the reason I go on. (Summer 2017)

 

Many times, when passing acquaintances, plesantries are exchanged. “Hello!”, “Good morning!”, and “How are you?” It’s how we greet one another and acknowledge our friendships. To me, these are some of the most awkward social interactions of my day. My Southern upbringing dictates that I reply in kind when greeted. Out of respect for those social courtesies, I do respond. Now, I’m not an extrovert by any loose definition of the term… so, responding makes me feel quite uncomfortable. I want to return greetings to those who were kind enough to initiate, but the “How are you?”, troubles me most with an adequate response.

I’m a firm believer in being as transparent and straight forward as possible. I can, at times, be very blunt in my day-to-day interactions. That said, my usual response when asked “How are you?”, is “I’m above the dirt.” Yeah, I know it sounds like a morbid response, and possibly ‘jerkish’, but it really is how I feel. Life is a chore… a chore that I’ve grown tired of participating.

It seems like I’ve spent the better part of my life, analyzing and justifying my existence. Life is pointless. It exists only to perpetuate itself. There is no ‘end game’ and no reward. It’s not unusual for me to contemplate death. That’s something always ruminating in the dark reaches of my mind. My challenge has always been finding a reason to go on. Every day that I’m in the here and now, I’m ‘above the dirt’… and that’s the justification for my response.

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Just because…

Just because someone is highly intelligent, doesn’t mean they won’t make stupid decisions.

Many moons ago, I owned a tile setting company in the Deep South. The homes I would lay tile in were owned by well-to-do people. These were mostly self-made folks, starting out in humble beginnings and working their way into prosperity. I enjoyed talking with them as time allowed and a favorite question of mine was, ‘What is the secret to your success?’.

One such client, which I admired greatly, had grown up very poor. He said that he was the first person to graduate high school in his immediate family. But here he was, a very successful businessman, a prolific inventor, well respected in his community, and had no college education… how did he accomplish so much?

In speaking with him (I’ll call him Ted), I learned a little more about his life story. It turns out, what he would do was invent medical devices and take out patents on them. He would then ‘sit’ on the patents and wait. Eventually, someone would produce a product, which infringed upon his patent, and start to generate monies from the sales of said product. This was the point when Ted would step in and sue for patent infringement. By not suing immediately when the infringement was initially discovered, the offending party used their own monies to develop and market the product. This saved Ted a lot of his own time, money, and risk usually associated with bringing a product to market. All Ted had to do was claim royalties from the offending patent. Genius, right?

Well, on the flip side of Ted’s story, were a lot of missteps. For instance, Ted was building a large home overlooking a huge lake system in the area. From atop the hill, his master bedroom had a 270 degree view of the lakes below. On one part of his property there existed a cliff wall that was a local favorite for rock climbers. This presented a problem in terms of liability issues. If someone were to be injured, Ted might be held liable. This sort of thing is known legally, as an ‘attractive nuisance’. To protect himself from such a situation, Ted decided to gift the cliffside area to the city. Sounds great thus far, right? Wrong. When Ted, months later, decided to put up a fence close to the cliff, he was informed that he could not fence off city property. Now, people not only climbed the cliff, they also trespassed constantly across his land because he had no fence. Had Ted done his due diligence, he would’ve known about the restrictions concerning the fencing off of city property. Knowing this, he could’ve installed the fence and then donate the land to the city… his fence would’ve been grandfathered in and the law not applicable.

Sadly, Ted passed away before his dream home I was working on was completed. He was the pilot of an aircraft in which his wife, and a son were passengers. The plane went down and there were no survivors. The way his will was written, each benefactor of his estate was awarded a percentage. That meant everything had to be liquidated so that a monetary value could be determined and percentages divided up. Homes were sold, a private WWI airplane museum hit the auction block, and one of the country’s largest Disney figurines collection at the time was broken up… all because his will was in percentages.

I have little doubt that Ted was every bit a genius I thought him to be. He was a truly remarkable man. Even geniuses can, and do, make boneheaded mistakes.

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The IQ bell curve

 

This is a difficult topic to write about. The general population is somewhat squeamish on the subject. The topic of IQ can be explosive. As with anything, IQ can be controversial.  The information is out there if people really have a desire to know and learn. My attempt here is geared more towards laying out the basics in order to obtain a general understanding of the subject.

An IQ score is a composite score of several tested areas comprised of reasoning, memory, acquired knowledge, and mental processing speed.

In the chart above, we can readily make several observations. The mean IQ score is 100. The standard deviations are by 15 point (SD=15) increments. Standard deviations can be both negative and positive. If a score falls below the mean of 100, it will be a negative SD. Above 100, a positive SD. Each SD above or below the mean is represented as SD- or SD+.

Referencing the chart again, we can see that roughly 68% of the general population will fall between SD-1 and SD+1. That correlates to an IQ value ranging from 85 to 115. And 95.44% are between 70 (SD-2) and 130 (SD+2). It should be noted that IQ tests are ‘recalibrated’ over time to obtain a 100 mean score. As the population gets ‘smarter’, the mean will adjust.

So, what does all of this mean? Without some sort of corresponding scale, IQ scores are hardly of any use. This is where we go to other sources to define the differences in IQ. The chart below breaks down IQ classifications.

I refuse to comment much on the classification ranges. It’s a minefield to even try. I’ll let you come to your own conclusions. But I will say this much… less than 2% of the population fall into both the SD-2 and SD+2 ranges respectively. It has been suggested but never conclusively proven, that very high IQ people suffer from mental illnesses in greater frequencies than in normal intelligence ranges. True? God, I hope not…    😉

 

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Input = output

A question was recently asked in a Mensa based online group. It went something like this, “What does Group Name mean to you? What do you love? Why do you stay?”

For obvious reasons, I won’t mention the group name… but the comments in response to the questions are very applicable to Mensa in general. Often times, people will sit on the sidelines and make observations about how ‘Mensa can be so much better if only…’. Rarely, will the people making the suggestions, attempt to enact real changes. To paraphrase a Mensan, ‘To complain, is to volunteer!’ And that’s the essence of this post. Everyone will have different experiences and interactions, as is true with anything else in life. Mensa, to me at least, is a relationship wherein the value we get out of it, is proportional to our participation.

What follows, are a few comments to the questions.

  1. Making an obscure reference or joke and people getting it. But what really keeps me here, and what will keep me fighting for our Group Name? Family. The fact is that anyone who *wants* to belong to this family is accepted with open arms.I can be loud and obnoxious and self-centered and a total attention whore. I have a lot of opinions about a lot of things. I know there are plenty of people here who believe differently than I do about almost everything. And I’d be willing to bet there are people here who just don’t like me, for whatever reason. You know what? THAT’S OKAY. We’re still family.The reason I stay and fight is because I know a lot of y’all would do it for me. If my life caved in, Group Name would have my back…and not just the people I count among my IRL friends. I know I’d have help from lurkers, and from those who disagree with me, and maybe even from those who don’t like me. And that’s not because I post all the time, or I’m a “cool kid,” or whatever. It’s because FAMILY.
  2. Friendship. Acceptance. Belonging. I joined Mensa in 2010 on a dare. I didn’t get my money’s worth until February of last year when I found Group Name. Some of the people here have become incredibly important to me, and there is nothing I wouldn’t do for them, because they allowed me to be myself, without judgment, without condemnation, and they liked me in spite of my flaws, which are legion. This is my family. My tribe. My Island of Misfit Mensans.
  3. I love the people… y’all are just some damn fun people! The fact that so many people have offered to drop everything and come help me… people reach out to check on you… people who you didn’t even realize knew who you were! The jokes, the sarcasm, the drinks… all awesome! Y’all have become family so quickly…. I’m all emotional today so I’m just going to leave it at I fucking love y’all
  4. For me, it is a testing facility for advanced ideas and language, which can go anywhere.
  5. Freedom to be me. Family – the one I choose. Fun because every serious matter has a joke in it.
  6. A bunch of smart people who are from a wide variety of backgrounds.
    I love the fact that some of my dearest friends I have become acquainted with in this group and then met in person. I like the fact that friends I have made through here have proven to be very loyal in the face of opposition.
  7. My wife will hear my full-throated laughter from the next room and comment, “You’re reading Group Name, aren’t you?” Sometimes I laugh so hard that I cannot breathe. Group Name: Witty, sarcastic and clever people to whom I am much obliged!
  8. In just one year’s time, my social circle has completely changed for the better. As others have said previously, I feel like I’ve found my people. I’m kicking myself for putting off the test all these years. [Bonus annoyance about that: After taking the test and being offered membership, I found some previous test scores that would have had me in years ago.] Many of you have become closer to me than I am to my “family of origin.”
  9. Group Name is (my) tribe. I love people who make irreverent statements and think really out of the box.

If you belong to a similar type of organization, why do you stay? What’s your motivation?

 

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Interpretative dream?

Dreams are funny things. What purpose they serve, is debatable and speculative.

A recent dream of mine, so rich in details, that it remained fresh in my mind for some time after awakening. That’s rarely the case for me. I’m sure I dream frequently but usually don’t recall them once I’m awake. This dream was different… and it went something like this…

A group of us were gathered in a large room, awaiting others for a planned meeting. I walked around the perimeter of the room, talking with a co-worker. The time came and the boss walked  into the room. She began to give us a quick, rehearsed speech, thanking everyone for a job well done. As she talked, she walked around the room handing out summations of each recipient’s work, with a detailed analysis of their strengths and weaknesses. In turn, I recieved my handout. It was a two page report. The top page consisted of a written summary, broken down into sub categories. The second page was a circular chart that plotted my strengths and weaknesses, as noted on the first. A quick glance at the circular chart had me pegged at the most extreme top right of the chart. Reading the first page, the summarized narrative went on to explain that ‘despite Patrick’s recent kerfluffle stating that the state has no need of…’. I had the impression that I was being admonished for not embracing the idea of socialism… which was odd because the dream was work related. Why was my political stance included in something that had to do with my employment? I didn’t get that concept. But I did get a distinct feeling, looking at the circular chart, that I was somehow (symbolically at least) on the autism spectrum. Like I said before, I was pegged at the extreme range of the chart, and couldn’t go any farther. I assume that the goal was to be as close to the center as possible. I was nowhere close. It was at this point that I awoke.

What does it mean? I don’t know. I firmly believe there’s some link between dreams and waking reality. I think dreams are a way to sort out ideas and problems while we sleep. A way to examine outcomes to problems, scenarios, etc., without suffering real world consequences. And maybe, they’re a way to give us insights into ourselves?

The circular chart bothered me. It seemed that the chart was somehow important in the dream. I remember that I kept flipping back to that page and looking at it, trying to grasp its meaning.

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