Posts filed under ‘Work’

The Pirate Ship as Organizational Model

Over on the CrashDev blog, Chris Devore has penned an article with stunning insight. His point in “The Pirate Ship as Organizational Model” is one that should be enjoyed and considered by my former boss Nathan, my dear friend Hooligan, his former boss Harry, and others who have felt the fun and excitement of a start-up turn to the dross and pain of corporate politics.

Devore is contemplating the perfect company to work for. He admits thinking it might be related to size, but

The Queen Anne’s Revenge by LegoFor me, the best possible circumstance is a company that’s somewhere on the spectrum from unformed idea to Pirate Ship. As soon as it passes from Pirate Ship to Going Concern, it stops being fun for me and I need to start over.

This, of course, got the attention of your humble editor, who is a student of historical pirates. What is the spectrum that includes pirate ships as an organizational model? Devore goes on to explain [emphasis mine]:

Since Pirate Ship is a technical term only to me, let me explain. An organization is healthy as long as its survival is sufficiently in doubt that each employee feels a primary responsibility to ensuring the survival of the firm, and a secondary (or lesser) concern for their own position within the hierarchy. The vitality of this “us against the world” mentality depends (to a greater or lesser extent) on the prospect of treasure somewhere on the horizon (i.e., it cannot be sustained in organizations where the prospect of treasure has dimmed to the point that jumping ship and taking a risk on a new captain and crew seem like a better bet). But it can if, despite remarkably long odds, a plurality of the crew believe that a rich prize might still be lurking beyond the next atoll. The scale at which this condition ceases to exist is conditioned equally by the nature of the opportunity being pursued and the quality of the leadership at the helm.

As soon as an organization reaches the point that its survival is no longer in doubt (or that the average participant no longer feels that his or her individual contribution is material to its survival), corruption begins to seep in.

Wow. Devore has exactly nailed some of my experiences in the high-tech world. The times that were the most intense, most fun and most rewarding were when everything was on the line. It was us against the world – we were in a Pirate Ship.

I like how Devore’s friend Donald DeSantis clarified this in his blog post:

Pirate ships combine an “us against the world” mentality with a hunt for treasure. This crucible of chaos and ambition somehow allows unstructured groups of mercenaries to complete complex tasks without killing one another (very often).

This is a key point. Highly motivated and highly talented are competitive. Once the big win on the horizon is captured and accounted for, the talent that thrives in that environment will be gone, or will start to engage in internal politics and mistreating others.

One key to happiness, then, is the awareness of internal attitudes.

29 May 2012 at 1:02AM Leave a comment

How NOT to get a job at a busy hospital

Over at the Being Veruca blog, healthcare professional/respiratory therapist Mommy A has a description of how a desperate job seeker interrupted her lifesaving work to ask pointless questions.This leads to her posting on How Not to Get a Job.

First, let her set the scene:

It is 3 AM. I have been busy as all hell because A) people keep trying to die in the hospital and we have had more codes than I thought possible in one shift. And I have the main ICU.

Tip: Don’t call the busy ICU floor in the middle of the night if you’re looking for a job. The conversation could go like this:

Moron:”How many patients do you have? Right. now. How many units of the hospital are you covering? And how many therapists do you have there tonight?”

Me: “Well, we have 4, which is standard at night. I have the MICU, and I am covering all of the patients in that unit. There are 10 ventilators running up there right now and…..”

Moron: “OH MY GOD! Do they always work you like that??? I heard they did. I work at XXXXX now and I only have 2 treatments to give before 8 in the morning. That’s what I’m used to. I don’t like to work a lot. Or very hard. Ewwww. And a ventilator? I hate running vents. I haven’t run a vent in 10 years.”

Me: “Ummmm, we are usually pretty busy here. And since there are only 4 therapists in house at night, all of us may be asked to handle a vent or an intubation, even if we aren’t assigned to an ICU…” (Okay, now I think I may be being punk’d. Where’s Ashton?)

Moron: “Whatever, I guess I can try it. Where do I fill out an application?”

I had to give her the website where she can apply online. And I had to tell my boss this morning that if anyone calls who works at that hospital, to please not hire them. Who? Who really tries to get a job like that? Especially in our current day where even healthcare professionals are having difficulties finding jobs. I mean, when I applied for my current position, I called. But when I called, I spoke with the director of my department and simply asked, in a polite tone, if they had any available positions for a registered therapist. He asked me a few questions about my experience, and before I had even completed an application, HR had called me to schedule an interview. I actually completed the application and submitted my resume at my interview. But I was polite. And professional. And was eager to work. And motivated. Really.

Notice Mommy A’s reaction: She told her boss not to hire. Her call is a better model for getting a job in a busy hospital.

24 May 2011 at 10:39PM Leave a comment

Wired: 10 Space Jobs

Wired Magazine has a list of possible space jobs that might be opening in the near future. These would be fun to recruit for.

  1. LEO pilot (eventually, lunar transfer pilot)
  2. Space-travel ticket broker
  3. Spaceport traffic control (also, on-orbit traffic control, Earth and lunar)
  4. Human-rated spacecraft maintenance
  5. Space communications specialist
  6. Space Construction and Repair Specialist
  7. Lunar base psychologist (presence on the moon not required)
  8. Mars colony psychologist
  9. Nuclear and solar power engineers
  10. On-orbit refueling specialist

Check out the whole article for more details about these career opportunities.

9 April 2010 at 12:47AM Leave a comment

AoM on The Importance of Paying Your Dues

Courtesy of the Art of Manliness blog, some advice for those who want instant gratification in their career:

Success comes from years of hard work. Not only do many millenials expect to land their dream job right away, they also expect to immediately live the same lifestyle they had when they left their parents’ house. They want nice clothes, nice furniture, a brand new car, and a nice house the moment they set out in life. Of course, in order to do this right off the bat, these young people have to take on huge amounts of debt.

McKay goes on:

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, he posits that greatness comes through adherence to the “10,000 hour rule.” Pointing to people like the Beatles and Bill Gates, he argues that their success came from practicing their skills for 10,000 hours, not through some inherited genius.

We’d all love to be rich overnight, but unless you win the lottery, it just isn’t going to happen. The path to success is hewed through years of dedicated and relentless hard work. In short, you have to pay your dues before success comes.

The emphasis above is mine. See the whole article here. Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, he posits that greatness comes through adherence to the “10,000 hour rule.” Pointing to people like the Beatles and Bill Gates, he argues that their success came from practicing their skills for 10,000 hours, not through some inherited genius.We’d all love to be rich overnight, but unless you win the lottery, it just isn’t going to happen. The path to success is hewed through years of dedicated and relentless hard work. In short, you have to pay your dues before success comes.

2 January 2010 at 7:27PM Leave a comment

Mike Rowe on the War on Work

Since my employer is looking at a $54M budget shortfall, my civic co-workers and I enjoyed an unpaid furlough day today. While spending some time this morning shoveling out after yesterday’s blizzard, I had a chance to contemplate the nature of work. Once my driveway and that of my neighbors were clear, I came in to catch up on world news. Coincidentally, I found this 20 minute video of a talk that the Discovery Channel’s Mike Rowe gave back in December 2008. Rowe explains how castrating lambs during a Dirty Jobs filming brought discovery and enlightenment about work.

This video is worth watching.  The first 7 minutes are the castration part, and then Rowe quotes Aristotle on discovery (ἀναγνώρισις or anagnorisis) over the next three minutes. At 16 minutes, Rowe hits on his theme: How modern American society has declared War on Work. See the whole thing:

Rowe’s great insight is about the War on Work. He points out that this was not a planned campaign, but that it is a civil war, and a cold war. Rowe correctly identifies four fronts in this War:

1. Hollywood
2. Madison Avenue
3. Washington DC
4. Silicon Valley

Listening to him provoked a minor bit of anagnorisis for me. As a technical recruiter, I’ve been guilty of fighting against skilled labor on the Silicon Valley front. At one point, I believed that everyone should become computer literate because ever job could be done with a computer. What I didn’t appreciate is that Innovation without execution is meaningless. I didn’t appreciate the hard work it takes to build great technological devices until I worked in a manufacturing plant. Every genius with a gizmo need people who can assemble multiple copies of that gizmo. That where the skill is.

Hearing Rowe talk about Madison Avenue’s message about the War on Work was enlightening. Thinking about America’s current struggle with “work/life balance”, I realized that Rowe puts the blame in the right place: on the Advertising View that works against Work:

So many of the commercials that come out of there (Madison Avenue) in the way of a message. What’s really being said is, “Your life would better if you could work a little less; if you didn’t have to work so hard; if you get home earlier; if you could retire faster; if you could punch out sooner. It’s all there – over and over; again and again.”

“Life is better if you work less” – that’s the core message we hear about work/life balance.  Not that we have to be effective. Not that we have to get ‘er done.  Less work doesn’t make people happier – accomplishments make people happy. Working, being needed, and demonstrating mastery are what make people happy. And we wonder what happened to the American work ethic.

To help raise awareness of the forgotten benefits of labor, Rowe has a new project:

People often tell me that Dirty Jobs reminds them of a time when Work was not seen as a thing to avoid. When skilled tradesmen were seen as role models, and a paycheck was not the only benefit of a job well done. We need to recapture that sentiment. We need to celebrate, on a bigger scale, the role models right in front of us. Dirty Jobs has given me the opportunity to do that. With a little luck and the right support, mikeroweWORKS, will take it to the next level.

Good work, Mike! For what it’s worth, I’m adding you to my blogroll.

Hat tip to The Anchoress for the video find.

27 March 2009 at 10:08PM Leave a comment

Mind the Gap: Late Boomer America

Over on, economics blogress Megan McArdle has an interesting analysis of some economic factors related to the Great Boomer Retirement.

No Country for Young Men
by Megan McArdle

The Baby Boomers’ retirement will change the texture of society in ways we’ve scarcely begun to contemplate. A dispatch from America’s coming silver age

Start with the stuff America makes, and the people who make it. Young people buy goods, like cars, houses, and iPods. Old people need services, like transportation, meal preparation, and health care. We have made great strides in enabling the elderly to get around—the scooters you see advertised on daytime television, for example. My grandmother, who is blind and physically frail, was able to live at home much longer than she otherwise could have because she had Meals on Wheels, a home health aide, and a Life Alert-type necklace to call for help in case she fell.

But these services require a lot of labor. According to an analysis by McKinsey Global Institute, the number of hours required to produce an automobile in North America fell by 1.7 percent annually from 1987 to 2002, to an average of about 100 hours. Meanwhile, it still takes about the same amount of time as it always did to drive a senior to a doctor’s appointment, or to help an older patient bathe and dress. Productivity growth is faster in the things that kids consume than in the things that the elderly need.

As the Boomers age, they will consume fewer of the things that we produce efficiently, and more of the things that we provide relatively inefficiently. Productivity is notoriously difficult to pro­ject, but many forces will be pushing it downward as the Baby Boomers age.

This does not look good.

16 January 2008 at 7:22PM Leave a comment

My Core Ideas

1. "I can't tell you the best way to get a job - because there is no one best way. After 21 years of recruiting, I CAN share things I've seen candidates do to guarantee they DIDN'T get the job."

2. "Most companies don't realize how their recruiting process impacts their candidate pool, and their business. Attention to simple things will result in big improvements."

About the Author

Troy Bettinger, SPHR is a Denver Recruiter, Public Speaker, HR Metrics Analyst and Human Resources Leader who has been recruiting in corporate and municipal environments since 1991.

He specializes in the complete hiring process: defining, sourcing, recruiting, testing, interviewing, offering and orienting new hires. He's also well versed in strategic human resources, college recruiting, diversity recruiting, AAP, EEO, ATS integration, recruiting metrics, social media, recruiting leadership, training and employment branding.


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