Older Developers: Habits Are Going To Kill Your Career | Lessons of Failure

Posted by: Lava Kafle

User: Can you help me fix this computer problem?

You: No, you’re a Squatter.

I’m not talking about a $5,000-a-day-hooker-and-blow* kind of habit.

Hey, that old dog can learn new tricks…I’ll be damned

You: Click the Start button

Squatter: What’s a Clark button?

You: The Start button

Squatter: Where do I type Clark?

You: It’s a button. You click it. I am pointing to it. Follow my finger. Don’t look out the window. Don’t yell at the dog. Focus on my finger. Click there.

Squatter: Click your finger? Is your name Clark?


“Any object in motion will tend to stay in motion; any object at rest, will tend to remain at rest, unless acted upon by an outside force.”

The Peter Principle is the principle that “In a Hierarchy Every Employee Tends to Rise to His Level of Incompetence.” It was formulated by Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull in their 1969 book The Peter Principle, a humorous treatise which also introduced the “salutary science of Hierarchiology”, “inadvertently founded” by Peter. It holds that in a hierarchy, members are promoted so long as they work competently. Sooner or later they are promoted to a position at which they are no longer competent (their “level of incompetence”), and there they remain, being unable to earn further promotions. This principle can be modeled and has theoretical validity.[1] Peter’s Corollary states that “in time, every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out his duties” and adds that “work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence”.

One way that organizations can avoid this effect is by having a policy that requires termination of an employee should they fail to attain a promotion after a certain amount of time. Even in instances where an employee can handle their current job but fail to do any better, they can still cause harm within the company, by way of preventing those beneath them with higher potential of moving up, as well as lowering morale once such employees become aware of this fact. The United States Military for instance requires that certain ranks be held for no longer than a set amount of time, a lack of compliance of which could render grounds for dismissal.

Another method is to refrain from promoting a worker until he shows the skills and work habits needed to succeed at the next higher job. Thus, a worker is not promoted to managing others if he does not already display management abilities.

  • The first corollary is that employees who are dedicated to their current jobs should not be promoted for their efforts (like Dilbert Principle), for which they might, instead, receive a pay increase.
  • The second corollary is that employees might be promoted only after being sufficiently trained to the new position. This places the burden of discovering individuals with poor managerial capabilities before (as opposed to after) they are promoted.

Peter pointed out that a class, or caste (social stratification) system is more efficient at avoiding incompetence. Lower-level competent workers will not be promoted above their level of competence as the higher jobs are reserved for members of a higher class. “The prospect of starting near the top of the pyramid will attract to the hierarchy a group of brilliant [higher class] employees who would never have come there at all if they had been forced to start at the bottom”. Thus the hierarchies “are more efficient than those of a classless or egalitarian society”.

In a similar vein, some real-life organizations recognize that technical people may be very valuable for their skills but poor managers, and so provide parallel career paths allowing a good technical person to acquire pay and status reserved for management in most organizations.

Pluchino et al. computationally modeled the behavior and tested other promotion strategies. They found that first promoting the most competent then the least, and also promoting randomly avoided the effect. [2] [3]

You can alter your habits such that every year, you spend the time to add 5 new technologies or practices to your repertoire, one about every 9 weeks.

via Older Developers: Habits Are Going To Kill Your Career | Lessons of Failure.

You’re reading this blog, and that means there’s a good chance that people ask you to help them solve computer problems. There are three types of users who ask for help: Runners, Watchers, and Squatters.

Runners are all too happy to abandon their workstations for as long as it takes you to solve their problems. When the runner is gone, you can think through a variety of potential solutions, try some things, and really dig in to the problem. Personally, I don’t mind runners, although it makes me feel as if I should be getting paid for my services.

Watchers are the most thoughtful users. They might offer some useful information when asked, such as passwords. Perhaps they will compliment you on your computer skills and intuitions. And the Watcher is there when you find your brilliant solution. It’s nice to have a witness sometimes. The only danger with a Watcher is that sometimes you get a talker.

The third type of users is Squatters. A Squatter will not leave his or her Chair of Control, and will insist on being the one to operate the mouse and keyboard. In theory, this shouldn’t be too bad, at least for simple problems. But the Squatter will only give you a half listen. The other half of the squatter’s brain is going rogue, occasionally checking in with you to say, “Click what?”

You could try to explain the situation to the squatter, but it won’t help. For example, you might say, “If you relinquish the keyboard and mouse, I can probably solve this printer problem in one minute. If you continue asking me for advice while ignoring my input and randomly pursuing your own theories, we’ll both be here all night.”

http://www.dilbert.com/

Older Developers: Habits Are Going To Kill Your Career | Lessons of Failure was last modified: September 11th, 2013 by Lava Kafle

Blog Comments

  1. Shivani

    Zero-point energy is the lowest possible energy that a quantum mechanical physical system may have and is the energy of the ground state. The quantum mechanical system that encapsulates this energy is the zero-point field. The concept was first proposed by Albert Einstein and Otto Stern in 1913. The term “zero-point energy” is a calque of the German Nullpunktenergie. All quantum mechanical systems have a zero-point energy. The term arises commonly in reference to the ground state of the quantum harmonic oscillator and its null oscillations.

    RAJ

  2. The Sixth Sense Movie

    No No No, read my link:
    The objective of the Framingham Heart Study was to identify the common factors or characteristics that contribute to CVD by following its development over a long period of time in a large group of participants who had not yet developed overt symptoms of CVD or suffered a heart attack or stroke.

    “The regulation of the level of serum cholesterol and the development of coronary heart disease are related to

    1. The caloric balance

    2. Level of animal fat intake

    3. Level of vegetable fat intake

    4. Level of protein intake

    5. Level of cholesterol intake…”

    The dietary studies were performed using a couple of techniques described here and here (both are large PDF files). Basically, researchers interviewed the subjects multiple times over the study period using a fairly complex Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ). (From a previous post you should know that I’m not a big fan of FFQs, but in this case with the kind of attention to detail the interviewers used, the FFQ has some value.

    What did they find?

    In terms of caloric balance vis a vis serum cholesterol they discovered that

    calories per day showed a slight negative association with serum cholesterol (over all age groups) in men but no association in women.

    In other words the more calories the men consumed, the lower were their serum cholesterol levels. Obviously, this wasn’t what the researchers expected to find.

    This finding is somewhat puzzling and it is reasonable to inquire if this is related in some way to the level of physical activity.

    Typical research thinking: if we don’t get the data that is consistent with our hypothesis, we must have overlooked something. It seems that the idea that maybe the hypothesis is wrong never crosses their minds.

    In this case, they were banking on the idea that perhaps those subjects who ate more may have been more physically active and thus have lower cholesterol levels than those who ate less but were sedentary. After fiddling around with the different levels of activity of the subjects, the data fesses up:

    Men in the same physical activity class tend to have higher serum cholesterol levels at lower caloric intake. This finding is contrary to expectation. [I'll bet it was.]

    In other words, even after correcting for differing levels of physical activity, the correlation remains the same: those subjects with lower caloric intake tended to have higher levels of cholesterol and vice versa.

    What about fat intake?

    Paralleling the findings for total calories there is a slight negative association between daily intake of total fat (and also of animal fat) with serum cholesterol level, in men but not in women. This parallel is not surprising given the high correlation between fat intake and total caloric intake. No association between percent of calories from fat and serum cholesterol level was shown; nor between ratio of plant fat to animal fat intake and serum cholesterol level.

  3. Social Scenes: The Invisible Calculus Of Culture

    can you read my link? “People are connected, and so their health is connected,” Christakis and Fowler concluded when they summarized their findings in a July 2007 article in The New England Journal of Medicine, the first time the prestigious journal published a study of how social networks affect health. Or as Christakis and Fowler put it in “Connected,” their coming book on their findings: “You may not know him personally, but your friend’s husband’s co-worker can make you fat. And your sister’s friend’s boyfriend can make you thin.

  4. lava kafle, you have no idea on medicare

    see my link ok?
    The program now covers 45 million Americans 65 or older, as well as younger people with permanent disabilities, among them patients afflicted with End Stage Renal Disease. About half of Medicare beneficiaries live at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty line (i.e., $20,800 annual income for a single person and $28,000 for a couple). Over a third of the beneficiaries are afflicted with three or more chronic conditio In 2009, Medicare is expected to cost the federal government about $480 billion. That represents over a fifth of total national health spending on personal health care, 13 percent of the federal budget and close to 3.5 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. These outlays are financed with a combination of payroll taxes (41 percent), general tax revenues (39 percent), premiums paid by the elderly (12 percent) and sundry other sources, including interest earned on a trust fund established for the program.

    In its early years, Medicare faced bitter opposition, attacked as socialized medicine. But in recent years, the debates about the program have centered on the range of its benefits and, increasingly, how to control its sharply rising costs.ns.

  5. Take the customer’s word, but make sure they are telling the truth.

    Me: How did it go today?

    Friend: Uh, it was kind of weird. They are telling me to finish the port, but they are talking to the sales guy like they’re not all that interested in it. Something about it not working right.

    Me: Did you run the standard test suite? Did it pass?

    Friend: Yeah, flying colors. No problems.

    Me: Did you offer training or help?

    Friend: Yeah, they tell me they don’t have time right now. One other thing though…

    Me: What?

    Friend: Every hour, on the hour, the file system slows to a crawl. Kind of seems like they’re taking backups of it or something.
    should tell you that my friend was a junior engineer working in our group and this was one of his first gigs. He seemed to think this felt wrong, but he just wasn’t sure. At this point, my alarm bells were ringing. Here we had a customer that was paying good money to have an engineer on site, but telling the sales rep that the product wasn’t working and they didn’t want help to fix it.

  6. Power Distance Index PDI

    Hofstede’s Power distance Index measures the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions (like the family) accept and expect that power is distributed unequally. This represents inequality (more versus less), but defined from below, not from above. It suggests that a society’s level of inequality is endorsed by the followers as much as by the leaders.

    For example, Germany has a 35 on the cultural scale of Hofstede’s analysis. Compared to Arab countries where the power distance is very high (80) and Austria where it very low (11), Germany is somewhat in the middle. Germany does not have a large gap between the wealthy and the poor, but have a strong belief in equality for each citizen. Germans have the opportunity to rise in society.

    On the other hand, the power distance in the United States scores a 40 on the cultural scale. The United States exhibits a more unequal distribution of wealth compared to German society. As the years go by it seems that the distance between the ‘have’ and ‘have-nots’ grows larger and larger.

  7. The Real Reason Outsourcing Continues To Fail

    Hey Man, read my link on: The word American developers love to hate Outsourcing:
    But this post is not about bashing outsourcing countries, the cheapskates that hire them, or the project managers who can’t control the resulting chaos.PDI differential is the one, single, leading cause that relates to how providers and buyers have a hard time seeing eye-to-eye during the outsourcing process
    It’s because of PDI and the inherent cultural communication issues that come with it.
    Power Means Fear of Communication
    Cultural Context Matters In Communication
    Past Outsourcing Blames
    There are lots of stories out there about failed efforts that involve offshore development (“offshoring”). I even have a few myself. Airline Disasters and PDI Crashes Caused By Power Differences
    The Real Issue with Outsourcing is Power Difference
    It’s hard because of the cultural baggage we bring to the table on both sides, and neither side necessarily realizes it because of assumed interactions
    We need to be more aware of the cultural assumptions going in to projects like this, or we’re doomed to repeat them ad absurdum.

    (1) I think it’s fair to say that most other countries would NOT say most Americans are blessed with “natural cultural awareness”. :)

    (2) Before I get lots of angry comments from Indian readers about the interaction above, yes, there are other potential outcomes and perhaps you’ve been on projects where they are all successful. I have a mixed bag of experience on this, and it’s not about bashing Indian developers. Like American ones, they run the gamut–good, mediocre, and what-the-hell-are-you-doing-coding. I’ve run into all three in about the same proportions as American developers, more or less.

    (3) I’m sure one or more British readers are horrified at thinking they are interchangeable with Americans at this point.

  8. How long does it take to form a habit

    Read my link here writer:
    How long does it take to form a habit?

    4 August 2009

    It takes an average 66 days to form a new habit, according to new research by Phillippa Lally and colleagues from the Cancer Research UK Health Behaviour Research Centre based at UCL Epidemiology and Public Health.

    The team has completed a groundbreaking investigation into how people form habits, published last month in the European Journal of Social Psychology. Here Phillippa explains the key factors in creating and breaking habits and how we can help set up for ourselves new patterns of behaviour.
    What exactly takes 66 days?
    It can take longer than many people expect to create healthy eating habits

    In our study, we looked at how long it took people to reach a limit of self-reported automaticity for performing an initially new behaviour (that is, performing an action automatically), and the average time (among those for whom our model was a good fit) was 66 days.
    How do you define a habit?

    Habits are behaviours which are performed automatically because they have been performed frequently in the past. This repetition creates a mental association between the situation (cue) and action (behaviour) which means that when the cue is encountered the behaviour is performed automatically. Automaticity has a number of components, one of which is lack of thought.
    How do you measure the strength of a habit?

    We use a self-report measure of automaticity (items from Verplanken and Orbell’s Self Report Habit Index (2003)). An example item is ‘I do this without having to consciously remember’. Participants rate how much they agree with this statement for their chosen behaviour.
    What are the key factors in breaking or gaining habits?

    To create a habit you need to repeat the behaviour in the same situation. It is important that something about the setting where you perform the behaviour is consistent so that it can cue the behaviour. If you choose a context cue, for example after lunch, we don’t think that it matters if you eat lunch at different times in the day.

    Breaking habits is very difficult. The easiest way is to control your environment so that you do not encounter the cue which triggers your habit. It is difficult to break any habit even when you are motivated to do so. If you are ambivalent about breaking it then you will be less likely to succeed.

    New habits do not stop the old habits from existing; they just have to become stronger influences on behaviour.
    What happens if we miss an opportunity to perform an action that will help us build a habit?

    In our study we showed that missing one opportunity did not significantly impact the habit formation process, but people who were very inconsistent in performing the behaviour did not succeed in making habits. We do not yet know what level of consistency is necessary to form a habit.
    Do men and women acquire or break habits differently? Or young and old?

    We don’t have any evidence to suggest that men and women or young and old people acquire habits differently.
    What are the implications of your findings for people trying to form healthy habits or break unhealthy ones?

    It can take much longer than many people think to form a habit and it is important to persevere. If someone wants to form a habit they should specify clearly what they will do and in what situation and try to do this consistently. Over time it will start to happen more easily and require less effort.
    Why did you decide to investigate this area?

    We are interested in helping people to change their health behaviours, and if we can help them to form habits for these behaviours it will be easier for them to maintain them long term.
    What are the next steps for your research?

    We hope to conduct a similar study and measure a number of factors which might help to explain the variation we found among participants in the time it took them to reach their limit of automaticity. We are also conducting a trial of a simple weight-loss intervention based on the principles of habit formation.

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