Friday, December 27, 2013

Note to Self - Thai Food Is Hot

So, when going to a little hole in the wall Thai restaurant where the gentleman behind the to-go buffet at the front and the waitress are clearly Thai, and the appetizers are not being recorded on the notepad in any western script...

Do not accidentally order a dish, with nearly-correct Thai pronunciation, that is a variation not on the menu.

If you do, and realize it when the waitress looks at you in surprise and says "Oh! Yes! We can make that, too!", the first thing to do is hastily apologize, and say no, you'll be pleased to eat whatever the cook wants to make, your apologies.

Realize, the cook is going to bring the dish out, and the main entree, and that when the main entree comes out, the "mild" you asked for is going to be Native-Thai-mild, not American-mild. Smile, eat the dish, try to pick out the shaved slices of thai bird chilis, and declare it perfect. Because it's your fault for absentmindedly letting the very nice waitress assume you know enough about the culture and food to be able to handle the culture and food.

So, remember, self!
Tom Yung Koong is tom yum soup with shrimp. That is what Siam Cafe offers. Tom Yum Gai is with Chicken. Do not order tom yum gai if it's not on the menu, or be prepared to sniffle and sweat through your "mild" Koong Pad Ped! (red curry with shrimp and veggies)

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Bacon Theory of Happiness

There's a nifty little four-square chart I run occasionally, to illuminating experience. I track all the tasks I actually do in a day, and sort them into Critical-Ugent, Critical-Nonurgent, Noncritical-Urgent, Noncritical-Nonurgent.

You don't need to be bored with the minutiae of my day, and I'm sure you can substitute things from your own day. But the reason is to force me to look past all the people wanting things right now, and make sure I get the right things done. Distractions and time-eating tasks will pop up everywhere, and competence means your bosses will want to hand you lots more tasks because you Get Things Done. (It also helps me figure out when I need to start load-shedding tasks on subordinates, and when I need to start load-shedding tasks on coworkers or bosses. Surprisingly, when I come back to my boss with the critical-urgent list and say "Which of these following tasks do you want me to drop in order to do your new Project X?", they're usually pretty good about saying "Oh, I'm going to do that myself", or "I think I'll give that to your coworker, instead."

The second tool I use is a process flowchart - a high-level concept of "what do we actually need in order to get the product to the customer?" This proves very valuable at communicating with other departments when I need to borrow their resources, and with knowing when it's a really, really smart idea to crimp my efficiency and lend the asked-for help. (And when it's a really, really smart idea not to, as well.) However, it also means that when one of my subordinates comes up to me and says "Can we try X process change to make my life easier?", I can respond, "If we do X, it's going to hurt Y, which will affect getting the product to the customer." (I don't say 'out the door' because some of the unpopular process changes I have done were to cut down on damage in transit. If the customer isn't happy with the end product, we failed.)

The most important chart I have, though, is the Bacon Theory of Happiness flowchart.

1. Customer wants something, and they want it by the promised delivery date.
2. We get the right product to the right customer, in the shape they expect, at or before the promised time.
3. The customer is happy, and recommends us to their friends.
4. We grow, and get more money to buy bacon. Life is Happy.
5. If we fail to get the right product, or the right customer, or the right time, the customer is unhappy.
6. If the customer is unhappy, they actively recommend against using us.
7. This means less money, so we get laid off and can't afford bacon.
8. Life without bacon is Sad. We don't want to be sad.
9. So, make the customer happy, and enjoy our bacon!

Everyone from the head of the project to the freshest new employee gets the Bacon Theory of Happiness. They may roll their eyes at it and proclaim it hokey, but it does a good job of introducing the concept of "consider everyone downstream of you when you are doing your job, or you will lack bacon and happiness." Sometimes I provide rewards and encourage happiness; sometimes I unfortunately must point out that their causing unhappy customers despite coaching, counseling, and retraining means they will now be one of the unhappy bacon-less people. Either way, we all have a common bacon ground of understanding.