What interests me in a project

Saturday, 10 May, Year 6 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu

This is the English version of an article published originally as Ce ma intereseaza pe mine intr-un proiect five or so years ago. Remarkably, nothing absolutely has changed during this time, except for the money : we're talking a few degrees of magnitude more money today than five years ago. I blame this plan.

I carried a conversation in which I tried to illuminate the nooks and crannies of my thinking for the benefit of a very respectable gentleman who, even if in principle interested in a business partnership, still couldn't for the life of him manage to make a proposal that'd interest me. And since I've already sunk the work into it, let's note down the results here too, who knows when it may be again useful.i

First off, let's get money out of the way. Money interests me, but in a particular way. I am not interested in money because I'd need it to pay for my car or my mortgage, to acquire diapers or the favour of my wife. None of that, I have not such problems. Money interests me however, and quite a lot, as a sign of consideration and respect. On one hand, from us the partners jointly, towards our common project, and on the other hand from us the partners several, one towards the other.

The first hand follows an older observation of Ford, which is that if something's worth doing at all, that something's worth doing well. And if something is worth doing well, that something's worth paying for.

It's not that John deserves to be paid, firstly, and not for what he has done, second. It's not that the author is paid, it's that the beneficiary pays. Not from the supplier comes the payment, or the need for a payment, but from the consumer. Not for the object is the payment, but for the good in it.

So, if what we are to do is not worth paying for, it is not worth doing. Full stop. And as a function of how much money is whatever we're contemplating worth in payments, we can then figure out if we are to do this or something else, because we've only got one life, which is made out of days and hours. Which pass.

The second hand follows, in my own estimation, natural morals. If John makes half a pie and George makes the other half, then let John eat half a pie and George the other half. If John has a problem with this notion, it merely means John has not yet reached that level of intellectual maturity that'd allow him to make a pie together with another. Let it not be the stuff of wonderment then should George tell him : esteemed sir, it is not yet time. So it isn't : for John, not for pies.

This is the problem of money, in its whole completitude.

Much more important is the problem of leverage. Leverage means that if I spend an hour of my life mixing flour and water with yeast, and working dough and putting things in ovens, I've thus made one loaf of bread. But should I instead use an hour of my life looking into the production process of a bread factory, which makes half a million loaves of bread over its lifetime, and I manage to reduce lossesii in such a way that net production increases by 0.1%, I've made 500 breads. Also in one hour.

There you go, the difference between using your work hour to make one or five hundred loaves of bread is exactly the leverage you have access to. Time is, by and large, fungible, so that one hour is the same as four quarters just like four quarters are mostly the same as a whole hour. As such, it's always imperative to employ the greatest available leverage.

If you're to make a loaf of bread, the various methods to make it are not the same. If you employ the first method, you work for an hour. If you employ the second method, you work seven seconds and change, and for the rest you make love or pick your fleas or whatever else you may wish to do.

This is why, among two projects, that both satisfy the money qualifications exposed above, I will always pick the project offering me most leverage. If I wanted to not do anything, I'd do nothing at all. If I want to make bread, I will certainly prefer to make 500 loaves per hour, rather than just one. Even should it be the case I only need one.

Theoretically speaking all this discussion is quite obvious and well understood and yesterday's news. If you start picking actual practice apart however, it's suddenly none so obvious. For instance :

  1. If project A has a functional interface with the Internet, so that the vast majority of problems can be resolved within minutes many miles away, whereas project B requires plane tickets, hotel reservation, putting up with traffic, five minutes speaking and then back through traffic to the airport, we can safely say that project A offers leverage and project B offers a noose.
  2. If project C has a decision making system formed out of 18 elements, which each obviously will require a separate pitch, as well as 39 groups formed out of the 18 elements in varying compositions, while project D has a decision making system formed out of one single person, we can say that D offers leverage and couldn't be bothered to mention C again.
  3. If project E carries the burden of a corporate culture based on fear, inculcated through years of practicing nonsensical "responsibility" with a side helping of subhuman management behaviours, while project F is made up of some kids without particular bad habits, F is the leverage and what was E again ?

Examples could be made indefinitely, but if you think the problem of any institution in terms of gearbox + clutch, you'll suddenly come to some interesting realisations. Such as for instance, why the so-called "start-ups", as practiced in the USiii have an important advantage over large corporations, and why private firms usually hold the upper hand in any competition with bureaucracies over using public resources. Such as for instance, why some competent people refuse "relatively well paid" projects but accept to work with groups of volunteers or highschool chitlins.

Nobody healthy in the head will accept to go into the first gear. Four, five, six and seven is what interests us. And for a murdering pitch, that's what your center must be : explain to me how every bead of sweat on my forehead turns into endless acreage of fat grain, that's what interests me. Which in the end also boils down to a matter of respect : respect for work.

This is what the US guy that tries to sell me on his thing tells meiv : what an excellent secretary they have, how close to all and everything is the office, how many links and interfaces they have in place to make any means of communication I may think of accessible, how they built their headquarters in a circle so it's faster and easier to find anyone you might need, that sort of stuff. How easy it is to make an impact and how large that impact would be. Because this is what matters.

There are the other folk, the people who tell me all about the many tons of forged silver they used to build their front gate, or how many sparrows they shoot at the corporate teambuilding hunting party. As if nuts enough to go to some place where some herps that heard of hunting for the first time during the 3rd millenium compare their entrepreneurial testosterone, god help us.

I do not wish to be driven in a limo from the airport, I'm not here for a wedding. I want to be taken quickly, and I want to be taken to a place where what I have to say matters. That's it, that's all.

A, and the money.

  1. This, incidentally, is one of the most notable reasons to carry a blog. It works, too, because not half hour ago the following happened :

    Anon hi, i have one simple question: what is the WoT?
    Anon can't seem to find what it stands for anywhere, and everyone only uses the abbreviation
    Me web of trust
    Anon ok thank you
    Me http://trilema.com/2014/what-the-wot-is-for-how-it-works-and-how-to-use-it/
    Me there.

    This is some random person I've never talked to before. Now, had I not the article already written, was I going to either a) be not too helpful and perhaps not even polite to some unknown or b) spend an hour of my time writing it ?

    And if b) foolishly didn't include posting it on a blog where it can easily be retrieved later as needed, wouldn't the resultant loss of control over my own time (because random persons can come to you at a rate easily in excess of ten a day), a loss known and discussed in literature as "support burnout" push me towards a) type answers, especially towards the long and unbecoming tail of impoliteness ? []

  2. Reduce losses. This is fucking important. Replacing flour with dirt is not the same as reducing losses, even if it may seem the same thing from a purely accounting perspective, as it's lowered the fixed costs.

    The difference between loss reduction and plain theft is that loss reduction has a thermodynamic lower bound, you can reduce losses of an engine that takes 10 W and produces 5 J worth of work. You can't "reduce losses" of a factory that takes 10 Kgs of ingredients and outputs 10 Kgs of products : mass conserves.

    This absolute upper bound gives of course the incentive to steal, and the accounting myopia allows the entering into a compact, where accountants pretend they've not noticed that the bread is now made out of shit, and engineers pretend they don't notice there's a lot of difference between fixing a broken machine and trying to fill the gas tank with water. That compact has a name in contemporary society : the state. []

  3. The Romanian language and especially the monolinguistic speakers are mentally captive in the 70s or thereabouts. Disco is still a thing here, I recently met a guy that seemed like he ran off a Depeche Mode video. One from the 70s. []
  4. Part of the problem at the time was that I almost never worked with Romanians, in any capacity. It's not exactly racism, it's just meritocracy. []
Category: Oda Superbiei
Comments feed : RSS 2.0. Leave your own comment below, or send a trackback.

2 Responses

  1. mihai b`s avatar
    mihai binsigna de prim sositinsigna de trolinsigna pentru 1000 de comentarii 
    Sunday, 11 May 2014

    john and george? yeah right. lolz

  2. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Sunday, 11 May 2014

    What of it ?

Add your cents! »
    If this is your first comment, it will wait to be approved. This usually takes a few hours. Subsequent comments are not delayed.