Yesterday I posted in Facebook a quote that I received twice in the same morning from two different people and once previously last week. All three people were interested in DataPrizm but wanted to adapt features of it for their existing offline workflow. They essentially told me “we want exactly what we have now but online.” I was specifically referencing the earlier call but the other two thought I was mocking them. Maybe indirectly I was, but I did not mean to – so I am sorry!
The post and the response from friends and the prospects made me realize that not everyone needs or wants me to fix their process. I further realized this this morning when I had a discussion with the client where I was getting frustrated that they did not want to focus on something they should. It did not seem important to them and I was struggling to convince them otherwise despite extensive data, logic and near crayon drawings. In the end, I accepted that I can only advise and it is up to them to implement or not. I always do better on projects when I remember to just do what I am paid for and not provide any additional commentary.
The post yesterday came from similar frustration that has bubbled up the past few weeks from the inefficiencies of keyword management and the keyword research process and most importantly the people who perpetuate it. I have invested a lot of time, energy, presentations, training and money into creating a process, as well as a tool set, that makes that data intensive process more efferent. These efforts, couple with manually doing data mining thousands of times and now using automation and dynamic process I cringe whenever I see people doing things, in my opinion, in a less than optimal manner.
People that have worked with and for me know that I am a process fanatic. I try to force every position to have a “book of knowledge” that allows that role to be replicated by anyone who has the ability to read. Anyone that has had any extensive conversations knows that my brain works in a multidimensional manner and I often get frustrated when I see a less than optimal decision or process. It is similar to playing 3 dimensional chess since it is working out various angles, pros and cons and risk and reward. You may recognize this as classic “overthinking it.” I know it is frustrating for people, especially my wife, and can be exhausting for me. Unfortunately that is how I am wired and I do my best to now make it a burden on others. It is more acute in areas where I am passionate and fluent in the topic. For as long as I can remember, I always have been drawn to opportunities to make activities repeatable and take out human error that often comes from frustration with redundancy and attention to detail.
When I was 13 I worked for my father over the summer at a trucking company. One of the days we went to a remote warehouse site where the company was the delivery, storage and bagging operation for a large chemical fertilizer company. For most of the day there was nothing for me to do but watch the chaos of this process. Being bored and severe ADD kicking in, I sketched out a more “efficient process” and tried to show it to the site manager. He blew me off as the pesky kid I was. The next day I went to different stations and talked to the people at the stations suggesting slight changes and they also blew me off.
I was going crazy watching the routing of the trucks to empty their load and the backup that resulted from the inefficiency. It was all gummed up due to the mouth of the conveyor belt that moved the fertilizer into the storage warehouse being too small. As a result, they had to back the trucks up onto a small incline to tile them to force the material out of a smaller area of the back gate of the trailer. Pretty ingenious how they made it work but took a lot of time to get the trucks in place.
I asked the foreman they did not use a larger hopper. He told me they did not have one nor the budget for one and this was working just fine. To him there was no problem. The trucks were getting unloaded and the fertilizer was getting into the warehouse. However at any given time, there as many as 10 trucks sitting idle not moving product. Since I was bored I walked around the job site and found a broken hopper in the weeds in the back are of the property. Borrowing my father’s welder I repaired and modified it so it would feed directly onto the belt. My father moved the hopper into place and wanting to make sure it was used correctly and to change the flow of trucks, I set up cones in the morning to redirect the flow of traffic.
Of course the foreman and workers all freaked out with the change but the site manager suggested they try it. It worked perfectly and cut the time to offload by 3/4. This then created a new problem. The two guys standing around monitoring the unloading were no longer necessary and they were the first to complain at the “new problem” of too much being offloaded into the warehouse and not able to shift it to the bagging area. I had suggested changes to the bagging process as well that made it more efficient. Increasing the volume bagged and available for delivery enabled earlier billing. By the end of the week my father was almost fired and told never to bring me with him in the future. That being said, senior management wanted to know why the site manager or foremen had not tried to solve this problem. The site manger’s response was perfect – they never thought they had a problem, which is why it did not need solving. This resulted in the site manager being demoted and sent to a smaller site in Cleveland.
This was one of my first big life lessons. I learned that actions might be inefficient for a reason. In some cases they may know it is inefficient but continue with it to preserve jobs, protect egos, or to save money. In other cases, like this one, the process is flawed but not to them because they don’t know any different or even have a need or responsibility to evaluate other approaches. The other big catch all, “this is the way we have always done it” which I head daily in the Marine Corps.
Going forward, I will try to listen more and not to solve everyone’s problems for them. If they simply want and export and are willing to pay for it, I will gladly make it happen and take their money without much care of what they do with it once they have it.