In a recent blog post, Seth Goin discussed the need for ongoing investment to maintain infrastructure. Whether a road or building or even your own skills, it takes regular care to avoid system failures or obsolesce.
An Act of Maturity
Seth opens his piece with:
If you want to see wisdom and maturity in action, look for someone (or a community) investing in infrastructure before it’s too late.
In the world of reliability engineering, we have the reliability maturity matrix that is an assessment tool. We can assess our design or system and how we go about making decisions concerning the reliability of the design or system. The matrix tends to reflect if an organization is primarily reacting to problems or striving to avoid problems in a proactive manner.
It is the proactive or preventative work we do the Seth would call wise and mature. A mature person or organization develops the foresight to anticipate and thus avoid degradation and/or failures.
An Act of Investment
Earlier this week we lost power and internet due to a windstorm. The strong winds toppled trees and large branches which snapped the lines across the region. The outage map showed significant swaths of the area without power.
The local power company watches the weather closely and while unable to prevent the damage took steps to assess and repair damage as quickly as possible. The power company has also gotten better over the years at aggressively trimming back threatening trees and branches to minimize just such damage.
Our power was restored in about 36 hours, whereas in the past it would certainly have taken 3 or 4 days. The investment in tree trimming certainly is making a difference for us.
The maintenance of the power lines is an investment. It saves the time and expenses it takes to restring down lines. Every broken line avoided directly reduces the cost of restoring power. Plus, has the added benefit of improving customer satisfaction.
The same type of investments in anticipating problems and taking steps to avoid or minimize them not only reduce the rate of failures, the cost of repairs, and it has a positive impact on customer satisfaction, as well.
Investing in Ourselves
Have you met someone that lauded some past personal achievement indicating that was sufficient to tackle any problem today? Someone that mentions their degree from 20 years ago, or being the hero in ’86 for the company, may afford them some respect, yet is it really relevant to solving the problem in front of us today?
A long time ago I learned how to code in FORTRAN. That was useful, and sometimes impressive to some folks, for a few years. If I wanted to remain a useful programmer I would have had to continue learning, C, then Java, then Python, and not even sure what modern coders use today.
Same with the tools we use for data analysis in our work. The early spreadsheets we marginally useful, yet we could master them to great effect. Then our data analysis needs grew and the use of analysis packages continued to grow and become more complex. Packages such as R while free do include a steep learning curve to master. A specialized package such as Weibull++ streamlines the analysis process yet still require knowledge to wield well.
Seth provides a warning:
In our personal lives, we can coast on a particular credential or bit of knowledge for years. And then one day, we realize we’re obsolete.
The investment in our selves is again to prevent or avoid failures or obsolesce. It takes an act of maturity to take the near term to risk, to learn and experiment and grow, for the long term benefit of being able to add value to your team, organization, and society.
Note: Seth Godin has been writing a daily blog of often short, pithy, articles that nearly everyday invoke a pause to consider the concept address or idea to steal. Highly recommended. You can view past posts in the archives and subscribe to receive the daily email with that day’s post.
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