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Life, Work, and the Theory of Constraints


Have I warned you that I am an engineer? If not, consider yourself warned. 

A long time ago in place not too far away, I learned about the Theory of Constraints from a book: The Goal. The mantra of the book was an application of Carnot's Second Law of Thermodynamics (also known as entropy) to management philosophy. It's essence is:

Losses accumulate, gains don't. 


You may think I'm odd (most who know me do, and I'm ok with that), but this is one of the things I've taught my children. Or tried very hard to teach them. To me, this is the heart of the answer to observations from childhood like "That's not fair!" I explain to them first that they're correct - it isn't fair. And then I go on to explain that life sometimes isn't fair. In fact, most of the time life isn't fair. I'd say they're with me about half the time at this point. If they're not with me it's because the engineering genes have kicked in and they're trying to come up with some means to make life more fair... but I digress.

When they get older, I explain entropy to them as best I can. My favorite time to do this is when they're learning about physics in school. For some unexplainable reason, they don't teach thermodynamics anymore like my favorite physics teacher (Janet Kasparian, aka "Mrs. K.") did back when I was in school. But I'm digressing again.

Anyway, my children and I talk about probability and statistics some. We apply that to some examples like the arrow of time, the spike in cosmic background radiation around the 2.7 DegK range (evidence of "something really warm" happening a dozen billiion years ago or so), etc. It's a fun talk. ;)


The kicker to entropy is: it biases the universe. It makes things unequal. Processes go better one way and resist other ways. There is imbalance, one-sided-ness,... unfairness.

One of the unfair things is losses accumulate and gains don't. This sounds like a really simple statement. On the surface it is; but the implications are profound in physics, and in the remainder of life as well.

It means you cannot make a muddy cloth clean by rubbing it against a clean cloth. It's part of the reason why, if you open the valve on a helium tank while filling balloons at your birthday party, the helium will disperse fairly equally in the room initially, and in the atmoshpere of the planet, eventually.


Applied to management philosophy, it means the stupid things I do today will live forever while the good things I do everyday will be met with "Cool, that's your job" most of the time. Expressed differently, it takes n++ 'at-A-Boy's to make up for n Oh-No's. Fair? No. Reality? You bet.

Just Add One Internet

When you add the impact of the internet to the mix, things get complex fast. The gains don't merely accumulate, they exponentiate along the power curve of social dynamics. Before the internet, people had to call my personal references to get information about me. Not anymore. They can use their search engine of choice to find things I myself have personally written. In short, everything I write can be used against me.

The good side is: Everything I write can be used for me as well. But remember the effect of entropy.

It takes n++ impressive and correct articles / posts / tweets (yes, Twitter is implementing search, and all my messages are there - way back to August 2007) to make up for n offending articles / posts / tweets.

Think about that for a minute.

Ok, welcome back.

On Living Transparently

Anyone who follows me on Twitter know I advocate living transparently. I can hear you asking: "What exactly does that mean, anyway?" I'm glad you asked. It means always being me - publicly and privately. Does it mean I tell everyone everything? Not by a long shot. But it does mean that it's pretty easy to figure out what I'm thinking about - especially if I'm online - at any given time. You can tell what kind of day I'm having, whether I'm happy or not, healthy or not, and what I'm planning to do in the near future.

I draw a line at the obviously personal and do have a private life (believe it or not). But my line is drawn closer in than most.


Live like you want, write what you want, post and tweet what you want. Years ago I donned a uniform and swore an oath to the Constitution of the United States to protect and defend all of it; including your right to say, think, feel, write, post, and tweet anything you want.


Nothing, nowhere, protects you from the consequences of what you say, think, feel, write, post, and tweet. And before you say (or think) it: Yes, that's not fair.

:{> Andy


Published Friday, March 13, 2009 7:07 AM by andy


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