Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Learning from (Negative) Examples: Part II

To see the first post of the series, go here.

This week's observation of management failures:

When you hire an expert in ____, have them work on ____. For example, assume you hire someone who is a preeminent scientist in shock-wave physics. You have two projects with funding: one is on polymeric structures, and the other is on simulating ion impacts. Quick, which one do you have them work on?

*buzz* Time's up! If you said ion impacts, you are clearly not my advisor.

Keep it simple or explain it clearly: you may have great reasons for adding 10 layers of complexity to what is typically a very simple process (like, say, taking a group photo). However, don't expect an enthusiastic response when something that should take 5 minutes takes an hour if you don't make clear why. Even if you can't successfully communicate it, try.

Not everyone responds to the same motivation: My advisor is a big believer that we should all be motivated to work 16 hours a day so we can graduate sooner and go out into the world an make a reasonable amount of money. This, apparently, is all the motivation we should possibly need. I don't think he comprehends that short-term praise/feedback can make a huge difference in productivity. I don't think he understands how utterly disheartening broken equipment can be. Most students don't need cheerleaders, but most students do need some outside motivation.

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