Staffing decisions and Who was Jasper Mardon?

Today I learned:

1. Staffing: When you make a tough personel decision, and no one on your team is surprised when you deliver the news, you made the right decision but you made it too late.

2. Who was Jasper Mardon? The other day I was shuffling through a pile of papers my dad gave me from his working days. An old resume, materials from training programs, newspaper articles. The kind of stuff most people would have trashed years ago.

In the middle of the pile I came across something interesting: an undated stack of papers in a font and style that could only have come from the early PC days. It was labelled “Life’s Lesson’s Learned” by Jasper Mardon.  A forgotten document. Deep in a pile of forgotten documents.

As I tossed it on the “shredding” pile,  the dedication caught my eye: “To my brother, Humphrey Mardon, with whom I shared a war and a sense of values…(and) the officers and men of the Third Queen Alexandra own…with whom I served.” It seemed important. At least to Jasper Mardon it must have been important.   I decided to give it a quick glance. I was immediately enthralled.

The document is essentially fifteen pages of quotes to live by. In a simple, direct style Jasper Mardon shared the collective wisdom of his life and work.  What struck me first was that regardless of when he wrote it, his opinions are still bang on.

Mr. Mardon organized his thoughts into broad categories – Private Life, Man Management, Work Rules, Courtesy, Training & Education, and Public Obligations. Even within this you can see what he felt was important in life.

A few of my favourites:

One cannot be half-ethical. Ethics are like virginity, one has it or one has not.” This was just too good. I googled it to see if this was just a collection of popular quotes.  No results.  An unpublished Jasper Mardon original.

Avoid being one of those experts who is the opponent of anything new.”  Is there a better motto to abide by in a dynamic workplace? I frequently catch myself dreaming up up barriers to change. It is just easier than actually changing.

Surround yourself with knowledgeable people who will have the courage to argue with you.” This reminded me of a Seth Godin blog post.  (I recommend you check his post. It hit so close to home for me that I sent it to my direct reports. The link will also explain why I requested that they please, please not refer to me as “Garmin.”)

Management must balance the interests of the three stakeholders, the shareholders, the employees and the community at large.” As a student I heard triple bottom-line thrown around in class on a daily basis. Classic MBA speak. The concept seems obvious today. Was it so clear 30 or 40 years ago? History suggests it was not.

Criticize early on when it is useful, not when it is too late and merely self-serving.” This gets to the heart of project management in a large organization.  In my experience projects are extremely easy to start, and extremely difficult to deliver.  The tendency is kick things off with whoever you can get on board. Whoever is in has their say. As momentum builds everyone and their dog wants to jump in and add their two cents. “What about this feature?” “I can’t sign-off without that…”  The result is a never-ending loop. The challenge for every project manager is to identify those late-comers and to mitigate risk by getting them to criticize at the outset, while you can still do something about it.

After reading the document I called my dad and asked what he knows about the Mr. Mardon. My dad described him as a brilliant man – an icon in the Pulp and Paper industry. He was also a demanding but tireless mentor to anyone in whom he saw promise and effort.  A guy who spent his life trying to both teach and learn. There is also a little bit of background available online – the best source I found is the You Tube video posted below.  I can’t find any mention of his “Life’s Lessons Learned” though.

It strikes me this man was ahead of his time.  We all create and broadcast in the media available to us when we are around. Mr. Mardon had a dot-matrix printer and the modest aspiration of recording his takeaways from life.  If he was around today we would probably all have the opportunity to share in his insights. We’d be reading his blog, or following his tweets. My guess is he would have been all over social media.  In his own way he said it himself: “To continue to be ‘tuned in’ on the network you must continually contribute.” My e-business or marketing profs couldn’t have said it better.

So that is how I learned about Jasper Mardon. Insights from a  forgotten document that is as relevent as any reading or lecture from my entire MBA, uncovered from a pile of forgotten documents.

More on Jasper Mardon

If you want to learn more about Mr. Mardon, this was the best piece I could find:

I should also mention I thought about publishing a copy of his work here but decided it was not mine to freely post. I do have a pdf of the orginal document. If you would like to give it a read, send me a message at darrenmcknight (at) gmail.com and I will e-mail you a copy.

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The Best Laid Plans, plus Why I Wouldn’t Succeed as an Addict

Today I learned:

1. The Best Laid Plans…often go awry.  In an earlier post on preparation to work from home post-ACL reconstruction,  I subtly (?)  bragged about how well prepared I was to remain effective during time out of the office. By day 2 it became clear, despite IT support and “successful” testing, all tools are not equally reliable.  The IP phone on my PC is a bust – it keeps cutting out.

Can you hear me now? Nope.

The good news is today I learned many of the free tools available are more reliable than those we pay for.  Google Talk and Skype have saved the day, and not added any cost to me or the company. No IT support either – plug and play, just like things should be.

2. Why I wouldn’t succeed as a drug addict:  It’s plain and simple. I just don’t have the stomach for it. For 2 1/2  days following surgery I was nauseous and dizzy. I felt weak and  couldn’t stand to be on my feet for long. Using the crutches to cross my house made me feel like vomiting. My mind was foggy and I couldn’t concentrate. I was feeling as though the recovery period was going to be much worse than I thought.

Today it finally occurred to me that maybe it was the pain medication, not the surgery, that was the problem. I decided to go cold turkey and kick the drugs to test the theory out.

It was a good decision.

Within 2-3 hours the fog lifted. I was immediately more functional, both physically and mentally. The knee pain, despite no pain medications, is exactly the same if not better, too. It was an interesting lesson. It turns out the surgery wasn’t as bad as I thought. I am just not very good at doing drugs.


Perpetuating One Stereotype and Disgusted by Another

Today I learned:

1. Perpetuating a Gender Stereotype: I hate to say it, but there is no denying it: Girls are natural caregivers.

Following surgery I was worried my little ones would be too rough on me or too demanding.

Two days in and nothing could be farther from the truth. In addition to an overwhelming desire to see my “owie”  every 5 minutes, they seem to possess an innate understanding of how to take care of people. There is no jumping, no rough play, no crying, no demanding. I am being showered with hugs and kisses, gifted with cards and artwork, and lent even the most treasured of stuffed animals if they might conceivably give me some level of comfort. Pillows are adjusted, paths cleared for crutches and snacks retrieved. Nothing but the best for daddy.

I have no set of boys to compare this behaviour too, so it is possible this would be true of all kids, but I don’t get the sense that would be the case. My only real knowledge of little boys comes from the fact I was one once, and I hate to say it, but I don’t think I possessed the same patience and understanding at their age.

2. Disgusted by Another Stereotype: “Linsanity” looks good on the NBA. Ever since the Grizzlies left town in 2001 I have sought out, and enjoyed, every new reason I can find to despise the National Basketball Association. I still hold quite a grudge.

2011 Lockout?  Petty greed, on both sides. I was sad it ended.

Lebron’s  prime-time signing?  The best of bad TV.

Ron Artest becomes Meta-World Peace?  That would never happen in hockey.

Out of all of it though, I haven’t enjoyed anything more than “Linsanity.”

For two straight weeks, media outlets have been tripping over stereotypes – firings, inappropriate headlines, embarrassing graphics, over-compensation, and just generally making fools of themselves. It appears just about everyone in or around the NBA doesn’t quite know how to act when an Asian male (born in L.A. for goodness sake!) finds success in the league.

The one exception in all this of course is Jeremy Lin himself who seems to be taking his sudden rise to fame with a sense of grace and humility. No embarrassing quotes. No off colour remarks. No over-the-top chest pumping. He just keeps showing up and proving his game night after night. This is one of the few opportunities I can think of – Steve Nash aside – where we can learn something about how to behave properly from an actual NBA player. The NBA finally has a good story to tell, and it seems they just can’t find anyone to appropriately tell it.

 


Bed Rest in the Digital Age plus Over-Prescribing Meds

Today I learned:

1. Bed Rest in a Digital Age: Prior to yesterday’s ACL reconstruction, I had two previous arthroscopies on the same knee in the early-1990’s. It was almost 20 years ago but I have two vivid recollections:

  • Dialling my own home phone number from downstairs to make it ring upstairs so I could ask my mom to bring down some ice cream, without getting off my lazy butt. I remember this, partially, because she reminds me of it every chance she gets.
  • Watching ALOT of crappy TV.

As a high-school student who actually attended all my classes, this was my first exposure to the Soap Opera genre. Try as I might I never took to Days of Our Lives and General Hospital, but there just weren’t many other options in those days.

The world is different this time.

I stacked months of reading by my bed in preparation for the down-time but one day out of a general anesthetic and still hooped up on pain meds, my head is not so much into books.  Instead I have watched a few shows recommended by friends on Netflix – The Hour and Justified are favourites so far – and watched a work-related webinar.

As I look at myself now, surrounded by my iPhone, iPad, and macBook Pro, as well as my work laptop and blackberry, I have a sense this round of bed rest will be very plugged in. This blog may in fact prove to be therapeutic as it forces some form of daily creation, rather than consumption.

All the technology comes in handy too – this time I have 4 separate devices that I can use to Skype my mom to see if she can drop by with a bowl if Ice Cream.

2. Over-prescribing Meds:  On discharge from hospital I assumed I would be sent off with a small script for T3’s, but in fact I was given a prescription for a fairly heavy narcotic.  Interestingly, I was prescribed 60 tablets which my close friend (a pharmacist) described as “an awful lot for knee surgery.”

Taken at the recommended dosage of 1-2 tablets every 4-6 hours, the 60 tablets would be depleted at a rate of between 4 and 12 per day. Essentially, worst case I have 5 days of meds, but best case I have 15 days (or more if I don’t need them frequently).

This made me wonder: Why prescribe so many tablets?

Surely if I am in so much pain that I run through these meds at the fastest pace then someone should see me before 5 days to assess the problem. Alternatively it could be that I will have so many tablets leftover when I am done that they end up sitting around in my medicine cabinet long after I need them. This invites abuse by me or someone else.

I trust my doctor – I think he’s great and I am sure he did a good job on my knee – but I wonder how much thought went into the follow-up medications.  It may be that he assessed me and felt a large prescription was safe and low risk. I hope that is the case.

It seems to me though that it is more likely the script size was just a convenience factor for both him and me – an attempt to reduce follow-up visits just to write a new script. If that is the case then I am not too impressed. A smaller prescription would potentially catch and save problems at both ends of the spectrum.


Fasting Goes Slowly plus Before and After

Just a brief, knee-themed, post today as I spent most of the afternoon under general anesthetic for ACL reconstruction. I consider it a moral victory that I made it in under the wire today by blogging on my phone from the recovery room! Pardon any spelling/grammar issues. I will clean it up post morphine induced stupor.

Today I learned:

1. Fasting Goes Slowly: Apparently a blanket rule applies. No matter what time your surgery is scheduled for the following day, they force feed you the same message: No food or drink after midnight.

This hardly seems fair. I am sure the guy with the 8am booking barely noticed he missed his first coffee of the day, and he would have been in post-op recovery room before his tummy even started to grumble. On the other hand, with my 1:45pm time slot, I had to suffer through the entire morning and into the afternoon void of anything at all.

The worst part of my painfully slow fast was a toss up. It might have been making my kids breakfast – the little ones dined on vanilla yogurt with fresh strawberries and mangos, while I wasn’t even supposed to lick my fingers. I think though, the worst part was the caffeine headache that kicked in at 10:17am when my body realized it was not going to receive the latte that it has grown so fond of. If it wasn’t that, then it was the man in the waiting room openly salivating over his plan for a Denny’s Grand Slam breakfast at 1:03pm.

That all said, the question for me is this: Why is there an across-the-board midnight rule on fasting before surgery?

I can’t find a reasonable resource that explains why my fast needed to be 14 hours when someone else gets off with only 8 hours. In fact, Wikipedia even suggests 6 hours is fine. Without a plausible explanation then, I am left to assume this rule exists because some hospital administrator assumes I can’t do math and count back 6 or 8 hours. Next time I am going to beg for the early spot and then order a take-out brunch delivery to the recovery room.

2. Before and After: A knee looks very different in the morning before a surgeon starts digging around in it than it does afterwards. I suppose I didn’t really learn this – it seems rather intuitive – but I was able to obtain the photographic evidence to back up the lesson.

Before – right knee with all the pieces, sans a ruptured ACL, where nature intended:

After – right knee with a piece of hamstring tendon now fixed in place where the ACL once was. I assume the old ACL (not pictured) is in a waste bin somewhere. The rest is on ice:

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A Tale of Two Bicycles and The Nesting Man

Today I learned:

1. A Tale of Two Bicycles: You enjoy your bike ride around the neighbourhood more today…

…when you know the only bike you will be riding for quite some time starting tomorrow is this one:

2.  The Nesting Man: Prior to the birth of our two kids, my wife went through a predictable cycle of nesting. The walls were painted, crib assembled, clothes and diapers bought and arranged. Everything was ready much earlier than necessary, and all the work seemed to satisfy whatever innate instinct she was experiencing.

I didn’t really get it all until this morning, when some sort of abbreviated pre-surgical version of the phenomenon seemed to kick in for me. Today I became The Nesting Man.

It all started when I woke up with a sudden urge to go grocery shopping. Knowing I am faced with about 2 weeks where I will barely leave the house, my sweet-tooth made a pre-emptive strike, trying to entice me into shopping for a bunch of junk food that I can enjoy in the surgical recovery period. Thankfully, this desire was easily killed with a review of my Basal Metabolic Rate.  At about 1850 calories per day for my age/height/weight, you quickly realize that if all you plan to do is lie in bed all day then you can’t afford many empty calories!

Next came organization of my work and play spaces. I setup an office in the kitchen printer et. al (to avoid the stairs to my regular home office). I also made sure all the fun things I might want in the day (books, music, electronics) are within reach of my side of the bed.  Once everything was good to go, I moved on to other things that could weigh on me – unreturned emails, anticipated bills, laundry – anything I might need to do in the next couple weeks.

Oddly it all helped, and now I seem to have moved on to whatever the male equivalent is to a woman’s “just get this over with already” stage.


Happily Oblivious or Just Plain Ignorant and a Desire to Dance

Today I learned:

1. Happily Oblivious or Just Plain Ignorant? It is a toss-up: I was either avoiding the issue or ignorant to it. I was skipping through life (figuratively at least), waiting for my ACL Reconstruction assuming it would just create a minor blip in the road. That ended today when I finally allowed myself to more clearly understand just how long I will be laid up.

I received a call to advise when to come in to the hospital for surgery on Monday and this led to a long discussion on follow-up visits, therapy and driving restrictions. Essentially I was told to “get ready to tackle that book you have always wanted to write” because you won’t be doing anything else for the next few weeks. I knew exactly what the long-term recovery picture looks like, but I hadn’t spent much time thinking or planning for the short-term.

With the sudden realization, and forced acceptance, that surgery is going to upset my routine for longer than I had hoped I spent this morning in a panic trying to prepare for the inevitable. The bottom-line: Frantic preparation or not, I am not ready to spend 2-3 weeks sitting on my butt.

2. Desire to Dance: When you know you will be laid up for awhile your desire to spontaneously dance with your daughters skyrockets.

To be clear, my desire to dance generally sits at about a 0.1 on a scale of 1-10, but knowing I will be off my feet for a couple weeks, and certainly not dancing for months, I found myself dancing around the kitchen this morning with the girls. Notably, this was pre-caffeine dancing, so no artificial stimulants were involved.

It makes me think of the song lyric, “You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone” and seems to be part of an innate desire to fit in all the things I need/want before I can’t do them for awhile. It is an odd emotion, and I better go feed it while I can…