Monday, April 23, 2018

Tesla's demise may have been greatly overrated.

I was having ramen down by the Tesla plant this weekend so I had to do a drive by. Their overflow parking lot looked WAY better. Maybe that production stop helped them clear the backlog. Or they are hiding them somewhere else. But I didn't even stop because that lot is now a non event.


  1. Capital of Texas RefugeeTuesday, April 24, 2018 5:10:00 PM

    "I was having ramen down by the Tesla plant ..."

    Yeah, you guessed right at the "paleo" stuff -- the way I'd improve a bowl of ramen is to take out all of the ramen and to cook the veggies and meat that'd go into it shabu-shabu style.

    I had a piece of toast at Waffle House last night ... meh, I don't miss grains much at all. I did have the burger with burgers for buns thing, and as usual it was awesome.

    Anyway, about Tesla: the Tesla honcho himself has a great idea about meetings that long ago I helped implement elsewhere, which is to stop taking the ritual of meetings so damned seriously.

    Elon Musk himself has said that his people have the right to walk out of shit meetings. He knows the Tesla 3 is behind schedule and he doesn't want people to have to deal with productivity blocks such as ass-covering managers trying to ass-cover by sucking people into blame orientation meetings, which is the kind of thing that happens when people think their jobs involve blame deflection instead of producing shipping products.

    Many years ago, I worked as a management and engineering consultant with a manager who was fond of having time-wasting meetings every Friday so he could fill in his company's ritual status report bullshit. He came out of aerospace and made a big deal of filling in all of the ritual forms, and that company had a metric craptonne of them.

    So we changed the tune: meetings were moved to Monday, when they could help focus effort for the week, and they'd start with the lowest ranked people (including consultants) first. It was like a Quaker church gathering -- you'd say your part, ask if anyone has anything brief that needs to be mentioned, and then you'd get to leave the meeting if you wanted to leave. If someone had already mentioned the thing you wanted to get noticed, and you didn't need to stay, you'd also get to leave, so meetings didn't turn into a roll-call.

    Most people really wanted to leave once their parts were done, especially the people who were trying to get designs ready for production. As the meeting would go on, only the team leads and the managers would stick to the end, and everyone else could get back to work again.

    Rarely these meetings would last more than thirty minutes, and rules came into play that would prevent people from trying to drag one-on-one discussions into the meetings. One rule was simply called what it was: "Can you go do that somewhere else? Then go do that somewhere else." The manager would then go around and follow up on all of the stuff he heard, and so he was happier to have more hands-on involvement especially when things appeared to be going wrong silently in a few areas.

    When we ran the numbers, the old meetings cost the company around ten grand every week, most of which was split between engineering consultants and high-value engineers.

    Why the engineering people ever put up with that bullshit was beyond me, but there was a happy ending: it ended, everyone got over it, and the manager got something he wanted eventually.

    That engineering division had a huge turnaround within two years, partly because everyone felt like they were 100% on-task to do the actual work, and the manager got noticed. He got a cush gig with a nice rich benefits package and lots of comped stuff working with an engineering partner in France.

    The last I heard, he was living in Switzerland, very happy with how things turned out. As a good ol' country boy, I don't think he expected he'd be hanging out in Saint-Moritz. :-)

    Maybe Tesla can also pull its bacon out of the fire by implementing a "fire your bad meeting" policy ...

  2. Every engineer in Silicon Valley cried out in pain when Elon said that. The fad du du jour is Microsoft Agile. And as far as I can tell it's sole purpose is to bury you in meetings until you stop restisting. Half the Valley must be doing it. It's like a cult right now. So it was nice for anyone dare to say the opposite.

  3. I have a friend who is a software development director and his latest complaint is about Microsoft Agile as well as "agile" stuff in general ...

    "I hate working with these 'agile' customers because they slow us down. We're on a continuous development cycle and we're three times faster than these 'agile' people because of it. If we didn't make so much money from support contracts and eventually writing their stuff for them because they can't deliver even with 'agile' development, we'd steer clear of them entirely."

    I didn't know what "agile" meant until he explained it to me, and in another industry's parlance, we'd call it "feather-bedded incremental development" because it isn't anything new.

    Managers are so skeered that their people will be unable to produce a working product that they've carved the product development cycle into smaller chunks that are just as hard to chew, but now there are more of them.

    There's this particularly obnoxious version he described that he said was called "scrum", where software dev nerds pretend to be football jocks in frequent huddles where the entire goal isn't to keep the goal on-target, but instead just to keep advancing the "ball" down the "field".

    As a former jock, I think the thing that these people forget is why we hate them for taking our ideas and then doing some kind of intellectual violence to them. We're not playing the game just to move the damned ball, we're playing it to win, because nowadays we'd just go to a bar instead and drink beers with our friends while watching people who haven't forgotten how to win. (Besides, we are now older and no longer heal nearly quite so quickly.)

    That's what Elon Musk understands: never forget that we're playing this game to win, not just to score points.

    Because he understands this, there's still hope for Tesla.

  4. I agree. It may not all work out in the end. But you have to respect a man who gave it his everything.

    I think the most insidious thing about agile is it seems to be a micromanaging tool which causes everything to take longer. I've heard stories where once" one on one" status meetings were turned into "whole team group meetings" effectively waisting basically all the people's time that have to sit through everyone's else's status updates. Essentially making them super meetings of 2 hours or more long. WTF is that? I'm telling you - the desire is to kill your sole until you stop resisting.

    And since it's a fad right now... it's being used at companies in a way it was designed for. But almost the whole Valley is doing it.