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Jeff Wesolowski
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I love the benefits of being in a group or community, but also don't like some of the downsides.

First a little background of experiences of my experiences of being in or working in groups.
I was very involved in my kids high school club sport. It was crew and it took a lot of fundraising and parental involvement to make it work. Around 50 or so kids and an annual budget of about $80,000 per year thru fundraising and dues. I was on two boards and also took additional responsibilities things that needed to be done, maintenance on equipment and weekly duties that needed to be done. Of about the 50 or so kids, only about 10 or so of their parent or parents were involved in running the program. I took a lot of my time but was truly a life altering maturing process for me. It was an opportunity for me to be in leadership positions and make decisions and express my belief or opinion. I am in a van pool and I am currently the one responsible for maintain it and handling any problems that my arise with riders in it. I believe these experiences have changed me for the better and have given me more leadership skills. I think big or small, rich or poor, groups are going to have similar problems just on a different scale.

So here is my take on the bucket problem and what it means to be noble.

First, "the bucket problem" is a lack of "I don't own it" so I don't care. People that "own it" are usually obvious, they are the ones the are more disciplined, have more, are more organized and things seem to their way more often. They are the ones that are leaders, supervisors, don't need supervision to get things down, self-motivated.

Second, the "ones" that own it, own it even when they don't. They are the ones with peripheral vision, ones that can see many things around them and act with responsibility.

Third, I think there is are less of "the ones", the good ones I mean, than there used to be. Schools don't want to teach independent thought. Being a leader is hard but rewarding. But, who seems to be are leaders for most part? Seems like there are a bunch of narcissistic assholes. They are backed those with power and money and usually squash those with noble ideals.

This "I don't own it" mentality is aggravated by many things.
Lack of good instinctive parenting, lack of discipline and responsibility given to children from an early age. Too many kids don't value hard works, hard skills, that "work" is for someone else, how about the immigrants, they need that job right?
Lack of social stigma for being lazy or a bum. The lazy ones just seem to another face in the crowd, the crowd that doesn't really care. The crowd that is more than willing to suck from the government tit.
The use of machinery and mechanization has made it possible for us to be a lot less physically active than we used to be. We are soft and out of shape. We can be that slug on the couch cause we now use fossil fuels and machines that do the hard part for us.

So how can the bucket problem be less of problem? First, make that task something that is owned. Make that task a one week task and know the consequences if the task isn't completed as required before the task is given. Second, reward tasks that are well done. This is just basic humane nature. Third, punish those how do tasks poorly. There does not seem to be the pride in good job well done anymore, cause most people don't seem to care.
The Pilgrims almost died cause the hardest ones of the group didn't feel rewarded for there efforts, how time doesn't seem to change does it?

http://www.americanthinker.com/2010/11/the_tale_of_the_pilgrims_why_i.html
 
Dan Boone
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Jeff Wesolowski wrote:First, "the bucket problem" is a lack of "I don't own it" so I don't care.


I generally get what your concerns are around notions of ownership and leadership, but you've totally lost me with your "bucket problem" labeling. Is this a metaphor from a management or self-help book that you've encountered somewhere? What does the problem you're describing have to do with buckets? *confused*

To get at the substance of your concerns: from the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made. It's pretty common for people to argue a version of "if more [other] people were more righteous, harder-working, more responsible, fill in the blank here, we'd all be better off." A common harmony is "kids these days aren't raised right, they're not as righteous, hard-working, responsible, fill-in the blank here as we were raised to be." I'm getting to the age myself where all of these things feel true, but you can encounter these complaints as far back as written human culture goes. Either humanity is cascading down a slope of degeneration from some ancient height, or this is a trick of perception and less cause for alarm than it seems.
 
Jeff Wesolowski
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Sorry, the bucket problem was from one of Paul's recent podcast in regards to a bucket of left overs that would never seem to make it to Tim's pigs. Jeff
 
Ann Torrence
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Thanks for explaining the reference to buckets. I am a bit behind on the podcasts.

Somehow, the idea of the a humble task like slopping pigs got me thinking about the medieval monks. Despite their spiritual focus, their pigs got slopped everyday and I doubt their was much tolerance for grumbling or slacking on the job. Is there something to be learned from the rules used to manage monasteries? I recall reading the Rule of St. Benedict in college as a middle path between anarchy and despotism.
 
Dan Boone
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Ah, that explains the bucket. One of my tasks from an early age was to regularly empty and clean the foul stinking coffee can that my mother kept in our kitchen for compostables. I had to be nagged because the task was unpleasant -- probably much more so than it would have been if I had done it reliably -- but I do understand the "it just never seems to get to the hogs" syndrome from the viewpoint of the malfeasant.

There already being 200+ podcasts before I came along, I've been having to pick and choose. Haven't gotten to the ones about life at the lab yet.
 
paul wheaton
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The "pig bucket problem" is the poster child for the core problem we are having here. Something that I think we have made a lot of progress on resolving.

The problem is that a new person would see the pig bucket being full and think "I'm going to help! I know this is for the pigs - I will take this to the pigs!" they would then get to the pigs, see an empty bowl in with the pigs and put the contents of the pig bucket into the bowl. Mission accomplished! And then Kristie would catch them in the act and yell at them.

Your first thought would be that Kristie is being mean. BUT! Kristie did try to explain the issue with this to the first three people who tried it. And was more emphatic with the next three people. And as people kept doing it wrong over and over, she would try to fix the problem by adding more and more emphasis - complete with the suggestion of telling all of the people on the other end of the bucket to PLEASE not put the stuff in the pig bucket directly into the bowl - there is much more going on here! It is human nature that if the english language does not work by itself, to try to turn up the volume and put on your angry face. We do this because it so often works on those people where the english langauge by itself does not work. What is being asked is, indeed, a simple thing.

After having the pig bucket stuff blow up into a major problem more than 20 times in less than a year - we just stopped doing the pig bucket at all. I have actually banned the pig bucket program for a year until we can master this sort of problem. And the pig bucket problem itself is a poster child for this problem.

The problem is that good people want to do simple things. They just do the most obvious thing without being aware that there is a richer thing being attempted. The richer thing is also simple - but you don't know that it is going on unless you have been told and remember. So the problem is multi-faceted.

We are currently doing two things:

1) more labels. I think there needed to be several labels on the bucket and where the bucket sits to spell out the system. Then there needed to be a little table or shed next to the pig food along with a big sign saying "PIG BUCKET GOES HERE" along with an explanation of what is being done and how to work with the project instead of against it. Of course, some people might choose to not read the labels, or they might read the labels and choose to do things despite the labels. Which is why we have #2

2) more folks that have been here for many years. A person that has been here for a year probably knows a hundred times more about all the things we are trying and how to complete a task smoothly than a person that has been here for a day. When I stopped the pig bucket program, most of the people that were here had been here for less than a month. In time, newbies might spend their first week with a seasoned pro, so they can learn the ropes. And if they try to do something that is contrary to the way we do things, it can be mended before it goes wonky.

 
Tim Wheaton
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Her pigs.....Her rules!
 
R Scott
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This is the same kind of frustration any entrepreneur goes through when they hire employees. Standard Operating Procedures--those mind numbingly detailed instructions big businesses have for everything. They are there to avoid this problem, BUT they are a barrier to innovation and people have to "read, understand, and follow" all of them.

It is that awkward uncomfortable stage of growth.
 
Jeff Wesolowski
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I love reading books from times past and one that I really enjoy is called "Little Heathens". It is about life on a farm in Iowa during the great depression. It is rather cool cause it talks about how tasks where handled and it how different ages groups on the farm had different responsibilities. Rarely were chores done by one person and as one was more responsible, more responsible chores could be taken on. This farm had a stable consistent group living there, much different than transient population at wheaton laboratories. An enjoyable read, shows much resourcefulness.
 
alex Keenan
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So how do you balance A against B

A) A place for everything and everything in its place. Meaning designing for high efficiency of a task that is routinely done day after day. Think of Toyota Production Method designing to eliminate waste and maximize quality and efficiency.

B) The need to be innovative and adaptive to take advantage of opportunities. The world changes and what works today may not work tomorrow. Think the custom job shop that needs to produce custom work quickly.

Maximizing one tends to impact the other. America now seems to have two types of employees they hire.
People who do operational work and people who are knowledge workers.

You see much A type thinking with operational workers because you are paying them to do the same tasks over and over.
You see most B type thinking with knowledge workers because you are paying them to solve problems.

Unfortunately, it is easier to educate people to be A workers. It is much harder to teach people to think and to be problem solvers.
 
Craig Dobbson
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Is there an orientation at the lab? Maybe it would be worthwhile to put together a booklet of "getting to know the lab and it's inhabitants". Just something simple that can easily convey the messages your trying to put forward about how things work and everyone's expectations.

One thing that I try to work on around here is being really careful to make sure everyone always knows what's going on around the property. When things like the pig bucket come up, I make a point to bring it up after dinner once bellies are full and people are chilled out. " Hey everyone, just a little note: please don't throw "X" in with the pigs. Please leave the bucket at the door and it will be picked up from there. Thanks bunches."

Seems to go ok
 
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