mm461: The world of work at $4.199/gallon

August 7, 2008

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© Tara Carlin | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’s Musings

The new reality of $80 fuel fill ups has begun to penetrate the consciousness of this nation’s employers, many of whom are responding to their employees’ pain in a variety of intriguing ways.

nytimes

The New Workplace Perk: Gas

Life’s Work | By LISA BELKIN | Published: August 7, 2008

IN Washington State, Microsoft has leased three large office complexes miles from company headquarters in recent months to shorten the commutes of about 7,000 employees.

In San Francisco, Citigate Cunningham, a public relations company, now encourages workers to stay home whenever possible, providing laptop computers and BlackBerrys to enable telecommuting, and reimbursing them $40 a month for high-speed Internet connections in their homes.

At Rejuvenation, a lighting manufacturer in Portland, Ore., employees skip one day of work completely. The company has gone to a four-day week, with each workday being 10 hours long. Alysa Rose, the president, also gives away a free bicycle to an employee every month.

Increased telecommuting, or working from home, suddenly is not only tolerated, but actually encouraged by many forward-thinking managers who suddenly are experiencing attrition of valued staff for reasons of excessive commuting expense. And, as an electronic collaboration professional, I can’t help but be heartened by this trend, since tools such as web conferencing allow dispersed workers to interact most productively.

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mm450: Big hat, no cattle

July 27, 2008
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© Martin Flyntz | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’s Musings

Sunday evening. A rather scattered weekend: errands Saturday and Sunday morning. Dinner out with relatives/friends Saturday. Lunch in with mothers and sister-in-law Sunday. Strolling solo later Sunday through a rather high quality summer art fair. Not nearly as fun as with my lovely life partner, who chose to recover from the excesses of cooking and entertaining (honest, I did the dishes before I left!).

Lots of surfing, but the usual suspects yielded potential future seeds, but no immediate inspiration.

So, in the manner of Seinfeld, a blog post about nothing.

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mm401: Here’s one cure for blistering gas prices

June 5, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

We have written appreciatively on the topic of working from home (most colorfully, courtesy Stanley Bing, here; more philosophically, here).

Telecommuting is a fancier term. Telework is the jargon chosen by Stephen Barr of the Washington Post, reporting on a bill working its way through Congress to permit federal employees to do so.

washingtonpost

Telework Bill Cleared by the House

Federal Diary | By Stephen Barr |Wednesday, June 4, 2008; Page D03

A bill that would permit many federal employees to telecommute at least two days every two weeks was approved by the House yesterday on a voice vote.

Under the bill, federal agencies would be required to create and implement policies to enable eligible employees to work from home or away from their regular office as long as telecommuting did not hamper their performance or interfere with agency operations.

Telework advocates and union officials have been pushing for expanded telecommuting programs in the government for two years, and the House action enhances the chances of Congress sending a bill to the president this year.

Similar legislation has been approved by a Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, but a committee report has not been released, a step needed before the bill can come to the Senate floor. There are some differences between the House and Senate bills that will have to be resolved, but a compromise is likely because the concept of expanded telecommuting in the government has drawn substantial bipartisan support.

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mm395: Blast from the Past! No. 24

May 29, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Still fighting to restore some normal computation to Casa Mudge. Meanwhile, we needs must blog daily.

There’s most read, and then there’s favorite. This is a post which yr (justifiably) humble svt is, regrettably, but not regretfully, not at all humble about.

lhc250x46_thumb2

Blast from the Past!

A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…

From last summer, originally posted September 6, 2007, and originally titled “Our intangible riches”.

MUDGE’S Musings

Submitted in the spirit of: MUDGE takes well written good ideas where he finds them. And riffs from there. Hang on!

Oil, soil, copper, and forests are forms of wealth. So are factories, houses, and roads. reasononline_thumb4 But according to a 2005 study by the World Bank, such solid goods amount to only about 20 percent of the wealth of rich nations and 40 percent of the wealth of poor countries.

So what accounts for the majority? World Bank environmental economist Kirk Hamilton and his team in the bank’s environment department have found that most of humanity’s wealth isn’t made of physical stuff. It is intangible. In their extraordinary but vastly underappreciated report, Where Is The Wealth Of Nations?: Measuring Capital for the 21st Century, Hamilton’s team found that “human capital and the value of institutions (as measured by rule of law) constitute the largest share of wealth in virtually all countries.”

The World Bank study defines natural capital as the sum of cropland, pastureland, forested areas, protected areas, and nonrenewable resources (including oil, natural gas, coal, and minerals). Produced capital is what most of us think of when we think of capital: machinery, equipment, structures (including infrastructure), and urban land. But that still left a lot of wealth to explain. “As soon as you say the issue is the wealth of nations and how wealth is managed, then you realize that if you were only talking about a portfolio of natural assets, if you were only talking about produced capital and natural assets, you’re missing a big chunk of the story,” Hamilton explains.

Intangible capital accounts for 77 percent of the wealth of nations!

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mm268: Sometimes it’s personal

January 28, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

Yr (justifiably) humble svt has been practicing this hobby? trade? avocation? for nearly nine months. Early on, I was exposed to the Prime Directive of Blogging: Thou Shalt Blog Daily!

Okay, started (seriously) 07-May-2007… tonight it’s 28-January-2008… timeanddate.com (as discussed previously) … 266 days … this is mm268 (and there have been some WCW’s and decimals) and WordPress.com tells me that I’ve produced 293 posts up to now: I have met the Prime Directive of Blogging. 293 posts in 266 days. Whew!

With some difficulty. Take this week, for example. And by week, I’m referring to the past seven days, actually just the past six will do.

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mm130: Our Intangible Riches

September 6, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Submitted in the spirit of: MUDGE takes well written good ideas where he finds them. And riffs from there. Hang on!

Oil, soil, copper, and forests are forms of wealth. So are factories, houses, and roads. reasononline But according to a 2005 study by the World Bank, such solid goods amount to only about 20 percent of the wealth of rich nations and 40 percent of the wealth of poor countries.

So what accounts for the majority? World Bank environmental economist Kirk Hamilton and his team in the bank’s environment department have found that most of humanity’s wealth isn’t made of physical stuff. It is intangible. In their extraordinary but vastly underappreciated report, Where Is The Wealth Of Nations?: Measuring Capital for the 21st Century, Hamilton’s team found that “human capital and the value of institutions (as measured by rule of law) constitute the largest share of wealth in virtually all countries.”

The World Bank study defines natural capital as the sum of cropland, pastureland, forested areas, protected areas, and nonrenewable resources (including oil, natural gas, coal, and minerals). Produced capital is what most of us think of when we think of capital: machinery, equipment, structures (including infrastructure), and urban land. But that still left a lot of wealth to explain. “As soon as you say the issue is the wealth of nations and how wealth is managed, then you realize that if you were only talking about a portfolio of natural assets, if you were only talking about produced capital and natural assets, you’re missing a big chunk of the story,” Hamilton explains.

Intangible capital accounts for 77 percent of the wealth of nations!

Not what one would expect is it? We think of capital as natural resources, or manufactured products. But human labor, knowledge and social institutions comprise 3/4 of all of the wealth of the world. Striking, isn’t it?

The rest of the story goes off in a somewhat different (geopolitical) direction than I want to take this concept (Reason being whom they are), but feel free to read the interesting interview:

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Reason Magazine – Our Intangible Riches

I’m going to place this in a corporate context, for after all, MUDGE is this latter day convert to corporate life.

Years ago, attended a conference discussing the then new and hot topic: Knowledge Management. The consultants running the event, we’ll call them members of the class: wizards of all that is new and hot, tossed out a stunning statistic at us: 80% of the value of a corporation walks out the door every evening at 5pm, hopefully (as far as the stockholders are concerned) to return the next morning at 9am. 80%. It’s the people, of course. Bricks, mortar, research and manufacturing hardware, unending banks of air cooled servers humming away in the bunkers: 20%.

Flesh and blood: 80%. Or, have it World Bank’s updated way (it’s been 10 years, after all, and their wizards are undoubtedly newer and hotter) and call it 77%.

I dare say, though, that it takes a particularly forward thinking set of corporate leaders to truly own that statistic in any meaningful way. And MUDGE doesn’t consider management forward thinking if the extent of its reflection in that sphere is hiring those “wizard” consultants. Nope, those new and hot guys will be onto the next new and hot concept before the gig is over.

Leaving management remaining ready willing and able to discount the value of its flesh and blood assets by, let’s figure, 75%.

Yes, I’m thinking that if you held a typical CEO’s hand in the fire and said, “All right you (more than likely unqualifiedly) outrageously wealthy captain of industry, what percentage of value of your organization is its human capital?” do you honestly believe that she’d [we’ll be PC today, defying the statistics, I’m afraid] apply a value of more than 25%?

I think not. The evidence is all around you.

And I mean this literally.

Walk down your block any weekday morning. Take a look at the number of cars in driveways. All those people operating from their home offices? Some of course are fortunate as MUDGE often is, working from home for a corporate giant.

But increasing numbers are what we should call CDPs, corporate displaced persons, refugees from the Corporate Bulimia© that cheerfully spews out that human capital as readily as people deal with slightly too elderly seafood.

So, our CDPs, of an age that for considerations such as health insurance costs makes them unattractive as new hires elsewhere, set up shop in their dens as “consultants” themselves. Only these aren’t the McKinsey style wizards of all that is new and hot — these are the gals and guys who know how to analyze market trends to predict supply chain requirements in sufficient time, or who know how to write (and better yet fix) COBOL programs, or know the transportation industry from railhead to 40,000 feet cruising altitude.

In short, this is human capital. Rehired at consultants rates, and finally valued as a result.

Captains of Industry! You could have had these guys for a song — you did have these guys for a song, and at the first blip in oil prices, or at the burst of the first Internet bubble, or lately, the disquieting rumblings of financial uncertainty due to the mortgage derivative crisis, you cast them out.

Or, in the direst twist of all, their jobs are surplus, because you’ve found the folks in Galway or Bengaluru or Manila who will do what they promise is the same work for 70% cheaper.

And when times seem better, you’ll hire again (corporate bulimia don’t ya know — should I copyright that term? Corporate Bulimia©), although the good ones you laid off will be long gone, and you’ll happily hire the inexperienced (but health insurance wise, golden) and empty young to fill the ranks.

How long before you figure out that the World Bank has it right? That the accumulated institutional knowledge that you blithely lay off (yeah, right size) or outsource because you value it so cheaply is the engine driving your success?

Some of our CDPs drop out of corporate life altogether, and corporations are the poorer for it. Perhaps they accumulated or salvaged some capital of their own before they were evicted from their offices and cubicles.

These are the ones you might find owners of (i.e., cooking, scrubbing toilets, entertaining strangers) that charming new bed and breakfast near the town center that they poured so much sweat equity into, working the same killer hours or more, but now at least with a boss who appreciates those efforts, themselves.

Great place to stay next time you’re in town. A terrible waste of 25 years of hard-earned, hard-learned experience, i.e., human capital.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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