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Dilbert’s Pointy Haired Boss Piloted The Space Shuttle

January 19, 2017

Anything I don’t understand must be easy.
– Pointy Haired Boss

I have been accused of running my teams using this advice. Generally, with a smile and a wink. But, many of us, I would venture that all of us, suffer from this same philosophy.

Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.
– Douglas Adams, Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy

We understand space is big. We maybe don’t understand that bit about the chemist. What do you need from the chemist and what’s a chemist anyway? But, space? Yeah, we’ve got that down.

Sure, Star Wars and Star Trek are science fiction. (Galaxy Quest, on the other hand, “It’s all true. I knew it!”) And, even though we know that spaceships canotn “warp” or use “hyperspace” to jump around the galaxy, we’ve got a pretty good grasp of the concepts of space.

Or do we?

Look at the following quiz on a few space topics (answers at the bottom of the post.)

How far above the earth is the International Space Station?

  1. 22 miles
  2. 220 miles
  3. 2,220 miles
  4. 22,220 miles
  5. 222,220 miles
  6. 2,222,220 miles

How far above the earth is the satellite that your satellite TV uses?

  1. 22 miles
  2. 220 miles
  3. 2,220 miles
  4. 22,220 miles
  5. 222,220 miles
  6. 2,222,220 miles

How far away is the moon from the earth?

  1. 22 miles
  2. 220 miles
  3. 2,220 miles
  4. 22,220 miles
  5. 222,220 miles
  6. 2,222,220 miles

We tend to think of space as. . .well, space. It’s big and it’s out there. Back on September 5, 1977 we launched a satelitte called Voyager. It played around in the solar system awhile and then headed for a star called AC +79 3888, which is a modest 17.6 light years away. Voyager is currently the fastest mademade object in history. It’s screaming along at 38,000 MPH. It’s also the object farthest from earth. There’s some debate over whether it’s actually left the solar system yet. It’s 11.7 billion miles from earth. (That’s 11,700,000,000 miles. That’s twice the distance from the earth to Pluto.)

Okay, so the point? Space, the bigness of space. Voyager, at that septuble-digit speed will scoot across that 17.6 light years to its next destination in just about 40 years. . .Wait, no, 40 thousand years. That’s a long time. All of recorded human history is only about 10,000 years.

Your grandkids won’t be downloading pictures from Voyager’s travel log. We literally have no idea how to get to the next solar system. Mostly because space is really, really big.

Maybe you already had a feel for space distances. We tend to think about space as a single place. We are just a little space in a great big space. What’s this have to do with business or anything?

Just that if you don’t understand space, it’s easy to say, “We should find other habitable planets and go there.” We’re making amazing progress at finding them, but the “go there”? We have no idea.

As a manager, you need to avoid doing something similar when you work with other teams. If I don’t understand the procurement process, it’s easy for me to criticize them for taking 10 days to get me a new PC when

I can go to WalMart at lunch and have it in my office this afternoon. It shouldn’t take you so long!

Also, if you are in procurement it’s easy to look at engineering and say,

Why does it take them 10 days to get us a SharePoint site? I can share out a folder on my harddrive and people can see it right away.

Procurement can explain why they take so long to get your a laptop and engineering can explain to you why it takes so long to set up secure shares. But, the less you know, the easier it is to decide, “They should do it differently.”

So, have some patience with your coworkers and other departments. And understand how other people see your department and your position.

Oh, and here are the distances:

  • Space station – 220 miles
  • Satellite TV in geosynchronis orbit – 22,220 miles
  • The moon – 222,220 miles

The distance to the chemist? I’ll let you know when I find it.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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