Sunday, December 28, 2008

Supply Chains, or, the tenuous nature of modern life

Over the past week, as Seattle has been blanketed with blizzards of biblical proportions, I've had a bit of a chance to reflect on supply chains. [Yes, I know. In Ithaca or Ann Arbor, the recent snow would be considered a "flurry" and not even merit reporting on the nightly news. But, in Seattle, it is a catastrophe.]

On Christmas Eve, I was in QFC, and was surprised to see the shelves empty of all milk and eggs. Now, maybe people suddenly were in a eggnog kind of mood, but I don't think so. Especially since the milk crisis lasted until at least Friday. Today, I was again at QFC, and managed to grab the last whole chicken they had.

I have experience with deep supply chains, and I know how they can go wrong. (*cough* fasteners *cough*) Or the lead time of custom-forged titanium landing gears. But it took the snow to make me realize that everyone's supply chain is just about as tenuous.

Not sure if this makes me go into full-on survivalist mode, but I'm thinking about it. Especially if it snows again.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

New Theory on Teams & Trust

"Unhappy teams will do anything to avoid working together. Including filling out surveys."

That's my new working hypothesis. All of my trust issues are being driven by a band of malcontents that happen to be at the company for a while. If I had a bigger n, this would just disappear, and I'd have happy results that I could publish.

Alas, I don't have a bigger n.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Trust in my co-workers, II

The story is getting a little more complex, and I'm not sure I fully understand what's going on. Or, I simply have too small of an n to be able to say anything widely generalizable. Which is very possible, given that my n is around 20. I've been spoiled by datasets where my n is 100,000+.

First off, about the trust measure. It's a 11 question inventory that loads on two factors. Off the top of my head, I think the two factors are an "emotional trust" (would I discuss work problems with this person/team?) and a "cognitive trust" (does this person deliver). It's an established inventory, and for the purposes of my work, I have to assume that it measures what it says, and the constructs are real. It's also been published, so I can send people copies of it. (And, if I could get you to give a modified version of my survey to your team, I'd love it...)

Now, it turns out the trust numbers aren't as bad as I originally thought. I was mis-coding a few questions, and it ended up skewing the final number down. The initial trust measure is now 2.6 (0 to 4 scale), and the second trust measure is 2.67 (taken several weeks later). This is better, but still not great. The two are also highly correlated (uh... r = .80, p < .001), which is nice. The initial bits of data were not correlated, and I had no good explanation for that.

Tenure with the company is still negatively corrrelated with trust in team mates. (r = -.295, but p = .268, so even the most generous readings of significance say "don't worry about this"). But my new scary bit of data is that the second trust measurement is negatively correlated with the time on the team. AND it's significant: r = -.5, p = .025. I think one team is sort of dragging me down here, but I can't exclude them just because they openly admit they are dysfunctional.

Almost nothing else in this data set reaches significance. I'm trying to figure out if I can get some internal money to pursue this a little further. Unfortunately, in this budget climate, that looks unlikely.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Trust in my co-workers

I'm doing a study that has as one component trust in co-workers. I have a fairly standard measure of trust that can be scored on a 50-point scale, with higher numbers meaning more trust in coworkers. The numbers are averaging about 26 for the people I am surveying.

Honestly, these are horrible numbers. Like so bad I think people didn't understand the questions. But they get the reverse-scored questions right, so I have to think they do. And these people know each other. Very well.

I really wish I had surveyed people further afield.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

I am Death, Destroyer of Plants

I have finally given up hope, and accepted that my stalk of Lucky Bamboo is no longer lucky. In Monty Python terms, it is now an ex-bamboo. It was nearly six years old, originally acquired in Seattle, taken home to Ann Arbor, moved twice, brought back to Seattle, and moved once more. It's had a good life, and I no longer believe it has talismatic properties relating to the marriage where I acquired it.

What I find strange is that I seem to kill easy plants: Lucky Bamboo. Dead. Rosemary. Dead. Lavender. Dead. Hard plants, I do very well with. Pitcher Plant. Thriving. Sundew. Thriving. Staghorn. Thriving. Lithops. Thriving. (As much as a lithop can thrive). This suggests that I should replace the bamboo with something more complex: perhaps a Nepenthes or and Orchid?