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Long range planning from AK's blog

A very long time ago - just shy of 22 and a neophyte to the corporate world - I was introduced to the corporation's long range planning team. These were old folk. In fact they were, at the time, still older than I am now by about 15 years. 


These were not the most tech-savvy people, but they knew things. They knew business. They knew operations. They knew the cycles. They've been around a while. They weren't schmoozers, either. These were veteran industrial engineers. Quick with numbers. Could dissect a trend graph just by looking at it and go "no, that doesn't look right - it says 3.5 million - 'can't be more than 2.7" and not just by pure numbers, either, but by actually having worked in said facility. They knew the outputs and building capacities cold. 


They lived, drank, ate, and breathed trends. Quantitative literacy the likes of which I haven't seen in anyone of my generation ever. They did stuff on regular calculators that you'd probably need a spreadsheet and some macros for.


What they did as a hobby was build classic cars - an endeavor that, in case you were not aware, takes a normal person 4-5 years from start to finish - sometimes even a decade. This is as important as it is relevant. 


They were surprisingly cool people - the sort of strange hobbit references and senses of humor you'd expect of any shy genius. I asked them what do you do? 


"We do long range planning" 


"Oh, what is that?"


"well, this is a multi-billion dollar corporation, and while there's an army of us handling the day to day / month to month / quarter to quarter operations, we here - because we've done the day to day / month to month / quarter to quarter deal - handle the longer term projects. Acquisition of aircraft, building of new facilities, expansion into other countries - things that take___ mmm___ more than a year to get done. We operate on seven year timelines. Every initiative you've ever heard on your level supports this broad picture - that's how we've stayed in business for over a century" 


At 22 I'm thinking that it's been forever since I was 15. I couldn't even relate to the person I was back then. If 15 year old me had a "long-range plan" for 22 year old me to follow, I'd go tell that virgin weirdO to kick rocks and go fuck himself. 


This is also why this "long range planning" group was populated by only a few and far older than I. You can teach a lot of things. How long a year really is isn't one of them. 


Hell! The 29 year old version of me would tell the 22 year old version of me also to go roundly fuck himself were he ever to come at him with a seven year plan. 


The 36 year old version... eh not so much. It's around then one starts getting a feel for the scope of what seven years really means. Its not a lot of years. There's understanding and there is wisdom. 


Everyone understands what seven years is. Not everyone is wise to it. That takes a few cycles. Sort of like running a marathon: we all know the distance, quantitatively - as an abstraction. ~26 miles. Qualitatively, not many could tell you as they've never done it. 


What's interesting about the seven year thing is that it also came up when I was 17 and very interested in this Earth Force environmental protection thing (which is normal for an adolescent, I think) - that both fortune 50 corporations and a sort of terrorist organization agree on the seven year rule is "neat" - but what they say is, as a rule of thumb, don't trust anyone you haven't known for more than seven years. 


My addition to this is this: if seven years is a long time for you, you're too young and stupid to even know what you're getting into. Seven years is nothing.


This also applies to relationships - the simple lovey dovey stuff.


Of course! When you first meet fireworks will go off and it'll be revelations times 20 every time you hit the sheets... for about nine months. As it turns out, this corporation that I more-than-work-for doesn't have a "short-term-planner" group. They afford seemingly good ideas to bubble up and dissolve on the off chance that something may stick and on the definite chance that there will be a whole write-up regarding lessons-learned when it inevitably doesn't. They also profit from mistakes. Thoroughly. It's the new entries with low pay that make them. 


What makes a relationship - in broad terms, be it man to woman, or innovation to function work, is___ years... (you're literally looking at years)... two at minimum. At least as many years as it takes for you to start looking at other people and still choose the option you previously selected. At this stage, even two is a little iffy - especially if at 0.8 you already started planning the wedding. That's a bad investment. You need someone - or an idea - or a concept - that's held solid for about three to four years. Something you're really "about" enough to have put a dent in your time on this planet for. 


And this all has to do with___ what's his name? Gott! With his Copernican Principle. If you do not know what this is, the gist is that you can determine how long something will be around with x percent of confidence by virtue of how long it has already been around. If you are intelligent and capable of long-range planning, you base your models around this and not what is new and fancy at the moment. 


If it's been around a while, it'll probably continue to be around awhile. If it's something new, well___ it might work, but not with any amount of confidence at first, and it's only time that builds confidence. 


Faith is anathema here as is elsewhere. 


Open question: what is your seven year plan? What was your seven year plan seven years ago? How did that turn out?




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By AK
Added Oct 12 '18

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