Monthly Archives: August 2010

EVM in 40 minutes

Two years ago, I found an excellent free online 40-minute course about Earned Value Management. It was in the website of the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) Acquisition Operating Framework (AOF).

Some days ago, I wanted to check it again and it was still available. If you are interested in the topic, check it.

Earned Value Management course at UK MoD AOF.

I have never seen an EVM course as good as this one, no matter how beautiful the name the consultancy training company gives it.

Some time ago I also read a well-structured book on project management, “Guide to Project Management“, by Paul Roberts. I recommend this one too.

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Filed under Aerospace & Defence, Education, Personal development & HR

Saving 1,700€ with a hair clipper

Often, after I have cut my hair, it is raised within a conversation the issue of the hair clipper and me cutting it by myself… Last time this happened was couple of weeks ago, and then I decided to reflect on it, make some numbers and write a small post about it.

I bought a Philips hair clipper machine at sometime around 2000-2002 (say 2001). It cost around 20€, though I remember we paid for it in pesetas (1 euro = ~166 pesetas). Since I had started losing some hair, the haircut I was already having was pretty simple: shaving it down to around 9-12mm. Beginning 2002 barber shops were charging about 8.5€ (I do not know how much do they charge now… assuming the price increased with inflation now it should be about 10-10.5€). That was the main driver behind the purchase: the payback time would be extremely quick, between 2 and 3 hair cuts.

In the last 10 years I may have had around 120-130 hair cuts (every 3-4 weeks). These, at the market price would have cost ~1,210€. However, there are some more aspects to take into consideration.

Time. When I used to go to a barber shop, the whole process (home door to home door) would take around 1 hour and a half (90′ – transport, waiting, cutting, transport), while now it takes no more than 20′ (maximum). Then and now, I take a shower afterwards, so I will keep it out of the comparison. This means that now I am saving 70′ each time I have a hair cut… counting the 130 cuts of the last ten years, these amount to 150 hours (about 15 hours / year). I will value these hours on the cheap side, since half of this time I was a student, so let us say 5€/hour. The time savings amount to another ~750€.

This time was my time. However, in about 2/3 of the cuts I counted with the help of either my mum or my partner. They contribute less time as preparation and clean up is done by myself, so let me say they spent about 10′ (~60 hours of their time in 10 years). Let me value their time as 3 times as expensive as mine (this way I am conservative in the business case comparison). This would be an extra cost of 215€ (no matter that it never implied a cash outflow… thanks!).

The price of the electricity of the couple of light bulbs and the clipper used when cutting hair at home (when at the barber’s it is included in the price) is almost negligible (at ~0.1kW/h). I started the calculations, but they amount to less than 1€. The water used in cleaning up is also quite cheap (at about 0.0013€/liter). Assuming each time I used 10 liters in cleaning up (maximum), this makes another ~1.7€.

Finally, I am not including in the calculation the cost of transportation to the barber shop and environmentally aspects of that transportation. We could think that in the 70′ free time that I am given due to cutting it at home I can engage in an equally transport-intensive activity with the same environmentally unfriendly consequences.

If we add up all the savings and costs… -20€ (clipper) +1,210€ (cut price) + 750€ (my time) -215€ (family time) -1€ (electricity) -1.7€ (water) = ~1,722€. After 10 years, the cumulative positive cash flow of that tiny 20€ investment back in 2001 is over 1,700 euros. Ah, and it never required any maintenance.

Do you still want to go to the barber shop?


Filed under Investing

Management Gurus (book review)

According to the Wikipedia a guru is someone “regarded as having great knowledge, wisdom and authority in a certain area, and who uses it to guide others”. The term comes from Sanskrit (गुरु), where gu means darkness & ru means light.

I mention this because during these last holidays I read a book about gurus, “Guide to Management Ideas and Gurus“, by Tim Hindle (322 pgs.).

Guide to Management Ideas and Gurus, Tim Hindle.

About two years ago The Economist used to send within a weekly alert a profile about a management idea and one guru, all of them coming from this book. Since then I had wanted to buy this book, which I found last June at a Schiphol airport book shop.

The book first reviews about a hundred management ideas, e.g., benchmarking, core competence, kaizen, lean production, SWOT analysis… Later it provides a short profile of over 50 authors or gurus, from Taylor and McGregor to Peter Drucker, Tom Peters, C.K. Prahalad… From each idea and author you get two pages. It is a good refresher of different concepts you may have studied and also helps relating some ideas and authors to others, interlinking them.

Along the book there is also bibliography related to each idea and from each author. In total I guess there are over 200 books and papers suggested. Also, it is very handy that from each author the book gives two or three notable quotations, from which you can get a quick idea of what is going to come. So now, after reading it I have a book with lots of marked pages, underlined parts and books and papers to look for.

I wanted to extract some ideas from three of those “gurus”:

  • C. Northcote Parkinson a naval historian famous for his book “Parkinson’s Law“, which can be stated as “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion”.
  • Laurence Peter a Canadian teacher famous for his book “The Peter Principle“, which can be phrased as “In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence”.
  • Robert Townsend a former director of American Express famous for his book “Up the Organisation” with a more clarifying subtitle “How to Stop the Corporation from Stifling People and Strangling Profits”, where he is harsh on the vanity and stupidity of executive leaders.
  • Though not a “guru” from the ones profiled in the book, Scott Adams “Dilbert” comic strip is cited in at least a couple of times, take a moment to check it.

You can be sure that I have marked these three books in the to-read list.


Filed under Books, Personal development & HR

Skunk Works

It is known by nearly everyone in aviation industry the Lockheed Martin department: Skunk Works. It has its own website and it is were many planes have originated since World War II. We all have heard about the strict security rules and stories about how suddenly new aircraft were unveiled. Other companies have tried to establish similar departments; Boeing with its “Phantom Works” and EADS with its “Innovation Works”.

However, it was not until during my last holidays that I came to know the origin of the word, reading the book “Guide to Management Ideas and Gurus“, by Tim Hindle.

The name skunkworks originates from a cartoon series called “Li’l Abner” by Al Capp. The story is explained as well in the Wikipedia:

“[…] The “Skonk Works” was a dilapidated factory located on the remote outskirts of Dogpatch, in the backwoods of Kentucky. According to the strip, scores of locals were done in yearly by the toxic fumes of the concentrated “skonk oil”, which was brewed and barreled daily by “Big Barnsmell” (known as the lonely “inside man” at the Skonk Works), by grinding dead skunks and worn shoes into a smoldering still, for some mysterious, never specified purpose. […]”

Sometimes industry names come from the least expected place.


Filed under Aerospace & Defence, Books

Bill Clinton endorsing Kiva (video)

Some months ago, I gave a loan through Kiva to Fizuli Agdjabayov, a man who has a small transport business in Azerbaijan. Yesterday I got an email with the latest post of one of Kiva’s blogs about a visit of a Kiva fellow to Azerbaijan.

I especially liked the two videos that Yelena Shuster, the fellow, had prepared about her visit. I immediately thought about sharing these with you through the blog; this is what I am doing with this post. Enjoy the video:

I believe that seeing these fellows visiting the entrepreneurs in person is the best way to gain confidence about this system. By chance, on a trip to Peru, I could visit as well an entrepreneur that had received a loan through Kiva; then I wrote about that experience in a previous post in this blog.

The second best way to gain confidence on initiatives like Kiva is by seeing Bill Clinton endorsing them in an interview. I came across the following video while watching Yelena’s, in it Bill explains how Kiva works:


Filed under Helping others, Investing

A400M and B787 static tests

Airbus Military completed on July 22nd in Getafe (Spain) one of the most extreme cases of its A400M structural tests: the maximum wing up bending until reaching the ultimate load, defined as 150% the most extreme load the plane is expected to experience while in service.

Some months ago, another development aircraft the Boeing 787 achieved the same.

Even though, the loads that A400M will experience in service will be higher than those that the 787 will face and thus the ones tested in each case were consequently different, see the difference in the flexion of each wing.

As engineers working in military developments will never be tired of explaining: a military aircraft is a completely different animal, not just a civil one painted in military camouflage.


Filed under Aerospace & Defence