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    The Buxton Index – why some are hard to work with

    A while back we talked about how engineering salaries come from different "budgets" and why that impacts the way your job feels. I've since learned you can describe this with a number!

    In The 3 Budgets I describe that engineering salaries come from one of 3 budgets:

    1. growth
    2. development
    3. maintenance

    When paid for growth, you focus on right now. When paid for development, you focus on mid-to-long term. When paid for maintenance ... businesses hate this budget and try to pretend it doesn't exist.

    HackerNews agreed with my analysis. Always nice when you hit frontpage and the comments are good and productive ❤️

    PS: you can read and share this online

    The Buxton Index

    The thing I was trying to describe in The 3 Budgets goes beyond the concept of value. It's about the time-horizon of your decisions.

    Dijkstra, a legendary computer scientist, perfectly captures this idea in a 1994 lecture The Strengths of the Academic Enterprise when he talks about ‌The Buxton Index.

    My third remark introduces you to the Buxton Index, so named after its inventor, Professor John Buxton, at the time at Warwick University.

    The Buxton Index of an entity, i.e. person or organization, is defined as the length of the period, measured in years, over which the entity makes its plans. For the little grocery shop around the corner it is about 1/2,for the true Christian it is infinity, and for most other entities it is in between: about 4 for the average politician who aims at his re-election, slightly more for most industries, but much less for the managers who have to write quarterly reports.

    The Buxton Index is an important concept because close co-operation between entities with very different Buxton Indices invariably fails and leads to moral complaints about the partner. The party with the smaller Buxton Index is accused of being superficial and short-sighted, while the party with the larger Buxton Index is accused of neglect of duty, of backing out of its responsibility, of freewheeling, etc..

    In addition, each party accuses the other one of being stupid. The great advantage of the Buxton Index is that, as a simple numerical notion, it is morally neutral and lifts the difference above the plane of moral concerns.

    That's it! That's what I was getting at. Now why would you care?

    How the Buxton Index impacts you

    Paying attention to the buxton index helps you understand collaboration between departments.

    Ever noticed how working with marketing or sales feels frantic? But working with a large enterprise partner feels like they're moving in slow motion?

    That's because your buxton index is different than theirs.

    Consumer marketing and sales care about immediate numbers. They want results now. Marketing especially. Low buxton index.

    Large enterprises are slow. They've been around forever and they think in years, even decades. Everything takes time because how many people touch every decision. High buxton index.

    This creates an impedance mismatch and causes friction. It is unavoidable. Knowing it's there can help you relax. Understanding your buxton index can put things in perspective.

    Engineering vs product

    You might notice a buxton index mismatch when working with product owners. You care about maintainable software that lasts for years, they care about this quarter's OKRs.

    Talk about it. Make sure your goals are aligned.


    Published on January 12th, 2024 in Mindset, Management, Learning

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