Enlightened Conflict

questionable civil discourse, calm the rhetoric … and leading

June 14th, 2017

obama sad thoughtful tough

 

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“We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us. I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us.”

 

—-

Barack Obama on January 12th 2011

 

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On a day which we are faced with someone who decided to take a gun and shoot words rememberpoliticians … and appear to target politicians … I am reminded of several things.

 

The first thing is the rhetoric.

The rhetoric of the citizenry but mostly the rhetoric of our elected leaders. I say that because words have repercussions.

 

Yes.

 

I do believe in personal responsibility and choices are made by individuals.

 

But I also believe leaders lead with words <because most of us cannot view their actions>.

 

And if our elected leaders treat their words as if we will not remember them forever.

 

And if our elected leaders treat each other as if they are truly enemies <and even use that word on occasion>.

 

And if our elected leaders treat each other as if the opposite’s behavior is unfathomable behavior for sane, moral people.

 

And if our elected officials treat each other with verbal hyperbole as the standard rhetoric discourse … and the highest of the elected leaders, the president, tosses out the word ‘unity’ on occasion but 99% of the time does nothing verbally or behavior wise to unite … well … the electors will be tempted to do as leaders do.

 

We need to calm our rhetoric. We need to remind ourselves what we teach our children … that you don’t always get what you want and that most progress sis made in mutual effort.

 

We all need to be speaking more calmly and acting more civilly but we should be demanding our elected leaders do so. I get angry with how they act and what they say because it suggests to people that is behavior we should all embrace — and it is not.  Stop, and stop it now.

 

speechless

 

The second thing I am reminded of is one of the best speeches President Obama ever made.

 

To share my thoughts I will borrow <steal> liberally from a NY Times article written by Helene Cooper and Jeff Zelenyjan. The article was Obama Calls for a New Era of Civility in U.S. Politics and it shares the speech Obama gave on January 12th 2011 in Tucson after the shooting of a US Congresswoman and the deaths of 6 other people.

 

Apparently Obama wrote much of the speech himself the day before.

 

I suggest everyone read the speech but today I will share highlights because it is a nice reminder on a day on which we need some reminders.

 

 

President Obama offered the nation’s condolences on Wednesday to the victims of the shootings here, calling on Americans to draw a lesson from the lives of the fallen and the actions of the heroes, and to usher in a new era of civility in their honor.

 

The president directly confronted the political debate that erupted after the rampage, urging people of all beliefs not to use the tragedy to turn on one another. He did not cast blame on Republicans or Democrats, but asked people to “sharpen our instincts for empathy.”

 

It was one of the more powerful addresses that Mr. Obama has delivered as president, harnessing the emotion generated by the shock and loss from Saturday’s shootings to urge Americans “to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully” and to “remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together.”

 

“At a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized, at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do,” he said, “it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.”

 

The president led an overflow crowd at the evening service at the University of Arizona in eulogizing the six people who died on Saturday and asking for prayers for the wounded, including Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who the authorities said was the target of an assassination attempt.

 

He warned against “simple explanations” and spoke of the unknowability of the thoughts that “lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man’s mind.”

He suggested that the events should force individuals to look inward, but also that they should prompt a collective response against reflexive ideological and social conflict.

 

While the tone and content were distinctly nonpolitical, there were clear political ramifications to the speech, giving Mr. Obama a chance, for an evening at least, to try to occupy a space outside of partisanship or agenda.

 

“If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost,” Mr. Obama said. “Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and point scoring and pettiness that drifts away with the next news cycle.”

 

suicide losing care“If, as has been discussed in recent days, their deaths help usher in more civility in our public discourse,” Mr. Obama said, let us remember that it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy — it did not — but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges as a nation, in a way that would make them proud.”

 

In the end.

No, I do not believe we will learn anything from today’s event <or the other shooting events that cost people’s lives today> but maybe, just maybe, we can start talking to each other like we don’t want to shoot the other person if given an opportunity. That is a good start.

obliviousness (or blind spots)

June 7th, 2017

reality-slapped-you-really-hard

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“One is often unconsciously surrounded by one’s own personal reality.”

 

Pawan Mishra

 

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“To be ignorant of one’s ignorance is the malady of the ignorant.”

 

—–

Amos Bronson Alcott

 

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“People who have had little self-reflection live life in a huge reality blind-spot.”

 

Bryant McGill

 

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Ok.

 

all have a blind spot obliviousWe all have blind spots about our self.

 

And I mean “we” as in everyone — 100% of us.

 

And they are almost painful to watch occurring in anyone – particularly in someone you like. With someone you don’t like? It still makes you sit back and think “what are my blind spots?”

 

Oh.

 

That sitting back thing.

 

Judging the events of the past we have a tendency to fall victim to what behavioral economists call “the hindsight bias.”

 

It is unhelpful because it implies that if we were just smarter in the present, we could see clearly enough into the future to avoid stupid mistakes. But that is rarely the case. The data available in the present are wildly contradictory, and many outcomes seem plausible.

 

Regardless.

We also have psychological blind spots – aspects of our personalities that are hidden from our view. These might be annoying habits like interrupting or bragging, or they might be deeper fears or desires that are too threatening to acknowledge. Although it’s generally not pleasant to confront these aspects of ourselves, doing so can be very useful when it comes to personal growth, and when it comes to improving our relationships with others – there is undoubtedly something we do that, unbeknownst to us, drives our significant others, roommates, friends, or coworkers a little crazy.

 

I thought about this mostly because of Donald J Trump. while I have never met the man he seems oblivious to reality – the world and himself.

 

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 reality problem

President Trump in a new AP interview boasted that he has delivered CBS its best ratings “since the World Trade Center came down.”

After being asked about his relationship with voters and lawmakers across the aisle, Trump pivoted to the high viewership numbers his national TV appearances bring in: “It’s interesting, I have, seem to get very high ratings… You know [Fox News Sunday host] Chris Wallace had 9.2 million people, it’s the highest in the history of the show. I have all the ratings for all those morning shows. When I go, they go double, triple. Chris Wallace, look back during the Army-Navy football game, I did his show that morning. It had 9.2 million people. It’s the highest they’ve ever had.”

He then bragged about his ratings on CBS’s Sunday show Face the Nation:

“[Host John] Dickerson had 5.2 million people. It’s the highest for Face the Nation or, as I call it, ‘Deface the Nation.’ It’s the highest for ‘Deface the Nation’ since the World Trade Center.

Since the World Trade Center came down. It’s a tremendous advantage.”

He then immediately transitioned to railing against “fake media”—save for Fox News—treating him “unfairly.”

 

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Whew.

 

Trump doesn’t seem to realize that his ratings get a big boost because people don’t want to miss it if he says something asinine or just plain stupid. He is oblivious to the fact that ratings are not an objective indicator of quality but rather indicative of interest <or entertainment>. And, as 99% of us know … interest does not necessarily equal “quality, trust or likeability.”

NASCAR wrecks drive ratings but they don’t convey a positive attribute.

Everyone in marketing, those who do it professionally, know the difference between attention & interest as well as why it is important to look at the relationship between positive approval, an negative approval, and the interest scores <and you are a fool if you do not look at those scores>.

 

Anyway.

 

I feel sorry for people who are oblivious to their blind spots.

 

And, yes, oblivious is different than ‘do not see.”

 

The difference between the two are in fact the ability to be aware, i.e., totally oblivious is to be not capable of awareness.

‘Do not see’ means you could be aware but you choose to not be aware <what you elect to focus or not focus on>.

 

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“The worst bullies you will ever encounter in your life are your own thoughts.”

 

—-

Bryant H. McGill

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stupid in the rain oblivious to ideas business

I imagine this raises the painful reflective question “are we even capable of seeing ourselves as who we really are”?

 

Yikes.

That’s a painful question.
Psychology has thought about this question a shitload and they use words like discrepancy between self-awareness <representing how we see and describe ourselves> and external perception <representing how others see and would describe us>.

 

This comes to Life in a way I believe 99% of us can relate to … times where someone perceived you totally differently than you perceived yourself “oh, I am not that way at all”>.

 

Or maybe think about it this way.

You meet someone and assess and create a perception and … well … it is totally different than the self-awareness of that person.

 

We all do this crap.
Psychologists have even designed a “window into your soul” called the Johari-Window. It is one way to illustrate the difference between self-awareness and external perception. It represents a graphic model illustrating conscious and unwitting personality– and behavioral characteristics developed by the U.S. social psychologists Joseph (Jo) and Harry (hari) Ingham. The Johari window looks like this:

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Johari window blind spot oblivious self awareness

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The “Arena“ represents that part of our personality and our behavior which we are fully aware of. The part of ourselves we display openly and without hesitation when in the company of others or how we would describe ourselves if asked.

 

 

The section “Façade” covers everything we hide from others because we believe that it should remain private. It includes secret wishes, for instance or thoughts we don’t feel like sharing. Understandably the extent of this area varies and depends on the company we happen to be keeping at the time. When we are with our partner or possibly our best friends it may be very small because we share more of ourselves with people we trust than with those with whom we may not be all that close. Regardless, with every person there is always something left over that is private and he/she alone knows about him/herself (and that is just fine!).

 

 

The area “Unknown” covers everything in our subconscious and therefore is not immediately accessible but still has a considerable impact on our thoughts and behavior: unconscious fears, repressed conflicts, traumata, urges, instincts and much more. According to Sigmund Freud this part covers 80 – 90% of everything determining our everyday behavior.

Even if we don’t want to go all that far, everyone knows that there are many situations when rational and conscious thinking and behavior play a very secondary role and that another part of us somehow takes over. The process of falling in love is an excellent example – or have you ever totally rationally and judiciously chosen your partner? We are unaware of our subconscious just as it is not obvious to others (well, the consequences sometimes are). We will never be able to get to the bottom of it ourselves, it would take considerable therapeutic reflections to come even close.

obvious oblivious

The last Quadrant, the “Blind Spot” is different. Although we can’t spot it on our own (just as we can’t see our face without a mirror), others can see it quite well and are able to tell us (acting as our mirror, so to speak). Even though we are not aware of it, the “Blind Spot” harbors habits, preferences, dislikes, prejudices and the like, all things that are clearly apparent to those with whom we deal. At best their reports will provide us with information about ourselves, in that way reducing our “Blind Spot” and therefore helping us to work on ourselves. If there is something in my “Blind Spot” I would like to change, others have to make me aware of it first. Alternatively others may discover competencies and skills in it of which I did not think to be capable.

 

 

 

In addition to this window if you google “oblivious” you will see there are gobs of psychological writings and ‘awareness offerings’ available if you ever want to professionally explore you blind spots.

 

Here is what I know.

 

We are all oblivious to some extent — some more than others.

 

Being oblivious to some extent can be dangerous.

 

Lack of self-awareness is never good.

 

I think 99% of us know we have some aggravating flaws & personal quirks … we are not oblivious to them instead we simply decide to overlook them as the ‘imperfections that make us who we are.’ At the same time … those same 99% of people do have blind spots — the shit they cannot see that others see.  That takes a little self work to get a grip on if we choose to accept this.

 

Oh.

 

sometimes your total obliviousness blows my mind

And then there are the 1% …those who are completely oblivious to what they do and how people see them.

Let’s call them the ones inflicted with is the malady of the ignorant <to be ignorant of one’s ignorance>. I am not sure they are redeemable.

I say that because to be completely oblivious either takes a shitload of work or you are just an arrogant egotist or you have some mental disorder that permits you to constantly live in some alternative universe in which you are the God.

 

I do my best to avoid the 1% and realize, as part of the 99%, I should do my best to improve my own sight of myself.

bad ideas never seem to die

June 6th, 2017

 

good idea bad idea fight time busines

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“If truth be told, the easy road is nothing more than an armchair in clever disguise. And if you look around, it seems that there are a whole lot of people in the furniture business.”

 

 

Craig D. Lounsbrough

 

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“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.

But small is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Beware of false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves …”

 

————–

Berean Study Bible

 

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So.

 

I tend to believe most of us learn, fairly early in our careers, that bad ideas do bad idea light up good path battle businesnot die on their own. In fact … as you gain more experience you actually find that bad ideas can often be incredibly hard to kill –they may actually have more than nine lives.

 

At exactly the same time most of us also learn that good ideas rarely are seen as the greatest thing since sliced bread and embraced as a good idea as soon as they are presented.

 

Think about that for a second.

 

Bad ideas are incredibly hard to kill and good ideas can be incredibly hard to bring to life.

 

Well.

That’s pretty fucked up.

 

And, yet, despite learning this I still believe most of us are surprised when we find a bad idea still breathing and a good idea is breathing its last breath.

 

Shit.

 

Even I forget this lesson despite having seen some of the most bad ideas in the world live despite my best efforts and some of the goodest of ideas die despite my best efforts.

that is a terribe bad idea speak out business ideas

And I seem to keep forgetting it despite the fact the world is filled with some incredibly absurdly bad factually incomprehensible, or defensible, ideas.

 

Forgetting this idea is dangerous.

 

It creates a Life & business world strewn with bad ideas which can quite easily lead to a complacency that bad ideas will exist no matter what we do … or worse … complacency when faced with a bad idea because we believe it is fruitless to fight it.

 

I will not spend a lot of time on complacency but suffice it to say it is a sneaky little bastard especially when it comes to bad ideas.

But the bigger issue is that, for several reasons, we tend to let our guard down when faced with a bad idea.

 

The difference between a really bad idea and a ‘shrug your shoulders a little’ bad idea can often be indiscernible.

 

We have a bad habit of dismissing bad in its initial stages as just “bad.” This lets run or diea hardier & sturdier bad idea off the hook. It is quite possible most of us just hope it smothers itself in its badness and just goes away but more often than not … it does not. And, yet, time and time again we make an initial assessment of “bad, maybe & good” and mostly dismiss ‘bad’ and move on.

 

I could suggest that not all bad ideas are created equal but it is probably better advice to simply treat all bad ideas as equally bad. Don’t waste your time discerning the difference; just assume a bad idea will be a motherfucker to kill.

 

 

Bad ideas have an innate knack to normalize their being.

 

Once you let a bad idea off the hook when it is initially introduced it has a nasty habit of slipping into the general conversation as “possibility.”

In other words … because it didn’t die before it could draw its first breath it somehow becomes normalized as some viable breathing idea.bad idea there is such a thing

 

Yeah. Normalizing is a word that is being tossed round a lot lately.

 

As a corollary that all bad ideas can look quite similar <bad ideas> we have a tendency to simply normalize them <as ideas that may not be as good as some other ideas>. Bad is a fucking big bucket to normalize as simply “another idea to consider.”

 

It gets worse at that point.

 

“Outsider” ideas take on some personality that almost adds viability even though it is still a bad fucking idea.

It’s like all bad ideas wear black and blend into any crowd … and almost become cool by doing so. Yeah. Just ponder that for a second. How many bad ideas get a label of “cool idea” … but it’s actually a bad idea. Once a bad idea falls into the “cool thing to consider” category it becomes an aggravating difficult challenge for the actual good idea.

 

Anyway.

A moment back to complacency.

 

Complacent is a squooshy word and concept.

 

I tried googling complacency with bad ideas and got only 514000 results. Uhm. But looking within the top 8 results … the office, west point, teen life, politics, religion and a general one … there were none with regard to bad ideas.

 

This suggests complacency strikes everyone at different times in our lives.

But in no place could I find anyone discussing how complacent in our thinking that everyone can see a bad idea as a bad idea and therefore we can relax <become complacent> because … well … bad ideas just get thrown away because they are bad.

 

Complacency is squooshy.

 

Let’s face it.

 

No one wants to invest energy chasing after some bad idea to be sure it is dead.

Sure. The most experienced of us absolutely circle back after the original bad idea has been killed to make sure it is really dead. But we don’t circle around it and hover over it to see if it is really dead … we just check in on it.

 

Basically … we have better things to do than stick around to smother the sonuvabitch to be sure it is dead. But, in the harsh spotlight of truth, this is plain & simple complacency.

 

I have been burned by bad ideas so many times I have come to sometimes think of bad ideas as tsunamis. They begin as a small shaking of the earth miles down under the surface of the ocean … completely unseen. In this metaphor you may have actually been in the frickin’ meeting where it was declared  bad idea and even been there when it got discarded … but you just were not aware of the work bad idea panda angryearth moving way way down under your feet.

 

From there the bad idea can gain some incredible momentum only to build into some huge wave which can wash over even the strongest criticism at a later date <let alone drown a shitload of good ideas>. Suffice it to say … it can drive you crazy.

 

I think we have all been in this situation at work.

 

Once a bad idea has some momentum they are next to impossible to kill.

 

I sometimes believe this is because <a> some people pretend a second rate idea is first rate and <b> a shitload of people cannot see the difference between a second rate idea and a first rate.

 

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“What’s terrible is to pretend that second-rate is first-rate.”

Doris Lessing,

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But I actually believe it is because we give bad ideas a free pass. What I mean by that is we take a good idea and start running the ‘idea to implementation’ gauntlet defending it and selling it and sharing it all with the end goal in mind. All the while, as we focus on the good, we don’t notice <or maybe it is just a nagging aggravation along the way> that the bad idea is also in the ‘idea to implementation’ gauntlet … but getting a free ride because it isn’t really being sold … it just keeps appearing along the way as “the alternative idea to the good one.”

 

While you were focused on good and paying attention to something else the bad idea has gained “a voice” … it can be a person or it can simple be some “myth” associated with it. And when that happens you can find yourself hearing about a bad idea in some hallway from someone who really knows nothing about it … and they speak of its myth in some positive way.

Suffice it to say the moment that happens … you are fucked. The bad idea is not only alive and breathing … it is healthy <in almost mythical proportions>.

 

Ok.

So rather than bitch about bad ideas let me make a suggestion to everyone.

 

Life, and business, is one big mosh pit of shit. The shit is made up of stuff to do, responsibilities, everyday commitments and responsibilities … as well as ideas. This mosh pit is a big dark gloomy cloud of stuff swirling around.

 

Now.

 

The ideas shit is a little different. What I mean by that is 99% of ideas do not just happen <good and bad ones> like most of the other stuff in the mosh pit.

good bad idea battle for path business

 

Ideas need some ‘oomph’ to get thru the mosh pit. They need to navigate a narrow winding path through the big mosh pit of shit from the moment they are introduced to the moment in which it reaches a point where the idea shifts to some action.

As noted earlier … in most cases … the path usually has two ideas jostling each other along this path … a good idea and a bad idea.

 

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“Our minds are a battle ground between good and bad ideas; we are whatever side wins the battle”

 

Bangambiki Habyarimana

 

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I imagine my real point is that bad ideas do not die simply because they are bad.

 

You cannot be silent, you cannot ignore them, you cannot be complacent and you cannot simply champion the good idea. You actually have to fight bad ideas.

It may be aggravating to do so.

It may take more energy than you want fight like hell hughto.

It may even get a little absurd in how often you feel like you have put a knife through its heart and you still find it alive and kicking not long after.

 

But if you want good ideas to win you have to accept the burden of the fight. And this fight has a number of rounds and takes place over an extended period of time.

 

Here is what I know about fighting bad ideas. I now assume they never die … they simply end up in second place to a good idea that competed better.

 

That last sentence may be one of the best pieces of advice I have ever given to the business world.

 

 

 

If you’re stationary, you’ll die

May 31st, 2017

 

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“Stagnation is self-abdication.”

 

Ryan Talbot

 

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stand still but moving 3

 

“The moment we stand still, we begin to decay.”

 

Erich Fromm

 

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If you’re stationary, you’ll die.”

 

—-

Gen. Mark Milley, current Army Chief of Staff

 

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Ok.

 

I tend to believe any reasonable business person recognizes that stagnancy leads to inevitable death <although at the same time many reasonable normalizing behavior light matches flame fire dangerbusiness people also have an unhealthy relationship with tried & true systems & processes, mitigate risk taking to such an extreme level that change almost seems indiscernible and views any change as something that needs to be analyzed from every view imaginable before undertaking it>.

 

I thought about that the other day when I scanned a fantastic article on WarontheRocks discussing the army strategy of the future.

 

Within it was a phrase that caught my eye – “disciplined disobedience.”

 

It first and foremost reminded me that businesses can view stagnancy in a variety of ways in their attempt to “not change what works” while seeking “change what needs to be changed” <ll of which simply means “something within your business is not dynamic and there are scraps of stagnancy slowing you down>.

 

It secondly reminded me that back in august 2010 I wrote something called ‘discontinuity for successful company continuity’  in which I shared an organizational idea called “controlled autonomy” <others may call it a version of a self organized organization or a decentralized organization or a variety of ‘decentralized-like employee empowered’ terms> … and suggested that was the organization of the future.

 

—————————-

 

 

A continuous discontinuous organization?

Controlled autonomy.

Controlled in that there is a vision, a focus and a functional understanding of what is it we do well.

Autonomy in that outside the ‘control developers’ people can do different shit.

Controlled autonomy is certainly an organizational shift from the past.

But even IBM has looked at this concept.

A past IBM research report suggests that the best analogies for businesses in the future may no longer be the command structures of the military but the self-organizing networks found in nature: schools of fish, flocks of birds and swarms of insects.bee fly still

Well.

I don’t know about the birds & bees thing but I do understand they are suggesting some decentralization (or autonomy at the employee level).

The struggle with this is that this agility I am discussing is a process where the leadership is not omnipotent.

And further struggle continues with autonomy (and the ensuing agility) as there will be enablers and blockers within the organization therefore the leadership must factor in internal organization limitations (and possibilities) when judging the best plan of action.

What that really means is that no matter how you slice it … organizations are ‘tense anxiety-driven’ structures.

Employees typically oppose new ideas because they perceive they are unworkable (and sometimes they are if the ivory tower doesn’t have their shit together) and bad for profits (or it appears to on the ground people they aren’t making as much money).

And yet we also know that employees always have a large stake in the future success of any organization. Some hesitancy is due to fear or laziness but it can also be due to good judgment.

This is where autonomy comes into play.

It’s not just about diverse views in planning (which obviously highlights opportunities and obstacles) but also some permission of diversity in on the ground decision making.

And autonomy in an organization helps address the truth that is there is a difference between ‘intended’ strategy at the corporate level and ‘realized’ strategy on the business level, i.e., what management wishes to occur, and what is in fact carried out.

That is also the dynamic portion of businesses that permits change to meet changing markets.

Sounds awful difficult to control? (or manage) Sure it is.

But that is why a leader should be paid the big bucks.

———————-

 

 

Uhm.

 

I still believe that.

 

At the most simplistic level any business faces two basic demands — it must execute its current activities to survive today’s challenges and adapt those activities to survive tomorrow’s.

This means executing and adapting at exactly the same time.

 

This also means, within your business, there is a constant competition for outcome results beeresources, money & time in order to meet executional demands and adaptation opportunities <therein lies a significant portion of the ‘tense-anxiety’ dynamic of a dynamic organization.

 

I am not making this up.

Peters and Waterman <In Search of Excellence> argued that organizations must simultaneously be “tight” in executing and “loose” in adapting.

 

I believe they also pointed out that very few do both well.

 

I have had many discussions with many businesses trying to convince them that an organization can be very good at both executing an adapting and how to be good at both.

 

It seems that many business leaders sometimes forget that the organization can sometimes forget they can actually be an organization from an aligned ‘doing’ perspective <because we put such an emphasis n vision and strategy>.

 

What I mean is that most good businesses have naturally incorporated a sense of autonomy and over time the organizational alignment aspects fade into a subconscious background space and individual departments and groups coalesce around the autonomous aspects <it gives them a sense of pride, empowerment & self-actualization as part of the whole>.

 

Everyone should note that while this is an incredibly powerful engine in a company it can become challenging with employee turnover <because there has to be some plan to assimilate new people into a subconsciously acting organization>.

 

Look.

 

I believe, and vocally espouse, great alignment in an organization more often than not is actually “purposeful fragmentation.” This is the type of alignment which permits the parts of the organization <departments, divisions, etc.> to maintain some autonomy yet always be grounded in what is ultimately important to the organization.

 

Sure.

 

I do believe there are things you want an organization to do fairly commonly and certainly can do if you ask the organization to swing into action. And I do believe it is imperative to get these things down and established as ‘rote behavior’ in the midst of an organizational shift/transformation.

 

But organizations have a nasty habit of falling back on less-than-autonomy type leadership and thinking. This nasty habit occurs as we gain experience because our ‘rules & guidelines’ hierarchies fill up based on a larger collection of specific experiences and more feedback on what has and hasn’t worked.order chaos consistent hugh

 

Someone articulated the outcome of this as “our mental models grow into complex structures of categories, interlinked rules, and weightings. We become less likely to perceive experiences as totally new and instead try to relate them to previous ones, which we group into existing categories. As mental models become more complex over time, major rearrangements become more difficult.”

 

Basically, as an organization’s size and complexity increase its degrees of freedom & autonomy decrease. and while I just made a sweeping generalization I would point out something that Scott Page, University of Michigan, who studied why some organizations are complex and hierarchical while others are simple and flat concluded — organizations evolve in response to the problems they have to solve.

 

All of this leads me back to what the Army Chief of Staff said in the warontherocks article. Two thoughts for any business person who embraces the uncomfortable truth that stagnancy is the path to irrelevant death:

 

  • If you’re stationary, you’ll die.”

 

Consolidated bases and logistics hubs will be untenable, presenting lucrative targets for an enemy with precision firepower. He noted we must “untether

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

ourselves from this umbilical cord of logistics and supply that American forces have enjoyed for a very lengthy period of time.” Army units will have to move, set up, move, and move again — “maybe every two, three, four hours just to survive.” Fixed sites of any kind will be lethal magnets for destruction by enemies who will have a rich diet of targeting information — especially since smart phones will be even more ubiquitous. As he bluntly stated, “If you’re stationary, you’ll die.”

 

 

  • Disobey Orders — Smartly

 

He called this …  “disciplined disobedience.” I believe this idea was floated by a past Army Chief of Staff back in the 1970’s but called “selective disobedience.” This suggests that disobeying orders can be justified to achieve the larger purpose of the mission.

 

[A] subordinate needs to understand that they have the freedom and they are empowered to disobey a specific order, a specified task, in order to accomplish a purpose. Now, that takes a lot of judgment … it can’t just be willy-nilly disobedience. This has got to be disciplined disobedience to achieve the higher purpose.

 

Milley added:

“disobedience, when done, must be done with trust and integrity, and you must be morally and ethically correct.”

 

A business competitive field has always been one of chaos and unpredictability <although we have always tried to communicate it as more static in SWOT analysis and crap like that>.

 

And if you accept it is more chaotic and unpredictable it will become easier to understand why far too many organizations frequently lack reliable communications up and down the chain of command.

 

As the Army recognizes, and businesses more often should, junior leaders may have to independently make quick decisions upon which battles may be decided and which may have strategic consequences.reason why unreasonble

 

In a controlled autonomy the leaders must become more comfortable with some ambiguity and accepting the fact that employees closer to the point of action/decision will be making unsupervised decisions to achieve the organization’s, and leader’s, intent.

 

Simplistically, as the Army suggests is mission command — empowering leaders with the “why” of their task, but leaving the “how” to their imagination.

 

Well.

 

Suffice it to say … while people like me love that thought & concept most business leaders are scared shitless of it.

 

Frankly, most senior leaders <centralists by management nature> who seek to implement some autonomous aspects don’t set out to deceive anybody. In their heads they know that high degrees of involvement, participation, and autonomy are key elements in high organization performance. But in their hearts, they still crave orderliness, predictability, and control.

 

They get trapped in the wretched in-between because a central “plan” cannot dictate and bring order to a haphazard, chaotic, unpredictable, and rapidly changing business world – no matter how much we wish it would.

 

And. It gets more difficult.

 

With a continuing stress on “bottom line” or making margins as high as possible leaders fall into the financial analysis trap which encourages anything but autonomy.

Financial analysis can clearly show that consolidating and centralizing support services and functions saves money and increases efficiency <in huge PowerPoint graph slides in the conference room> therefore suggesting autonomy is less than efficient.

 

What doesn’t show up in these analysis are two things:

 

<1> consolidating & centralizing is most effective & efficient in servicing a static

imagination rules napoleon

<2> the inherent alienation, helplessness, and lack of ability to connect with real time customer & market needs or organizational purpose that centralized bureaucracy often brings

 

I could argue for controlled autonomy for years. And I could begin with the simplest thought that efficiencies may save gobs of money but the processes to do so can be cost you the intangible people energy and passion engine within the organization <and then add in at least 5 additional powerful reasons you, as a business leader, need to suck it up and embrace some ambiguity>.

 

But now I will argue for controlled autonomy by using the Army as an example and start using disciplined disobedience” every chance I get.

 

 

 

 

the science, and the lost art, of ROI

May 24th, 2017

choices-path-shopping-direction-decisions

==============

 

“… businesses want answers right away and many times high statistical reliability is not worth the cost it takes to achieve it.

 

Insights that point decision-makers to go “left” or “right” is innately good enough. Leaders are oftentimes not willing to pay for “turn left at a 30 degree angle” or “turn right at an 115 degree angle” because it may cost too much money and takes far too long to obtain those precise next steps through drawn-out methodologies.”

 

—–

Kuhn

 

==================

 

“Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination.”

 

=

John Dewey

 

==============

 

“Perfect numbers like perfect men are very rare.”

 

—–

Rene Descartes

 

============

 

Well.

 

fire water contradiction ideas thinkThis is about how ROI gets abused in decision making and I am writing about that because the Trump administration issued their “national budget proposal” <which I fully acknowledge is simple a guideline of the administration’s desires> and immediately started ponying up all their “we made cuts where there was no evidence of appropriate results” justifications.

 

Some of those justifications are terrifying.

Some of their choices are terrifying.

 

As for the budget plan?  As one writer put it … “the math is terrifying.”

 

Cutting Medicaid would be devastating for all low-income Americans, but particularly for women and mothers: 45 percent of childbirths in the U.S. were funded by Medicaid in 2010, according to data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Trump’s budget also cuts funding for after-school programs for children and support for domestic violence victims.

 

I am going to let other people tear apart the incredibly short sighted Trump budget plan <which, yes, has scraps of good ideas> and I will focus on the criteria it appears they focused on <excepting the parental leave initiative which was like placing a half-eaten M&M on top of a turd> — budget by ROI.

 

Budgeting by ROI.

 

Whew.

 

 

This provides me with another excuse to blast my generation of business leaders and how their misguided thinking has screwed up not only how business is conducted, in general, but how we think about business. Specifically about ROI … these hollow men hollowed out business of any of the ‘art’ and color which is associated with thriving businesses which contribute to society & cultural norms leaving at an empty husk of dollars & cents and black & white ROI decisions.

 

Look.

 

roi einstein

I am all for analysis and love quantitatively judging tactics and initiatives. But I also understand that <1>  numbers often do not always tell the entire story and <2> we far too often judge ROI on one specific outcome without assessing some value on some ‘ripple effect’ outcomes.

 

But, first, the numbers and ROI.

 

I wrote back in February that numbers have lost their mojo  … yeah … well … I still believe that … just in a different context.

 

In this case we are dealing with a generation of business people who have completely bastardized the use of numbers – stripping them of anything but the false veneer of what they call “simplistic stark truth.”

Now. ‘Simplistic stark truth’ sounds good … and it sounds really good in the business world.

 

And, yet, in this starkness there is found falseness. The falseness can be found in its lack of imagination, its lack of depth and its lack of seeing anything but ‘what can be measured.’

 

This stupid view of numbers wreaks havoc when viewing ROI analysis.

 

Now … back on November 13th 2016 I wrote about the Trump administration as the last stand of the old white men  <the business generation I continuously skewer> and discussed hollowness. And while I outlined a number of ‘hollow’ things which can be blamed on this generation in that piece I neglected to point one out — the hollowing of ROI.

 

————–

 

ROI.

 

ROI <return on investment> is a fabulous tool. It offers us every day unimaginative pragmatic schmucks an almost heuristic way to judge some fairly complex and complicated things in business.

 

But old white men hollowed ROI of anything intangible and along the way scraped away some of the most meaningful things associated with investment in their desire for simplistic “this led to that.” Certainly some investments have linear outcomes and results. But not all. And these hollow men in their black & white pursuit of profit, efficiency and outcomes became color blind.  Old white men started looking at people as equal to numbers & dollars and not organic organisms of less than linear productivity <in terms of Life actualization as well as business actualization>. These hollow men fell in love with numbers and began diminishing the value of humanity.

 

That is Trump in a nutshell.

 

—————-

.......... hollow men making hollow decisions ......

………. hollow men making hollow decisions ……

Well.

 

I could argue this all happened because ROI analysis permitted a shortcut for business people — a thinking & decision making shortcut.

It permitted, and encouraged, an entire generation to not have to really think but rather fallback on “that’s what the analysis said.”

 

That is plain and simple lazy fucking business … not smart solid business.

 

I will not argue that a good ROI analysis can offer a quick spontaneous glimpse of truth viable snapshot … in fact … it was Ralph Waldo Emerson who stated that the growth of intellect is spontaneous.

 

Of course, he hadn’t been bludgeoned with measurement, ROI and data driven decisions.

 

Of course, he was also on the one who stated … what is the hardest task in the world? To think. And. We are all wise. The difference between create destroy pencilpersons is not in wisdom but in art.

 

And that is where Trump and his merry band of old white men doing this whole budget thing are most aggravating.

 

It is not that they cannot envision the art of decision making but rather they purposefully abstain from the art of decision making <and focus solely on ROI>.

 

It is not that they are incapable of holding two conflicting ideas at the same time but rather they purposefully choose to ignore one idea or thought for the one most supported by the science of ROI.

 

 

It is not that they are oblivious to the qualitative nature & benefits of budgetary decision but rather they avoid the more difficult defense of the qualitative to utilize the more easy, and lazy, rationale of the quantitative.

 

I don’t blame them specifically <although it is their budget blueprint> but it is the unfortunate legacy of that entire generation to do those things.

 

All that said.

 

While ROI seems a straightforward way to analyze … ROI, when evaluated properly, can be devilishly tricky … but when done well it can inform some great insightful decisions and ideas.

 

ROI, when evaluated properly, can be devilishly painful … like having the devil screaming at you type painful … and even when done well tends to dull <not sharpen> the good ideas.

 

==============

 

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.

 

—-

F. Scott Fitzgerald

==============

 

But ROI, measurement … practical rewards & output … that is what we ‘do’ these days.

This seem o be our “how we conduct business handbook” these days.

philosophical-discovering-gravity

We seem to have forgotten the value of unsought discovery and the value of … well … the benefit of the benefit <I spent money which created ‘x’ outcome … which enabled this other ‘x’ outcome>.

 

We seem to have culturally decided consciously to … “inevitably we will show a failure of imagination.”

 

What do I mean ? Let me use a quote from Le Carre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy:

 

 

 

“…in the hands of politicians grand designs achieve nothing but new forms of the old misery…”

 

 

 

In our failure of imagination in our analysis of existing programs and initiatives we come up with grand designs begetting new forms of old misery. But what makes today and this budget worse? These are supposed to be fucking business people and not politicians in place making these ‘grand designs’ <isn’t that what some people voted for with Trump?>.

 

I admit.

 

I am wary of how ‘we the people’ will move forward with regard to budgeting tough-choices-shopping-decisions-lifeand programs and policies and deciding what we should do to better America..

 

I am wary because I see little moving forward, no ‘trying to do what it takes to get there’ other than bludgeoning people with simplistic harsh solutions and no imagination to overcome the cries of ‘why waste money on something like this!”

 

I am wary because I see men of a generation who bastardized ROI analysis applying their own bastardized version of ROI thinking to people’s lives <under the guise of “applying it to people’s money/taxes” — no, they are not the same>.

 

I am a business guy.

 

I cannot envision running a business, or a government, without solid measurement, ROI & budgeting rigor.

 

But I also know from running a business with hundreds of employees that the greatness of an organization does not reside solely in some number … or some ROI analysis.

 

==========

 

“The true greatness of a nation is not measured by the vastness of its territory, or by the multitude of its people, or by the profusion of its exports and imports; but by the extent to which it has contributed to the life and thought and progress of the world.

 

===============

 

I tend to believe most of us every day schmucks recognize that ROI is part of doing business and insuring our hard earned money/taxes is used effectively.

But I also believe that most of us every day schmucks also realize that some things just cannot be measured solely by numbers.

 

 

I worry that this Trump administration is reflective of the lost art of ROI family choices tough decisions aheadanalysis and the value of discovery

 

In their love of money as ‘winning’ they have lost sight of the value of seeking what is beyond the horizon. They have devalued imagination to such a point that they most likely define imagination as measurable in an ROI analysis. In other words they take ideas and thoughts, even ones with no history, and embrace them not by saying “what if” and “what could be” but rather by grinding it through some veg-o-matic ROI machine to assess its true value.

 

And that, my friends, is how they came up with their “blueprint for a national budget.”

 

And that, my friends, is how they plan on running this country and making their decisions.

 

And that, my friends, is not how America does business … because it shows a failure of imagination and it is imagination, not ROI analysis, which drives real change and progress.

 

—————–

 

“Imagination has brought mankind through the dark ages to its present state of civilization.

Imagination led Columbus to discover America. Imagination led Franklin to discover electricity. Imagination has given us the steam engine, the telephone, the talking-machine, and the automobile, for these things had to be dreamed of before they became realities.

 

So I believe that dreams–daydreams, you know, with your eyes wide open and your brain machinery whizzing–are likely to lead to the betterment of the world.

 

The imaginative child will become the imaginative man or woman most apt to invent, and therefore to foster, civilization.”

=

 

Baum

—————————

 

 

what firing someone says about you

May 10th, 2017

you sir are fired

=============

 

“We should place confidence in our employee. Confidence is the foundation of friendship.

If we give it, we will receive it. Any person in a managerial position, from supervisor to president, who feels that his employee is basically not as good as he is and who suspects his employee is always trying to put something over on him, lacks the necessary qualities for human leadership – to say nothing of human friendship.”

 

—–

Harry Humphreys

 

============

 

 

“The conventional definition of management is getting work done through people, but real management is developing people through work.”

 

—-

Agha Abedi

 

=============

 

Well.

 

Leading and managing people is possibly one of the most rewarding things you fire bee strategy drive incan do in a business career.

 

Firing people is possibly one of the most unrewarding things you can do in a business career.

 

Unfortunately these two things are inextricably linked.

 

I could argue that once you assume responsibility for firing someone you learn more about yourself, and I imagine others learn about you, than almost any other responsibility you assume as a leader.

 

No one likes firing people. Well. no one who is any good at business leadership. I don’t care if you absolutely hate the person you are firing, if the person has actually committed a fireable offense and you are in the right to fire them, or even if you fire someone for good reason … suffice it to say … it never feels good to fire someone.

 

And because of that … a good business leader never delegates the tough termination. And they never send someone to terminate a direct report.

Generally speaking … you fire anyone who is a direct report, or you were directly responsive for hiring, face to face.

 

Yeah.

setbacks one of those days poohThis may not be, logistically, the easiest thing to do but it is part of the burden of responsibility. It is the mantle you wear and it is what you are obligated to offer the person being terminated – dignity & respect.

 

Anything less than that and you are shirking your responsibility.  Anything less than that is … well … chicken shit. And you are a chickenshit business leader if you do not do these things.

 

Sure.

 

What I just shared is a hard lesson but one business people learn in young management.

 

I will never forget the first person I ever fired. Paul.

An absolute great guy in absolutely the wrong position and possibly career. But that doesn’t mean it was easy to terminate him. While I was 99% sure it was the right thing to do <and my boss and her bosses agreed> there was an extraordinarily loud 1% in my head that kept me awake that night.

Inevitably he chose a different career and went on to become an SVP of sales.

And he was kind enough to drop me a couple of notes to tell me it all worked out for the best.

 

But I will never forget firing him. I can honestly say I never forget anyone I have fired <and that is a semi-long list after years of management>.

 

However.

I would like to think my leadership career is measured more by the people I did not fire.

 

Not firing, in a larger organization, can be harder than you think.

 

I think I spent more time explaining to the most senior people why I would not fire some of the people I managed than I did ever discussing almost anything else about employees with them.

 

Well. That is … it felt that way.

The crap that floats upwards into senior leadership about individual employees is amazing. The littlest mistakes and quirks seem to take on exponential size when it arrives at the most senior people — and they do not hesitate to share their disproportional views.

 

Regardless. All of those views cut into the ‘trust belief’ … are they respected within the organization, do they have the trust of the organization and can they be trusted with their responsibility.

totally worth it show for it life

And that is when you earn your stripes as a manager. You do not cave in to the ‘easy thing to do’ but rather stand up for your people and let the chips fall as they may. Oh. And you learn it is totally worth it to not take the easy way out.

 

Let me be clear.

No one is perfect. I was not a perfect employee nor was a perfect manager. And, yet, when judging employees there sometimes is the ‘perfect measure’ of which becomes the absurd standard.

 

Yes.

We should judge senior people more critically but we should judge them fairly.

 

Anyway.

 

I didn’t fire a lot of people. And I can think of at least 4 who made me incredibly proud that I didn’t … despite some pressure from others to do so.

 

All 4 of these have sent me notes at different points, not thanking me for not firing them but rather for simply giving them a chance, believing in them and seeing something in them that they knew <because all employees know when they are under ‘the human resources microscope’>  many others didn’t.

All 4 of them have been professionally successful and, more importantly, are solid good human beings. Neither of those are because I didn’t fire them but rather vindicate the non-firing decision.

 

All that said.

 

Firing someone, despite the pain of actually doing it, is often the easy way out and is certainly a way to avoid looking at your own flaws.

 

Flaws? I sometimes believe one of the hardest things you can learn in your career is that your best is not particularly special.

Learning the fact that your talent, in reality, is matched by a shitload of people.

Learning that your best is relatively easily matched by a shitload of people.

 

It is an unfortunate truth that:

 

  • Talent is talent.
  • Smarts are smarts.
  • And expertise is almost always relative.

 

reality-slapped-you-really-hardAt any given point in Life and your career you can look around you and if you are self aware you will note you are rarely the most talented, rarely the smartest one in the room and rarely the only expert.

 

Even on your best day you may not actually be the best.

I imagine that is a tough thing to get your head wrapped around.

But I also imagine if you do wrap your head around it evaluating employees and how you fire them is affected.

 

I always watch how someone terminates an employee.

You can learn a lot about people in that situation … and you can learn a shitload about how someone feels about dignity, respect and responsibility in how they terminate an employee.

 

===========

 

Postscript 1: under the general heading of “chickenshit” from a business perspective:

 

There are hundreds of different viable reasons to fire someone and if you have the responsibility to hire & fire and it is ‘at will’ you can do what you want. But HOW Trump fired Comey was chickenshit.

 

It wasn’t face to face with a direct report <or even face to face with anyone … just a letter delivered by a non-government employee>.

November 24, 2015

While there appeared to be no sense of urgency to terminate the action was taken with an absurd sense of senseless urgency which permitted Comey the indignity of being blindsided, in the middle of a commitment to the people who reported to him and not even in town.

 

This was a chicken shit way of terminating an honorable employee. It is indicative of Trump’s lack of character.

 

Postscript 2: Under the general heading of “this is some crazy shit” from a business perspective:

 

Firing someone for lack of confidence when the people who you are actually working for have a general lack of confidence in you is slightly surreal.

 

This may actually be the ironic point of the day.

Yesterday Donald J Trump fired his FBI Director because of ‘lack of confidence.’ Well. If that is a true criteria and I were to look at some national polling data I could argue Trump could be fired on the same criteria by the American people.

 

Most leaders do not defend their firing decision through childish name calling.

 

“Crying Chuck” “Richie” in quotes <instead of Richard>. Calling people diminishing names. Childish crap like that. I have been criticized as a leader for people I have fired, as well as people who i didn’t fire, and when appropriate I responded with some “why I did it” information but I never deflected my choice & decision onto others by suggesting they were not qualified to criticize … and I certainly always treated peers with a modicum of respect.

 

Tweet response rather than standing up in person

 

Sniping from the sidelines is not leadership.

Period.

‘nuf said.

Enlightened Conflict