Showing posts with label Clarity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Clarity. Show all posts

June 15, 2019

Don't Call Me Sir!

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "Don't Call Me Sir!
In a split second, the officer zeros in on me and admonishingly says: "I’m not a Sir!" I’m taken aback, as I watch the officer speak, their face hardened and angular and their full mustache rising and falling with their words.

It's Pride Month, and I learned a valuable lesson in sensitivity, respect, and diversity and that in short: 

Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, Jewish Lives Matter, All Lives Matter!  We are all children of G-d. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 16, 2018

Me Myself and I

I thought this was really fascinating about how we interact with others.

It's a theory by Martin Buber called the I-Thou relationship.

In every relationship, there are really 6 people in the room:

- Who I am.

- Who I want to be.

- Who I am perceived as.

-----------

- Who they are.

- Who they want to be.

- Who they are perceived as. 

----------

Taking about a break between reality, fantasy, and perception. 

Is it any wonder that there are so many communication breakdowns and relationship disappointments. 

We need to coalesce around a unified persona of I and thou--and if we don't know, perhaps we need to ask for clarification.

We don't want to talk past each other. 

We want to talk to and work with each other. 

I am me and you are you. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 4, 2018

Anus Protectus

So I learned this new phrase today:
"Anus Protectus"

It's what it sounds like.

It when you communicate (or do) something in order to "cover your a*s."

Sometimes we communicate as an FYI.

Other times as a FYSA.

And then there is the CYA. 

All of these are what we call "Purposeful communications."

The only real difference is their purposes. 

When you open your mouth or your email make sure you know your:

- Why (intent)
- Who (audience)
- How (persuasion techniques)

These are the secret sauce of good communication. 

More blogs to come on this important topic. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 31, 2017

VICE News Superior

So I have started watching VICE News and you should too. 

It is on HBO and is superior to the other big news outlets in so many ways. 

The intensity and clarity of their photography and videos is unbelievable!

My daughter said to me:
"This is clearer than REAL life!"

And she was right...I don't know how they do it. 


Also, they remove all the clutter from the news screen that CNN, MSNBC, and others use at the top and bottom of the screen--instead it's just clean, focused, and right to the news point. 

VICE puts the key messages in callouts right on the screen in large and easy to read boxes--the impact is you see the visual and the print message dramatically together and you get it and remember it!

They do this for their photos and videos.

Finally, with all the "talk is cheap" news these days, it is nice that VICE seems to focus more on reporting and less on subjective opinion. 

With all the failing, fake, and alternative news out there, it is nice to see that someone has invented a better news program.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Vice News)
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April 25, 2017

Check The Clock

So it should be so easy...

We manage time by the hours and minutes--and moments of life. 

This sign was hilarious though:
Breakfast 6 am - 10 am
Lunch 11 am - 2 pm
Dinner 4 pm - 7 pm
We are here to serve you any time.
Really, if you're here to serve us any time, then isn't that mean around the clock--24/7--and not just the total 10 hours listed?

What a ridiculous contradiction!

It reminded me of another crazy story of the person who when you ask what time it is, they tell you how to make the watch.

Yes, the point has definitely been missed by the other person.

Their explanation may be very detailed and even accurate on how to make a watch, but frankly they missed the point altogether, which was simply what time is it!

We need to pay attention to our communications and be honest and actually say what it is, and not beat around the 24-hour bush. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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February 20, 2017

G-d Bless Nikki Haley

What a gem this Nikki Haley is. 

One nation, the United States, speaking truth about the bias and hate of the UNJust, United Nations against the lone democracy in the Middle East, Israel. 

How refreshing to have clarity of foreign policy after 8 years of 

- Disastrous and secretive Iranian deals

- Bending over backwards for Radical Islamist terrorism

- Tension and military escalation with Russia, China, and North Korea

- Meltdown in Crimea, Syria, Yemen, Benghazi, and more

- Rise and proliferation of ISIS across the Middle East

- Weakening of the U.S. Military including our nuclear deterrent

- Shameful UN resolution 2334

All of these, which speaks volumes to the Obama years of foreign policy debacles, one on top of another. 

While the fake news, New York Times, again published utter nonsense about President Trump needing to clarify his foreign policy when nothing could be further from the truth.

President Trump has made absolutely clear his support for Israel, Japan, UK, and other true friends and allies of America are crystal clear. 

The President has also made it clear that he will not tolerate bad behavior towards the United States from rogue terrorist nations like Iran and North Korea

Further, the President has made clear that he seeks better relations with Russia and at the same time a more robust NATO that can actually contributes to it's defense and has the muscle to show for it. 

Finally, we have a doctrine of peace through strength and the implementation that is backing it up. 

Anyone wonder why the New York Times isn't following, let alone reporting on the real news?  

And how different could this be than the obscurity and chaos of Obama's disappearing red lines all over the globe. ;-)
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November 1, 2016

Words Have Meaning

People can be so careless and callous with their words. 

They say stupid and hurtful things. 

Sometimes, they may try to couch or sugarcoat what they are saying, so you need to put 2 and 2 together. 

Yes, that's four...bang!

Whether it's transparent or hiding behind a veil of political correctness or mischievousness, you get the messaging. 

Everyone has an angle, as they say in Hollywood. 

Is it benevolent or malevolent or perhaps just dopey does. 

Either way, words are very important.

It's called communications and you send out messages verbally and non-verbally. 

Rule of thumb:


"Clarity, conciseness, and coherence."

Often, the messaging can be confused...like the old game of telephone or just in-coherency of words or thinking. 

So which it it--there is no return policy to speak of or there are no returns allowed.

Tell me damn it! 

Why can't the English learn to speak english? ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 6, 2016

Is There Anyone Out There To Lead

Interesting editorial in the Wall Street Journal today titled, "These Five Are the Best We Can Do?" referring to the current slate of Presidential candidates. 

According to the author, Joseph Epstein: "Viewing the candidates of both parties during the debates, one felt that nearly everyone of the participants was in the business for him- or herself."

Yes, so many people are getting turned off by the selfishness, obscurity and outright deceit, vulgarity, and off-the-chart impractical and impolitic views of the candidates.

Yet the editorial mistakenly attributes the presumed dearth of good-to-great candidates is due to no one impressive wanting to run in the age when "media and Internet are the major instruments of contemporary political degradation."

In other words, no normal person wants to be put under a microscope for their person, rather than their personal views of where to take this country. 

However, this doesn't ring true to me. 

I think that true leaders are and would be willing to endure the scrutiny of the traditional media and social media in order to take us into a meaningful, righteous, and better future--it's simply part of the job like Moses having to endure the gripes against him when he led the Children of Israel out of Egypt and to the Promised Land. 

Maybe the real reason that we don't think we have the quality of leadership that we expect is that there is a perception of a genuine dearth of sincere, unadulterated, whole-package leadership out there. 

Think about it--with a virtually unlimited supply of false messiahs across the leadership spectrum from politics to corporate and religious life--we have been let down by fraudsters, liars, thieves, and sex abusers. 

Like with the Israelites in Egypt who waited hundreds of years for G-d to bring a Moses to lead his people, perhaps we are looking with eyes heavenward for an appropriate gifted leader to take us into the future...and this is more than just what an education or pedigree can provide, but rather a person inspired by a purity of heart and a clarity of vision. 

For that, we need a leader that will not just talk the scripted talk or walk the overconfident boisterous walk, but we need to see the person whose promising words match their deeds and whose heart is aligned with the people and the nation for a truly greater future and not just for the political donations, superdelegate counts, their party nomination and the electoral college votes to land them the coveted Oval Office. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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August 28, 2015

Talking It Cryptic

So for a while when I received weirdly worded communications from others, I thought "Gee, this person doesn't know how to communicate!"

They aren't saying what they mean or aren't saying it clearly, and I am having to decipher it, read between the lines (more than usual) and certainly not always getting it right. 

I seriously thought some of these people needed to go for remedial communications and project management training, and was more than willing to send them.

Then, I started to see the bigger picture and context and it was beginning to all make sense.

The terse messages, the cryptic language, the dancing around the topic...these were not (necessarily) because the person couldn't communicate well, but it was intentional!

No, they weren't trying to mess with me.

They were afraid to say what they really wanted to say--not to me, but generally speaking.  

Why?

Conjecture, but perhaps they didn't want "it" so explicit, they didn't want a flagrant (unnecessary) trail, they didn't want to potentially get in any trouble. 

So they truncate, obfuscate, used "code" words (not real code, symbolic) and otherwise made the communications so vague that they had plausible deniability or could interpret it just about any which way they wanted.

Ah, sort of a "get out of jail free card"--self made, signed, sealed, and delivered.

This is the art of being cryptic!

Fear and overly strict political correctness is not a good thing when what you really need is clear and honest communications from folks.

We do ourselves a disservice by "playing games," keeping hidden agendas, and protecting ourselves over the necessity to get the mission accomplished and done well.

Perhaps when people are caught between competing masters and agendas, they are "forced" to do this to get the job done, stay alive, and in the important game we all must play in life.

Ink a dink a bottle of ink the cap fell off and you stink...got that?  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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November 22, 2013

Listening and Blessings

Two reflections from this week:

1. Listen to understand:
I heard a colleague talk about the importance of listening. There wasn't really anything new about that, except he went on to say, "Listen to understand, not to refute or resolve." The more, I thought about this, the more brilliant I realized this was. How often do we either not really listen to the other person? And when we do listen at all, aren't we most of the time jumping to either refute what they are saying or resolve their issue? The key though is to listen to understand. Ask questions. Get clarifications. Only once you really listen to the other person and understand what they are saying, can you begin to address the thoughts and feeling they are expressing to you.

2. G-d Blessed You:
Usually when I see people asking for help/money on the streets, they have signs--handwritten, often on cardboard or the like--that says something about their plight. Perhaps, they are homeless, lost their job, ill or disabled, have kids to support...and they are asking for your help and mercy. At the end of the sign or if you give them some change or a few dollars, they say thanks, but also "G-d bless you" in the future tense. And this is really nice to get a blessing in return for some basic charity and kindness. However, there is one poor person begging in downtown D.C., and he says it differently. His sign asks for help and says, "G-d blessed you" in the past-present tense. First, I thought maybe this was just a grammatical mistake, but then I realized what he was saying. G-d blessed you, so please give back to others. This wasn't a thank you wish to the other person, but rather a reason that you should give to begin with. Recognize how fortunate you are (and maybe you don't even necessarily deserve it), but G-d blessed you, so have mercy and give to others. 

Hope these reflections mean something to you the way they do to me, and have a good weekend everyone!

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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May 18, 2013

Baby Frog, See You Now

So I took this picture of this baby frog while hiking. 

This was the first one we saw--on the foliage it completely blended in, but on the rocks we could see it clearly.

It was so little and cute--I had to zoom in to get this shot. 


After this, it actually jumped under a log and I got an action photo of its hind legs in mid-jump--going what seemed like super-frog speed. 


Once, I was attuned to the frogs color and motion, I was able to detect many of them in the forest today--all pretty much like this little baby. 

It was interesting to me learning from this, how before we are aware of something--it's as if it doesn't even exist (even with subtle ribbits in the air); and after you are sort of clued in to the surroundings, you almost can't help but see them.

To me, it's like life in general, when you don't see your own issues or life challenges, you can't even begin to work on them because your virtually oblivious to them, but once you see yourself for what you are--warts and all--you can begin to work through your problems, as if you have almost transcendental awareness. 

A little camouflaged frog, like subtle personal issues may be almost imperceptible in the forest of life, but against a contrasting background, you can get amazing clarity--to self-help and self-heal. 

Cute little frog, I can see you now and your not jumping away from me anymore. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)


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April 6, 2013

Go Simple!

Two interesting recent articles discuss the importance of building in simplicity to product design to make things more useful to people.

Contrary to popular belief, simple is not easy. Mat Mohan in Wired Magazine (Feb. 2013) says that "simplicity is about subtraction," and "subtraction is the hardest math in product design."

Two of the best recent examples of simplicity through subtraction is what Apple was able to achieve with the iPod, iPhone, iPad, and iTunes, and what Google did through its "sparse search page."

Unfortunately, too many companies think that "quality is associated with more," instead of less, and so they pack on options, menus, and buttons until their darn devices are virtually useless. 

Similarly, an article in the Wall Street Journal (29 March 2013) advocates that "simplicity is the solution," and rails against the delays, frustration, and confusion caused by complexity. 

How many gadgets can't we use, how many instructions can't we follow, and how many forms can't we decipher--because of complexity?

The WSJ gives examples of 800,000 apps in the Apple store, 240+ choices on the menu for the Cheesecake Factory (I'd like to try each and every one), and 135 mascaras, 437 lotions, and 1,992 fragrances at the Sephora website.

With all this complexity, it's no wonder then that so many people suffer from migraines and other ailments these days. 

I remember my father telling me that you should never give consumers too many choices, because people just won't know what to choose.  Instead, if you simply give them a few good choices, then you'll make the sale.

Unfortunately, too many technologists and engineers develop ridiculously complex products, and too many lawyers, legislators, and regulators insist on and prepare long and complex documents that people aren't able to read and cannot readily understand. 

For example, in 2010, the tax code was almost 72,000 pages long, the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is about 2,700 pages, and the typical credit card contract now runs to 20,000 words.  

Even the brightest among us, and those with a lot of time on their hands, would be challenged to keep up with this. 

While rewriting and tax code is a welcome topic of discussion these days, it befuddles the mind why most of the time, we simply add on new laws, rules, regulations, amendments, and exclusions, rather than just fix it--plain and simple. 

But that's sort of the point, it's easier for organizations to just throw more stuff out there and put the onus on the end-users to figure it out--so what is it then that we pay these people for? 

The plain language movement has gotten traction in recent years to try and improve communications and make things simpler and easier to understand. 

Using Apple as an example again (yes, when it comes to design--they are that good), it is amazing how their products do not even come with operating instructions--unlike the big confusing manuals in minuscule print and numerous languages that used to accompany most electronic products.  And that's the point with Apple--you don't need instructions--the products are so simple and intuitive--just the way they are supposed to be, thank you Apple!

The journal offers three ways to make products simpler: 

- Empathy--have a genuine feel for other people's needs and expectations.

- Distill--reduce products to their essence, getting rid of the unneeded bells and whistles. 

- Clarify--make things easier to understand and use.

These are really the foundations for User-Centric Enterprise Architecture, which seeks to create useful and usable planning products and governance services--the point is to provide a simple and clear roadmap for the organization, not a Rorschach test for guessing the plan, model, and picture du-jour. 

Keeping it simple is hard work--because you just can't throw crap out there and expect people to make sense of it--but rather you have to roll up your sleeves and provide something that actually makes sense, is easy to use, and makes people's lives better and not a living product-design hell. ;-)

(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)
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February 20, 2013

Playing For The Meal



I love this guitarist on the corner with the sign that says, "To eat for today one must play for the meal. You Pay. Thank you."

Five communication lessons I had reinforced from this:


- Be direct--he is right to the point...he plays, you pay--that's the deal.


- Be clear--the writing is large, the letters are distinct, and easy to read...you get it!


- Be concise--the message fits on a small cardboard...no rambling placards, just the message next to the guitar case for collecting the money.


- Be purposeful--he states the reason for his being there right up front...he's hungry and is willing to work for it!


- Be courteous--he ends with a nice thank you that is set off to the side in script.


If his playing is half as good as his message...he's earned his meal. ;-)


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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July 17, 2012

Don't Communicate Like A Dump Truck

I don't know a lot about huge dump trucks.

But I wondered what this meant when it says on the back of this multi-ton vehicle--"Do Not Push".

Don't worry, I won't! :-)

In life, we often communicate things that either we aren't really clear about, don't mean, or end up being misunderstood for.

In fact, probably one of the toughest "soft skills" to learn is communication skills.

I don't know why they call it soft, since when you communicate poorly, you can get hit over the head--quite hard.

One of the biggest issues is people who talk too much (i.e. they dump on others), but aren't very good at listening. Hey, they may as well be talking to themselves then, because communication is a two-way street.

Good communications skills include the three C's: clarity, conciseness, and consistency, and I would add--last but not at all least--a T for tact.

Communication skills also overlaps with the ability to effectively influence, negotiate, and create win-win solutions, so actually communication is at the very heart of what we need to do well.

When communicating, don't be pushy and don't be pushed around (i.e. get dumped on)--and don't get hit by that over-sized dump truck--communicate early, often, honestly, and with passion.

(Source photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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May 13, 2011

Who's On First

I have a new article in Public CIO Magazine (April/May 2011) on the topic of Accountability In Project Management:

We've all be to "those" kinds of meeting. You know the ones I'm talking about: The cast of characters has swelled to standing-room only and you're beginning to wonder if maybe there's a breakfast buffet in the back of the room.

It seems to me that not only are there more people than ever at todays meetings, but meetings are also more frequent and taking up significantly more hours of the day.

I'm beginning to wonder whether all these meeting are helping us get more work done, or perhaps helping us avoid confronting the fact that in many ways we're stymied in our efforts.

Read the rest of the article at
Government Technology.


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November 3, 2010

5 Lessons For Implementing Mobility Solutions

[Pictured from Left Kevin Brownstein, McAfee; Andy Blumenthal, ATF; John Landwehr, Adobe; Jack Holt, DoD]

Today, I participated on behalf of my agency at the Adobe Government Assembly: Engage America on a panel for mobility solutions.

I shared the lessons learned from our experience and pilot of mobile devices, including:

1) Be prepared to give the end users as many apps as possible—they want it all just like on their desktops.

2) In mobile devices, size and resolution matters. Although people like miniaturized devices, they want the display of the information and graphics to be clear and visible.

3) Users did not like using a stylus for navigation.

4) Users in the field don’t have time or patience to decipher complicated instruction guides—it’s got to be intuitive!

5) While security is critical, usability is key and it’s a balancing act.


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February 4, 2010

What Clarity of Vision Looks Like

I saw this photo and thought this is a great image of why we need a clear vision and plan for the organization.

So often we're going in all these different directions and we may not even realize it or can't seem to get control over it.

That's where strong leadership, planning, and execution come into play.

We need to move with a unified purpose if we want to really get somewhere.

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