Showing posts with label Complacency. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Complacency. Show all posts

July 11, 2018

Not A Kiss

So I learned a lesson recently.

Sometimes, a kiss is not a kiss. 

It could be a phony show. 

Like a snake. 

It slithers and fools people into complacency. 

Kiss kiss!

Hug hug!

But around the back is a hand holding a dangerous dagger. 

It stands ready to swing and plunge into your soft unsuspecting tissue. 

The more kisses, perhaps the more hiding of their true intentions. 

People are complex and sometimes malevolent. 

They want what they want, and when they want it. 

When the time comes, a kiss can turn into a sharp knife. 

You wonder how is it that person has no more kisses.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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July 22, 2014

Time To Get Up

This person is sitting on a stool and waiting for the Metro.

The quiet and complacency of this person just sitting there was a stark contrast to the big train coming down the tracks.

I wondered if this is not a sign of our times where the world is moving large and fast in turmoil:

- With big airliners with hundreds of passengers being shot of the sky
- Thouands of rockets and dozens of murder tunnels aimed at cities full of civilians by terrorists hiding in hospitals, mosques, and playgrounds
- Six year old girls raped by their roller-skating instructors
- Women being stoned to death for alleged adultery. 

...but where we are sitting here quietly and contemplatively as the big train rolls over any vistages of moral decency left in humankind.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 22, 2014

Why We Expect Nothing

I took this photo of a sign at the Metro station to the Reagan National Airport by Washington, D.C. 

"Expect The Unexpected" is the warning.


Don't be complacent--anything can happen--be vigilant--is the message. 


It reminds me of a Seinfeld episode where Jerry jokes about people going to the beach and hiding their wallets in their shoes.


Like, a criminal would never think to check your shoe!


Oh, push the wallet all the way down to the toes, under the tongue, that way the bad guys will never be able to get to it. 


Here, it's more a case of of why don't we expect the darn expected. 


Everybody knows that people "hide" their valuables at the beach in their shoes!


In modern times, we seem blind though to any expectations at all.


- Arab Spring and civil war spreading into Syria and Iraq--after Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Egypt, and more--who would've thought?


- Russia taking over Crimea and agitating in Eastern Ukraine--after their little excursions into Georgia and Chechnya--who would expect that?  


- Financial meltdowns and major recession after the dot com and housing bubbles--even my barber was talking about retiring and buying a mansion in the Caribbean--where are these coming from?


The question then is are we really unable to see past our noses or do we just hold steadfast to principle that ignorance is bliss?


Well let's just test the "expect nothing doctrine" that we seem to all be living by these days and see how you feel about these:

  • North Korea--they would never invade the South again.
  • Iran--sure, they are going to give up their nuclear weapons and their greater Middle Eastern Caliphate ambitions. 
  • China--Yeah, we'll just pin them in the South China Sea and they'll never get out.
  • The national deficit--it's not and will never be too big for us to handle because we're rich. 
  • Terrorism in a major American city--not after 9/11 and all that Homeland Security.
  • Environmental catastrophe--we will build a big bubble over ourselves, so no problem.
  • Economic inequity--the top 1% deserves to control 43% of the Nation's wealth and everyone else just sit down and shut up.
  • The Singularity--how could a machine ever be smarter than us; we've got all the technology fully under our control. 

Well, if you are blind or dumb enough to believe these, just keep putting your money in your shoes at the beach, because there is no reason to expect that anyone would ever think to look for it there. ;-)

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September 10, 2011

Rising From The Ashes of 9/11

From the smoldering wreckage of the 9/11 attacks, now rises the new World Trade Center (WTC) complex.

According to the Wall Street Journal (10-11 Sept. 2011), the damage from the terrorist attacks of 9/11 resulted in the collapse or partial collapse of 7 buildings including: WTC North Tower, South Tower, and Four, Fix, Six, and Seven WTCs as well the Marriott Hotel. In addition, 11 other surrounding building had major damage including 1, 2, and 3 World Financial Centers and the N.Y.P.D. Command Center.

A decade later, $11 billion has been invested in the reconstruction of the 16 acre site, including $3 billion for One WTC (at 104 stories and 1,776 feet tall)--"making it the most expensive office tower in the U.S.

The cost is being driven upward by enhanced security measures to thwart other potential attacks, and according to Fast Company (Sept. 2011) and the buildings website these include:

1) Safety Materials - Advanced safety materials include dense fireproofing and biochemical filters to protect occupants from spreading threats.

2) Structural Redundancy - Load-bearing structures are being replicated so if there is a failure, "these skyscrapers have steel connections capable of redirecting the path of the upper floors load downward through other structural members." Additionally, the sprinkler system has "two interconnected standpipes, so that if one should fail, the other can compensate."

3) Protected Core - The sprinklers and safety systems (including the buildings communications antennae and ventilation) are being located in a protected inner building concrete core to prevent their being severed or disabled.
4) Escapability - Multiple exits and backups on emergency lighting, wider staircases for escape, separate stairs for first responders, and "lifeboats"--which are elevator escape pods from protected refuge areas on specific floors take evacuees to ground level safety.

I think it is important to recognize and applaud these safety and security enhancements; together, with improvements to our counterterrorism, intelligence, and homeland security operations, we have come a long way.
However, we cannot afford to stop and get complacent with our progress--as we see with the latest security alert, this time for the 10th year anniversary of the 9/11 attack.

In protecting our homeland, we have to get it right every single time, but those who seek to attack us and our way of life, only need to "get it right" once in order to hurt and kill many innocent people.

For 9/11/11, it is a good time to reflect on where we've come, the progress to date, and recommit ourselves to "fight the good fight".

One way to do this, I believe, is through continuing investment and advancement in our technology, science, and engineering platforms. These will help us to strengthen our economy and through innovation and it's application stay ahead or leapfrog those who seek to come against us.
Stronger, safer builders are important (and should of course, be pursued), but we cannot win a war of terror by bunkering down.

Technology and innovation are our offensive weapons that will enable us to keep the enemy on the run--afraid of what we've got up our sleeves next.

(Source Photo: here)

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September 4, 2011

9/11 - A Lesson In Risky Business

Corresponding to the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Bloomberg BusinessWeek (5-11 Sept 2011) has a great article on risk management called The G-d Clause.

When insurers take out insurance--this is called reinsurance, and reinsurers are "on the hook for everything, for all the risks that stretch the limits of the imagination"--that's referred to as The G-d Clause--whatever the almighty can come up with, the "reinsurers are ultimately responsible for" paying for it.

And obviously, when insurers and reinsurers don't well imagine, forecast, and price for risky events--they end up losing money and potentially going out of business!

Well when it came to 9/11, insurers lost fairly big financially--to the tune of $23 billion (it is in fact, the 4th costliest disaster since 1970 after Japan's tsunami, earthquake and Fukushima nuclear disaster ($235B), and hurricanes Katrina ($72B) and Andrew ($25B) in the U.S.)

Even Lloyd's "that invented the modern profession of insurance [and] publishes a yearly list of what it calls 'Realistic Disaster Scenarios,'" and while they had imagined 2 airlines colliding over a city, even they failed to anticipate the events of September 11, 2001.

According to the article, even insurers that make their living forecasting risks, "can get complacent."

And the psychology of the here and now, where "people measure against the perceived reality around them and not against the possible futures" is the danger we face in terms of being unprepared for the catastrophic events that await, but are not foretold.

In a sense, this is like enterprise architecture on steroids, where we know our "as-is" situation today and we try to project our "to-be" scenario of the future; if our projection is to far off the mark, then we risk either failing at our mission and/or losing money, market share, or competitive advantage.
The ability to envision future scenarios, balancing reality and imagination, is critical to predict, preempt, prepare, and manage the risks we face.

Post 9/11, despite the stand-up of a sizable and impressive Department of Homeland Security, I believe that our achilles heel is that we continue to not be imaginative enough--and that is our greatest risk.

For example, while on one hand, we know of the dangers of weapons of mass destruction--including nuclear, chemical, biological, and radiological devices--as well as new cyber weapons that can threaten us; on the other hand, we have trouble imagining and therefore genuinely preparing for their actual use.

Perhaps, it is too frightening emotionally or we have trouble coping practically--but in either case, the real question is are we continuing to proceed without adequate risk-loss mitigation strategies for the future scenarios we are up against?

Frankly, living in the suburbs of our nations capital, I am fearful at what may await us, when something as basic as our power regularly goes out, when we get just a moderate rain storm in this area. How would we do in a real catastrophe?

In my mind, I continue to wonder what will happen to us, if we proceed without taking to heart the serious threats against us--then the tragic events of 9/11 will have unfortunately been lost on another generation.

Like with the reinsurers, if we do not open our minds to perceive the catastrophic possibilities and probabilities, then the risky business that we are in, may continue to surprise and cost us.

(All opinions my own)

(Source Photo: here)

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July 3, 2010

Moving Beyond The Blame Game

Leaders have a choice about the messages they convey to their followers—they can empower people to take ownership and sometimes risk, or they can promote “CYA” as the corporate mantra.

This is the subject of a new article in Psychology Today (July/August 2010), “Just Don’t Do It,” by Dr. Art Markman.

The article provides an explanation of how people fall into the trap of risk-aversion. Essentially, when the outcome of an action causes trouble, the person performing the action is assumed to have negative intentions, and more or less, be automatically blamed. This leads people to assume the stance that “silence is golden” and avoid “trouble.”

Markman provides the analogy of a boy who gets blamed for throwing a ball and breaking a window, while the girl he threw it to averts blame:

- “The boy is definitely going to get in trouble. He threw the ball…what about the girl, though? She watched as the ball passed over her head...perhaps she could have done something that would have stopped the ball from hitting the window.”

- “This tendency to blame outcomes on actions rather than inactions [is called] the omission bias.”

Especially in a tough economy, people can easily get timid in the workplace because of the “omission bias.” Everyone is afraid of losing prestige, power, and even their paychecks, if they but open their mouths or make a mistake. And if leaders do not intervene, the result can be employee complacency and inaction.

This is reminiscent of the saying that “it is better to be silent and have people think you are a fool, then to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

What a waste of our organization’s most precious asset—people!

Rather than drawing on our employees’ education, skills and experience to promote organizational growth, we squelch them in the name of “going along to get along.” They learn to “toe the line.”

Part of the problem is that organizations frown on failure, which is a necessary component of learning. We blame people for every mistake rather than celebrating their willingness to try.

The result is that we end up with a workforce so cautious and risk-averse that it stunts our ability to compete. Unfortunately then, our people are like rats who have been shocked into a submission that we don’t really want or intend. Then we wonder why it seems like there is a lot of “dead weight.”

So is blame all bad? Of course not, because accountability and the assignment of responsibility go together.

However, there is a tendency to distort the tool of accountability and take it too far. “The blame game” prevents leaders from harnessing people’s creativity and productivity.

We need to ask ourselves what it is that we really want from our organizations. We can improve our organization’s engagement with their people by building trust versus suspicion, inclusion versus exclusion, and action versus inaction.


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June 5, 2010

Reorganization Best Practices

Sometimes a leader has to consider and implement a reorganization (“reorg”) as this can benefit a organization.

Organizations are not a static environment, but rather are dynamic systems. To survive, organizations must adapt to changes in the external environment and from changing forces within, by reorganizing in ways that improve the organization’s ability to perform.

Harvard Business Review, June 2010, has a couple of important articles on this topic (the articles are actually in reverse order in the issue):

1) “Change For Change’s Sake” by Vermeulen, Puranam, and Gulati

2) “The Decision-Driven Organization” by Blenko, Mankins, and Rogers

In the first article, the authors assert that “even successful corporations have to shake things up to stay ahead of the competition.”

  • Sometimes, this can be driven by changes in the competitive landscape necessitating that we adapt to meet these head on.
  • At other times, it is because of internal organization dysfunctions such as where: routines are stifling innovation, silos are hampering collaboration, and resources have become entrenched with the powerful few—these will hamper performance and potentially destroy the organization if not disrupted.

In the second article, the authors recommend that reorganizations should focus on better decision-making, i.e. on structures that “improves the organization’s ability to make and execute key decisions better and faster than competitors.”

  • Reorgs are seen as necessary for creating the right structure to perform: “Like Generals, they [CEO’s] see their job as putting the right collection of troops in the right place…Nearly half of all CEOs launch a reorg during their first two years on the job.”
  • Results of reorgs are generally poor: According to a Bain and Company study of 57 reorganizations, “fewer than one-third produced any meaningful improvement in performance. Most had no affect, and some actually destroyed value.”
  • Start with a “decision audit”: “Instead of beginning a reorg with an analysis of Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats [SWOT], structural changes need to start with what we call a decision audit. The goals of the audit are to understand the set of decisions that are critical to the success of your company’s strategy and to determine the organizational level at which those decision should be made and executed to create the most value.”
  • Align organizational elements to optimize decision-making: Organize assets, capabilities, and structures to “make the essential decisions and get those decisions right more often than not.” Similarly, align “incentives, information flows, and processes with those related to decision-making.”
  • Avoid conducting reorgs that degenerate into turf battles and horse-trading: “Powerful managers grad decision rights they shouldn’t really own while weak ones surrender rights they really should own. [Further,] people end up with responsibilities hat are defined too broadly or too narrowly, given the decision they need to make…without a focus on decisions, these power struggles too often lead too creeping complexity in an organization’s infrastructure.”

In my opinion, reorganizations are likely to be most successful when they have specific goals such as adapting to changes, creating new opportunities, closing gaps, and fixing misalignments. Simply “shaking things up” is not enough reason.

Secondly, aligning the organization around execution is as important as better planning/decision-making. Therefore, we should restructure around two areas—strategy (i.e. planning and decision-making) and operations. For example, in Information Technology, we could restructure and align the organization to improve:

1) Strategy formulation: This involves reorganizing to improve architecture and planning, investment decision-making, project management oversight, customer relationship management, and performance measurement. (Reference: The CIO Support Services Framework)

2) Operational execution: This involves reorganizing to improve IT execution of network and operations, systems lifecycle, information management, and information assurance.

Thirdly, success depends on implementing the reorg with people, funding, and other tangible changes that will help the reorg to meet its goals. This advances it from “redrawing the map” to giving it “the legs” to work on the ground, and is the most exciting stage in seeing the vision be fulfilled.

By reorganizing with specific goals, focusing on better decision-making and execution, and on fully implementing the reorganization with enabling structural and process changes, executives can broadly and deeply impact the performance of the organization for the better.


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November 30, 2009

Leadership: Fight or Flight

When we are confronted with difficult situations, people tend to two different responses: fight or flight.

Generally, people will stand and fight when they are either cornered and have no other option, when they will suffer undue harm if they just try and “let it go”, or when the issue is something that they really believe strongly in (like a principle or value such as equity, justice, righteousness, etc. that they feel is being violated).

In contrast, people typically will flee when they feel that they can get out of a bad situation mostly unscathed and their principles will not be violated (such that they can live with their personal and professional dignity intact). Often, people consider fleeing or a change of venue preferable to “getting into it” when it’s possible to avoid the problems that more direct confrontation can bring.

There is also a third option not typically addressed and that is just “taking it,” and letting it pass. In the martial arts, this is akin to taking someone’s best shot and just absorbing it—and you’re still standing. You go with the flow and let it go. This is sometimes feasible as a less dramatic response and one that produces perhaps less severe consequences (i.e. you avoid a fight and you still yield no ground).

Harvard Business Review (December 2009) in an article called “How to Pick a Good Fight” provides some guidelines on when as a professional you should consider standing up and fighting, as follows:

  1. “Make it Material”—Fight for something you really believe in, something that can create real value, noticeable and sustainable improvement.
  2. Focus on the Future”—Don’t dwell on the past or on things that cannot be changed. Spend most of your time “looking at the road ahead, not in the rearview mirror.”[This is actually the opposite of what 85% of leaders do, which is trying to figure out what went wrong and who to blame.”
  3. Pursue a Noble Purpose”—Make the fight about improving people’s lives or changing the world for the better.” I’d put it this way: stay away from selfish or egotistical fights, turf battles, empire building, and general mud slinging.

“The biggest predictor of poor company performance is complacency.” So leaders need to focus “the good fight” on what’s possible, what’s compelling, and what’s high impact. Great leaders shake things up when the fight is right and create an environment of continuous improvement. Leaders create the vision, inspire the troops, and together move the organization forward to greater and greater heights.

As for fleeing or “turning the other cheek” those venues are best left for issues of lesser consequence, for keeping the peace, or for times when you are simply better off taking up the good fight another day.


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