Showing posts with label Honesty. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Honesty. Show all posts

September 16, 2019

Sometimes You Just Want To Say...

It funny, sometimes you just want to say...

Exactly what this ladies shirt says. 

My father used to say when certain people were nasty to him, he would just be nice to them.

And when they would still be really nasty to him then imperceptibly, quietly under his breath, he would say "F*** You."

Ah, maybe not always so imperceptibly. LOL

Sure, we can't always just come out and say it like this lady does boldly on her shirt.

Maybe it doesn't help to use expletives, but sometimes some people can be such jerks that just saying it quietly is cathartic and truth-telling. 

Perhaps more important, saying it let's you know that you still have  a moral compass and personal integrity, even if others around you have seriously compromised on theirs. :-)

(Credit Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)
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February 17, 2019

You Can't See Yourself

So this donut-shaped art at the Outlets in Clarksburg is metallic and reflective. 

But what is really interesting to me is that when you stand in front of it (like I was literally doing here), you can't see yourself. 

It made me wonder how you can look at yourself and yet not see yourself. 

And I thought of this as being a bigger lesson in life. 

When we are looking at ourself and there is a big donut whole in the mirror of ourselves then we are left blind to what should be reflecting back at us.  

No matter how hard we try to see ourselves and what we are doing right and wrong, it's like a ghost out there--we are blind to it. 

To really see ourselves, our heart and mind have to be receptive to seeing the full picture. 

That means looking at ourselves as we really are, even when there seems to be a piece missing to the puzzle, and we have trouble being honest about what we see. 

To change, learn, grow--to become a better person, we need to look full on and be willing to see what we will see.  

You can't see yourself until you can.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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May 16, 2018

Braving Trust and Credibility

So I thought this was really good from a colleague this week. 

How to build trust and credibility in the workplace:

Credibility is about being "convincing and believable" and results from "expertise and experience."

Trust is believing strongly in the honesty, reliability, character, and effectiveness of a person."


BRAVING

Boundaries - Have good boundaries--respecting yours and having my own; show others respect in words and deeds. 

Reliability - Be someone who is both reliable (can be counted on)  and is authentic.

Accountability - Hold others and yourself accountable; we all own our mistakes, apologize and make amends. 

Vault - Keep information in confidence.

Integrity - Hold courage over comfort; choose what's right over what's fun, easy or fast; practice and not just profess values. 

Non-judgmental - Believe the best in people even when they occasionally disappoint you. 

Generosity - Offer and ask for help from others, and give generously of yourself in time and effort. 

No offense to anyone...the last thing they said was a little spicy for the workplace (but I know it was meant well):  "Good conversation with others should be like a miniskirt--short enough to retain interest and long enough to cover the topic." ;-)

(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)
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February 12, 2018

The Culture Key To Organizational Success

As I continue to learn more about organizational success strategies, I am coming to understand that the underlying culture of the organization is so very fundamental to its success.

I believe this is especially the case in terms of three critical competency areas:

- Communication - needs to be timely, constructive, multi-directional, and with emotional intelligence.

- Trust - must be be based on honesty and integrity including consistently supporting the success of everyone professionally and as a organization. 

- Collaboration - must be be anchored in respecting, valuing, empowering, and rewarding each and every person for their views and the contributions, both individually and as team members, and in treating diversity and collaboration, as a true force-multiplier. 

If any of these elements are missing or broken then it does not seem to me that the organization will be able to be successful for the long term.

Organizational success is built on ingredients that strengthen the ties of leadership and individuals and that foster contribution as individuals and as team members. 

No amount of smart, innovative, and even hard work, in my mind, will make up for shortfalls in these critical organizational success factors. 

So when planning for organizational success, make sure to build these in from the get-go. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 3, 2016

Dysfunction Is The Starting Point

A very smart speech today in synagogue by Rabbi Haim Ovadia. 

He connected to this week's reading from Genesis in the Torah.

It was a commentary about our forefathers and mothers and what the stories in the Bible teach us. 

As we know, these people while righteous and holy, were not perfect people or families. 

Thinking about these, some examples that come to mind about the many tests, challenges, and tragedies in their lives:

- Adam and Eve eating the forbidden apple in the Garden of Eden

- Noah getting drunk and his son, Ham, seeing his nakedness and telling his brothers

- Abraham and Sarah's doubting (i.e. laughing) that G-d would give them a child

- Isaac lying to Avimelech about Rivkah being his sister (similar to what Abraham said about Sarah)

 - Jacob buying the birthright and stealing the blessing from Esau

- Shimon and Levi killing the people of Shechem for Hamor raping their sister

- Joseph's brothers being jealous of him and throwing him in the pit and selling him into slavery

- Judah sleeping with Tamer, the wife of his firstborn 

And so on. 

Rabbi Ovadia said we should keep 4 things in mind about the Biblical figures and families to learn for our own:

1) Context - There is a context to what we do. We all have histories that involve difficulties, challenges, illness, abuse, PTSD, and so on.  The things we do and how we react later in life are anchored in this context. 

2) Dysfunction - Every family (and I would add person, organization, and institution) is dysfunctional.  There is no perfection out there (except G-d). Functional would mean like a computer, we input-process-output towards a certain function.  However, as people, we are not automatons, but instead work out our dysfunction through our striving to love, have relationships, learn and grow. 

3) Responsibility - Whatever our challenges and dysfunctions, we are responsible for what we do--our actions.  We can't just blame history or others.  Our role is to face up to our lot in life and take responsibility for what we do.  It our life and circumstances to make or break us. 

4) Communication - In dealing with life and it's challenges, communication is key to dealing with things. I would argue that communication is just a part of many critical success factors like trust, determination, hard work, emotional intelligence, being giving, integrity, etc.  But certainly, communication is a key aspect in how we work out our issues with others and try to build function from inherent dysfunction. 

The honestly of the Bible in telling us the flaws of it's heroes and heroines--our ancestors--is one of the things that make it such a source of wisdom for us as well as demonstrating the truthfulness of it being G-d given to us.

The bible doesn't sugarcoat who we are and what we have to deal with--it is the Book of G-d that is a roadmap for us to learn from and do good with in our own lives. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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October 24, 2016

Money Makes The World Go Round

I remember from years ago hearing this song called, "Money makes the world go around."

It's an unfortunate song. 

"The clinking clanking clunking sound."

Then this week, I saw this sign in someone's office. 

It was hung under a framed dollar bill, and said:

"VERY IMPORTANT MONEY FIRST"

It doesn't say G-d first, or family, or integrity, or compassion, or anything meaningful and good. 

No, instead just money. 

What is wrong with people?

Yes, we all need money to live.

Life isn't free. 

There are bills to pay and money to be saved for a rainy day.


But, "money first"???

"Very important!"

There is definitely something wrong with some people's values.

They think:

To hell with doing the right thing if you can make lots of money.

To hell with being honest in business if you can make more money.

To hell with earning a decent day's pay for an honest day's work.

No, to some misguided people, it's simply money first. 

And money also means power.

More, more, more...at almost any cost that is. 

Sell your souls to the devil for a buck fifty.

Is the temporary satisfaction that money can buy you really worth it.

No, money is not first, and never should be. 

Money is a means to an end, but never an end in itself.

Money is not the root of all evil, but perhaps underlying greed is. 

Take that awful sign down and the dollar bill in the shiny frame at the very top of the wall too! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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November 20, 2015

Wishy Washy, Pishy Poshy

In school, we had one teacher who always used to say, "You've got to call a spade a spade."

Another used to tell us, "Never hesitate, act decisively, do what you need to do."

These people were inspirational!

But these days when it comes to national and homeland security, what's the world looking like:

- WISHY WASHY--We can't speak directly and say who the enemy even is.

AND

- PISHY POSHY--We won't act decisively in defending the nation and moreover, we acknowledge that there isn't even a strategy.

It's like what happened? ;-)

(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)
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November 11, 2015

Honesty, A Great Policy

So I went to the Podiatrist today for some routine maintenance. 

This was a new doctor for me, and I was going in with a healthy dose of skepticism (until I know the person is good and trustworthy). 

Well after the doctor does all these things, I test the waters and ask him, "So how often should I come back to see you every 6 months or more often or what?"

Here's his opportunity to put money ahead of really caring about the patient and to say to come often and more frequently so they can make more patient visits and more money.

But instead he pleasantly surprised me and goes, "Well let's see how your doing and take it from there."

I loved it--some genuine honesty and not just business and a money-making racket. 

Now, I really do plan to go back to this doctor regularly, because I trust him. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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October 14, 2015

Getting Your Message Out With Impact

There is an old Jewish parable about the body parts arguing which is most important. 

Each makes it's case that without that part, we just couldn't function. (No jokes here now!)

But in the end, the tongue that harnesses the power of speech demonstrates that it is most important, because it is through our words that we may live or die. 

- Say the right thing--something smart and influence the masses--and you can change or even save the world.

- Say the wrong thing--something stupid, inflammatory, and damaging--and it can literally mean your or someone else's life.

From an early age, we come to recognize that communication is so important to our success. 

Hey, I need a bottle or diaper changed...please!

Or answer the (interview) questions well, and you can land yourself in the best schools and jobs and even with the best ladies. :-)

Those that succeed with communication, can we make themselves and their positions heard, understood, and accepted.

What are some common communication strategies people employ?

Well as we've all learned, it's not always the one who is the boldest, screams the loudest, or repeats themselves the most that wins the argument--although at times, that too can work when force of debate, undeterred passion, and a little crazy can hammer the points home. 

Having the best laid out and most rationale argument--some people will rightfully be influenced by logic and common sense. 

Sincerity, integrity, honesty, and appealing to people's gut and emotions--this certainly goes a long way as many people are driven by their feelings as well as their instincts and genuine character assessment of others. 

Making people confront what scares the hell out of them--fear is a big motivator for action and everyone is afraid of something and usually many things. 

Oh, of course, the religious argument that "It's what G-d wants" and there will be fire and brimstone if you don't do it that way--well reward and punishment, heaven and hell, divine justice--that certainly will move masses. 

"The pen is mightier than the sword."

For those who can effectively harness the power of their speech and intellect, the sky is the limit. ;-)

(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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August 18, 2015

Traits To Be Prez


The personality to be President:

1. Experience, Diplomacy

2. Direct, Honest, Strong, Results-oriented

3. Passionate, Dedication, Survival of the Nation

A short interview with Andy Blumenthal

(Source Video: Dannielle Blumenthal)
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August 6, 2015

Looking At Ourselves In The NUKE Mirror

Any deal is based on T-R-U-S-T and verification, especially when it comes to dangerous nukes. 

Yet the deal with Iran--a member of the "Axis of Evil" and the #1 state sponsor of terrorism worldwide and of the worst abusers of human righs is trustless, especially when verification mechanisms are weak and Iran is non-complaint?


So where's the trust headed now (has anything changed, what are the signs so far)?


T - Turning away - Iran continues to turn away and refuse access to inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) who are tasked with the verification of Iran's non-proliferation of nukes.


R - Restraining people - Iran continues to disrespect us and holds 4 Americans hostage with no sign or promise of release. 


U - Undermining - Iran continues to undermine any relationship with the West by affirming that hostile policies toward "arrogant" America will not change


S - Swindling - Iran continues to swindle and deceive the West going so far as to publish a 416-page manifesto by the Ayatollah on destroying Israel, "the ally of the American Great Satan."


T - Threatening - Iran continues to threaten the West most recently warning of a "Third World War" sparked by terorrism, and continuing chants of "Death to America!"


So what's the future of this deal in protecting the world from nukes and terrorism--let's be honest and look in the mirror and ask what's the deal here? ;-)


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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November 21, 2012

Beauty And Kindness In Miami

I took this photo coming into Miami.

The beauty of the water, beaches, islands, intercoastal, modern high-rises, and more is just amazing to me. 

All this while we have the seasons changing up north.

This evening, in a restaurant, when I took out my phone for a moment, I accidentally dropped my wallet. 

I could have easily lost it and would've been up a creek!

I was really taken aback when someone came up and says holding out my wallet, "Excuse me, I think you must've dropped this."

I was really grateful, and then not sure who else may have picked up my wallet before this person gave it back to me, I quickly started flipping through it to make sure everything was still there. 

Thank G-d!

And thanks to this nice person for being so honest and kind. 

When I left the restaurant, I stopped by their table to profusely say how much I appreciated what they did and to wish them a happy Thanksgiving--the real meaning, indeed. ;-)

(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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March 30, 2012

Democracy Built On More Than Hoya

There is a funny joke that is timely for election season, and it goes something like this...

"It was election time and the politician decided to go out to the local reservation and try to get the Native American vote. 

They were all assembled in the Council Hall to hear the speech. 

The politician had worked up to his finale, and the crowd was getting more and more excited.   

'I promise better education opportunities for Native Americans!' The crowd went wild, shouting 'Hoya! Hoya!'.   

The  politician was a bit puzzled by the native word, but was encouraged by their enthusiasm. 'I promise gambling reforms to allow a Casino on the Reservation!'  'Hoya! Hoya!' cried the crowd, stomping their feet.   

'I promise more social reforms and job opportunities for Native Americans!' The crowd reached a frenzied pitch shouting 'Hoya!  Hoya!  Hoya!'   

After the speech, the Politician was touring the Reservation, and saw a tremendous herd of cattle. Since he was raised on a ranch, and knew a bit about cattle, he asked the Chief if he could get closer to take a look at the cattle. 

'Sure,' the Chief said, 'but be careful not to step in the hoya.'"  :-)

So when candidates get on their soapboxes and promises are being made on the left and on the right, you can only but wonder what is a promise that is sincere and will be kept and what is a promise that is for garnering votes and will be ignored. 

When the mic is unknowingly on and you hear something you weren't meant to hear, it is hard not to wonder about true intentions. 

The New York Times calls these "moments of political candor," while the Wall Street Journal (30 March 2012) calls it "moment[s] of political contempt."  

The Journal asks why we would not be told the truth about intentions with the implication that it is something that the candidates do not want us to know or that we would not approve of. 

Who are these candidates really? Does anyone really know when words are but bargaining chips for winning elections, rather than true commitments of the heart. 

It is scary, when the truth is obscured by empty words that change with the audience, and then votes end up based on false promises, vagaries, and disappointments.

When it comes to elections--Is the truth out there? Does it exist? 

People deserve candor, sincerity, and to know where candidates really stand on the issues, so they can vote for what and whom they really believe in.

Democracy is built on more than rolling hills and valleys filled with hoya--the truth is it's foundation. 

(Source Joke: here and Source Photo: here)


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February 27, 2010

Why Reputation Is The Foundation For Innovation

Toyota is a technology company with some of the most high-tech and “green” cars on the planet. But right now Totoya’s leaders seem to lack integrity, and they haven’t proactively handled the current crisis. As a result, everything they have built is in danger.

Too often, IT leaders think that their technical competency is sufficient. However, these days it takes far more to succeed. Of course, profitability is a key measure of achievement and sustainability. But if basic integrity, accountability, and open and skillful communication are absent, then no amount of innovation in the world can save you.

Looking back, no one would have thought that Toyota would go down in a flaming debacle of credibility lost. For years, Toyota ate the lunch of the largest American car manufacturers—and two of the three were driven to bankruptcy just last year. Moreover, they had a great reputation built on quality – and that rocketed Toyota to be the #1 car company in the world.

A reputation for quality gave Toyota a significant edge among potential buyers. Purchasing a Toyota meant investing in a car that would last years and years without defect or trouble—it was an investment in reliability and it was well worth the extra expense. Other car companies were discounting and incenting sales with low or zero interest rates, cash back, and extended warranties, and so on. But Toyota held firm and at times their cars even sold for above sticker price. In short, their brand elicited a price premium. Toyota had credibility and that credibility translated into an incredibly successful company.

Now Toyota has suffered a serious setback by failing to disclose and fix brake problems so serious that they have allegedly resulted in loss of life. Just today, the Boston Globe reports that Toyota has been sued in Boston by an individual who alleges that “unintended acceleration (of his Toyota vehicle) caused a single-car crash that killed his wife and left him seriously injured.” The Globe goes on to report that “dozens of people reportedly have been killed in accidents involving unwanted acceleration.”

While nothing is perfect, not even Toyota engineering, in my opinion the key to recovering from mistakes is to be honest, admit them, be accountable, and take immediate action to rectify. These are critical leadership must do’s! Had Toyota taken responsibility in those ways, I believe their reputation would have been enhanced rather than grossly tarnished as it is now, because ultimately people respect integrity above all else, and they will forgive mistakes when they are honest mistakes and quickly rectified.

Unfortunately, this has not occurred with Toyota, and the brake problems appear to be mistakes that were known and then not rectified—essentially, Toyota’s transgression may have been one of commission rather than simply omission. For example, this past week, the CEO of Toyota, Akio Toyoda, testified before Congress that “we didn’t listen as carefully as we should—or respond as quickly as we must—to our customer’s concerns.” However, in reality, company executives not only didn’t respond, but also actually apparently stalled a response and celebrated their success in limiting recalls in recent years. As Congressman Edolphus Towns, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, stated: “Toyota's own internal documents indicate that a premium was placed on delaying or closing NHTSA investigations, delaying new safety rules and blocking the discovery of safety defects.” (Bloomberg News via the Austin American Statesman)

In other words, Toyota strayed from its promise to customers to put safety center stage. Rather, profit took over and became the benchmark of success.

Even the company’s own managers acknowledge the deep wound that this scandal has inflicted on the company, and have doubts about its leadership. According to the Wall Street Journal, a midlevel manager stated, “Mr. Toyoda cannot spell out how he plans to alleviate consumer worries….it is a recall after another, and every time Mr. Toyoda utters the phrase ‘customer first,’ it has the opposite effect. His words sound just hollow.’” Said another, “The only way we find out anything about the crisis is through the media….Does Mr. Toyoda have the ability to lead? That’s on every employee’s mind.”

Indeed, the Journal echoes these sentiments, noting that under Toyoda’s leadership, there was a focus on “getting the company back to profitability, after the company last year suffered it first loss in 70 years.” In other words, in an attempt to “reinstate frugality,” it appears that CEO Toyoda went too far and skimped on quality—becoming, as the saying goes, “penny wise and dollar foolish.” We will see if this debacle costs Toyota market share and hurts the bottom line over the intermediate to longer-term.

In recent times, we have seen a shift away from quality and credibility in favor of a fast, cheap buck in many sectors of the economy. For example, I have heard that some homebuyers actually prefer hundred-year-old homes to new construction due to their perception that the quality was better back then and that builders take shortcuts now. But somehow Toyota always stood out as a bulwark against this trend. It is therefore deeply disappointing to see that even they succumbed. While the company has a long road ahead to reestablish their credibility and rebuild their brand, I, for one, sincerely hope that they rediscover their roots and “do the right thing.”


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February 5, 2010

When Commitment is Just a Crowd-Pleaser

In the organization, you can’t really do anything without management commitment and a certain degree of consensus. In fact, management commitment is usually at the top of the list when it comes to a project’s critical success factors.

But when is commitment real and when is it just lip service?

Sometimes, when the boss tells you to do something, he means it and gives you the authority and resources to make it happen. Other times, “go do” is superficial and denotes more of a “this isn’t really important”, but we need to make a good show of it for political, compliance, or other reasons. In the latter case, there is usually no real authority implied or resources committed to getting the job done. But at least we gave it our best (not!).

As an employee, you have to be smart enough to know the difference in what you’re being asked to do (and not do), so you don’t end up stepping in the muck—trying to do something that no one really wants anyway or the opposite, not delivering on a project that others are depending on.

Knowing the difference between what’s real and what isn’t can mean the difference between a successful and rewarding career (i.e. “you get it”) or one that is disappointing and frustrating (because you’re sort of clueless).

It was interesting for me to read in the Wall Street Journal, 5 February 2010, about how looks can be deceiving when it comes to support for someone or some cause: apparently, in certain European countries, such as Ukraine, it is common place for rallies to be attended not by genuine supporters, but by people paid to show up. In other countries, you may not be paid to show up, but instead be punished for not doing so.

The Journal reports that “rent-a-crowd entrepreneurs find people fast to cheer or jeer for $4 an hour…[and] if you place an order for a rally, you can have it the next day.”

So what looks like thousands of people turning out to support someone or something is really just a sham. This is similar to leaders who turn out to support a program or project, but really they are just paying lip service with no intention of actually helping the project make an inch of progress. Their superficial support is paid for by goodwill generated by their apparent support or what one of my friends used to call by “brownie points” (for brown-nosing their boss or peers)—but of course, they aren’t really behind the initiative.

The article summarizes it this way: “For now, people see the same old politicians and hear the same old ideas. If someone fresh brings a new idea, people will come out and listen for free.”

Good leaders need to actually say what they mean and mean what they say, so employees are able to focus on the work that’s really important and get the results the organization needs. This contrasts with ineffectively telling employees to “go do”, but no one is standing with or behind them—not even for 4 dollars an hour.

Of course, leaders must get on board with the direction that the overall organization is going. That is just part of being a team player and accepting that first of all, we are not always right as individuals, and second of all that we live in an imperfect world where sometimes our choices are not ideal.

However, when employees are required to rally for causes they truly don’t believe in or leadership feels compelled to pay lip service to initiatives they will not ultimately fund or commit to, the result is a dysfunctional organization. The outward reality does not match the actual feelings or thoughts of its people. (Sort of like having a diversity initiative headed by all white males over the age of 50.)

Let us commit to a spirit of honesty in all our dealings. If a conflict needs to be addressed, let’s address it directly rather than avoiding or glossing over it. One very basic and simple step toward this end is to recognize and reward the people who are brave enough to say when the emperor has no clothes and who are able to provide alternatives that make sense.

And finally—when we do commit to something—let’s see it through.


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January 11, 2010

Do What's Right--Anyway

I read this amazing poem and wanted to share it. It is wise and inspiring and provides leadership and life lessons for all.
___________________________________________
Mother Teresa's Anyway Poem
People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you've got anyway.

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December 16, 2009

Project Failure, Why People Can’t Own Up

I saw this funny/sad Dilbert cartoon on project management by Scott Adams (BTW, he’s terrific!).

It goes like this:

Office colleague (water cooler talk): How’s your project coming along?

Dilbert: It’s a steaming pile of failure. It’s like fifteen drunken monkeys with a jigsaw puzzle.

New scene….

Boss: How’s your project coming along?

Dilbert: Fine.

END

This common work scenario is sort of like a game of truth or dare: you either have to tell the project truth or take the dare and do something embarrassing like proceed with the project that isn’t on track.

Teammates, colleagues, peers often talk frankly and honestly about the problems with their projects and often the talk may become sarcastic or even somewhat cynical, because they know that they can’t tell their bosses what is REALLY going on.

What a shame in terms of lost opportunities to communicate, solve problems, and drive project success for the organization.

People are afraid to be honest, direct, tell the truth, and work together with their management on constructive solutions.

Instead, people simply say everything is fine, period.

Sort of like when your boss asks politely at work how are you doing? And rather than say, well I woke up late, missed my train, spilled coffee on my tie, and am having trouble meeting my deadlines this week, the person almost always replies, reflexively, “I’m fine” and “How are you?”

Another manifestation of the it’s fine syndrome is with executive dashboards or project scorecard reviews where virtually all the metrics show up as “green”, even when you know they are not—does yellow or red sound too scary to have to put on paper/screen and explain to the boss.

We are conditioned NOT to talk casually or to report to our superiors about issues, problems, or anything that can be perceived as negative, least they be labeled as trouble-makers or “the problem,” rather than the solution. Ultimately, employees don’t want to be blamed for the failures, so they would rather hide the truth then own up to the project issues, and work constructively with their management on solutions or course correction—before it’s too late.

Now isn’t that a novel idea? Management and staff working together, actually identifying the issues—proactively and in forthright manner—and working together to resolve them, rather than sitting across the table, sugar-coating or pointing the accusatory finger.

People have to take responsibility and own up when there is a problem and be willing to talk about them with their management, and management needs to encourage frankness, a “no surprises” culture, and a team-collaborative environment to solving problems rather than instilling fear in their employees or implicitly or explicitly communicating that they only want to hear “good news.”

Good news is not good news when it’s fabricated, a distortion, or a complete sham.

A culture of teamwork, collaboration, honesty, and integrity is the underpinning of project success. If everything in the project “is fine”, it’s probably not.


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November 14, 2009

Delivering Obsolete and Broken IT Projects, No More

NextGov reported on 9 Nov 2009, that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report that “forecasts $3 billion in cost overruns on 16 major projects.”

What’s so of baffling is that these overruns occurred despite the agency’s use of earned value management.

According to Dave Powner, director of IT management issues at GAO, “Every one of the agencies had major problems in determining earned value management…as a result the agencies were unable to accurately identify the progress contractors had made on IT projects.”

These finding are expected to drive the 2009 Information Technology Oversight and Waste Prevention Act to increase oversight of IT investments.

This bill calls for “a Web site to publish information on the status of federal IT investments, similar to the Federal IT Dashboard,” but with more accurate data and with explanations on why projects are over budget.

Certainly, the use of measurements and dashboards to display and track these are helpful in understanding how we are doing in managing our IT investments—so they are on schedule, within budget, and to customer specification.

Clearly, we can only begin to better manage that which we measure and track. Our IT investments and their execution are no longer a black box or so it’s supposed to work.

However, to make these metrics and dashboard effective to improve IT execution, there are a number of critical success factors:

  1. Transparency—This is a concept that is in common use these days, and we need to continue to put it in action. All IT investments need to be measured, not just the “major” ones, and their success and failures need to be visible. The purpose must not to scrutinize or shame project managers, but to be able to genuinely guide projects to successful conclusions. This is what the control phase of capital planning and investment control is all about. We need to course correct projects early and often, if necessary, before they are billions of dollars out of control.
  2. Honesty in Reporting—Projects need to be reported accurately—no gaming the system. If the facts are sugarcoated or whitewashed, then no dashboard in the world is going to catch the problems that are misreported to begin with. Unfortunately with project management, the elements of scope, schedule, and cost can be manipulated to make it seem as if a project is okay, when it isn’t. One example is de-scoping the project to enable a delivery on schedule and on cost, even though what’s being delivered is not what was asked for or agreed upon.
  3. Skills Enhancement—With better measurement of IT investments, we need to provide more training to our project managers. We can’t just expect perfection day 1. We need to work with people and grow them to be better project managers. We can do this with training, mentoring, coaching, and so on. Remember, it’s generally the people that make the IT project a success or failure, not the technology—so let’s invest in our people to make them better project managers.
  4. Accountability—We shouldn’t be looking to exact a pound of flesh for genuine human foibles—mistakes do happen. But at the same time, people must be held accountable for fraud, waste, and abuse. Sometimes, people get complacent and they need a reminder that there are real implications to an IT project’s success or failure—mission and people are depending on you to do your job, so you had better do it responsibly and to the best of your ability.
  5. Continuous Improvement—Ever since business school, I’ve always loved the Japanese management practice of Kaizen—continuous improvement. This concept is right on the mark with our IT investment and project execution. We are not going to magically put up a dashboard and whoola—better IT projects. It’s going to be a process, a transformation over time. We need to incrementally improve our IT project success rate through learning measurement, and best practices implementation. Of course, time is money, and we need to move quickly, but we do not want to artificially create the appearance of short-term performance improvement at the expense of genuine long-term success.

All the power to IT performance measurement and dashboarding, but with the absolute commitment to not only track and measure, but also grow and improve our customer results. It’s not a gotcha that we need, but a how can we help you succeed.


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