Showing posts with label Naysayers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Naysayers. Show all posts

May 30, 2019

Hungry Pac-Man

Saw this in a window from the street. 

Pac-Man eating the dots/pellets and going for the ghost. 

The classic arcade video game from 1980s still speaks volumes. 

Pac-Man is goal-oriented and hungrily eat the pellet pieces, but if the ghosts touch him first then he's toast (or at least one of his 3 lives are).

Not so different from real life...

We try to reach our goals, by taking one bite at a time until we "eat the elephant."

But if those people who are naysayers, haters, Debbie Downers, and obstructionists, get to us first, then we can not only lose momentum, and but also eventually be forced to divert or miss out on achieving our goals. 

Ghosts aren't hollow friendly creatures, but those who want to stop progress, stop you, and maybe even end your pellet-eating life. 

You need to eat the super "power pellets" to overcome and eat the ghosts.

Eating all the pellets can be a herculean task requirement strength, resourcefulness, and determination, but that's what takes you to the next level in the game of life. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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May 1, 2019

Contributors and Whiners


Have you ever noticed the relationship between those that contribute and those that whine. 

The bad news is there is a highly inverse relationship between contributing and whining.

- Those that contribute, don't whine--they are focused on how to make things better!

- Those that whine, don't contribute--they complain and naysay, but add no real value.

The good news is that some solid contributors can more than counterbalance the whiners.

- Unfortunately, too often the whiners outnumber the contributors.

- But fortunately the contributors outweigh the whiners.

Despite your best efforts, you may not be able to make the whiners stop whining and throwing up roadblocks. 

You're often best-off spending your time working with the other contributors who want to see things through to success. 

Be a leader, not a babysitter and help the contributors win! ;-)

(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal adapted from here with attribution to mediamodifier)
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February 7, 2019

Birthing An IT System

Managing IT projects is no easy task.

You've got to get the requirements right. 

Technical issues need to be resolved. 

Dependencies have to be lined up. 

Integrations need to work. 

Design should be user-friendly and intuitive. 

Change management takes real leadership. 

And so much more. 

A lot needs to go right for the project to be a success. 

While of course, just one or two bad apples in the project equation can quickly make for a failure if not controlled for. 

But you can't let it...the show must go on, progress is waiting to be made, and the systems need to be delivered for the benefit of the organization. 

This is where real strength and determination by so many good people come in. 

Keep moving things forward--one step at a time--don't stop!!!---another step and another--heave ho, heave, ho--until one day soon a beautiful and efficient IT system is born. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 24, 2018

"Shock And Awe" Project Management

So this is a new type of project management and it can be very effective. 

It's called (my name): 
Shock and Awe Project Management

This technique is similar to the military doctrine of shock and awe that uses speed and overwhelming power to dominate the battlefield and vanquish the enemy.

In project management too, there are often naysayers, Debbie Downers, resisters, excuse makers, and people that lay down obstacle after obstacle to progress. 

This invariably derails projects and causes them to fall behind schedule, go over budget, experience scope creep, not meet the genuine user requirements, and ultimately fail!

However, if you manage the project with "shock and awe" and set aggressive timelines, assign substantial and very good resources, and move the project full speed ahead, then you can similarly create a momentum to the project that enables it to overcome the "enemies of the progress" (i.e. those that don't really want it to succeed or are too busying covering their own a*ses).

This approach is not advocating speed at the expense of quality nor is it calling for cutting corners or riding roughshod over people, but rather to the contrary, it calls for techniques similar to the military of moving with absolute focus, determination, efficiency, collaboration, synchronization, and overwhelming "project power" to ensure it's success. 


Projects, like battles, can be "won" by putting the right resources on the field and moving them to get quick wins in rapid succession (where the enemies of progress don't stand a real fight) so that the projects get not only completed on time and within budget, but most importantly to real stakeholder satisfaction and the organization's success. 

(Source Photo: here with attribution to AlexVan)
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August 16, 2018

Breaking The Paradigm

So a colleague has this sticker (with a do not image) on their computer that says:

"But we've always done it that way."

They told me a funny story about the lady that made the ham with the head and tail ends always cut off.

One day, her daughter asked, "Why mom do you make the ham with the head and tail ends always cut off?"

The mother answers and says because "My mother always made it that way!"

So they went to her mother and ask the question and they get the same answer again.

Finally, they went to her great grandmother and ask, "Why do you always make the ham with the head and tail ends cut off?"

And the old lady takes a breath, pauses, and says, "Because, we didn't have a pan big enough to fit the whole ham!"

Just thought this was a great lesson on critical thinking and also on "asking why."

Change can be brought about by questioning underlying assumptions and historical ways of doing things and bringing an open mind and fresh light to it. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 3, 2018

Nitpicking To Death

It's funny some people go straight for the kill when they don't like something. 

Others may nitpick you to death. 

Always! looking for something to henpeck at.

It comes out as you're stupid, lazy, incompetent, and even worthless.

Why can't you do anything right (read: the way I would do it)?

If only you would change this, that, or the other thing then it would all be better!

But even when you do manage to change this, that or the other thing--guess what? That just sparks the next round of destructive criticism and never being satisfied.

Hey, since when are you so (f*ckin) perfect?  

Or as the old saying goes, "Who died and made you G-d?"

It should not be about grabbing some sadistic pleasure out of torturing other people with narcissism, judgmentalism, endless criticism and naysaying.

Instead of tearing down, let's focus on the big picture and what success looks like.

How can everyone contribute to that vision and effort?

Customer service doesn't mean personal servitude. 

There is such a thing as being a team player, identifying when good is good enough, and driving forward rather than seeking to derail or even go backward. 

Competency is not just for service providers, but for the customers. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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July 27, 2018

Calling An ELMO

So this is an interesting meeting facilitation technique. 

Sometimes people get carried away in meetings either as broken records, spinning wheels, naysayers, or ever with verbal attacks.

In these case, either the facilitator or any of the other participants, can have permission to "call an ELMO."

What that stands for is:

Enough,
Let's
Move 
On

When someone at the meeting calls an ELMO the meeting is redirected and focused back to the agenda and meeting objectives.

There are also times, you need a "parking lot" for good ideas that are a little offtrack or for sidebars that you want to come back to later.

At other times, you just need to say, "Let's take it offline."

Focused meetings should generate ideas (brainstorm), exchange points of view, surface problems, discuss issues, and make decisions. 

A good meeting leaves people feeling energized, valued, informed, and productive. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 28, 2018

Chief Critic

So we all know these type of people that love to criticize and bully.  

They are the critics in chief. 

You have to wonder what their own value-add is.

While other people are doing the work, the chief critic is saying everything is terrible, horrible, tragic, almost the end of the universe as we all know it. 

Yes, there is nothing wrong with well-intentioned and constructive criticism, especially by a supervisor or people sincerely trying to help.

But then there are just those who just look to find something--anything--to fault others, almost as if they are bigger if others are smaller!

This is no good. 

That is no good. 

I would do it this way. 

You need to do it that way. 

It's almost like a hobby, but it comes with plenty of nastygrams and miserable monologues. 

If only you would do X!

How come you didn't do Y?

Next time make sure you do Z!!!

OMG, yes we are not perfect angels, but most of us try to work smart, do good, contribute, and get positive results!

Even failure is acceptable if everyone gave it their best effort and it leads to learning and growth. 

Maybe the people on the sidelines who are yelling at the players need to get off the bench and actually worry about what they need to be doing, and doing it, instead of criticizing those in the trenches. 

Teamwork means we succeed or fail together!

Non-attribution is about not getting personal and blaming others, especially when they are working their butts off. 

Rather, roll up your sleeves everyone and get in the trenches and start pulling your own weight instead of putting down and making fun of the others. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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October 31, 2017

Stop Playing Politics With Our Security

Another terrorist attack in NYC, not far from the World Trade Center, now memorial!

Radical Islamist mows down pedestrians and bicycle riders in a bike lane along the West Side Highway. 

- 8 innocent people dead.

- Another dozen wounded. 

Now, the Mayor and pundits say, ah maybe we should've had barricades up there so someone with a darn truck couldn't do this. 

And better double up on security for the Halloween parade tonight and NYC Marathon on Sunday.

Well, as they say: 
"Better late than never!"

And so it is with our nation's borders.

As the President tries to erect a border wall and to restrict visas from countries that have not put in the necessary screening security, certain lawmakers and liberal judges keep blocking these actions. 

They don't want to discriminate against anyone, which I agree is a noble cause. 

However, as every news station was reporting again tonight, the terrorist in NY today was shouting in Arabic that G-d is great!

This was not an innocent vehicular accident. 

There ARE people out there that want to kill us and inflict serious harm on our country. 

To those people that continue to fight rational, reasonable security measures to protect our homeland and our citizens, I say to you:
You have blood on your hands!

And unfortunately, we can rest assured that our enemies are planning plenty more to come in their incessant attacks on the West (may G-d have mercy on us).

It is time for the people of this country to demand security...to insist on a border wall...to assert our right to restrict visas to those countries that won't ensure proper screening procedures. 

How long will we wait--how much blood will be spilled--before we stop playing politics with national and homeland security! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 24, 2016

Crazy World Of Work

This was a funny sign. 

"You don't have to be crazy to work here.
We'll train you."

Isn't that the truth too often. 

Work can frequently be like "Crazy World!" 

This is a place where there is a convergence of dysfunctional organizational culture, poor leadership, a lack of solid processes and sound planning, and plenty of wacky naysayers and obstructionists who together can bring the workplace to a virtual standstill or even a bitter downfall. 

Yeah, we will train you to do what?

- Follow some dusty and archaic, nonsensical policies that haven't been updated in 20 years.

- Force you into a mold of robotic groupthinkers who have abandoned any notion of exploration, discovery, innovation, and constructive change. 

- Do the minimum to get their paychecks, while staying off the grid and out of trouble, rather than satisfy in serving the mission and delighting their customers. 

This is perhaps why leaders frequently tout their credentials in transforming organizations, yet we still see endless legacies mired in status quo and a lack of any real results and progress. 

Lots of people talk the talk, but very few walk the walk, and that's because we've trained them so well to work here. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 10, 2016

Superman Leadership

This guy's socks were very cool.

If you can say that socks make the man then perhaps this is it.

Superman that is!

No special shirt, underwear, or cape required--the socks communicate it all. 

For the man of steel or one in the making (if worn at workout time).  

Then again, I was trying to imagine someone actually having the guts or nuttiness to wear these to the office.  

If they would, it probably be with the following in mind: 

I can do anything helpful to get the job done--

1) Rolling out cutting-edge systems and business process improvements faster than a speeding bullet

2) Creating positive change more powerful than a locomotive

3) Able to leap with integrity over organizational obstacles, red tape, and naysayers in a single bound

It's a change consultant. It's a corner office bureaucrat.  It's a "superleader!"

Up up and away...it can be done (even without the socks). ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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June 11, 2016

Break-Fix After Breakfast


So I learned something new about being Mr. Fix It.

First of all, depending on how you look at things, you are either the guy who miraculously arrived on the scene and fixed what was so horribly broken and dysfunctional for way too long.

Or

You are the one who broke what was working so well before you came along and messed things up.

Second, just because you want to fix things, doesn't mean that the system or actors want it fixed.  

Often, they are used to it that way and are comfortable in their managed chaos. Objectively better is not necessarily better to those who like to fly below the radar and aren't looking for change or perceived trouble.

Dealing with what's wrong means not only admitting something is broken, but also committing to putting in the substantial effort to fix it.  To some people, why even go there? 

You may be getting up after breakfast energized to take on the dysfunction, but the organization is frozen in it's own sickness and the fever isn't going down or away.

Be careful what you try to fix, because rather than kudos for a job well done, you may be walking into the blame game where after all, pretending that there is no problem to begin with is the greatest shenanigan to hide behind of them all. 

(Source Photos: Andy Blumenthal)

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April 21, 2016

Prove Them Wrong

So I was recently teaching a certification class. 

And this was a very high-caliber class of professionals attending. 

One gentlemen was a wonderful African American who I will call John. 

As part of one of the class assignments, John,  a very successful man, told of how as a young man growing up in the DC projects, a neighbor told him something very hurtful and potentially devastating to him.

The neighbor angrily said, "You'll never be anything in your life!"

And John described how he pursued his education, his career goals, his family, as well as philanthropic pursuits to give back to the community--and he went quite far. 

He told with great emotion and tears in his eyes how ten years ago, he went back to his old neighborhood to thank this neighbor for motivating him (even though in a negative way) to go as far in life as he did. 

You could hear a pin drop in the class--I think a lot of people could relate to this story in their own lives. 

I know that I for one certainly could. 

For me, while I am a simple person and have not gone so far, I have certainly had an interesting life and lots of wonderful opportunities.

Yet, I too remember more than 20 years ago, when I had taken a job in a wild pursuit in my youthful ambitions that one crazy boss that I was briefly working for who was considerably older than me and with his own business abusively said to me one day, "You're not half of what you think you are!"

BAM! Like a huge sledge hammer hitting me right across my head--I was still relatively young and impressionable.

Also, I came from a pretty blue collar-type working family and although upwardly mobile, and I was certainly trying to become "more," I never really felt at all entitled. 

Anyway, the story this student told really brought my own experience hurling back to me from my past. 

In the class, John said--you have to go out and "Prove them wrong." 

And while I don't exactly feel that proving others who wish us bad to be wrong is the point, I do agree that we shouldn't let any of these negative nellies in our own lives drag us down. 

We all have our mission in life--and it's up to us to become the best people that we can--and to hell with everyone who looks down on us, discourages us, maybe are competitive with us or jealous in some way, or simply don't wish us the best. 

So John is right--go out there and do great things! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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October 21, 2014

Waiting For You To Succeed

I love this on the sidewalk this week. 

"The World is Waiting for you to SUCCEED!"

Encouraging, inspiring, motivational, hopeful, purposeful, future-oriented, and more. 

Too often we can focus on the negatives--how hard things are and can be; how many obstacles and challenges there are to getting somewhere; the many failures along the way; the bullies, naysayers, competition, and power-mongers who don't want us to succeed.

But think about it...

When we overcome all these (with G-d 's help), the world is waiting for our success--our contributions, our building blocks, our ideas, inputs, innovations, and creations.

When we succeed in advancing things (and not just doing for self), the world benefits!

We can have a purpose and meaning to our lives--we are part of something bigger and greater than ourselves and our mortality. 

Everyone has to do their part for the world to succeed. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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February 23, 2014

Don't Let Debbie Downer Take You Down


Saturday Night Live has a spoof about Negative Nellie's and they call her Debbie Downer. 

We all know people like this who are the Voice of Doom and the Doctor No's.

Whatever the topic is--they've been there, done it, and have seen it fail--"We tried that before," "That's not the way we do things here," "You just don't understand," "It will never work."

They see danger and bad everywhere and in everything, even in the face of positive and promise. 

These are the people who are obstinate, the naysayers, and are against change at all cost--they fear it or just don't want to deal with it. 

BusinessWeek has an interesting perspective on this--how even these people can be employed to have a beneficial impact on projects--by having them tell you everything that can go wrong, so you can take steps to plan and mitigate against these. 

Some people only want to have positive people around them--"yes men," who only tell them how smart and right they are all the time. 

However, the best leaders don't want kiss ups and brown nosers, but rather value"truth tellers," who will provide them solid advice and guidance on issues, tell them when they think something is wrong or risky, and even take an opposing point of view or play devil's advocate.

I remember when I was asked about whether a certain project was going to meet a very near deadline, and I said point blank, "Do you want me just to say yes or do you want me to tell you the truth?"

I got a big smile to that and the appreciation that I was real and truthful and there to make a difference and not just be another lump on the log. 

The point is not to be a Debbie Downer or a brown noser, but to be an Honest Joe or Jane. ;-)
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August 4, 2013

Will You Be Missed?

There's a question everyone always ask themselves--when they are gone from an organization will they be missed?

We all tell ourselves that we are irreplaceable--when we leave everything will fall apart, that "then they will be sorry," and maybe they will finally appreciate us.

But when calmer heads prevail, we sort of know the truth that we are all indeed replaceable--there are others just waiting in the wings to swoop in for a chance to do our job and perhaps better than we ourselves did it. 

But won't we be missed? They'll be a party, cards, well wishes, maybe even gifts, and people will say how much they will miss us, but then when we are gone--24, 48, 72 hours later--does anyone really care? 

If we left things in disarray and without a succession plan--we kept it all in our head waiting for the day to show them all--then there will be a period that may not be so pretty for the others taking on the responsibilities we are leaving behind.  

However, someone who would do that to the organization and their fellow employees, you may ask what good were they really anyway? 

For the most part, when people leave, I think there is a transition period for people to adjust to change--this is normal, and then after that people go on thinking about life afterwards.

- What new opportunities are there for them? In a crude way, some may even think that there is now one less person for them to have to climb over to advance. With someone leaving, one can say even that their power flows back and is dispersed to the others in the organization to "pick up the baton," influence and lead. 

- Some may realize that the problems the person brought to the organization (and everyone brings a mixed bag--both good and bad), have now left with them. Were they entrenched in the current ways of doing things and naysayers to any sort of change? Did they have an ego and a sense of entitlement after serving for years? Had they become stale and fallen behind the times in terms of best practices, new technologies, and so on?

- Others can look forward to new people and "fresh blood" coming in--reinvigorating the organization, bringing in new perspectives, fresh ideas, or as they say, "mix it up a little," shake the limbs, ask questions of the status quo--of course, you never really know about a new person, until the marriage equivalent of "you wake up with them in the morning"--you see how they actually perform on the job, in the culture, with the people. 

Sure, there are some special people that are practically irreplaceable, because they are such visionaries, innovators, and leaders of people--that they are truly one in ten million. Steve Jobs is one of those that come to mind. These are the exceptions, not the rule. 

For most people, we give to the organization and provide value--some people thrive for years or decades. It is individualistic and depends on many factors but especially the person to job fit and the person to organization fit. Factors that are in some ways quantifiable based on knowledge, skills, and abilities, but also depends on personality, culture, style, adaptability, motives, and many more things. 

When a person is a good or great fit--there is almost nothing better for them and the organization then a long and productive marriage of the two!

But when the fit is bad--then it is bad for the person and the organization--there can be poor productivity, negative interrelationships, and bitter feelings. 

Depending on the situation and fit...Often we wished people stayed longer and could keep giving their gift. Sometimes people know when the tea leaves are telling them to move on and the fit is no longer right. And still other times, some people overstay their visit and thereby do more harm then good. 

How will people see you when it your time to leave? You want to be missed for all the right reasons. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Bernt Rostad)
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September 3, 2012

Smart Cats Aren't Afraid to Innovate

It's really hypocritical that on one hand we put innovation on a pedestal, but on the other hand, we tend to nix new ideas. 

The Atlantic (July/August 2012) has an article called "Let's Cool It With the Big Ideas."

The author, P.J. O'Rourke, rails against innovation, saying: "I don't have a big idea, and I don't want one. I don't like big ideas."

Let's just say this article by O'Rourke proves his point and not only about big ideas. 

Unfortunately, like O'Rourke, many in our society seem to have a love/hate relationship with innovation. 

We love new ideas when they work to our benefit--like having a smartphone perhaps--but we fear the worst about failing and people seem to loathe change of any kind until it's a "proven entity." 

Hence as O'Rourke points out the derogatory feelings and sayings about new, big ideas:

- What is the big idea?
- You and your bright ideas.
- Whose idea was this?
- Me and my big ideas.
- Don't get smart with me.


The last one is really the clincher with it all--without new ideas and the bravery to explore them, our "smarts" really do go out the window. 

This is reminiscent of when the great Library of Alexandria burnt to the ground almost 2,000 years ago, destroying many of the "new ideas" of the philosophers, scientists, mathematicians, poets, and playwrights of the time, leaving us for centuries stuck in the Dark Ages!

Sure, new ideas are threatening to old ways of thinking and doing things, but we are an evolving species--stagnation is death. 

According to Harvard Business Review (October 2010) in "How to Save Good Ideas"--a more enlightened article here, explains how to counter fearful and destructive people "who try to kill ideas" using "fear-mongering, delay, confusion, and ridicule."

Some of the suggestions to counter the naysayers:

- When they attack you for "dictating" a new idea--you can explain that there is a vetting process, but like with a train conductor, we need to provide direction for our people.
- When they say, no one else is doing this--for any new idea, someone has to be the first to try it, and we have the capacity to innovate and succeed.
- When they criticize your timing--acknowledge that you can't do everything and the poor projects should be weeded out, but promising new ventures should proceed.  

From a leadership perspective, we cannot shove new ideas down people's throats, but rather we need to explore ideas openly and honestly. Leaders should explain the imperative for change, explore organizational and market readiness, look at costs and benefits, mitigate risks, and help people in adopting and adapting to change--and this last one can be the most difficult. 

For those that are comfortable with the status quo or afraid of what change may mean to their jobs, status, and security--there are times, when reassuring and working together can move people and the organization forward, but there are also times, when perhaps the person-organizational fit may no longer be right, and it is time to part ways. 

The way we do things today--no matter how comfortable--is not the way we will always do them.  Times change, challenges build up, opportunities emerge, and as survivors, we either adapt or fade into the annals of history. 

"There is more than one way to skin a cat," but if we are cool to new ideas, the cat will most definitely get away from us--and it may be for good. 

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Ivo Kendra)

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May 18, 2012

Meeting Busters, Come On Play Nice

The Wall Street Journal (16 May 2011) had a interesting portrayal this week of the various types of people that tend to spoil meetings. 

From low to high on nuisance level, these were as follows:

1) Jokesters--"cracks jokes, appropriate or not." 

2) Ramblers--goes on and on and often off topic.

3) Dominators--dictates to others with their opinions.

4) Naysayers--derails progress with negativity.

5) Plotters--passive-aggressive undermines decisions.

From my experience, I would add a few others (in no particular order):

6) Politicians--focuses on coming away looking good instead of on resolving issues. 

7) Positioners--vies for a bigger piece of the pie, whatever flavor it is. 

8) Honorees--comes to take all the credit, and politely thank everyone for their support. 

9) Bystanders--shows up, but can't or won't contribute anything of value.

10) Bewildered--unsure even why they are here, but were told to just show up. 

11) Malcontents--they are unhappy and they show it, so who cares anymore. 

12) Socializers--shares personal tidbits and whispers about where they want to go lunch or for happy hour afterwards. 

For all the meeting attendees out there, life is not a box of cherries, but you don't have to make it the pits! ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Voka - Kamer van Koophandel Limburg)

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January 2, 2009

It Time to Stop the Negativity and Move towards Constructive Change

Recently, there was an article in Nextgov (http://techinsider.nextgov.com/2008/12/the_industry_advisory_council.php) about the Industry Advisory Council (IAC), a well respected industry-government consortium under the Auspices of the American Council for Technology, that recommended to the incoming Obama Administration the standup of an innovation agency under the auspices of the new Chief Technology Officer.
The Government Innovation Agency “would serve as an incubator for new ideas, serve as a central repository for best practices and incorporate an innovation review in every project. As we envision it, the Government Innovation Agency would house Centers of Excellence that would focus on ways to achieve performance breakthroughs and leverage technology to improve decision making, institute good business practices and improve problem solving by government employees.:”
While I am a big proponent for innovation and leveraging best practices, what was interesting to me was not so much the proposal from IAC (which I am not advocating for by the way), so much as one of the blistering comments posted anonymously from one of the readers, under the pseudonym “concerned retiree,” which I am posting in its entirety as follows:
“Hmmmmm...."innovation"..."central repository of new ideas"......can this be just empty news release jargon? Just more slow-news day, free-range clich├ęs scampering into the daily news hole?.. .or perhaps this item is simply a small sized news item without the required room to wisely explicate on the real life banalities of the government sponsored “innovation” world...such as: 1)patent problems - is the US going to be soaking up, or handing out patent worthy goodies via the "innovation" czar or czarina? Attention patent attorneys, gravy train a comin’ 2)"leverage technology to improve decision making" – wow! a phrase foretelling a boon-doggle bonanza, especially since it’s wonderfully undefined and thereby, prompting generous seed money to explore it’s vast potential (less just fund it at say, $20-30 million?); 3) the "Government Innovation Agency" - -well now, just how can we integrate this new member to the current herd of government “innovation” cows, including: A) a the Dod labs, like say the Naval Research Lab, or the Dept of Commerce lab that produced the Nobel prize winner (oh, I see now, the proposal would be for “computer” type innovation pursuits – oh, how wise, like the health research lobbyists, we’re now about slicing “innovation” and/or research to match our vendor supplier concerns, how scientific!, how MBAishly wise); B) existing labs in private industry (e.g. former Bell Labs. GM-Detroit area "labs"/innovation groups), C) university labs – currently watered by all manner of Uncle Sam dollars via the great roiling ocean of research grants. Finally - given the current Wall Street melt-down and general skepticism for American business nimbleness (this too will pass, of course) -- what's the deal with all the Harvard Grad School-type hyper-ventilation on the bubbling creativity (destructive or otherwise) of American capitalism - -surely the GAO/Commerce/SEC could pop out some stats on the progressive deterioration of expenditures -- capital and otherwise--on "innovation". Or perhaps the sponsors of the "Government Innovation Agency" - will be happy to explain at the authorization hearing - how all the dough to date spent to date on development of the green automobile has yet to put a consumer friendly one on the road from a US corp -- a fact that argues either for a vast expansion of the GIA, or, the merciful euthenasiaing of this dotty idea. See you all at the authorizing hearing?”
What’s so disheartening about this retiree’s comments?
It’s not that there is not some truth intermixed with the blistering comments, but it is the sheer magnitude of the cynicism, bitterness, negativity, resistance to ”new” (or at times reformulated) ideas, and “been-there-done-that” attitude that unfairly provides a bad name to other government workers who are smart, innovative, positive, and hard-charging and want to continuously improve effectiveness and efficiency of government for the benefit of the nation and to serve our citizens.
Sure, we need to listen and learn from those that preceded us--those with age, experience, expertise, and certainly vast amounts of wisdom. And yes, those of us who do not learn from the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat it. So we must be mindful to be respectful, collaborative, inclusive, and careful to vet new ideas and changes.
However, those that have served before or have been serving a long time now should also give hope, innovation, change (not for change’s sake, but based on genuine learning and growth) and continuous improvement a chance.
It is always easier to be a naysayer, a doomsday prognosticator, and to tear down and destroy. It is much, much harder to be positive, hopeful, and constructive—to seek to build a brighter future rather than rest on the laurels of the past.
Unfortunately, many people have been hurt by past mistakes, false leaders, broken promises, and dashed hopes, so they become resistant to change, in addition to, of course, fearing change.
Those of us in information technology and other fields (like science, engineering, product design and development, and so many others—in fact all of us can make a difference) need to be stay strong amidst the harsh rhetoric of negativity and pessimism, and instead continue to strive for a better tomorrow.

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June 1, 2008

When the Plan Fails and Enterprise Architecture

Enterprise architecture develops the roadmap for the organization and no roadmap is foolproof. With any roadmap, sometimes there’s a traffic jam, an overturned tractor-trailer, or a washed-out bridge. Whatever the scenario, the EA plan is not the right way to go all the time, every time. That is why the plans need to be agile and responsive to the events as they unfold on the ground.

Similarly, in our personal lives, not every road we take is going to lead us to success. In business school we learn that 90% of new businesses fail within the first 5 years. Nowadays, even marriages fail at a rate close to 50%. And according to ExecuNet, the “average executive tenure is less than four years…[and] 18% of executives do not survive their first year in a new job.” So as individuals and as organizations, we can plan for success, but there are no guarantees.

Fortune Magazine, 9 June 2008, reports “a reversal or two can pave the way to triumph…[or] adversity makes you stronger.” Here’s how you can persevere in the face of adversity (adopted from Fortune, but my thoughts on what they mean):

  1. Calculated risk taking—just because you or your organization fails at something, doesn’t mean it’s the end of the line. You have to pick yourself back up onto the proverbial horse and start riding again. It is risky to keep trying, of course. Life is full of risks. You can’t avoid risk. So you take calculated risks and keep trying until you succeed.
  2. Get rid of the naysayers—doubters and naysayers can take the wind out of your plans and ambitions. Yes, listen to reason and experience and learn from it. But don’t just abandon your dreams. If you believe you can do something and can make a difference, you owe it to yourself to try.
  3. Live a purpose-driven life—similar to an organization needing a mission, vision, strategy, and architecture to provide a purpose and roadmap for the organization, so to an individual needs a purpose and a plan to advance their personal goals and aspirations.
  4. Visualize success—I’ve heard this one many times used successfully for those in sports, entertainment, going into interviews, and even those with illness and disabilities. You have to train your mind to think, feel, and actualize the success experience. If you can just visualize success, you are truly a step closer to it.
  5. Lessons learned---We all make mistakes. It’s part of being human. The key though is to learn from those mistakes, so that you do better the next time around. Life’s lessons build on each other. That’s why with age comes wisdom. Experience can go a long way to a new round of success.
  6. Failure is not a life sentence—While we may certainly feel that failure is the end of the world, more often than not, failure is temporary. We’ve got to see past the failure—see the light at the end of tunnel and make our way toward it. That light is success waiting for us.

In the end, we have to be strong to deal with the bumps and bruises we call life. I see enterprise architecture as a structure for dealing with risk and uncertainty. In its most simplistic form, identifying where you are, setting a target of where you want to go, and charting a course to get there is a lens that we can use in almost every aspect of our organizational and personal lives. Rather, than wandering along aimlessly, let’s set a path and try to have an interesting journey filled with learning, growth and hopefully some success for our efforts.


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