Showing posts with label strategic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label strategic. Show all posts

August 7, 2019

Ocean of Words

I really like this phrase from a book that I'm reading called "Like Dreamers."
An ocean of words and a desert of ideas.

Too often, we hear people who like to hear themselves talk, think very highly of themselves, show off, or just spout away. 

And while they say a lot...

There may not be a lot there. 

New ideas, thoughts, ways of looking at things, innovation, creativity, outside the box thinking--that's like a desert!

In Yiddish (and it's always funnier in Yiddish), we say:
A big, big mouth, and a tiny, tiny head.

Similarly, in Hebrew, there is phrase that translates to:
Say a little, and do a lot. 

Sometimes, the smartest people are the ones who use their words wisely, strategically, with depth and meaning, and when they really have something to say.

It's at that time that you better be listening.  ;-)

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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October 29, 2018

Talking The Bullet

So I learned many valuable lessons when I worked at the U.S. Secret Service--I loved it there!

But one of the lessons that sticks out it that sometimes you have to take a bullet for the President!

This lesson stayed with me and I believe it applies to a lot of other situations in life as well.

Sometimes you take one for the 

- Team

- Cause

- Relationship  

It's easy to say you are going to preserve you self by "dodging a bullet," but often it's really just the opposite that is needed. 

If you take the bullet, you are putting yourself subordinate to a larger cause and what is really important. 

Taking one to safeguard the President of the United States is definitely a larger cause. 

But also your team, the success of an important cause or project, precious relationships that have been built over time--these can all mean more than taking even a significant hit. 

This doesn't mean to be stupid, become anyone's punching bag or just take people's sh*t for nothing. 

Rather what it does mean is that you can suck it up sometimes--when the ends justify the means--and jump in front of that bullet to preserve something bigger and more important than just yourself. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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May 23, 2016

All American Chair

Got to love this all American chair. 

Red, white, and blue. 

And stars and stripes everywhere. 

The only thing that I seriously wonder about is whether this chair was manufactured in the U.S. 

With the U.S. losing 35% of it's manufacturing employment between 1998 and 2010 (from 17.6M to 11.5M), due in large part to outsourcing, there is a good chance this chair was made overseas. 

Now manufacturing makes up less than 9% of total U.S. employment

Also noteworthy is the loss of 51,000 manufacturing plants or 12.5% between 1998-2008.  


Manufacturing are agriculture are strategic capabilities for this country and any country. 

It's not just what you know, but what you make!

Sure we can make things faster and easier with automation, but at this point there is a serious skills shortage (with millions of jobs going unfilled), and we need to safeguard the strategic knowledge, skills, capability, and capacity to make things vital to our thriving existence.

We need to be a more self-sufficient nation again and not a one-trick service pony. 

We need to use information to be better innovators, creators, developers, and builders. 

Information is great, but you can't live by information alone. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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October 23, 2014

Israel-America 2gether 4ever

The other day, I passed the prestigious George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and someone had quite prominently graffitied the wall with "Free Palestine."

But then yesterday again, we saw another terrorist attack strike Jerusalem, the eternal capital of Israel, and a 3-month old baby from America was murdered after being thrown 30 feet in the air and landing on it's head.

I applaud the GW students who came out today to celebrate the enduring relationship between the United States and Israel.

At the event, a banner hung high with the promise from President Obama, as of those similarly who came before in the Oval Office that "The bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable today, unbreakable tomorrow, and unbreakable forever."

Moreover, last month, the Senate unanimously passed a bill upgrading and declaring Israel a "Major Strategic Partner" of the United States.

The defense of Israel as a secure and sovereign nation is an imperative as freedom and democracy shine forth as a beacon of hope and peace for humanity.

May G-d bless the 2 countries and may their flags fly as one--2gether 4ever. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 31, 2013

Should Or Shouldn't The U.S. Attack Syria

As the hour approaches for a punishing U.S. attack on Syria, here are some thought on why or why not to do it:

Reasons Not To Attack Syria:

War-weary--The U.S. has been fighting back since 9/11 2001, how much more blood and treasure should we spend in a war that has brought limited results with over 5K dead and over 50K wounded Americans and costing almost $1.5 trillion dollars so far. 

World policeman--No country alone, including the U.S. can be the policeman for the world. We cannot get involved in every war and skirmish: we can't afford it; it is a distraction from our full slate of pressing domestic issues, and we ourselves are not perfect. 

International Discord--Russia and China, two other U.N. Security Council members are not on board with us in punishing Syria for use of chemical weapons or for ending the conflict there. Even the U.K backed out of the operation. 

Potential backlash--Syria, Hezbollah, or Iran may lash out at American interests, including neighboring Israel, embassies/posts worldwide, oil infrastructure, and more. 

Limited strike, limited benefits--With all the media and lack of secrecy on this operation, the Syrians have had the notice and time to vacate suspected target attack sites and move critical equipment out. Also, we have already ruled out attacking the chemical weapons themselves due to fear of collateral damage. Plus, we have already said that we are not going to try and unseat Assad or end the fighting. So will hitting some empty buildings in a civil war that has already been going for more than 2 years have anything but symbolic impact? 

Reasons To Attack Syria:

Morality--We can't stand idly by while Assad indiscriminately is killing civilians (including women and children). 

Norms of War--We must send a message that use of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) is horrific and a precedent that is unacceptable. 

Red Line--We drew a red line and now we must adhere to it; our words and deeds must be consistent or else we lose credibility. 

Punish bad behavior--The Syrian civil war has cost over 100,000 lives so far and displaced millions, torturing and executing civilians and using chemical weapons is bad nation state behavior and must be punished to mete out justice, as a deterrent, as a rehabilitative action, and to reimpose some equality back in the fight.

Protect Ourselves--Being clear and sending a global message that use of WMD is unacceptable helps in the end to protect us from being victims of such a dastardly deed as well. It is in our own national self-interest.

Axis of Evil--Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah are working together to spread Anti-American and Anti-Israel hatred, terrorism, and to develop WMD (including Nukes) to threaten us and establish a greater stranglehold on the Middle-East as well as Europe. This is a war that is not desired by us, but one that has been thrust upon us by adversaries seeking our destruction. 

Closing Thoughts:

If we do it, then we should do it right.  

"Sending a message," in Syria rather than fighting to win something strategically meaningful and tangible continues to leave us vulnerable and just having to fight another day.

We can't straddle issues of morality, norms of war, and defense of our nation and way of life--either take out Assad, end the bloodshed, and establish a peaceful, democratic government or what is the point?

Obviously, there are arguments to be made on either side. 

But what is frustrating is that making a decision after we've concluded wrongdoing, and doing something positive is seeming to take too long, and strong leadership is required to bring resolution and greater good. 

Moreover, we need to look at the greater threat picture, so while sending Tomahawk missiles to Syria for their chemical weapons use, what about doing a full stopover in Iran with some Bunker Busters to put an end to their menacing and blatantly genocidal nuclear WMD program.

Wishy washy isn't going to make us any righter or safer, definitive results-oriented action can. 

(Source Photo: here with attribution to zennie62)


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April 2, 2013

Decision-Making WIth Perspective, Please.

An article in Fast Company (1 April 2013) by Chip and Dan Heath tells us to use the 10/10/10 rule for making tough decisions.

That is to consider how you will feel about the decision in 10 minutes, in 10 months, and in 10 years--in order to "get some distance on our decisions."

But this doesn't make a lot of sense to me, if you are making a decision, looking at it with 3 future lenses does not provide a lot of additional insight even if they are at various points in the future. 

What makes a lot more sense is to examine the decision based on past, present, and future consideration. 

Past--At home, I learned from my father that when he makes a big decision, he thinks about what his father would've have done in a similar situation. My dad greatly respected his father, and believes that he is a guiding force in his everyday life. It is important to consider what our parents, grandparents, and other people that we respect from our past would do in similar circumstances--this is a social view. For example, would your parents and grandparents be proud of your decision and what it represents for you as a person or would you feel ashamed and guilty, if they found out. This is not to say that you can't express your individuality, but rather that your past is one important guidepost to consider.

Present--In operational law enforcement and defense environment, I learned that you have to respect the decision-maker at the frontline. The details of what is happening or the ground in the here and now can certainly be a decisive factor in both split second decisions, but also those decisions where we have some luxury of contemplation--this is an operational view. Additionally, in making a big decision, we need to be true to ourselves and base the decision on our values and beliefs (i.e. who we are). In contrast, when we make decisions that violate our core beliefs, we usually regret it pretty quickly. 

Future--In Yeshiva, I learned to strongly consider the future in all decision-making. The notion that this world is just a corridor to the future world was a frequent theme. From this religious perspective, what is important in how we live our lives today is not the immediate pleasure we can get, but rather what the future consequences will be on our spirit/soul (i.e. Neshama)--this is a strategic view. One teacher exhorted us to always look at things from the future perspective of our death bed--will you feel you lived your life as a good person and in a fulfilling way or did you just do what felt good or was selfish and fleeting? For example, he said, "No one ever looked back and wish they spent more time working. Instead, they usually regret not spending more time with the family and true friends."

Decision-making is not trivial--you need to consider carefully what you do, with whom, when and how. To do this, looking at 3 points in the future is minimally helpful. Instead, consider your past, present, and future, and you will make better decisions that will enable you to be true to yourself, your family and community, and your very soul. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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July 14, 2012

Leadership Now!

There is a very good interview in the Wall Street Journal today (14-15 July 2012) with George Shultz, former Secretary of State, Treasury, and Labor. 

Shultz talks primarily about our countries devastating financial situation today.

On the economy, he states bluntly: "We have some big problems in this country."

But according to the interview "the policies for revival are obvious with the right leadership."

Shultz gives an example of former President Reagan (who I blogged about previously (24 June 2012) in It's The Right Thing To Do] as someone who had what it took to lead us out of difficult times. 

"It took long-term thinking...[Reagan] knew and we advised him you can't have a decent economy with the kind of inflation we've got...The political people would come in and say 'You've fot to be careful Mr. President...You're gonna lose seats in the mid-term election."

And as Shultz reminds us, what was Reagan's response?

"And he basically said, 'If not us who? If not now when?"

The article goes on that "it took a politician with an ability to take a short-term hit in order to get the long-term results that we needed."

Reagans words and deeds remind me of the Jewish teaching from the Book of Avot ("Ethics of Our Fathers") from more than 2,000 years ago which reads in 1:14--

"If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
And if I am [only] for myself, what am I?
And if not now, when?"


Reagan was in tune with this ancient wisdom of our forefathers, that we have an obligation to take the appropriate actions to care for ourselves and others and not to put off these actions unto others or for later. 

This is one of those true leadership qualities that made Reagan one of the most popular and favorite leaders on the 20th century. 

Reagan acted based on principle and not based on votes--the long-term health and outcomes for the country was more important than the minute-by-minute polling. 

Of course a leader needs to represent the will and wishes of the people, but he must do so with the bigger-picture and long-term view in mind for the nation to survive and thrive. 

Similarly Peggy Noonan writes today about how we need a "political genius" to get us out of the mess we are in as a nation. 

She too uses Reagan as an example and explains how he used to state about congress that: "when they feel the heat [from voters], they see the light," and it is the President's job to help the people understand and "galvanize them."

As Ms. Noonan states about a real leader: "he's direct and doesn't hide his meaning in obfuscation, abstraction, cliches and dead words."

A leader who knows and believes as in the wisdom of fathers, and like Ronald Reagan, "If not us who? If not now when?"

(Source photo: here with attribution to Tom Magliery)

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February 13, 2011

Singular Future Or Nightmare Scenario

Time Magazine (10 February 2011) has an interesting article called “2045: The Year Man Becomes Immortal.”

No, this is not about the typical quest of man for immortality, but rather it is a deep dive on The Singularity—Ray Kurzweil and Vernor Vinge’s concept of technological change becoming so rapid (through exponential growth) that there will be a “rupture in the fabric of human history.”

In astrophysics, the term Singularity refers to the point in the space-time continuum (such as in a black hole) where the normal rules of nature (i.e. physics) do not apply.

In terms of technology, the notion of The Singularity is that computing gets faster and faster (related to Moore’s Law) until finally the radical change brought about by the development of “superintelligent” computers make it incredibly difficult for us to even predict the future.

Yet predictions are exactly what these futurists attempt to provide us for the post-Singularity era, and while science fiction for now, these are viewed as serious contenders for human-kinds’ future.

Here are some possibilities posited:

- Human-Machine Blending—“maybe we’ll merge with them [the computers] to become super-intelligent cyborgs.”

- Physical Life Extension (or Even Immortality!)—“maybe the artificial intelligences will help us treat the effects of old-age and prolong our life span indefinitely.”

- Living In Virtual Reality—“maybe we’ll scan our consciousnesses into computers and live inside them as software, forever.”

- Man-Machine At War—“maybe the computers will turn on humanity and annihilate us.”

Whether you can believe these specific predictions or not, Kurzweilians all seem to adhere to a common belief “in the power of technology to shape history.”

Certainly technology enables us to do amazing things, which we would never have seriously dreamed of not so very long ago—I am still trying to get my mind around a computer, smartphones, the Internet, and more.

Yet, I worry too about the overreliance on technology and the overlooking of the hand of G-d guiding our journey towards a purpose with technology being the means and not the ends.

Often I marvel at both the pace of technological change and the capabilities that these advancements bring us. But at the same time, I think of these great technological leaps for mankind the same way as I do a Beethoven symphony or Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece—that it is inspired by a higher source, it is a gift from above.

So in this light, as I think about the four Kurzweilian predictions, I must essentially discount them all, since I do not believe that in G-d’s love for us that his intent is to turn us into either cyborgs, aimless immortals, virtual human beings, or to be utterly annihilated by a race of machines.

Nevertheless, these predictions are still valuable, because they do provide a “north-star” for us to guide us to constructive improvements in the human condition through robotics, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, virtual reality as well as warnings of the potential destructive power of technology unconstrained.

One thing is certain about Kurzweil and the other futurists, they have my admiration for taking a strategic, big picture view on where we’re headed and making us think in new and unconventional ways.


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July 28, 2010

Newer Isn’t Always Better

I love new technology as much or more than the next guy, but...

Last month, I came across an article in USA Today called “Army Ditches Velcro For Buttons,” which chronicles how after deploying high-tech, “space-age Velcro” in uniforms in 2004, the Army found that the good old button worked better on keeping pants packets closed. The Army is now substituting three buttons for Velcro on the cargo pockets of its pants to keep them from opening up and spilling out.

To me, the point is not whether we use new, newer, or even the newest technology out there (like space-age Velcro), but whether we are right-fitting the technology to our organization (in this case, the button met the needs of the soldier better).

I’m sure you may have noticed, as have I that certain technology enthusiasts like, want and literally crave the “latest and greatest” technology gizmos and gadgets, whether they fully work yet or not.

These enthusiasts are often the first to download a new (still buggy) app and the ones that line up (often bringing their own lounge chairs) the night before a new iPhone or other “hot” consumer technology product goes to market.

Similar, and perhaps well-intentioned, enthusiasm for new technology can end up in pushing new technologies before the organization is ready for them (in terms of maturity, adoption, change, priorities, etc.). In other cases, newer technologies may be launched even before the “ink is dried” on IT purchases already made (i.e. the technologies bought are not yet implemented and there has been no return on investment achieved!).

At the extreme, organizations may find themselves with proverbial IT storage closets full of still shrink-wrapped boxes of software and crates of unopened IT hardware and still not be deterred from making another purchase and another and another…

I remember in graduate school learning about shopaholics and those so addicted to consumerism that their behavior bordered on the abnormal according to the Bible of psychiatry, the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM).

This behavior is in sharp contrast with organizations that are disciplined with technology and strong stewards with their organization’s investment dollars—they tend to follow a well-thought-out plan and a structured governance process to ensure that money is well-spent on IT—i.e. it is requirements-driven, strategically aligned, ROI-based, and technologically compliant with the architecture.

In such organizations, responsibility and accountability for IT investments go hand-in-hand, so that success is not measured by whether new technologies get identified and investments “go through,” but rather by how beneficial a technology is for the end-user in doing their jobs and how quickly it actually gets successfully implemented.

This latter organization model is the more mature one and the one that we need to emulate in terms of their architecture and governance. Like the Army, these organizations will chose the old fashioned button over the newer Velcro when it suits the soldier better and will even come out saving 96 cents per uniform.

New technology is great--the key is to be flexible and strategic about when it is needed and when it is not.


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November 21, 2009

Learning from Steve Jobs, CEO of the Decade

Fortune Magazine (23 November 2009) named Steve Jobs of Apple, the CEO of the decade.

Steve Jobs’ unveiled his “digital lifestyle” strategy in 2000 when Apple was worth about $5 billion. Now almost a decade later, Apple is worth about $170 billion—slightly more than Google. Apple has revolutionized the markets for music, movies, mobile telephones, as well as computing.

Steve Jobs embodies User-centric leadership in every way:

Customer is #1—Apple’s products satisfy customers. “He may not pay attention to customer research, but he works slavishly to make products customers will buy.” There is intuitiveness to Steve Jobs’ understanding of people and technology. He knows what customers want even if they don’t or can’t articulate it and he designs the technology around the customer. Think iPhone, iPod, and Mac—they are some of the easiest and most customer friendly technologies out there; hence 100,000 applications for the iPhone, 73% of the MP3 player market, and some of the best PCs on the market today.

Innovation is key—Apple is consistently ahead of the curve. Their products are leaders, not follower-copycats. Despite losing the PC wars to Microsoft Windows, the Mac operating system, functionality, and design has been the one setting the standard for ease of use, speed, and security. The iTunes/iPod completely upended the music and movie industry, and the iPhone is the envy of just about every professional and consumer out there who doesn’t yet own one.

Holistic Solutions Delivery—Steve Jobs delivers a comprehensive solution’s architecture for the customer, and it shows with his merging of hardware, software, and service solutions. For example, “over the course of 2001…Apple launched iTunes music software (in January), the Mac OS X operating system (March), the first Apple retail stores (May), and the first iPod (November).” In 2002, Jobs told Time, “We’re the only company that owns the whole widget—the hardware, the software, and the operating system. We take full responsibility for the customer experience.”

Design Genius—The design of Apple’s products are sheer genius. They are sleek, elegant, compact, mobile, yet user-friendly—they are timeless, and pieces such as the G4 Cube have actually been showcased in The Museum of Modern Art and The Digital Design Museum. Even the Apple store in Manhattan with its winding glass staircases and cube entrance is a tourist destination in NYC.

Big Picture, Little Picture—Jobs is a master of balancing the strategic and tactical aspects of product execution. Jobs set the vision, but is also involved in the execution. “He’s involved in details you wouldn’t think a CEO would be involved in.” Apple is his passion and his desire for virtual perfection comes across the spectrum of both product and service from the company.

Mastery of the Message—he rehearses over and over every line he and others utter in public about Apple.” And it’s not only the contents of the message, but also the timing. Jobs knows how to keep a product launch secret until just the right moment. MacWorld, for example, has been used to strategically communicate the launch of new products, and this has kept both Apple fans and competitors closely tuned to these events.

Steve Jobs is a true model of leadership excellence due in no small measure to his relentless pursuit comprehensive product solutions based on innovation, design excellence, and customer service excellence.

Great Jobs!


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October 31, 2008

Weapons or Troops and The Total CIO

Should the CIO focus on day-to-day operational issues or on IT strategic planning and governance issues?

From my experience many are focused on firefighting the day-to-day and putting some new gadget in the hands of the field personnel without regard to what the bigger picture IT plan is or should be.

In many cases, I believe CIOs succumb to this near-term view on things, because they, like the overall corporate marketplace, is driven by short-term results, whether it is quarterly financial results or the annual performance appraisal.

The Wall Street Journal, 30 October 2008, had an article entitled,
“Boots on the Ground or Weapons in the Sky?”—which seemed to tie right into this issue.

The debate is to which kind of war we should be preparing to fight— the current (types of) insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan or the next big war, such as potentially that with Russia or China.

Why are we facing this issue now?

“With the economy slowing and the tab for the government’s bailout of the private sector spiraling higher…lawmakers are signaling that Pentagon officials will soon have to choose.”

And there are serious implications to this choice:

“The wrong decision now could imperil U.S. national security down the road.”

The two sides of the debate come down to this:

Secretary Gates “accused some military officials of “next-war-itis,” which shortchanges current needs in favor of advanced weapons that might never be needed.”

In turn, some military officials “chided Mr. Gates for “this-war-itis,” a short-sighted focus on the present that could leave the armed forces dangerously unprepared down the road.”

From war to technology:

Like the military, the CIO faces a similar dilemma. Should the CIO invest and focus on current operational needs, the firefight that is needed today (this-IT-itis) or should they turn their attention to planning and governing to meet the business-IT needs of the future (next-IT-itis).

But can’t the CIO do both?

Yes and no. Just like the defense budget is limited, so too is the time and resources of the CIO. Sure, we can do some of both, but unless we make a conscious decision about where to focus, something bad can happen.

My belief is operations must be stabilized--sound, reliable, and secure—today’s needs, but then the CIO must extricate himself from the day-to-day firefighting to build mission capabilities and meet the needs of the organization for tomorrow.

At some point (and the sooner, the better), this-IT-itis must yield to next-IT-itis!


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