Monday, December 24, 2012

Apollo 8 44 years later

Those of us who were around in 1968 remember watching as Jim Lovell, Frank Borman and Bill Anders read from Genesis while orbiting the moon.  Most people have seen the iconic pictures they took of the Earth.. "the blue marble".   Those words spoken by the first 3 humans to leave the influence of this Earth had so much more meaning while being able to look at the complete Earth.  We truly are one human race on this little marble.  Only 7 months  and on the 3rd flights later we had improved the processes and  Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were standing on the moon. 

For sure those years were turbulent times.  I don't remember much of the riots and race issues.  We were raised to treat our fellow man as equals so didn't understand much about the issues of the times.   What is clear is that we went to the moon by focusing on a goal and achieving that goal.   This is something that is lacking today.   Our Legislative and Executive branches are mired in squabbles both within their own party and with the other party.   They aren't able to do what is expected of EVERY successful business..... Have a balanced budget.   Instead they continue to argue, spend and take every opportunity to change the focus to something else.   Folks,  Get it together.. FOCUS... Forget everything else.  Pass a real budget and you'll find that a lot of other problems just go away.   Take a bold step as we did in the space program.   Republicans and Democrats, join with each other as you did in a joint session after the senseless attack on Gabriele Giffords.    Get rid of the center aisle,  In the new session sit with each other and work together for the American party.  Enlist the support and draft some of your regular "every day guy and gal"  constituents to work with you to really solve problems, not just talk about them.  Don't talk to your colleagues... Talk WITH your colleagues.  We have to work together and return this country to being innovative and leadership, not just on the political and peace front but in industry and to be a place where we can be proud of the people we elect to governmental office because of what they do. 

The  Mercury 7, Gemini, Apollo, Space Shuttle, MIR and ISS astronauts and cosmonauts took and are taking bold steps in space exploration.  We have so much because of that focus.   Those of us who are Earthbound should do the same. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Thoughts on recent events

Three events in recent times are sticking in my head.  Not because of the magnitude or impact but rather for the ability to totally refocus our attention.   These events are:
  • the "fiscal cliff" or as it should be called "the Executive and Legislative branchs' inability to govern" or perform  to the same standards expected by every normal business
  • the Bengahazi consulate attack 
  • several active shooter incidents over the last weeks
  • the Sandy Hook Elementary School active shooter incident.  
Each of these events is a tragedy but keep in mind that there are shootings every day.  It doesn't take a massacre to have an impact on an individual.   If you or your family is in the wrong spot and the wrong time it will impact you the same as if  there are multiple victims.

Two things should have our focus in these weeks:
First, don't let our Congress and President get sidetracked from their job of passing a budget.  For them it must be the number one priority. They can debate gun control (pro and con) AFTER they do their job of stopping wasteful spending and pass a workable budget  not more continuing resolutions.  They should do nothing else until this is completed, delivered to the White House and signed.  Stop blaming party A or party B.  Forget the parties (both holiday and political)  and get it done.  Without that this country goes into a financial crisis. 

Second:  Say a prayer for those that are directly impacted by these events  then get angry and make sure that you are prepared so that it doesn't happen to you. (and that doesn't necessarily mean you have to start carrying a weapon)  Become aware of your surroundings.  Do you know what you would do if an active shooter walks into your office, the mall or the grocery store when you are there.  Are you always aware of what and who is around you in a 360 degree bubble?   Do you know your company's plan for an active shooter?   Do they even have one?  Don't say  "it won't happen here".   The only statement that is valid is "It hasn't happened here yet".   Go to work tomorrow and ask your Safety Coordinator or HR  if there is a plan.  Insist that one is in place and exercised just like fire drills.  (and for sure the same plan does NOT work for both).   Imagine what would happen if  half of the workforce showed up at the office door asking this question.  It will get noticed.

The article at  is a good read for more information.

Stay safe and keep aware.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Thoughts on Election Night

As I sit here tonight listening to the same comments being repeated over and over in the media I think about what this election means to me.   It is true that the outcome of the election will affect this country for many more than the next 4 years.    Regardless of who wins  he can not by himself correct the issues we face.  It will take every one of us pushing our elected officials to correct issues, balance the budget (heck, even just pass a budget)  and move us forward with innovation in energy, manufacturing and other areas.  

JFK said it best on Sept. 12, 1962 at Rice University when he laid out his plan for the space program: "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."   That speech galvanized a nation to achieve what many thought impossible and to do it in the next 8 short years.    We need that again, not only in our quest in space but here on earth too.  

I have heard from some people that they will leave the country of Obama wins, others say they will leave if Romney wins.   Folks, this is OUR country.   We need to all stay and work to make it a better place.  

I am reminded of one of the first things I learned at The Citadel, right after the 3 standard answers....the Cadet Prayer, written by Bishop Albert S. Thomas, Ret, Class of 1892:

Almighty God, the source of light and strength, we implore Thy blessing on this our beloved institution, that it may continue true to its high purposes.

Guide and strengthen those upon whom rests the authority of government; enlighten with wisdom those who teach and those who learn; and grant to all of us that through sound learning and firm leadership, we may prove ourselves worthy citizens of our country, devoted to truth, given to unselfish service, loyal to every obligation of life and above all to Thee.

Preserve us faithful to the ideals of The Citadel, sincere in fellowship, unswerving in duty, finding joy in purity, and confidence through a steadfast faith.
Grant to each one of us, in his (her) own life, a humble heart, a steadfast purpose, and a joyful hope, with a readiness to endure hardship and suffer if need be, that truth may prevail among us and that Thy will may be done on earth. *Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

Improving this country is a  challenge is one that we must be willing to accept, one we can not  postpone and one which we intend to win.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Leadership Lessons from Knob Year at The Citadel

Reading the various Facebook posts today about the recognition of the Class of 2015 brought together some thoughts I've been having about early influences on my leadership style.  The first influences were 18 years of examples by my parents of how to be a good person and treat people correctly.

In late August of 1977 the 2nd step of leadership training began.  That first day was sensory overload where we began learning how to be good followers. The biggest leadership lesson of that day was the 3 answers: "Sir Yes Sir", "Sir No Sir", "Sir No Excuse Sir".  Particularly that last answer is one that is key to being a good leader:  Not giving excuses but rather taking responsibility for issues and mistakes.    34 years later it still gets used even when  in some cases it should be used by someone else.  Responsibility is a big thing that is missing in so many companies today.

Looking back over that year there were examples of bad leadership, those we won't mention.  There were also examples of good, even great leadership.   Our cadet company commander lead by example.  He was firm but fair. When we had PT runs or other activities he participated.  There was one particular time where the famous Mr. Rampey would not allow a flat top haircut due to "regulations that didn't allow blocked hair cuts".   The CO stood up for the knob who wanted it and even wrote a memo to the tac officer and Mr. Rampey regarding the issue.  He didn't have to do that and it didn't change Mr. Rampey's decision but it taught that knob an important lesson:   Support your people.      This company commander is now a Lt. General and is the Commanding General of the NATO Training Command in Afghanistan.  I have heard from people with first hand knowledge that he leads in the same way today: up front, with his people and pulling his own weight.

Others of the cadre that year taught  us that being firm doesn't mean not being sadistic (though some of my classmates might disagree).    "Racking" (running in place, push-ups and other things) was the method of discipline when there were minor infractions.  Normally this was done by the cadet sargents and corporals.  They were lead by the 1st Sgt, Asst 1Sgt and cadre platoon leader.  ALL 3 of these gentlemen took this activity seriously and as a result most of the others did also. (as I mentioned at the top, there were a few exceptions).  After breakfast there were usually a collection of us out on the 3rd division getting in some "rack" time.  The cadre who were overseeing the activity were physically present.  They didn't just start us up and then go in their room to get ready for class.   Lesson Learned:   discipline when needed should be in person.

My advice for the Class of 2015 as you end your recognition activity this weekend:   Take time to congratulate yourself on persevering though what more than likely has been the toughest year of your life.  Be  proud of that. For sure, those of us who came before you are proud of you.  Tomorrow take some time to reflect back on  the good leadership you have experienced and how that will help you.  Also think about the bad examples and   resolve NOT to do those things.  

Congratulations, Class of 2015

Friday, March 23, 2012

Shadow IT

There is an interesting article: about how people in the business departments are doing functions that really should be services provided by IT. 
Many years ago the same discussion/problem existed when departments  started using the new technology like the Wang mini computers and PCs and discovered that they could solve problems using spreadsheets  and access databases.  Geeky engineers liked the ability to program the Wangs.    Part of that solution was to declare the mainframe systems that were tailor programmed to be obsolete relics of the past and to move to client-server systems that were smaller, lower cost and ran  off-the-shelf software that would solve all problems".

Well, they weren't exactly the silver bullet that many had hoped for.   The software produced by the leading providers is for sure flexible but it is very difficult for anyone to really know how to configure all the possible functions.  Now we are back into the same situation but now with that very same savior client server software  and a new era of portable computing devices where we carry massive power on our belts.   The software is run on huge server farms (ie: mega-MIPS systems) with huge main memory capacity and almost unlimited (and low cost) disk storage.  (the mainframe of today)  All of this is accessed by a GUI program running on a PC.  This is not unlike the 3270 or 5250 green screens of before, just looks a little better.

Have we really improved or in order to solve the problems of today do we need to go back to having highly customized applications to meet the business needs?   Can the big software companies and the legions of consultants/analysts move fast enough to stay up with the fast changing world of social media and tablet/palm computing devices.    Is this causing companies to not be able to innovate their internal processes fast enough to stay world class leaders in their industry?    

I think that we are being held back by these restrictions.  In an attempt to compensate there are now, yet once again, huge spreadsheets, uploads/downloads being done in the business in order to support reporting.   We have to get back to having the IT support the business and the business to support IT to do that.  

More in a later blog about HOW to accomplish this.