Freedom of Speech – Politics vs Character

Like most, I don’t know what to believe, regardless of the source. This skepticism has been increasing over the past several years. Skepticism can be a healthy attribute until it becomes abundant mistrust.

For some reason, we have accepted that politicians may lie or wildly embellish the facts – if any facts exist. Unfortunately, our news outlets have furthered this divide between truth and sensationalism.

The exaggerations, mistruths, intentional redirection, and outright lies lack meaningful boundaries. Where are the guard rails that protect us from misinformation, or more accurately, disinformation? Misinformation is providing, usually accidentally, incorrect information. Disinformation is the intentional dissemination of known misleading information, aka lies.

It ain’t what you know that gets you into trouble, It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.

Mark Twain

I thought the First Amendment may provide adequate boundaries, especially around intentional mistruths. That is not the intent of the First Amendment.

The First Amendment protects our right to have an unfettered voice regarding our government. The persistent exception to this is if any expression constitutes an actual threat, incitement to imminent lawless action, discriminatory harassment, or defamation.

As I scrutinized this, I realized that any boundaries, other than the abovementioned exceptions, would certainly restrict freedom of speech. There’s another notable discrepancy – expecting our government to be the speech police while we also want the government to minimize its micro-management of our lives.

Our expectations can be summed up in one word – character.

What does it mean to have “good” character? I’m sure there are numerous answers to this question but let’s try to keep it simple. To be of good character means that your habits, actions, and responses are aligned and focused on your thoughtfulness of others and the overall good to be realized.  

 “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

John Wooden

One definition of “character” is the aggregate of moral qualities by which a person is judged apart from intelligence, competence, or special talents. Morality is the principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior. Character is an amalgamation of so many aspects of one’s personality.

Good character comes from constant self-reflection of yourself. Good character is when you can reflect on your actions without rationalizing the reasoning or the results. In psychology, rationalization can be a defense mechanism to protect the ego from discomfort or distress.

Like many, as I was growing up, I was told to be respectful, even if I didn’t like what was being said. I was also told not to argue with those acting stupidly. The theory or reality is that they will bring you to their level and beat you with experience.

If you want to attack your opponent’s platform or their plans for the future by comparing and contrasting your plans – great. If your only way to win is to attack the person and the person’s family, then should we assume you have a weak platform, weak character, or both?

Politicians who gain office are leaders. Leaders of our community, our state, and our country. Leaders exemplify character for our youth, the population, and the world. A leader’s primary tools are sincerity, honesty, and dedication to making everyone for whom they are responsible successful.

Hostility towards others should never be confused with strength and bullying should never be confused with leadership. More accurately, it should be considered the opposite of strength and leadership.

“Name-calling and personal insults are the mortar for those with a weak foundation and weaker character.”

William Conner

To be clear, providing disinformation, name-calling, and character assault is the essence of a bully. Those who support bullies are themselves weak; It takes strength and good character to stand up to the bullies in our lives. Show me a leader who talks badly about others, lies, and gives out bad information, and I’ll show you an example of a bully – not a leader.

While the courts try to give a political speech more lead way as it pertains to the freedom of speech, I argue the leaders of our country should be held to a higher level of accountability.

Make character matter.

The “Children” of the World

I was listening to the Ted Talks titled Dear World Leaders, these are our climate demands.

It was the appropriate and classical demands to the leaders of the world to work harder on the major issues impacting our world. So what made me want to write about this?

The speakers were Xiye Bastida and Shiv Soin. Shiv is a fourth year student at NYU and Executive Director of TREEage, a grassroots group of youth to create and implement a local Green New Deal in New York City. Xiye “the climate girl” is originally from San Pedro Tultepec, Mexico. She and her friends began the Re-Earth Initiative aimed at “reimaging the future, reconnecting with the planet, and redefining collaboration.” By the way, Xiye started her work at the age of thirteen.

What part of “re-earth”, “re-imaging”, “re-connecting” and “re-defining collaboration” don’t you just love it?

This Ted Talk was about how millions of youth around the planet have essentially muscled the climate crisis to the top of the global agenda.

The youth….

I remember the election campaign for President Obama. There was a college student interviewed and asked about her feelings around the Presidential election and Congress.

“All I see is a bunch of old white men and nothing changing.”

Youth – Reimagine – Re-Earth – Collaboration – Re-connecting – Old Guard

Youth | Collaboration | Old Guard

Among their demands was having youth at the decision-making tables. They can take the seats the fossil fuel companies held thus removing the economic, political, and social influence these companies wielded.

Youth + Collaboration + Old Guard

The word “Guard” has a few definitions – watch over in order to protect; protect against damage or harm; control

For the most part, our children (<15) and our youth (15-24), are explorers. Their thought is fresh, their motives more pure, their innocence still somewhat preserved. Here on I will refer to our children and our youth with the single term “our future” – let’s see how that sounds…

Our future should be at the decision-making table regarding our planet and our climate. Our future should be at the decision-making table regarding our world and climate. Any arguments? If yes, may I suggest you need to notably reassess your beliefs.

Old guard – stop leveraging control and start protecting our future from harm – foreign, domestic and environmental.

The phrase “lead, follow or get the hell out of the way” seems fitting. Many in charge now are leading with motives that have gone astray, corporate executives and senior politicians can rarely follow, and sometimes getting out of the way means stepping in the way of others.

Leadership is tough. You need to make tough decisions, have a strong vision, hire those that can not only appreciate the vision but will have the same passion for making it a reality. Leadership means trusting those you bring on board and backing them to get the job done. That’s right – you support them.

Arguably, the older we get, the sharper our vision, the stronger our passion, but perhaps less energy. The youth and our future have the energy. The youth may lack the experience to appreciate the downstream consequences or impact of our actions. Conversely, the old guard may avoid action because of past events that not be relevant today.

We will only get though this if our future is actively involved

The business leaders and politicians handling this now have a massive conflict of interest. They will not recuse themselves because that means loss of control. Loss of control also means financial loss UNLESS they find ways to invest in our future.

Other countries hate us for a whole bunch of reasons. Some believe that we are gluttons with a superior attitude and a total disregard for others. Say Whaaattt?

I remember someone talking about mini nuclear power plants that would supply power to 100,000 homes around the world or about 20,000 homes in the US. Glutton? Point taken – let’s talk about superior attitude and the disregard for others.

Behind China who emits 9.04 billion metric tons (Bn Mt) of carbon dioxide. Following China is the United States came in at 5.41 Bn Mt. The U.S. has been very slow to acknowledge the impact of climate change. ¹

There were two events that seemed to underscore this attitude. The first was in 1997 when the Senate unanimously adopted a resolution opposing the first international treaty to cut greenhouse gases.

The second was in 2017 when President Trump announced the U.S. would withdraw from the 2017 Paris climate accord – the only country to reject the agreement. Superior attitude? Point taken – let’s move to ‘total disregard for others‘. Point taken– when we do not address climate change we are clearly showing a total disregard for others.

It seems the U.S. believes Great Britain has a superior attitude. Maybe we are carrying some grudge from the American Revolution. Maybe it’s because of their use of the English language. Maybe it’s because they would prefer to read actual words rather than only see pictures. Whatever the reason – their CO² emissions have fallen 38% since 1990.

In 1990 the U.S. emitted 6,443 Bn Mt. In 2007 the U.S. peaked at 7,450 Bn Mt and in 2019 we were at 6,558 Bn Mt². From 1990 to 2019, the U.S. increased emissions by 1.78%. That does seem to bad but between 1990 and 2007, we increased CO² emissions by 15.63%. Between 2007 and 2019 the U.S. reduced emissions by 11.97%. Yawning yet? I fell asleep five times trying to write it but our world environment is in crisis.

As you look around your home, neighborhood and community you may believe no one else is acting to improve our environment. Don’t fall victim to the idea that your only one person. Too many people are trying to find the right person or the person to lead the way. Sometimes all you have to do is BE the right person and then lead the way. If no one follows, try a different approach. Reach out to the world for ideas. Be strong, Be positive, Be the Action.

There will be years when nothing seems to happen. There will also be weeks where years happen.

Here’s the thing about numbers. They are boring. That said, they are also necessary to determine the impact and how things change. Most importantly – numbers will vary between reporting organizations.

Don’t get hung up on the numbers as much as the trends. Don’t rely on the political environment to provide accurate information. They are the ultimate story teller. Listen to our scientist and our youth.

Absolutely get hung up with our future. Our environment – absolutely! but there’s more.

Help our future understand patience, coping and forgiveness. As we strive to reduce carbon emissions, it is my dream that we reduce violence, anger and hopelessness.

¹ source
² source

The Leadership to Hire in Today’s Market (Under Construction)

statues of unemployed men standing in an unemployment line during the Great Depression at the FDR Memorial in Washington, D.C.

When I first moved to the west coast I had a difficult time finding a job and this was when the job market leaned in favor of the employee. The president of a consulting company called me one day and invited me to lunch. This was not to offer me a job but rather to explain the lay of the land.

During our luncheon, he explained that I would have a difficult time obtaining a job because I had too much experience.    WHAT?     How can someone have too much experience?

He went on to tell me how many of the CIO’s were promoted from within. I personally do not consider that a problem if they are the most qualified. The rationale also needs to be appropriate with the intent of matching the right person for the right job. Trying to promote from within as a reward or to avoid the expense of hiring from outside are more often failed approaches.

For me this was the first time I heard such a phrase. Of course when you first start in the workforce you fear not having enough experience. You long for the day you can add more experience to your resume. I have never heard anyone say “I better slow down on all this experience stuff before I have too much of it”.

Worse yet, many are advised to “dummy” down their resume so not to overwhelm the prospective employer. Let me rephrase that – we need to dummy down our resumes so not to look to smart or have too much experience or too much education or appear to have been too high up in the hierarchy of any organization. Still, we wonder why people have such a difficult time applying for jobs today. The only thing the employer and the employee (current or future) seem to have too much of is STRESS for being under-employed, under-valued, under-staffed and under pressure to do more with less. Does anyone else see a contradiction here?

I’m clearly not a psychologist although that won’t stop my analysis. One of the factors that has to influence stress levels is when the environment and/or our actions conflict with our potential, expectations, and personal architecture. An example would be unemployment. One’s potential is unrecognized and the expectation, such as finding employment, is is totally unfulfilled.

Phil Crosby once said “Selecting the right person for the right job is the largest part of coaching”. This is not just the core capabilities but also the energy that the person creates. Once I knew the capability to do the job existed, I always hired or promoted people that had a variety of experiences and in varied areas of industry. Notice how I phrased the concept of capability. “Once I knew the capability…existed”. A person may not have the actual job experience in the position description but possess a depth of experience that will deliver a higher positive impact to the organization.

I have often used the phrase “some people have a thousand different experiences while others have had the same experience a thousand times”. Often more varied experience creates more innovative ideas, permits greater adaptability and improves reaction times to problems that may arise.

I have been talking more about an individual and not an organization or company.
Yes, it is a drag in that it weighs us down and it literally makes us less efficient.

IT Governance aka Information Management

It’s not hard to be overwhelmed by all the reports, books, blogs and articles related to information technology (IT) Governance, IT project challenges, and overall IT service delivery. In many cases the data continues to show the alarming trend of high tech projects with high overruns in both expenses and time. Moreover, the final solution will often lack many of the features and functionality originally promised.

Whether we call it IT Governance or Information Management, the primary goal is to achieve clarity in our actions and bridge business needs and business value with timely information access and delivery.

Information and communication technology can be very complex for both the products and services as well as their integration. Einstein’s quote is appropriate for we are often in discussions where IT is expressed in over-simplified terms or portrayed with exaggerated complexity. Reality can be elusive.

Whether a large or small business, profit or non-profit, information technology is expensive. This expense is nonlinear as the size of the organization grows. That is to say, wasted IT expenses grow exponentially in larger organizations. A portion of this waste is a result of multiple systems with poor integration, lack of knowledge for the IT strategic road map, and IT projects missing timelines, functionality and general budget overruns.

Bent Flyvbjerg and Alexander Budzier of Oxford’s Said Business School conducted a study and found average project overruns were around 27% although this number masked an alarming trend. They found one in six projects studied were black swans[ref name=”my-unique-id-1″]a term coined by Nassim Nicholas Taleb to describe high-impact events that are rare and unpredictable but in retrospect seem not so improbable[/ref], with cost overrun of 200% on average, and a schedule overrun of almost 70%.

The term IT Governance seems to cause anxiety for those who feel it’s simply a synonym for complexity and analysis paralyses. Others may argue governance can appear incongruent with productivity or performance. Still others feel the term “governance” is applicable only to large corporations. Perhaps they mean large bureaucracies. So what is the definition for IT Governance?

[stextbox id=”123″]The IT Governance Institute states “IT governance is the responsibility of the board of directors and executive management. It is an integral part of enterprise governance and consists of the leadership and organizational structures and processes that ensure that the organization’s IT sustains and extends the organization’s strategies and objectives.”

ISO 38500 defines it as “the system by which the current and future use of IT is directed and controlled. It involves evaluating and directing the plans for the use of IT to support the organization and monitoring this use to achieve plans. It includes the strategy and policies for using IT within an organization.”

vi-strat-ess defines Information Management as the combination of technologies and processes that efficiently meet the needs of the business and customer community with dynamic and sustainable strategy, risk management, clear and consistent multi-directional communication and well formed performance metrics.[/stextbox]

Primary focus is on organizational information. Technology is merely one of the tools used to access and distribute information. Technology for technology sake is meaningless. Technology for information sake should be the reason IT professionals exist.

Again, the opening quote attributed to Einstein is quite appropriate. Let’s add another quote…

There is an inherent excitement in understanding business needs and finding practical and strategic solutions. The healthier the communication the better the results. Unfortunately, I have seen many an IT organization get wrapped around an axle, generate hidden agendas and start understating or overstating status and reasoning. Even with the best intentions, that is a very slippery slope and “intent” is anything but pure.

We often hear the phrase “doing the right things for the right reasons”. While it sounds great, it is also very vague. I would suggest performing well defined actions for well defined reasons. What is right or wrong can be, and often is, very subjective. It also becomes easy to rationalize the right things and right reasons (back to that slippery slope). Performance metrics become better defined when our methodology and reasoning are crisply defined. After all, precise performance metrics is one of the best ways to hold IT accountable.

There is a story where Alfred P. Sloan asked his board of directors if the plan presented had any downside. With no downside presented, Mr. Sloan tabled approval for the following week so to give the board a chance to identify risks and issues.     Leadership, Processes, well defined performance metrics, strong analytics and risk management contribute to a healthy framework for IT Governance or Information Management. The following represents this concept. Note the Deming Wheel[ref name=”my-unique-id-2″]William Edwards Deming was an American Statistician, professor, author, lecturer and consultant. He is most noted for his work in Japan where we was awarded Japan’s Order of the Sacred Treasure – Second Class, the second highest award Japan gives to civilians. It recognized Deming’s contributions to Japan’s rebirth using his quality control techniques[/ref] or Shewhart Cycle[ref name=”my-unique-id-3″]Walter A. Shewhart (shoe-heart) was an American physicist, engineer and statistician and known as the father of statistical quality control and sometimes referred to as the grandfather of Total Quality Management (TQM)[/ref] or kaizen[ref name=”my-unique-id-4″]Kaizen is Japanese for “continuous improvement” or “change for the better”. It is said “kai” means “to change” and “zen” means “good or for the better”. It requires that everyone in the organization be involved in the improvement process to include executives, management, and the line staff[/ref] terms of Plan – Do – Check – Act

As shown below, larger organizations will likely have larger teams that interlink to produce the required structure for IT Governance. Smaller organizations may have the same functionality albeit with single individuals serving multiple roles.

The abbreviated overall concept is to have a keen understanding of the critical success factor’s (CSF) for organizational achievement. We then look at both the financial capability and the various means by which to achieve the direction. We identify the best strategic approach that fits our financial model and then establish key performance indicators (internally and externally) to validate we are on the designated path. Remember, even if you’re on the right track you’re going to get hit by a train if you’re facing the wrong direction or don’t move. KPI’s will also aid us in making the necessary adjustments to reach the intended goals.

There will always be some formality to any approach taken. If for no other reason, you want to keep track of what worked and what didn’t. More importantly, you want to understand why it did or didn’t work. Strong, repeatable processes and the appropriately shaped organizational model also creates the necessary environment for consistent and uniform management and delivery of information.

Nothing substitutes experience. Information management has numerous threads woven together to form the fabric from which the organization can optimally perform and grow. Weaving accomplished by the right mix of talent and structure produce quality products that stand the test of time.

On a final note, balance in the approach taken for effective IT management can be challenging. The black swans had numerous telltale signs of missteps and problems, some even before the work began. A model that’s too weak or too strong will cause major problems. It is important to have appropriate KPIs and a methodology already established for the quick but thorough examination of any suspect progress and results.

“Keep it as simple as possible, but no simpler”

“Action is eloquence” – Shakespeare

“Action is eloquence, and the eyes of the ignorant more learned than the ears” – Coriolanus

Even back in the early 1600s, Shakespeare succinctly articulated, in the three opening words, the essence of success.

For the grammar police, we understand the difference between eloquence and elegance.  In this case, one could argue Shakespeare was actually addressing both action and speech.  It is one thing to hear someone say things about action and quite another to actually see the action being performed.

One of the greatest weaknesses in business today is the effective execution of strategy.  There are many organizations that even lack a realistic strategy to execute.  Experience has shown us there is a lot of talk about vision, strategy and direction but little in the way of meaningful action.  Conversely, there is tremendous action with little to no vision and accompanying strategy.  As John Wooden once said, “don’t confuse activity for accomplishment”.

In almost all cases, there is first a vision or dream followed closely by a concept of how to make the vision or dream a reality.  But eloquent action goes beyond simply acting on the work at hand.

There are many ways to envision “action is eloquence”.  We can think of actors or ballet dancers that mesmerize us with their performances, with their actions.  We can think of stonemasons who built the Lost City of the Incas, Stonehenge, Easter Island or the Great Pyramids.  The great painters like Michelangelo, Monet, Van Gogh and Rembrandt.  Then there is of course Mother Teresa and Gandhi.

Their vision was exemplified by the energy, spirit and grace applied to their actions.   These qualities are what separates the mediocre from the exceptional.

In the definition for “eloquence” is the term fluency – flowing, graceful, easily changed or adapted – pliant.  This is sort of the holy grail for life, work and love.

This concept of flowing and graceful action extends to how we interact with others.   I find this particularly true when the interaction is between parties with dissimilar backgrounds.   I have seen many a clash between information technologists and the actual business units when flow and grace were not present.

For profit or not, business today is dependent on two key factors – adaptability to change and the actions they take.  Charles Darwin once said “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives.  It is the one that is most adaptable to change”.

When our actions are eloquent we empirically demonstrate our respect and pride for those around us and the products, services and solutions we provide.  We strengthen relationships, we build trust and, most importantly, we galvanize the concept of a team or partnership.

We may have taken Shakespeare’s verbiage a little out of context but that’s why there are so many adaptations to his plays.  Many a director has found new ways to convey the works of Shakespeare.  They have also found new ways to interpret various aspects of these works.

And so it should be in business.  We should always look at what lies ahead from varied perspectives or interpretations to optimize our actions and refine the eloquence within.