Now You See It and Now You Don’t

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Took a little hike on Sunday through Sligo Creek. 

It was an absolutely gorgeous day. 

Walking along the creek, we saw a mother and child wading in the water. 

(Not sure that I would do that based on how clean or not it is, but they seemed to be cooling off and having fun). 

Then crossing a little footbridge, we came across someone tossing this pretty big bolder over the side and into the same creek. 

There was another guy at the bottom who seemed to be looking out for the big splash (or perhaps anyone happening by who would get clobbered by this thing). 

Anyway, this was just a stark juxtaposition of people (including children) having fun in the water and the potential hazards from above.

This is life, one minute everything can be sunshine and roses, and the next bing bong!

Got to be grateful for every minute of peace, health, and prosperity-they are truly gifts and nothing is owed to anyone from the Almighty. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Awesome Northeast Fall Season

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Just wanted to share this awesome photo that my beautiful daughter, Michelle, took this last week. 


I love how it vividly captures the Fall colors, the falling leaves, and the changing seasons. 


The bridge seems to magically span the lush green before with the orange and tan hues of the after all under a clear light blue sky. 


The scene definitely looks like a cozy and happy time and place I want to be in. 😉


(Source Photo: Michelle Blumenthal)

Tubing Away The Shenandoah

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This is a picture from today of people tubing gathered under the Harpers Ferry Bridge in West Virginia.

The hiking along the Appalachian Trail was incredible and the water was warm when we waded in off the river bank.

I have never seen it so busy on the Shenandoah river.

People were rafting, tubing, swimming, huddled on tubes together talking and singing, picnicking, and laying, relaxing, and suntanning on the rocks in the middle of the river.

What a beautiful day–thank you G-d.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Candy Dish, Come and Get Some

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I saw this brilliant piece in the Wall Street Journal (20 March 2012) about building relationships with sibling “rivals”, but in my opinion the advice has much broader implications for growing our relationships for how we deal with others in life.

The article describes about how one man sends his brother, with whom he has been fighting with for years, the following story in an email:

“Two men had a stream dividing their properties. One man hired a carpenter to build a fence along the stream, but the carpenter built a bridge by mistake.” The brother then wrote, “I’d like to walk over the bridge.”

Wow! This is a very powerful story.

We can choose to build walls to separate us or build bridges to close the divide.

This can be applied to so many situations, where building relationships has a genuine chance or can be a lost and forgone opportunity.

In the office, for example, some people choose to put up proverbial walls between themselves and others. They do this by closing their doors, scowling at others, putting up signs that they are having a bad day, or perhaps by literally surrounding themselves with the accoutrements of their office (desks, chairs, appliances, mementos) and sending a message of a clear distance between them and others–almost like they are circling the wagons and no one will get in without getting shot.

While others take a different approach and are busy building bridges between themselves and others. For example, they regularly say good morning and how are you, they have a true open door policy, they may even have a candy dish or other enticements for others to stop by and just talk. They are open to others to share, collaborate and to build relationships.

Thus, just like with the two brothers, the conflict between them can turn into a hard and deeply anchored wall that closes all venues or the opposite, a bridge that connects us.

Think about it as building or burning bridges. When dealing with people who are really not deserving of trust, sometimes there is no choice but to separate and “live and let live,” but when dealing with those with whom a real relationship is possible and even desirable, then start building those bridges today or at least take a first step and put out that candy dish. 😉

(Source Photo: Blumenthal)

>Executives, One Foot In and One Foot Out

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The last thing any executive should be doing is getting caught up in the weeds of management. The executive needs to lead and define the organizational strategy and the management team needs to execute. The executive is the link between what needs to get done (stakeholders’ needs) for the stakeholders and getting it done (management execution) through the organization’s people, process, and technology.

How does the executive perform this linking role?

Not by looking myopically inside the organization, and not by jetting around the globe shaking hands and kissing babies. Peter Drucker said “ The chief executive officer (CEO) is the link between the Inside that is ‘the organization,’ and the Outside of society, economy, technology, markets, and customers. “

In Harvard Business Review, May 2009, A. G. Lafley the CEO of Proctor & Gamble see’s that the CEO’s job is to “link the external world with the internal organization.”

The executive is the bridge between inside and outside the organization. And by having one foot in each, he/she is able to cross the artificial boundaries and bring vital stakeholder requirements in and carry organizational value back out.

Lafley breaks down the CEO’s role into four key areas, which I would summarize as follows:

  • BUSINESS SCOPE: Determining “the business we are in” and not in.  No organization can be everything to everybody. We need to determine where we will compete and where we will withdraw. GE’s Jack Welsh used to insist on working only in those markets where GE could be either #1 or #2. Drucker’s view is that “performing people are allocated to opportunities rather than only to problems.”
  • STAKEHOLDER PRIORITIZATION: “Defining and interpreting the meaningful outside”–this is really about identifying who are our stakeholders and how do we prioritize them?
  • SETTING THE STRATEGY: Balancing “yield in the present with necessary investment in the future.” Genuine leaders don’t just milk the organization in the short term, but seek to deliver reasonable results immediately while investing for future performance. Lafley states “We deliver in the short term, we invest in and plan for the midterm, and we place experimental bets for the long term.”
  • ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE: “Shaping values and standards.” Lafley argues that “the CEO is uniquely positioned to ensure that a company’s purpose, values, and standards are relevant for the present and the future.” Of course, the culture and values need to guide the organization towards what matters most to it, to meeting its purpose, and satisfying its stakeholders.

To me, the Drucker-Lafley view on the CEO as a bridge between boundaries inside and outside the organization, can be extended a step down in the organization to other “chief” roles. The CEO’s vision and strategy to deliver value to the stakeholder to the role is fulfilled in part by the chief information officer (CIO) and chief technology officer (CTO). Together, the CIO and CTO marry needs of the business with the technology to bring them to fruition. Within the organization, the CIO is “outward” facing toward the needs of the business and the CTO is “inward” facing to technology enablement. Together, like two sides of the same coin, they execute from the IT perspective for the CEO.

Similarly, the chief enterprise architect (CEA), at the next rung—supporting the CIO/CTO, is also working to span boundaries—in this case, it is to technically interoperate the organization internally and with external partners The chief enterprise architect works to realize the vision of the CEO and the execution strategy of the CIO/CTO.

The bridge the CEO builds links the internal and external boundaries of the organization by defining stakeholders, scope, business strategy, and organizational culture. The CIO/CTO build on this and create the strategy to align business and technology The CEA takes that decomposes it into business, information, and technological components, defining and linking business functions, information flows, and system enablers to architect technology to the business imperative.

Three levels of executives—CIO, CIO/CTO, and CEA, three bridges—inside/outside the organization, business/technology sides of the organization, and business process/information flows/technologies within. Three delivery mechanisms to stakeholders—one vision and organizational strategy, one technical strategy and execution, one architecture plan to deliver through technology.