Paper Navy Tiger

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We spend $600 billion on defense and this is what we get?


In the middle of the night our U.S. Navy DESTROYER crashes with a ginormous container ship.


The commercial vessel (yes it’s bigger, but it’s a civilian ship) is lightly damaged, but the U.S. Navy BATTLESHIP (after having undergone a recent $21 million upgrade) has 7 dead, the captain injured, and it can barely make it back to its port except with tugboats for extensive repairs. 


WTF!


How does an battleship with the latest sensors and technology collide with a civilian ship–how did such a foreign vessel even get close to our navy ship let alone collide with it–was someone completely “asleep at the wheel?”


This is no joke!–this is our first line of defense in our ability to project force globally. 


What if this had been a terrorist ship laden to the hilt with high explosives or an Axis of Evil Iranian or North Korean fast attack craft or even a Russian or Chinese attack submarine–surprise!


Doesn’t a battleship need to be ever-vigilant and -ready for battle? 


How can we fight sophisticated 21st century militaries with advanced ship-killer cruise missiles, torpedos, and mines, if we can’t even avoid the essential sinking of one our own fighting ships in peacetime. 


Our brave men and women who take up the uniform to serve this great nation–and this country–DESERVE BETTER!


Does this paper navy ship with a punched hole in it represent a larger forgotten or war-weary military in dire need of modernization and genuine readiness to defend the beautiful and free America? 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal via The Guardian)

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Media Is Becoming The Biggest Loser

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So this is an interesting poll from Emerson College:

“49% of U.S. voters believe that the Trump administration is truthful, while only 39% feel that way about the news media.”


Growing up, I never thought or felt the media was biasing the news.


Frankly, it never would have occurred to me. 


Maybe, I was too innocent or naive. 


But I always thought the media’s job was to “tell it the way it is.”


The media’s job, I understood was to be a honest broker, investigate, report, and tell all sides of the issues to help inform and educate. 


What people then did with that information was up to them. 


They would be free in a democracy to form their own opinions and see things that were presented to them through their experiences and sense of identity and justice.

But now, the world is upside down, and bias, bigotry, and prejudice is embedded in the media news itself. 


The same story on a deportation case today can be told by CNN as one of racism and cruelty to immigrants for deporting a mother of two who was “a threat to nobody” or by FOX news as one of enforcing the laws and security against an undocumented immigrant with a felony conviction for social security fraud. 


It depends what colored glasses your looking through and how you want to influence or control what the masses think and do about it. 


No wonder, people don’t trust the media!


Not only were the projections based on garbage polling completely wrong in terms of who would win the election, but the reporting out of daily events is done through one-sided reporting, “alternative facts,” and “fake news.”


The Democrats and Republicans are duking it out, but it’s the media that it getting the biggest black eye on honesty and credibility, and losing the fight for influence over the American people. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

U.S. Shuts Eyes To Syria and Ukraine

stop

While we are willing to take in some refugees (true to “our values”), we are not willing to enforce “red lines” and stop the killing in Syria’s almost 6-year murderous civil war. 


Incredibly, there are 500,000 killed (including 50,000 children) and another 2,000,000 wounded in the fighting already


Also, there are 6,000,000 internally displaced and another 4,800,000 refugees outside Syria causing a humanitarian crisis and destabilizing the region. 


Dictator Bashar Al Assad and most importantly, Russia seem unstoppable. 


Russia does not play by the West’s rules–they make the rules!


While we threaten to cut off diplomatic talks, Russia continues the heaviest bombing of the war with 1,900 bombs on Aleppo in the last week alone.


The UN cries foul with empty threats of war crimes on the atrocities being committed, but again no one is willing to stop Russia.


Moreover, Russia brings in yet more advanced weaponry and warns the U.S. not to try to stop them in Syria (sound familiar to the 2014 blitzkrieg in Crimea/Ukraine?). 


Again, we are unwilling to stop the bombardment of almost 300,000 civilians in Aleppo with aid convoys, hospitals, schools, and bakeries all grotesquely now being fair game.


Last week, I watched 60 Minutes on CBS about our nuclear bomber fleet, and the rising threat of nuclear war with Russia.


What was particularly scary is that U.S. military strategists are now concerned that the U.S. is “sociologically weaker” than our opponents.


In particular, they worry that as Russia continues to threaten first use of nukes to meet their strategic aims with “an evolved willingness to employ nuclear weapons in the course of a conflict,” they are counting on the U.S. to back down from any engagement or retaliation, because we would be so afraid of escalating with Russia, let alone using first. 


In other words, Russia does not consider the U.S. nuclear deterrent to be credible anymore–we are viewed as chicken and pushovers and Russia could simply “shock the Western powers into de-escalating.”


First Ukraine and now Syria, what country is safe from the “Great Bear”–will the Balkans be next or perhaps somewhere even more deadly to a broken NATO and a farce of a UN. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Shooting Blanks

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Like this joke gun, this unfortunately is our national standing as a paper tiger in the new world order.


Just this last week…


1) China: “To diminish the US,” our President is forced to disembark from the underbelly of Air Force One, because they wouldn’t give him mobile stairs, let alone a red carpet welcome, while they continue the illegal buildout in the South China Sea threatening freedom of navigation of the seas. 


2) Russia: Russia stares down our President and ignores 17 U.S. overtures to end the more than 5-year civil war in Syria that has cost over 400,000 lives, made 5 million refugees, and over 8 million more displaced, and let’s not even talk about Ukraine. 


3) Iran:  For the second time in as many weeks, Iran has sent numerous speedboats to harass U.S. Navy ships in international waters in the Persian Gulf, and this after it was just disclosed that we sent 2 more plane loads of cash to Iran–3 in total for $1.7 billion to “leverage” another hostage release by Iran–and after we chased them on a deal to remove sanctions on their dangerous nuclear WMD development. 


4) North Korea: 3 more midrange ballistic missiles were fired from North Korea toward the Sea of Japan in a continuing escalation of hostilities there on top of prior long-range and submarine-based missile launches further threatening the U.S. 


5) Laos: Even in the traditionally friendly country of Laos, the President is snubbed by terrible name-calling and insults and is forced to cancel his meeting with their leader. 


6) Trade pacts:   Whether your looking east or west, both the Transatlantic Trade Deal (TTIP) and the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) are dead, while Brexit is a fait accompli, the setback to the world economy, trust, and collaboration is tangible. 


7) Terrorism: The “U.N. warns of growing Islamic terrorist threats” as more than 500 have been murdered in the last 6 months alone from Belgium to the U.S., and the threat growing from a more decentralized worldwide terrorist apparatus, as well as the potential employment of weapons of mass destruction


Whether with regards to other world powers or global alliances, our standing in world affairs in troubling at best and seriously threatened at worst.  


As long as we are shooting blanks of blue stardust, we will continue to lose credibility, respect, and the ability to effect positive change and influence in an increasingly dangerous world. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Let’s Come Clean About The Cloud

Cost-savings

An article in Federal Times (16 April 2011) states that “Experts See Little Return For Agencies’ Cloud Investments.”

The question is were the savings really achievable to begin and how do you know whether we are getting to the target if we don’t have an accurate baseline to being with.

From an enterprise architecture perspective, we need to have a common criteria for where we are and where we are going.

The notion that cloud was going to save $5 billion a year as the former federal CIO stated seems to now be in doubt as the article states that “last year agencies reported their projected saving would be far less…”

Again in yet another article in the same issue of Federal Times, it states that the Army’s “original estimate of $100 million per year [savings in moving email to the DISA private cloud] was [also] ‘overstated.'”

If we don’t know where we are really trying to go, then as they say any road will get us there.

So are we moving to cloud computing today only to be moving back tomorrow because of potentially soft assumptions and the desire to believe so badly.

For example, what are our assumptions in determining our current in-house costs for email–are these costs distinctly broken out from other enterprise IT costs to begin? Is it too easy to claim savings when we are coming up with your own cost figures for the as-is?

If we do not mandate that proclaimed cost-savings are to be returned to the Treasury, how can we  ensure that we are not just caught up in the prevailing groupthink and rush to action.

This situation is reminiscent of the pendulum swinging between outsourcing and in-sourcing and the savings that each is claimed to yield depending on the policy at the time.

I think it is great that there is momentum for improved technology and cost-savings. However, if we don’t match that enthusiasm with the transparency and accuracy in reporting numbers, then we have exactly what happens with what the papers are reporting now and we undermine our own credibility.

While cloud computing or other such initiatives may indeed be the way go, we’ve got to keep sight of the process by which we make decisions and not get caught up in hype or speculation.

(Source Photo: herewith attribution to Opensourceway)

>Hard On Issues, Soft on People

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There is a classic article in Harvard Business Review entitled “The Hard Work of Being A Soft Manager” (1991) by William H. Peace, which sums up “soft leadership” this way: “the stereotypical leader is a solitary tough guy, never in doubt and immune to criticism. Real leaders break that mold. They invite candid feedback and even admit they don’t have all the answers.”

The author recalls his mentor whom he says “taught me how important it is to be a flesh-and-blood human being as well as a manager. He taught me that soft qualities like openness, sensitivity, and thoughtful intelligence are at least as critical to management success as harder qualities like charisma, aggressiveness, and always being right.”

To me, there is a time and place for hard and soft leadership qualities. Leaders must be firm when it comes to driving organizational results and performing with the highest ethical conduct and integrity, but they should act with greater flexibility when it comes to open communications and collaboration with people.

I believe that leaders would be wise to follow the leadership adage of “be hard on issues and soft on people”. This means that great leaders stand up and fight for what they believe is best for their organization and they team and collaborate with their people to make results happen. In this way, leaders and their staffs are working in unity of purpose and as a genuine team, with leaders seen as human, credible and worthy of people’s dedication and hard work. To me the perfect example of this leadership style is Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks who is relentless in his pursuit of a successful global coffee retailing company, but is also passionate about taking care of his diverse stakeholders from employees to coffee growers and even the environment.

In contrast dysfunctional managers are hard on people and soft on issues. They are indecisive, waiver, or are seen as subjective on business issues and this is hard on their people. Moreover, these managers let out their professional and personal frustrations on the very people that are there to support them in the enterprise. Here, leaders alienate and disenfranchise their people, fragment any semblance of teams and fail at their projects. The leaders are viewed as powerful figures that rule but do so with injustice and without meaning. An example of this failed leadership style is “Chainsaw Al” Dunlap who relentlessly cut people to cut costs, but as Slate put it (31 August 1997) “built his ‘turnarounds’ on cosmetic measures designed to prop up stock prices.”

By being unyielding in doing what is right for the mission, and acting with restraint with people, leaders can bring the best of hard and soft leadership qualities to bear in their positions.

Of course, these leadership traits must be used appropriately in day-to-day situations. Leaders should be hard on issues, but know when to throttle back so business issues can be worked through with stakeholders and change can evolve along with organizational readiness. Similarly, leaders should be soft on people, but know when to throttle up to manage performance or conduct issues, as necessary. In this way, hard and soft qualities are guidelines and not rules for effective leadership, and leaders will act appropriately in every situation.

>Why Reputation Is The Foundation For Innovation

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Toyota is a technology company with some of the most high-tech and “green” cars on the planet. But right now Totoya’s leaders seem to lack integrity, and they haven’t proactively handled the current crisis. As a result, everything they have built is in danger.

Too often, IT leaders think that their technical competency is sufficient. However, these days it takes far more to succeed. Of course, profitability is a key measure of achievement and sustainability. But if basic integrity, accountability, and open and skillful communication are absent, then no amount of innovation in the world can save you.

Looking back, no one would have thought that Toyota would go down in a flaming debacle of credibility lost. For years, Toyota ate the lunch of the largest American car manufacturers—and two of the three were driven to bankruptcy just last year. Moreover, they had a great reputation built on quality – and that rocketed Toyota to be the #1 car company in the world.

A reputation for quality gave Toyota a significant edge among potential buyers. Purchasing a Toyota meant investing in a car that would last years and years without defect or trouble—it was an investment in reliability and it was well worth the extra expense. Other car companies were discounting and incenting sales with low or zero interest rates, cash back, and extended warranties, and so on. But Toyota held firm and at times their cars even sold for above sticker price. In short, their brand elicited a price premium. Toyota had credibility and that credibility translated into an incredibly successful company.

Now Toyota has suffered a serious setback by failing to disclose and fix brake problems so serious that they have allegedly resulted in loss of life. Just today, the Boston Globe reports that Toyota has been sued in Boston by an individual who alleges that “unintended acceleration (of his Toyota vehicle) caused a single-car crash that killed his wife and left him seriously injured.” The Globe goes on to report that “dozens of people reportedly have been killed in accidents involving unwanted acceleration.”

While nothing is perfect, not even Toyota engineering, in my opinion the key to recovering from mistakes is to be honest, admit them, be accountable, and take immediate action to rectify. These are critical leadership must do’s! Had Toyota taken responsibility in those ways, I believe their reputation would have been enhanced rather than grossly tarnished as it is now, because ultimately people respect integrity above all else, and they will forgive mistakes when they are honest mistakes and quickly rectified.

Unfortunately, this has not occurred with Toyota, and the brake problems appear to be mistakes that were known and then not rectified—essentially, Toyota’s transgression may have been one of commission rather than simply omission. For example, this past week, the CEO of Toyota, Akio Toyoda, testified before Congress that “we didn’t listen as carefully as we should—or respond as quickly as we must—to our customer’s concerns.” However, in reality, company executives not only didn’t respond, but also actually apparently stalled a response and celebrated their success in limiting recalls in recent years. As Congressman Edolphus Towns, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, stated: “Toyota’s own internal documents indicate that a premium was placed on delaying or closing NHTSA investigations, delaying new safety rules and blocking the discovery of safety defects.” (Bloomberg News via the Austin American Statesman)

In other words, Toyota strayed from its promise to customers to put safety center stage. Rather, profit took over and became the benchmark of success.

Even the company’s own managers acknowledge the deep wound that this scandal has inflicted on the company, and have doubts about its leadership. According to the Wall Street Journal, a midlevel manager stated, “Mr. Toyoda cannot spell out how he plans to alleviate consumer worries….it is a recall after another, and every time Mr. Toyoda utters the phrase ‘customer first,’ it has the opposite effect. His words sound just hollow.’” Said another, “The only way we find out anything about the crisis is through the media….Does Mr. Toyoda have the ability to lead? That’s on every employee’s mind.”

Indeed, the Journal echoes these sentiments, noting that under Toyoda’s leadership, there was a focus on “getting the company back to profitability, after the company last year suffered it first loss in 70 years.” In other words, in an attempt to “reinstate frugality,” it appears that CEO Toyoda went too far and skimped on quality—becoming, as the saying goes, “penny wise and dollar foolish.” We will see if this debacle costs Toyota market share and hurts the bottom line over the intermediate to longer-term.

In recent times, we have seen a shift away from quality and credibility in favor of a fast, cheap buck in many sectors of the economy. For example, I have heard that some homebuyers actually prefer hundred-year-old homes to new construction due to their perception that the quality was better back then and that builders take shortcuts now. But somehow Toyota always stood out as a bulwark against this trend. It is therefore deeply disappointing to see that even they succumbed. While the company has a long road ahead to reestablish their credibility and rebuild their brand, I, for one, sincerely hope that they rediscover their roots and “do the right thing.”