Cloud Second, Security First

Shadyrat_map

Leadership is not about moving forward despite any and all costs, but about addressing issues head on.

Cloud computing holds tremendous promise for efficiency and cost-savings at a time when these issues are front and center of a national debate on our deficit of $14 trillion and growing.

Yet some prominent IT leaders have sought to downplay security concerns calling them “amplified…to preserve the status quo.” (ComputerWorld, 8 August 2011)
Interestingly, this statement appeared in the press the same week that McAfee reported Operation Shady RAT–“the hacking of more than 70 corporations and government organizations,” 49 of which were in the U.S., and included a dozen defense firms. (Washington Post, 2 August 2011)
The cyber spying took place over a period of 5 years and “led to a massive loss of information.”(Fox News, 4 August 2011)
Moreover, this cyber security tragedy stands not alone, but atop a long list that recently includes prominent organizations in the IT community, such as Google that last year had it’s networks broken into and valuable source code stolen, and EMC’s RSA division this year that had their SecurID computer tokens compromised.
Perhaps, we should pay greater heed to our leading cyber security expert who just this last March stated: “our adversaries in cyberspace are highly capable. Our defenses–across dot-mil and the defense industrial base (DIB) are not.” (NSA Director and head of Cyber Command General Keith Alexander).
We need to press forward with cloud computing, but be ever careful about protecting our critical infrastructure along the way.
One of the great things about our nation is our ability to share viewpoints, discuss and debate them, and use all information to improve decision-making along the way. We should never close our eyes to the the threats on the ground.
(Source Photo: here)

>Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t

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Frequently employees face double-bind message in the workplace and these not only impair morale, but also can result in poor decision-making.

One example has to do with whether we should apply tried and true, best practices or be creative and innovative. This manifests when employees bring innovative approaches to the table to solve problems are told, “there’s no reason to recreate the wheel on this.” And then when the employees take the opposing track and try to bring established best practices to bear on problems, they are told disparagingly “ah, that’s just a cookie cutter approach.”

Another example has to do with when and how much to analyze and when to decide, such that when employees are evaluating solutions and they hustle to get a proposal on the table, only to be told they haven’t done enough work or its superficial and they need to go back, “do due diligence, and conduct a more thorough evaluation.” Then when the employees go back to conduct a thorough analysis of alternatives, business case, concept of operations and so on, only to be told, “what is taking you so long? You’re just getting bogged down in analysis paralysis—move on!”

I am sure there are many more examples of this where employees feel like they are in a catch 22, between a rock and a hard place, damned if they do and damned if they don’t. The point is that creating contradictions, throwing nifty clichés at employees, and using that to win points or get your way in the decision process, hurts the organization and the employees that work there.

What the organization needs is not arbitrary decision-making and double-bind messages that shut employees down. Rather, organizations need clearly defined, authoritative, and accountable governance structure, policy, process and roles and responsibilities that open it up to healthy and informed debate and timely decisions. When everyone is working off of the “same sheet of music” and they know what is professionally expected and appropriate to the decision-making process, then using clichés arbitrarily and manipulating the decision-process no longer has a place or is organizationally acceptable.

We can’t rush through decisions just to get what we want, and we can’t bog down decisions with obstacles, just because we’re looking for a different answer.

Sound governance will help resolve this, but also necessary is a leadership committed to changing the game from the traditional power politics and subjective management whim to an organization driven by integrity, truth, and genuine progress based on objective facts, figures, and reason. Of course, changing an organization is not easy and doesn’t happen overnight, but think how proud we can be of our organizations that make this leap to well-founded governance.

>What China’s Bullet Trains Can Teach Us About Governance

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One of the foundations of this great country is that we believe in respecting the rights of the individual. This belief is founded on the Judeo-Christian doctrine that every life is valuable and the loss of even one life is like the loss of an entire world.

The rights of the individuals are enshrined in the Bill of Rights that establishes what we consider our fundamental human rights, such as freedom of speech, press, religion, due process, eminent domain, and many others.

The flip side of the protection of individual rights—which is sacred to us—is that it may occasionally come at some “expense” to the collective. This can occur when those individuals who may be adversely affected by a decision, hinder overall societal progress. For example, one could argue that society benefits from the building of highways, clean energy nuclear plants, even prison facilities. Yet, we frequently hear the refrain of “not in my backyard” when these projects are under consideration.

In my neighborhood, where a new train line is proposed, there are signs up and down the street, of people adversely affected, opposing it—whether in the end it is good, bad or indifferent for the community as a whole.

So on one hand we have the rights and valid concerns of the individual, yet on the other hand, we have the progress of the collective. Sure, there are ways to compensate those individuals who are adversely affected by group decisions, but the sheer process of debate—however valuable and justified, indeed—may slow the overall speed of progress down.

Why is this an especially critical issue now?

In a high speed networked world with vast global competition—nation versus nation, corporation versus corporation—speed to market can make a great deal of difference. For example, the speed of the U.S. in the arms and space race with Soviet Union left just one global superpower standing. Similarly, many companies and in fact whole industries have been shut down because they have been overtaken, leapfrogged by the competition. So speed and innovation does matter.

For example, in the field of information technology, where Moore’s Law dictates a new generation of technology every two years of so, the balance of speed to modernization with a foundation of sound IT governance is critical to how we must do business.

Fortune Magazine has an article called “China’s Amazing New Bullet Train (it leaves America in the Dust!)”

China’s new ultra-modern rail system will be almost 16,000 miles of new track running train at up to 220 miles per hours by 2020. China is investing their economic stimulus package of $585 billion strategically with $50 billion going this year alone to the rail system. This compares with the U.S. allocating only $8 billion for high-speed trains over the next three years. Note: that the high speed Amtrak Acela train between Boston and Washington, DC goes a whopping average speed of 79 mph.

One of the reasons that China’s free market is credited with amazing economic progress—for example, GDP growth this year projected at 8.3% (in the global recession)—is their ability to retain some elements of what the military calls a “command and control” structure. This enables decisions to get made and executed more quickly than what others may consider endless rounds of discourse. The down side of course is that without adequate and proper discussion and debate, poor decisions can get made and executed, and individuals’ human rights can get overlooked and in fact sidelined. (Remember the shoddy school construction that resulted in almost 7000 classrooms getting destroyed and many children dying in the Earthquake in China in May 2008?)

So the question is how do we protect the individual and at the same time keep pace—and where possible, maintain or advance our societal strategic competitive advantage?

It seems that there is a cost to moving too slowly in terms of our ability to compete in a timely fashion. Yet, there is also a cost to moving too quickly and making poorly vetted decisions that do not take into account all the facts or all the people affected. Either extreme can hurt us.

What is important is that we govern with true openness, provide justice for all affected, and maintain a process that helps—and does not hinder—timely decisions action.

We cannot afford to make poor decisions—these are expensive—nor do we have the luxury of getting caught up in “analysis paralysis.”

Of course, there are many ways to approach this. One way is to continue to refine our governance processes so that they are just to the individual and agile for our society by continuing to simplify and streamline the decision process, while ensuring that everyone is heard and accounted for. Recently we have seen the use of new information sharing and collaboration technologies, like those provided through social media—wikis, blogs, social networks and more—that can help us to do exchange ideas and work together faster than ever before. Embracing these new technologies can help us to pick up the pace of the vetting process while at the same time enabling more people than ever to participate.

Perhaps social media is one of the only things faster than China’s new bullet trains in helping us to progress how we do business in the 21st century.