Requirements, I Don’t Know

Requirements Management

This was a funny cartoon. 


Who are we?  


Clients!


What do we want?


We don’t know!


When do we want it?


Now!


This is like way to many IT projects…


The customer knows they need to do something, because of changing market conditions, internal (dys)functioning, arising competition, or external mandates and regulations. 


But when the IT project managers and business analysts interview and ask the customer what they want and need to address these…quite often they get blank faces and hands raised in circuitous, endless doubt. 


What do the customers really want?


For IT to define, solve, and make their problems go away–and by the way do it yesterday and without any extra / proportionate resources


For some IT “professionals” that may be a little lacking themselves, you end up getting half-assed solutions to half-baked requirements that accomplish nothing or perhaps even break things more.


Hence, the true miracle of technology–to read minds and deliver valuable solutions to problems that no one could fully define to begin with! 😉


(Source Cartoon: Roz Blumenthal @ Facebook)

Seriously Big And Out Of Order

Out Of Order

I took this photo in Washington, D.C. and I don’t know about you, but I hate when things are out of order.

We count on everything to be in normal working condition, and for life in general to function with at least a modicum of structure, process, and according to basic laws of nature. 

But these days, the world is seriously off-kilter and here are just a few examples:

– Russia, post the Cold War Soviet Union, isn’t supposed to do a blitkreig and just take over Crimea and fight an undeclared war in sovereign nation, Ukraine. Additionally, our vital economic partner, China, presumably wouldn’t have near unfetterd access to our industrial and government secrets, including the personnel records of the entire Federal workforce. 

– The major world powers comprising the P5+1 normally wouldn’t treat Iran deferentially and as a negotiating equal or even more than than that with near open negotiations and crucial concessions, especially when dealing with no less than the proliferation of nuclear weapons of mass destruction. 

– Terrorist organizations such as ISIS, Hezbollah, Hamas, Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda, and more wouldn’t be taking over swathes of the Middle-East, Africa, and Asia, and we are not sure what our strategy even is or whether we have one yet. 

– Advanced industrialized nations wouldn’t be polluting themselves and the rest of the world towards the environmental catastrophic brink all the while denying that our lifestyle is not sustainable and that global warming even exists. 

– Smart democratized nations wouldn’t be living incessantly beyond their means and borrowing themselves into national debt oblivion–from Greece to Spain, Portugal, and Italy, and right here in the United States of America. 

– The Center for Disease Control doesn’t handle deadly biological pathogens callously and negligently with the potential for a massive lethal outbreak, while admitting to a serious pattern of safety lapses.

– Medicine isn’t just another “business and medical treatments for the sick shouldn’t cost $250,000 a year for a regiment of one or two pills a day, medical professionals don’t simply extend quantity of life without weighing it’s quality, and those in hopeless cases with severe pain and suffering wouldn’t be forced to go on “living.”

– The richest 1% of the world can’t truly hold more than 50% of the world’s wealth, live in mega mansions and drive fleets of cars, yachts, and planes, while masses of people are malnourished, diseased, homeless or in substandard living conditions.

No life is not perfect and certainly, even those perfectionists among us wouldn’t expect everything is be in 100% working order all the time–things break down, accidents and mistakes occur, and sh*t happens–but when life is getting shamelessly more out of order than in order than we need to be asking ourselves some serious and potentially life-altering questions, like what the heck is going on around here? 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Don’t Just Hire Another You

Donkey
So the corporate cat is out of the bag…



The New York Times confirms that “more than 80% of employers worldwide named cultural fit as a top hiring priority,” where cultural fit is a sugarcoated synonym for hiring others like themselves!



Your resume influences whether you get an interview, but then “chemistry”–personality (“not qualifications”) takes over–“like you were on a date.”



Often cited reasons for hiring someone:



– Someone you would enjoy “hanging out” with, and “developing close relationships with.”



– Those with “shared experiences,” alma maters, and pedigrees–including “hobbies, hometowns, and biographies…and even “those who played the same sport.”



What about diversity?



Well apparently, it’s still an “old boys network” out there, even though diversity has been found especially important for “jobs involving complex decisions and creativity,”  and so as not to become “overconfident, ignore vital information, and make poor (and even unethical) decisions.”



No doubt, personality and values can also be important in getting along with others in the group–even a few jerks on the team, can create plenty of havoc, discord, and dysfunction. 



Maybe after meeting the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA) requirements, one of the litmus tests should be not whether the person is the same as us, but whether they are moral and decent human beings that can act appropriately with others.  



Not an easy thing to judge from some interviews, testing, or even reference checking–even when these are done well, there are still quite a number of hiring surprises that happen.



Or as they say about marriage, you don’t really know the person until you wake up with them in the morning. 



There are also more extensive background checking that can help vet employees, such as in the Federal system, where many sensitive positions require an in-depth security clearance review process that looks at everything from criminal background, financial responsibility, psychological stability, national loyalties, and more. 



We need to know who we are dealing with, not intrusively, but responsibly for good hiring decisions. 



Honestly, you don’t just want to hire the candidate that just looks good, like the pretty girl with no personality or a hideous disposition. 



To be clear, there should never be ANY hiring biases in the workplace–conscious or unconscious. 



Hiring mangers should make sure the person they are hiring is excellent in terms of the KSAs, has a broad set of terrific references, and can reasonably act like a mensch under a broad set of circumstances–the last one is the hardest one to ensure. 😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

A Political Teddy Bear

Teddy Bear

Thought this was an awesome photograph.


Taken on the Washington, D.C. Mall…


You can see the Capitol of the United States in the background.


The gate is surrounding the construction being done.


On the fence is a Teddy Bear–representing so many of our national challenges–sort of just hanging there helpless.


This political bear looks like he’s clutching for dear life, but unfortunately he is left hung out to dry as we just keep chugging away…but where is the real progress? 


– ISIS and radical Islam is still growing stronger.


– Iran continues building toward a nuclear WMD.


– China and Russia are “becoming [ever more] aggressive as they perceive U.S. pulling back.”


– North Korea achieves capability for a “nuclear ICMB.”


– Cyber insecurity is a “real and growing threat.”


– There is a growing danger of a catastrophic EMP attack with a “staggering human cost.”


– Immigration crisis remains in “limbo.”


– Economic growth is “grinding to a halt.”


– National deficit is “projected to skyrocket over next decade.” 


– American economic competitiveness is in ongoing “slow decay.”


– U.S. education “still lagging” significantly in science and mathematics. 


– Life expectancy in U.S. ranks 26th, “right behind Slovenia.”


This doesn’t mean that good things aren’t continuing to happen especially with innovation despite all the gridlock…there is the Apple Watch (ok, the jury is still out on that one too).


Why don’t we let the bear down gently please. 😉


(Source Photo: Minna Blumenthal)

Shut Up, Pleez!

Microphone

Some people just don’t know when to turn down the volume or shut it off, altogether. 


Perhaps they don’t have enough to do, are craving attention, trying to make a name for themselves, are plain ‘ol destructive, or are simply acting the fool and looking for their next victim.


But they have to get into everyone else’s business, telling them how to do their jobs, taking over and hostage any meeting they can shove their way into with their private agendas, emailing everyone and their mother with their henpecking of the day, and demanding their needs are the priority and rises up over everyone elses–no matter whom or what else is going on. 


These people think they have an open mic and they are going to grab it, hold it, and never let it go. 


You beg them to stop, to control themselves, to work out their issues constructively, to give others a chance, to get in line, to let you do your job and they should do theirs, to get some situational and personal awareness, but rather than putting the mic down….


No, they see your calm and rationale requests for peace as squirming capitulation and the opportunity to hit you again and again. 


Everyone else has already given up and just won’t respond or even acknowledge the Chicken Little screaming over and over again “The sky is falling”–when it isn’t, and when so much important work is getting done by very hardworking and good people, who know how to act professionally. 


The kids nowadays say it straight up, “shut your pie hole!”


And that is really such a good idea. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

10 Reasons In Just 1 Week To Fear Government Breakdown

Chaos

When I saw this in the store, I knew it was a true sign of the times, as they say. 


When the government that is supposed to sustain order and usher in social and economic progress is dysfunctional and broken, instead we have:


“Chaos, Panic, [and] Disorder”


Here’s some news highlights from just this last week:


SPREADING BASE OF WORLDWIDE TERRORISM


1) ISIS murdered 137 and wounded over 300 in suicide bombings at mosques in Yemen.


2) Al Qaeda / Islamic State killed 23 mostly European tourists and injured over 50 at attack on the National Bardo Museum in Tunisia.


3) Iraq’s battle to take back Tikrit from ISIS slows as ISIS continues to hold territory in Iraq and Syria larger than many countries–this after the last U.S. troops left Iraq in 2011. 


AGGRESSIVE POWER AND LAND GRABS:


4) Russia annexes South Ossetia from Georgia, just a year after annexing Crimea from Ukraine.


5) China starts up the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) with support from key European Countries as well as Australia and South Korea, challenging American dominance via the International Monetary Fund (IMF)–this shortly after China surpasses America as the world largest economy.


PROLIFERATION OF WMD:


6) Iran says “Nuclear deal within reach,” while their neighbors in the Middle East shutter and warn of impending nuclear arms race.


FORESAKING STALWART ALLIES AND MIDDLE EAST PEACE:


7) The Administration threatens to back United Nations against Israel, imposing a 2 state solution rather than a negotiated peace and security for the region. 


ECONOMIC MESS:


8) U.S. economic forecast by the Fed was downgraded to just 2.5%, despite years of near-zero interest rates that were supposed to spark growth, but instead has simply driven stocks into overdrive and set us up for another bursting of the financial bubble


HEALTHCARE SHAMBLES:


9) Upcoming Supreme Court decision on Obamacare could see 8 million people lose subsidies and ultimately their health insurance coverage.


ENVORNMENTAL CRISIS:


10) 2014 as the hottest year on record and 13 of the 14 hottest years are in the 21st century so far, this as even Chinese officials acknowledge looming fallout ahead in terms of climate change and disasters


If this is just one (more) week with the current breakdown of government,  those causing it all, as the sign states, can proclaim:


“My Work Here Is [Almost] Done.”
 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Be Relevant, Live!

Irrelevant
“Hello Irrelevant. My name is Andy.”



The photo above was taken today near a prominent university in Washington, D.C. 



When our youngsters in the Capital of the United States–the holders of future creativity and energy are feeling irrelevant–we as a country are in serious trouble. 



Yet, don’t we all feel irrelevant at times?



We see and hear so much that is somehow wrong in the world and feel powerless to stop it, change it, or do anything about it that really makes a difference. 



Everyday we are witness to people’s personal misdeeds that should never be done, let alone contempalted; large, medium, and even smaller organizations doing the wrong thing for profit or power; and governments making decisions for political reasons and not common sense reasons, or for the good of the people. 



And how do we feel in all this — relevant or irrelevant? 



Can we as people endowed with G-d’s lifeforce and heavenly spirit, formulate a position that touches people’s hearts and minds to do the right thing for the right reasons–and can we speak it articulately enough, loud enough, convincingly enough to make a genuine difference?



Just as a single example in today’s Wall Street Journal, an editorial about Yucca Mountain, the place designated for nuclear waste disposal–that is supposed to meet safety requirements for the next “million years” (I think most of us would be happy if we achieve even half that estimate)–and has already cost us 30 years of study and $15 billion, but yet continues to remain stuck in a politcial quagmire–why?



I beleive we can all think of numerous health, safey, and wellbeing issues affecting us, our families, communities, and this country that are are in a similar state of paralysis and dysfunction. 



Why can’t we move forward–is there no one relevant out there anymore?



We can’t afford to let ourselves sink into feelings of despair, inadequancy, or irrelevancy to the great tasks at hand–whether from things like Ebola, ISIS, or financial meltdown. 



We must find our inner voices, our moral rectitude, and our courage to speak truth to power, to stand firm for right against wrong.



It’s understable to feel irrelevant, but it’s not sustainable to show it. 😉 



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Speak Up or Shut Up

Shut_up_vs_speak_up_organizati

We’ve all been there–organizations that are run by the king or queen and their proverbial gang of 6 or 7 or 8 or 9.

These are the organizations that are dominated by powerful, but narcissistic leadership (notice I do not call them leaders–because they are not).

According to Forbes, (11 January 2012) in an article entitled Why Narcissistic CEOs Kill Their Companies, in these organizations, the c-suite is dominated by those showing four narcissistic personality traits:

Exploitative–They are in charge and everyone else had better respect–or better yet worship–them. Typically they are surrounded by “yes men” and eager beavers, ready to please at just about all costs.

Authoritarian–They insist on “being the center of attention,” they always know better, are always right even in the face of evidence to the contrary, and with their people, it’s their way or the highway.

Arrogant–They are full of themselves and usually something else 🙂 and believe they are superior and therefore entitled to their positions of power and stature.

Self-Absorbed–They admire and and are preoccupied with themselves, and not focused on what’s ultimately good for the organization, the mission, and its people.

In such organizations, and with such pitiful leadership, generally we find cultures of fear and what Harvard Business Review (January-February 2012) says are organizations where people “are afraid to speak honestly.”

In these dysfunctional organizations with inept leadership, the workforce is stunted–they cannot genuinely contribute or grow and where organizational candor, trust, and collaboration is low, organizational performance is predictably poor.

HBR suggests that greater candor and sharing is possible by “breaking meetings into smaller groups,” assigning people to “notice and speak up when something is being left unsaid,” and to “teach ‘caring-criticism'”–where input is provided constructively and not personally attacking and where honest feedback is viewed as “generous, rather than critical.”

I think these suggestions may help organizations that are fundamentally well-run by caring and professional leaders, but when narcissists and power mongers rule the day, then the culture is not speak up, but rather shut up.

One of the things that I have been fortunate to experience and learn is that diplomacy from the top-down goes a long way in creating a professional and productive work culture.

When people are given respect and the freedom to speak up constructively, when they can work in true-teaming environments, and when relationships matter more than winning the day, then the workforce and all the individuals therein have the opportunity to grow to their potential. In speak uporganizations, people can voice their opinions, provide valuable input, and contribute to the mission–both the people and the organization thrive.

In contrast, when the workplace is shut up, because of narcissistic and poor leadership, the workforce is essentially shut down–they are in essence muzzled in speech and ultimately in deed. These organizations choke off their own talent and lifeblood, while their head swells from the arrogance and power at the top.

Diplomacy is a skill not only in international relations, but in life and in the workplace, and diplomatic leaders are notnarcissists trying to wield and hold power, but rather polished and professional leaders who foster a culture of speak up and team up–they are ready to take their organizations and people to new levels of productivity, growth, and meaning.

Busting The Organizational Bunkers

Swiss_bunker

There is a law in Switzerland that every citizen has to have quick access to a bomb shelter and that all new residences be outfitted with these. 

According to the Wall Street Journal (25-26 June 2011), there are over 300,000 swiss bunkers with enough room “to shelter all 7.6 million citizens” and with 1 million to spare!
Yet, the Swiss continue to add 50,000 new spots a year in the bomb shelters.
Note, these are not just a proverbial hole in the wall shelter, but bomb bunkers able to withstand the “impact of a 12-megaton explosion at a distance of [only] 700 meters (765 yards)”–this is 800 times the energy discharged in the bombing of Hiroshima!
So the Swiss are very serious about sheltering themselves.
According to Swiss Info Channel, this preoccupation began in the 1960s with fear of nuclear attack and soviet invasion. Hence the slogan at the time, “Neutrality is no guarantee against radioactivity.” 
Despite the high cost of these shelters and the end of the Cold War, the Swiss hold dear to their shelters to protect against the variety of new dangers out there from terrorist’s dirty bombs to nuclear/chemical/biological accidents, and natural disasters–and the recent events with Fukushima only served to reinforce those beliefs. 
The WSJ points out, preparedness comes “second nature” to them–they popularized the Swiss pocket knife, they still have a mandatory military draft for men, and aside from the U.S. and Yemen, they have more guns per capita than anyone else out there. 
I find their obsession with security fascinating, especially since they are a neutral country and haven’t had a major conflict for about 200 years.  
Perhaps, the Swiss as a small country surrounded by Germany, France, Italy, and Austria that were pummeled in World Wars I and II, witnessed enough bloodshed to be forever changed.
It reminds me of organizations with defective cultures, where employees see others beaten down so often and so long, they simply learn to keep their mouths shut and their heads down. They have in a sense learned to “shelter in place.”  
Of course, being prepared to duck when something is thrown at you is a good thing, but when you are perpetually stuck in a ducking stance, then something is wrong. 
I admire the Swiss and the Israeli’s propensity to prepare and survive, when they are the David’s amidst the Goliath’s. 
However, in an organizational context, I am concerned when I see so many employees hiding in shelters, afraid to speak up and contribute, because they have been marginalized by broken organization cultures. 
The organization is not the place for bunkers, it is the place for collaboration and productivity.
(All opinions my own)
(Photo Source: Facts Worth Knowing)