Manage The Crisis and Don’t Exploit It

Crisis.jpeg

So I heard an interesting thought on crisis management:

“Never let a good crisis go to waste!”


Isn’t that frequently how politicians and lobbyists use the crisis, rather than deal with it. 


In certain cases, some have even been known to actually create the crisis for their ends!


Whether it’s some politicians calling for strict gun control when there is a mass shooting (perhaps infringing on other reasonable 2nd amendment rights) or it’s right to life advocates demanding an end to funding for planned parenthood when some bad people are caught selling fetal body parts and so on and so on.


Maybe these things are the right thing to do–in which case, a very bad event can end up being an impetus for much needed change and thus, can facilitate in transforming society and from that perspective, be a good thing!


But is the change really and necessarily the right thing to do…or is the crisis de jure just an excuse to get what some people wanted all  along.


– Use (exploit) the crisis.


– Maximize the momentum from the crisis.


– Leverage the emotions from the crisis.


– Promptly turn the tables on the issue.


– Leave all compromise and negotiation aside, and seize the moment.


The lesson here is not to just react, because a sudden and impulsive decision may end up being an overreaction and cause negative unintended consequences down the road.


The pendulum tends to shift and swing widely in both directions–neither extreme is good.


Instead well thought policy, use of common sense, maintaining reasonableness, looking at all sides, and a general middle of the road approach usually yields the best results for the most people.


Crisis management should be just that–managing the crisis; the policy should be fully reasoned both before and after. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Creative Washing Sign

Wash Hands.jpeg

Ok, this is not your typical handwashing sign.


Usually these signs that are mandated by health regulations in food establishments remind employees to wash their hands before returning to work.


Of course, given all the Clostridium, E. coli, Hepatitis, Listeria, Norovirus, and Salmonella out there, we know that unfortunately many food workers are not following these instructions very well…yes, yuck!


Here, someone “sanitized” the sign, and rubbed out the “h” and the top part of the “d” in hands and left the crude word, “anus.” 


Now employees must wash not their hands, but their anus (does that help in food preparation?)!


Perhaps, whoever did this are lobbyists for some sort of bidets in this country. 


Given all the political crap that goes on around this town, this may be a very good idea. 😉


(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)

Plastic Pigs

Garbage

So you’ve probably heard about this mammoth island of plastic garbage in the Pacific Ocean.


It’s between the West Coast and Hawaii. 


And it’s called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. 


Get this…


It’s about twice the size of Texas.


Now researchers are predicting that by 2050, our oceans will hold more plastic than fish!


“More than 8 million tons of plastics end up entering our oceans each year.” 


And we’re dumping the equivalent of one garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute.  

Just 5% of plastic waste gets recycled. 


So far there is a 165 million tons of plastic trash in the ocean right now. 


The plastic pieces can survive hundreds of years. 


We are making a darn mess of this planet. 


The 5 cent surcharge for plastic bags is a joke in this respect. 


Maybe ISIS actually won’t be the end of Western civilization, but plastic will be. 


Who’s paying off whom to keep this plastic money wagon going to poison our planet?  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

>Information: Knowledge or B.S.?

>With modern technology and the Internet, there is more information out there than ever before in human history. Some argue there is too much information or that it is too disorganized and hence we have “information overload.”

The fact that information itself has become a problem is validated by the fact that Google is world’s #1 brand with a market capitalization of almost $100 billion. As we know the mission statement of Google is to “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

The key to making information useful is not just organizing it and making it accessible, but also to make sure that it is based on good data—and not the proverbial, “garbage in, garbage out” (GIGO).

There are two types of garbage information:

  1. Incorrect, incomplete, or dated
  2. Misleading /propagandistic or an outright lie

When information is not reliable, it causes confusion, rather than bringing clarity. And then, the information can actually result in worse decision making, then if you didn’t have it in the first place. This is an enterprise architecture that is not only worthless, but is harmful or poison to the enterprise.

Generally, in enterprise architecture, we are optimistic about human nature and focus on #1, i.e., we assume that people mean to provide objective and complete data and try to ensure that they can do that. But unfortunately there is a darker side to human nature that we must grapple with, and that is #2.

Misinformation by accident or by intent is used in organizations all the time to make poor investment decisions. Just think how many non-standardized, non-interoperable, costly tools your organization has bought because someone provided “information” or developed a business case, which “clearly demonstrated” that is was a great investment with a high ROI. Everyone wants their toys!

Wired Magazine, February 2009, talks about disinformation in the information age in “Manufacturing Confusion: How more information leads to less knowledge” (Clive Thompson).

Thompson writes about Robert Proctor, a historian of science from Stanford, who coined the word “Agnotology,” or “the study of culturally constructed ignorance.” Proctor theorizes that “people always assume that if someone doesn’t know something, it’s because they haven’t paid attention or haven’t yet figured it out. But ignorance also comes from people literally suppressing truth—or drowning it out—or trying to make it so confusing that people stop hearing about what’s true and what’s not.” Thompson offers as examples:

  1. “Bogus studies by cigarette companies trying to link lung cancer to baldness, viruses—anything but their product.”
  2. Financial firms creating fancy-dancy financial instruments like “credit-default swaps [which] were designed not merely to dilute risk but to dilute knowledge; after they changed hands and been serially securitized, no one knew what they were worth.”

We have all heard the saying that “numbers are fungible” and we are also all cautious about “spin doctors” who appear in the media telling their side of the story rather than the truth.

So it seems that despite the advances wrought by the information revolution, we have some new challenges on our hands: not just incorrect information but people who literally seek to promote its opposite.

So we need to get the facts straight. And that means not only capturing valuable information, but also eliminating bias so that we are not making investment decisions on the basis of B.S.

>A Postmodernist Approach to Enterprise Architecture

>It’s a crazy world out there. Just about every argument a counter-argument, every theory a contrary theory, every point a counter-point: whether we are watching the Presidential debates, open session on Capitol Hill or at the United Nations, The Supreme Court or Court TV, bull or bear on the stock market, religious and philosophical beliefs, and more. Even what some deemed scientific “facts” or religious doctrine are now regularly debated and disputed. Some examples: Creation or “Big Bang,” global warming or cyclical changes in the Earth’s atmosphere, peak oil theory or ample supplies, right to life at conception or at some point of maturation, cloning and stem cells or not, criminal punishment or rehabilitation—it seems like there is no end to the argument.

So what are we to believe?

For those who are religious, the answer is simple, you believe what you have been taught and accept as the “word of G-d.” This is straightforward. However, the problem is that not everyone adheres to the same religious beliefs.

For those that believe in “following their hearts”, gut, intuition, then we have very subjective belief systems.

For those that only “believe what they see” or what is “proven”, then we are still left with lots of issues that can’t be proved beyond a doubt and are open to interpretation, critical thinking, teachings, or which side of the bed you woke up on that day.

Fortune Magazine, 27 October 2008, has an article on Saudi Arabia’s Aramco, “the state-owned national oil company…it’s daily profit is 21/2 times that of Exxon Mobil, the world’s most profitable publicly held company.” Aramco’s annual report contains details about “daily oil and natural gas production, the number of wells it drills, exports, refinery outputs, and more. The only problem: Since it contains no audited financial numbers, it’s hard to know what to believe.”

Similarly, “it warms readers not to listen to scaremongers spreading the ‘misperception’ that future supplies may not meet global demand. The world’s resources, it says are sufficient for well over a century—and when technological advances are factored in, for another 100 years after that.”

It’s hard to know who and what to believe, because usually those presenting “a side” have a vested interest in the outcome of a certain viewpoint. Hence all the lobbyists in Washington!

For example, Aramco and OPEC have a vested interest in everyone believing that there is plenty of oil to go around and stave off the research and development into alternatives energy sources. At the same time, those who preach peak oil theory, may have an interest in energy independence of this country or they may just be scared (or they may be right on!).

From an enterprise architecture perspective, I think the question of getting to the truth is essential to us being able to plan for our organizations and to make wise investment decisions. If we can’t tell the truth of a matter, how we can set a direction and determine what to do, invest in, how to proceed?

Of course, it’s easy to say trust but verify, validate from multiple sources, and so on, but as we saw earlier not everything is subject to verification at this point in time. We may be limited by science, technology, oppositional views, or our feeble brain matter (i.e. we just don’t know or can’t comprehend).

When it comes to IT governance, for example, project sponsors routinely come to the Enterprise Architecture to present their business cases for IT investments and to them, each investment idea is the greatest thing since Swiss cheese and of course, they have the return on investment projections, and subject matter expert to back them up. Yes, their mission will fail without an investment in X, Y, or Z and no one wants to be responsible for that, of course.

So what’s the truth? How do we determine truth?

Bring in the auditors? Comb through the ROI projections? Put the SMEs on the EA Board “witness stand” or take them to a back room and interrogate them. Perhaps, some water boarding will “make them talk”?

Many experts, for example, Jack Welch of GE and other high profile Fortune 500 execs, including the big Wall Street powerhouses (Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, AIG, Fannie/Freddie) call for asking lots of questions—tearing this way and that way at subordinates—until the truth be known. Well look at how many or most of these companies are doing these days. “The truth” was apparently a lot of lies. The likes of Enron, WorldCom, HealthSouth, and on and on.

So we can’t underestimate the challenge of getting to truth and planning and governing towards a future where argument and questions prevail.

Perhaps the answer is that truth is somewhat relative, and is anchored in the worldview, priorities, assumptions, and constraints of the viewer. From this perspective, the stock market crashes not necessarily or only because businesses are poorly run, but because investors believe that the bottom has fallen out and that their investments are worthless. Similarly, from an enterprise architecture perspective, the baseline/target may not be an objective set of “where we are” vs. “where we want to be,” but “how we perceive ourselves and are perceived by others now” vs. “how we want to be perceived in the future.”

This approach is not wholly new—this is the postmodern attitude toward the world that academics have been preaching for decades. What is unique is the application of postmodernism and relativism to the IT/business world and the recognition that sometimes to understand reality, we have to let go of our strict addiction to it.