The Cup Runneth Over

Fountain

I took this photo today in Washington, D.C. near the Capital. 


It’s a really nice fountain…actually 3 double-fountains in a row. 


The top fountains run over into the bottom ones, which in turn runs over into the larger pool basin at the bottom. 


I like the contrast between the grey and white stone, the gold fountain, and the pewter basin with the water overflowing between them. 


As the water (a symbolism of life) continues unabated to run over in the fountain, so too, I pray that our good fortune is abundant and overflowing, and that we have more than we than enough for our needs, and plenty extra to share with others. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Live Stress Free, Almost

Live Stress Free, Almost

As we all know, stress is a killer–so you want to minimize it (if you can)!

There is a great little piece from CareerCast on the most and least stressful jobs out there in 2014.

From least stressful–audiologist.

To most stressful–enlisted military.

Anyway, to avoid stress–keep calm like the picture says, but also consider jobs with the following attributes:

– Desk job

– High growth potential

– Fewer strict deadlines

– Less travel

– Greater congeniality

– Non-hazardous

One question from the list of jobs…why be a taxi driver earning an average of almost $23,000 a year in one of the top 10 most stressful jobs, when you can be a hair stylist earning about the same and have the 2nd least stressful job out there?

So trade in your driver’s license and learn to give a great hairdo! 😉

(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)

Looking Forward, Backwards

Looking Forward, Backwards

Farhad Manjoo argues in today’s Wall Street Journal that “there’s plenty” of innovation going on, despite the grumblings that their isn’t.

His main argument is that “the smartphone and the tablet ‘are’ the next big things.”

Manjoo tells us to “grow up” and calls us “spoiled children,” because we are not satisfied with these and simple future enhancements of this.

He would have us accept that there won’t be “anything as groundbreaking in a generation.”

Well, looking back at past innovation and calling that as our current and future innovation is like looking back at our past successes and simply resting on our laurels as good enough.

Unfortunately, no business can rest on their past successes–they must constantly innovate to stay relevant in the marketplace and meet their growth targets for revenue, profit, market share, and customer satisfaction.

As they say in financial prospectuses, “past success is no guarantee of future success.”

Similarly, as individuals we do not just settle for past success, but we strive everyday to make a contribution, to learn, and to grow as long as we have the strength to try.

When we stop striving, we may as well be heading downhill in the cycle of life, because as we all know, “if you are not moving forward, then you are moving backwards.”

Life is not stagnant, and yesterdays innovations are not todays creative breakthroughs or tomorrows leaps forward.

The rate of innovation is no longer measured in generations in the 21st century–and for those who think it is, they would have us accept defeat in this highly global, competitive marketplace.

While we should not be greedy, why are we so ready to say good enough, instead of really critiquing ourselves (e.g. calling a dry spell, a dry spell) and continuing the tough journey into the future.

At least Manjoo cites incremental work in privacy, enterprise technologies such as cloud computing, and robotics as tech trends – so maybe there is still hope. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Lets Play Chicken

Lets Play Chicken

So probably everyone knows the game of chicken.

They play this game in the movie Footloose–driving these big tractors towards each other waiting to see who flinches, chickens-out first, and veers out of the way before the vehicles collide. The person who moves out of the way first is the “chicken” (although that person is probably pretty darn smart not to risk getting him/herself killed!)

An article in the Wall Street Journal (18 February 2013) on making friends by sharing, but not oversharing, reminded me of this.

Like two vehicles driving towards each other–making friends is about coming together by disclosing who you are and what you are about–finding and enjoying commonalties, respecting each others differences, and being able to interact in a mutually satisfying way.

Driving gradually and carefully, you can get to know someone by mutually sharing and connecting–first a little, and then building on that with some more.

Beware of disclosing too much, too fast–it can make another person uncomfortable–like you’re dumping, desperate, or maybe a little crazy!

At the same time, not being able to open up can make the other person feel that you don’t like or trust them or maybe that you are a little boring, shallow or that you are hiding something.

Of course, the chemistry has to be there and it’s got be reciprocal–both the feeling and the sharing–users and stalkers need not apply.
However, if things aren’t working out between the two people and they are on course for a head-on collision, someone has got to get out of the way–maybe that person is a chicken or perhaps they just know when it’s time to say goodbye.

Anyway, chickens can either end up doing the chicken dance or they can end up as roadkill–it all depends on how they approach the other chicken. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Satisfy or Suffice

Enlightenment

How many of you feel satisfied or are you left still somehow yearning and hungry?

Living in a time and place where materialism is a competitive and daily fact of life for–high paying jobs, big houses, fast cars, Ivy league educations, exotic vacations, fashion and jewelry “statements”, elegant restaurants, and lavish parties, –it is philiosophically and practical to ask satisfy or suffice.

If we live our lives to satisfy ourselves–then we tend to a society driven by one word, and one word only–“more!”  
Our appetites for material things that satisfy our senses are like a bottomless pit–to see beauty, to feel comfortable, to taste delight, to hear endless praise and envy over what we have achieved and accomplished in life–can these cravings ever really be satisfied?
With satisfaction, one of the key issues is that no matter how much we have accumulated or attained, it irks us to no end, if someone else has just a fraction more.  This is called relative deprivation–we have everything we need, but we still feel short-changed because someone else has more. It’s infinitely hard to be satisfied knowing that, because somehow we have failed…someone else is better off materially, and our interpretation often is that they are better innately than us and thus have gone further than we can or maybe deserve more on a spiritual level–either way another’s abundance, regardless of your own successes, can still mean you are a loser!
It’s funny, coming off the Metro and watching the mobs disembark from the train and race up the escalators, even when there are not a lot of people there…first one to the top is the winner; everyone else shlumps off somehow defeated afterward.  G-d, this has become a sick society–what difference does the 2.347 seconds make?
Educationally, collecting degrees and certifications has become another hobby for many, so that if you don’t have alphabet soup before and after your name, your frowned upon as just another ignoramus out there–as if the degree makes the person.
Another example, yesterday I heard that when getting engaged/married, the chic is that it is no longer enough to give a diamond ring to the young lady, now a matching bracelet is also part of the grand bargain or else you are not “keeping up with the Jones.”
The examples go on and we can all tell them from our specific lives of the endless rat races that we endure to try and not only make ends meet, but also to compete and avoid “the shame.”
So what’s the alternative?
Instead of trying to be satisfied, we can learn to suffice–to be happy with what we are blessed with. That doesn’t mean that you don’t try to do your best in life, you do!  But rather, you work hard and invest a reasonable amount of time, effort, money to achieve a goal and then you go on without beating yourself up over what you haven’t achieved.
In short, happiness is in saying enough (or like on Passover, Dayenu!).
To suffice, part of it is learning to differentiate between what is really important and what is, in the end, trivial. How important is it that you get the NEXT whatever in your life versus can you be more innately happy spending time doing things you enjoy with the people you really love.
Suffice–learn to balance the demands and needs of your life–grow beyond the mundane; the true test of life is with you yourself–achieving your potential–not how you do relative to others.
An article in Wired (November 2011) talks to this when it asks about going out and finding a soulmate, “Do you keep searching and hope something better will come along, or do you stop searching when you find something looks pretty good?”
This article, whether addressing the many commitment phoebes out there, or those just having a hard time finding Mr./Mrs. Right–whether in terms of accepting and living with others’ flaws or just learning to stop looking for someone prettier, smarter, more successful etc.
Wired suggests developing a baseline by dating “roughly” 12 people so that you can make an informed decision of the head and heart, but this can apply to education, career, home and all areas of your life–seek what is best for you, but also realize that we are all imperfect mortals and that only the heaven is for angels.
Suffice–do your very best in life and accept yourself for who you are and meet your destiny head-on–you can achieve happiness beyond the mere materialism and superficiality that cloud our societal judgements–this to me is enlightenment.
(Source Photo: here)

>Purpose Drives Productivity

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Enjoyed speaking with Francis Rose today on Federal News Radio (1500 AM) on the subject of employee motivation, especially in a challenging budgetary environment.
Overall I tried to convey the importance of managers communicating to people how very important they are to the mission.
Everyone has to eat, but without a sense of purpose, we feel lost.
Hope you enjoy this audio of the interview.
(Source Photo: Photobucket)

>Motivated by Progress

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There are all sorts of theories about what motivates people. The two most popular are Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Hertzberg’s Theory of Motivation.

Maslow (1954) believed that people fulfill needs from the lowest to the highest order in terms of physiological, safety, social, esteem, and self-actualization.

Herzberg (1959) understood that more specifically at work, there were five key motivators to job satisfaction: achievement, recognition, the work itself, responsibility, and advancement. Things like salary and working conditions were believed to not provide satisfaction, but could lead to job dissatisfaction.

An article in Harvard Business Review (January-February 2010) underscores Hertzberg’s belief that achievement is the greatest work satisfier of all, as the article states: “we now know what the top motivator of performance is…It’s progress.”

·Workers are energized when “they’re making headway in their jobs, or when they receive support that helps them overcome obstacles.”

·Workers are demoralized when “they feel they are spinning their wheels or encountering roadblocks to meaningful accomplishment.”

Bottom line is that most people generally want to work and be productive human beings: when we contribute positively to the world, we feel a purpose to life. Achievement and progress means that we somehow leave this world a little bit better than when we arrived, and the whole thing is not meaningless. The daily growing pains of life are not in vain—we are contributing to something greater—something that outlasts ourselves.

Recently, I read that only 45% of workers were satisfied with their jobs (based on finding from the Corporate Executive Board). Even in a horrible economy, people are not satisfied with a paycheck. They want to feel good about what they are doing and that they are doing something.

Something is getting in the way of people’s feeling of progress at work or their level of job satisfaction wouldn’t be the worst in decades.

The authors of the Harvard Business Review article state “the strongest advice we offer [to leaders] from this study…”scrupulously avoid impeding progress by changing goals autocratically, being indecisive or holding up resources.”

The point is that a leader is first and foremost an enabler for progress. If they are holding back their people, rather than helping them, we have dysfunctional leadership at its core.

So in simple terms—effective leaders must:

·VISION: Set and articulate a compelling vision/strategic direction for organization bringing their people into the process through genuine inclusion.

·DECISION: Make decisions with a reasonable and responsible level of analysis and consideration, but avoid analysis-paralysis, wavering, and indecision.

·EXECUTION: Give your people the authority, accountability, resources, training, and tools to execute or as the saying goes, “put your money where your mouth is.”

Progress and employee satisfaction will not be achieved with just one or two of the three: If the employees want to move forward on leadership vision, but they can’t get needed decisions to really execute, the vision is for all intensive purposes, dead on arrival. And even if employees have a vision and the needed decisions to operationalize it, but they can’t get the resources to really see it through, progress is slowed, stunted, or perhaps, not even possible at all.

Perhaps this is one reason for the high project failure rate in organizations that we’ve seen for years now resulting in cost overruns, missed project schedules, and requirements that go unmet.

Yes, workers will always seek job satisfaction, but its not just about more money, more benefits, more recognition, more advancement, like so many erroneously still believe. Rather, the Holy Grail to worker satisfaction is a leadership that knows how to let them really be productive.

I believe that true leadership success is measured in progress, and a sure sign of organizational progress is when employees feel productive. A good metric for “progress” is whether employees are engaged and (to put it simply) happy.

>Where’s the Satisfaction in Enterprise Architecture?

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Throughout history, people have labored and seen the fruits of their labor. Whether as hunter/gathers, farmers, or working on the assembly lines, with hard work, people have been able to see tangible progress and in a sense, savor the results of their work.

Today however, in an information society, we are too a great extent divorced from truly delivering products or services to the end-user.

The Wall Street Journal, 20 February 2008, reports “A Modern Conundrum: When Work’s Invisible, so are its Satisfactions.”

“In the information age, so much is worked on in a day at the office, but so little gets done. In the past people could see the fruits of their labor immediately: a chair made or a ball bearing produced. But it is hard to find gratification from work that is largely invisible…not only is work harder to measure, but it’s also harder to define success…The work is intangible, and a lot of work gets done in teams, so it’s difficult to pinpoint individual productivity.”

Homa Bahrami, a senior lecturer in Organizational Behavior and Industrial Relations at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business states: “Information-age employees measure their accomplishments in net worth, company reputation, networks of relationships, and the products and services they’re associated with—elements that are more perceived and subjective than that field of corn, which either is or isn’t plowed.”

As enterprise architects, we are in the business of providing information to enable better organizational decision-making. And unlike producing widgets or harvesting the season’s crops, architectural performance may seem hard to measure and their activities unsatisfying.

However, developing enterprise architecture based on a user-centric approach is actually very meaningful and satisfying. In User-centric EA, we develop only information products and governance services that have clear users and uses, and which benefits the organization in terms of enabling sound IT investments, reengineering business processes, and addressing gaps, redundancies, inefficiencies, and opportunities.

EA is a strategic, big picture view of the organization. It is a planning function and with the commitment of leadership can have an enormous influence on the future direction of the organization. This is a big responsibility for enterprise architects and is very satisfying work especially when cost savings are realized, processes improved, information needs met, business outcomes enabled with technology, security assured, and strategic objectives met.

So just because we’re working in information, it doesn’t mean that EA is invisible. It touches the lives of stakeholders across the business and technical domains of the enterprise.