I Met The Swamp And It Is Us

Swamp.jpeg

So with the election came promises (and hope to some) to “drain the swamp” in Washington, D.C. and beyond. 


That means redefining the size, scope, and purpose of federal government.


It also means reducing regulations that stifle American business and competitive advantage, placing restrictions on lobbying, and imposing term limits on Congress.


Presumably, it also means addressing mounds of fraud, waste and abuse in the system (many examples of each are out there).  


So here is a funny true story from when I was traveling recently…


A gentleman is riding with me in the elevator and he turns to me to make chit-chat. 


He says, “Good morning. Where you from?”


I smile and respond, “Washington, D.C.,” and add proudly, “the nation’s capital!”


He then asks, “What do you do there?”


Feeling a little perky that morning and with the elevator ride about to come to a stop at the lobby, I quickly blurt out, “Oh, cleaning up the swamp.”


To which, the man responds with the sarcasm galore and probably a good dose of disdain, “Yeah right!” 


There was something so comical about this scene in which I sort of baited this guy and at the same time found the reaction that is all too likely throughout America.


Do people believe and are they committed that we really do the following:


– Change the status quo of big stumbling government


– Right the wrongs done by those who take advantage of the system, its power and big money


– Restrain the ginormous national debt that threatens to consume all of us


– Fairly and compassionately address the nation’s priorities including those for national security, prosperity, and well-being


– Drain the swamp from the horrendous creatures that dwell and thrive therein


And the capital is not built on a preexisting swamp, but it did come and grow, man-made, dark and deep, as a result of the greed and fear that drives too many, far too far. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Left-Handed Screwdriver

Left-handed Screwdriver.jpeg

So I’m not so sure what is so funny about a left-handed screwdriver…


Except of course that there is no such thing!


The same screwdrivers work in both the left and rights hands. 


Duh!


But that’s what it is with some people that like to call what they are doing innovation or out-of-the-box thinking.


When really, what’s new to them is just regurgitation of “what’s old is what’s new!”


We can’t just work harder, rather we need breakthrough thinking to work smarter. 


But how many times do you really see smarter happening versus just a different flavor of the month introduced to score points or mark some victory laps. 


Real innovation or transformation means making a new way to screw things together and not just screwing it with a different hand.


Yes, most innovation is really individual small steps that end up in aggregate, making a great leap for mankind. 


Occasionally, someone really does invent the smartphone–now that was smart!


Be careful buying that left-handed screwdriver or into that new methodology for accomplishing great things until you know that it really isn’t more snake oil sold from someone’s bullsh*t soapbox–and that it is from someone with a very big mouth and a very little brain. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

From Cradle To Grave

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It’s funny how in organizations talk about the lifecycle of people. 

From a full lifecycle perspective, it’s “cradle to grave!”

In terms of lifecycle on the job, it’s “hire to retire (or to fire).”

Really the lifecycles are intertwined. 

It starts with the cradle…we are born and go through a maturation process that focuses on our education and preparation for life. 

Then we get hired into our (hopefully) dream jobs, where we spend our careers until we retire–or if you mess up badly and get fired or decide to change career course–you may have to go back to “go” and “do not collect $200” and you get hired again for another career round. 

Eventually you retire and start your 2nd life in retirement, where please G-d, you have the health and prosperity to enjoy the fruits of your labor and your families. 

Ultimately, our lifecycle ends at the grave with the death of our bodies–our souls go on to Heaven and live forever basking in the light of the Almighty. 

Thus, the human capital lifecycle. 😉

(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)

Overcoming Resistance To Change

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So have you heard of the 20-50-30 Rule when it comes to change management?


20% of the people are open and friendly to change–they are your early adopters.


50% are fence sitters–and they hold a wait and see attitude. 


30% are resisters–these are the people that will be the roadblocks to change. 


_____


Total 100%


Some will resist openly and loudly. Others will disguise their resistance in a politically correct way.  And finally some may work subversively to block change. 


The keys to overcoming the resistance is by working through the head, heart, and hands model, helping people to understand the following:


Head (Intellectual) – What is changing. 


Heart (Emotional) – Why it’s changing (and what’s in it for me–WIIFM).


Hands (Behavioral) – How is it changing.


This means changing the mindset, motivating people, and shaping behavior to effect change. 


Change and resistance to change are facts of life, but how we approach it can either mean failure or amazing transformation. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Crazy World Of Work

Crazy World.jpeg

This was a funny sign. 


“You don’t have to be crazy to work here.
We’ll train you.”


Isn’t that the truth too often. 


Work can frequently be like “Crazy World!” 


This is a place where there is a convergence of dysfunctional organizational culture, poor leadership, a lack of solid processes and sound planning, and plenty of wacky naysayers and obstructionists who together can bring the workplace to a virtual standstill or even a bitter downfall. 


Yeah, we will train you to do what?


– Follow some dusty and archaic, nonsensical policies that haven’t been updated in 20 years.


– Force you into a mold of robotic groupthinkers who have abandoned any notion of exploration, discovery, innovation, and constructive change. 


– Do the minimum to get their paychecks, while staying off the grid and out of trouble, rather than satisfy in serving the mission and delighting their customers. 


This is perhaps why leaders frequently tout their credentials in transforming organizations, yet we still see endless legacies mired in status quo and a lack of any real results and progress. 


Lots of people talk the talk, but very few walk the walk, and that’s because we’ve trained them so well to work here. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Cloud Pleasing

Cloud Pleasing

Technology vendors have wised-up and are rushing to the cloud to give customers what they want. 


You want cloud?  


You got cloud!


Cloud Computing with the virtually infinite promise for flexible, cost-effective, on-demand computing–all centrally managed by the vendor–you can sleep easy at night, oh baby. 


CIOs love it. 


The only problem as everyone moves to the cloud is the promise of the cloud continues to fall short


Now how unpopular a thing to say is that? 


Take out the guillotine…


Seriously though, it was supposed to be flexible, but it isn’t so much as vendors contract with customers for multi-year deals and customers find switching vendors not quite so easy…anyone hear of vendor lock-in?


Also, cloud was supposed to be more cost-effective, but vendors still need to make their margins, so longer commitments, service bundling, minimum fixed costs, and variable month-to-month pricing–sure helps things add BIG DOLLARS for the cloud vendor. 


Then you have vendors that simply call everything cloud…ah, “cloud washing” that is.  If you think you are getting cloud (even if it ain’t so much so), yippee are you happy…you have drunk the cool-aid and it is sweet.


Technology leaders swooping into a new job want to come in with a bang…”Hey, look what I did to modernize, transform, reinvent, revolutionize…and save money too–thank G-d, they hired me.”


So cloud, cloud, cloud…it sounds so CLOUD PLEASING, I mean crowd-pleasing. 


Whether in the specific situation it’s better or not, that’s not the point, stupid. 


At least, it’s out of our hair–let the vendor worry about it!


One, two, three…everyone say “CLOUD!” 😉

Stack Theory Doesn’t Stack Up

Extraordinary People.jpeg

Christopher Mims’ article in the Wall Street Journal today on why big companies get disrupted by others doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. 

He discusses the “Stack Fallacy” of Anshu Sharma a venture capitalist that it “is the mistaken belief that it is trivial to build the layers above yours.”

Mims explains that the stack is like a “layer cake of technology”–where one layer is built on another.

Similar to the OSI technology model where there are architecture layers for physical, data, network, application and so on. 

Basically, Mims explains that tech companies can only invent at a single layer of technology (or below). 

But when companies try to invent up the stack, they fail.

Here’s why…

Mims says that companies despite their size and resources can’t innovate up the stack because they don’t understand the users there. 

But this doesn’t stack up to me. 

Companies can and do use their resources to study and understand what users want up the food chain and what they can’t easily build, they can acquire. 

Apple successfully went from a iPod and iTunes music player and song store to producing a highly sophisticated and integrated iPhone and Apps store where music is just an afterthought.

Similarly, IBM went from being primarily a mainframe and desktop company to being a top-tier consulting firm with expertise in cloud, mobile, social, artificial intelligence, and analytics computing. 

But it isn’t easy for a company to change. 

And to me, it’s not because they can’t understand what users want and need. 

Rather, it is because of something we’ve all heard of called specialization. 

Like human beings, even extraordinary ones, companies are specialized and good at what they are good at, but they aren’t good at everything. 

A great example of this was when NBA superstar, Michael Jordan, tried to take his basketball talents and apply it to baseball…he was “bobbling easy flies and swatting at bad pitches” in the minor leagues. 

As even kindergarteners are taught that “Everyone is good at something, but no one is good at everything.”

Companies have a specific culture, a specific niche, a specific specialization and expertise.

And to go beyond that is very, very difficult…as IBM learned, it requires nothing less than a transformation of epic proportions. 

So I think Mims is wrong that companies can’t undertstand what users want in areas up the innovation stack, but rather it’s a monumental change management challenge for companies that are specialized in one thing and not another. 

Welcome to the world of Apple after Steve Jobs and his iPhone and to the the recent 25% decline in their stock price with investors and customers anxiously waiting for the possible but not certain next move up the technology stack. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)