Great Resource on Inclusive Communities and Workplaces

Yes I am biased on this one.  I got to Pittsburgh in 1992 (along with other students studying their Master’s at the Heinz School, now Heinz College, at Carnegie Mellon University).

Arrival was an adjustment as it is anywhere.  Those of us used to large cities did all our unpacking and moving first looking forward to have a late night leisurely dinner at a local restaurant.  Unspoken rule at the time: all kitchens closed at 10pm!  Ravenous students cranky and searching for meals gave some pretty tart responses when told we could not eat because the kitchen was closed. Yes, we actually complained vociferously to the university.

Pittsburghers have that quiet Midwestern way to them.  They were equally perplexed that we were so upset.  No grandiose promises were made just, “this is what you want is it?”  We quickly learned that we were called foreigners (i.e. not from Pittsburgh).   This made some of us who were already called foreigners elsewhere wonder if we were closer to Martians than human (there is Mars, PA after all). Those of us who stayed after graduation were invited to meetings and asked to share our ideas.  We kept talking wondering, when will change truly happen?

Then all of a sudden, my personal note to self says 2005, things were different!  There was not a lot of anything but there was just enough of everything.  One could invite friends from anywhere in the world and find something to make them feel at home (food, a shop, a community….).  Our friends started visiting and asking, why have you been complaining all these years? This place is lovely!

When I moved to San Diego in 2010 I could no longer say it is because there is anything wrong with Pittsburgh.  It’s a beautiful city and is increasingly diverse.  My reason for moving was something no one can change (weather – cold induced asthma that turns to bronchitis below 50F is not a geographic issue, it’s a personal issue).

I tell this story not to compare Pittsburgh and San Diego (they are two completely different places).  I tell this story to give hope.  When community development efforts are underway, it is often hard to keep sight of the end game.  People get demoralized and wonder, will all the work we are doing ever pay off?  Pittsburgh stands as a resounding YES!  Regions can rebuild themselves (even after a massive economic collapse).

Pittsburgh survived the collapse of the Steel Industry and has pulled through the global financial crisis well.

“Pittsburgh’s metro was the only one with positive income growth, increasing 2.1 percent.”

The new buzz word might be Thriving but in Pittsburgh, resilience is Vibrant!

Celebrating the Human Machine

Man as Industrial PalaceMy professional focus is knowledge and process management.  As a result, when I hear doomsday predictions forecasting a world where human talent is no longer necessary, I pay attention.  I love machines! My computer, my washing machine, my microwave.  However, none of these replace what I can do on my own, they just increase by efficiency when I need high speed or large quantities (i.e. mass production).  If asked why I don’t believe the doomsday forecasts, the answer is simple:

Machines are oriented to perfection.  Humans are oriented to progress.  

Counterpoint: yes but there are so many defective humans that don’t follow this principle.

Rebuttal: and there are many defective machines plus most do not last 40 to 80 years.

Question: what is driving the business obsession with machine automation?

Answer: cost.  Time is literally money and yes we do measure these things.

A video is worth more than a picture:

The cost of waiting

The more we make without defects, the more we sell

The shorter the travel time, the faster we can get goods to market

Question: if machines are so much faster, why do we need humans?

Answer: they still cannot match the human brain

So, what are workplace tasks humans can do better?

Smell (women love perfumes)

Building, digging, typing, opening things

Forklifts that go anywhere


Beyond scaffolding

Modular pulleys

Precision athletcis

Triumph over all obstacles

Humans decide what to do with information

and, to my knowledge, even self-emulating robotic machines are not creative enough to come up with drawings like Fritz Khan and other artists.

Lean philosophy is about improving flow.  One thing we can do to improve human flow (and longevity) is reduce stress.  Here is a Total Productive Maintenance tip for Human Machines:

Set environments to Zero Stress: Stress has cascading effects from one human machine to another.

Most importantly, not everything that is critical and valuable is quantifiable.

Liberal Learning and Human Capabilities

Ultimately, the control is ours to loose or to keep.  If we build a machine it is up to us to determine its use.  What is the utility in creating our own planned obsolesce?  Progress is predicated on adjustment and we can set the pace of adjustment so that all members of our species can benefit from the progress we create through automation.

The choice is entirely ours….


April 30, 2004 addition

Humans can look at each other’s LinkedIn posts and share cool ideas.  This video epitomizes machine perfection and human progress in tandem.

Evolution of the Formula 1 Pit Stop

Abandoning the Culture of Blame: Accepting our limitations is the first Step…

Having lived in different countries I hesitate to broadcast conditions as absolute because what seems like absolute fact in one country is often absolute heresy in another.

Understanding how our habitual lens causes problems:

We all have strong egos but we have different forms of manifesting them (eg dominant ego, compliant ego, inquisitive ego, avoidance ego).  Often times egos also manifest in reaction to the surrounding environment (eg how can a person be compliant at home and intransigent at work? Their adaptive response varies based on the level of comfort and safety they are experiencing – we become reactive when we feel threatened and compliant when we feel secure). Threats may not be obvious. Anything that pushes us out of our comfort zone (natural state) or our habitual zone (what we’ve developed routinized coping mechanisms for) is a threat because it forces us into the zone of holy terror (the unknown, the untried, the unreliable).

Following is a depiction of the above statement:

Problem Solving Coaching tool - Framework Diagram

Problem Solving Coaching tool - Framework Zones
Two frequent blame games in modern parlance are: “not supportive” and “not accountable”. These are extremely destructive precepts because, while easy to use as red flags, they never create solutions. Both are symptoms of the same thing: goal and expectation incongruence (there are differing perspectives on goals and expectations that need to be reconciled). A psychological contract has either been broken or has not yet been created.

Psychological contracts cannot be reduced to writing because (a) nobody has that much time, and, (b) they are filled with tenuous norms that are generational, group oriented and situational (also known as hidden rules). Failing to recognize this leads to implications of malice where malice does not exist and is not intended. I will take the “African” example (Africa is a continent with 53 countries that are as different from each other as the US and Bolivia but for some reason we get treated as “a country” which must mean there is more social cohesiveness than we are given credit for).

During colonial times, if a colonial person refused to sign a contract it was a matter of honor and integrity. If an African refused to sign a contract the African was a liar and a cheat. If a colonial brought forth hidden rules they were to be treated as superior and adhered to (or Africans would be killed for non-compliance even though this was one’s own land/home and the rules being imposed were foreign). If an African brought forth hidden rules these were vulgar and backward and needed to be converted to “civilization.” Yes Africans practiced warfare but in every African culture I have come across are rules for what is now called “deliberative democracy.” This “discovery” is an integral part of tribal traditions previously labeled backwards and childish.  Ironically, elders would say naturally, these discarded and belittled systems are now proving more effective resolution and deliberative mechanisms than the imposed Western “civilities.”  Here are two examples of deliberation and dispute resolution in a traditional context.

Presented with cheating written contracts imposed by brute force, the only way to win was to change the social norms of interaction. Hence, the one thing all entities were professing must be avoided: deceit, emerged as a survival trait with each side trying to out do the other “for security reasons.” Colonials were blanketly branded by Africans as lying abominations.  Africans were blanketly branded by colonials as lying savages.  The red flags raised over centuries: “not supportive” and “not accountable.”  No room was made for a reconciliation of the unknown, i.e. the hidden rules and psychological contracts that governed (and continue to govern) the behavior of each.  Somehow we are not any closer to “supportive” and “accountable” which is a state both sides very much want to reach. The “solution” talk about failed leaders, failed systems…  Yes, the failure is evident so why keep directing energy towards failure when the same time and words can be redirected to talking about and studying successive accomplishments? Many little accomplishments lead to big success in the same way many little inconsistencies lead to catastrophic failure. If failure is not what we want, why spend more time examining it than we spend examining success? The result speaks for itself and analyzing failure persistently is an avoidance mechanism. Easier to ruminate in what went wrong and pontificate about what should be done (instead of discussing what is getting done) than to overhaul oneself in a direction that is different from what one is used to.

Moving from Blame to Acceptance:

When it comes to pontification, I am not The Holy See nor A Holy See. This is not to doubt or deny Holy gifts. I just know that Holy illumination is not mine and I’m perfectly happy with the gifts I do have. So, I leave pontification for pontifs. I am oppositionally defiant when challenged (brutally so when challenged forcefully) but that does not mean I am unwilling to learn. Over 43yrs I have learned that 90% of conflict I’ve experienced in my life is rooted in psychological contract discrepancies.

There are two types:

1. Species differences – Africans talk in terms of nature and I will do the same. Lions are not ants so you cannot expect them to behave the same way even if the ant we’re to look like a lion. In Puerto Rico we talk in terms of flaura and fauna: don’t ask the oak tree for pears.  In Western parlance things need to be put into tests and statistical systems so the one I’ve found that is closest to what I grew up with is the Path Elements Profile (PEP)™.  You can’t ask the Wind to behave like the Earth. Yes there are other tools that give you more resolution:

  • moderate resolution on personality, high on learning and work styles DISC and Prism;
  • high resolution on personality and social behavior, moderate on learning and work styles: Myers Briggs and Essentials.

In general I look for tools that stay away from personality archetypes AND nothing beats talking to a person face-to-face to find out what a person is truly like.  Can I force you to accept this as immutable? No, and it’s not meant to be; limited knowledge provides insight not absolute fact and, since I’m not omniscient, I use what I have while knowing its limitations. Will I spend any time developing “change” systems to get people to behave differently from what they innately are? No. Are there those who will? Yes. Do I interact with them? No. In my opinion they waste energy and I need every single drop of mine so I run from them like I would the bubonic plague. This is quite natural (prey flees from predators because getting caught by one means death in this case, psychological and emotional death).

2. Norms differences – these are NOT rational, they are habitual. For those of us who have grown up in mixed cultures or lived extensively outside our culture of origin you know the accusation: you are not TRUE xyz! Well biologically I am (rational) so what is your real (irrational) argument based on? Well you don’t behave like one.  Ahhh! Well, sorry, I can’t! Behavior is an adaptive response to environmental stimuli and I’ve been in a different environment from you. This is true even for identical twins.

Those in Eastern Europe and Eurasia laugh that they have lived in 5 different countries without ever leaving their house. As a person, I’ve experienced something equivalent. The same me and behavior is heralded as the epitome of success and model in one group but chastised as troublesome and incoherent in another (for the record, I’m referring to work and instructional environments where whites are dominant and there is a mix of disciplines and location, as defined by geographic region, is the same; thus many factors that could lead to differing cultural interpretations are controlled for).  Hence when I see “not supportive” or “not accountable” labels now I just laugh. My internal reaction: quit your BS and put your hidden agenda on the table so we can debate it (vociferously if needed). However, I’ve also learned that stating this leads to more conflict with the very types of people I’m trying to avoid conflict with. So, I’ve learned that demanding transparency threatens others (not everyone because there are many who say, oh Thank God, I was praying I could have a real talk with you!) and is met with vehement oppositional force even when it is the solution to the avoidance trap.

For those of us eager to openly negotiate hidden agendas, here’s the other piece I’ve learned.  We cannot control (including reach consensus on) what we don’t understand. As exhausting as the process is, keep asking questions that deepen mutual respect and understanding until the consensus emerges on its own. The challenge: there is no set time frame for this (it could take 5min to 50yrs!). This is the African method of negotiation and why meetings seem to be unproductive.  From my Puerto Rican side I’ve learned that, whether we like to admit it or not, everyone has a need to give “a show.” Some are operatic. Others are mimes. Some comedic. Some use science projects. We need others to see how we are interpreting and understanding them as things are unfolding. This is where Africans tend to differ from other cultures I’ve experienced. They reflect in silence or in group seclusion and only come back for “show” when things are ready. I been reamed for this by some teachers and some bosses. You must show me your work as you are working on it! How else will I know you are not cheating or that you understand? Well, 1. If you did a good job of teaching/giving instructions I must understand so if you’re in secure about what you did that’s your problem not mine (see how easy the blame game is!). 2. I learn best by talking to others so I have been consulting with peers and other experts to figure out how to best integrate what you expect with how I approach things.  3. Showing piecemeal results is a double edged sword. One can show a result and get 1,001 additional instructions/corrections on something that will turn out perfectly fine without them.

I remember one instructor who went to war with me years ago because I refused to use outlines for my paper. Other instructors became a buffer between the two of us because communication was degrading rapidly.  One instructor in the buffer group told me: we need some pointers that your research is headed in the right direction. My reply: why can’t I just give you drafts? The consensus became: don’t write more than 2 pages without our review and input. The process was painfully slow for all involved BUT still got done on time AND the end result was something good that none of us (including myself, least of all the instructor who was adamant about outlines) expected.

The lesson: there is no ONE right way. What is best varies by situation and individual. I had peers who outlined every part of their paper before they wrote it (e.g. every 2 pages were preceded by an outline). They would submit both for review.  We got the same distinguished paper merits. The wisdom of the buffer instructors was the ability to see the virtues and merits of both approaches and re-design a process so it accommodated both needs.  This is the secret in getting to “supportive” and “accountable.”

I have long been looking for this type of buffer in the professional world. It is emerging in the title of Scrum Master. I’ve also seen it in organizations as Process Owners.  On the battlefield this is similar to the role of Quartermaster (similar because it’s not exactly the same but Quartermasters ensure that everyone has what they need in order to accomplish the mission).

These are people with a gift for developing processes and who love to use that gift to be the glue that holds things together. In  close to 20yrs of management consulting, every time I see heightened conflict or process failure, this role is missing (just like I would have never finished my paper without the buffer instructors).  We know that machines need technicians to keep them properly calibrated and functioning at maximum productivity. People need technicians who can do the same.

One wouldn’t use a jack hammer to open a can of beans. If jack hammers had emotions, they would be irate at being used to open an 15oz can when they are designed to break concrete. Nobody would think of blaming the jack hammer for not being a good tool to open a can of beans. However, we think nothing of forcing people into situations that are not aligned with their natural talents and affinity.  When they react we accuse them and call them bad employees, bad managers, bad leaders. Causing rage by blaming others has become “the norm.” The goal is to “help others grow by being controversial.”

The reality: effectively managing the complexity of interests, motivations, skills and aspirations AND keeping everyone happy/feeling fulfilled is the root cause challenge (the problem is also the solution). It doesn’t matter if the group is 5 or a multi-national of 30,000.  The issue isn’t competition. The issue is fear of loss: how do I give everyone what they want without losing what I want?   This is what triggers the “not supportive” and “not accountable” red flag.

Resetting the Dialog:

Question: how does one give everyone what they want without losing what one wants?

NOTE: you don’t is NOT an option and accepting you don’t is NOT a solution. Never thinking leads to never fixing.

Recommendation: study and share effective methods/processes for  managing the complexity of interests, motivations, skills and aspirations AND keeping everyone truly happy/feeling fulfilled.

Aspiration Management is one body of research that can help with this endeavor.

Collaborative cultures are becoming the imperative (note the article distinguishes between collaboration and teamwork).

Statoil has publicly shared its method for managing people, their aspirations and company needs.

Note to Veterans: While There is Life, There is Hope!

I listen to NPR Radio while driving. It’s the perfect way to safely multi-task in the car. Yesterday I heard an interview that compelled me to think about what I can do to help. In Spanish we say: mientras hay vida, hay esperanza (while there is life, there is hope).  Simple enough to say but how to transmit the practicality of it?  I’m not an expert and I haven’t served. But, I have family who have served (please excuse my Army bias, all branches are equally valuable I just gravitate to what I know more about) and I have been through some challenging life situations so I will do my best to offer a re-routing map (using words):

Background Briefing
The NPR Story (I listened for a perspective on politics and got drawn into the human story instead):

Additional coverage:

We design systems around “normality.” This simply means we design systems around averages. As an example, cars are designed to be comfortable for an average of 5’5″ to 5’10”. Go beyond this and things start to feel a little off. At 5’2″ it is hard for me to have the ideal driver position AND see over the hood to the front bumper. This doesn’t mean I can’t drive a car, it just means the fit is not quite right and I have to make a lot of adjustments while driving.

Social systems are designed the same way. The average person is in good physical health, has full vision/hearing/limbs/mobility, has minimal stress levels, has hardly any trauma. The problem is we don’t benchmark to see how true this is and anyone not fitting this expectation is disenfranchised by force (you are disabled, you are pathological, you are dysfunctional….). Most existing “solutions” are destructive in orientation: eradicate the problem or subdue it at any cost. Sooo, your “healing”/”corrective” options become jail/prison/mental institutions/drugs (of the pharmaceutical kind which add to life cost and discomfort which add to stress….).

Military life instills two things: (a) discipline, and (b) living for the mission.  The challenge: civilian systems require a different type of discipline and you have to find your own mission (something that is fundamentally anti-corps and contra-training). The new discipline: acting like it’s ok that you don’t fit in. Minorities have had to “play this game” for years with the same goal (avoid jail and/or mental institutions). There is your public persona versus your real culture which can only be shared with those who are like you.  You will be granted rights but understanding is given to no one. Those who understand do, those who don’t don’t. There’s not enough daylight to train the latter. You have one life to live and it needs to count. Don’t get distracted by “friendlies” (those looking for vicarious experience/life by proxy). Tell them to sit back and observe and get out of your way. Avoid holier than though skirmishes at all costs (my pain is bigger than your pain, my suffering entitles me to more than your suffering). All these do is make you waste ammo and energy. Save all your firepower for mission accomplishment.

Re-Routing Instructions:

The mission: succeeding as wonderful me!  Focus all your energy on getting addicted to accomplishment and harmony.

In order to do this you need to: Know thine self first. Get crystal clear on your core values. What is the ONE thing that compels you to live and enjoy life? What do you love doing even when you are “on vacation”? It might be something for which you have been labeled as “OCD.” If it’s cleaning, start a cleaning company. If it’s imposing order, there are plenty of people who say they can’t get focused enough to organize their lives (schedules/closets/to-do lists). I have a big mouth and I’m always telling people how they can make things better so being a consultant focused on systemic improvement is a natural fit. If you need help getting clear on mission, here are the tools that worked for me (they offer training if you need it):


Positive Prophecy

Training StudioG (ask them about options outside San Diego)

Understanding Differences: Path Elements Profile (PEP)™

With respect to emotions, it makes no sense to wage a war against yourself. Success and survival possibilities are zero when the enemy and the combatant are one and the same entity.  If you accept yourself as a defect, you embrace the language of the enemy and give power to that which will destroy you.  Focus instead on harnessing what you are into a normal subset/cluster. Look for ways and systems where everything you have is an asset and an advantage (yes, your PTSD, where is it advantageous to have this – work that allows for high intensity shift rotations and immediate tangible outcomes). You need experiences that give you accomplishment highs so you can get addicted to positive emotions. Remember, at their core, emotions are just neurochemical responses to stimuli. When you encounter stimuli that produces a negative neurochemical response, get away from it immediately (this is the red hot enemy zone and you cannot gain advantage in this territory).  Focus on securing green/safety zones in your life (stimuli that produce positive neurochemical responses). Your training has taught you to be resourceful. When it comes to teams, you might need to form new ones that are beyond your normal comfort and awareness zone but no different from basic training or any other training exercise you’ve been through.

Here’s an example of a civilian who understands people who have faced legal challenges On the therapy side, there are many “mental health professionals” who one needs to just run away from. They will use their personal opinions to tell you what your thoughts and intentions are, give you a mountain of dysfunctional behavioral examples to prove to you that your behavior is destined for doom, and diagnose you with “illnesses” for which there are no biological indicators (your behavior is not a biological indicator it is a symptom that can have many root causes).  DO NOT waste any energy talking or arguing or convincing these types.  It is as productive as trying to tell an enemy who is torturing you that the Geneva Convention should be honored.  Make a mental note to yourself (duly noted), any time the rage swells up and keep your comments to the absolute minimum because whatever you say IS being used against you.  At the same time there are those who practice Positive Psychology, Acceptance and Commitment therapy and Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (ask an expert for additional techniques and yes, sometimes you do need medication to help you re-balance but make sure it’s the right one and that you actually do better on medication). Remember: Happiness is the toughest job you’ll ever love (focus on being at peace each day)!  To clear misconceptions, Positive Psychology isn’t just about “thinking happy thoughts” it is about taking action to overcome learned helplessness (negative thinking that stems from trauma or repeated setbacks in life/events beyond one’s control)–tms–pagliarictnrp-a20130219-20130219_1_negativity-state-lotteries-helplessness

For Military Leaders (of all ranks): this battle is against Xenophobia and it’s kind of a long one (generational/has been waged over centuries). Combating fear is a military specialty. Military have always led the charge on difficult social integration. When others demonstrate, military implements and releases the lessons learned as a roadmap for others to adapt to their local terrain.  Just a reminder of what has been accomplished here in the US:

In Progress

A broader perspective

This blogger calls it ethnocentricism and shows how it can be used for good or bad (our choice) The Civilian need: techniques for enhancing social solidarity and productivity.

For Civilian Leaders: soldiers (male and female) are often demonized as people who love killing others. My experience: they are the type of person who says, the situation I see is so beyond FUBAR I’m willing to get killed in order to try and change it (and kill those who insist on perpetuating it by brute force – this includes oppressive regimes in all countries).  I know I’m not smart enough to do it myself so I’d better go get training.  Despite the stories of those who got to the military running away from something else, those who are not willing to risk dying on a daily basis don’t make it through because they find other options (myself included – after night warfare training I decided I love sleep and warm beds too much to serve; bullets have a pesky way of interrupting both).

The military are also global peacekeepers. For civilians who enjoy chastising military, study history! Military governments emerge when civilian leadership fails. Civilian leadership fails when it allows for/engrains systems that generate social inequity. The bigger the social inequity, the greater the sub-surface social tension.  The greater the sub-surface tension, the greater the rise of para-military forces. Do not confuse para-military with military – they are NOT the same thing! Google it if you want to understand. This doesn’t just happen in “poor/under developed countries” Situations like the repeated Fort Hood shootings are not just a military problem, they are a reflection of an intolerant civilian system that attacks and destroys everything that is “not normal.” I’m not the only one ranting. Conformity is necessary for social cohesion but when it leads to “enforcement” through the situations depicted in this caricature something is very perverse (not just wrong):

If the NSA is evil, what about those who practice malicious journalism or those who lobby for systems that benefit oligarchs or pretending that children who shoot up schools are the result of bad parenting when there are plenty of absolutely horrible parents whose children don’t shoot up schools? Who is free enough from sin to dare throw a stone in a glass house?

With respect to Spanish hope, well, there’s this Psychiatrist named Christopher Columbus who went to the bank and said he needed to start a dairy company that only employed those labeled as “mentally disabled.” It is now one of Spain’s largest dairy companies and competes on a global scale with the likes of Nestle. The truth is stranger than fiction and quite often more fun!

La Fageda:
From the book

Christopher Columbus

La Fageda Case Study (note my manufacturing bias)

Website (click on Castellano for Spanish version that is typically recognized as Spanish – there is more than one type of Spanish in Spain)

Like my Capella peer mentor Marjorie has taught me: let us not bemoan the road that got us here. Let us thank God for the insight it has given us and use this blessing to build a better world for everyone.

Find your “impossible dream” and LIVE to make it happen (dead soldiers can’t win wars so stay alive; don’t give ANY enemy power by killing yourself or destroying your life at any level over OPS [other people’s sh**]!)….

Note: I promised Dean Garrett (College of Engineering) to honor his request to all schools/colleges: “why don’t you Carnegie Mellon students talk more about how we help you, even those who have graduated?” I also know this will trigger the same “request/admonition” from others so here are “cliff notes”:

Carnegie Mellon (CMU): how to analyze (analysis is not about crunching data – any machine can do that and to prove it we create some of the best machines in the world; analysis is about designing systems that lead to solutions)

University of Connecticut (UCONN): how to think (don’t memorize and apply; learn, synthesize and integrate plus be ready to abandon what you learned and start over tomorrow)

US Army ROTC at UCONN: survival (to all those who trained me – I still think you were in regular communication with my parents and are still keeping it classified because how else could you have figured me out so quickly? LOL!; to all those getting trained along with me – thank you for the gift of growth!)

Episcopal Cathedral School (Puerto Rico): how to be (they specialize in redirecting creative intellect that loves to challenge others – just one of us would be a handful at other schools so no wonder class sizes are small)

Westland’s Primary (Kenya): how to excel (literally no matter how good you were, they expected more; you better not groan because you get more x10!)

All Saint’s Cathedral Kindergarten (Kenya): Christianity is about discipleship and tolerance of diversity (no I couldn’t use those words when I was in Kindergarten but the lessons from teachers – play nice, be kind, you honor God through your actions to others, especially those who are different from you – have stayed with me through life).

Family: how to live and how to love (no need for explanation)

Friends: how to share and how to trust (ditto)

Sustainable Strategy in a Nutshell

I was asked an interesting set of questions:

  1. You don’t seem to have any confusion on how pieces fit together so can you create a dashboard view that shows how strategy aligns with organizational processes and sustainability?  A: (see below) I wasn’t sure whether the result was a framework or dashboard so I called it a frameboard.
  2. Would this differ between business, non-profit and individuals? A: Not really.  The context, scope and activities would be different but everything else is applicable across the board.
  3. Do you think strategy comes first or do you think vision comes first? A: It depends on the stage of things.  If you are starting from scratch, it is easier to start with vision and mission so that you know the end result you are working towards.  However, if you are able to design a really good strategy in a manner that generates consistent results/performance, you can change the vision and mission but use the same strategy.  This is a really long range view.  Think of the Constitutions.  They establish how countries will be governed, rights, enable laws. A country’s world view may change (e.g. from being a colonizer to a NATO member).  Generations may feel differently about what it means to be a member of the country.  However, a good Constitution remains in place over centuries. Each country has a different one. 
  4. I’ve heard that strategy only applies if you are trying to be unique.  This is too risky for me!  I’d rather fit within the norm because it is what the majority has agreed works.  Why do I need to think of strategy?  A: Think of yourself as a finger print. Even identical twins have different fingerprints. So, even if you are trying to copy the norm, no two people, no two organizations will do the exact same thing in the exact same way.  Also note that exact ≠ identical.  Hence, by default, you are always doing something unique.  What differs is the level of uniqueness (very little/hardly noticeable to a lot different/immediately noticeable).  Yes there are those who like to “shoot from the hip.” However, success comes easier and more reliably for those who create plans for themselves.  A 1979 Harvard grad study really brings the point home. The same is true for business.

Strategic Frameboard by Cecilia Wandiga



1. Capabilities has a specific meaning

    • Strengths (skills & talents) e.g. articulate speaker
    • Capabilities (applied skills & talents) e.g. using articular speaker strength to organize and drive action

2. If ethos, pathos, logos, telos, kairos sound Greek, they are!  Here are definitions.

3. BPM, LSS & ISO might be overkill for some individuals (except those of us geeks who can’t detach work from anything we do).  However, you have routines, rules of thumb, processes you use tho manage your life.  You measure yourself every day (today I’m happier than yesterday, I’ve lost 5lbs, I’m always on-time).  You have standards for yourself (I always try to be nice to people.  I won’t spend more than $10 for an ice cream.  I want to be a top performing athlete.  I don’t tolerate abuse.)  At the organizational level, these are tools.  I’m not being prescriptive and saying you must use them. However, for those who do, there sometimes is confusion as to whether or not they fit together and this is an attempt to clarify.

4. Sustainability underlies everything.  If we live consciously, we aim to make things better for ourselves, for others, now and in the future.  Some think sustainability is only about “being green.”  Others ask if there is a way to use sustainability to define how we act.  Zero Waste & Zero Harm are the starting point (baseline). The Triple Bottom Line (People, Planet, Profits) has been reinterpreted so it is more action oriented.

In Defense of Being Human

A friend shared an article which made me say, enough is enough!

Nonconformity and Freethinking Now Considered Mental Illness

This data exemplifies the problem with a field that can only define what is normal by identifying what is abnormal. By definition, anything that doesn’t conform to norms (in any setting) will cause friction.  The source of the friction is always attacked and ordered to adjust but little is done to determine whether those imposing norms need to make adjustments themselves.  There is also little examination about rebellious reactions to inconsistency (often those establishing rules don’t exemplify the behavior they expect but nonetheless have the authority to sanction those who don’t conform to arbitrary rulemaking – imposed or witnessed).  Undoubtedly defiance seems irrational to those who are being defied but asserting that the person causing the disruption enjoys being disruptive avoids responsibility for being a source of friction.  A more in-depth explanation can be found in Is Defiance Real?

In business this “logic” would be the equivalent of saying we only know successful business by studying failed ones; hence, any model that doesn’t conform to what we have determined as normal success or failure must be stopped and is pathological. Using such obtuse reasoning, internet businesses would have never been recognized or propagated as successful models because (a) they did not fit any norms, and, (b) they did not meet the standard criteria for presence (eg many are not bricks and mortar) or standard criteria for revenue generation (eg balance sheets based on intangible assets had to be redefined as an acceptable norm see Reading a Balance Sheet: Tangible Versus Intangible Assets or 1999 article: The Impact of the Internet on Business for an historical perspective at the time the change was emerging). Business debates issues from the perspective of: what creates lasting business value? Bubble Blinders: The Untold Story of the Search Business Model 

I don’t see psychological debates on what creates lasting human value? Try Google search “psychology lasting human value” versus “business lasting corporate value

In the context of nonconformity, is the fact that I can’t paint like Michael Angelo a pathology on either of our parts or the manifestation of superior artistic value on his? If he manifests “non-normal” behavior is it because there is a problem or does he have difficulty adjusting because he is physically isolated from others like him and is struggling to find resemblance of self in environments where it does not exist?

I take heart in those who are using common sense to challenge the mass pathology approach

Wikipedia: Normality Behavior (highlights the dangers of norms)

Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders  (see subsection The holistic model – a biochemist is cured of schizophrenia by focusing on what is right in his body instead of what is wrong)

I really like this explanation(Normal Human Behavior) but I’m still left wondering: what are examples of when we humanize those who are different from us?  After reading the examples I feel despondent about humanity and then I think, what about random acts of kindness? Coca-Cola Ad Featuring Give a Little Bit by Roger Hodgson Who studies these non-heroic acts, and, are these a norm?

One can’t help wondering, where is the Manual of Mental Orders?

Ironically a Google search “psychology traits of good behavior” does not yield top results from formal authoritative sources in the field but at least there is some discussion. The Psychology of Heroism Characteristics of Resilience

Psychology Today: Who Are The “Keepers”? The Behaviors of Successful Long-Term Partners

Given the legal and medical insurance implications of psychological labels, the pathology bias is particularly concerning. Perhaps if the field were to experience the same level of outside heckling (orderly oppositional defiance) that business experiences the pathology bias in psychology & psychiatry will start to be corrected?

[Oh yes, business has a self-serving bias in this debate: creative thinkers (legal & ethical ones) make us money Recognizing the Value of Creativity and Innovation in Organizations also see Google search “the value of creativity in business” and The Age of Non-Conformity for Business and Marketing Success from Google search “the value of non conformity in business” and do pretty well for themselves as well Beyonce’s sneak attack on music industry resets the rules]

Jobs for People vs People for Jobs

In architecture the debate is: does form follow function or function follow form?

In organizations the debate is: do you hire people that can do the job or do you create jobs based on what people can do?

The answer is not as easy as it seems. First, while people do tend to cluster around employment centers, there is no guarantee that people who are available within a 50min radius (this is not miles but travel time and yes, we do study these things) of a given organization are a skills match for the type of unmet work needs in an organization at any given moment. [Sidenote on workplace culture & morale: how happy are employees first thing in the morning after fighting traffic or traveling for 50min?]  In addition, density matters. When population density doubles, people are 2-4% more productive (New York Fed report) which is great news for large cities but organizations in low density areas can’t exactly (at least not independently) increase the population size of their location so they have larger and more productive work pools to choose from. There are some interesting insights on the advantages of clustering such as increased information flow and new ideas, skills acquired by observation but these are limited to high skilled workers (see New York Fed report for details). Clustering doesn’t solve all problems in all industries or all company sizes (eg  this HSBC report shows small manufacturers don’t receive significant supplier gains but large ones do).

In order to correct for differences in geography and density, we now have internet job boards which account for 45 to 63 percent (depending on the study) of total hires. However, from the company perspective, the goal is not to maximize the number of advertisements but rather to strategically leverage communication (through employees, recruiters, internet, print, media) in order to influence the people who are the right match for the job to apply (ie it does no good to have 3,000 applicants for one position if none of them are the right fit)

Delivering results is the employee’s job; the organization’s job is to clearly define the results and provide the enabling environment. Unspoken rules and expectations cause more conflicts than what is explicitly stated so effort should be made to make these as clear as possible. (For more details see psychological contract  and Hidden Rules of Class at Work: concept, book).

Needless to say, how you say it matters! Let’s take a hypothetical company called Beverages R Us.

Typical Posting: We are seeking a qualified candidate to join our operational team. The successful candidate must have 3yrs industry experience and be Lean certified. Additional duties as required.

Unanswered questions: The company is called Beverages R Us but the SIC codes show beverage manufacturing and beverage bottling so which industry do they want? I have 5yrs experience in beverage manufacturing and 3yrs experience with Lean Six Sigma, is this what they are looking for?

Better Posting: We are seeking to improve our operational excellence processes pertaining to food and beverage bottling. The successful candidate must have 3yrs experience with takt time, Box-Cox transformation and Corrective Action Reports, as well as be comfortable reporting to 5 managers. Additional duties as required.

Evidently if cover letters don’t address the last sentence there is not a good fit. You also minimize the: “why wasn’t I short listed?” inquiries.  The most important part is the way the revised posting is phrased answers 3 questions for job seekers:

  1. Why is the job/position important to the organization?
  2. How does the organization expect me to apply my skillset to the job/position?
  3. What is the most difficult part of the job/position that I must be comfortable doing?

For existing positions, organizations should use their exit interview data to ensure they are defining these three issues correctly. On new positions, in addition to a salary survey, organizations should talk to at least 3 people who hold or have held the type of position being posted (recruiters and industry associations can help you with this).

Finally we can address the dreaded issue: personality fit. Often times the euphemism “culture” is used in lieu of personality fit but this can be misleading. Culture can be the symbolic artifacts and decor an organization uses. Does this mean if I don’t like them but I’m the best qualified candidate I don’t get the job? Culture can also be the modus operandi which typically takes at least 6mo within an organization to grasp (e.g. culture here is all emails must be answered within 5hrs of receipt and replies shouldn’t be more than 2 paragraphs long; our preferred tone is informal but not jovial). Personality fit identifies whether or not a person’s natural predisposition is a good match for the job (eg people who don’t like talking don’t make good customer service phone reps but they might be great at email and online support).

One tool to determine personality fit is the use of psychometric assessments (Do you perform better when you work in groups or alone? Do you need detailed instructions or are you better with unstructured situations? Are you motivated by money or group recognition?). The biggest advantage is that psychometric assessments eliminate subjectivity (e.g. there’s nothing wrong but candidate B just rubs me the wrong way). Here are 5 reasons hiring managers use them.

It is important to note there are many who despise psychometric assessments and there are significant differences in how personality is understood and represented in different regions of the world. As an example, Western constructs focus on Introversion and Extroversion whereas the Chinese Personality Assessment Inventory uses Harmony and Face.  Notwithstanding, they do provide written and measurable methods for comparison.

Now to link this all back to a key element of business sustainability: work that maximizes savings, monetary gains and satisfaction for both employee and employer.

For this I like to use the Path Elements Profile (PEP)™ tool. There four base personality types; two are results focused (Fire and Earth); two are relationship focused (Wind and Water). Looking at the above job posting, all the work descriptors are results focused. Other than reporting to 5 managers, there is no mention of activity that would attract relationship focused personalities e.g. enhancing relationships with suppliers or improving the ways in which the bottling process is communicated to line production workers. This does not mean relationship focused personalities cannot perform the tasks as outlined or deliver quality results; it does mean they are likely to feel exhausted (as opposed to energized and excited) after a full day of productive work. Think of what happens to water when it cannot flow or whether you can put wind in a container? Eventually, disruptive events begin to happen and none of this is due to malice or lack of motivation. The same applies to humans when obliged to work on tasks that are counter to their natural dispositions. Yes we have brains and yes we can choose our actions but we cannot choose our emotions and their unintended side effects.

So what do you do if the best candidate for the position is relationship focused not results focused? The job posting should guide the work contract, not the other way around. When creating the work contract, you retain the content of the job posting but add elements to suit the personality of the new hire.

Job Description for Water/Wind:
Improve our operational excellence processes pertaining to food and beverage bottling by reducing defects and increasing customer satisfaction. Create dynamic and colorful graphic reports that govern takt time, Box-Cox transformation and Corrective Action. Design effective and energetic 5 minute daily briefings to be delivered to each of your 5 supervising managers (operations, shipping, customer service, billing, training).

If you are lucky and get a results focused person as the new hire, the changes would be

Job Description for Fire/Earth:
Improve our operational excellence processes pertaining to food and beverage bottling by reducing defects and customer complaints. Create standardized reports that prescribe outcomes and performance requirements for takt time, Box-Cox transformation and Corrective Action. Design effective and actionable 5 minute daily briefings to be delivered to each of your 5 supervising managers (operations, shipping, customer service, billing, training).

As you can see, when it comes to descriptions, “how” is important; when it comes to outcomes the “what” is more important than the “how.” We hire people because they can create and initiate (we can’t program robots for this). Maximize your human capital investments by enabling people to do what they do best!

The Value (ROI) of Humans


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Most of my blogging is about sustainability and I’m a firm advocate of investing in people.  Hence, there are some who find it contradictory that I would write a blog like this.  First of all, it’s easier to manage robots does NOT mean it’s better, it just means easier. (-:

People say businesses are cold because they only care about profits.  The part that they fail to see when making such statements is that profits are what enable businesses to exist.  Operating at break-even (where revenues only cover costs) does not yield enough surplus for growth or investment.  Once there are profits, decisions need to be made on what to invest in first.  This is done through cost-benefit analysis (what are we getting for what we spend) and opportunity cost examinations (what is the highest and best use of our revenue at this time).

Although it sounds denigratory, the mechanism businesses use to determine value is price; when it comes to humans, price is measured in salaries. In the book, The Strategy and Tactics of Pricing, value is defined as “the total savings, monetary gains, [and/] or satisfaction that the customer receives from using a product/service.” Price is what the customer is willing and able to pay.  In this case, the customer is the business owner.

Rather than get into a technical assessment, let me share a “day in the life” example that illustrates the issues:

9:00am Tired and Cranky Exec is gets a frantic call from Vociferous HR Manager.  Tired and Cranky Exec has only had 3 hours of sleep because 1 week ago Nefarious Competitor just unleashed an unexpected new product that could immediately wipe out 80% of Running OK company’s market share and client base.  A response strategy is needed before the market turns and there is no room for error.  Running OK company employs 50,000 employees globally.  Vociferous HR Manager wants Tired and Cranky Exec’s immediate attention.

3:00pm [Yesterday] Vociferous HR Manager got a call from Irate Employee.  “I have just sent you an email with a copy of Arrogant and Irresponsible Employee’s Facebook post as of 2hrs ago.  Arrogant and Irresponsible Employee called off sick at 6:00am.  At 1:00pm Arrogant and Irresponsible Employee posts a Facebook picture with friends on a beach and talking about what a great time they are having.”  Irate Employee wants to know why Arrogant and Irresponsible gets away with this when Irate has not taken a sick day in 2 years and has come to work feeling ill in order to ensure the team has necessary coverage).  Irate Employee is demanding a 10% raise by the end of the week or Irate Employee will resign citing intolerable work environment.  Vociferous HR Manager called Arrogant and Irresponsible Employee and fired Arrogant and Irresponsible effective immediately and forwarded Irate Employee’s email as evidence.

8:00am  Arrogant and Irresponsible Employee’s attorney served Vociferous HR Manager with a $3million wrongful termination law suit and citing intolerable working conditions as a documented problem attributable to Vociferous HR Manager’s style (Arrogant and Irresponsible Employee was being paid $85,000 between salary and benefits). Vociferous HR Manager calls Stern Corporate Attorney for help.  Stern Corporate Attorney gives Vociferous HR Manager the tongue lashing of the century!  “You were hired to ensure we properly document and manage all our HR activities and procedures.  What possessed you to do something this stupid?”  Vociferous HR Manager tries to explain that every division in the company has tried to fire Arrogant and Irresponsible Employee but there’s always a technicality so Vociferous HR Manager decided to put a stop to this by taking initiative and is now expecting support, not condemnation, from Stern Corporate Attorney.

9:20am Tired and Cranky is on the phone listening to Vociferous HR Manager and trying to make sense of the situation which had not been brought to senior management’s attention until this phone call.  In walks Founder, CEO  and 60% Owner with a livid face and slams the door.  “I just got a call from Stern Corporate Attorney.  Can you explain what kind of bullsh** is going on here????  We pay employees to solve problems NOT create them.  I won’t tolerate all this attitude!  For $2,400 a month I can hire a robot receptionist and program the attitude I want!  For $3million I could build a damned robot to replace all 3 of these jesters!  Get this fixed by 4:00pm today!!!!”

Now, before you start analyzing management/communication styles etc, answer 1 basic question for this scenario:

How did the actions of the 3 employees create (a) savings, (b) monetary gains, or, (c) satisfaction for the business owner? 

Cost of Human Quality Tidbits

We know how much it costs us to produce widgets; do we track how much it costs us to produce employees? This is an ongoing compilation on various employee related issues.  Feel free to collaborate….!

Employee Turnover

Why is it better to retain than hire new?

Human Re-engineering

In the manufacturing world, if something doesn’t work or meet specifications, you redesign it.  In the human world, someone is not performing or behaving as expected or doing what is specified, how do you re-design?

There are those who would have us believe, you tap into a persons core motivation and viola!  However, this presumes that (a) a person is aware and in-tune with their core motivation, and, (b) when you ask questions you will get answers that reveal what this is.  Bill Cosby has the parenting joke of the elusive “third” child: I Don’t Know.  No matter how many children you have, when they do something wrong and you ask why the answer is inevitably: I don’t know!?

Ironically, as adults there is not much difference.  You might get intermediate responses: I wasn’t happy, I didn’t understand, I prefer this.  When you press for why, more often than non, you get, I don’t know.  Where to go from here?

1. Don’t assume evil

When a part is bad, we don’t ascribe any positive or negative intentions to it, we just determine it hasn’t met specifications.  Are there people who intentionally do bad things in this world? Yes.  However, most people (95%) are not wired this way and yes this is evidenced based

2. Make sure you share the same assumptions

Two people can read a document and come away with very different interpretations.  Appropriate response is shaped not only by our upbringing but also by our training.  If I ask an engineer to define “structure” and I ask an artist to define “structure” I am going to get VERY different responses.

3. Become the change you seek

When things go wrong, the natural instinct is to blame others and try to change others.  However, you were part of the process as well.  How do you need to change in order to get a different outcome?

4. Invite action not dialog

Let the person know that specifications/expectations were not met, explain why. Without prescribing what you want as an outcome, invite the person to handle the same situation differently.  When things go wrong, both sides are upset. It is highly unlikely that either side will really listen to what the other has to say.  Inviting action offers an opportunity for remedy without polemic.

5. Be ready to embrace differences

Even when people are in agreement, no two people will handle a situation exactly the same way.  The same applies when there is disagreement.  If harm has been done or arises from actions, harm needs to be remedied.  In the absence of harm, the arguments will center on conformity.  Conformity is a two way street.  If differences are irreconcilable, you need to be able to clearly articulate this fact and explain why.

By know you’ve probably guessed the answer: you can’t re-engineer humans. However, by searching for common ground you can establish solidarity.