Wild Dog Barking

Our Forgotten Warriors.

April 21st, 2014 · Uncategorized

This blog is written in three parts. The first part is the story of Logan Stark and his brothers in war while fighting in Afghanistan. Mr. Stark has created a powerfully gripping and emotional movie/video that is quite revealing. Please take the time to read what he’s written here and then watch the video.

While attending school on the GI Bill, I had the opportunity to complete a film project over the course of a semester. Two other classmates—Lexi Dakin, whose father is in the National Guard, and Rebecca Zantjer, who has no ties to military life—were intrigued. They and wanted to know more and to share this search into what exactly veterans go through after war. They were the first students I felt comfortable enough to share my past with.

We set out to delve into the story of my unit’s deployment—to tell the true story of 3/5 Marines in our own words, the good and the bad.

I reached out to my fellow Marines, enlisting three other Scout Snipers from my platoon to be part of the interview process, asking if they would share their struggles with postwar life. I hoped our voice would give others struggling with PTSD insight into what they were going through and help us find our peace as well.

At first I didn’t want to be in the film because I hated the idea of sharing what I was going through. I still felt like it was a weakness, something I had no control over. I feel like everyone knows that person who was in the military and keeps their experiences bottled up. I was the same. It was my burden to bear. Then I realized that I couldn’t ask my fellow Marines to open up without doing so myself.

I struggled throughout the film wondering if I was doing an injustice to the men in my unit by making it. I could never live with the idea that I had somehow tarnished the memory of those brave men or their families or the thought that asking my friends to relive those moments was only dragging them over the coals again.

Throughout the process I held on to the ideal that if this film helped even one person come to grips with what they were going through, then it was all justified. Shortly after the film was complete and posted online, I received an email from a fellow Marine.

“You put together something that helped bring into focus some of the feelings that I have felt, but did not know what to do with. It made me think a lot about my past actions and the effect it has had on my own family and friends. It made me know that there are other Marines going through the same thing when they are over there and when they come home. You have got a gift so keep doing what you are doing brother.”

For the first time since my deployment, I felt that I had done something that lived up to the brotherhood we hold so dear in the military. It gave me purpose and insight, something I had not experienced since Afghanistan. The process, and I know the same is true for my friends, has helped me to feel like it is no longer a burden that I have to bear alone.

Logan Stark, a Marine veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, is currently attending Michigan State University.


The Second Part is another telling video about Soldier On which helps those veterans, unlike Logan Stark who never did find the help they needed until was nearly too late.

 

The third and final part of this blog is something that confounds me and would like to have answered. Kindly recall when G.W. Bush was president and the press provided a weekly, if not daily casualty count of our service men and women serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. Yet, since Obama has taken office, we hear nothing of what is going on and it’s as though there are NO casualties. Attached is a most enlightening and touching Link to USA today’s tracking of our casualties… it not only provides the number, which is up over 3000, but actually shows you the faces, names and backgrounds of each individual killed.

Why the media remains complicit in most things relating to Obama is beyond me. Not since FDR have we seen anything quite like it. And, it is very scary state of affairs, to say the least.

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/world/casualties.htm#afghan

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Mass Man/Mass Culture

September 20th, 2013 · Uncategorized

On My Soap Box (Again)

So, just what is going on in this great nation of ours?  Oh, sure, we have political, social and psychological issues galore going on.  We have technology moving at the speed of light.  We have wars being fought and religious battles abound.  But, let’s take a moment to stop and take a deep breath.  (Ok, now exhale…) Through it all, each of us, in our heart of hearts, continue to believe we are individuals, with our own individual thoughts, opinions, beliefs and choices.  None of us ever want to believe that we would ever become Winston Smith, the character from Orwell’s 1984.  Yet, perhaps we have.
Worldwide industrialization began in the nineteenth century and was given a strong nudge forward with the advent of the railroad, telegraph, cotton gin, and some guy named Thomas Edison and another named Henry Ford.  We give little thought to industrialization and pretty much accept it as either a good thing, or something that just happened.  But what it really did, was to create the masses. (Here is a link to a segment of Charlie Chaplin’s 1936 movie, Modern Times that depicts this quite nicely. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfGs2Y5WJ14 )   Things were now being produced according to standards that required everything to look and be the same.  In WWI, for example, it did the same to soldiers.  There were no flamboyant and colorful uniforms anymore, like in previous wars.  Everyone now looked the same in their drab green gear.  You couldn’t tell one soldier from another.
Where am I going with this?  I am saying we have been programmed to be far less individualistic and far more a part of the masses for a very long time.  Ever notice that CNN is pretty much playing everywhere?  Every railroad station, bus station, airport, hotel, restaurant, you name it, there’s a screen and it is most likely broadcasting CNN.  This concept, believe it or not, may have all begun with Hearst who, if he didn’t start the consolidation of news, did a great job of accomplishing it.  Only, with him, it was newspapers.  Then came radio and then came television.  Back in the 60s and 70s, each news station pretty much reported the news as they saw it.  NBC differed from CBS and ABC and vice versa. Today, we have the Internet, which also gives us a variety of opinions on local, national and world events, but which, too, will eventually be consolidated.  So, what’s the big deal about news consolidation? Simple.  Consolidation means each of us is receiving the same message or messages over, and over, and over again.  There is no dissension.  There is no discussion and dialogue.  There is no pro and no con.  News consolidation, about which Alexis de Tocqueville warned against back in the mid-1800’s, has the power to create a national culture and a national mindset by getting all of us to buy into the messages they promulgate.  One Thought/One Opinion.  And it’s not just CNN, it’s the entire news media, including all television, radio, newspapers and magazines.  By consolidating the news, these groups have the power to turn public opinion into a PUBLIC OPINION.
Here’s a thought that should blow you away.  For some of us, we well remember the Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday nights.  It was a variety show that introduced some great acts.  One of those acts was Elvis Presley.  Another was The Beatles.   What’s that got to do with anything?  Just this.  America loved the Ed Sullivan Show.  Whether rich, poor, blue collar, white collar, caucasian, black, hispanic, asian, American Indian, young old, male, female it didn’t matter….  America watched, experienced and witnessed the exact same thing at the exact same time, thereby creating a Mass Culture.  Elvis and The Beatles both went viral because of it.   You think the creators of American Idol weren’t influenced by Ed Sullivan?
All told, I am not advocating Quadrupidism, where we all go back to walking on all fours.  But, I am recommending that we all begin watching less television, see fewer movies and listen far less to what the media tells us, which includes words in our music, including rap.  Put down the iPad, iPod, the Smartphone, and quit looking at screens.  Personally, I find it a whole lot more scary than somewhat that we now have an entire generation that never learned to communicate, except electronically.  Do you really believe that wasn’t planned?  Do you really believe that the consolidators don’t know that he who rules the mass culture, truly Rules!?!
The answer lies in our spending far more time having open discussions and debates with one another about local, national and world events.  Or, even to just discuss a book or a piece of art. The truth of the matter is, we are all far more susceptible to being influenced (manipulated) than we would ever imagine.  The truth is, most of us either never think about it, or don’t want to think about it.
Just outside your living room, there is a place called the rest of the world with billions of people living in it.  It’s time to unplug.  It’s time to experience the world and those who live in it.  It’s time to experience each other and begin thinking our own thoughts, not thoughts that have been implanted by a consolidated news media.
I leave you with a poem, written by a British bloke named Auden back in 1939.  If you know anything about history, you may recall that there was a whole lot going on in that particular year.  All told, I hope you enjoy the poem and that I have at least stimulated your thought process.
Thank you.

The Unknown Citizen

by W. H. Auden
(To JS/07 M 378
This Marble Monument
Is Erected by the State)

He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be
One against whom there was no official complaint,
And all the reports on his conduct agree
That, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word, he was a
   saint,
For in everything he did he served the Greater Community.
Except for the War till the day he retired
He worked in a factory and never got fired,
But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc.
Yet he wasn't a scab or odd in his views,
For his Union reports that he paid his dues,
(Our report on his Union shows it was sound)
And our Social Psychology workers found
That he was popular with his mates and liked a drink.
The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day
And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way.
Policies taken out in his name prove that he was fully insured,
And his Health-card shows he was once in hospital but left it cured.
Both Producers Research and High-Grade Living declare
He was fully sensible to the advantages of the Instalment Plan
And had everything necessary to the Modern Man,
A phonograph, a radio, a car and a frigidaire.
Our researchers into Public Opinion are content 
That he held the proper opinions for the time of year;
When there was peace, he was for peace:  when there was war, he went.
He was married and added five children to the population,
Which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his
   generation.
And our teachers report that he never interfered with their
   education.
Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.
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How Self-Serving Employees With Overly Inflated Views of Themselves Are Effecting Business

March 4th, 2013 · Uncategorized

Why Performance Reviews Are Now More Important to Do than Ever Before.

The need for employers to provide its employees with sincere, honest, frank and truthful performance reviews has reached new heights due primarily to the past fifty years of our schools, government (California passed a law on the topic in the 1980s), psychologists and parents pushing for higher self-esteem and everyone gets a trophy.

The result of this effort has been a disaster.  For example, in several studies, it has been found, that on average, eighty-six percent (86%) of employees say they are better than the average worker.  While a mere one percent (1%) say they are less than average.  Just think about that for a second.

What is happening is two-fold.  First, we have people with inflated views of themselves who truly believe they are capable of doing far more things than they truly are, and many of the things they are currently doing, they are not doing well, but believe they are.

Secondly, we have people with self-serving attributes who make excuses and blame others for their failures because they again believe it could not possibly be due to their own inadequacies, since they really don’t have any.

A sincere, truthful, honest, frank and genuine performance review/employee evaluation is the company’s moment when it can force an employee to discern his or her realities.  Why is this so important?  Because a person with an inflated view of them-self is not likely to believe they need to improve.  They already believe they are Great, so what’s the need?!?  In the words of Dirty Harry, “A man’s gotta know his limitations.” Only, those types of people are becoming fewer and fewer and more difficult to find, especially among the younger employees.  When you give this matter further thought, the realization sets in that it is not the fault of the younger generation, but the fault of the system.  They have been brainwashed to believe their own press clippings that never existed in the first place.

It doesn’t end there, either.  Most employees, especially the higher level ones, will find themselves on a team throughout the course of a year.  Those with an inflated, overly positive view of themselves join the team already believing they are better than the average person on the team and therefore will contribute more and be responsible more for the team’s success than anyone else on the team.  But, should the group fail, the reason for the failure most assuredly could not have been on them, because they are so good at what they do.  Now imagine you have assembled a team of five, six or even twelve employees, and all of them have this overly positive view of themselves.  You don’t have a team, you have a mess!

The trend in business today seems to be anti-performance reviews because they take so long to do and always seem so ineffective.  One, they should take long to do because the health and well being of both the company and your employee is at stake.  You damn well better put the time and effort into the evaluation.  Two, your frank, honest and fair evaluation of an employee is your only hope of getting them to see reality and wake up to the truth.

Below are four essential steps every business must take in dealing with its employees:

Four Steps to Success:

1.  Create Job Descriptions so people know what the job is and what the job calls for.

Keep in mind that if the work needed to be done exceeds the capabilities of the person assigned to it, we only create frustration and anxiety within the person.  On the flip side, if the work needed to be done is far below the capabilities of the person assigned to it, we will only create Boredom.

Create critical responsibility statements within the job description for each employee that guides the work the employee does, then tie the responsibility tightly to a measurable objective.

Clarity and accountability are critical.  You can’t hit a target you can’t see.

2.  Create an Employee Matrix to determine what each person’s abilities are and at what level.  There is always a delta between what a person must do and what a person is capable of doing.  The Matrix allows us to see that.

Each employee must have the skills to accomplish his or her job, which then form objective measures to evaluate individual performance.  It is up to each department to determine the specific skills required for the specific job being done.  Someone in the warehouse, for example, would need different skills than an outside sales person, or a machine operator.  The point here is that if everyone knows on what it is they will be measured and know by when they have to deliver on those measures, you have just increased the chances that they will succeed.  And, as you review them, have them review themselves based on the same criteria.

3.  Create a Master, Craftsman, Apprentice program that establishes a career and educational path for your people and allows us to not just set Performance Goals, but to set Learning Goals for our people.

By regularly assessing employees’ skills and whether or not they’re delivering on strategic goals, both you and the employee know where improvement is needed.  Only there needs to be a company-wide commitment to training, mentoring, learning, growing, developing, educating and teaching as a key core value that is looked upon by the company as an investment in, not only its people but its future.

In addition, you may also learn that someone would be better suited to a different task in the organization.

4.  Be accurate, honest, thorough and timely in your employee evaluations.  Not being truthful with an employee helps neither the person nor the company.

Providing employees with consistent, effective and honest feedback is what often distinguishes good companies from great companies.

Appraisals should be driven by a desire to improve employees’ performance, not to stress them out or break them down.

By communicating the company’s and each department’s goals, it allows your employees to see the correlation between the job they do and the company’s performance.

Be certain that the feedback given to the employee is clear and constructive.  Not demeaning and destructive.  Use the evaluation to teach, grow and encourage the employee being truthful with the facts. Use the evaluation process to reinforce the message:  Your Job Matters!

Recommended Areas for Review:

Individual Performance Evaluation:

E/E (exceeds expectations)  M/E (meets expectations)  N/I (needs improvement)

1.     Confidence/Accountability:

a.     Are confident in their abilities

b.     Willing to take a leadership role

c.     Has a clear understanding of the Big Picture and makes decisions accordingly

2.     Situational Awareness

a.     Understand their most valuable asset is time

b.     Evaluates the situation and has contingency plans

c.     Does not get surprised

d.     Knows when to move a problem or issue higher or lower

e.     Meets obligations

f.      Manages task and time well

3.     Analysis

a.     Able to analyze problems, formulate solutions and communicate goals.

b.     Knows exactly who to call when support is needed.

c.     Communicates well.

d.     Is aware of every project for which they are responsible.

e.  Thinks

4.     Barriers

a.     Is acutely aware of what needs to be done.

b.     Identifies what needs to be done and makes it happen

c.  Gets help if they can’t make it happen but regardless, will get it done.

5.     Individual Achievement

a.  Constantly seeks to improve.

b.  Always looks for ways to improve how things are done.

c.     Motivated to become an expert in their area.

d.     Often has good ideas for improvement

e.  Raises standards and improves performance

f.  Takes ownership & accountability

g. Engages in teaching and learning

h. Continually improves

i. Job skills

j. Job knowledge

k. Efficiency at performing tasks and duties

l. Reliability

m.  Creativity

n. Ability to meet demands put upon him or her

o. Ability to work under pressure

p. Self-initiative

q. Responsible

r. Willingness to take on more

s. Attendance/Tardiness

t. Team Player

u. Contributes to company goals

v. Enjoys being challenged

6.     Dedication

a.     Focuses on the needs of the company and department

b.     Takes personal pride in achieving success.

c.     Feels personally responsible for making things happen.

7.     Communications

a.     Listens first.

b.     Keeps detailed records of communications.

c.     Knows what was said and by whom.

d.     Uses multiple media to clearly communicate ideas and solutions.

8.     First Pass Yield

a.     Produces error-free, quality work on time and exceeds expectations.

b.     Ensures accuracy is maintained.

9.  Customer Focus

a. Knows what the customer expects

b. Incorporates customer expectations into work

c. Seeks customer feedback

d. Displays a sense of urgency

e. Anticipates customer needs

f. Responds quickly to customer needs

10. Processes/Systems

a. Understands the systems and processes in place

b. Follows Procedures

c. Makes decisions based upon fact

d. Adds value, eliminates waste

e. Focuses on processes and doesn’t blame people

f. Continuously finds ways to improve how we do things

g. Overall judgment

h. Quality of work performed

i. Attention to Safety

11. Diversity

a. Complies with all legal requirements and regulations

b. Continuously improves knowledge

c. Demonstrates respect for others and differences of opinion

d. Encourages different perspectives

12. Teamwork

a. Creates win/win situations

b. Solves problems jointly

c. Demonstrates open mindedness

d. Is effective as both a leader and follower

e. Ability to work well with others

f. Consideration of others

g. Seeks input from others

h. Shares information willingly

13. People Development (For Supervisors/Managers ONLY.)

a. Allows people to challenge decisions, policies and procedures

b. Allows people to take part in the decision making process

c. Utilizes talent well

d. Gives feedback, appraises and develops people

e. Creates an environment that fosters motivation and innovation

f. Recognizes and rewards strong performance

g. Deals effectively with poor performers

h. Consistently fair

i. Gets more out of his people than expected

j. Always learning new things

Today’s employees are coming to work with a self-serving bias unlike anything ever seen before.  And that self-serving bias is causing them to see themselves not only being far better than they actually are, but overly inflating the truth about themselves and believing it.  To throw out the performance review or employee evaluation now would be throwing the baby out with the bath water.  Put the time and effort into the review and do the right thing.

Should you want to know more about this inflated, self-serving, overly positive view employees have of themselves, that seems to be reaching epidemic proportions for employers, I suggest you check out this extensive study that was done on it:

http://gagne.homedns.org/~tgagne/contrib/unskilled.html

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I’ll See You on the Dark Side of the Moon

January 22nd, 2013 · Uncategorized

People lose it and go off on other people whenever they feel they have been disrespected. It’s been found to be the thing that literally sets us off. By going off, I send a strong signal to everyone in the area, to not even think about disrespecting me or doing me wrong, or else. It is a mechanism that is built-into our human nature as part of natural selection. It is a protecting device with which all animals, and that includes humans, have been pre-wired. We go off in order to prevent others from mistreating or disrespecting us.

The problem is when we don’t just lose it, but we really LOSE IT! When we lose touch with the situation and what is really going on. When we literally go into an altered state of consciousness, zone out and truly go out of control.

This is when we become so egocentric in our thought process that we don’t just overreact to a situation, but we go to an extreme.

So, What’s New About This?

In a word, Plenty! And the word is entitlement. Society encourages me to be angry. Society has entitled me to act strongly to anything I don’t like. Don’t believe me, then what was OWS all about? We have become a society where appropriate behavior is no longer in check. America is angry, and as someone wrote, not too long ago, America has become Angrified! Or, as actress Sandra Bullock said in the movie Crash, “I wake up angry every day!”

Being angry is to be so indignant that I become myopically fixated and focused on what I want and how I want others to behave toward me to the point of literally going off and losing it. Let’s face it. We not only have a diabetes epidemic going on in America, we have an Anger epidemic as well.

Ask yourself, how often, just this past week, did you find yourself faced with an undesired event where you felt wronged or disrespected by someone? Someone cut you off. Someone would not let you move into another lane. Someone cooked your hamburger wrong or gave you the wrong meal. Someone lost your reservation. And the list goes on. How did you react? Did you over- react? As a society, aren’t we telling everyone that it’s ok to lash out because we are entitled to lash out? And then, we don’t just yell or get angry, we actually begin to condemn the person we feel did not do right by us. Which only escalates an already bad situation. But it’s Ok to let it out, isn’t it?

Every emotion we have has an action attached to it. With anger, the action is to lash out. Why? Because each of us, whenever in a fit of rage, are bound and determined that other people (those who wronged us) are going to behave the way we want them to, damn it!!

The problem is not guns. The problem is anger. There’s a Lunatic Inside Me. And the real problem is our society’s encouragement and entitlement attitude toward being angry. Oh, it’s Ok to go off on someone. You’ll feel better for it. Only keep in mind that a fight doesn’t really start until someone hits someone back.

It ain’t the guns, it’s our society folks.

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Occupy Wall Street and The French Revolution

October 23rd, 2011 · Uncategorized

The Similarities Between OWS and The French Revolution

Is the goal of a Revolution Utilitarian or Universality? Is it done to provide the greatest pleasure, the greatest good or the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people, or is to provide these things for everyone, with no exceptions?

Can a compassionate government truly govern? A just and fair government can, but can a compassionate government?

What if the cause you are fighting for is not for everyone? What if only 60% of the people would benefit? What if 90% of the people would benefit from your cause but 10% would die as a result of what you want to do? Or, even one. Is it still Ok?

Unlike the American Revolution of 1776, the French Revolution was not a revolution for Freedom, but one predicated upon the needs of the people. The French Revolution was caught up in and distracted by necessity, poverty and wants of the people. It was not about the pursuit of happiness, it was about the government providing happiness. It was about a government of compassion.

France at the time was a mess. There was a great deal of poverty and far too much tyranny. Basically, the situation for the poor at the time of the French Revolution was the same for the poor in general, even today, which is that after their self-preservation has been assured, their lives are without consequence. To paraphrase John Adams, “They stand in darkness wherever they go. They feel themselves out of the sight of others, groping in the dark. He is in as much obscurity in a crowd as he would be in a root cellar. He is not disapproved, he is not censured, he is not reproached; he is only NOT seen. To be wholly overlooked and know it, is intolerable. “

This is what appears to be frustrating the OWS crowd. Only as a whole, they are neither poor nor oppressed. They are indignant, some are unemployed, they are frustrated and they each seem to have their own set of grievances, but they certainly have no one cause other than social frustration and anger over the fact that they can’t get whatever it is that they want. They feel deprived and have come to believe that Big Business and Wall Street, not the government and this administration is depriving them. (IS Obama Robespierre with his own motives?)

The similarity then, between the OWS and the French Revolution is compassion. The problem is however, that only the predicament of poverty, and not either individual frustration or social ambitions can arouse compassion. And it is with the role of compassion in revolutions, that is, in all except the American Revolution, we must now concern ourselves.

The men of the French Revolution were inspired by the hatred of tyranny. Only what began as a revolution against tyranny and oppression, as was the case with the American Revolution, the French Revolution changed course and revolted against exploitation and poverty. Those who lead the French Revolution felt they belonged to the people and did

not need to summon up any solidarity with them. If they became their spokesmen, it was not in the sense that they did something for the people, be for the sake of power over them or out love for them; they spoke and acted as their representatives in a common cause. The concern is who exactly is heading up this OWS Revolution? Why are the unions like the SEIU involved? Why are there long time political activists like Sonia Silbert and union organizers like Marshall Ganz involved? Why is President Obama feeling a kindred spirit to this movement? I question the motives. Why? Because in the case of the French Revolution, the revolutionary governments they created were neither of the people nor by the people. At best they were for the people. At worst, which it really turned out to be, they usurped the sovereign power by appointing themselves as self-styled representatives who put themselves in absolute independence with respect to the nation. In the French Revolution, liberation from tyranny spelled freedom only for the few. The vast majority were now worse off than they were before the Revolution. As a result of the absolute failure of the first part of the French Revolution, a new Liberation came to be, only this time there was no common cause. This one was lead by Robespierre, who pushed for solidarity under the heading of virtue. For him, the idea of virtue was to have the welfare of the people in mind. (Sound familiar?) He wanted to identify one’s own will with the will of the people with the ultimate goal being happiness for the many. His idea was to make compassion the highest political virtue. Compassion now became the driving force behind the revolution. The revolution was no longer about Freedom and the creation of a constitution. For Robespierre and the Jacobins, they seized power from the Girondins because they believed in the people rather in the republic. For them, it was all about the natural goodness of a class, not about institutions and constitutions: “Under the new Constitution, laws should be promulgated in the name of the French People instead of the French Republic.” Said Robespierre. (Does this not sound like something that someone within the OWS movement would say?)

It was a shift from the republic to the people. It was a shift from a government predicated upon worldly institutions, to a government predicated upon the will of the people themselves. In other words, it was based upon the general will of the people as one and universal public opinion. It was no longer about factions and different groups with different opinions and grievances being heard, it was now about one will, like an individual… and like an individual it can change direction and opinion at any moment.

In other words, not only was it a near impossible task, but it was also very unstable.

So, how do you get 25 million Frenchmen to rally around a Free Constitution and agree on it when it is based upon the Will of the People. What would bind the many in to one? Unfortunately, this is the very same problem the OWS group is facing. Too many factions, too many differences of opinion of not only what is wrong, but what the solution is.

For Robespierre, the one force which would unite the different classes of society into one nation was the compassion of those who did not suffer for the ill-fated and suffering. For him, it was about those of the higher classes having compassion for the low people. Sounds good on paper, but again, this is a ruling government and nation representing all of the people we are discussing here, not a non-profit organization.

Robespierre, like many in the OWS movement, see compassion as the thing that opens the heart of both the sufferer and the non-sufferer to the sufferings of others. Compassion also establishes and confirms what should be this natural bond between men. The problem, which Robespierre firmly believed, was that the rich had lost the bond and their hearts were not open to the suffering of others. (Again, much like the OWS movement.)

John Adams, who had a huge hand in the Revolutionary War and became the Second President of the United States had two applicable quotes that pertain to both the French Revolution and the OWS movement: “People and nations are forged in the fires of adversity,” “The envy and rancor of the multitude against the rich is universal and restrained only by fear or necessity. A beggar can never comprehend the reason why another should ride in a coach while he has no bread, and still no one familiar with misery can fail to be shocked by the peculiar coldness and indifferent objectivity of his judgment. “

According to Hannah Arendt, “Compassion by its very nature cannot be touched off by the sufferings of a whole class or a people, or least of all, mankind as a whole. It cannot reach out farther than what is suffered by one person and still remain what it is supposed to be, co-suffering.”

The point being, compassion can only be extended so far. It is a micro, not a macro emotion. In the case of the French Revolution, and where the OWS movement seems to be headed, if you collapse political and legal authority and make the peoples’ wants, needs and happiness the focus, it requires the use of violence. Which in itself becomes a contradiction. It’s kind of like saying, “Let’s Stamp Out Hate!” In the French Revolution, the People did not merely interrupt the government, they erupted and over threw the government using violence. Violence was the tool they used to make the things they wanted to happen, and happen quickly. And as we all know from reading A Tale of Two Cities, the guillotine became their tool of choice. (The Revolutionary Tribunal, with Robespierre at its head (pun intended), ordered the execution of 2,400 people in Paris by July 1794. Across France 30,000 people lost their lives. Robespierre put forth the idea that terror is the best and most effective manner for bringing about “justice.” A concept that even Machiavelli opposed.)

The French Revolution, just as the OWS movement will, moved from being about forms of government and a republic to being about the common good of the people, it quickly disintegrated into a civil war full of violence. If liberation from poverty and the happiness of all the people were the true exclusive aims of the revolution, then the only way to achieve that is by anarchy where everything was permitted and anything goes.

Unfortunately, passion, compassion and emotions can only be found in the human heart. And the heart, which we all well know, is a place of darkness, which no human eye can penetrate. And no matter how deeply heartfelt a motive may be, once it is exposed and brought to the light of day for inspection by others, it becomes an object of suspicion. Actions, deeds and words are out in the open for all to see and all to hear. But motives,

behind such deeds, actions and words are destroyed in their essence through appearance. Once Robespierre equated virtue with the qualities of the heart, they saw intrigue, treachery and hypocrisy everywhere. A fateful mood of suspicion permeated and blanketed the French Revolution. No one could be trusted as paranoia abounded.

Their goal, like the OWS movement, was utilitarian at best and far from Universal. Only so many would be happy and so many more not. The greatest good for the greatest number wasn’t working. And in the end, it looked more like the greatest good for Robespierre than for The People. The same holds true for the OWS movement. Beware of the motive and beware of whomever takes power and control. For in the end, someone must. Ruling by the masses does not and will not work. And with no common cause to bind you, you are opening a door that another Robespierre can easily walk through. Interesting, isn’t it, that Obama is in full support of this movement and acts a bit like he helped create it. And, perhaps he did. Would not surprise me in the least.

In closing, the caveat is that every deed has its motives as it has its goal and its principle; but the act itself, though it proclaims its goal and makes manifest its principle, does not reveal the innermost motivation of the agent. To drag the dark and the hidden into the light results in hypocrisy.

The French Revolution failed because it failed to solve the social question of poverty and necessity just as the OWS movement will fail as well.

Fiat veritas et pereat mundus. “Let truth be told though the world may perish.”

Vs.

Ubi est Mea. “Where’s Mine!?!”

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An Open Letter to the President

October 22nd, 2011 · Uncategorized

Dear President Obama,

Let’s set aside the Constitution and all the talk of what the Founding Fathers wanted, or didn’t want, or believed in or didn’t believe in and focus upon what this great country of ours is all about.  We are not a nation of nay-sayers.  We are not now and have never been defeatists, pessimists, fatalists or believers in the words “It can’t be done.”  We are and always have been a nation of energetic problem solvers who will always find a way.

America has always been a special and unique place comprised of some of the most innovative, dynamic, ambitious, undaunted and determined people, so full of grit, courage, fortitude and moral fiber to rival Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great.  America has been built upon a faith in human equality and a faith in political democracy. Anyone born here has a chance to make something of him or herself.  There is no European Caste system here.  You are living proof of that.

Without question, the character of America has changed over the past two centuries, but when you think about it, really not that much.  We were once a mighty rural and agrarian nation.  Today we are obviously far more urban.  We were once a slave holding nation, as well as a weak, debtor nation dependent upon other countries to keep us afloat. We have come from being a very provincial and obscure country to a world dominating super power that has surpassed the power, might, influence and prestige of even mighty Rome.  We are a nation of pragmatists, innovators, inventors and idealists.  And above all, we are a nation that can adapt.

Yes, we are a nation that has made mistakes.  Yes, we are a nation consisting of corrupt, greedy and controlling individuals.  But when you actually come to study America, you quickly come to the realization that by focusing upon the negatives, you are focusing on a very small and minute portion of what makes this country great.

Instead, I implore you to look upon those who did and continue to make us great.

Great, brave and undaunted explorers and adventurers like Captain Lewis and Captain Clark, John Smith, Kit Carson, Buffalo Bill Cody, John Wesley Powell, the Wright Brothers, Charles Lindbergh,  Amelia Earhart, Chuck Yeager, John Glen, Neil Armstrong, Sally Ride, Betty Skelton and Sacagawea.

Inventors like Eli Whitney, Samuel Colt, Kettering, Edison and Henry Ford to name but a few from the past.  There are so many more now that the list is becoming endless.

Visionaries like Horace Mann, Thomas Edison, John Fitch, Ida Rosenthal, Frederick Olmstead, William Mulholland, Juan Terry Trippe, Oprah, Russell Simmons, Walt Disney and Ted Turner.

People of conviction like Frederick Douglas, Black Elk, Booker T. Washington, Mother Ann Lee, Charles Finney, William Penn, Brigham Young, Martin Luther King, Jr., Betty Friedan, William F. Buckley, Jr. and Susan B. Anthony.

Military geniuses like Grant, Sherman, Patton, Eisenhower, MacArthur and Schwarzkopf.

Great writers like Louisa May Alcott, Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, Twain, Stowe, Mencken, Will Rogers, Pyle, Steinbeck, Faulkner, Hemmingway, Wm. F. Buckley, Fitzgerald, Baldwin, Halberstam and so, so many others.

Scientists and physicians like Rittenhouse, Bartram, Einstein, Hubble,  Clyde Tombaugh, Jonas Saulk, Dr. Hyland,  Dr.William Stewart Halstead, Dr. DeBakey, Oppenheimer, Goddard and the list is endless.

An unbelievable, wide array of entertainers like Harry Houdini, Duke Ellington, Marilyn Monroe, Woodie Guthrie, Leonard Bernstein, Mahalia Jackson, Sinatra, Elvis, John Belushi, Robin Williams, BB King, Chet Atkins, Eric Clapton, Run DMZ, Maria Callas, Arthur Fiedler, Judith Anderson, Louis Armstrong, The Beasty Boys, Odetta, Aretha Franklin, George Lopez, George Carlin, Lena Horn, Judy Garland, Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald, Gershwin, Bob Fosse, Madonna, Jonathan Winters, and the list is endless.

Business leaders like Welch, Watson, Gates, Walton, Kelleher, Bossidy, Ruth Handler, Mary Kay, Sloan, Ellison, Allen, Gerstner, Packard, Graham, McKnight, Coffin, Luce, Kellogg, Kroc, Disney, Procter, Heinz, Trump, Gerber, Kraft, Jobs, Schultz, Bloomberg, Goodyear, Dell, Smith, Haas, Birdseye, Forbes and a host of others who create jobs and put people to work.

Inspirations like Helen Keller, Laura Bridgman, Roberto Clemente, Paul Edlund, Jerral Hancock, Tillman, General Jonathan Wainwright IV, Coach Wooden, Ronald Reagan, Napoleon Hill and Dale Carnegie.

Engineers like the Roeblings, “Hurry Up” Crowe, Leslie Robertson, Lindenthal, Ammann, Holland and Fazlur Khan.

Humanitarians like Hoover, Carnegie, Rockefeller, Gates, and Gardner.

And I am quite confident that this list is indeed very incomplete.  There is little doubt that I have failed to include a great many more.

I am under the impression, Mr. President that you believe all business people are full of greed and avarice and you have singled them out as targets.  A failed ploy previously used by FDR against Insull, for example. Yet, there are great legends like Amadeo Giannini who created the Bank of Italy in order to give the little guy access to money.  Or Sam Insull himself, who wanted all people, not just the wealthy, to have access to electricity.  Philanthropy abounds, without whom many of the things the people have today wouldn’t exist without them.  And that includes Rockefeller, Carnegie, Morgan and now Bill Gates.

America is a nation of believers and givers.  We believe there is nothing we cannot do, nothing we cannot over come and nothing we won’t give to help someone out.  We have built the Empire State Building, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Hoover Dam, the Sears Tower and the John Hancock.  We have put a man on the moon, created telescopes that allow us to see and understand things never before dreamt possible.  We have gone from the rotary dial party line telephone to the smart phone, iPod and iPad, and have become a connected nation of screen users in the blink of an eye.  We have harnessed rivers, electrified the nation and bridged the world.   The only question that remains and the question that always remains is, What’s Next!?!

I sense that your vision of America is one of doom, gloom, the end of prosperity and the end of our Can Do spirit.  But let me tell you, Mr. President, I’ve lived in America for a full 62 years.  I have worked in disasters, I was raised and schooled in the mid-West, I have worked for major corporations and worked with many small and medium sized family owned businesses and I can tell you with great conviction, you and your vision for America is dead wrong.  I have been fortunate enough in my life time to actually meet and speak with some greats like Jack Welch, the Granatelli Brothers, Harvey McCay, Joe Mancuso, Gordon Marshall , Arthur Fiedler, Peter Drucker, Clyde Tombaugh and others.   And I can assure you, Mr. President, that America is proud, unique and will never bend.  America is comprised of Americans, regardless of their color, their beliefs, their gender or their place of birth.  We are all still Americans and we are not about to become something other than what we are.  And the innovators, thinkers, visionaries and great leaders will continue to come, whether born here or abroad.  Because the world knows, America remains the land of Opportunity.

Even now, as Hurricane Irene’s devastation is being dealt with, we are not seeing an out pouring of help from other countries because it is not who they are.  But it is who we are.  It’s part of our character.  Giving, helping, donating, volunteering, being humanitarian are all American traits.  It’s what we do as Americans.  And nothing brings us all together faster than a major disaster or an attack like 9/11 those ten short years ago.

By the way, Mr. President, in case you are not familiar with some of the names I mentioned above, I encourage you to Google them to see what they accomplished, what they had to over come, what they believed in, the sacrifices they had to make and why they are great Americans, all.  And in another ten years there will be an entirely new generation of achievers, doers, innovators and thinkers to hail.  It never ends and it never will end.

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Too Many Similarities Between Obama and Woodrow Wilson

October 16th, 2010 · Uncategorized

The following is a highlighted summary, complete with personal commentary of the book, Woodrow Wilson and the Roots of Modern Liberalism, written by Ronald J. Pestritto and published by Rowman & Littlefield Publishing.  The statements below are key points of the book as determined by James Altfeld and have been made available at no charge to the user.

Woodrow Wilson and the Roots of Modern Liberalism

By

Ronald J. Pestritto

For Wilson, the Civil War represented a major step forward for America; it marked the country’s moving from an historically inferior, decentralized system of government to a true national system.  It was no the union over states rights.

“Washington was neither an accident nor a miracle.  Neither chance nor a special Providence need be assumed to account for him.  It was God, indeed who gave him to us; but God had been preparing him ever since English constitutional history began.”  Wilson

(I think at the heart of Wilson saying this was Washington’s not wanting to be named King or placed into office for his life time as Hamilton wanted him to be.  While Hamilton loved Julius Caesar, Washington said he did not go to war against a tyranny to become one himself.)

“The best government is the one that reflects the spirit of a nation at a particular time and place.  Government must represent not some ideal ethical form, but the current thought or will of the people.… institutions match the thought of the people to which they belong.”  Wilson

Wilson felt that one’s participation in progress takes on the form of an obligation to God.  “This was America’s Holy Mission.”  “… America had been assigned a special civilization destiny by divine providence…”

In his The Study of Politics, Wilson wrote that the student will see the historical superiority of some races over others.  That some races, by virtue of their historical superiority, deserve a more advanced form of government.  Wilson was anti Reconstruction because the dominance of an ignorant and inferior race was justly dreaded.  “Negro rule under unscrupulous adventurers had been finally put an end to in the South, and the natural, inevitable ascendancy of the whites, the responsible class, established.”  Wilson

Written constitutions are misleading in that they appear to endorse the social compact concept of government, when in fact, government is always evolving.  (I think Wilson neglects to see that the United States Constitution was CONSTITUTED to create a Republic, the likes of which had never been seen before.  That the U.S. Constitution was a unique document unto itself and not just another sheet of paper with a bunch of words on it.  Overall, I find Wilson’s take on the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence more than a little bit insulting.)

We are not bound to adhere to the doctrines held by the signers of the Declaration of Independence: we are as free as they were to make and unmake the governments.  We are not here to worship men or a document.  But neither are we here to indulge in a mere rhetorical and uncritical eulogy.  Every Fourth of July should be a time for examining our standards, our purposes, for determining afresh what principles, what forms of power we think most likely to effect our safety and happiness.  That and that alone is the obligation the Declaration lays upon us.”   Wilson

A necessary condition for lasting democracy, Wilson argued, is “homogeneity of race and community of thought and purpose among the people.”

For Wilson, the focus is not on individual rights, but on the unity of national will.

Wilson felt that it is not important to understand the particular founding intention behind the form of the Constitution.  Intention merely reflected the particular spirit that permeated the founding era; the organic will of American society, however, has evlolved well beyond that stage.

“Justly revered as our great constitution is, it could be stripped off and thrown aside like a garment, and the nation would still stand forth clothed in the living vestment of flesh and sinew, warm with the heart blood of one people, ready to recreate constitutions and laws. “   Wilson

Since the real force or sovereign in any society is its organic will, government – whatever its particular form – is the creature of that will.  (A Case for God and Government.)

Government “is no more evil than is society itself.  It is the organic body of society; without it society would be hardly more than a mere abstraction.

Every society gets the kind of government that best reflects society’s particular historical spirit.  “Government is the indispensable organ of society.”  Wilson

“Government does not stop with the protection of life, liberty and property as some have supposed.”  Wilson

The individual is to have liberty insofar as that liberty does not interfere with the interests of the state.   (This is Anti-Hobbs and anti-Nature.)

Wilson saw his progressivism as a natural development or outgrowth of the new historical spirit.  It was a way of transforming the government away from its founding principle and toward a new, energized role that would enable it to meet the demands of the current epoch.  Socialism, Wilson explained, is simply the logical extension of genuine democratic theory – it gives all power to the people in their collective capacity to carry out their will through the exercise of governmental power, unlimited by any undemocratic idea like individual rights.

“In fundamental theory socialism and democracy are almost if not quite one and the same.  They both rest at bottom upon the absolute right of the community to determine its own destiny and that of its members.  Limits of wisdom and convenience to the public control there may be:  limits of principle there are, upon strict analysis, none.”  Wilson

“The difference between democracy and socialism is not an essential difference, but only a practical difference – is a difference of organization and policy, not a difference of primary motive.  Democracy has not undertaken the tasks which socialists claim to have undertaken; but it refrains from them, not for lack of adequate principles or suitable motives, but for lack of organization and suitable hardihood; because it cannot see its way clear to accomplishing them with credit.”  Wilson

“Why may not the present age write, through me, its political autobiography?”  Wilson

Wilson’s methodology means that one must study not the American Constitution’s forms or ideas, which are a historical and do not reflect living reality, but instead the history of the development of the American state.  The key to American democracy, according to Wilson, is that it has been lived, not theorized.  Politics should be contingent upon the current will or spirit of the people, not on the static theories of what government ought to be.

(My Comment:  Unless the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence remain constant, every standing president would have the right to re-interpret those documents to his or her own choosing and as they see fit.  According to Wilson, these documents should be left to his own interpretation while acting as president.  Which means the same would be true for every president after him, leaving America bouncing around like a pin ball every 4 to 8 years.  No!  The Constitution is what makes America, America.  Change it and you’ve changed America.  If you want a changed America, go find another country.  If you don’t like a certain religion, go find one you do like.  You do not change the existing religion, you either create one that suits you or find an existing one that suits you.  This concept is ludicrous.)

The Civil War did away with the old order of fragmented localism and ushered in the age of national unity.  Add to that the Westward movement of 1829 and beyond and everything truly began to change.  The settlement of the West meant progress because  as a nation grows, it must overcome nature.  “For the creation of the nation the conquest of her proper territory from Nature was first necessary.” Wilson

In his Constitutional Government writing, Wilson stated that the most important fact to know about the American Constitution is that its meaning is contingent upon history, and that its meaning and our understanding of it had changed and grown significantly since the time of its establishment.  America has escaped the narrow individualism of the founding and had grown into a genuine nation.  It was not by sticking to its original principles, but by submitting to progress and growth, by adopting new methods and new political ideas to meet new historical circumstances.  It was HISTORY that would create a true and complete nation.  “Unquestionably we believe in a guardian destiny!”  Wilson

What became most important in national politics was not the Constitution’s protection of individuals, but its ability to put into action “the passionate beliefs of an efficient majority of the nation.”  Wilson

In his political writings, Wilson often pointed to the Civil War as evidence that the particular historical purposes for which the original Constitution had been instituted had been superseded.  “The construction of the Constitution is settled now, settled once and for all by the supreme arbitrament of war.”  Wilson

In his mind, the outcome of the Civil War lead to the adoption of superior principles.

The founder’s primitive, individualistic liberalism – while outdated for the present circumstances –  had been historically necessary.  It was part of history’s overall plan for the progressive development of American into a modern state.  The founders political principles would not carry over into modern times.  (This makes no sense to me.  First off, the founders’ were learned, well read men.  The Federalist Papers alone prove this to be true.  Much of their thinking stemmed from Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.  They also obviously read Hume, John Locke and Reid among others.  The American colonists were far more well read than their English compatriots as evidenced by the fact that more books were being sold in the Colonies than in England itself.  There is even a section within the Federalist Papers that addresses their concern for Wilson’s kind of thinking.)

According to Wilson, the first half of the Nineteenth Century was an American struggle between originalism, which kept the country fragmented, and the forces of union, which advocated progress.

Secession was not an attack on the Constitution, it was a movement of reactionary forces who wanted to restore the original constitutionalism in a fight against progress.

“… Constitutions are not mere legal documents: they are the skeleton frame of a living organism; and in this case the course of events had nationalized the government once deemed confederate.”  Wilson

The great crime of the South, according to Wilson, was not because slavery violated the natural rights of the slaves, but because the South itself resisted progress.  Wilson saw the Civil War as a fight between two principles – between the principles of reaction and old traditions on the one hand, and the principles of progress, growth and development on the other.

“The national government that came out of the Reconstruction was not the national government that went into it.  The civil war had given leave to one set of revolutionary forces; Reconstruction gave leave to another still more formidable.  The effects of the first were temporary, the inevitable accompaniments of civil war and armed violence; the effects of the second were permanent, and struck to the very centre of our forms of government.”  Wilson

Any person who would stand in the way of America’s progress as a united nation, is not truly an American.  Americanism, he wrote, is “above all things, a hopeful and confident spirit.  It is progressive optimistically progressive, and ambitious of objects of national scope and advantage.  It is unpedantic, unprovincial, unspeculative, unfastidious, regardful of law , but as using it, not as being used by it or dominated by any formalism whatever.”  Wilson

Wilson emphasized that what matters in government is not the forms on which it is legally constructed but the understanding of it in the public mind.

Wilson conceded that the original intention of the Constitution was to have been to reserve significant power for the states.  Government would have to adjust to allow a much greater sphere of administrative authority for the national government than the Constitution seems to allow on its face.  It could be done by “wresting the Constitution to strange and as yet unimagined uses.”  Wilson

(First, I find it interesting to note that Obama is following the Wilson concept in spite of Wilson being an absolute and complete bigot.  Secondly, one of the things with states is that I can leave them.  I can always move out of a state I disagree with.  I have a hard time moving out of the United States, however.  Where am I going to go?  Which means with a state, I have a choice.  With the US Government, I don’t.  I’m stuck.)

Each generation is to abandon older understandings of politics for new ones.  Wilson wanted the Federal Government to take on more authority because his opinion of state legislatures was low.  He felt them to be narrow minded and overly focused on particular issues.     (Note:  What would he say about today’s US Congressmen?)

“As the life of the nation changes so must the interpretation of the document which contains it change, by a nice adjustment, determined, not by the original intention of those who drew the paper, but by the exigencies and the new aspects of life itself.”  Wilson

What this meant was the onus would be on the judiciary to interpret the laws and deem them to be Constitutional or not, which by Wilson’s standards, would have to be done based upon a historical spirit.  To reflect what it is that each generation wants out of government, and not to be stuck on an outdated understanding of the purpose and role of the government.

Wilson feared the judiciary because he felt that lawyers tend to become obsessed with the technical details of the law at the price of missing its overall organic character.  Which is why he felt a legal education should include a great deal of history.

To Wilson, a constitutional government is one which is constantly adjusting itself to the will of the people.  Since the public mind continually changes and evolves, so too must our understanding of what government should do.  “A constitutional government is one whose powers have been adapted to the interests of the people.”

A true constitution represents a  “common political consciousness.”

Wilson felt that some citizens of this country have never gotten beyond the Declaration of Independence.

For Wilson, the separation of powers was the source of much of what was wrong with  American government.  The separation of powers only served to impede genuine democracy.  Wilson felt that the separation of powers was irresponsible  because it made it difficult for the government to implement new public policy, even when the new policy reflected a clear new direction in public opinion.  Wilson wanted no separation between the legislative and executive branch and that the legislative branch should actually be the president’s cabinet members.  (NOTE:  With so much divisiveness and so many different factions, how would he interpret the will of the people?  Which is why the Constitution MUST be the one document we unalterably adhere to.  Leaving that document to interpretation based upon the whim of the current president and generation of the time, only diminishes and weakens America.)

Wilson’s broad vision for the transformation of American politics remained consistent: politics had to embody, and be guided by, the historically conditioned and unified will of the people.  Only in this way could the government and the principles upon which it rested be constantly adjusted to fit the changing demands of historical progress.

Wilson felt that the president was better suited than Congress to beome the emobidment of the historically conditioned will of the people and consequently, to lead the political arm of government.

Wilson reasoned that the Senate was not formed to be a legislative, law creating branch of government, but an advisor to the President, only.  That it was up to the president to make the final decision based upon the advice and input he received from the Senate.

In modern times, it was more important for the president to be leader of the whole nation than it was for him to be the chief officer of the executive branch.  The president’s role as popular leader means that he must, as the embodiment of the national will, coordinate and move Congress and the other parts of government.

“Governments are what the politicians make them and it is easier to write of the President than of the presidency.” Wilson

This is why a president’s expertise in public affairs is not as important as his possession of a forceful personality and other qualities of popular leadership.  What America needs is “a man who will be and who will seem to the country in some sort an embodiment of the character and purpose it wishes its government to have – a man who understands his own day and the needs of the country.”  Wilson

The president is the unifying force in our complex system and must not be relegated to managing only one branch of it.

I ASK YOU, WHO DOES THIS REMIND YOU OF?:  Before he was even INAUGURATED, Wilson crafted what was to become Congress’ legislative agenda for 1913 and 1914 and his agenda was carefully implemented once he assumed office.

The Modern Presidency argument points to the founders fear of demagoguery, noting that the founders were careful to avoid the direct connection that popular rhetoric would create between the president and public opinion.  Popular or mass rhetoric, which presidents once employed only rarely, now serves as on of their principle tools in attempting to govern the nation.” Wilson

Wilson focused on policy rhetoric, making it oral and delivered directly to the people, as opposed directly to Congress.  He also introduced a new form of speech, where rhetoric was no longer constrained by Constitutional traditions.  It was Wilson who introduced the visionary speech and the policy stand speech.

Wilson’s popularization of the presidency also raises the question of Wilson’s doctrine of leadership.  In particular, is the presidential leader, as the embodiment of the public will, a follower or a shaper of public opinion?  Is Wilson’s vision of leadership fundamentally democratic or elitist?

Parties aid in making the connection between the people and their governing institutions more immediate and direct.  Through their electoral ejection or endorsement of the specific policy platforms of the parties, the people make known their will to the government and send officials to their jobs with a specific mission.  Once in office, parties provide a means by which public officials can coordinate their efforts across different branches.  Parties become a tool for unifying their unifying their members even while those members serve in different institutions.  Wilson felt parties had to be transformed; they needed to serve the will of both the people and the will of those whom the people had elected to lead them.

Public officials were more concerned with retaining their friendship of the corrupt party bosses who controlled their access to the ballot than they were with responding to the public will.  FDR flipped this reasoning during the depression.

The parties were designed more to perpetuate their own power than they were to carry out the peoples will.

Wilson complained that parties in America failed to stand up for clear ideas, and therefore the two parties did not offer the people two clear alternatives.  “A man must nowadays either belong to a party through mere force of habit, or else be puzzled to know what party he belongs to.  Party platforms furnish no sort of chart by which he can shape his political course.

Wilson contended that the force of history had changed America from a disorganized collection of particular and local interests into a whole, organic nation.  There was now, Wilson believed, a unified, national sentiment, or national will.  This national will was embodied in the national government which meant that it had been transformed by history into the organic whole of what Wilson called The State.

Parties were not responsible enough to the public.  Unlike elected officials who were held accountable by those who elected them, party bosses didn’t face that problem.  The Party determines who runs and the party determines the policy yet is not accountable for either.

It was Wilson, as Governor of NJ,  passing the Geran Bill, who created the primary as a means to elect officials, taking the power out of the hands of the Bosses and placing the power into the hands of the people. Because of Wilson, the party has lost much control over the selection of the candidate.

Wilson was in favor of a partisanship that was a means of changing the fundamental principles of the regime and the basic understanding of the role of government.  For Wilson, parties were of no use unless they served as tools for escaping the narrow constitutionalism of the founding generation.  Wilson’s whole aim was to distance the nation from the constitutionalism of 1787.

NOTE:  If you eliminate the parties, you eliminate the static and noise.  You eliminate the distractions to the real issues.  You get only the man no longer cloaked in a party veil, but naked, true and very transparent.

“The federal government is, through its courts, in effect made the final judge of its own powers…. The whole balance of our federal system, therefore, lies in the federal courts.  It is inevitable that it should be so… Such a principle constitutes the courts of the United States the guardians of our whole legal development.  With them must lie the final statesmanship of control.”  Wilson

NOTE:  Is our government up for interpretation with every administration that comes into office?  I personally think NOT!

“It is true that their power is political; that if they had interpreted the Constitution in its strict letter, as some proposed, and not in its spirit… it would have prove a strait jacket, a means not of liberty and development, but of mere restriction and embarrassment.”  Wilson

Wilson envisioned a weakened congress, more energy and power for the president, and greater freedom of movement for the bureaucracy.  The presidency is brought closer to popular opinion, while the bureaucracy is insulated from it.  So who is it that governs?  Is it the people, whom a strong president dependent upon their will would seem to empower, or is it the bureaucratic experts, who are shielded from the meddling of politics and public opinion as they carry out the business of administration?  The answer seems to lie in an important characteristic of Woodrow Wilson’s thought and in much of progessivism:  the rhetoric is intensely popular and democratic, yet the reality of the argument is to put political power in the hands of governing elites who possess advanced knowledge of the spirit of the age and the course of history.  Wilson reasoned that government can be administered in a businesslike or professional manner only if it is largely removed from politics and public opinion.

The president must interpret the spirit of the age, and in so doing must bring along not only the other institutions of government, but also the people themselves.  Wilson wrote that the president will be a “man who understands his own day and the needs of the country, and who has the personality and the initiative to enforce his views both upon the people and upon Congress.”  Wilson (Does this sound like Obama, or what?)

“A president whom the country trusts can not only lead it, but form it to his own views.”  … “by giving direction to opinion.”  Wilson

Wilson’s idea of leadership was to govern in accord with his interpretation of the public will.  Wilson also believed that the public, more often than not, did not understand what its true will or spirit actually was.  It was his job to discern it for them.  The public wil is to govern, but only insofar as it is led by educated elites who see more clearly than anybody else where that will is actually going.  (Sounds like Animal Farm…. Four feet good.  Two feet bad.  No, No, reverse that!!)

Someone Wilson admired was Bagehot who felt that for popular government to be a good government, the people must at least have enough sense to recognize that they should be ruled by someone wiser than they are, and to consent to such rule.

Wilson called for a popular leader who could succeed on the basis of his ability to move the masses through rhetoric.  That the aim of rhetoric was persuasion and conviction –the control of other minds by a strange personal influence and power.  Rhetoric must be seen as a tool – as a means to the practical end of influencing other men’s minds.

The leader must also have the ability to persuade the people that his vision of their future is, in fact, their future, and he must be able to mobilize them in that direction.

It is the will of the leader, not the opinion of the masses, that governs:

“His will seeks the lines of least resistance; but the whole question with him is a question of the application of force.  There are men to be moved; how shall he move them?  He supplies the power; others supply only the materials upon which that power operates… It is the power which dictates, dominates; the materials yield.  Men are as clay in the hands of the consummate leader.” Wilson  (YIKES!!!!)

“A great nation is not led by a man who simply repeats the talk of the street corners or the opinions of the newspapers.  A nation is led by a man who hears more than those things; or who, rather, hearing those things, understands them better, unites them, puts them into a common meaning; speaks, not the rumors of the street, but a new principle for a new age; a man in whose ears the voices of the nation do not sound like the accidental and discordant notes that come from the voice of a mob, but concurrent and concordant like the united voices of a chorus, whose many meanings, spoken by melodious tongues, unite in his understanding in a single meaning and reveal to him a single vision, so that he can speak what no man else knows, the common meaning of the common voice.  Such is the man who leads a great, free, democratic nation.”  Wilson

Great passions, when they run through a whole population, inevitably find a great spokesman.  The need for an indivisible leader stems from the reality that public opinion is often fragmented, and therefore requires a leader who can identify the genuine unity of public will that is implicit beneath the contentions on the surface.

“Whoever would effect a change in modern constitutional government must first educate his fellow-citizens to want some change.  That done, he must persuade them to want the particular change he wants.  He must first make public opinion willing to listen and then see to it that it listen to the right things.  He must stir it up to search for an opinion, and then manage to put the right opinion in its way.”  Wilson

“Robust as its Constitution has proved to be, the federal government cannot long continue to live in the poisonous atmosphere of fraud and malfeasance.  If the civil service cannot by gentle means be purged of the vicious diseases which fifty years of the partisans spoils system have fixed upon it heroic remedies must be resorted to.”  Wilson

“An intelligent nation cannot be led or ruled save by thoroughly-trained and completely-educated men.  Only comprehensive information and entire mastery of principles and details can qualify for command.”  Wilson

Wilson felt that the inefficient separation of powers should be replaced with the more efficient separation of politics and administration, which will enable the bureaucracy to tend to the details of administering progress without being encumbered by the inefficiencies of politics.

With government being contingent upon history, Wilson felt the government that the founder’s designed was appropriate for the historical spirit in which they lived, but not now.

In The Study, Wilson elaborated on his vision of history and his theory of administration.  The first stage, according to Wilson, is Absolute Rulers.  In stage two, “Constitutions are framed to do away with absolute rulers.”  The third and final stage is one where the people abandon their fear of unchecked administrative power.

In the Study, Wilson made it clear that the increasingly complex business of governing a modern state had to be handled by a professional class of experts instead of by a multiplicity of politicians with narrow, competing and subjective interests.

Those who lead must have the keenest insight into what progress requires.  They must also be able to convince the people that the leaders’ vision of what is required for progress conforms to the public’s own implicit will.

Wilson’s vision for an independent bureaucracy does not require only that administration be separated from politics; it requires, more fundamentally, that administrative power be considered separately from constitutional power.

“You know that it was Jefferson who said that the best government is that which does as little governing as possible… But that time is passed.  America is not now and cannot in the future be a place for unrestricted individual enterprise.”  Wilson

Wilson shared the Progressive conviction that the national government should be used as an active instrument of social progress through the exercise of regulatory powers.  Hence we had The Federal Reserve Act (1913), Federal Trade Commission Act (1914), Clayton Antitrust Act (1914), Shipping Act (1916), Keating-Owens Act (1916), Child Labor Tax Act (1919), Transportation Act (1920), and Federal Water Power Act (1920).

Perhaps Wilson’s most significant instance of empowerment was his successful campaign for passage of the Underwood Tariff Bill – a bill that enacted the first national income tax.  It was the first time that the federal government was to direct income redistribution around the country.  The overall logic of the bill was to reduce protective tariffs and make up the lost revenue with the income tax.

In a nutshell, Wilson downplayed his belief in progressivism to which he long subscribed in order to become elected.  Once in office, he reverted to and pursued policies that pushed forward all of the progressive principles he had been developing over the course of thirty years.  (DOES THIS SOUND FAMILIAR?)

The general character and situation of a people must determine what sort of government is fit for them.

Regarding WWI, Wilson was inexperienced in foreign affairs and, as someone who had spent his life thinking and writing about American domestic politics, was unprepared for the role in which world events would thrust him.  (Does this sound familiar?)

Final Note: I suggest we make a mental note to avoid putting academia-type people in office, especially the Oval Office.  They have had far too much time to think.

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Selling Our Souls to the Devil

August 17th, 2010 · Uncategorized

According to Webster, Extortion is the act of getting money or other things by threats, misuse of authority, etc. It is also the legal offense committed by an official who extorts.  An Extortionist is someone who actually does these things.

Based upon that definition, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, ranked by historians as the greatest president behind Abraham Lincoln, was one of the greatest extortionists ever, in the history of the United States.  He is the first president ever to use the Bureau of Internal Revenue, later named the Internal Revenue Service to go after his enemies and protect his friends.  He is the first president to be granted, by Congress, Billions in funds to apply to his Public Works Programs, the WPA, the AAA, and the CCC all of which were patronage jobs.  He is the first president to deny federal funds to any governor or mayor who did not support his policies and programs.  He was the first president to use shake down tactics to get money out of those workers for whom jobs were being provided.  He was the closest thing to an absolute dictator this country has ever seen.

I asked the question why, in spite of his programs and policies failing and unemployment rising one year after the next, was he so overwhelmingly popular and won the 1936 election by a landslide.  Well, he did not only win the 1936 election, but the Democrats actually gained seats in both the Senate and Congress in the mid-term election in 1934.  How in the hell was that even possible, in spite of everything bad that was happening to the economy and the American voters?

Turns out he did not achieve these victories based upon his massive popularity, he achieved these victories based upon threats and misuse of his authority.  In other words, he extorted his way to victory.  Here’s how:

Let’s start with Huey Long who started out in favor of Roosevelt and The New Deal and soon turned against him.  The problem with Long, as far as Roosevelt was concerned, was that he was every bit as dynamic, charismatic and inspirational as Roosevelt and was gaining in popularity by the minute.  Roosevelt tried everything to shut The Kingfish down, including cutting off Federal Funds and patronage jobs.  Long survived.  Roosevelt figured that for Long to be able to do that, funds had to coming in the back door.  With that, he put the IRS on Long via his good friend Morgenthau, the new Secretary of the Treasury and one of Roosevelt’s key henchman.  Morgenthau contacted Irey, the head of the BIR (IRS) and said GET HIM!  By 1935, many of Long’s key people had been indicted.  Long was assassinated, but it didn’t stop there, either.  The “deal” was, if the Long supporters came out in support of Roosevelt, all further investigation would be dropped.  With that, Earl Long, Huey’s brother, about whom the movie Blaze was made a few years back with Paul Newman, came out in full support of Roosevelt.

Once Roosevelt realized the power he had with the IRS as a weapon, he then went after Hearst, Hamilton Fish, Johnson (the political boss in Atlantic City, NJ), Senator Wheeler of Montana, Andrew Mellon, Boake Carter, a radio commentator, and Moe Annenberg of the Philadelphia Enquirer.  Friends he protected from the IRS included Lyndon Johnson and Frank Hague, the Boss of Jersey City, NJ.   Point blank, if you screwed with FDR, he was going to screw you right back, only harder!

As for patronage, Roosevelt created the AAA, FERA, CCC and the WPA.  Funding for the WPA alone in 1935, as passed by Congress, amounted to $4.8 Billion in 1935 dollars!!  These programs provided Roosevelt with more federal money to distribute than all of the previous presidents combined!!!  Also keep in mind that it was during FDRs time that the building of public works was federalized and the states no longer had that power.  So,with all of these programs, Roosevelt and the New Dealers had the congressmen and governors over a barrel.  If they wanted something built or done within their state, they had to kiss Roosevelt’s ass.  The plain and simple fact was that these programs represented millions of government appointed jobs and the jobs were selectively handed out based solely upon how they best served the Democratic Party and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

In 1934, unemployment stood at 22%.  Republicans were down 3:1 in Congress and, like today’s mid-term coming up in November, were expecting large gains.  Maine, being an important state at the time, was flooded with Federal Tax dollars.  Or, as Hamilton Fish said, “funds distributed in Main amounted to nearly $350 a vote for registered Democrats.” The idea caught on so well in Maine, they took it to other states, bribing voters with jobs, provided they supported the Democratic Party.  To make a long story short, the Democrats didn’t lose seats in the mid-term election, they actually gained nine seats in the Senate and another nine seats in Congress!!

Then came 1936.  Early on it was looking grim for Roosevelt to be re-elected.  In late July, some Gallup polls actually showed Alf Landon ahead of Roosevelt.  There were high prices as a result of his programs, high taxes and more and more government power.  Unemployment had gone up from 3.6 million in ’33 to 4.3 million in ’34 to 4.7 million in ’35.  Apparently, 1936 wasn’t looking any better.

But what Roosevelt had was power and clout.  If a governor or congressman wanted something, he had to come begging to Roosevelt.  If someone wanted a job, they better be in support of the Democratic Party.  Roosevelt also had the $4.8 Billion Congress funded the WPA with.  Which is why four months before the 1936 presidential election, 300,000 men were added to the WPA. And the vast majority of those jobs were given in key swing states like Pennsylvania. A month AFTER the election, 300,000 men were removed from the WPA.  But who do you think they voted for in November?  He also made certain that the farmers all received their Soil Conservation Service checks jus before the election.

And, isn’t it interesting that prior to Roosevelt, the vast majority of Black Americans were Republicans, NOT Democrats.  (Remember Lincoln?)  Between FERA, the WPA, the CCC and the PWA FDR and Harold Ickes, another one of FDR’s key henchmen, targeted the Black Voter with money, jobs, hospitals, low rent housing projects, etc. and won their hearts.

Now add to this mix in 1936 the fact that Alf Landon was not the most dynamic candidates or brilliant politicians.

The Result:  Roosevelt wins by 523 electoral college votes to Landon’s 8 and by a margin of 11 Million in popular votes.  A study of the election was made that found wherever funding by one of Roosevelt’s programs were low or non-existent, Alf Landon did very well.  But, the higher the funding, the more votes for Roosevelt.  To sum it all up, in Hudson County, New Jersey, for example, where Mayor Frank Hague, FDR’s buddy controlled 90,000 WPA jobs and about $47Million in various program funds, Roosevelt won 233,390 to Landon’s 65,110.   Do keep in mind that the funding, as it is referred to, was with Federally Collected Tax Dollars!!!

And just think, had these programs not existed, had Roosevelt not had the funds and the leverage these funds provided him, he more than likely would have been a one-term president.  So, that’s your history lesson for today.

If you want to know a lot more, I encourage you to read the book, New Deal or Raw Deal by Burton Folsom, Jr. that documents every piece of information acquired.

Thank you!

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Wash a dog, brush a dog, comb a dog, it’s still a dog.

August 10th, 2010 · Uncategorized

“We have tried spending money.  We have spent more money than we have ever spent before and it does not work.  And I have just one interest, and if I am wrong… somebody else can have my job.  I want to see this country prosperous.  I want to see people get a job.  I want to see people get enough to eat.  We have never made good on our promises…. I say after eight years of this Administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started….. And an enormous debt to boot!!”

Henry Morgenthau, Jr.

Secretary of the Treasury

May 9, 1939

We Have Met the Enemy and He is UsWalt Kelly

In 1935, Senator Thomas Gore of Oklahoma, who had been a senator since 1907 when Oklahoma became a state, was the only Nay vote on funding the WPA with $4.8 Billion (1935 dollars, by the way.)  Gore had previously stated “The day on which we begin to make these loans by the Federal Government to States, counties, and cities was a more evil day in the history of the Republic than the day on which the Confederacy fired upon Fort Sumter.” In spite of thousands of his constituents demanding he bring the New Deal to Oklahoma, Gore held to his principles and remained the one lone No vote on the Senate floor.

His response to his constituents was this:  “Your action shows how the dole spoils the soul.  Your telegram intimates that your votes are for sale.  Much as I value votes, I am not in the market.  I cannot consent to buy votes with the people’s money.  I owe a debt to the tax payer as well as to the unemployed.”

Gore was soundly defeated in the next election coming in fourth and his political career was over.  So the question is, is it the politicians, or is it us?  Is it our greed that allows them to be greedy?  Is it our desires that allow them to do what they do?  Do we then get enraged when it suits us or whenever we feel we’ve been neglected or cut out of the bargain?

My feeling is this.  I can control but two things in my life… my credit and my integrity.  The moment I compromise either one of those, I have failed.  All of us, not just politicians need to come to that understanding.

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Turning First Time Buyers Into Repeat Customers

May 28th, 2010 · Uncategorized

Customer Satisfaction:

One would normally assume that there is a positive correlation between customer satisfaction and customer buying behavior. We know that dissatisfaction comes from the difference between what we expect to occur and what actually happens. Yet, in spite of customers telling you that they are quite satisfied with your services, they often turn around and leave you anyway.

Recent studies confirm that current satisfaction measurement systems, such as surveys, are not a reliable predictor of repeat purchase. Which is why you will so often hear bosses making statements like, “It’s great to know that our customer satisfaction score is up again for the fourth straight year. Now, can someone tell me why profitability and market share are down again?”

Preventing Erosion:

To keep customers from leaving requires a determined mindset and a long-term commitment to the customer.

What you must look for are:

• customer retention

• total share of the customer’s business

• recency

• frequency

• dollar amount

• life time value

• loyalty

• referral

• opportunity

• profitability

REMEMBER: Your Best Customers are Your Competitor’s Best Prospects.

Which is why it is imperative that you do everything possible to turn your first time buyers into repeat buyers and eventually loyal customers.

To accomplish that feat means having to make the experience of doing business with you, especially that first experience, as pleasant and overwhelming for the customer as is possible.

Five reasons for making a first time customer a lifetime buyer:

1. Sales go up because the customer is buying more from you

2. You strengthen your position in the marketplace when customers are buying from you instead of your competition

3. Marketing costs go down when you don’t have to spend money to attract a repeat customer, since you already have him. In addition, as a satisfied customer he tells his friends thereby decreasing your need to promote yourself.

4. You are better insulated from price competition because a loyal customer is less likely to be lured away by a discount of a few dollars.

5. Finally, a happy customer is likely to sample your other services thus helping you achieve a larger share of the customer.

A Five-Step Progression:

Each time a customer buys, he progresses through a buying cycle. A first time buyer goes through the following five steps:

1. Becomes aware of your services

2. Makes an initial investment

3. Post purchase evaluation

4. Decision to repurchase

5. Repurchase or not

Whether or not the customer feels an attachment to you is dependent upon two factors:

1. The customer’s degree of preference

2. The customer’s degree of perceived differentiation.

Four Reasons First Time Buyers Do Not Return

1. Early problems sour the relationship

2. No formal servicing system – no account management program

3. Communication breakdown with the decision makers

4. Easy return to the other supplier

STORY:

A man died and went to heaven, where he was told he had a choice between Heaven and Hell.

He decided to take up the offer to look around. What he found was a serene heaven, bathed in a wonderful white light. He found the people in Heaven to be very friendly. They were all walking around in white robes and singing hymns. “Nice”, he thought, “but a tad boring.”

On his visit to Hell, he was surprised to find people having fun. They were playing golf, playing cards, dancing, partying and it wasn’t even hot. He went back to the Pearly Gates and told St. Peter he’d take Hell. But, when he arrived in Hell this time, everything was different. It was hot and horrible. People were miserable, in pain and screaming. “What happened?” he asked the Devil. “This isn’t at all what I saw when I visited the first time.”

“When you visited the first time,” replied the Devil, “you were a prospect. Now my good man, you’re a CUSTOMER!

This article is taken from Chapter Six of the Altfeld Inc. Sales Training Manual.

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A Letter to My Goddaughter & Generation Y

April 12th, 2010 · Uncategorized

Dear Kacee and Your Generation Y:

You were born into Generation Y.  I was born into the Y Generation.  Big Difference.  You’re young and full of yourself, just as we were forty years ago.  We were just as ignorant, naïve and inexperienced as you are now.  Only the world we were born into was far different than the one that exists today.  There was no Internet, no cell phones, text messaging, 24 hour news, no microwaves and no instantaneous anything.  You wanted the news, you bought the paper for 7¢ in the morning and the evening addition at night.  Then you turned on Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, or Walter Cronkite when you arrived home at night.  At dinner, the entire family, sat around the dinner table and talked about what went on with everyone during the day and what was going on in the country and maybe the world.  You have to remember, the world was a much larger place back then.  Going to Hawaii was a very big deal!  Going to Europe, Russia, Africa, South America, Asia was huge!  (Well, for everyone except my adventuresome Mom!)

But allow me to explain how we became the Y Generation.  We grew up on Ozzie & Harriot, Father Knows Best, Leave It to Beaver, Bonanza, Gunsmoke, The Lone Ranger, and a host of radio shows before that.  We grew up with Super Man who promoted Truth, Justice and the American Way!  And, not only did we believe it, our parents believed it.  After all, they had just come out of the real Great Depression and World War II.  They knew what it was like to have to survive both in an incomprehensible economic downturn and a war.  And the beauty was that they passed those stories of what they went through down to my generation, because, in my case, my parents wanted me to be prepared.

Ok, so maybe you’re rolling your eyes and thinking, “Do I puke now or later?”  But there’s more.  Hiroshima may have ended the war with Japan, but it began a whole new era called the Arm’s Race.  In grade school we had to learn and practice a drill called Duck and Roll.  It may sound like an old Rock N’Roll dance step, but it wasn’t.  It was what we practiced in case of nuclear attack.  Someone had the bright idea that if we hit the floor and ducked under our desks, we might be saved from a nuclear explosion should Russia decide to attack us.  At the same time, there was a Senator from Wisconsin named McCarthy who was off his rocker and a drunk, but because he was a US Senator, had a voice that started McCarthyism.  Basically, he created a nationwide witch hunt to find Communists everywhere throughout the United States.  And by gum, he did!  Whether they existed or not.  It was a pure case of guilty until proven innocent and a lot of good people had their lives ruined because of it.  It took the likes of Edward R. Murrow and others to finally stand up to this maniac, but by then, it was too, late.  He had done his damage, including helping to get us into the Korean War.  There was this imaginary line called the 34rd Parallel and we determined that NO COMMUNIST was ever going to cross it!  But then, things went wrong.  Actually they went very wrong.  President Truman forgot a very important rule of war called the Munich Analogy.  This is where you are only suppose to go so far in war and no further, but further he went.  Our troops crossed the line and invaded deeper into Korea which resulted in our awakening the Chinese who didn’t like it at all.  But that was Ok, because while we were in a Cold War with Russia, and Eisenhower (I Like Ike) trounced Adlai Stevenson for the presidency, there came another raucous in Southeast Asia in a country called Viet Nam.  You may or may not know this, but Eisenhower, the General of the Allied Forces in WWII, and the key person in charge of D-Day, was known for playing a lot of golf during his eight years in office.  But, he was a crafty, old S.O.B, because it was a ploy.  He figured that if the nation saw him playing golf and looking relaxed, then all must be right with the world.  Well, it wasn’t.  Because first and foremost the Russians decided to take the Arms Race up a notch and add in the Race for Space.  Which, by the way is another thing you have to keep in mind.  At the end of WWII, there was this guy named Werner von Braun who was Hitler’s number one scientist for creating missiles and weapons of mass destruction like the V-1 that was notorious for destroying building and killing Brits.  Von Braun had other things he’d been working on, but fortunately, VE Day came before he could produce them.  But, when the war ended, it was a big deal as to who would get von Braun and his fellow scientists.. the USA or Russia.  Fortunately, von Braun was smart enough to know NOT to go with the Russians and surrendered to the United States where he was taken to Alamogordo and White Sands Missile Base to do his thing.  But, that’s another story.

Oh, did I mention that while all of that was going on, some guy name Fidel Castro, a lawyer from Cuba, teamed up with a Guerilla fighter named Che Guevara to overthrow Batista in Cuba.  Cuba was that little country, much like Puerto Rico, full of fun and a lot of poverty and not that far from Miami.  Like right next door!

Jumping forward, we had another presidential election in 1960 with Eisenhower’s vice president, Richard M. Nixon versus the upstart new kid, John F. Kennedy.  It was one helluva time and the vote was damn close.  Mayor Daley of Chicago handed the election to Kennedy on a platter by delivering Chicago and much of Illinois, in spite of a good part of Illinois being very Republican back then.  Then Kennedy, brand new in office, started making some very bad decisions, like the Bay of Pigs.  Invading Cuba and trying to overthrow Castro sounded like a great idea at the time.  But it ended very badly.  But that was soon forgotten about because things then got worse.  Kruschev, in between pounding his shoe on the table at the UN saying Russia was going to bury the United States, suddenly had the brilliant idea to establish a missile base in Cuba.  You know, Cuba?  That little country, kind of like Puerto Rico only even closer to Miami!!  Well… let me tell you..  EVERYONE, and I mean EVERYONE was scared shitless.  It was the first time in my short life that I could ever remember seeing fear in my parents’ faces.  Because President Kennedy, now smarter and a little more experienced in these matters since the Bay of Pigs, called for a blockade around Cuba, causing the entire world to hold its breath.  (I can still remember my brother and I trying to dig a huge hole in our backyard to build a bomb shelter to protect us from the impending nuclear war.  That old duck and roll stuff was out.  Bomb Shelters were in!  Only in our case, our house was located so close to the DesPlaines River that every time we dug down more than six feet, the hole would fill up with river water!)

Well, whistling in the dark, scared to death, every one breathed a sigh of relief when Kruschev pulled out his missiles from Cuba and went home.  The concessions he got out of Kennedy were never completely determined, but on paper, Kennedy looked great.  In reality, Kruschev won the stare down.

Jumping forward again I take you to November 22, 1963.  I was in gym class in the wrestling room in high school when the announcement came over the PA system.  Everyone was to go home immediately.  The school is closed.   President John F. Kennedy has been shot in Dallas, Texas by a lone gunman. Just writing this still gives me the chills.  We were glued to our television sets.  We watched it all.  We even saw Jack Ruby step up and kill Lee Harvey Oswald live on national television.  We saw a blood splattered Jackie Kennedy standing next to Lyndon Banes Johnson as he was sworn into office.  Then came the presidential election of Barry Goldwater, the first Conservative Republican going up against the now incumbent, Lyndon Johnson.  Johnson actually ran ads of nuclear explosions implying that Goldwater’s plans for Viet Nam would lead to just that. (Keep in mind that this is 1964, not 2010.  Keep in mind that we just came off the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Kennedy Assassination.  Now we’re watching nuclear mushroom clouds on our television sets!)  Johnson won and ended up escalating the Viet Nam War calling for more troops each month.  Simultaneously, America is experiencing major racial problems and the Race for Space continues.  Johnson was being spread very thin and the country was now prepared to give up the Race for Space in order to deal with RACE.  Negroes were no longer Negroes.  They were now Blacks.  The Black Muslims, lead by Allejah Muhammed rose up, and Cassius Clay suddenly became Muhammed Ali. Muhammed Ali made a stand and said he would not serve and not be drafted and gave up is Heavyweight Title.  (By the way, he won that title as Cassius Clay by knocking out a guy named Sonny Liston who was virtually incapable of being knocked out.  The fact that he owed a lot of money and his life to the mob and had an occasional drug problem, may have had something to do with the outcome, but no one will ever know.  Liston was certainly not going to talk, since he showed up dead not much longer after that.)

Next came February 21, 1965 in New York City when Malcom X, the militant Black Muslim was gunned down.  Then in August of 1965 racial tensions exploded in Watts, a section of Los Angeles that came to be known as the Watts Riots.

Again moving forward… the Viet Nam War was in our living rooms and on our television sets from 1963 to 1972.  In 1968  President Johnson, on national television, announced he would not seek a second full term of office.  Chances are, he would not have won anyway.  Johnson was a lot of things, but what he was BEST at was being a politician.  And he had learned from the best.  Sam Rayburn, the Speaker of the House.  Although, in spite of political skills and craftiness, he was outfoxed by a craftier John F. Kennedy back in 1960.  Johnson wanted the presidency, but Kennedy outmaneuvered him for the candidacy.  Then turned around and named him the vice presidential candidate.  But that, too is another story.

With Johnson out of the race, the 1968 Presidential election became a free for all.  But, I have to have you hold that thought for a moment, because something else occurred on April 4th of that year.  James Earl Ray, a white man in Memphis, Tennessee shot down Martin Luther King, Jr. and the country went riotous!  The Martin Luther King riots were nasty nationwide and you had to see them to believe it.  I was in Chicago when Mayor Daley and Fire Commisioner Quinn, in a helicopter over the West Side of Chicago gave the Shoot to Kill Order.  It was scary.  So scary that my dad would not allow our factory employees to go home.  He brought in cots and food for everyone rather than try to get back to their homes on the West Side and South Side of Chicago that night.

Getting back to the political race, Bobby Kennedy was the Democratic Frontrunner with Nixon going in for the Republicans.  But then in Los Angeles, after winning the California Primary on June 5, 1968 on live national television, we witnessed Sirhan Sirhan gundown Bobby Kennedy as he went through the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel.  This was just four months after Martin Luther King’s assassination.  Simply stated, the country was in a state of emotional and psychological shock.  But wait, there’s more.  In August of 1968, the Democrats held their national convention in Chicago where Mayor Daley decided to hold court.  It turned out to be a riot.  Literally.  The SDS (Headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin and known for blowing up things like buildings) and the Chicago Seven showed up with umpteen thousand of their closest friends to protest the Viet Nam War.  Turns out that Mayor Daley didn’t care much for that idea and didn’t like hippies in the first place, so he had his cops beat the helloutta them in Grant Park.  I was in Chicago at the time.  The Democratic candidates, McCarthy (not the Communist baiter, but a different one) was expected to stand up for the kids and their protest but did nothing.  Humbert Humphrey, the Happy Warrior from Minnesota, received the nomination, but did nothing either.  The kids got their asses kicked.  Dick Gregory, a well known Black comedian of the era, may have done more.  When approached by an army of Chicago Police and asked where he was going with an army of protestors behind him, Gregory said, I’m taking all these kids over to my house for a beer!  It was ugly.  It was brutal and it was what caused Humphrey to lose the election, narrowly, to Nixon.  (Oh, I forgot to mention that in 1964, Humphrey, a presidential candidate, was shown in Life Magazine, standing in front of his campaign bus that had run out of gas, looking frumpy with his pockets turned inside out because he was broke.  Between 1964 and 1968 there was a thing called the Milk Scandal in Minnesota and suddenly Humphrey was a multi-Millionaire.  Oh, well.  I digress.)

On August 15, 1969 as fighting raged in Vietnam, a group of 400,000+ converged on a dairy farm in New York State for three days of frolicking in the spirit of peace, love and music. It was called Woodstock.  I didn’t attend, but I certainly knew about it.  And I am proud to say I just recently visited the museum in Bethel.  It was a very emotional experience that brought back far more memories than I ever thought it would.  Again, I digress.

I graduated from college in May of 1971 with a draft number of 147.  There was a major recession going on and I found myself competing with PhD.s for jobs.  Plus, the first question I was always asked was, “What’s your draft number?” I’d tell them and it would be the end of the interview.  So, long about July, I was drafted and took my physical, which I passed.  About two weeks later, they no longer wanted my draft number and I was told the government would not be needing my services.  In the meantime, I had a brother (who had won the Silver Star) on his second tour of duty and friends coming home in body bags.

Well, Nixon, in a sense, finally had the good sense to declare the War over, announced that we won and brought everyone home.  We didn’t win and we knew it.  It was a stupid war because it was fought with our hands tied behind our backs.  Friends and family lost their lives and so many others were never quite right after that war that it just wasn’t worth it.  Even dumber is the fact that the French, who had been there before us, told us not to go there.  But, because of the Communist Hunting McCarthyism Era, Eisenhower encouraged Kennedy to pursue Viet Nam and Johnson took it to a whole nother level.

Moving forward again, I take you to 1972.  Governor Wallace of Alabama, well known for his segregationist thinking, decided to make a run for the presidency.  But on May 15 of that year, his dreams and aspirations came to an end when a 21 year old kid shot him.  Wallace ended up paralyzed and in a wheelchair thereafter and that was pretty much the end of him.  But there’s more…

I now take you to June 17, 1972 and the Watergate Break In.  Did Nixon do it?  Was he involved?  Could he have done it?  The hearings went on and on.  Everyone was glued to their television sets in disbelief.  People lying, people going to prison, Liddy threatening to kill Dean with a pencil to the forehead on behalf of the president.  The missing tapes, the undermining of America.  “I am not a crook!” The wave with the both hands up in the air holding the victory sign as he departs the presidency on a helicopter.  It was unbelievable.

Gerald Ford, Nixon’s second VP (his first one, Spiro T. Agnew ended up in prison) replaced Nixon and immediately pardoned him.  Ford was pretty much a do-nothing president, and his claim to fame was probably making SNL’s Chevy Chase a household name.  Next came a peanut farmer and nuclear physicist named Jimmy Carter who was beyond inept.  With him we had the Russians invading Afghanistan, for which we boycotted the Olympics that year.  But, the biggest thing happened on November 4, 1979.  Well it actually started in October.  The Shah of Iran came to the United States for cancer treatment.  (Did I mention that the CIA basically put the Shah in office?  Well, that too is another story.  Anyway, when the Shah came to America for his cancer treatment, the Ayatollah incited Iranian militants to attack the U.S.  On November 4, Iranian militants stormed the United States Embassy in Tehran and took approximately seventy Americans captive that lasted 444 days. The exiled Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Tehran in February 1979 and whipped popular discontent into rabid anti-Americanism that went on for a long while.  Actually it went on long enough to make Ted Koppel a household name because he seized upon the situation to start his own show called Nightline covering the hostage situation.  Oh, yes.  Carter also gave the Panama Canal back to Panama.  I’m sure that didn’t sit too well with Teddy Roosevelt, but then again, he had been dead for a very long time.

So, what’s my point with this historical journey I’ve just taken you through?  My generation is not a very trusting lot, especially when it comes to the U.S. Government.  Which explains why we are truly the Y Generation.  We question everything and believe very little.  Nothing is as it appears to be.  We have lived through and experienced things that have caused us to be circumspect, cynical and downright suspicious.

Another thing I wish to point out is this.  Like you, I sat in college with my peers and we were all in agreement on what was wrong with the world.  The problem was that not only were we short on life experiences, but we were all the same.  There was no other voice of reason to tell us we were flat out wrong or too naïve, or too one-sided.  But, at least we had seen things going on this country that caused us to question everything.  We had seen and lived through racial violence and riots.  We had seen presidents, candidates and major figures shot and killed.  We lived Viet Nam from eighth grade through one year after graduation from college. But, at least we were involved!

So far, from what I’ve seen of your Generation Y, I can foresee that you are winning and my generation has lost the good fight.  You don’t want to do anything, you want to be paid for doing nothing, you have entitlement issues, you believe in nothing, you have no true loyalty to the United States and feel you can flee the country at the drop of a hat. You don’t want to commit to a job or a company because it will interfere with your social life and you want to be vice presidents with no experience while making $100k right out of school.  And that is exactly the direction this country is headed.  Personally, I am glad I am at the head of the Boomer Line and on my way out.

And when the time comes when your generation takes over, all I can say is Good night, good luck and you’re on your own.  I hope there is something left for you to take over.

Sincerely,

Jim Altfeld

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Who’s Really In Charge of Your Business?

March 21st, 2010 · Uncategorized

The Founding Fathers of the US had something other than a pyramid in mind when it came to organizational structure.  They understood that such a structure promotes and encourages a top-down, micro-managed, controlling and persecution culture – something from which they were trying to escape.  As the antithesis of that mindset, they instead spoke of rights for the people that could never be transferred or taken away.  They spoke of protecting the needs of the common man and doing right by them.  They declared their independence in terms of human rights.

Following the Declaration of Independence, the Founding Fathers drafted a constitution that was 180 degrees from the pyramid mentality, which they had despised.  What they created in its place was a “Leaderless, No One’s in Charge” society.  It was a brilliantly designed system of checks and balances that separated the powers of government.

One thing is for certain, this did not occur by happenstance.  The intention was to prevent and deny any one part of the federal government from having too much power at the expense of the other parts, and especially of the people the government was to be serving.

Like an unstable Stealth Bomber inflight, the system of government the Founding Fathers created would forever require tweaking to keep it functioning.  It was purposefully designed to create a continuous condition of give and take between the parts of the federal government as well as between the states and the federal government.  No one part of what they proposed was ever to win all the power.  Their mantra was “sovereignty for the people” and the system they created was unprecedented.

According to Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to a friend in 1820, he wrote, “I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society, but the people themselves, and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion.”

Sovereignty, according to Webster is “supreme authority, complete independence and self-government.”

In other words, our Founding Fathers built a government whose purpose was not to control the people, but one that the people controlled.  They created an anti-pyramid structure in which no one person, entity or party was in charge, while giving the ultimate authority to the people, making each person partially in charge.

In Alfred Sloan’s book, My Years with General Motors he talks at length of how he, as part of the anti-pyramid, anti-centralization, anti-top-down management philosophy, went through great pains to decentralize and create an entirely new culture throughout GM.

The problem Sloan and the rest of American Management ran into, was that de-centralization proved to be merely another aspect of centralization.  In spite of Sloan’s efforts, his decentralization philosophy remained a top down culture.  The primary difference between the two was that instead of being told what to do and how to do it, his people were still told what to do, but permitted to figure out how to do it on their own.

Perhaps the opposite of centralization is not decentralization but anti-centralization, which is a far cry closer to where the Founding Fathers were headed.  Unlike decentralization, anti-centralization is more of a leaderless, “no-one-in-charge” system.  According to the Founding Fathers, the intent of government was not to control the people, but to exercise and carry out their sovereign authority. The trick to making a “leaderless, no one in charge” system work, is to create a system that minimizes and clearly defines what everyone must agree on.  To do that, the Founding Fathers understood that they would have to create common norms and standards.

An example of their brilliance can be realized at every street corner.  Let’s say you are one of some thirty pedestrians standing at a busy intersection with another thirty or so also waiting to cross when the light changes.  The walk light goes on.  Do you and 59 other pedestrians collide into one another or do you instinctively avoid bumping into each other?  It works because the people involved in the process are cooperating enough to make certain it works.    According to political scientist Charles Lindblom, this phenomenon is called mutual adjustment.  “In a generally understood environment of moral rules, norms, conventions and mores, very large numbers of people watch each other, then modify their own behavior just enough to accommodate the differing purposes of others, but not so much that the mutual adjusters lose sight of where they themselves want to go.”

Simply stated, rules work when nearly all those who need to abide by the rules do so because the rules make sense to them.  Take a look at our driving rules.  The light is red so you stop.  The light is green and you proceed.  You are expected to drive on the right hand side of the road and most cars are built with left side steering to encourage you to do so.  Should you not agree with either the traffic signal or driving on the right hand side of the road rule, you can try to drive through a red light and drive on the left-hand side of the road.  Chances are you are likely to kill someone or be killed in the process.  Therefore, as a matter of common sense and safety, you choose to obey the rules.

Consider this.  There are not enough police in the world to enforce these two driving laws.  It would be impossible.  Therefore, when you get right down to it, enforcement of these laws is the prevailing sentiment of the people who all share the roads.

Therefore, anti-centralization cannot happen unless there is mutual agreement regarding the standards on whatever is central to the system.  It is a system whereby no one is in charge, yet everyone is in charge.  The Internet is another prime example of anti-centralization.  No one is in charge, yet everyone is in charge.  There is worldwide, mutual agreement on the standards central to the system.

The primary reason why anti-centralization can work better today than ever before lies in the abundance and accessibility of data and information.  With the advent of the computer and the world-wide web it is everywhere.  It moves and spreads like a Montana wildfire.  Like dust or sand in the wind, it’s difficult, if not impossible to contain.  No one can own it.   You can only choose to deliver it or not deliver it.   And even when you choose not to, you can bet it will somehow make its way somewhere else, whether you want it to or not.

To understand the difference between data and information, let’s take a restaurant menu.  Data is a restaurant menu when you are not hungry.  Information is that same restaurant menu when you are.  With information people can make intelligent decisions.  Without it, they can’t.  Therefore, from data comes information.  But it does not end there.  From information comes knowledge and from knowledge comes wisdom.

What then is the successful formula for making a “no one’s in charge” system work?  It’s what the Founding Fathers understood when they created The Constitution.  It’s having a mix of informed, knowledgeable, wise and aware people,

To implement an anti-centralized, no one’s in charge system in your business:

1.     Accept the fact that everyone in your company is partly in charge and no one person, including yourself is completely in charge.  When you are in control you are actually out of control.  And when you are out of control, you are really in control.  Trying to control everything and micro-manage is like trying to teach a pig to sing.  You’ll only frustrate yourself and exacerbate the pig.

2.     Understand that most of what each of us does every day does not happen because someone told us to do it.

3.     Accept the premise that how big a part any one person within the company plays depends upon how responsible they feel for the general outcome of the collective effort.

4.     People only support what they have helped create.  Involve as many of your people as possible.  The more people affected by a decision feel that they were consulted about it, rather than told about it, the more likely it is that the you will get their buy-in and increase its chances for success.

5.     Make certain your people understand your company’s values and that the company truly lives by the values it has established.

6.     Keep your policies, procedures, standards, practices and protocols simple and un-complicated.  The fewer and less constringent your company rules are, the better.  The tighter the rules the greater the frustration level and the less likely you are to either involve or inspire your people.  The more room there is for individual discretion, insight and initiative the better.

7.     Grow your people.  The more educated, aware and knowledgeable your people are, the better off your business becomes.  Encourage them to read, grow, experiment and further their education.  Encourage them to learn, share and expand their horizons.  Think in terms of being a boundaryless organization accepting ideas and input from all corners.

8.     Do not plan in isolation.  To be effective, planning requires involvement and input from the many.  Involve your people in the planning process.  One, they will have a much better understanding of what they need to do once they understand the plan.  Two, they will have a much better understanding of the plan if they contributed to its creation in the first place.

9.     Eliminate secrets.  One way or another you can count on information being shared throughout the company.  Information, whether accurate or inaccurate, usually gets created by way of the grapevine.   To circumvent and/or eliminate the grapevine, it is best that all, or at least as much accurate information as possible is shared in the first place.

By adopting and implementing our Founding Father’s original, “no one’s in charge” approach, you can actually create a horizontally integrated, interdependent, teamwork-minded, completely aligned infrastructure, with all of your employees pulling on the same rope in the same direction.

If you found this article of interest, kindly pass it on to your suppliers’ management.  Should you wish to learn more about strategically aligning your own company’s objectives, the benefits of strategic planning, and how to get your employees pulling on the same rope in the same direction, visit www.altfeldinc.com or contact Jim Altfeld at jaltfeld@altfeldinc.com, or call 1-800-397-0010.

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Living in an Alice in Wonderland World Part II

January 26th, 2010 · Uncategorized

The CEO as the chief strategist, visionary and leader.

“Leadership is not about sitting in your office and dreaming up strategy.  It is about touching your organization through values, personal presence and relationships.”  Jack Welch, Chairman, General Electric Co.

There are both tactical and strategic ceo’s.  Whether the CEO is one or the other, s/he is always looked upon as the chief strategist.  The CEO is always the one person who can speak for the entire organization and no major changes within the company can ever be made without him or her.  Being a CEO of any company today has become a more demanding job than ever before.  The massive volatility and rapidity of change combined with the speed of the communications revolution can be quite taxing.   And just as the company is in constant motion, so must be the CEO.  Both the company and the CEO must constantly be reinventing and renewing themselves on the fly.  As former GE Chairman Jack Welch so aptly put it, “You have to change the tires while the car’s still moving.”

“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present.  As our case is new so we must think a new and act a new.  We must disenthrall ourselves and then we shall save our country.”  A. Lincoln

Whether tactical or strategic, all CEO’s must be restless, impatient, never content and above all, focused.   What differentiates the strategic from the tactical leader is that the strategic leader knows the principles s/he wants to follow and inspires others to pursue those principles with him or her.  “Important principles may and must be inflexible.” Said Lincoln in his last public address. Strategic leaders serve as powerful role models whose actions and personal energy demonstrate the desired behaviors.  Their behavior and standards are above reproach.  Through their commitment, effectiveness and consistency, strategic leaders build a personal bond between themselves and the organization.  They provide a psychological focal point for the energies, hopes and aspirations of their people.

Keep in mind, too that strategic leadership is not infallible.  There are always policy failures.  The difference is that in spite of failure the strategic leader never loses sight of the real goal.  Countries can survive a tactical leader.  Companies cannot.

Strategic planning then becomes the guide for the strategic CEO.  It enables the company to look at the chain of cause and effect over time. It is a planning process that lets you fight on two fronts simultaneously.  It allows you to confront today’s challenges while probing tomorrow’s opportunities and preparing for tomorrow’s predictable problems.  And like the organization itself, the plan is in constant motion.  It too must be flexible enough to be reviewed, reinvented and renewed on the fly.   Whether the plan holds together for a quarter of a year or a quarter century, it is the planning process that allows the strategic management team to look at alternatives.  It develops the mindset for and encourages opportunity management.  Yes, there is always the outside chance that an asteroid will come out of nowhere, completely undetected, and slam into your company, your market space or even your entire industry.  Your plan may be obsolete and your company changed forever as a result of it.  But with a planning process in place you can revise and rebuild quickly.

What was important yesterday, may no longer be important today, or especially tomorrow.

CEO’s are well aware that listening and responding to their customers’ needs, however quickly and precisely, is not sufficient for shaping the future of an industry, warding off disruptive technologies, creating major new market opportunities, or attracting the attention of new groups of customers.  There is a need to be out well ahead of your current and future customers.  Your customer’s of today only know their immediate needs and tend to merely ask for refinements – faster, better, cheaper – of what they already have.  By staying such a course, a company, or an entire industry for that matter, will merely plod along making improvements to what currently exists – until some outsider or some new revolutionary technology comes along and changes everything.  Like Federal Express and UPS did.  Before them, every major company had its own shipping department and a fleet of trucks.  The trucks are gone and so is the expense and aggravation of maintaining them.  Did anyone ever ask for a Federal Express or UPS? No.  Or Southwest Airlines.  Before their arrival you either drove or took a bus to the places they fly to.  Rather than take on the airline industry they have successfully revolutionized the ground transportation industry.  Did anyone demand they do that?  No.  How about Quiken’s Intuit.  Its primary competitor was not the computer, it was the pencil.  They saw a need for speed, accuracy, simplicity and low price and filled it.  Was anyone pounding on their door asking them to hurry up?  No. For that matter, who asked for the electric light bulb, or continuous aim gunfire aboard ships?  No one.  Was anyone seen demanding the PC, CD, DVD, the Blackberry, iPhone, iPod, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, eBay, or Amazon.com?  Again, no.  None of us know what someone or some new technology can do for us until we learn about it and see it first hand.  But once we do, nothing is ever the same again.

“It’s not where we stand, but what direction are we heading.”  Oliver Wendell Holmes

There are at least twenty technologies and thirty new tools out there for you to use.  Because our peripheral vision is normally confined to our own immediate areas, we are too often unaware of these technologies and tools being used elsewhere in other industries.  Yet, if applied to your product, service or industry they could actually prove to be revolutionary.  In the words of Wm. Faulkner, “don’t bother being better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.”  Quit watching your competitors and move ahead.  Create new offerings, redefine, reinvent and renew.  Keep your eyes, ears and mind open to what is out there.  Go beyond the markets and industries you are currently serving. The only way to predict the future is to invent it.  If you don’t like the way the game is being played, change the rules.  Don’t lose yourself in what you already know.  Give your customers something that they don’t know about because it didn’t even exist until you just created it (whether in your mind, on paper or as a tangible item).  Fighting tomorrow’s battles with today’s products and services is eventually going to be a losing proposition.

In no particular order, a list of recommendations for accomplishing all of the above is listed below.  Reading the list is one thing.  Actual implementation, execution and follow through is quite another.

Dream

Dare

Think

Believe

Be honest enough with yourself to discern your own realities

Achieve actual disclosure

Anticipate an accurate future of your company

Share the dream

Communicate, communicate, communicate

Take appropriate actions to ensure that the vision becomes reality

Do not allow outsiders to shape your future for you

Involve, inform and inspire your people

Use all available technology and your uniqueness to either distance yourself from your competitors, or eliminate them completely

Shift from crisis management to opportunity management

Focus on your customers’ future needs

Focus on your customers’ customers’ future

Prevent tomorrow’s predictable problems from ever occurring

Remain committed

Hold true to your values

Be curious

Be open to new ideas and other ways of doing things

Be consistent

Be flexible

Be aware

Keep in mind that the future remains an invisible place only until you start thinking about it. The result of NOT thinking about it and NOT doing something to shape it can cost you dearly.  It could, in the end, lead to your ultimate demise, if not extinction.

Would love to hear your thoughts and comments on this.  jaltfeld@altfeldinc.com

Thank you!

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Living in an Alice In Wonderland World: Part 1

December 30th, 2009 · Uncategorized

By Jim Altfeld

Nearly fifty years ago, Bob Dylan sang “The Times They Are a Changing”.

Only, no one, not even Bob Dylan could have anticipated just how powerful, long term  and constant that change would be.  Today, change happens so fast, so dramatically and at such a dramatic rate that many are predicting that much of all current knowledge and accepted practices will be obsolete within the next five years. Furthermore, the current life span of new technology that is already down to 18 months will continue to grow shorter.

Whether we like it or not, we are living in an Alice in Wonderland world.  What we thought were croquet mallets were actually flamingos.  Playing cards change suit before our eyes and then get up and walk away from us.  And just like Alice experienced in her croquet tournament, the rules keep changing.  Actually, the game itself keeps changing.  Nothing is constant.  Everything is in flux and a lot at first glance, seems to be unpredictable.  We get the feeling that any resemblance of today’s world to the past is merely coincidental.  And as a result, we share the same frustrations and same fears that Alice did.

As my father used to remind me, “life is what happens to you while you’re making other plans.”  None of us can control the unexpected, but we can control our response to it.  We must not resist the unexpected by holding steadfastly to our original plan.  Sticking to conventional formula leads only to extinction.  We need to remain flexible and to move with the change.  It is imperative that we maintain a constant vigil for the unexpected and deal with it making up the rules as we go.

In the movie Fracture, Anthony Hopkins proved the unexpected can sometimes prove deadly.  It could be a new technology that suddenly makes you obsolete.  It could be an old technology used in a new way that causes you to lose business.  Or worse, it could be a disease, bug, scandal, flaw, death or tampering that could put you out of business .  For instance, when scientists cloned sheep, our reaction to it was under-whelming at best.  We are so bombarded with change, that we’ve become immune to it.  That something even that resounding has no effect on us.  It does on the pharmaceutical companies, however.  As a result of that sheep and the study of gene therapy, the day will come when disease will not be cured from the outside in with pharmaceuticals, but from the inside by our own bodies.  Instead of large pharmaceutical companies manufacturing pills, there will be herds of disease specific cows producing milk with the right dna combination to cure specific diseases.   Or, sometimes the unexpected can be a revolutionizing but friendly opportunity (and a threat only if viewed that way) like the internet and social media.

Way back in 1990, Robert D. Tuttle, then CEO of SPX Corp. was quoted as saying, “It is not an exaggeration to say that more scientific and technical advances will happen in the next year, than happened in the entire decade of the ‘70’s.”  Is that what we will be saying in 2010 about the first decade of the ‘00s?

We used to be able to use technology to ward off our competitors.  You could introduce a new product and know it would be years before anyone would introduce a better one, especially one based on “state-of-the-art” technology.  Not anymore.  Today, state-of-the-art is down to “state-of-the-nanosecond.”  It is an entirely new ball game.

“If I take care of the present, the future will take care of itself.”

A philosophy that can kill you.

Scientists believe that millions of years ago a giant asteroid struck the earth and completely wiped out the dinosaurs.  The dinosaurs were busy taking care of the present. They had no concept of a future beyond the now.  As a result, they remained fat, dumb and content for as long as they could.  But what actually proved to be their demise was something OUTSIDE of their peripheral vision.  The same holds true today.  Look at the Internet and social media.  Who saw it coming?  Very few of us.  You could have taken care of the day to day stuff and been on top of it, but all of a sudden you are living in an “Alice in Wonderland” world.  Everything has changed and you’ve never even left your office, much less the planet.  The way things used to be done aren’t done that way anymore.  The future that you thought would exist for you exists no longer.  Not only has everything changed, everything continues to change!  It’s downright volatile.  You can just stand still and feel like you’re in a different world.  The trick then is to look to the future and determine proactively what your company will look like when it and maybe you, get there.

Sure we have vision, we just can’t see.

Unfortunately, history has shown us it is not quite that simple.  Just being smart enough to look out into the future is only the half of it.  The other half has to do with your mindset while you are looking.  IBM, Sears, the Encyclopedia Britannica and Barnes & Noble were all at the top of their game and quite brilliant when they looked toward the future.  They were the T-Rex’s of their respective industries.  But none of them ever saw their own impending asteroids.  None of them chose to see them.  They were all overly confident and content.  They were complacent and suffering from structural inertia – a built-in resistance to change.  These companies were all betting their futures on the fact that the future would be a continuation of the present.  And from a historical perspective, it’s really old news.  Look back to the $750 Million vacuum tubes market of the 50’s.  In a last great act of defiance, both RCA and Sylvania chose to stay with tubes in spite of the introduction of the transistor.  Or the Swiss!  They not only had the reputation as the watchmakers of the world, but they actually invented quartz technology.  They had it but never used it.  Seiko ran with it and the rest is history.

Today, in the scientific world, thanks to new and more powerful telescopes being launched into space, astronomers are now discovering about one new planet every month.  They are even able to watch planets form.  One interesting discovery that will probably not affect any of us living today, was made by a group of astronomers, who are probably the best at looking to the future.  They recently identified an enormous asteroid that is expected to slam into the earth in about a thousand years (you may have seen the movie a few years back).  Not only are they aware of the threat, but they have already begun making plans to do something about it.  Talk about eliminating tomorrow’s problems, today.

Like it or not, the future is coming at us like an enormous wave.  It is unrelenting.  It seems to come faster and faster with each wave larger and more powerful than the one preceding it.  Our ability to adapt quickly to not only the changes in the markets we serve, but the changing needs, wants and desires of the customers within those markets, will determine our survival.

Start looking for tomorrow’s opportunities, today.

The late Walt Kelly once wrote, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”  To paraphrase that, “We have met Alice in Wonderland and she is us.”  The times they are a changin’ and the change is constant.  The change each of you reading this article needs to make, if you haven’t already, is to become visionaries.  To look beyond today and start thinking outside the rules.

To witness what I’m talking about first hand, simply watch a group of children play a game.  They spend as much time arguing about the rules, as they do playing the game.  The rules are never cast in stone.  The boundaries are never secure and even the roles of the players are always in question.  Kids are constantly creating and re-creating, never allowing themselves to be bogged down or constrained by some old, established guideline.  They are constantly redesigning the game to fit their needs.

The same needs to hold true in business.  We need to think outside the lines.  By going outside certain parameters, daring to stray beyond certain boundaries, and playing flexible roles under breakable rules, we can stimulate innovation and encourage visionary thinking.  Consider your own product or service.  It is seldom if ever used in a vacuum.  If your customer has an objective, how can your product or service help him or her attain it? Is purchasing your product or service merely satisfying a sub-objective that contributes to yet a larger main objective?  Can you help them meet their main objective?  How do you transform your customer from a caterpillar to a butterfly?  How do you make doing business with you, not just purchasing from you, a wonderful and memorable experience?  (Making it a terrible and memorable experience is easy.  Just treat the customer badly.)  What opportunities and untapped values exist beyond the bounds of your product or service of which you can take advantage? What does the customer have to do before making the purchase and using your product or service?  What does the customer have to go through after making the purchase but before using it?  What is his/her experience when they actually put your product or service to use?  And, what experiences does s/he have they do?  The real question then becomes “What business are you in?”

Next, the playing field itself needs to be changed.  Why play on a level playing field with everyone else?  The trick is to hold the high ground, get the advantage, anticipate, prepare and distance yourself from your competition.  You want to position yourself to make the most of these changes.  Which means you must anticipate them as best you can while simultaneously remaining flexible enough to deal with the force of the unexpected.  Change and the unexpected —  The only two elements you can be absolutely certain of throughout the new millennium.

Unless you are clear about where you are going, any direction is fine.

As we face our “Alice in Wonderland” futures and look beyond today, all of us really do have the ability to begin seizing control of it.  Unfortunately, as business owners, ceo’s, presidents, vice presidents, and managers we constantly fall prey to crisis management.  We get caught up in the day to day challenges that prevent and delay us from taking control of our future.  All too often we find ourselves becoming so entrenched in crisis management that it becomes nearly impossible to even think about solving and/or preventing tomorrow’s predictable problems.  (Remember the asteroid.)  Finding the time to envision your future may be difficult, but it is more of a necessity than ever before, and in most cases, it is far easier to do than having to react to an unexpected reality.  Much like the old Fram filter commercial when the mechanic said, “You can pay me now, or pay me later.”  There are those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened.  Waiting, watching and wondering is a formula for disaster.  Taking appropriate actions, on the other hand, and make things happen is the only way to ensure that the future you envision for you company will be achieved.  You must also make certain that your employees at every level are living that vision you’ve created.

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Becoming Who You Are

November 14th, 2009 · Uncategorized

And Other Not So Trivial Matters

By Jim Altfeld

I can’t think of anything much sadder than the words Schopenhauer spoke when he said, It is bad today and every day will get worse until the worst of all happens. Tied closely to that are the words of the faithful pessimists who believe in an afterlife, It will be over soon and there is a perfect life waiting for me in Heaven. My reply to this, “Perhaps.  But, then again, perhaps not.” All any of us know for certain is the life we have right now.  The very one you and I are living.  All I am saying is that we need to take this life seriously, which includes our actions, the decisions we make and the choices we make.

Consider the idea of Eternal Re-Occurrence.  Consider, instead of an afterlife, instead of reincarnation, having to relive every moment of your entire life, with all the joy, pain, ecstasy, agony, hurt, disappointments, thrills, suffering etc. included, over and over and over again.  How would you live your life then?  How would you look at the decisions you make and the choices you’ve made knowing that you will forever, relive the consequences of those decisions ad infinitum?

Add one more thing to the scenario of Eternal Re-Occurrence. Do you live your life in the manner you live it for fear of having to face your Maker and increase your chances of getting into Heaven?  Or, do you live a life of good values and high morals because of who you are?  Indulge me in this and humor me.  Let’s stick with the idea of Eternal Re-Occurrence and eliminate any idea of an afterlife.   What if, what you did and the way you acted in life became a universal law of nature for everyone else to follow? What if your actions and the things you did became a moral maxim?  How would you act then?

Ok, so I now at least have you thinking.  Let’s try this.  Remember when, as a child, teenager, young adult, and for some us, just last week being asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And what was your response?  A policeman, fireman, ballet dancer, doctor, lawyer, bank president, rich by the time you’re 30, etc., etc.   Before you ever gave your answer, did you ever consider the real you and the things that drove and drive the real you?  Did you take into consideration the things the real you is passionate about?  Or, did you just give an answer that was either programmed into you or what you thought those asking the questions wanted to hear?  I ask you, are you now doing what you love to do?  Are you following your passions, or are you doing what you think others think you ought to be doing? Does a rose bloom for us to admire or for its own sake?

Consider this statement: I Want to be Happy! From what I’ve seen in my past sixty years, most of us pursue happiness, (a right granted to all U.S. Citizens by the U.S. Constitution), as though it were some commodity, wrapped up like a Christmas present, waiting to be found by anyone who has the where with all to find it.  And then when we do find it, the happiness we experience is so damn brief.  What it turns out to be, as Goethe explains, is our going from desire, to satisfaction and soon back to desire again.  The point being that this type of happiness is not real happiness.  Rather it is fleeting and merely temporary satisfaction.

So, the question remains, just where does one find happiness?  According to Aristotle, the “Contemplative Life” (Bios Thoretikos) a divine activity resulting in the truest form of happiness and the highest life of all, was the way to go.  I don’t necessarily disagree with him. I believe that happiness comes in the form of self-forgetfulness.  It seems that whenever happiness does occur, I find myself lost and completely immersed in something or someone outside myself and something so much larger than myself.  So much so, that I not only seem to forget about myself and time, but I actually travel beyond and outside of myself in the process.  It is as though I no longer matter.  I no longer focus on me.

I know for a fact that that has happened, but just where in the hell did I find that feeling of happiness and how do I find it again on a continuous, constant and steady basis!?!  The answer lies in identifying and following those things that drive you!  You find happiness in your passions.  Passions can make you forget about yourself and can make time literally stand still.

When John Wesley, the cofounder of the Methodist Church was asked how he was able to attract such large crowds with his preaching, he said “I simply set myself on fire and people come to watch me burn.”  Now that’s what I call passion!

Passion not only affects you, but those around you.

Passion:

  • Invigorates
  • Inspires
  • Sustains
  • Comforts
  • Initiates
  • Completes
  • Enhances

Yeah, but I wasn’t born with the advantages some others were born with. Ok, I’ll give you that.  But, give me this…. Each of us is born with advantages, disadvantages, certain aptitudes, certain IQs, as well as physical and mental strengths, weaknesses and disabilities. Some are born healthier than others.  The challenge is to make the best out of what you were given.

Once again, referring to Aristotle, he believed that everything is programmed toward a particular end and purpose.  Aristotle believed that the acorn, for example, was programmed to becoming an oak tree with its entire being devoted to achieving that end.  For man, we are programmed not only to reproduce and keep the species going, but also to ascend ourselves.  As individuals, each of us has, or should have, our own unique purpose and chief aim.

I find it almost uncanny how each and every one of us arrive in this world with inherent gifts. As humans, each of us has a nature about us.  Each of us has limits and potentials.   Then, for whatever reason, we spend the first half of our lives abandoning them or letting others disillusion us about them.  As young people, we are surrounded by expectations that may have little to do with who we really are.  Too often, the expectations of us are held by people who are not trying to discern who we really are, but to fit us into slots.  And, all too often, it is their slots they are trying to fit us in.  If we’re fortunate enough, we then spend the second half of our lives trying to recover from the first half and reclaim the gift or gifts we once had.

Ability determines what you can do.

Aptitude determines what you can learn to do.

Aspiration determines what you hope to do.

Attitude determines what you believe you can do.

But passion determines what you want to do!

The trick, it seems, is to know yourself and the limitations, capabilities and potential that are part of your individual nature.  If you seek out a life without understanding yourself and your own nature – your own limitations, capabilities and potential – you place yourself on the road to possible failure by putting yourself in life situations that your nature is not meant to handle.  Much like a certain material is meant for specific applications, only.  Should you use the material in an application it was not meant for and the material is doomed to failure.

Our deepest calling in life is to grow into our own authentic true self, whether or not it conforms to some image of who we, or someone else thinks we OUGHT to be.  In other words, by not knowing and understanding who we are, we can go through life wearing one or any number of false masks.  We fall prey to what some philosophical men call Oughtiveness“You know what you ought to do?”  “You know what you ought to be?”  “You really ought to….” You become what someone or even yourself has convinced yourself, you ought to be, instead of what you really are.   That includes what I consider to be the worst-case scenario, which is wearing someone else’s mask you may have picked up along the way and leading their life instead of your own.

My point being that by not understanding self, not knowing your own nature, not taking the necessary time to determine your personal chief aim in life, one winds up living an ungrounded life.  As a result, one finds him or her self-conforming to a false image and a false sense of self.  And, you can go through life wearing false masks or someone else’s mask without ever getting the opportunity to wear the mask that truly represents you.  The tragedy is that you go through life portraying yourself as someone you really are not, based upon the misconception that this is the someone you think you ought to be, when in fact you really are not that person at all.  Or, in the words of McAnnula, “It is perfectly all right to try to be everything you cannot be when you find that you cannot be everything that you are.”

Which brings me to this:  Become Who You Are!  According to Erich Fromm, Man’s main task in life is to give birth to himself, to become what he potentially is.  For far too many of us, we do nothing but run, never allowing ourselves to reflect on where we’re running to or what we’re running for.   Life goes on no matter what we do, but personal growth and development happen only if we allow it to happen and then choose wisely.

To become who you are, you first must understand what you have.  Then, it is up to you to decide what you will do with what you have.  The choice is yours.  Do you become an advice-rejecting complainer and a couch potato, or do you become exceptional?  As I pointed out earlier with Eternal Re-Occurrence, it is up to you to be responsible and held accountable for your actions, your decisions and your choices.  You made them, you allowed things to happen and you cannot blame others for them.  The choice is our own to make.  Be a hapless victim or an active participant.

According to Heidegger, the inauthentic life is a life lead unaware.  It is an unconscious life of white water river rafting. In an authentic life I am aware and fully conscious.  I am in a state of enlightenment.  I am my own witness to my own events.

Belief follows need.

What we see and how we interpret what we see confirms what we believe.  And, what we believe shapes what we see.  Right or wrong, true or false, we believe those things we need to believe in order to support our beliefs.  Do I believe what I believe because of what has been instilled in me, or do I believe what I believe because of who I am?  I firmly believe that by being aware of who I am, I am far more aware of what I truly believe.

To lead a life of awareness and authenticity, means being conscious of who we are, what we are doing, why we are acting or reacting the way we are and knowing we are a particle of energy that helps comprise that ocean of energy called Life!  Simply stated, what we are is determined by what we think.  What we think is often a result of what we’ve experienced.  Our experiences are based upon those things to which we are exposed. And the experiences we expose ourselves to are based upon who we are.

Let me ask you this: Have you ever heard the expression you are what you eat?  I don’t know about you, but I am not what I eat. I am not a peanut butter and jelly sandwich!   What I eat is determined by who I am.  I am not my job, either, nor am I my life’s situations, and I am not my experiences. I have the job I have, I have the experiences I have and I have the life situations I have because of who I am.

Whether you believe this or not, life truly IS exciting, or at least it should be.  Life is also scary.  It can also be cruel.  And, without a doubt, it is always dangerous.  To live life fully requires taking risks.  To live it in fear, you can shun it, hide from it and waste it.  You can hide on your couch, buy a bigger TV, not venture out and take no risks.  And what a tragic waste of a human being that is?

Even worse may be discovering that you have just spent the greater part of your life and a great deal of energy on things that, in the bigger picture, were really not very useful or important.

For life to be an extension of yourself and a way to be ourselves, you must deal with life in the present. To do that, however, means saying YES to life.  I accept death and all that comes with it.  I accept that death is the impossibility of all future possibilities.  I accept that death takes away all that I ever had and all that I will ever have.  But, death also plays a crucial role in our awareness of life.  It reminds us that existence cannot be postponed.  It is through death that we see what is at stake.  Any confrontation with death can lead me to rearrange my priorities.  Death is, or can be, wonderful at providing us humans with a greater appreciation of life.  But what if death comes before your real life has started.  How tragic would that be?

Which is why I find it ever so important to enthusiastically say, YES to life.

On the flip side of that same coin, I feel strongly that death is not necessarily The End, nor is it final.  I firmly believe that each of us can live on long after our death and achieve immortality.  We can become immortal through our children and our children’s children.  We can become immortal by having a building named for us, planting a tree, writing a great book, and through our works.  It is all about giving meaning to one’s life.  For, giving meaning to one’s life means going beyond one’s life.

What you are and what you believe you can be goes on well after your death.  Become who you are is about making something out of what you have and what you’ve been given.  To become who you are, however, requires you to LOVE who you are.  Love what you have to work with and make something beautiful and exceptional out of it.  Give shape to yourself.  Create yourself.  Take what you have and make the most out of it.  Play off other people to grow and develop yourself.  Transcend who you are.  Aspire to be more.   Perform a transfiguration!

In the Myth of Sisyphus, Sisyphus was forever condemned to roll a rock up the top of a mountain.  When it would roll back down the other side, he would resume the task, over and over and over again.  The beauty of Sisyphus is that he didn’t bitch and complain.  He didn’t hate himself or the life to which he had been condemned.  Instead, he took it upon himself to know the rock and understand the mountain.  He used the knowledge he acquired to grow, develop and better understand himself, all of which enabled him to become who he was. It allowed him to transcend himself. You and I have the same choice.  We can either, bitch and complain about the hand we’ve been dealt, or can use it to our best ablilties.

I, for one, believe in living life, every day of it, in a perpetual state of wonderment.  And instead of cursing life, be forever grateful for the precious gift of sheer existence.  We’re here.  We’re here right now and what a wonderful opportunity it is to be here!!

I don’t marvel about the way things are, but that they are.  I am not only mindful of the fragility of my being, but too, the responsibility for my own being.  To become who I am means having to be in touch with my own self-creation.

Recognize that no matter how close you, me or any other human being gets to other people, it all comes down to our facing life alone.  For me, that means facing the basic issue of my life and my death and thereby living my life more honestly and being less caught up in the trivialities.  It also means learning that I must take the ultimate responsibility for the way I live my life no matter how much guidance, encouragement and support I get from others.

Which leads me to yet another one of life’s rules.  Regardless of the situation in which you find yourself we all have three choices.  We either come to accept what is, change what is, or walk away from it.  And even in choosing to accept it, you have a choice.  You can accept the reality of things for what it is, (not being in denial) and then elect to change it.

I leave you with these three final thoughts and a pledge:

  1. Uncertainty, death and impermanence exist and we must all learn to co-exist with each of them.
  2. The measure of your life will be the measure of your courage, contribution, trust, and how much you give back.
  3. If you do not take responsibility for your own predicament, you can never expect to change.

Your Pledge to Yourself:

I, ________________, from this day forward, shall no longer accept sorrow, disappointment and victimization to play a part in my life’s situations.  Nor shall I any longer consider myself responsible for fulfilling the lives of others.  I shall instead focus upon the birth of my true self, coming to know that I am life itself, and that I am far more than a mere composite of my past experiences and my life’s situations.

Signed by                                                             Date

Thank you for your time, interest and consideration.  Your feedback is greatly welcomed.

Jim Altfeld

jaltfeld@altfeldinc.com

www.altfeldinc.com/blog

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Talent Is Available, So Start Thinking NOW About Top Grading

October 20th, 2009 · Uncategorized

TOPGRADING BEGINS AND ENDS WITH YOUR COMPANY’S CULTURE.

By Jim Altfeld

First and foremost, no company can attract and retain top talent if the company’s culture is going to grind them down, eat them up and spit them out. For example, authoritarian, tightly controlled companies need not bother looking for top talent because they will only stifle and snuff them out like a candle.  Also any company that accepts mediocrity, has few if any measurements in place, holds almost no one accountable, gives cursory annual reviews and does not deal with its non-productive personnel should not be seeking top talent, either.

Therefore, the first step in attracting and retaining top talent is to identify your own company’s culture.  Unfortunately, most small to mid-size companies give little thought to their company’s culture.  It just seems to grow, develop, form and shape itself on its own.  Every company has a culture but not every company knows what it is.

If, after assessing and evaluating your company’s culture you discover that it fosters, encourages and rewards a sense of inquiry and a continuous quest to make things better, your company has a great chance of attracting and retaining top talent.  If you find that you’ve created a learning institution that generates a passion for learning how to do something new, you’ve probably already have top talent beating a path to your company’s door.

Every business has a choice.  It can either be a company consisting of a group of individuals who come to work, punch in, do their job and go home, or it can be a coalition of people with common goals and interests.  The truly great and world class companies that are known for attracting and retaining top talent have created cultures that binds their people together.

Why so much importance needs to be placed upon your company’s culture?  Because it defines not only jobs, roles and rules for proper behavior; it also sets goals and establishes what counts as success. It provides the company with a sense of identity, stability, organizational boundaries and acts as a guide for the types of behavior that will and will not be tolerated.  By establishing these boundaries, your people can gauge the appropriateness of their corporate thoughts, behaviors and actions.  They can determine the norms and values from your cultural rules and beliefs.  And, they can make decisions that positively affect the company.

If your goal is to attract and retain top talent, you company’s culture should generate a shared feeling that its goals and objectives are worth the effort, sacrifice and toil by those who work in it  It’s that “Purpose Beyond Profit” that every company has. The excitement and passion instilled within these great companies has little to do with money, profits, increased sales or market share.  They have created something far greater than that.  Profit, increased sales and greater market share will normally come as a result of it, but it is not what is driving the passion.  There is a tremendous sense of giving, sharing, learning, teaching and personal growth and development going on.  It is that sense of personal growth, mentoring, wanting to know more, wanting to do more and wanting to contribute that has become the spirit, or deeply felt emotion within these companies. Like a tornado or hurricane, they pull in and attract those who want to be a part of it and spit out those who don’t.  There will be A and B players beating a path to your door to get in.

But all of that comes as a result of the company’s willingness to share and a willingness to make information available.  It comes from having wide open communication and encouraging cooperation and collaboration throughout the business.  It stems from the company’s desire to become horizontally integrated, strategically aligned and customer focused.  It comes from having that type of culture and a passion to become truly World Class.  For that matter, when you get right down to it, World Class Performance is predicated on World Class Trust.  And trust is a result of open-ness and the sharing of information, experience and expertise.

Accomplishing all of the above will require you to:

·     Equip your people to make decisions by clearly defining your company’s culture

·     Align the systems, policies, practices and procedures with your values  (just like the systems, polices, practices and procedures you set for your children).

·     Measure, reward and recognize people who protect and promote the culture.

·     Indoctrinate new employees into your culture through one on one teaching and education (at Nickelodeon, all new employees get a Welcome Wagon package).

·     Make the values and your culture center stage (Don’t hide your photos in an album.  Display them on a bulletin board.  Have a photo gallery showing the years and your people).

·     Hire the right talent.

Next, the company next needs to determine what its values really are.  What do you look for in yourselves, your people and those you hire?  What are the primary beliefs, traits and characteristics that the company holds near and dear?  For instance, if integrity is a value, it means that anyone working in the company must have it, without exception.  The values must be made clear to everyone in the company and everyone must believe in them and live them, from the top down and the bottom up.  These must be shared beliefs, with all non-believers extricated from the company to avoid disharmony and disruption.  To make this picture a bit more lucid, imagine if you will a woodpecker on board Noah’s ark drilling holes in the bow.  You can forget about a Hegel’s Dialectic and arriving at any type of synthesis.  It is going to get ugly and completely disruptive.  It is the same in business.  Either everyone believes in the values and the culture of the company or at some point in time, it is going to get ugly.

As long as everyone throughout the company knows and understands the values of the company and what is expected of them regarding those values, there is far less chance of someone doing something contrary to the company’s beliefs.

Finally, you need to determine the type of top talent you are looking to recruit.  Management must set distinct goals for all positions and measure each individual’s performance.  Through this process management can then identify the high and low performers.  Management must also establish a set of competencies required of their managers that includes the skills and behaviors expected.

Create a criteria for each job and determine what would be the highest score required to fill the job with a high quality player.  Be professional.  Be prepared.  Be able to hand them a job descriptions with expectations, goals and objectives.  High quality players want to know first and foremost that you have your act together and that you will be able to challenge them for the long haul, and that they will be actively involved and a contributor to the business.

One of the greatest challenges you’ll face in trying to continuously upgrade your talent pool will be improving and replacing the lowest performers while raising everyone’s game.  To ensure this, the leadership of the business must hold their managers accountable for building a strong talent pool.

“My main job was developing talent”, said GE’s Jack Welch.  “I was a gardener providing water and other nourishment to our top 750 people.  Of course, I had to pull out some weeds, too.”

Five Keys to Successful Top Grading:

  1. Make talent management a critical part of every manager’s job
  2. Provide a compelling reason for an A or B player to want to join and stay with the company
  3. Inject high performers throughout the company in every area and improve or eliminate the non-performers.
  4. Implement stretch goals, candid feedback, coaching, mentoring and open communications to grow management’s talents
  5. Confirm each individual’s unique contributions to the company and each person’s performance.

If you can create an extraordinary system, operated by involved, informed, inspired and extraordinary talent, you can count on their producing extraordinary, exceptional and world class results.  The choice is yours.

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Higher Education Will Never Be the Same

September 25th, 2009 · Uncategorized

I have been literally blown away by the amount of on line courses and learning resources available via the Internet.  And what’s really wonderful is that it is EXPLODING!!  Here’s a list of those I’ve uncovered, so far!  Enjoy!!

http://education-portal.com/articles/Universities_with_the_Best_Free_Online_Courses.html

http://www.youtubeedu.com

http://www.itunesu.com

http://p2pu.org

http://www.inigral.com

http://www.learnoutloud.com

http://www.edufire.com

http://www.ocwconsortium.org

http://www.flatworldknowledge.com

http://www.wgu.edu

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Great Leadership Defined According to Jim Altfeld

September 6th, 2009 · Uncategorized

Leadership is the ability to establish and manage a creative climate where continuous improvement, teamwork, accountability and a commitment to the customer are fostered and rewarded; where people are self-motivated toward the successful achievement of long term, constructive  goals in an environment of mutual respect that is compatible with their personal values.

The Break Down:

Ability

The know-how, knowledge, experience, capability and expertise to lead and manage a department.  The ability to grow and develop the department and the people.

Creative Climate

A free-thinking environment that encourages and rewards new thoughts, new ideas, or at least a re-arranging of the old, not just living with what exists.

Continuous Improvement

Never satisfied. Always looking to improve the company, each department, every system and process, and every employee. Extraordinary systems and processes operated by informed (communication), involved (cooperation) and inspired (collaboration) people produce extraordinary results.

Teamwork

A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, focused on a set of performance goals, and agree upon how they will work together to accomplish their purpose, while holding themselves and each other accountable. Understanding what individual team members value on the job can improve working relationships and organizational effectiveness.  Values drive team members’ behavior.  Values determine what motivates members and what demoralizes them, what affects their decision-making and what drives their responses to other members, management, the customer and their work.  For a team to function well, the members must individually function well and the performance of each person should act as a catalyst for the others.

Accountability

Holding your people accountable and measuring their performance are essential.  However, before doing so, first clarify what they are being held accountable for and on what specific performance results you are measuring them.  People need to understand their roles, responsibilities and the results expected of them.  Doing that requires a great deal of communication and effort that in the long run, pays tremendous dividends.

Commitment to the Customer

1.  Only satisfied customers can provide job security.

2.  Without a top line, there is no bottom line.  Customers want real value.  They want to know that what they buy from us achieves the results they were expecting. They also want answers at that moment of truth when they have a question, problem, challenge or issue.  Our job in servicing the customer is to think of ourselves as servants, paying close attention to their needs

and exceeding their expectations.  The easiest way to turn service into a memorable encounter of the unpleasant kind is to provide poor service and treat the customer badly.  Which is why we must focus on the customer and place him or her at the very center of the company’s universe.

Self-Motivated

Not fearful of going forward. Not fearful of rising above the radar.

Successful Achievement

Key word here is successful.  Everyone has to be expected to actually accomplish what they set out to do.  Close, or almost is neither acceptable nor successful.  Which is why the goals are so important.  One project may have five goals within it.  Is it a failure if you get four of the five?  It is if the one you missed was the primary goal.

Long-Term

Thinking beyond today, tomorrow or next week.  Thinking strategically, not just tactically.  Having bi-focal thinking, by keeping an eye on today while thinking and planning for tomorrow.

Constructive Goals

Establishing focus and direction.  Holding people accountable based upon mutually established goals, objectives and milestones.  Determining specifically what it is that we want to achieve, by when, and in what order, then holding your people accountable for getting it done.  Determine what information is needed from your people and have them report their progress on an on- going, formalized basis. Determine what information your people need from you.  Establish formalized meetings with a genuine purpose, assignments, begin and end times and follow up.

Mutual Respect

Not necessarily liking one another, but working together knowing what contribution each and every other member of the team is making and can be counted upon to make.  Respect is gained through knowledge about one another.  Too many people have no idea what another person does or is doing.

Compatible with their Personal Values

There is management by objective, but there is also management by values. By combining the two, your people are never in doubt as to what to do and what not to do.  By establishing the objective s , they know on what they will be measured and rewarded.  By establishing company values and adhering to them in a consistent and uncompromising manner, there is no doubt as what is the right decision and what would be the wrong decision.  If an employe e ’s personal values are not in line with that of the company, then they eventually have to find another church to pray in.

ALTFELD, INC.

Strategic Planning, Marketing

and Sales Consultants

(818) 953-4054 • Fax: (818) 953-4037

Website: www.altfeldinc.com •  E-Mail: jaltfeld@altfeldinc.com

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You Want to Listen Effectively? Here’s What It’s Going to Take

August 27th, 2009 · Uncategorized

The average person can speak at the rate of 160 to 200 words per minute.

The average mind is capable of processing at least four or five times as many words in that same period of time.

What significance does this have when it comes to listening?

Plenty!!

It means that our thinking can get way ahead of what the other person is saying and our brain will start to wander as our emotions begin to take over.

Example:

You’re all stressed out and your mind is racing.  As a result, you try to look at a person talking, but you are actually thinking about what you are suppose to be doing later in the day, the dinner you had last night, where you’re suppose to be next and did you flush the toilet this morning before you left home.

Why we even bother to listen:

a.    Want to make a positive impression

b.    Want to advance the relationship

c.     Want to show that we care

d.    We have a real need to know what the person is telling us

LISTENING IS REALLY HARD WORK!

We were given two ears and only one mouth because listening is twice as hard as talking.

“Listening is not done by the ears, but by the mind.  We hear sounds, but we listen to meaning.”  W. Meissner

Listening is a basic and extremely important human activity.  It enables us to better understand and respond to situations as well as to others.  To be effective at whatever it is you do, being able to listen well is going to be a major determinant factor.

Listening is a communicative dance called “interactive synchrony” where the listener follows and sometime imitates the body language of the speaker.

By carefully listening, you are not only receiving information but you are also continuously trying to make sense of what is being said.  Understand going in that the speaker’s state of mind is different than your state of mind.  The same holds true if you are the listener and the roles are reversed.

Good listening requires mentalizing, which refers to the capacity to think and make inferences about people and their behaviors.  It is the ability to make sense of the other person as well as his or her behavior and your relationship with one another.  For example, whenever you nod or have a concerned look based upon what the other person has said, you are letting that person know you are making sense out of what s/he is telling you.

There is a difference however, between mentalizing and empathizing.  Mentalizing is a cognitive skill.  Empathizing is about appreciating and understanding the feelings of others.  Empathy is an emotional knowing rather than mentalizing, which is an intellectual understanding.

Listening is far more than just listening to words spoken.  It is an active process of discerning and interpreting the meaning of those words.

The ultimate is to listen to someone with an open mind.  To clear our minds and listen without memory or desire.  To make our minds neutral or empty.  Which of course is an illusion and is never going to happen.  If self-centered listening is all about you, then you need to consciously enter into the listening relationship as a self-decentered listener knowing you will never clear your head completely, but you can at least focus more on the other person.

Listening requires constant concentration and a conscientious effort.

Listening is a conscious activity based upon:

  • Attitude
  • Attention
  • Adjustment

A Positive Attitude paves the way for you to be open minded

Paying Attention lets you process what you are hearing

By being adjustable, be flexible and adaptable you can stay with the conversation even if it takes a different course than you thought it would.


REMEMBER:

When you truly listen to a person, it makes THEM more interested in listening to YOU!

LISTENING BUILDS TRUST!!

  • People are much more inclined to trust a person who shows respect for them and for what they say
  • People are much more likely to trust you if you’ve listened carefully and helpfully to their problems instead of you trying to tell them what their problems are
  • The more people tell you the more they trust you.

Effective communication exists between two people when the receiver interprets and understands the sender’s message in the same way the sender intended it.


There is a big difference between merely hearing the words and actually listening for the message.

By Listening:

You come to understand what the person is thinking or feeling

You are able to stand in their shoes, seeing through their eyes and listening through their ears.

You come to understand their perspective

You are actively involved in the communication process.

What is it that you need to become a good listener?

Number 1:

Be engaged and stay in the room

  • Do not allow your mind to wander
  • Do not be preoccupied
  • Understand it is a forced engagement to actively listen

(Talk About This as a Group)

Number 2:

Have an open mind

  • Be empathic and nonjudgmental
  • Don’t just listen to respond
  • Don’t be more interested in your own point of view than in understanding or exploring someone else’s view
  • Don’t be so interested in what YOU have to say that you listen mainly to find an opening to get the floor
  • Don’t listen to your own personal beliefs about what is being said.
  • Don’t have an opinion, form an opinion
  • Concentrate on what the person is saying
  • Ask for clarification when you know you do not understand

Remember:

You can be accepting and respectful of the person and their feelings and beliefs without invalidating or giving up your own position, or without agreeing with the accuracy and validity of their view.

Question and Repeat Back

  • Questioning and listening are joined at the hip.
  • Questioning, paraphrasing and clarifying clearly demonstrates that you were listening and lets the speaker know that you understand or don’t understand the message they are giving.
  • Ask open ended, probing questions to confirm you are engaged
  • By forcing yourself to ask questions, you have to force yourself to listen intently.
  • Take notes as necessary.  This too forces you to listen.

Eye Contact, Body Language and Mannerisms

  • Eye contact is critical in demonstrating that you are listening
  • So does nodding, leaning forward and making encouraging signs and comments.
  • Looking at your watch or people walking by is not sending a good message
  • Crossing your arms and looking judgmental does not send a good message, either.

SALES LISTENING

During the first encounter with a prospective customer, you both have an imperfect understanding of each other.  Which is why you should view yourself as a problem s o l v e r.  In doing so, your job is to uncover the prospect’s underlying concerns, interests, preferences and needs.

To truly accomplish this, you need to gather as much information about the prospective customer as you can.  Discover his or her beliefs, motives, attitudes and values.  The problem is that in reality, all of us never quite see things as they really are.  We see and hear things as we are.  We become captives of our own brain.  To overcome this, we need to first acknowledge this premise, make a conscientious effort to overcome it and then discern the true realities.

We provoke, inquire and challenge.

We let the prospect talk and provide us with the information we need to make a

sound decision.  We allow him to be in charge of the conversation until such time

as we have all of the facts.  This is not a race and the only time limit is the

amount of time the prospect has available to speak with you.  Taking your time

and being thorough is far more important than trying to ram our service down the

prospect’s throat.

You and the buyer are interdependent.

Your task is to create a synergistic situation that what is good for the buyer is

good for you and what is good for you is good for the buyer.  Bring the prospect to a place of discovery, not your answers.

Enter into the conversation:

• Knowing what you know

• Knowing what you know you don’t know

• Trying to figure out what you don’t know you don’t know

“Mr. Smith, is this a good time for us to speak?”

“What specifically do you need from us to make your current situation right?”

1. What is his current situation?  What is in place now?

2. Where is it he wants to go?

3. What have they tried already?

4. What prevented it from being successful?

5. What part of it worked and what part did not work?

6. What changes were made?

7. What changes were attempted?

8. Who was involved?

9. Who prevented what from happening and why?

10. What course of action did they follow?

11. What is it not working to the degree they want things to work?

12. How do they intend to get there?

13. What has prevented them from getting there before now?

14. How will they know they’ve achieved or accomplished what they want to do?

15. Is what they say they want to accomplish truly what needs to be accomplished and how do they know that?

16. Who needs to be involved to make that happen?

17.  What is the political lay of the land regarding this project?

18. What criteria will they be using in their selection process?

19. How will they know that either you or your competition will be the answer.

20. What kind of support or proof will they need?

Be Curious!! Don’t Sell!! Ask your questions, probe, prod, provoke, challenge and above all else… LISTEN!

Listening: An Important Factor in Building Trust and Rapport

Golda Meir once said, “You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist.”

The greatest compliment you can pay someone is to genuinely listen to him or

her. Listening is the key to building trust.

Three important factors:

1. I am much more inclined to trust a person who shows respect for me and for

what I say.

2. I am much more likely to trust you if you’ve listened carefully and helpfully to

my problems than if you’ve tried to tell me what my problems are.

3. The more I’ve told you, the more I trust you.

Listen More, Talk Less

A recent survey of 432 corporate buyers found that 87%of the respondents

said sales people don’t ask enough questions about their needs and 49%

reported that sales people just “talk too much..”

No one was ever fired or reprimanded for listening too much.

“Man, that guy just listens too much. He just can’t keep his ears shut!”

You cannot and must not assume that the prospect is telling you all that there is to be told.  If you assume anything, you must assume that he is either forgetting

something, left something out, or never considered something else in the first place.

It is your job to make the prospect think.

It is your job to challenge him.

It is your job to provoke him.

Concentration on the customer rather than your services is of utmost importance.

It is the key to closing any sale.  Anyone is always more apt to buy a product

when they can see that it matches their specific requirements.  Especially when

there were some requirements that the buyer would have overlooked had it not

been for you.

When Encountering a Prospect:

First off, you should begin by asking questions even if you think you know the

answers.  Not only listen to what they are saying, but convey that you are

engaged in active listening.

Second, write down what they are saying.  Take Notes!  People want to be in a

relationship with those who respect their point of view.

Third, while taking notes, pause occasionally to read back to them what you

have written.

Fourth, let them do all the talking and do not interrupt them until they are finished

or have a question for you.

Fifth, try to control your words and reactions.  Be humble.  “I think I understand

your position on this, but from my narrow perspective, as limited as it may be

about your particular situation, I see it this way…”

Finally, never argue or debate with them.

See every sale situation as a cross-cultural encounter where you start out

sensitive to their perspective even if it should differ from yours.  Gather

intelligence with the attitude of knowing that individuals not only reveal, but

conceal information – sometimes intentionally, sometimes not.

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Lean Purchasing and What It Can Mean to You and Your Company

August 16th, 2009 · Uncategorized


As a national average, 60% of the cost to manufacture is attributable to purchased materials.  If the purchasing function controls over 60% of the costs in a product, then resources and talent must be focused on this function if the business is to stay healthy.

What should be emphasized is the establishment of business relationships and arrangements with suppliers as a primary task and satisfaction as a primary measurement.  Emphasis on placing purchase orders and on expediting delivery should be minimized.

  • Can today’s suppliers grow with us and supply the technologies and capacity required for our future needs?
  • What strategic alliances with suppliers will be required in the future?
  • What roles will price and quality play in the product sourcing decisions of the future?

Purchasing establishes and maintains the supplier base, seeing to it that adequate capacity and quality are available and that the level of service and price are optimal.  To accomplish that requires purchasing to develop your suppliers.  You need suppliers who are dependent upon your company’s success and are willing to work closely with you.

Lean and Inventory Management

The only good reason for maintaining inventory is that conditions exist that make it less costly to have it than not to have it.  If a supplier doesn’t deliver on time, extra inventory compensates for the problem and allows operations to continue.  It also makes us an enabler and sends a wrong signal to the supplier.  Inventory is a RESULT and very expensive.  Inventory simply hides problems.  Drain the inventory and expose the problems.  Now you can deal with them.

Problems covered by inventory:

  • Unpredictable customer demand
  • Inaccurate forecasts
  • Low process yields, scrap, rework
  • Incoming materials rejects
  • Unreliable supplier deliveries
  • Equipment availability
  • Missed production schedules
  • Field failures, customer returns

Fact:  The longer the lead-time the greater the need for more inventory and the greater the costs.

Fact:  The longer inventory sits, the harder it is to move.

Fact:  The cost of carrying inventory has been looked upon by accounting as strictly a dollar item based upon what you paid for it.  The TRUTH is, you are looking at roughly 75%/year of the purchase price, or 1.5% per week.

We keep trying to solve problems with increased inventory.  And price increases are only an enabler for the habit.  The only way to reduce inventory is reduce the lead-time.  The only way to reduce the lead-time is to reduce your process cycle time.  The way to do that is to reduce your set up time.

The Problem with Inventory:

  • When the market or technology changes, all you have is worthless inventory.
  • It is expensive to hold on to
  • It requires support resources of people, systems, equipment and transactions
  • It is difficult to work around
  • Eventually it becomes not worth what you paid for it
  • It can be a coping mechanism that hides the real problems

The Cost of Carrying Inventory

Recognized Costs Approximate % per Year

Interest rate of money                                                                                    5 – 10%

Taxes                                                                                                             2 – 5%

Insurance                                                                                                2 – 3%

Space (occupancy + utilities)                                                                             5%

Obsolescence reserve                                                                                    7 – 20%

Total                                                                                                            20 – 30%

Unrecognized Costs

Personnel                                                                                                10 – 15%

Capital equipment                                                                                     5 – 10%

Computation Costs (hardware + transactions)                                                3%

Secondary quality costs (reinspection)                                                5 – 10%

Rework, handling damage, additional costs                                                5 – 10%

Total:                                                                                                            50 – 75%

References:  The Supply Management Handbook, 7th ed., McGraw Hill, The Institute of Supply Management; and Profitable Purchasing, Leading Manufacturing Excellence, John Wiley & Sons.

The hidden cost of inventory is massive.

Factors included in determining Inventory Carrying Costs:

  • Cost of money
  • Obsolescence or Scrap
  • Space
  • Taxes
  • Insurance
  • Personnel
  • Handling
  • Storage
  • Overhead Allocations
  • Equipment
  • Lost Opportunity
  • Inflation
  • Rework
  • Service Costs
  • Currency Devaluation
  • Packaging Materials

We need to move from Supplier Managed Inventories to

Supplier Managed Deliveries

  • Identify the demand
  • Produce and deliver to that demand
  • Deliver to point of use
  • Monitor and adjust to usage

Let our suppliers become Bread or Milk Men restocking as they see fit.

LOOK AT THE PRODUCTS YOU PURCHASE NOT BY PRICE BUT BY PRIORITY.

You have A, B, and C Items.  An A item is one that is extremely critical and will shut you down.  Price does not matter.  It’s the criticality of the item.

Sell what your are producing at the time you produce it.  Get rid of inventory by eliminating lead times.

If it cost 1.5% per week to hold something, the very same number applies to the manufacturer, the distributor and the customer.

It all comes down to the supplier’s lead time versus when you need it, versus the price of inventory.

The point is that the item may appear to be less expensive than the competition, but their lead time can really cost you.

In working with a supplier, why not have them ship to you out of inventory for the first 4 months.  Afterward, they have to ship directly off their manufacturing line.

Elements of Lean Purchasing

  • Collapsed cycle times
  • Speed replaces inventories
  • Direct links to top suppliers
  • Appropriate quality for the particular application is a given
  • Direct user/provider interface
  • The deeper the supply chain, the better

Elements of a Good Supplier

  • Has minimized cycle times
  • Quality is appropriate – Cpk 2-4 (process capability)
  • Owns logistics – transport & POU deliveries
  • Assists in the design of components/products
  • Knows your business/customers
  • Knows why they are profitable
  • Is a technology leader in their field
  • Prices based on a superior process
  • Personnel turnover <5% per year

Example:

Let’s say you have a product that takes 12 minutes to produce, but it has an 8-week lead time.  To determine the Velocity ratio you would do the following:

60 (minutes) x 8 (hours) x 5 (days) x 8 (weeks) = 19,200 minutes ÷ 12 minutes = 1:1600

The question becomes, if it takes 12 minutes to produce a part, why is there an 8 week lead time?

Just as we took a look at our OMC, our suppliers need to do the same.  They have to get their Process Cycle Time reduced.  To do that means reducing WIP while increasing output.  Furthermore, by making everything happen faster, you also improve cash flow.  Because the faster it all happens, the faster you get paid.

Exercise:

The Gazorp Manufacturing Company is a 15 year old, publicly traded company.  It manufactures smoke and carbon monoxide detectors for homes, offices, institutions, and public buildings.  It sells to retail outlets, electrical distributors, and construction contractors.  Gordon has no sales staff.  They sell solely through independent sales agents.

Last year sales: $176MM

Last year costs:

Direct Labor                                                            $11MM

Material                                                            $80MM

Overhead                                                            $40MM

Sales & Commissions                                                $20MM

Taxes                                                                        $14MM

Net Profit                                                            $11MM

The year’s beginning inventory was $23MM and the ending inventory was $19MM.  The quoted lead time for new production is eight weeks.  Actual process cycle time is 6 hours (the plant works five days per week with one eight hour shift per day).  The company is ISO 9000-2004 compliant.  Their cost of all quality activities is $8MM of the $40MM overhead and $6MM of the Sales and Commissions.

  • What is their manufacturing velocity?
  • What are the inventory turns at year end?
  • What is their PONC (as a percent of sales)?
  • What is their PAT percentage?

We need to stop doing business on the terms of our suppliers:

  • Their lead times
  • Their costs
  • Their quality
  • Their policies
    • You cannot afford it
    • You are dealing with hundreds of different commercial terms
    • You are the customer

It is time we made some demands and issue orders with our terms:

  • Affordable prices at any volume
  • Required lead times  (Mr. Supplier, I can no longer afford the lead times you’ve given me.)
  • Process capability  (Does it match our needs?  What do we say about quality on our purchase order.  How good does the product being delivered by the supplier need to be?  How often does it have to look like the print?  And what happens if it doesn’t?
  • Technical assistance
  • Service, returns, response times  (How long can we afford to give them to rectify a situation?  Minutes, hours, days?  What is our policy?  Do we state right on our purchase order that if the product is bad, you have exactly 24 hours to deal with it, replace it, or we dump it and don’t pay you for it?)
  • Packaging, standard counts (Why are we doing things the supplier should already be doing for us?  What do we consider a standard container and a standard count?)
  • Transportation/delivery terms  (When is delivery actually completed?)
  • Payment terms

Perhaps it’s time to challenge your own purchasing department by asking them:

  • Do we know the level of quality we require in specific terms?  How good does it have to be?  How good is good?
  • Are our blueprints and spec a reflection of our true needs?
  • Do we know what a process in control looks like?  Can we fairly evaluate a supplier’s process?
  • Is there a correlation between the supplier’s quality system and ours?
  • Are we willing and able to assist the supplier?
  • Is the certification looked upon as the beginning of the quality process or the end?
  • Do we have the sustaining power to make quality a life long process?
  • What are the quality targets WE have set for the products we buy and sell?  Cpk 1?  Cpk2?  Or, Mil Std. 105?
  • What is our supplier’s plan to improve the quality of his product line and reduce his lead times to meet our needs?
  • What is the supplier’s cost of non-conformance?  Remember that it can be as much as 25% of the cost to produce.
  • What is their manufacturing cycle time and ratio?  What’s their plan to improve upon it?  Remember:  The right product delivered at the wrong time is a wrong product.
  • When will the supplier eliminate the need for our incoming inspection of his product?
  • When will we have the confidence to do that?
  • When will we begin introducing more errors by inspecting than by accepting the goods without inspection?
  • When can we begin reducing the unnecessary inspection overhead?
  • When will we begin using inspection only to correlate data?

We must demand from each of our suppliers that they inform us whenever they:

  • Change their manufacturing processes or equipment
  • Change ownership or make significant management changes
  • Change their raw material suppliers
  • Change their technology

Things to consider:

  • Lead time should only be incurred on an initial order
  • Repeat orders should utilize
    • Requirements Contracts for Direct Material
    • Systems Contracts for MRO
  • Minimum orders are the suppliers’ set up time problem
  • Lead time is a choice the supplier makes

The time has come for us to be thinking in terms of Contribution to Profit instead of Controlling Costs.

If Purchasing Wants to Become Lean:

  • Buy from lean suppliers
  • Key suppliers must have lead times no greater than your needs
  • Each week of lead time costs you 1.5% per week of the price
  • Suppliers cannot hide behind inventory
  • Suppliers’ quality system must match your product needs
  • Purchasing must buy affordable cost
  • Contribution to profit- not PPV (Purchase Price Variance), cost reduction

Recommendation:

Invite the OWNERS of your top 20 suppliers, or the highest official person you can, to your company for lunch.  Explain to them what your company is all about and where your company is going.  Explain to them what we need from them to help us get from where we are now to where it is we need to be.  Educate them on Lean if they aren’t already.  Ask them to declare who wants to come with us right then, there and now.

Explain to them that you are seeking a business partner.  That you want a business strategy not an individual package with each supplier.  Then hold a one day seminar at the suppliers site talking to their employees about LEAN.

A key role of purchasing is to build roads of communication between your company and your suppliers.  In doing so, you must:

–  Define Quality.  What is it?

–  Listen to suppliers’ issues

–  Resolve historic issues – engineering, personnel, broken promises, singed fingers, etc.

–  Establish lines of communications – people systems

–  Agree on quality definitions

Should the concept of Lean Purchasing interest you, contact SME to attend the next Lean Purchasing Course in nearest you.  Or, if you would like the concept of Lean Manufacturing explained and introduced to your employees, contact Jim Altfeld at jaltfeld@altfeldinc.com or call 1 800 397 0010 for his introduction to Lean.

Answers to the Gazorp Manufacturing Exercise:

What is their manufacturing velocity:

60 x 8 x 5 x 6 = 19,200 ÷ 6 hours (360 minutes) = 53.3

(Amount of time the plant works per week) 60 minutes x 8 hours x 5 days x 6 weeks lead time ÷ time to produce = Velocity

What are the inventory turns at year end: 131 ÷ 19 = 6.9

IT = Annual Cost of Sales ÷ Dollar Value of Inventory

(Direct Labor + Material + Overhead) ÷ Ending Inventory

Annual Cost of Sales = Standard Cost x Total Forecast or Total Units Sold ÷ Total Invested Inventory

What is their PONC (as a percent of sales): 176 ÷ (6 + 8) = 8%

Sales ÷ Quality Activity Costs  = PONC

What is their PAT percentage: 176 ÷ 11 = 6.25%

Sales ÷ Net Profit = PAT

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The Entrepreneurial Employee: Part II

August 4th, 2009 · Uncategorized

EE2

The Entrepreneurial Employee™
By Jim Altfeld

Part II

Premise: First and foremost, The Entrepreneurial Employee ain’t you! What is meant by that is that the Entrepreneurial Employee may often “think” about leaving and striking out on their own, but they won’t. Why? Because as was stated in Part I, they lack the following:

A. The passion, guts and determination to actually seize upon an opportunity and strike out on their own.
B. The confidence and optimism to think that they will succeed regardless of a lack of resources, either controlled or available.
C. The guts it takes to bear the risk of uncertainty in any economy.

What they do have going for them are these attributes:

D. They really do want to be masters of their own fate. They want to control their own destiny, shape their own future and set their own course.
E. They have the ability to actually see an opportunity.
F. They are participants and players, not spectators and fans. They know how to get their feet wet and their hands dirty and don’t think twice about doing either.
G. They are calculated risk takers, not reckless gamblers.
H. They have a great passion and enthusiasm for what they do.

Simply stated, the Entrepreneurial Employee is not looking to go off and create his own thing. The EE is not looking to use your company as a stepping-stone to start his own thing. S/he wants to own, operate and run your business! The Entrepreneurial Employee is everything you are, minus the guts! Without question, the EE is a rare find, can be a tremendous asset, and can become your eventual successor if you allow it to happen. If you are fortunate enough to find one, you should cultivate, nurture, grow and develop them in hopes that they really will never leave.

Your Challenge:

Foster an environment that inspires your EEs to achieve their fullest potential and create a culture in which they can thrive.

The Situation:

The first thing about an EE is that they do not want to be lead. They are very mobile, in demand, and are not waiting around to collect their pensions. They know what they’re worth, they know their value and they expect you to know it, too.

Secondly, EE’s are organizationally, very astute. They know how the company is being lead and the strategic direction it is taking.

Third, they are not driven by titles and promotions. It isn’t that they don’t care about status, it’s just that they are intrinsically motivated and are not all that excited about any extrinsic motivation you can offer them. Actually, an extrinsic motivation could actually diminish their own intrinsic motivation. Don’t do it.

Fourth, is that they want instant access to the top decision maker, who is usually the CEO or owner (you). They are aware of their importance to the company, so when they have something important to say, they want to be able to say it to the top.

Fifth, they make a point of staying well connected. Their network is normally very impressive and who they know can be almost as important as what they know.

Points six, seven and eight are the most difficult for a CEO/Owner to deal with. Six, the EE has a very low threshold for boredom. As a result, the onus is on you have to make certain they are being inspired, challenged and engaged, or you are sure to lose them.

Seven, the EE wants to be in control of the decision making that includes the resources s/he will need to successfully get the job done. This means your having to let go and getting the hell out of the way.

Eight, the EE probably won’t say Thank You or show any real sign of appreciation, which can be hard for a CEO/Owner to stomach. There is also a good chance s/he will not recognize your leadership, because they don’t like being lead. Which means you may have to go out of your way to make the independent EE understand his or her interdependence. Or, as Dirty Harry once said, “A man’s gotta know his limitations.”

Overall, the best way to keep an EE is to create an environment where the EE can be independent while being interdependent. An environment that encourages them to experiment, play and even fail.

The real challenge you will face as a CEO/Owner is to quietly demonstrate your expertise, guidance and authority while protecting the EE, sometimes from him or herself. But, without a doubt, you will not only see the EE flourish, but so will your company.

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Just What in the Hell is This Leadership Stuff All About??

July 22nd, 2009 · Uncategorized

With the economy continuing to struggle, the onus increasingly falls on the leadership of companies for their survival. The fact is that “leadership” – which includes providing answers, direction and vision for the business – can no longer come from only one or two individuals such as the CEO, president or executive council. It must come from every manager and supervisor as well.

While it is true that leadership and management are not the same thing, the concepts certainly do overlap. In most cases, running the business operations is the role of management, but building and growing the business requires leadership. The key aspects of management include planning, budgeting, organizing, staffing, controlling and problem solving. Its function is to keep systems and processes running as smoothly as possible and making certain that the right people are in the right place. Leadership, on the other hand, defines what the future of the business should look like. It strategically aligns the people and departments with that vision through interaction, interdependence and horizontal integration. Leadership gets everyone pulling on the same rope in the same direction. It informs, involves and inspires its followers to succeed and to overcome obstacles. It is about communication and cooperation. Leadership is what originally creates the business and continuously provides direction. It involves the constant tweaking and adapting of the enterprise to deal with the changes and impermanence it will face throughout its life. Therefore, management keeps the organization under control and produces results. Leadership produces change. The true art to leadership is the ability to determine the right paths to take and then to inspire people to help you carry them out.

In a recent conversation with a general manager, I asked him if he manages or leads. He answered, “Yes, to both questions. Around here, I’m the only guy who is responsible. If my people don’t know what to do when they run into a situation, I’m usually too far away, too busy or unavailable to tell them. My job is to make sure they know. What they do depends on the situation they’re facing and only they can judge that. If they have to passively await orders from me, they’ve lost their ability to help. If I have to tell them what to do, it’s way too late. The responsibility is always mine, but the decision lies with whoever is on the spot. And making a decision requires as much courage as it does judgment. The way I look at it is that either they accept responsibility, learn to make decisions and become leaders, or they’re going to require a lot of supervision. And that to me is not only unproductive, but one helluva waste of time.”

Whether it involves management or leadership, everyone within the company, regardless of their rank or position, must have a clear understanding of where the company is going and what they can do to help get it there. What managers can do as leaders is to plan and to set priorities, to earn the trust of their followers and to motivate them to want to see the plan succeed. They must have the courage to make decisions, determine the right things to do and then ensure that they are done right.

Leaders must help people believe that the cause is just and worth fighting for. That they can be effective, that the goals set forth are achievable and that there is a better future ahead of them if they can just accomplish what they have set out to do.

Managers and supervisors must learn to be proactive. They must understand the overall strategy, help develop and implement the operating plan, manage and tweak the plan to ensure that it succeeds and proactively anticipate what to do next.

What Exactly Is a Leader?

Leaders are those responsible for making the right decisions and doing the right things. Their first priority is to build the business, not to run the business. They set a course and a direction for the company. They know where their business is going and where it must go. They control their own destiny and do not allow the “business gods” to determine the future of the company they are leading. Leaders don’t think themselves into a new way of acting; they act themselves into a new way of thinking. They know that they get from their people the very same behavior that they themselves exhibit and tolerate. They establish the company’s culture based on primary values that define what gets accepted, respected and rewarded. They leave little doubt as to what is valued, recognized and tolerated and what is not. They create a climate in which there is tremendous pride in making significant contributions to shared goals. They encourage and foster the concept of “renewal” and continuous improvement. Leaders are self-confident. They are not afraid to hire people with talents far superior to their own. They build strong, dynamic and passionate executive management teams consisting of the best and the brightest that the company can afford – because leaders know they cannot get the company from where it is now to where it needs to be, without such a team. Leaders ensure that the right people are in key, pivotal places; people who can help move the company forward. They make recruitment an ongoing and essential part of the company’s culture. They ensure that clearly defined goals and priorities are established, and policies are in writing. Leaders ensure that the right systems and processes are in place to make the company run efficiently and effectively. Leaders ensure that management understands those systems and processes. They ensure that the company is strategically aligned from the top down and the bottom up — that everyone understands their roles, responsibilities, job functions and contributions toward keeping the company moving forward and on course. Leaders ensure that their people and themselves continue to grow and become more valuable to the company and the customers. They inform, involve, inspire and challenge their people while holding everyone accountable. Leaders put measurements in place and make it clear what is expected of everyone. They deliver on their promises so that things get done at every level and in every department of the company. They let their people know what is going on while letting their people’s voices be heard. Leaders endorse the concept of “synergy” – that what is good for the whole is good for the individual and vice versa. They understand that the more teamwork there is, the more their people will come to rely upon and trust one another. Leaders know that the greater their people become the greater they themselves become and the greater the company becomes. Leaders understand that titles are given and with that comes subordination, but leadership is earned — that leadership is bestowed upon them by their followers and as a result they must earn their followers, not just accept subordinates. Leaders are authentic and consistent. There is never doubt about who they are or what they stand for. They build trust and get “buy in” through their own actions and the culture of the company. They teach and build with a book in one hand and a brick in the other. They motivate and energize others. Leaders are open to new ideas regardless of their source. Leaders are judgmental and decisive because they have to be. Leaders are courageous. They have a need to achieve and are not afraid to take risks. Leaders never give up, but they always know when to get out of the way.

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Ray Kroc Had It Right: It’s All About the Systems & Processes

July 14th, 2009 · Uncategorized

Do You Kaizen?

I was recently asked by a Manager of Manufacturing if I do Kaizen? My foolish reply to him was that “I think Kaizen has taken a backseat to the home run mentality of the internet.” The fact is, whether it be Kaizen or “Home Run Internet Derby”, it is NOT up to the strategic planner or any consultant to decide for a company, it is up to the company to decide for themselves, based on what it is they want to accomplish. Most business-to-business companies are very, if not totally results minded. And every company has its own philosophy for achieving those results. Some want to see slow, consistent and gradual results while others want it all now! As a consultant, I am a firm believer in the Ray Kroc school of management. That extraordinary systems, operated by ordinary people, will not only produce extraordinary results, but will always outperform an ordinary system, operated by extraordinary people. Simply stated, it is the quality of your systems and processes in place within the company that determine results. With that in mind, a company that wants results can get them, provided they have the right systems and processes in place to achieve them. And companies that focus on their systems and processes first, its people second and results third, stand a far better chance of achieving greater results, because they’re initial focus is on the very thing that determines the outcome. Every company works within systems and processes.

As a CEO, president, owner or as the corporate executive council, you must first identify the systems and processes that already exist within the company. Take an objective look at how things actually flow and happen throughout your company. Then, based upon the results you want to achieve, you change, alter, modify, fix, eliminate, renew and/or replace them. Too, you must be honest enough with yourself to ask, “are the results we think we want achievable?” “If they are, how much money and resources will we have to allocate to it to make it happen?” And finally, “Is it worth it?”

Ray Kroc understood that it took systems and processes to make McDonald’s successful, but he also understood it still required people, ordinary or not, to run them. The reason he was less concerned about the talent who did the work, than he was the systems and processes in which they operated, was that the systems and processes ensured extraordinary results. The systems and processes he had in place were his assurance that his people would be well trained to do their job. They would be given the tools needed to ensure repetitive and continuous success, have the support of and encouragement from management, be provided with the parameters of their empowerment, asked to make suggestions and provide input. What’s more, they would be allowed to make the right judgements concerning the customer and the establishment during that “moment of truth” with the customer, based upon their training and the overall culture and value of the company.

So, do I do Kaizen? No. Nor do I do Homerun Internet Derby. Through the strategic planning process, every company can decide for itself where it wants to go, what it wants to achieve, how it expects to achieve it, what it will have to do to achieve it, who is expected to do what, who is accountable for what and to whom, with what and how much authority, by when must what be accomplished and in what time frame. As a strategic planning consultant, I can only ask the questions, challenge the creators of the plan and cause them to see and think clearly, honestly and openly in order to deal with the reality of the situation. Get them to identify the systems and processes currently in place, get them to ask why they are in place and determine whether or not they need to be changed, renewed, altered, replaced or eliminated. Get them to see the “real” culture in which they do business and how they really treat their employees. Get them to see the “real” way decisions are made, authority is given and power is entrusted. Then determine for themselves, based on fact, not fiction and rhetoric, what the plan is for taking them from where they are now to where it is that they want to be.

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Built to Last or Built to Die?

July 7th, 2009 · Uncategorized

Some Poignant Words From the Late Peter Drucker

“An organization that is not capable of perpetuating itself has failed. An organization, therefore has to provide today the men who can run it tomorrow. It has to renew its human capital. It should steadily upgrade its human resources. The next generation should take for granted that what the hard work and dedication of this generation has accomplished. They should then, standing on the shoulders of their predecessors, establish a new ‘high’ as the baseline for the generation after them.

An organization which just perpetuates today’s level of vision, excellence, and accomplishment has lost the capacity to adapt. And since the one and only thing certain in human affairs is change, it will not be capable of survival in a changed tomorrow. An executive’s focus on contribution by itself is a powerful force in developing people. People adjust to the level of the demands made on them. The executive who sets his sights on contribution, raises the sights and standards of everyone with whom he works.”

Running a business with a tactician’s mentality will be the demise of that business. Yet, how many SMB’s out there are dying a slow and painful death as a result of being lead by leaders who fail to acknowledge, much less deal with the fact that impermanence, uncertainty and death are three irrefutable facts of life. Or, as Drucker also said, “Every company must prepare for the abandonment of everything it does.” Leaders, especially owners, have far more control than a rock in an avalanche as to where their companies end up and it is up to them to keep the company in optimal condition at all times.

What are your thoughts on this matter?
I’d love to hear what you have to say!

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The Entrepreneurial Employee™ Defined

June 29th, 2009 · Uncategorized

EE2

By Jim Altfeld

Before we can begin to define the Entrepreneurial Employee™, we must first define what an entrepreneur is.  Kind of like the blind men and the elephant, people see, feel and touch various segments of entrepreneur-ism and come up with their own definitions and ideas based upon whichever part or parts they become familiar.

Here’s mine:

In coming up with a composite sketch, I believe there are eight critical and distinct attributes that make up an entrepreneur.

  1. First and foremost, entrepreneurs want to be masters of their own fate. They want to control their own destiny, shape their own future and set their own course.
  2. They have to be able to actually see an opportunity.
  3. They have to have the passion, guts and determination to actually seize  upon that opportunity.
  4. They must have a great passion and enthusiasm for what they do.
  5. They have to have the confidence and optimism to think that they will succeed regardless of a lack of resources, either controlled or available.
  6. They have to be able to bear the risk of uncertainty.
  7. They are participants and players, not spectators and fans.  They know how to get their feet wet and their hands dirty and don’t think twice about doing either.
  8. They are calculated risk takers, not reckless gamblers.

So, what is the difference between an Entrepreneurial Employee and an Entrepreneur?

A lot more than just the fact that one has Employee by its name and the other doesn’t.  Entrepreneurial Employees lack the guts of the entrepreneur, which is not a bad thing.  Not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur.

An Entrepreneurial Employee is really a border line Entrepreneur.  They like the feel, touch, taste, smell and sound of being an entrepreneur, but they always seem to find some reason why they can’t take that plunge.  For example, so often during an economic downturn, people get laid off and go into consulting.  As soon as the economy turns around, the first thing they do is get a job and go back into employment world.  Why?  Because, they don’t have all eight required attributes.  It’s just easier to work for someone else if you’re built that way.

Is a sales person an entrepreneurial employee?  No.  Because as a sales person, yes, they do have a great deal of autonomy, but they don’t have the responsibilities that go with fulfilling the complete order (operations), nor do they carry any real risk.

The Entrepreneurial Employee Defined.

Of the eight attributes of an Entrepreneur, the Entrepreneurial Employee has the following:

A) They really do want to be masters of their own fate. They want to control their own destiny, shape their own future and set their own course.

B) They have the ability to actually see an opportunity.

C) They are participants and players, not spectators and fans.  They know   how to get their feet wet and their hands dirty and don’t think twice about doing either.

D) They are calculated risk takers, not reckless gamblers.

E) They have a great passion and enthusiasm for what they do.

What they lack is:

F) The passion, guts and determination to actually seize upon that opportunity.

G) The confidence and optimism to think that they will succeed regardless of a lack of resources, either controlled or available.

H) The guts it takes to bear the risk of uncertainty in any economy.

I don’t know about you, but give me A, B, C, and D in an employee and I’ll take him or her in a heartbeat!!!

Entrepreneurial Employees are self-sufficient, self-managed employees who, like the Entrepreneur, can handle many tasks simultaneously.  Can be a bit of a Ready, Fire, Aim person, but for the most part, will only take calculated risks.  To be a true, EE, however, it is the Entrepreneur who is going to have to think differently about his or her employees before that can ever happen.

Think about this:

What if you took the employee’s role further and had them close on an account, staff it and produce the deliverables.  That you left it up to them to manage and implement the execution of the services sold.   That instead of just being responsible for selling, which of course is extremely important, selling no longer is the primary focus of their responsibilities.  In other words, you let them assume the risk of your business venture by rewarding them strictly out of the profits earned.  Take away the salary and just pay them a percentage of the profits.  They, like you, would run their part of the company with no guarantees, with high risk and high reward potential.

Why would an employee ever accept such an offer?  Because, you have taken away most of their risk.  You already have an on-going business about which they are quite familiar and they see you as a friendly banker.  Unlike you had to do when you first started out, they don’t have to go looking for money with no credit and their hat in their hand.  They have you!

The best way to look at this is from the perspective of a private equity company.  You own the business, but someone else is responsible for it.

Imagine taking your 2nd tier Executive Management Team and turning the Team into Entrepreneurial Employees.  Can you imagine how much more valuable that would make your business to a prospective buyer?  Can you imagine how much more time and freedom you would have to do the things you never had the time to do and lead the kind of life you could only dream of having.

With The Entrepreneurial Employee, those dreams can indeed become a reality.

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