Sunday, July 31, 2011
Read the rest of David Bentley Hart here.
Saturday, July 30, 2011
- From The Yellow Admiral by Patrick O'Brian
The small particles are studied, new brooms purchased, and sweeping techniques perfected. All this will be done while the field outside remains unharvested.
Where is your attention?
"People who don't know me don't know what a wonderful, pleasant, modest fellow I am," Edwards said when asked how a man his age managed to land a much-younger wife.
He also told reporters how Grimes, who started writing him letters while he was in prison, visited him there regularly on weekends and holidays in recent years.
[HT: Rick Miller]
Friday, July 29, 2011
The morning after the opening sentence took shape, Heller “arrived at work”—at the Merrill Anderson Company—“with my pastry and container of coffee and a mind brimming with ideas, and immediately in longhand put down on a pad the first chapter of an intended novel.” The handwritten manuscript totaled about 20 pages. He titled it Catch-18. The year was 1953.
Read the rest of the Vanity Fair article here.
[HT: Arts & Letters Daily]
Good news: Zig's Performance Planner is back. Amazon is temporarily out of stock but if you've ever used this Planner, you know what a great tool it is.
What about bacon or chocolate chip cookies?
- From Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
"No, I just applied for the job, was interviewed and then was lucky enough to get selected. I learned a lot later on. Talked to some people, Made a bunch of mistakes. Still do, to be honest. I think the idea was that they wouldn't tell us how to do it right but they'd sure let us know if we did something wrong."
"That doesn't sound very wise."
"It isn't, nor is it fun to be tossed to the wolves. Being a supervisor is tough if you want to do it right. Plus there are the laws to worry about. I've got a couple of employees who may know more about employment law than I do. My own supervisor is pretty supportive and yet he hasn't had much training either. We each think we are doing well and yet maybe we are operating at a B level when we could be at an A. There are days when we hunker down."
"Do you get much support from HR?"
"You know, everyone jokes about HR, but that isn't fair. I've usually gotten good advice when I've asked HR about a problem but they aren't in my pocket when I'm out talking with someone in the field. I don't make a habit of running to HR on things because just touching base with them can make my bosses nervous. They want things handled in-house and HR tends to ask a bunch of questions. Maybe those questions need to be asked, but the HR director doesn't write my performance evaluations. Let's just say there is a lot of on-the-job training. You know, the School of Hard Knocks type."
"Before you were promoted, did you have any idea how complicated supervision can be?"
"No way. I had a sense of about a third of the territory. Later on, I discovered how often the rumor mill is wrong and that some of the so-called easy decisions aren't that easy. Once you have a system down, however, it gets a whole lot easier. There is one item that is more important than all of the others."
"Trust. You need to create a climate of trust."
Thursday, July 28, 2011
1. Have you ever sent a personal e-mail to somebody that, if it were put on the front page of the newspaper, would put you in the Hall of Shame? Note to my friend Albert: Remember the little poems you wrote to Janie before you both got your divorces and married each other? I believe they are still in the database somewhere.
The people who were adults that lived through the early fifties in West Texas, I think, are some of the most principled, disciplined people in the world, and faithful. Because every day they got up, it was dry. And the wind and the sandstorms. This was before the days of deep tilling, and the sky would become like before dawn in its darkness—and this is in the middle of the day. Huge clouds of dust would roll in from the west. The only time I ever remember seeing my mother cry as a young boy was—they rarely ever bought anything, and certainly didn’t buy anything new, but she had bought a new couch. And there were places in our house that you could see outside through the cracks by the windows, and this dust storm came in and there was a layer of dust all over that new couch. And it just, you know, kind of—it was a hard life for them.
- From The Last Voyage of Columbus by Martin Dugard
The military does a better job than most businesses of training leaders in decision making, training them in the skills necessary two levels above their current position, and creating the situation where there are multiple qualified candidates for every promotion.
Most training in business decision-making consists of working on case studies. Military services teach decision making the old-fashioned way, by creating a simple, but flexible system, having leaders in training make lots of decisions and critiquing the outcomes. The result is that a freshly minted second lieutenant is usually more adepts at decision making that many mid-level managers. It's one reason why junior military officers are recruiting targets for many business organizations.
Read all of this outstanding post by Wally Bock.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
They are your contacts, your sources for information. On the real organization chart, these are the people you go to when you need the unvarnished truth or something from their department. They are a back-channel way of getting things done quickly and with a minimal amount of hassle.
Some will be executives and managers but your contacts should come from all levels of the organization. [Secretaries in particular are very powerful.] These are the folks who may initially give you the "party line" but then, when you ask, "What's really happening here?" will shut the door and tell you as much of the truth as they can get away with, which may just be a hint, a subtle warning or a heads-up. In some cases, they may say that they cannot say anything and that, of course, says something. You'd do the same for them.
They are gold so long as you remember to put the person first and their role as a contact second. You should never do anything to embarrass them nor should you ask them to do anything unethical.
You also have an obligation to reciprocate. After all, you too are one of the Reliables.
- From Red Lobster, White Trash, and The Blue Lagoon by Joe Queenan
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Poem: "The Congressmen Came Out to See Bull Run."
The New York Times: Conservatives and grad school.
Richard J. Evans reviews the new book on William L. Shirer.
Althouse: Britons complaining of "Americanisms" in the language.
Ed Ring on the California public-pension bubble.
Read the rest at Adfreak. [The story is fine but the site is NSFW.]
A couple of days were spent converting the list to sub-lists that are broken down by subject, frequency, and geographic location. Each of those in turn has a rating of A (Really Important), B (Important), C (Might Be Important), D (Don't Know), E (Looks Unimportant), F (Really is Unimportant) and G (Importance is Irrelevant). Each factor, of course, is weighted and the Two Standard Deviation formula is applied to avoid unfairness.
A week or so may be devoted to deciding if the sublists should be color-coded and whether footnotes are necessary. Clever acronyms will be assigned, but only after extensive research and debate. Care will be given to the system's three-ringed notebook, since appearance is always a subtle motivator.
Or perhaps it isn't. I'll check into that if I can find the time.
Monday, July 25, 2011
I get uneasy whenever I hear people declare that good ethics = good business because that raises the question of "What would you do if it didn't?" You are supposed to be ethical because it is the right thing to do, not because ethical behavior enhances the bottom line.
A problem with Facebook that allowed all of a user's friends to see thumbnails of videos posted to one or more members and designated as private is causing another security flap. Of course, as I and others have said before, you shouldn't post anything on Facebook or anywhere on the Net that you wouldn't be okay showing on the front page of the local paper.
- From Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser
By entering your email address, you too can experience our revolutionary new Permission Harassment?. (sic) Be the first person in your miserable company, disaffected dormitory or dysfunctional relationship to:
Know when new products are released that might further exacerbate your frustrations
Be informed of upcoming pricing specials
Learn when Despair makes news, and makes it up
Provide thoughtful feedback to us and have it completely ignored
Reasonable pay? Check.
Strong benefits program? Check.
Opportunity for advancement? Check.
A tightly-focused team? Check.
A mission that is strongly supported in the press? Check.
A compartmentalized culture that permits you to deny responsibility for anything that is unpleasant? Check.
Generous budget? Check.
The chance to travel? Check.
Higher status than other parts of the organization? Check.
If the above characteristics sound promising, consider that they could have been touted by the SS of Nazi Germany.
Sunday, July 24, 2011
Saturday, July 23, 2011
- From To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Read the rest of Mark Steyn here.
On the whole, I think he makes a good point. The blurring of the two has created a great deal of confusion. At the same time, Charles Murray's idea of pushing certifications that would fall short of requiring a degree in various disciplines makes sense.
The Norwegian police on Saturday charged a 32-year-old man, whom they identified as a Christian fundamentalist with right-wing connections, over the bombing of a government center here and a shooting attack on a nearby island that together left at least 91 people dead.
More from Der Spiegel: "Cold as ice."
Gather a group of bright people and watch them weave intricate nets; a skill they learned in various disciplines and which no doubt pleased their teachers. After all, if something is complex, then the thinking that produced it must be deep; at least so goes the assumption. This may explain why so many academics embrace the obtuse and disdain clear writing.
In a perfect world, sirens would sound whenever a person or group backed away from a simple solution. I recently found an easy way to resolve a problem that has been troubling a group for months. It will save millions of dollars if they have the courage to adopt it. The solution was in the room all along but whenever we bumped into it, we muttered excuses and hurried on to search for the complicated.
Our first task will be to get over our embarrassment.
Friday, July 22, 2011
He prepared several grant proposals in advance, so that it only took an hour or so to freshen them up and send them to the foundation. They weren't very big, small enough, in fact that the foundation's CEO could act on them without board approval.
An old farmer who told me that if he were ever held up by a robber he would surely be killed because he would never be able to hand over something he had earned to someone who did not deserve it.
A man, active in his church, who, when told that another church member had been arrested for shop-lifting a package of cigars, was more upset with the use of cigars than with the shop-lifting.
A former member of the Hitler Youth who enthusiastically explained the virtues of the goose step.
An exiled Soviet dissident who served me tea in a broken china cup as he described the changes in Russia.
A retired journalist who remarked that life had taught him that today's s.o.b. is tomorrow's hero.
An old law professor who, before talking to me about a research project, revealed that he had finally read all of Trollope's novels.
An Air Force sergeant who questioned my sanity for going into the Army.
A Washington political operative who declared, in rather blunt terms, how much he liked John Kennedy and disliked Robert.
The movie make-up artist who spoke of working with one of the kindest men he ever met, a young actor named Ronald Reagan.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Gretchen: What's a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?
Monica: Hanging out with my dogs.
Wat's (sic) something you know now about happiness that you didn't know when you were 18 years old?
That life moves fast...so savor every moment and appreciate the things you have..not the things you don't.
Now I'm in recovery mode. Unlike instructors who have a leisurely, let's put up another slide, approach, I wander about, ask a lot of questions, and use scads of case examples. The pace is fast and people are invited to interrupt. There are short breaks every hour. I seldom if ever sit. As a result, when I finish a class I'm exhausted.
Part of this technique is tied to the belief that the instructor should show some passion for the topic. The implicit message is "This is really interesting stuff and I'll show you why."
It works and I like it, but one of these days, I need to find a subject that I can teach from a sofa while smoking a cigar.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
I am on vacation. Not one of those vacations where you spend three or four days packing five children up, forwarding mail, stopping the paper, climbing into the car at 0:dark-thirty and driving twelve hours to a large water supply.
Read the rest here.
My wife looked at my home office, shook her head, and wandered out. Books and papers scattered about and yet with a reason for each spot if only for them to be near when I need them.
The beautiful moment is when the process begins to make sense.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
In the wake of the Kobe quake, Japanese engineers took extensive measures to reinforce buildings and infrastructure. They installed rubber blocks under bridges. They spaced buildings farther apart to prevent domino-style tumbling. They introduced extra bracing, base isolation pads, hydraulic shock absorbers. A minute before the March earthquake, automatic seismic monitoring systems sent warnings to Japanese cell phones. Elevators glided obediently to the nearest floor and opened. Surgeries were halted. Videos from Tokyo show skyscrapers swaying gracefully, like cornstalks in the wind. Not one collapsed.
I like bold ideas as much as the next person but the scars on my ancient carcass start to itch when great reliance is placed upon extremely vague plans. I want to know the details of how we get from A to B and if any descriptions sound like magic, nervousness sets in. The problem often resembles what some people have called Chinese Math, where organizations present optimistic projections of how much business can be done in the massive Chinese market without taking into account the enormous difficulty encountered when selling small amounts to folks just across town.
We all like to play Grand Strategy. It can be great fun. But in the end, someone is having to slog through the mud and over the barbed wire and we need to take that into account.
Spare us the magic. Give us the details.
Monday, July 18, 2011
Creating a ‘learning organization’ is only half the solution. Just as important is creating an ‘unlearning organization’. To create the future, a company must unlearn at least some of its past. We’re all familiar with ‘learning curve’, but what about the ‘forgetting curve’ – the rate at which a company can unlearn those habits that hinder future success?
We are sensitive to this with big projects, having been warned of "paralysis by analysis," and yet, when our guard is down, a similar hesitation may sabotage minor projects.
How do we combat this? By not making a big deal out of what should be a minor decision. By daring to be wrong, we can subdue any worries about what others may think and avoid slipping into the warm bath of analysis; a bath that leads to inaction.
This involves quietly doing the task that we sense we should do. Once that is done, we can move on to another.
Stop thinking so much. Get it done.
Sunday, July 17, 2011
Read the rest at Eclecticity.
Saturday, July 16, 2011
That is assuming, of course, that Locke would have been able to land a traditional publisher. An interesting argument once surfaced in a separate forum: After their agents scoured the traditional publishers, many authors only received one offer. But for that single offer, they'd still be in the cold.
"Behold the Microsoft (MSFT) cloud, how it grows," said the first apparition, a tall, massive, bald gentleman with a friendly demeanor and sharp incisors. "Unlike your hard drive, it has unlimited capacity and neither does it spin. And yet for all that I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his royalty was not arrayed like unto it."
"But I don't want to store my stuff in any cloud," I said. "It makes me nervous."
Thank God we don't have any people like that in high office.
Read the rest of the article here.
Friday, July 15, 2011
Robert Altman, Mel Brooks, Peter Bogdanovich, and Frank Capra
Frank Capra talks about "Lost Horizon"
Conducting workshops is both exhilarating and exhausting. My favorite part has always been the interactions with class members as we've explored ideas and approaches. I recall a group from one company in the Midwest that returned to the same class two years in a row because, as they put it, "Even though we were here before, we knew we'd get something new."
They were right. The process, if done properly, should be a mutual learning experience. When you are teaching management workshops, hearing what people in the front lines are encountering is essential.
As I said, a good day. Look for me at an airport near you.
This is almost exactly the wrong way to raise leaders for tumultuous times. We need Teddy Roosevelts, Winston Churchills, Harriet Stowes and Alexander Hamiltons. We are producing legions of promotion-hungry bureaucrats and narrow specialists with no knowledge of or interest in the tumult and chaos that inevitably rises up in times like ours. We then place them in large, bureaucratically run institutions and expect them to deal creatively with the unexpected, the revolutionary and the totally new.
Read the rest of Walter Russell Mead here.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Cash is in a money clip.
Aside from that:
Swiss Army pen knife
Moleskine notebook (in coat - the notebook also has a pocket for business cards)
Getting rid of the monster wallet was a liberating move.
General rule: Less is more.
Perhaps a comment should not have this much power, but it can. In many cases, the recipient can restrict or even eliminate the comment's impact. In others, there are few or no restraints on the power of one comment.
It is out there. For good or bad.
Read the rest of Leonard E. Read's essay here.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
This habit of work may be, I realize, a little weird. In my defense, let it be noted that I find a lot of connections to work in subjects that may seem unrelated. Some of the histories that are currently on my reading list contain lessons that can be applied to my consulting practice. Biographies are especially informative. I even look for novels that contain insight although in some the only insight rests in the sheer creativity of the author. [Neil Gaiman's "Neverwhere" comes to mind.]
Perhaps this stems from a desire to detect commonalities and differences. Years ago, a friend stunned me when she said that she never, ever, wonders about the profession or the backgrounds of strangers. I was surprised because I thought everyone did that. We are surrounded by mysteries, clues, and great drama. One of the finest of life's entertainments is to discover the subtle connections. Evenings are well-suited for such reflections.
- Those who could make the firing decision have little contact with the individual's true work product.
- They have low expectations.
- They are waiting for someone to complain.
- They believe they are the only ones who see the ineptitude.
- They don't want to be judgmental.
- They see only the work that is done reasonably well.
- They don't care so long as the performance doesn't affect them.
- There is a family connection.
- There is a powerful protector.
- They are afraid of a lawsuit.
- They are concerned that the replacement might not be much better.
- They like the person.
- The person looks the part and that, to them, is sufficient.
- The person does one thing very well and they discount the importance of everything else.
- There are community or client ties that could be jeopardized.
- The termination process is too cumbersome.
- Priorities are focused elsewhere.
- Previous efforts failed.
- Taking action with that person would require taking action with other people.
- The person really isn't an idiot.
Where are some of the places you have found most advantageous to work? The Ambos Mundos hotel must have been one, judging from the number of books you did there. Or do surroundings have little effect on the work?
The Ambos Mundos in Havana was a very good place to work in. This Finca is a splendid place, or was. But I have worked well everywhere. I mean I have been able to work as well as I can under varied circumstances. The telephone and visitors are the work destroyers.
Go to Steven Pressfield's site (and further to Paris Review for the full article) to read the great interview that George Plimpton had with Ernest Hemingway.
Read the rest of Nicole Gelinas here.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
A passion gives you a reason to keep learning and to work toward mastery. It can often give you a reason to have the new experiences so key to happiness. It gives you something in common with other people, and so fosters social bonds. It gives you purpose. It often has a satisfying physical aspect—rock-climbing, fly-fishing, knitting, smelling. It gives meaningful structure to your time. It makes the world a richer place. When you’re in pain, it can be a refuge, a distraction, a solace.
The Department of Agriculture, Foreign Agricultural Services (FAS) has a requirement for the design, development and delivery of a customized training course for Professional Chinese Chefs.
You can submit a proposal and then go back to reading about excessive federal spending.
It was a reminder of the beautiful and regenerative virtue of sleep to one who thought no reminder was necessary. As a rule, I try to get to sleep by 10:30 at the latest and even follow a regimen to produce some solid rest; e.g., no caffeine after seven. Things build up unnoticed, however, and the physical side eventually tugs at the mental and declares time for a break.
I've written here before about the unrecognized role that fatigue plays in organizations. Performance starts to decline because people are simply worn out. The boasting about long hours spent at work has never impressed me. Far more admirable is the person who does as much in three hours as others do in twelve.
Instead of long hours, it is wise for our days to combine real effectiveness with some serious sleep. Each supports the other.
Monday, July 11, 2011
You've seen your share of database deployments. What would you say is one of the most important things organizations can do today to keep their databases secure?
Litchfield: The first is to change all default and simple-to-guess passwords. The major database vendors have recently become better at helping with this issue. In the past few years they've stopped shipping database servers with default user IDs and passwords. But for a very, very long time they were shipping all of their databases with default userIDs and passwords. Certainly for older systems, default passwords are still a major issue. Many times, while conducting security assessments, it was -- and still is -- incredibly shocking to see how many organizations run default access credentials. Another simple yet often overlooked area is keeping software patches up to date. While it can be very difficult with production database systems, given that they are in use, there are ways to make sure you keep the software up to date during scheduled maintenance.
The praise, encouragement, affirmation or defense that should have been spoken may wound as much as any verbal thrust. Silence can be deafening. It can also be hurtful.
So if we are seeking the ideal day, I submit that we should strive for mixture and achievement.
...Stimulus dollars went to fund one federal agency to buy guns for the paid informants of another federal agency to funnel to foreign criminals in order that the first federal agency might identify the paid informants of the second federal agency.
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Is it that you have some people on your team who are whiners and complainers while the others are satisfied or that the others don't care enough to be upset and the complainers have a stronger commitment and sense of responsibility?
Saturday, July 09, 2011
I may go back and read some of those old spy novels. The Bond books were painful. Eric Ambler was great. I liked John Le Carre before he went off the deep end. Have not read Frederick Forsyth or Len Deighton in years. Am currently a major Daniel Silva fan. And, of course, there is Alan Furst whose books transport you to Europe in the Thirties.
"There's another factor. Given the economy, there are people doing work in our specialty who would not have gone near it five years ago. They have drifted in for a quick buck and are saying they can do the same thing that we do for a lower price. They really cannot provide the same quality but their message is simple and we cannot beat them on price. If the buyer's decision is made solely on price, we will lose.
"We will have to create new aspects to our product that the less experienced competitors cannot hope to match and which will be desirable to our customers. We will also have to increase our customer contacts and listen carefully to their fears and concerns. People are nervous. As a result, loyalty is fragile.
"This is not easy, but it may shake us into a clearer sense of just what we are about and how we can help people. Start the list. What type of product or service can we provide that no one else will be able to touch?"
Test run. Two glitches.
Frustrating but predictable. Few projects go click-click-click.
Back to the screen.
Friday, July 08, 2011
Miller said his group consented to help search for Caylee on the premise that she was missing. That’s a notion at odds, he said, with the scenario set out by Anthony’s defense team during their opening statement, when they said Caylee had died by drowning in the family pool.
“It’s only fair to our donors to make an attempt to get that money back, because people donate to us for the purpose of looking for missing children. And in [defense attorney] Jose Baez’s own statement, she was never missing,” Miller said.
Read the rest at The Wall Street Journal Law Blog.
Use the exceptional leaders as instructors in leadership. They're the most credible instructors you can have, especially if they use their own stories as part of their teaching. As an added bonus, they will become more conscious of their leadership through the process of developing their instruction plans.