Working Out Loud: Show Up (Part 1 of 5)

This is a five part series about working out loud and engaging people across multiple organizations in order to tackle tough problems in knowledge management.

Showing Up and Working Out Loud

  • Show up whenever possible. 
  • Ask to speak with senior leaders, chances are they will see you.
  • Advocate for yourself and others.
  • Speak to the heart and mind.
  • Have faith and courage.

Part 1 “Show Up” In you We Trust

If you are invisible, no one can see you.  If you are quiet, no one can hear you.  If you aren’t present, you can’t be felt.  

After 9/11 the Pentagon had a lot of work to be done beyond just rebuilding the walls.   The impact of the attack had disrupted what we held as fact and truth.   It took an emotional and psychological toll on many people and it reshaped the reality of war at home. Something interesting happened during and after this event that changed the way I understood leadership.   Some leaders that I expected strength from chose to step back and become quiet, while others gained clarity, focus and resolve and chose to step up.

Stepping up meant showing up, making yourself visible was risky and took courage.  The war on terrorism is still a hot button topic by 2005 we were still seemingly reacting and responding with a great deal of emotion.  People are very passionate around this subject and passion may not always convey to good decision making.   This being the case, any approach to help with this subject area had to be carefully examined and measured.    As my old friend Vince said “Cohen, attacking a nat with a baseball bat may not get you the desired result you seek.”

Trust is Tied to Knowledge   

When I first stepped inside the Pentagon, I could see the damage that was left over from the devastating attack on our country, our people.   I had this feeling that overwhelmed me and I was overcome by feelings that I didn’t understand or have words to describe.   As I tried to contain myself I was reminded verbally by my Chief Division Officer why I was there at the Pentagon in the first place.  He said “The men and women of this nation make critical decisions for the safety and well-being of our warfighters here in these walls; I understand how you feel and this is why I brought you.”  

Walking through the small passageways of the Pentagon, I thought about our long drive, sitting through traffic.   It could be 4 hours or more each way on a good day.   He did this drive at least a few times a week just to make sure he was physically present.

We walked into a room filled with defense leadership and supporting cast members end to end,  there was a large long rectangular wooden table with senior leaders sitting and most others standing up against the wall.    After general practice and introductions there was silence.  I was looking around at the fine grain wood, paintings and designations on the walls.   There is history in every nook and corner of this building.  It is almost like going through a museum and art gallery at the same time.  Being in the room itself makes you feel as if you are part of this history.

They introduced my senior leader to the group with natural formality and gave him the floor to speak.  I can share the spirit of what he said in that room on that day.

We understand that there are things that we don’t know and we don’t ask.  We make the same mistakes over and again with assured confidence and certainty.  We make the same mistakes over again because even when we have our lessons learned, we don’t use them to prevent us from making poor choices.    Our great service men and women deserve better. They deserve our willingness to say that we don’t know.   We have to make both informed and uninformed decisions but we have a responsibility to them, to ask the questions and gain as much knowledge as we can.   We have to work together and be a joint force to accomplish this and we have to build trust across the services.   We can do these things with enterprise architectures.  We can do these things with knowledge fed to us with and for purpose for reuse across all of the services.

In his presentation and discussion his only request was for people to use our architecture tools and approach to pull together and share content in context for operations, decision making and analysis.

We were there to build trust and build knowledge through these trusted relationships. The high level objective was to learn and share in order to raise awareness with partners. The knowledge would then be used and reused to help reduce risk, save money and increase opportunities for operational and mission success.  My Chief didn’t stop here, he traveled and spoke with hundreds of people.   His message was known by all of his team and we were all encouraged to share information and help build a coalition with partners from various domains.  

We seek to “Help those who eat the MRE’s.”   (MRE= Meals ready to eat)

Showing Up is 

Showing up is a critical first step in the knowledge management practice.   Most leaders don’t have time to read.  I know how that sounds but it is true.   Chances are they will make time to meet if they are given a good reason.  That meeting is critical to both you and leadership.  It could be an opportunity to move forward with your ideas or fail fast and move on.

Part 2..  

“Senior leadership isn’t interested in what I have to say.”

“They (leaders) don’t care what we think.”

“We are just the hired help here.”

“I don’t have time and I am not really motivated”

“I have tried before and it didn’t work.”

Sound familiar.. will talk more about this next week.


Lesson Learned in Knowledge Management (EBOLA)


Ignorance = Death

Last year, I wrote about a lack of KM in the medical industry.   It was a sad commentary then and it is even more frightening now.  Some of you may be aware that errors in healthcare account for a significant number of deaths in America.

In 2010, the Office of Inspector General for Health and Human Services said that bad hospital care contributed to the deaths of 180,000 patients in Medicare alone in a given year.

Now comes a study in the current issue of the Journal of Patient Safety that says the numbers may be much higher — between210,000 and 440,000 patients each year who go to the hospital for care suffer some type of preventable harm that contributes to their death, the study says.

That would make medical errors the third-leading cause of death in America, behind heart disease, which is the first, and cancer, which is second. (


Lack of Awareness

Texas nurses said that there were no protocols. (  Maybe they had the guidelines on their Sharepoint instance?  Maybe they had their process on Jive? Maybe they had their instructions on Yammer or Podio or…  

What they don’t have is effective Knowledge Management.  This is the truth.

Let me state this for the record, as I have mentioned this in past postings.  Knowledge Management is about getting, presenting, raising awareness, sharing, identifying, bringing to light.. the RIGHT INFORMATION AT THE RIGHT TIME.

If you think for a moment that I am using this tragic situation to get the message out on Knowledge Management, I will tell you in fact that I am.   We can go through the history of knowledge management failures and find the critical element that is missing and that is the human element.  These failures result in death.

Doctors and nurses need access to real time information that INFORMS them of what they need to do and what precautions they have to take.   In fact, think about this folks.. WE CARE MORE ABOUT CYBER SECURITY THAN PEOPLE.

Everything when it comes to medicine seems to be approached from an academic perspective.  If you look at the agencies that do care about healthcare they are not considered or looked at in the same way as cyber communities.   For example, are hospitals going to the WHO or USAID for daily updates and coordination?   I highly doubt it and I think the results of the situation from a global perspective is telling.  The CDC doesn’t want us to worry because they don’t want a panicdemic.  (yep, I made that up).  We are facing an enemy that doesn’t care about boundaries or what side you are on.  We are facing an enemy that doesn’t look at right or wrong.  It just has intent of killing the system.  That is it.  We can’t afford to be ignorant.  We can’t afford to make mistakes that are easily correctable.

What is needed?

  • A quick turn incidence response and disaster response operational check up for every medical organization in the US.
  • A safety and contagion knowledge plan that addresses known and new issues and concerns through every turnover, handoff, meeting or organization interaction.
  • A strategic outreach and communication plan for healthcare providers, practitioners and patients.
  • A KM plan that seeks to elevate and prioritize content for communication in the organization.
  • An “as you learn.. share” plan.  (If you know information that will save a life, share it)
  • Researchers that have worked on attacking ebola need to share their failures and their success.  (YES FAIL) We need to pick up where others left off and share information, not hold information so that we can be the trophy winner.
  • We need leaders in the KM space to step up and share best practices, lessons learned and how to’s for knowledge transfer and elicitation.


Ebola virus can be used for terrorism.. Think about that for a moment. 

Links to Ebola sites

European Links

Links to Ebola sites




European External Action Services (EEAS)





Member States


Ministry of Health

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Czech Republic

Ministry of Health

Ministry of Industry and Trade

Ministry of Foreign Affairs


Ministry of Social Affairs and Health


All information and guidance for health professionals

National Surveillance Case Definitions for Ebola

Public Health Management of Cases and Contacts of Human Illness Associated with Ebola Virus Disease

List of hospitals allowed to take care of Ebola patients

Guidance on transportation of Ebola patient from abroad to France


KEEL:               Webpage on Ebola outbreak

Bulletin for travelers



Ministry of Health

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Robert Koch Institute

Bernhard-Nocht-Institute – Hamburg


Ministry of Human Capacities (English) (Hungarian)  National Public Health and Chief Medical Office  Guide for leadership of higher education  Guide for travellers


Ministry of Health of Lithuania (web banner on the top of the page)

Centre of Communicable Disease and AIDS under the Ministry of Health

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania


Ministry of Health


Dutch Government

National Institute for Public Health and the Environment – in Dutch

National Institute for Public Health and the Environment – in English


National Institute of Public Health,7555:1:0:0:::0:0&MainContent_6894=6765:0:25,7572:1:0:0:::0:

Slovak Republic

Public Health Authority

Information about Ebola for travellers (translated ECDC leaflet) – in Slovak

Information about the measurements taken by the Public Health Authority of SR – in Slovak

Leaflet on Ebola for citizens – in Slovak

Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs

Travel advice for Slovak citizens – in Slovak

Information on financial humanitarian aid of the Slovak Republic – in English


National institute of public health

Ministry of Health


Ministry of health

Foreign Affairs


Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare (“Socialstyrelsen”):

Fact sheet/leaflet:

Public Health Agency of Sweden (“Folkhälsomyndigheten”):

Foreign Ministry of Sweden:


Federal Office of Public Health




United Kingdom

Articles in which International SOS has been quoted or referenced

  • “Ebola Sends Employers Wake-Up Call” – Human Resource Executive– 7 October
  • “These countries are tightening their borders over Ebola fears — against expert advice” – Washington Post– 2 October
  • “Companies Step Up Pressure on Ebola: We Need Action Now” – NBC News– 11 September
  • “Amid Ebola crisis, is something worse around corner?” – CNBC– 4 September
  • “First Briton With Ebola Virus Begins Treatment” – Sky News– 25 August
  • “WA miners in West Africa prepare workforce for escalation of Ebola virus” –  ABC News– 23 August
  • “Ebola, war or disaster: how and when global service groups decide to flee” – National Catholic Reporter– 21 August
  • “World confronting the largest Ebola outbreak since 1976” – China Daily– 18 August
  • “Multinationals in Africa keep a wary eye on Ebola” – Wall Street Journal, 6 August
  • “Ebola strains fragile W African economies” – Reuters, 6 August
  • “Ebola threatens West African economies” – Yahoo UK/AFP, 6 August
  • “Ebola virus: now the threat is real” – Punch Nigeria, 5 August
  • “International SOS has seen another rise in the number of requests for advice on Ebola in recent weeks” –Business Wire India, 4 August
  • “Evaluating risk: Do travellers need medical evacuation insurance” – NBC News, 2 August
  • “Ebola patient arrives in the US” – Today NBC, 2 August
  • “Americans mostly safe from Ebola, despite rapid spread” – Risk & Insurance, 1 August
  • “Employers should be prepared as Ebola outbreak grows” – Society for Human Resource Management, 1 August
  • “US$100m Ebola emergency response plan unveiled by WHO’s Margaret Chan” – South China Morning Post, 1 August
  • “WA miners issue ebola alerts” – The West Australian, 1 August
  • “Ebola: A Disease out of control?” – Al Jazeera, 31 July
  • “WHO, CDC see $100 million surge for Africa Ebola battle” – Bloomberg, 31 July
  • “Health experts say Ebola virus poses little risk to UAE” – The National UAE, 31 July
  • “Can West Africa’s deadliest Ebola outbreak be contained?” – Al Jazeera America, 29 July
  • “Ebola: Is the western world at risk?” – ReLocate Magazine, 28 July
  • “Ebola outbreak poses threat to African economies” – Financial Times, 25 July (subscription required)
  • International SOS’ Dr Robert Quigley discusses Ebola – Al Jazeera English TV channel, 23  July
  • “West Africa Ebola Outbreaks Spur Rising International SOS Inquiries” – Voice of America, 16 July
  • International SOS Medical Director Doug Quarry discusses Ebola in the Al Jazeera report, 28 March 2014
  • “Ebola Outbreak is West Africa” – Relocate Magazine, 26 March
  • “Guinea says has contained Ebola outbreak, death toll rises” – Reuters,  26 March

What you have isn’t what you got!

InTheBox.jpgHey Boss… Yeah… YOU ***tink tink tink*** … I am talking to you!  You are the leader of this band and you don’t know any of your roadies! 

The Best Things You Never Knew You Had

A good friend of mine keeps telling me that he wants to work for me when I am President of company whatever..   I have considered the idea of moving from a middle management / leader role to a more senior position but I think that being in senior role is actually insulating and debilitating.    As your area of responsibility grows and concepts become less specific and more generalized, you can become a fan of bullet points and power points.  I am all for the Maxim magazine version of things (as long as I can enjoy the images as well) but it seems to me that there is no time to do anything but read the insulated, well prepared, well scripted untruth of the bullet list.

Unless you are engaged and involved, you don’t know what your people are thinking and frankly, they are afraid to tell you.   There is an inherent risk to them that you won’t like what they have to say and that their uninvited perspective that may not align with yours is distasteful.   You don’t know how hard they work for you or your brand.   You don’t know how they have pushed themselves to the edges of their own being to acculturate because being of a culture means tuning your own personal being.   It is easy to say that diversity in culture”blended” is something that can be natural but far to often instead of being a tapestry it is more like a bunch of crayons scribbled over each other.   Blended diversity does mean sacrifice and that is ok when there is purpose.  We can be a gray swath or that beautiful tapestry.

What is the purpose? 

If you are doing a job, if you are working on something, if you want to do it well,  you have to care about it and there has to be some PURPOSE.   There are  a lot of books about it, I don’t need to elaborate too much here but this is a reminder that people without purpose are like androids without direction.   “Will do as programmed sir or madam”..

If we understand our role and our place in this world, we can produce and innovate beyond your expectations and beyond your imagination!

Lack of knowledge about your own capability inhibits your ability to be the best you can be!

When you run a marathon, who are you running against?  Are you running to beat the competition?

Who is your real competition?  How do you know what capabilities you have unless you dig deep and push yourself?  How do you motivate others to do the same?  How will the motivation for them have a positive impact on you?

You won’t know unless you push yourself and ask questions.  The same goes for business.   If you are running a business, you have to listen, look, and learn from the mirror and from your team not look externally.  What is external is what you think you want.  It is what you THINK you are competing against, but you really don’t know.  I would say that they don’t know either.  They don’t know what is inside their own box of things.   If you are competing against someone who doesn’t know their potential and you don’t know your potential, how could expect a measured outcome?  How can you even know the possibilities?   How do you know what is real?    Even if something is real and you know it but others don’t, how will you inspire your team to help you get there?  What is in it for them?  What is their motivation?

Knowing what you have is a business requirement!

When working on knowledge management problems the first place I go is demographics!  I want to know WHO then What because most of us start with What then Who.   If you start with trying to understand What first, you are automatically limiting yourself to understanding the range or scope of possibilities around a capability.  For example:  “Provide me a list of what we do here.”

  • Build engines
  • Ship engines
  • Buy engines
  • Refurbish engines
  • Sell engines

So.. you sell engines..   ok..

What if I asked about the person first?

George has been working for ABC Engines for 15 years, he has a family and he is a master engine designer, builder and tradesman.   He loves what he does and recently has become very interested in water based motor sports.   He is also a pilot and served in the military as a Master Specialist on Tanks.  He also has a keen interest in electric motors..

This is a simplified concept but what possibilities exist from the first approach relative to the second?


More often than not personal agendas get in the way of what is best for a company relative to the people that work for the company.   When companies ask questions about their employees and wonder what would make them happier or more productive, there are only a few as corporate entities that are willing and able to accept the answers.  Some studies show that 19% of employees are disengaged at work..  I wonder why?

18 Employee Engagement Conditions

Employee engagement, according to the SHRM report, is more likely to occur when certain conditions exist. Employers can maximize employee engagement via improving these factors. The percentages indicate the overall satisfaction of employees with the listed condition of engagement. The items are listed in order from the employee survey results: most satisfied to least satisfied with the condition in their organization.

  • The work itself: 76%
  • Relationships with co-workers: 76%
  • Opportunities to use skills and abilities: 74%
  • Relationship with immediate supervisor: 73%
  • Contribution of work to organization’s business goals: 71%
  • Autonomy and independence: 69%
  • Meaningfulness of job: 69%
  • Variety of work: 68%
  • Organization’s financial stability: 63%
  • Overall corporate culture: 60%
  • Management’s recognition of employee job performance: 57%
  • Job-specific training: 55%
  • Communication between employees and senior management: 54%
  • Organization’s commitment to professional development: 54%
  • Networking: 49%
  • Organization’s commitment to corporate social responsibility: 49% 
  • Career development opportunities: 48%
  • Career advancement opportunities: 42%

When asked.. They will tell… Under the right conditions..

If you ask your employees to tell you what they want, more often then not they will tell you.  You would need to have their TRUST.  You would have to lower the barrier of FEAR.  You would have to give them a reason to tell you.  If there is no positive outcome why should they take the chance?   Most people want some form of security first! (See Maslow)  From there, you have a number of possibilities with most seeking purpose.   In that “purpose” you can find the most valuable ideas and opportunities.  In fact, you can find the best things you never knew you had in capability!

People / Stuff and Knowledge Management..

There are 4 people in the world today that know the formula for WD-40, so it is said. “WD-40’s formula is a trade secret. The product was not patented in 1953 to avoid disclosing the details of its composition; the window of opportunity for patenting the product has long since closed.[4][7] WD-40’s main ingredients, according to U.S. Material Safety Data Sheet information, are:

  • 51% Stoddard solvent (In 1953 this was the predominant cleaning fluid used by dry cleaners.)
  • 25% liquefied petroleum gas (presumably as a propellant; carbon dioxide is now used instead to reduce WD-40’s considerable flammability)
  • 15+% mineral oil (light lubricating oil)
  • 10-% inert ingredients ” –Wikipedia

Beyond that From a New York Times obituary of the executive that made the stuff famous:

The company never patented WD-40, in order to avoid having to disclose the ingredients publicly. Its name became synonymous with the product, like Kleenex.

[Former CEO] Mr. Barry acknowledged in interviews with Forbes magazine in 1980 and 1988 that other companies, including giants like 3M and DuPont, made products that closely resembled WD-40.

“What they don’t have,” he said, “is the name.”

So, these guys made a company that had a single product FOR YEARS that was holistically dependent on the corporate knowledge of a few people.   In later years, they diversified a little and bought other brands to incorporate.

But in the end the secret is… that maybe there is no secret!

At some point,  companies will have to deal with the comings and goings of younger workers that have different objectives and goals outside of staying with one company for 20+ years.  Their individual time to competency will need to be faster than it is today and the ONLY way that companies will be able to deal with this is through rapid knowledge transfer, the expression of tacit to tacit and tacit to explicit information and a keen eye on their staff.

What you think you have isn’t what you got ..   Interestingly enough (to me at least) a lot of organizations aren’t even willing to spend the time looking inward to figure out what it is they think they have relative to what they actually have..  

Army Strong ~KM

Logo-ReadyArmyKM enhances mission command, facilitates the exchange of knowledge, supports doctrine development, fosters leaders’ development, supports lessons learned, supports training and enhances professional education. Ultimately, KM enables the Army to become an adaptable organization that is able to learn and change. The Army’s strategy focuses on advancement in a culture of innovation rather than survival in a culture of compliance.

• “Military operations are human endeavors characterized by the continuous, mutual adaptation of give and take, moves and counter moves among all participants (FM 6-0 2011).” The participants that are able to adapt and learn more efficiently will create advantages that can be exploited. The Army has moved towards mission command as the means to be more adaptable and able to execute in a decentralized manner. One of the key enables for an organization to learn and adapt is through the use of knowledge management.
• Effective knowledge management enhances the shared understanding of an organization. The command and staff possess a shared understanding of the OE and mission that allows for a synergy of effort between commanders, staffs, and subordinate commands.
• Knowledge management enhances mission command’s ability to use mission type orders to promote initiative within the commander’s intent.  If done properly trust is built within the organization, shared understanding is generated, and the people and organization will learn.

Be Informed!

The military including all US armed forces does a fantastic job of knowledge management.   In fact, the military has always done a fantastic job of knowledge management.   The reason there are questions concerning  km (knowledge management) practices in the Army and other defense areas is because of WHERE they practice knowledge management.

When a young soldier comes into the Army, this person is taught about Army culture.  They are taught about a chain of command, they are taught about roles and responsibilities, they are taught to sense and feel things in order to react.   The services use tools of human dimensions including cognitive, physical, social concepts.   ( (  The idea is to be ready, to be informed and to maintain an ability to execute consistently with great continuity and persistence. 

Being ready is something that the Army has done well and this readiness is a direct result of a consistent focus on km.   The centerpiece of the Army is the soldier but one soldier alone can’t be the Army and this is why there has to be an understanding of people, process, methods, tools and a further AWARENESS of the environment, the world and of time.

It is a heavy burden for an organization of any size to put so much effort into knowledge management but it is a must.  The Army has KM Officers ( ) <– here are their roles and responsibilities.

“Knowledge Management is more than just KMO business.” AWC KM Brief, 2011

Knowledge Management Operations Strategy (

Army Business

There are many business practices that came from our experience with fighting wars.  In fact most leaders (  have served and have learned core values and practices from the services.    In a time where the world is under more pressure than in recent past and military leaders are consistently finding ways to do more with less, it is NOT amazing to see that they have turned to a core practice of knowledge management as an add-on to every single effort.   It is AMAZING and a wonder to see business leaders under stressful conditions look at km as something soft and not worth the effort.

If knowledge management isn’t important, why do senior leaders in the military who understand the value of km continue to invest in km (their people) more as the budgets get tighter?

In our history of mankind from the people who invented our first tools, to the people who found how to use fire through the 4 guys on the planet that know the secret recipe for WD-40, we have needed and continue to need to tell stories, share information, communicate both tacit and explicit knowledge.  If there are any questions concerning the importance of knowledge management initiatives,  I humbly ask those decision makers who seek to devalue these concepts to simply look at the men and women protecting our great nation and recognize what they are doing.    I don’t think that our military leadership is “soft” in fact I think it takes a special kind of courage to take the hard road of truly addressing people and culture relative to knowledge management and that is what they do.

Think about it!  


-This post is dedicated to my good friend and brother Capt. Marc Romeo ( BZ KID!

You can read how he taught a class on being resilient!

Egg or Tennis Ball?



All of the information provided here is available on the internet.    I am adding links and sources accordingly.

Refinery Rabbi

My bologna has a first name…

Trade Stories

Stories passed down in business create opportunity for new ideas and new opportunity as well as lessons in history.  Story telling is key to understanding context and it is an interwoven part of business.  It is so natural that business tends to over look the value of the story and the potential to benefit from stories. 

In 1748, the British politician and aristocrat John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, spent a lot of his free time playing cards. He greatly enjoyed eating a snack while still keeping one hand free for the cards. So he came up with the idea to eat beef between slices of toast, which would allow him to finally eat and play cards at the same time. Eating his newly invented “sandwich,” the name for two slices of bread with meat in between, became one of the most popular meal inventions in the western world.  (

In the blink of an eye a story can make something that you may know more interesting..  It can stir up thoughts and ideas to innovate and it can create opportunity for reuse.


What happens to one barrel of oil?

It gets cracked and heated, fracked, cooled, boiled, treated and dissolved.

There is opportunity and potential for “processing gains” The volumetric amount by which total output is greater than input for a given period of time. This difference is due to the processing of crude oil into products which, in total, have a lower specific gravity than the crude oil processed.  Which basically means you get more from less!

What else comes from this barrel? 

And my short story.

I traveled to a refinery and as I toured this massive plant of interwoven machinery, tubes, pipes and people,  I had questions that I never thought or considered in my life as I use my every day products.  The tour guide was an expert in her field with many years of experience in giving tours and working at the refinery.   As we passed by each area of production, she explained what the machines do and what products are produced including how some of them are used.

Did you know the natural color of rubber is white, and up until the early 1900′s tires were a pale, light color. Carbon started to be added around 1912 to add strength and durability, which is why all tires are now black.   This is why the Michelin Man is white! (

As we passed each area she had something interesting to tell and what was more compelling to me was that people who have worked in this industry for 20+ years learned things along the tour as well.   We learn from each other as well.   The tour would continue and we continued to learn more and more about each area of production.    In a short time of human history we have found almost magical ways to use a crude goo that comes from hidden crevices in our earth.   Whether we like it or not crude oil is in almost everything we touch and see on a daily basis.   This realization for me put new light on my use of everyday items and my understanding of our civilization and the world we live in.

Near the end of our tour as we stopped in front of giant evaporator we observed some machinery that looked like this .  Our tour guide asked if we knew where wax came from and how it was used.   She said “do you remember Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory?”  The chocolate is running like a fluid river until wax is added.    More surprising is that this very same wax is on fruits and vegetables that we eat every day.   As she finished telling us about candles and fruits, chocolates and all of the things that wax is in and on, she paused and smiled and said that at the end of this process and after all the machines have finished boiling and baking, freezing and scraping; the wax goes before a Rabbi where it is blessed as Kosher and ready for the world to consume.   Who would have guess at Yeshiva (Yeshiva is a Jewish educational institution that focuses on the study of traditional religious texts, primarily the Talmud and Torah study.) that a Rabbi would venture out to work at an oil company!

Old or New KM

Stories have value and they can spark new thoughts, remind us of things we have forgotten or teach us about things we should know.   One of the reasons knowledge management is so valuable in an organization is that one of the objectives is to fundamentally keep stories alive.   Even if some are boring, which most are not, the stories are the foundation of an understand of the past and a vision for the future.


The knowledge flow can inspire and illicit new ideas on old concepts or new ideas for new concepts.

The 42nd Hour

CohenMWhitney.jpgcohen_whitneyCohenAfter 42 CohenOcampo_o

It was dark, I was awake but still trying to sleep.   I woke up before the Morning Wake Up followed by “Reveille reveille, all hands heave out and trice up.”    It didn’t  matter if I had slept or not I was still tired.

The room was lit by small red lights, it smelled musty like mold, ass and fuel oil.   Everyone was moving around at the same time and grumbling.   I was on the bottom rack, which mean’t that I had to wait for the two guys above me to get up.   I had to keep my curtain closed because if I didn’t, I would see a sight that for me would be let us say unpleasant.   I actually had an old magazine picture of  Marilyn Monroe on my rack.  She was not of my generation but neither was the Navy.   It was old in this place but new at the same time.

My days and nights were long ,in the vastness of the gray walls of the box I felt trapped in (ship), time was only bound and unbound by the blow of a whistle.  In other words,  work was 24 hours a day every day and rest(sleep) was in two hour increments except on Sundays.   We knew it was Sunday because someone told us.    That was the life of a Damage Controlman or other engineering type.      These seemingly endless days will stay with me forever,  I never expected them to follow me into my civilian life.


It is that moment when the main character in a body of work makes a critical discovery.   I had this moment not long ago when I saw the garage door open up.   As it slowly crept up, I saw the shadow of a small figure coming towards me.   It was Sammy, my youngest son “Daddy.. daddy, you’re home.. you’re home!!”

SammyCohenblog42.jpgWhat is more precious than time?    It was the critical discovery that the enemy is me.

The walls aren’t haze gray but I am underway.   I am underway because I am bounded by my own box.   It is work…. and it begins at the 42nd hour.     It was not long ago that I had a dream of having a house to call my own.   It was my goal to have my own place and have the ability to raise my kids in a safer place than the Bronx.    Working hard isn’t the problem.   It is all the sacrifice and loss that is the problem.    It is my goal to create as much stability for my wife and children as I can.   If I can do that, and I can help others along the way, I would pay the price of lost time.    When the garage opens and I am coming from work or a work related trip, it isn’t long before the boys are running out of the garage or down hall of the house to greet me.   It is the best!  For that moment in time, I am a rock star and I love the hugs and kisses.   I know I am working hard for them and it brings me to tears to see them have what they need and maybe a little more.

The 42nd Hour

My work day is pretty normal, at least I think it is normal.   I wake up early morning, get all the morning business taken care of, check my emails , texts and any other messages and get myself into my car.    I plug in whatever audio book I am in the middle of and head out to work.    I may take a call or two on the way to my client site and on arrival on-site find myself in a meeting or three.    Most of my day is answering questions that are mostly random and/or I am in meetings.   I would say that I am productive from my perspective for a very short time in the day.   The day may fly by but it is still a long day,  I get back home and my wife who is a full time mom and student gets us all ready for baseball practice, homework or other activities.    We get to sit down and eat together sometime around the 6 o’clock hour but all the while my smart phone goes off or emails are popping in.     I look up at her sometimes and she just gives me that look which tells me she is disappointed but understanding at the same time.    My kids know that “Daddy has to worK” almost always.    In terms of hours logged, I would say that they don’t exactly line up.   I am almost always on.   When I do take time off, it feels like I am missing something and/or I am going to be overwhelmed if I don’t keep up.   It sort of reminds me of the old Lucy episode when she is working at a chocolate factory.  It isn’t long before you miss something and all feels like it is lost.

This introduces the concept of the 72 hour work week.    HBR wrote an article about this recently  in context this is more about Executives, Managers and Supervisors.   I am addressing what happens for the rest of us after the 42 hour.

What happens after 42?

I could be into hour 40 by my 3rd work day.   After work and after some home life, there is work.   As a consultant, I have to read, write, and study related concepts, keep my network fresh and up to date and report on all aspects of what I am doing for my business leadership and for my clients.  These reports will look different and feel different to my various stakeholders.    I will have to be a cheerleader, and a rock for some of my team mates and to others I will ask for help and have my own tears for people who may understand how I feel.   In a lot of the work I do, it is a foreign language, it isn’t like I can talk to my family about it and it seems that the more I learn, the more I have to read to either find ways to be conversant in my area of work or find ways to teach what I am learning.    All of this takes me time.    I have seen and heard the horror stories from others as well.  I had a manager who fell asleep in his car driving home late at night and almost got killed in a tunnel.   I have known people who work from their hospital beds and of course those of us work have worked from Disney World (GUILTY).

After the 42 hour the work seems to become more productive because you are not in some unproductive meeting or dealing with a line of people physically demanding your time.   It is also where all of my business ideas and entrepreneurial work takes place.   I have developed more business opportunities at home after 8:00PM than in the office at 10:00AM by far.    Sometimes my team-mate Wendy would come to my house and bring her family while we work on ideas, even on Sunday after she goes to Church.

No Tears But I Wonder..

I recently met with some colleagues whom I consider friends.   I asked “What does the end mean, when I say, begin with the end in mind?”   Jay didn’t hesitate and said “happiness.”   It is what a lot of us want, after all, as I said in the beginning here, it would make me happy to find and maintain stability.   Long gone are the days when you get a job and you work 9-5 for one company until the end of your career.   That being said, companies today seem to expect 60+ hour work weeks.  Even when you make great business strides they look our efforts as a tragic necessity.    With my leadership, I started using the term “after the 42nd hour” in order to differentiate when I am working on after hour but seemingly mandated areas of work.

I am not alone, I have asked others about their work lives.   Organizations are demanding more and giving back less to their employees because employees have fear that if they don’t sacrifice their blood and all of their time that they are disposable and of less value than others who are willing to do more.  Of course you have outliers who just don’t seem to give a shit and work their 42.5 hours but in the end they are viewed as less than stellar performers.

YoungHowieSomewhere between my younger self and today SamBoErin and Me

FamilyCohen I don’t want to lose everything that I started fighting so hard for in the first place.  The things that really matter after the 42nd hour.

Me and E


Fukushima vs. Syria

Harm or Help

If America is going to do something productive for the world and take on responsibility to police the world, shouldn’t we be spending more time in Japan?

I don’t normally watch the news but in the last day or so… I have.   I am absolutely disgusted with the media and not interested in perpetuating what they call or identify as any kind of journalism.   It is a freaking circus on television with commentators and opinion makers talking about world events like they are commenting on a sports game.   “You see the American people want..”  and “We are going to see Congress come up to the plate and..”  It is a joke and it is all for entertainment.   We are entertaining ourselves into oblivion.   We have real world serious issues here that are affecting us and all we can do from a media perspective is call the game.

I can come up with a very long and extensive list of things that America should be doing to help our world.    I am pretty sure that most of us would agree that we need to solve problems in health, energy, economy and global stabilization (warming or not).   I am going to be clear and honest here, I don’t care about Syria right now.   I care about the fact that our food supply isn’t safe.   I care about the fact that my children are inheriting  a foreign world that I don’t recognize.  I care about the fact that our country seems to be more divided than ever and we are arguing about nonsense.

Here is the deal, the Fukushima nuclear plant is leaking radioactive water into the sea.  Who is going to jail for this?  Who is being punished?  What is the world doing to prevent more damage to the earth?  How many lives will be lost?  What is the economic costs?

There are Ideas for Solutions

 Arnie Gundersen, a nuclear engineer with Fairewinds Energy Education,  who has visited the Fukushima power plant in the past, said a solution would be to dig a two-metre wide trench down to bedrock level and fill it with a material called zeolite: a volcanic material that comes from Mother Nature.  

“It’s incredibly good at filtering radioactive isotopes. So whatever is inside the fence will stay inside and whatever is outside the fence would be clean,” said Gundersen, who estimates the price tag for such a project would be around $10 billion.  Read more:

World Nuclear Industry Status Report

I submit that we look at outcome based initiatives to see where we invest our resources in order to receive the best value for our global investment.  I am looking to keep this simple.  How much will it cost to attack Syria?  What are the outcomes?  What does the US hope to achieve by hitting Syria?   Last I checked, when you punch someone in the face, even a bully it may only cause more fighting and tension.    The region is unstable and has been for years.  The Washington Post spells it out in short order here

Bottom line,  before we go off and start another war, we should get our big brains together and money to start cleaning up Fukushima.   Let me be clear on why.   We will have to deal with the same type of nuclear plant disaster in the next 20-30 years on our soil.

The only plant in Vermont will close soon.   “America’s aging nuclear industry has been facing a firestorm of criticism ever since the March 2011 meltdown in Fukushima.  Despite the fact that the Fukushima failure was due to negligence — the operator defied its engineers’ advice to waterproof backup generators to save on costs — the incident has had a powerful impact in shifting American public opinion against nuclear power. That shift has helped the government escape criticism for giving solar and wind power handouts that it won’t give nuclear power.  It has also driven some states to try to kick out aging nuclear plants — including Vermont.

Of the 104 reactors in 65 commercial plants in 31 states in the U.S., twenty-three — or roughly a fourth — are 40 years old or older.  Another forty-two reactors are 30 years old or older.  These older reactors tend to not only be the least efficient — causing them to struggle more to compete with cheap fossil fuel power and artificially cheap alternative energy — they also require more in maintenance.”

These companies will be broke and they will walk away from these filthy death plants waving the white flag.    I would say that would force the US to have to prepare and deal with two fundamental issues.  The first would be stable and clean power generation and the second would be cleaning up the mess that is left over from nuclear power generation.   If we can figure out ways to offset or deal with radiation by some how neutralizing contaminated waste products, we will be prepared to deal with 70-year-old nuclear facility shut down.     If you aren’t angry by now, you should be.   I sure wish that our politicians didn’t feel as if they deserved a break (because they don’t).

Before we lob anything over at Syria we should know why what we are attacking for and what the positive outcome will be..

If there isn’t one, then send our Congress and Senate over to Fukushima and let us see them “roll up their sleeves”  for our future.