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.

  

To Compromise with The Sun

The Who of You

Sam sold fruit in Spanish Harlem, he would travel every day from his home in New York City to open his fruit cart and sell his fruit.  Sam could speak at least 3 languages including english and spanish.  What we know about our family is really very limited isn’t it?  Unless you are into genealogy or your family member was famous.  What we do know is that these people shared something with us that may go beyond a simple transfer of DNA.  It is our love and hate, our fears and hopes that are transferred in the hidden undertones of our upbringing.  It is more than white noise because it is thematic.  Even if you were raised by a family other than your own biological family, you will carry some familiar theme.  It is what it is.  As generations are born and raised maybe some of the themes are altered a bit and some things can change but there are still faint remains.   I expect that is what is meant when my grandmother would say to me that I remind her of my grandfather whom I never met.  I didn’t meet him physically but through my father I am given the good and maybe some of the bad as well.    We are who we are and there is no grand bargain that can change certain aspects or characteristics of our being.  If Stephen Hawking could change his condition wouldn’t he?  If he did would he be able to contribute to our world and to science as he has over and again?

To Compromise

“The man who refuses to judge, who neither agrees nor disagrees, who declares that there are no absolutes and believes that he escapes responsibility, is the man responsible for all the blood that is now spilled in the world. Reality is an absolute, existence is an absolute, a speck of dust is an absolute and so is a human life. Whether you live or die is an absolute. Whether you have a piece of bread or not, is an absolute. Whether you eat your bread or see it vanish into a looter’s stomach, is an absolute.

There are two sides to every issue: one side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil. The man who is wrong still retains some respect for truth, if only by accepting the responsibility of choice. But the man in the middle is the knave who blanks out the truth in order to pretend that no choice or values exist, who is willing to sit out the course of any battle, willing to cash in on the blood of the innocent or to crawl on his belly to the guilty, who dispenses justice by condemning both the robber and the robbed to jail, who solves conflicts by ordering the thinker and the fool to meet each other halfway. In any compromise between food and poison, it is only death that can win. In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit. In that transfusion of blood which drains the good to feed the evil, the compromise is the transmitting rubber tube.”
― Ayn RandAtlas Shrugged

A compromise is a settlement.  You have to let go of something and make a concession to compromise.  Can you compromise with your being?  In other words, we still don’t have the technology today to compromise on all things.   As a matter of fact, there are many things that we can’t compromise on because we don’t have the power to do it.

Compromise is the issue of today.   It is THE issue because so many of us are unwilling to do it when we can and others demand it when it isn’t really warranted.  There doesn’t seem to be a good balance today when it comes to compromise.   It doesn’t even seem to me that we are looking at compromise from a reasonable and rational perspective.

We can put on some very basic hats and come up with fairly intractable conflict.  Just for quick reference (IC)

Intractable conflicts are clearly different from other conflicts. The major characteristics of intractable conflicts can be summarized as follows:

  1. In terms of actors, intractable conflicts involve states or other actors with a long sense of historical grievance, and a strong desire to redress or avenge these.
  2. In terms of duration, intractable conflicts take place over a long period of time.
  3. In terms of issues, intractable conflicts involve intangible issues such as identity, sovereignty, or values and beliefs.
  4. In terms of relationships intractable conflicts involve polarized perceptions of hostility and enmity, and behavior that is violent and destructive.
  5. In terms of geopolitics, intractable conflicts usually take place where buffer states exist between major power blocks or civilizations.
  6. In terms of management, intractable conflicts resist many conflict management efforts and have a history of failed peacemaking efforts.

Here we are in 2013.  Martin Luther King had a dream of people being simply being treated fairly as people.   It started with compromise, didn’t it?

Now we have what I would call a dysfunction compromise system.   This is a system where we recognize that we need to make concessions or that we have a desire for concessions but we act in ways that are counterintuitive and counter productive concerning concessions.

For example, we should respect all religions except that SOME religion directs us towards violence.   We must make every effort to compromise.  This also is interesting because religion (at least in the past 30-40 years) is changing.   Religion is being forced to compromise with desired outcomes.   I want to state for the record that I am simply talking about this by observation.  My issue and concern isn’t about any one particular thing, it is about our sociological disconnect from reality that is becoming the new normal.  Hot topics of the past 40 years are racial, religion, women’s rights, jobs, economic and political gridlock, global trends, global warming, freedom and democracy for people of the world.

What changed?  I can pull open a newspaper from the 1900’s or the 1800’s and see similar issues if not the same exact issues.   And, so.. I go back just a few short years ago, maybe 50 or 60 years ago.  A middle aged guy named Sam, he gets up every morning and puts his pants on one leg at a time.  He kisses his wife or just yells goodbye as he heads out to sell fruit to his customers.   To sell fruit to people in Spanish Harlem, he had to learn to speak spanish (that was something he had to do) they didn’t compromise with him.    Sam and other immigrants from
“the old world” or from Italy, Ireland, Spain and other places came to America in search of something new, something different.  They had to change their behavior to become American but the interesting part is that they were unwilling or unable to stay where they were .   No one really talks about that part too often.  Why couldn’t they just stay where they were and work things out?  Why couldn’t they compromise?   There is a delicate balance in life, it is give and take but there are also factors in which we have little or no control.  No matter how much we want men to bear the burden of carrying a child, science isn’t there yet.   Should it get there, I am sure some group somewhere will stand up and demand that women have been carrying children for their families for far too long and that men have an obligation to share this extremely difficult burden.   You may read this and think that I am being unreasonable or maybe just because I am saying this that I am being sexist.  Well, that is exactly why I am writing this today.  If I say something that is true even if I don’t believe one way or the other that it is right or wrong, it creates conflict.  We can’t even talk about it because it is offensive.  It is offensive because we have compromised ourselves into dysfunction.   If people wonder why we can’t anything done in Washington DC, this is the reason.

Summary

The next time you write something on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, your blog, my blog, your website, company post, newspaper, chat and the list goes on and on, just consider for a moment that false compromise isn’t always the answer and further that if you have an honest belief stand up for it.  If you have room to truly compromise, consider that as well but be mindful of the truth and your intent, the world will be a better place for it.

Kenny in the field 14 July 2012

Afghanistan_PIX

It has taken awhile, attached are a few photographs I requested from the combat photographer assigned to our command. He is a talented young soldier and a good man.

As you can see from the photos, life here is far from pleasant. My living conditions are much better than theirs.  The thing I look forward to most is a daily bowl of oatmeal and a cup of terrible coffee for breakfast. The food for the rest of the meals from the mess hall all tastes the same.  If I were to guess, what most of the men in the photographs look forward to, they would simply say, “tomorrow”.

This war in Afghanistan has quietly fallen from the hearts and minds of most Americans, but I know not from yours. I sincerely thank you for that.  As MacArthur so wisely reminded us:

“The soldier is the one who prays most fervently for peace for he is the one who has placed his life on the altar of freedom”.

My burns are healing.  Last week, work was done to the showers by local Afghan workers. I am now convinced they are Taliban and reversed the dual Hot and Cold knobs on purpose.  In an instant, I was scalded down the front of my chest and received 1st degree burns complete with large blisters and pain.  The worst places I applied bandages with 1st aid ointment.  I knew that was necessary due to once removed, they were yucky.  I now approach the showers differently.  I go through a long start-up and shut-down process to prevent future incidents.

I purchased a new knife here in our little PX. It is the Benchmade “330 Infidel”.  Besides really liking the name, it is a spring loaded stiletto with a 4 inch blade.  I’ve used it to remove staples so far.

As I experienced during my time in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, people stink. I hope I do not, but might. Thirty years ago, I told Pam not to throw away my bottle of “Hi Karate” and “Old Spice” cologne for I could use it now.  I am convinced the smell has to due to the food or the poor laundry process. I have been told that they do not use detergent because of possible bomb making potential.  Damn those IEDs and the bastards who are responsible for them!  So many of our good men and women are killed and severely injured by the cowards who make, plant, and install them. I read all the causality reports every day.  I consolidate them and send them forward.  You have no idea the horror I read.  It even makes my cold heart sad.

The other night’s “Fallen Hero” ceremony was especially difficult.

Because of on IED, six good men sent home to God leaving their comrades and families to morn their loss.  It does not matter how many of these ceremonies I attend, tears fall and I am unashamed.  I refuse to miss any for that is the very least I can do for those who have done their duty. You can tell when things are to go badly.  The night previously, I knew something evil this way comes when I first heard than saw multiple MEDIVAC choppers land and take off at the field hospital here in Bagram not far from my office.  Unfortunately, I predict the situation here will only get worse as we draw closer to leaving this miserable place.

Fortunately, tomorrow will be new and no one knows what it will bring.

I pray for protection, safety and success for our men and women in harms’ way. It is sad to note that I replaced the word “victory” with “success” in the previous sentence.  There will be no victory in this place called Afghanistan.  We the United States military are a decisive fighting force, period! We make our mistake(s) when we linger AFTER the victory trying to diplomatically dabble in democratic experimentation.

It is time to return to the “speak softly and carry a big stick” era, no more country building. Never works except to create a cesspool of greed, corruption, criminal activity and a considerable drain of our National treasure.  Too often that includes the loss of treasure bled from our closest allies.

Today is a new day.  Maybe, just maybe, it will be a good day.

Semper Fidelis,

Ken

CJTF-1, ID, CJ5 Assessments

Task Force Defender

Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan

APO, AE 09354