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.

  

Dispatches from the Front: 29 July 2012

… From Ken

Friends,

In some of the return e-mails, several have asked I not include or discuss the “un-pleasantries of war” in my “Dispatches”.  To those kind souls, my advice is to simply delete all future e-mails from me.

Unfortunately, I am not in a pleasant place to accommodate such a request.  The truth often is not pretty.  It matters not how eloquently words are strung together, daily death and destruction is difficult to mask.  I will try harder, but there is little in the few local Afghan merchants, third world mess hall workers, the barren landscape with its’

oppressive heat, the three separate species of birds [(1) mourning dove;

(2) black and white winged starling; (3) small body sparrow], the mice and rats, that are available to write nice things about.  I promised myself to record what I have seen and not made-up fiction.  I have

always believed, “to thy own self be true”.

Your’ Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, Air Force, and Coast Guard, our coalition partners, and the civilians, both DoD and contractors are doing a terrific job with their tasks.  Never have I seen any of them appear weary in doing their duty.  They are the doers of good and doers of the right thing.  I have never seen them afraid or discouraged, only strong and courageous. Sure they bitch, but I remember the same grumbling heard during any deployment or any place I have ever worked or traveled.  It would worry me more if I heard nothing.  They all have and draw from an inner strength securely put in place before their arrival.

To each, it is different; as it should be.  A life lived is determined by circumstance, luck, timing and your beliefs.   Surely there are other qualifiers, but without the benefit of a glass or two of a fine ancient single malt whisky to stimulate the senses, those are enough.  For me my inner strength comes from my absolute belief in God and His Son Jesus.

I believe in Them as much as I believe there is a United States Marine Corps.  I make a sorry Christian but I learned early in life, “once you trust in the Lord, fear not what others can do unto you”. I was also taught that “a man’s true worth is what he has done to help others”.

Every day is a gift and you only are given so many.  How you consume each daily gift is totally up to you.  I promise you, a day does not pass without reflection on just how lucky I am to live in the day and time I do and to be blessed with the people I know and have known.

Sadly, I am confident my enemy believes in Allah as much as he believes in the Taliban. That is why I have to help and do all that I can to kill him.   Negotiations, peaceful resolutions, let’s meet and sing “kume bye aye” are for the diplomats and politicians.  God bless their work.  A warrior’s work requires a more direct solution.  I never liked it years back when I first read it, but now fully understand, “From the ashes of the vanquished, the victor is able to build unencumbered”.

Unfortunately, we will not see victory in Afghanistan.  Also, the last I checked, we are not here to make Afghanistan the 51st state.

Counterinsurgency warfare or “COIN” operations is our current strategy.

Winning the hearts and minds of the people is a good thing.  I am from the old school and new techniques come hard to me, especially when a “time line” is put in place and when reached; you declare “success” and leave. COIN will indeed work as long as the people you have “won over” feel protected and free from retribution of evil.  I simply do not believe the Afghanistan military and police will be able to maintain good order and discipline throughout this miserable country once we and our coalition partners depart. My opinion and my opinion alone, their success will be short lived and “good order and discipline” is not going to happen. The evil that awaits the Afghan military, police and peoples still exists and patiently waits.  My advice if asked by the Afghan military or their government would be simply what I was taught as a young Marine officer; successful warfare requires the identification of the enemy, massing all available weapons and firepower and then close with and destroy them. I would also recommend they concentrate their remaining time and efforts on mastering all fire support weapons and the ability to deliver accurate artillery and mortar fires whenever and wherever needed. I would include close air support (CAS) but Afghan air force does not exist.

You cannot blame the Taliban for their tactics.  Even our forefathers shot from behind trees and harassed the British and with deadly accuracy.  When combined with determination, luck and tenacity they overcame the odds of winning against the mightiest military of that time.  The IED is the Taliban’s tree.  And yes there are volumes written on what really caused the Colonial victory.  However, I bet you, not facing a superior force on the grounds of their choosing, army against army, will be mentioned as a factor.

Daily routine has settled.  I am up at 0330 and complete the causality report by 0700.  If there are no US KIA’s, I decree that day as a good day. The report covers from midnight to midnight the day prior.

Unfortunately, someone has died every day for 41 days since I started this task.  Whether US, Coalition, Afghan military, police, innocent civilians; someone has been killed due to this war.  Compared to the bombing of London, Dresden, Tokyo of wars past, civilian causalities are very small.  But to the family of the one killed, it is as tragic as it was back during any time period.  The enemy also pays a toll.  I read and write those reports too.  I hate to say it, with each EKIA, the same glee that comes from catching, rolling and then crushing a Tsetse fly stirs within the black chamber of my heart.  May the Lord forgive me.

For those who have never hunted in Africa: The Tsetse fly has a harden exoskeleton that when he bites you and you slap him as you would a mosquito; once your hand is removed, it flies away to bite again.

The rest of my day 2200+ is crunching data sent in from the outlying US and coalition commanders concerning their assessment of the Afghanistan military’s and police’s ability to maintain good order and discipline.

Make no mistake; it was 46 partner nations who took from the Taliban their position and influence in this country.  Those nations are the same ones who trained and supplied the Afghan security forces.  These newly trained units are holding their own in the “cat and mouse” campaign being conducted by the insurgents.  I have observed, as soon as the “mouse” is recognized as a “rat”, the “cat” extends its lethal claws and calls in coalition fire support to neutralize the threat. The “rat” is quickly terminated but most often sent back into its hole.  For those times, congratulations abound and medals issued. Once close air support and effective artillery have been taken out of the equation, it is easy to predict the future as well as outcome.  The Afghan military and police may now own the nice shiny watch given to them by the coalition partners. Unfortunately, we all know, it is the Taliban who owns the time.

Oh look!!! There goes a little mouse scampering across the floor with a bit of cracker!  Isn’t he cute?  I will name him Marroof.  What else do you want to know about that mouse?

Semper Fidelis,

Ken

CJTF-1, ID, CJ5 Assessments

Task Force Defender

Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan

APO, AE 09354

Sensitive Business Person

I have been working in my current industry for over 10 years and I would classify myself as a mid-career professional.  Over the years I have needed to make career adjustments to satisfy my need to grow, make a difference, increase my income, increase my potential, and challenge myself.    I have noticed an interesting pattern in management that I would like to point out.

When managers have bad news, they hide it until they have to tell you.  There are always rumors that start to creep up and then the rumors increase until there is the “discussion” which happens most likely after you already know what is going on.

A great deal of managers take the ” I had no choice” approach to dealing with a problem.  They tell us that their hands are tied or they are in a bad situation, in other words they redirect blame.

When managers do something dramatic, it is always “just business.”   It isn’t your fault when something happens and it isn’t personal or is it?

Which brings me to my point.   If I make a career decision, it isn’t personal but every manager I have ever worked for in my professional years takes it personally.   I can’t tell you how many times I have seen managers talk about “just business” and I have heard it recently a lot with recent changes in my industry.

Why do they (managers) take it personal?

I have come to believe that there is no such thing as “just business.”   Decisions I make for my career have had nothing to do with my direct management.  As a matter of record, I care about the people I work for and with.   I care about their interests and their goals as well.   As professionals we really need to take a realistic position on how we feel about our staff and co-workers.   When we say something is a business decision, it is a two-way street.   I had a corporate leader in recent times say “If people don’t like what we are doing they will show me with their feet.”

When you talk tough and you distance yourself from your humanity expect the same treatment.   When you love people, and respect them and you show that you care for them they will be loyal to you and understanding when tough times arrive.  They will also be honest with you and open when they need to make tough decisions, and you as a leader will understand that it really isn’t personal.