The Doctor will See You Now – Context = Business Quick Fix

Chances are if you go to the doctor you will have a short conversation, a quick check up and some blood work.   When your results come back your doctor will call you in to discuss your findings.   If your doctor practices medicine as a modern practitioner and there are any problems found they will look to find a prescription for you to take.

Now take your medicine.

The same thing has happened in business.   Companies look at business indicators, take into consideration the technical factors and come up with technical and process oriented solutions to change the business in order to increase overall business effectiveness.

The result in both cases is that we treat symptoms and not the root problem.    The problem is that it is very costly and time-consuming to treat the problem.  Treating a symptom is fast and effective.   It is a quick fix solution that may delay or push back the need to address the root problem.    The problem is still there and both your doctor and business leader are just potentially exacerbating the situation by masking the problem.

“Take two business leadership books and call me at the end of the quarter.”

Why don’t we change our behavior?

I have been wrestling with this question for a long time.  I have read a lot of books and articles on this subject and my team and I have come up with ideas and tested them in the workplace.   It boils down to the same thing over and over.   It is about consideration for people relative to a quick dollar.

Let us say in the scenario first presented with the doctor that when you went in to the office, you spend more time and money up front with the doctor.   The doctor gives you a much longer diagnostic, they ask about your life and your family not in passing but in detail.  They talk to you about your food intake and your stress levels, they look at your schedule for work and home and they do some research on your life.   They would in this case look to learn more tacit information.   It costs too much money.  It will cost too much time.  It would be expensive for you and the doctor in many ways that doesn’t require a breakdown because this is something you already understand.

It is the same with business.  If the business has to invest a lot of time and resources even with a long-term vision, it won’t spend money on people.

That’s it!  People are the most important aspect of any business or practice but the way our world works today we look to think about short-term people strategies and short quick fixes.   This short-term thinking has been very expensive itself as it creates a whole slew of new problems and new technologies.

In every aspect of our lives we now look for short-term and quick solutions.   Think about it.   From 30 minute meals to 60 day exercise routines that will bring you quick results.   Take the pill and you will be better.  Buy a technical solution and it will fix your business.

If we are going to start seriously addressing the problems at work and at home, the first problem we need to really deal with is asking ourselves about what we are willing to invest.   We will have to ask ourselves how important the problem really is to us and how much time we want to even think about it.

If you want a quick fix and have a desire to pretend that everything is ok, take a pill and be on your way.  If you want to really deal with the issues at hand, there will be pain and sacrifice, there will be an investment on your part, and there will be tough choices.   The funny part about this second option is that other problems could come up and all your work could in fact be for nothing.   This is just reality.  Even with that being the case, what is the effort worth to you in the long run?

Start asking these questions and you may find out that it is worth more than you know.

Of Mice and Weeble Wabbles

What do you think?

Recently I have been thinking about ethics, morals and values.   It is absolutely ridiculous what is happening around us.  It seems like we are falling into an ethical downward spiral as a society.   I am not sure exactly what I can do to help the situation, which is what I think a lot of people are feeling.  I know that I personally can’t solve the worlds problems and that within itself this isn’t what is keeping me up at night.   It is that I don’t have to tolerate or participate in unethical, immoral or bad behavior.   I may not be able to avoid it but I don’t have to support it.

We are facing a myriad of political and social issues that are exacerbated by talking heads and political showboating.   We all know the issues as we are bombarded with them through every form of media that we have.   I am really addressing my frustration and the frustration I have heard from others.  I am not giving advice here, I am simply stating the obvious.

I want to pass onto you something that a friend of mine said the other day because it was powerful and frankly it hits a nerve.

Howie, don’t take this the wrong way, but.. if the Newtown shooting happened to Congress…. I think I would be happy about it.

I wasn’t shocked by his statement and he was very uncomfortable in his physical demeanor as he was saying this.  I think it is very powerful when peaceful law abiding citizens are so upset and angry at our government that they would feel that a death blow to politicians would be the only way to create a positive change.

It is clear that our politicians are making poor decisions with the economy.  We are realistically being victimized by their bad behavior and bad choices.  Who raises our personal debt limit if we don’t handle our personal finances responsibly.  When I was in the Navy, I would see a lot of young sailors spend every penny of their paycheck and get themselves into debt.   The Navy didn’t give them more money or take care of the debt for them.  These kids were forced to handle their business and they were responsible and liable for their poor decisions.    Our political leadership gets a pay raise for bad behavior.

They award themselves and pat themselves on the back for all the hard work.   They fight with each other of the floor of the House and Senate and go for drinks after a rough day at the office.  A congressional research service report in Oct 2012 stated from empirical data that they estimate 2.1 million job losses.

A congressional research service report from

Of the estimated 2.1 million job losses,

• 746,000 were direct jobs (277,000 federal civilian jobs and 469,000 prime
contractor jobs),
• 433,000 were indirect jobs at suppliers and other firms that depend on prime
contractors for business, and
• 959,000 were induced jobs (i.e., jobs throughout the economy supported by
workers in direct and indirect jobs spending a portion of their paychecks).


Federal employees may have to take unpaid leave.

There is a lot of talk about the benefits of being a government employee and how a lot of these people sit on their asses all day and do nothing and get paid and benefits but I think that is mostly nonsense.   There are people who are toxic workers everywhere.  There are hard-working people in the government as well as folks that sit and read the news all day.    The point is that irresponsible spending is the cause of these problems.   The question is

What are the effects?



If people don’t have their needs met; bad things happen.


We are the mice and leadership.. is the..

Ask yourself what you would do to protect your family.   Ask yourself what you would do if you lost everything.   We don’t need to really think hard about this, all we need to do is look at our history.    The only point that I want to get across here is that our issues aren’t because of Republicans or Democrats, they are because of self-centered irresponsible people handling national interests when it appears that they place their personal interests first.   Every time I turn on the television and I see a politician, I feel agitated.   I don’t trust them any of them and don’t want them to represent me, my family or our national concerns.

I think we need to focus as a nation on common sense concepts and keep these discussions going in order to make sure that our politicians do what they are supposed to do.    We also need to come up with solutions and send them up as ideas because that is the only way we are going to recover and move forward as a nation.    The Weeble Wobbles don’t fall down.. but we don’t have to play with them.


21 Days to something better.. It ain’t easy being you.

Be Positive, Work Hard, Success Will Follow


There is a lot of talk about helping people but most of it is bullshit.   Today I want to pass on to you something that was given to me this year.  My friend Frank approached me after one of my blog posts and said.. “Howie, I am here for you to talk.”   Giving someone your time from my perspective is one of the most precious gifts someone can give especially with the busy schedules we have.

At work we don’t have counselors, mental health professionals or people who have time to really sit down and talk with.   We have to be productive citizens that work towards the goals of the job.  For a lot of people who is the reality, there really is no time for depression, anxiety or any other challenge.  There are a lot of people who come to work sick.   Staying home or being sick doesn’t seem to really be an option.   A lot of companies got rid of sick day allowances.  The point is that mental health seems to get lip service but that is about it.

There are two points here:

  1. Happiness is tied to success 
  2. Unhappiness presents cascading challenges which can produce undesired results.

Shawn Achor: The happy secret to better work

What can I do?

Be like Frank.   People don’t want to admit when something is wrong.   A lot of times we don’t even know that something is wrong.  You don’t need a degree and 20 years of psychology to know when someone you are close to is acting different.   The question is what are you going to do about it and how will they react if you do something?  Here is what Frank did.

  • Asked me what was wrong
  • Offered to help
  • Gave me a card (the top picture) now is on my refrigerator.
  • Told me he cared about me and that if I need him that I should call him with no question.

With a small kind act he effectively impacted my life in a very positive way.   I have shared these concepts with my children and we talk about being grateful on a regular basis.  I am reminded everyday as I pass the refrigerator that I should be grateful and health is tied to meditation, exercise, expression and acts of kindness.   I am also reminded that Frank cares about people and he cared about me to share this.  I care about you to share this too.

We can petition the white house for help but just as the Death Star was turned down because of cost, the government can’t afford to fix mental health.  The money isn’t there.   It is up to us as individuals to help each other one person at a time from person to person.

I am not a qualified mental health professional, I don’t want to get involved

Right…  So what?  It doesn’t matter.   Doing nothing is doing something and with the way people are acting today we need more people to be caring and mindful not just to help others but to help themselves.  It reminds me of the first Spiderman movie where Peter Parker let the criminal go and the after actions of that criminal resulted in a direct blow to Peter.   If you see something is wrong and you do nothing, it may be you that ultimately is the one to pay the price.

If nothing else.. share the image of the card Be Positive, Work Hard, Success Will Follow.

Mental health is a “big rock” issue and the complexities of mental health issues are astronomical in nature.  I am not suggesting that we are going to solve all of the problems with mental health by working harder.   The point here is that as a friend, co-worker, good citizen, neighbor, good person, when you see something that isn’t right there may be something you can do.  In this case Frank shared ideas with me that resonated and I am sharing them with you.   Relating to work and success was his choice and vehicle for communicating his care and concern.

Every conversation will be different and your approach to helping someone will be different.  I am simply saying to do something and not wait until the government or others to help.  If the challenge is too big for you to help with, you will know that right away and you can seek further help and guidance.

Cloud SLA (Government / Defense)

I teach a cloud computing course for Thomas Erl @ Arcitura from time to time and the question that always comes up is the one about service level agreements.   It is a complicated subject that does not get enough attention in our industry.  I am presenting some of the discussions that we have had in class and some of the questions asked all relative to cloud computing and mostly aligned to the defense industry.    This is part of an SLA series of blogs to get people thinking about their requirements and to understand what an SLA can do or not do for a business.

Today I will share a short story .

It was 5:00 PM on a monday afternoon,  a routine procedure on a patient in London turned into a catastrophic challenge requiring expertise from across the pond.    Dr.  Jack Ash is a leading Gastroenterologist living in Ontario, Canada.   Dr. Ash received a call asking if he could help the patient in London.   Dr. Ash has extensive experience with remote surgery a relatively new practice taking shape using cloud oriented services.   Dr. Ash is using IT services provided by the hospital in Ontario.  The services in London are with a different hospital and a different IT service provider.   The configuration of the services look very similar to this (see figure 2)

The SLA looks something like this IT_Service_Level_Agreement_Publish_To_Customers.   Dr. Ash didn’t have much time, he needed to act fast.   He ran down to the office and coordinated all of the requirements with the remote team in London.   This situation had been discussed before and the staff had practice with dummies and cadavers.  Fortunately for Dr. Ash he routinely performs procedures like this in Ontario between hospitals often.

The stage was set, the anesthesiologist had the patient stable and all of the supporting staff acted as planned.   Due to the situation and set backs some time had gone by and the procedure took place closer to 8:00 PM .

Dr. Ash started the robotic services and invoked various commands over the network.  At first the procedure was going well, there were some minor fluctuations with bandwidth but nothing major.  In order to make sure that the network connectivity was consistent Dr. Ash asked a staff member to call over to his local IT and make sure QoS was turned on.   The helpdesk reported back quickly that all available resources and network traffic managing the robotic services had priority on the network.   The procedure continued and Dr. Ash was noticing severe latency through his video stream.   He had to act fast to finish the procedure and just as he was finishing the final maneuvers, the robotic arms lost connection.  Luckily the original staff working on patient x were in the room for Dr. Ash to talk through the final moments.

What happened?  Why did the arm lose connectivity?  How did the SLA help?  How could the SLA have helped?

Although this story was not real, the technology is real and the fact is that medical practitioners are doing something like this today.   Why did the arm lose connectivity?  I’ll give you a hint, there was a soccer game at Chelsea and there were a lot of people in London very interested in that game.

There are various reasons for the potential failure of service.   The problem is that most people focus on what technology can do as opposed to understanding where it make sense to use services like this and where it makes sense not to use these services.   There are plenty of business cases that could have created a more stable environment but more often than not businesses choose to go head first into situations like this.   It seems like a great idea and they even had an SLA!  I wonder what that would have done for patient x had this person died.

These are some of the concepts that we will need to explore further.  I will put together some defense oriented generic scenarios for thought.



Teaming on DoD projects … Tackling Fuel

If you are a team leader working on a DoD project there are challenges that you face which are unique simply because you are working for the DoD.  There are some very basic concepts to understand in order to create or facilitate success.

1) Do what you can with what you have.

You have to play the cards as dealt.  You are in a situation where turkeys are all around you!  Expecting things to get better is unreasonable and won’t help you.   Working to get everyone to see things the way you do, MAY not work either.   People that you work with or around may not give a crap about what you are doing and there may be no adverse impact to them if they ignore you.   What I have found that seems to work somewhat is to be clear about what you are working on and be clear as to what you expect your team is expected to accomplish.   I normally come up with a Plan of action with milestones but I add mission, vision, scope, objectives and a mapping of what we are doing to why we are doing it via policy, standards and guidance.

Historically speaking about 70 – 80% of the team is ok with this and on board to do the work.  If you think that is a low number, chances are you a commercially oriented person or a military commander.  What I am talking is somewhere in between those two guys/gals.   The difference is that even though YOU are supposed to be in charge, YOU have no real ability to enforce a consequence.   In that situation, some people ignore you.  When that is the case, I don’t ignore them but I talk to them about the situation and try to come up with an understanding. Sometimes it works, sometimes they wind up playing solitaire or reading the news paper all day, everyday.

2) Write and remember.

I normally keep a high level log of events, like a journal without all the feelings!  I do this for a few reasons, firstly because I have no idea what I did last week without it.  Think back to September 29th, 2011, you were supposed to have the project implemented already.   You needed to get your IA accreditation, your system needed updates, you were supposed to be supporting 2000 users and you had 15 client deliverables.  Oh by the way it was a Thursday.   How would you know what happened that day or any other?  Make and keep those notes.   They are important for many reasons.  You need them for Project memory, and for turnover if you need to do that.  You need those notes for reporting on deliverables or reasons why you failed to deliver.  If you are looking to win other contracts, you can use those notes to discuss and document your quals.   These notes are critical to your project because chances are no matter what you are working on you will restart at some point in some fashion and you should be able to get a head start with what you have already.   For my notes I use the personal brain now called “thebrain”, mind maps, discussion threads (in my case on Forge.Mil).  I do use documents as well but I normally map them by linkages in a system so that everyone can see what I have written.

3) Too much information is bad.

Just kidding, I think it is up to you to know how much information to use.  Every client is different and it really depends on your trust relationship.   If you are a civilian project leader meaning a GS-type,  this is still relevant.  Sometimes too much information is presented at one time and leadership is overwhelmed by the sheer amount of data.   In that case you just go with something like the 10-20-30 rule.   10 slides max, 20 minutes at the most and 30 point font.   Even that can be too much, General Mattis who now is in charge of CENCOM didn’t seem to like power points, he just wanted the facts on one sheet of paper and as I remember (tell me if I am wrong) you had to keep it to 10 things.   Other leaders I have personally worked for liked marathon all day planning and discussion sessions.  I have seen 8-10 hours of work breakdown and discussion.

4)If you are angry chances are you care.

If you are angry or frustrated, there is a good chance you care and/or you are taking yourself or this project too seriously.   Here is a note about me,  I get frustrated because I care .  The problem is that caring is great but it doesn’t get results.   A senior leader and friend once told me “Howie, worrying is like sitting in a rocking chair, you can do it often and get nowhere.”  I am sure that he took that from somewhere but that is what and how he said it to me.   Fact is, he was and is right.  At the time when he told me that I was working on a multimillion dollar project that had “must have” deliverables and kept me up nights and weekends.   Not long after I left the project all of the work was put on a shelf .  It was like watching Indiana Jones when they boxed the Arc.    I was like “whhaaaa”  That being said, of course we should care about our work but we should not allow it to bleed us.

5)Any project or program method is OK as long as at the end of the day your client, customer, boss etc gets what they need.

If you like Agile project management or you are a PMP it really doesn’t matter.  How you choose to run your project is really up to you and your team.   By the way, if you think it isn’t up to your team see 1) and take the number from 70-80% to umm 5-10% because the only one that will be working is you if you don’t get your team on board.   Once you figure out what you are doing and what process you are going to use, go back to the person you are working for and make sure you align what you are doing with what they need.   What this means is that you are going to do things the way you know how and meet their needs.  A lot of people would say figure out what the client needs first but I am not talking about requirements, I am talking about how you are going to work your project.  Those are two different things.    “Howie, I want you to build me a race car… make sure it is fast and has lots of lights!”  OK… yes I can do that..  Of course there are lots of questions I would ask to get the car specifications but unless my client hands me a “how to” guide, I need to be trusted to execute the process with my team the way WE feel we should.  The METHOD is up to the project manager or team leader.    This is where trust comes into play, and you need trust.   So.. SCRUM if you want!


Really, what I am saying here is that as a team leader you aren’t alone and there are people out here that understand your frustration (pain).  Working together we can help each other by sharing ideas and information.  Ultimately, everything boils down to communicate, collaborate, cooperate!


Happy Sunday