Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Reading the Fine Print

Having been in business for more years than I care to admit, I have seen more than my fair share of contracts, NDAs and other binding covenants.

As someone who is known as Literal Man in some circles, I am fascinated and surprised by the number of people who circumvent their own legal guidance, glossing over the fine print and going it alone in creating, changing or signing such binding documents.

Too many people still sign these documents with the belief that the protection it offers to each party will never be needed.  There is an assumption that neither party will ever renege on the promises and commitments made to the other.   After all, there is an all-too-common reasoning that “why would one even enter into a professional relationship in the first place if one expected bad things to happen, therefore it must be safe”.

Pete Seeger once said

“Do you know the difference between education and experience?  Education is when you read the fine print; experience is what you get when you don't.”

If only human nature allowed us to execute every relationship so innocently and so perfectly with the notion that any disagreement could be easily resolved over a cup of coffee.

That’s why I have been watching President Obama with some curiosity lately as he struggles to bring the economic woes of the US under control.

Many US citizens are unaware of a little-known directive that could prove to be interesting as the next election draws closer.

Specifically ….

The National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive (National Security Presidential Directive NSPD 51/Homeland Security Presidential Directive HSPD-20, sometimes called simply "Executive Directive 51" for short), created and signed by United States President George W. Bush on May 4, 2007, is a Presidential Directive which claims power to execute procedures for continuity of the federal government in the event of a "catastrophic emergency". Such an emergency is construed as "any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government functions."

The presidential directive says that, when the president considers an emergency to have occurred, an "Enduring Constitutional Government" comprising "a cooperative effort among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the Federal Government, coordinated by the President," will take the place of the nation's regular government.

There are a few other fascinating components to this directive as well, namely:

  1. The powers bequeathed to the “Enduring Constitutional Government” allow the government to forego elections to maintain leadership continuity as the nation moves out of crisis.
  2. The process for cancelling the directive should it be invoked are not publically defined.
  3. The person(s) with the authority to revoke the directive are not publically defined.
  4. The majority of the contents of the directive (as with most presidential directives) including the rights of the people and the powers bequeathed to the acting government are considered classified under the auspices of “national security” and cannot be viewed by most people, including members of Congress.

I added the underline for emphasis.  I believe that we are already in an extraordinary situation with an economic crisis that is disrupting the nation and in fact, the entire world.  The President of the United States is in a position to execute this directive right now should he be so inclined.

I wouldn’t have given it much thought until I heard this comment from North Caroline Governor Purdue today when she was discussing the economy:

This is what she said:

"You have to have more ability from Congress, I think, to work together and to get over the partisan bickering and focus on fixing things. I think we ought to suspend, perhaps, elections for Congress for two years and just tell them we won't hold it against them, whatever decisions they make, to just let them help this country recover. I really hope that someone can agree with me on that. The one good thing about Raleigh is that for so many years we worked across party lines. It's a little bit more contentious now but it's not impossible to try to do what's right in this state. You want people who don't worry about the next election."

Her handlers later claimed she was making a joke or intentionally overhyping this scenario to highlight how voters perceive our legislators.

Sadly, she wasn’t laughing when she delivered it, neither was anyone who heard it and the function she was speaking at wasn’t a stand-up comedy competition.

In fact, I find the remark quite intriguing and leads me to believe that it may have been discussed in private (whether seriously or half-heartedly is another matter), which suggests that the option has been explored.  Perhaps someone was testing the waters to see how the comment would be received.

In a world of ever-increasing complexity, challenge, paranoia and over-analysis by the media, one has to be very careful citing an option that many Americans would not like but which is legally within the President’s right to use.

Which brings me back to understanding the fine print.

Any time a business or individual is in difficulty in a contractual relationship, it is normal to review any binding covenants to review one’s options in order to bring about the best solution possible from the standpoint of the party reviewing the covenants.

As President Obama looks at what is happening in the economic world, how the economic engines haven’t responded to classic adjustments and a Republican stance that he is very unhappy with, he is looking at all his options with an eye towards solving the problems in the best way that he can visualize.

Executive Directive 51 is within his right to use, whether we like it or not.

Frankly, many normal people out there would look at this option and would use it.

I would if I thought that my ideas were the best ones available and I thought that the options of my opponent would spin the country deeper into catastrophe.  You might also if you were the President. 

Over the years, as politicians have gently (and sometimes not so gently) changed the laws that govern the land, many citizens never bothered to read the fine print of the legislation, assuming that “the details” weren’t important.

And now even if we wanted to get to the fine print, we are not permitted.

As Andy Rooney once said:

“Nothing in fine print is ever good news”.

What the directive would mean to the country, the freedoms and rights within the country and the future of the world’s greatest democracy is unknown.

But as always, that’s what we get for ignoring the fine print for too long.  It puts us into interesting territory.

Derek Bok once said:

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance”.

It is highly likely that the coming months will teach us just how much our ignorance of the evolution of our government and economic models have and will cost us.

Thinking back to Seeger and Bok, let’s hope our education is not too painful an experience and that the final experience is a positive one.

In service and servanthood,


PS I was curious to see, as I watched Chris Wallace interview Rep Mike Simpson (R – ID) on Fox News Sunday on the morning of Nov. 6 / 11 when Rep. Simpson said, and I quote “"We've got to put aside our elections to solve this problem” when referring to the challenges facing the nation.  Very interesting. Smile

Friday, September 23, 2011

Truly Understanding Cause and Effect

US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said on September 22, 2011 that growth is the main challenge faced by the world.

In making such a statement, I believe Secretary Geithner is either willfully or innocently ignoring the true primary challenge facing the world.

Yes, it is true that we are in very difficult financial times all around the world.

However, to cite growth as the problem is to be ignorant of the laws of cause and effect and only by studying the laws of cause and effect can we get down to solving the real challenges that are facing all of us.

Wikipedia defines cause and effect as:

…. an action or event will produce a certain response to the action in the form of another event.

When we analyze a problem, many times what we perceive as “the problem” is in fact a symptom to a more deeply-rooted issue – the true problem.

This problem may be many levels deep, lost in a web of data, over or under analysis or be intentionally hidden by someone protecting themselves or a personal agenda.

However, until we get to root causes and significant contributing factors we have no hope of solving the issues at-hand.

For example, if we look at the scourges of cancer, heart attack and stroke, many doctors and experts tell us that many of them (not all) are caused or exacerbated by lifestyle – excessive or inappropriate food intake, poor exercise habits or concerns with the environment: poor air quality, soil contamination, inappropriate food additives, excessive stress, etc.

That being what it is, we look to scientists to find the white pill to cure us and save us from the terrible diseases that “take us out of nowhere”.  We know many of the contributing factors.  We just don’t want to have to face up to our responsibility in addressing them.

Meanwhile, when it comes to the financial crisis, I see a different problem. 

Think of it this way:

1. The powers-to-be have implemented fiscal policy over the years that have finally culminated in the difficulties we are living in today.  These are not problems that developed overnight – they were many decades in the making.

2. When the financial tsunami was rolling toward us, the experts didn’t see it coming (or claim they didn’t).

3. Despite many of their efforts, the economy has not responded positively to classic corrective efforts that have been successful in the past.

4. Some of these people, such as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, admitted in the spring of 2011 that they have no idea what’s wrong or what it will take to fix it.

So it becomes apparent to me that the greatest challenge in the world is not the fiscal one that some people are referring to.  The fiscal concerns are a symptom of a much larger problem.

If I architect a large-scale IT system for a client and it performs miserably, I would expect that I would be compelled to fix it.  If after many attempts, I tell my client that I have no idea what’s wrong with it, it becomes clear to the client where the real problem lies.

It’s not the poorly performing system.

It’s me, the guy who created it, can’t fix it and admits that he can’t fix it.

And frankly, I shouldn’t act surprised when I am asked to leave.

By the same token, I think if we TRULY look at the problems facing the world, we will recognize that what are promoted as problems are in fact merely symptoms.

Symptoms that point to the true causes, ones that need to be addressed if we are to see any true progress in the world.

In service and servanthood,


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Not-For-Profits Needing For-Profit Discipline

Wikipedia defines a not-for-profit in this way:

Not-for-profit organizations are able to earn a profit, more accurately termed a surplus, such earnings must be retained by the organization for its self-preservation, expansion, or plans. NPOs have controlling members or boards. Many have paid staff including management, while others employ unpaid volunteers and even executives who work without compensation.

Profit is not the primary goal of an NPO, but because an NPO can legally and ethically trade at a profit, the term Not-for-profit is often considered more appropriate than Non-profit. The extent to which an NPO can generate income may be constrained, or the use of that income may be restricted. Nonprofits therefore are funded typically by donations (which may be tax deductible) from the private or public sector, and are typically exempt from income and property taxation. Some NPOs may internalize profit in the form of comparatively good wages or benefits.

One of the primary differences between a for-profit and a not-for-profit is how surplus revenue is generated and how this surplus revenue must be handled.

I have discovered over the years, through serving on the boards of international charities and consulting to international charities of all sizes, that somewhere along the way this basic difference has morphed into something more insidious and disappointing.

For some reason, in more situations than I am happy with, this difference has morphed into the belief that appropriate business processes, methodologies and best-practices don’t apply to not-for-profits because “not-for-profits are different”.

Some examples …..

From the “We’re Different” Camp

1. One international charity whose board refused to take action against their Executive Director who was known to be taking money illegally for the purpose of launching his own organization.  When I vehemently protested this as a board member, it was explained to me “Unlike in a for-profit business where a board provides transparency, accountability and governance, you should realize that the purpose of a not-for-profit board is to support ALL actions of the Executive Director and to provide guidance when asked for”.  By the way, the board was made up of senior lawyers and well known executives.  The board later came to its senses but in firing the ED, had to pay him a “keep quiet” bonus so that the ED didn’t blow the whistle on the board for allowing him to steal in the first place. Say what?

From the “You Business Guys Don’t Understand Us” Camp

2. Another household name in the international charity space that blows through tens of millions of dollars a year without having a single idea where the money is going or whether their use of capital is effective or appropriate.  They garner millions of dollars a year in donations because of their internationally-recognized name and the assumption by donors that this charity must be doing the right thing.  When I asked why they didn’t apply appropriate strategy and tactics to maximize their effectiveness and to leverage this demonstrable success to generate even more revenue, I was gently reminded that such practices only work in the for-profit space and attempting to apply processes to generate strategic, measurable outcomes are impossible in the not-for-profit space. Please forgive me for daring to think such audacious thoughts.

From the “You Should Be Kissing Our Feet” Camp

3. A multitude of charities that pay themselves quite handsomely but lament that there aren’t enough people in the world who are willing to provide them with quality pro-bono work for extended periods of time.  They have the curious belief that the rest of the world should be aching to do for free what they in fact are unwilling to do without being paid extremely well.  In fact, some of these charities have almost no budget for programs because their salaries and consulting fees have swallowed up most of the capital.

From the “I’ve Never Heard of This” Camp

4. A very large international charity that for over 40 years never had its books audited ONCE.  The person in charge of the coffers lifted money from them routinely during that period and now the organization faces bankruptcy.  The cry of “We didn’t know that we should have an auditor come in annually” doesn’t draw much pity in this day-and-age and proves that ignorance doesn’t always produce bliss.

From the “Dirty Little Secrets Aren’t Fatal, Are They?” Camp

5. The dirty little secret of many charities in Canada and the US that are routinely ripped off significantly by their treasurers or other execs.  Why is it a dirty secret?  Since many of these charities keep such events quiet for fear of discouraging donors, they have become a favorite target of some unscrupulous people.  One well-known children’s charity in Canada has been robbed by their last three treasurers in a row.  Charges haven’t been pressed because that would draw unnecessary attention from the media and so the game continues. If you need an extra source of income, email me and I will tell you who they are so that you can apply for the position.

From the “Money is the Root of All Evil” Camp

6. A number of charities, especially in the religious community, who believe that to raise money to maximize their effort is an affront to the true heart of charity or to God.  For this reason, they avoid appropriate means of generating extra revenue because they believe that to generate this money places them in the “all money is evil” camp and somehow their acts of charity will become tainted as a result.  Meanwhile, they constantly lament that they can’t help more people with their meager annual budgets.

It’s Not All Bad

Now don’t get me wrong.

There are MANY excellent, well-run not-for-profits in the world that make a significant contribution to the people and community that they serve.  They are staffed by passionate, talented people who we should be grateful for everyday.

But there is another side to the not-for-profit world that is not as positive, with far too many organizations not living up to the commitments that they constantly promote.

The difficult challenge is that we can’t help these organizations to execute in a better fashion until they accept the need to do so.  And until we help those organizations maximize their ability to serve their target audience, then we are all just pretending to do the right things for others.

The problem is that public disclosure, embarrassment and humiliation doesn’t solve the problem.  In fact, the only thing it will probably produce is a lot of litigation in an effort to hide the ineffectiveness.  Meanwhile, the people who need help are still not being helped and that’s not useful at all.

There has to be a better way – I just wish I knew what it was.  Connecting those who execute well with those who don’t will help some organizations, the ones with enough humility to recognize a better way.  For those organizations whose leaders are filled with hubris and bravado, such techniques will prove to be a waste of time.

Ultimately, it is the donors, board members, affected consumers and people at-large who must hold these organizations accountable to their stated purpose.

Pretty posters, nice slogans, rah-rah presentations, leveraging of international brands and inspiring commercials are all well and good.

But when much of the capital is wasted by people serving their own needs or executing with the belief that not-for-profits can’t leverage for-profit best practices, then we have a big problem.

Meanwhile, we are not making our best effort to put food in the bellies of the hungry, empower the homeless to become self-sufficient, help the downtrodden to feel human again or help children with special needs reach their ultimate potential.

And that is where the real shame lies.

In service and servanthood,


PS This blog post has only been out for seven or eight hours and I have been bombarded by emails.  A few observations:

1. I cannot divulge the names of the organizations to people I don’t know.  I do, however, find many of the guesses to be both interesting and revealing.

2. For some people who may have figured out that their charity is one of the ones referenced, what is more important … that the secret is out or that you do something to fix it?

3. In many of the examples, the stories shared only touch the surface of what is really happening within those organizations.  I left out the juicy bits to avoid obvious identification.

4. Many of the respondents have shared their own stories, some of which leave mine in the dust in terms of negative impact and audacity.

The bottom line

Change is necessary – do we have the courage to be that change on behalf of the people who need it?


Addendum: May 10, 2012

No matter how many times you warn people, not-for-profits will continue to get ripped off, as noted in this headline today - Former Calgary art gallery CEO charged with fraud

The funny (and sad) thing about this blog entry is that some people have recently discovered it and reached out to me, asking if it was charities x, y or z.  They had additional stories beyond the ones I had personally experienced.

What will it take for these organizations to execute with more discipline?

Board Members Need to Be Made Accountable

Every time I see news such as that which was posted today, the first thing I look at are the Board of Directors.  Therein lies the ultimate responsibility for governance, transparency and the overall strategic and tactical thoroughness of execution of an organization.

Unfortunately, too many board members in not-for-profits are there because it provides networking opportunities, resume padding, fellowship, opportunities to make themselves look good in the eyes of the community or an opportunity to obtain a personal feel-good (that they are making a difference to their community).

This quote from the police report for the item in today’s headlines is disturbing and, if you are a board member, embarrassing:

The documents say the board relied on Cooper to run the gallery and board members didn't, and had no reason to, suspect Cooper was misappropriating funds.

It was only when approached by Calgary police that they did an internal audit of the art gallery's finances, and discovered $497,586 was missing.

Many times, governance, transparency and accountability often don’t make it on the agenda and when people are found to be ripping off not-for-profits, usually the person committing the act gets prosecuted while the board members go scot-free.

Perhaps if board members were trained better and prosecuted more frequently when wrong-doing occurs, they would take their job more seriously and situations like the one noted today would become a rarity.



Addendum: June 20, 2013

Canadian entrepreneur and philanthropist Brett Wilson offered this insightful musing in regards to Justin Trudeau and demands of him by a charity that he refund a speaking fee because they did not sell enough tickets to cover their cost.  In his musing, Mr. Wilson provides an interesting viewpoint on encouraging not-for-profits to think in a different, more entrepreneurial way.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Being Clear With Expectations

Many years ago in a one-room school, a teacher had assigned some work to the students and was in the cloakroom rearranging a few things.

She noticed to her dismay that a student had left a puddle in the middle of the floor.  Striding back into the classroom and asking for everyone’s full attention, she described what she had seen.  She concluded with this request: “However, there will be no punishment if the student responsible for this takes care it.  All the students and I will put our heads down and close our eyes and the student responsible will have an opportunity to go into the cloakroom and take care of the situation.  This way, no one needs to be embarrassed.”

Everyone put their head down and closed their eyes.  In a minute or so, a chair could be heard to push back, there was the patter of little feet heading to the back of the school and a minute later, there was again the patter of little feet and a chair being pulled in.

Everyone opened their eyes, the teacher assigned work to the students and went back to the cloakroom.

On the floor, she now noticed two puddles.

Meanwhile, on the wall in red crayon, was scrawled the phrase “The Phantom Strikes Again!!!”.

Expectations are funny, aren’t they?  We give people half a thought (or they give us one), and the person receiving the thought merrily goes about the task at hand, often times with a 50% chance or less of meeting the expectations of the other person.

When I communicate with people, I have always preferred to have expectations clearly understood up front with no room for ambiguity.  This desire for transparency and clarity sometimes irritates people since it requires them to have fully thought out their request before making it and it removes the opportunity for an excuse by any party should the expectation not be met.

It has also given me the nickname in some circles of “Literal Man”. :-)

It is better to possibly irritate people early on rather than deal with the larger, inevitable explosion that will result from not meeting expectations later.

It is a complex world that operates very quickly.  Ambiguity, ever slight, can magnify and get out of control very fast.  It’s like a house with a foundation that is off-square by half a degree in one corner.  While half a degree doesn’t seem much, by the time the builders get to the other end of the house, they find that the walls on the far side don’t come together at all and the foundation is ruined.

Take the time and set mutual expectations up front  Both parties will be grateful for it … and you will need fewer red crayons to explain yourself . :-)

In service and servanthood,

Literal Man …. I mean Harry :-)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sometimes You Have to Know When To Quit

Many of us remember our younger days when we were immortal and untouchable, taking on the world at any cost while daring the world to try and stop us.

Back in the 80s, I was one of those rebellious types, having not learned the subtleties and nuances of tackling problems where the reward wasn’t worth the risk.

In one example, a friend of mine who was a tribal chief on a reserve in Canada happened to mention to me that much of the violence on the reserve was as a result of a certain well-known large union that was responsible for running guns, drugs and other contraband through the reserve, which straddled the US-Canada border.

Being young, untouchable and immortal, I set about researching this to bring an end to what I thought was an outrageous series of actions on the part of this union.  Everything was going great and in fact, I managed to prove that there was significant truth to the story.

It was going great until one day, a member of this union called me at my desk in a Government of Canada office, addressed me by name and indicated that he had all the evidence that I needed.  In fact, all I had to do was give him my home address and he would deliver it personally.

This event, being before the days of the web, online directories and such, was quite intimidating.  In addition, as a consultant, my name wasn’t associated with the phone and yet he managed to contact me anyway.  He knew that it probably wouldn’t take much to scare me off and he was right.

Some months later, having forgotten my lesson, I became aware of a large-scale disappearance that had occurred in Western Canada some years before and once again, I was off to the races, determined to figure out what had happened to these people.

I called the RCMP in Ottawa and started to explain the nature of the information I sought when the operator interrupted me and said “I know exactly who you need to speak to”.  A moment later, I was connected to the person in charge of federal investigations for this type of situation and as I started to explain my story, he interrupted me and told me he was quite familiar with it.  He asked for my contact information and promised to call me back with the information I sought.

A little later that day, he did indeed call me back and informed me that the story had turned out to be a hoax.  Ever the inquisitive person (but with less common sense then), I asked him if the file was still open with the RCMP.  When he indicated that it was, I reminded him that if it were a hoax, the RCMP would have closed the file and since the file was still open, it couldn’t be a hoax.  In fact, I went on, now feeling full of myself, I would use whatever it took to get access to the information.  His response was “I told you this is a hoax”.  With my heels dug in, I again repeated “I understand what you are saying but this is in contradiction to your policy of closing files that are known hoaxes”.  He angrily replied, “Look, I’m trying to tell you something. You are not to pursue this further.” and he hung up.

Once again, it took an implied threat to shut me down (or to shut me up). :-)

Truth is, it took a few threats before I smartened up enough to not put myself or my family at risk by doing something stupid that I had no expertise in and that truly offered no measurable return commensurate with the risk.

Returning to the present, when I think about some of the business proposals that people have presented to me in recent months, the scenarios remind me of me back then.  The overlaps are uncanny:

1. Diving into areas where the individual has no area of expertise (or any business to be poking around in).

2. People with so much ego present that they are unwilling to admit that they have no idea what they are doing.

3. Having no measurable, valuable end goals defined, with the hope that if enough noise and activity are generated, good things have to occur as a result.  “After all”, as one person told me, “Good things always happen to good people”.

4. Containing astronomical risks, with no limit to the disaster that can be created for many people while at the same time, containing minimal potential reward at best.

5. The belief that gut instinct alone supersedes all the other laws of nature, including strategic planning, tactical execution and collaboration with others.

6. The fact that it will take a disaster or to be seriously kicked around a few times before the person finally understands that the whole thing is a potentially dangerous waste of time, energy and resources.

That’s not to say that really wild ideas shouldn’t be followed through to explore the potential of real success.

But when such an opportunity arises, know the difference between a great idea containing measurable end goals, smart strategy, sharp tactics, collaboration and excellent execution (all backed up by relevant data and analysis) versus an idea that is backed up merely by the belief that this is the best idea and I am the only person smart enough and passionate enough to do something with it.

Sometimes you need to know when to quit … or better yet … when to not start at all.

Otherwise, someone may be showing up at your door to deliver the news personally … and it probably won’t be good news.

In service and servanthood,


Monday, September 19, 2011

Truth or Fiction–Perception and Life Experience

People who know me well know that I’m as pragmatic as they come.  In fact, I am sometimes perceived as one of the toughest skeptics in business because of my demand of others to back claims, beliefs and ideas with hard data and research. As I have often said to others when they approach me with a business intention and a gut feeling that they will make a bazillion dollars without a shred of evidence, strategy, research or planning, “it sucks when reality gets in the way of dreams”.

This afternoon, as I completed a stack of paperwork for clients and had a moment to pause, a conversation I had many years ago with my now-deceased father-in-law came to mind and it caused me to reflect upon it.

He had an interesting career.  He was a decorated B-25 pilot in WWII (appearing on the cover of Life magazine at the time) and went on to serve his country in the USAF, Strategic Air Command and Air National Guard before retiring with the rank of Colonel.

He was sharp as a tack, uber-pragmatic and had zero tolerance for “BS artists”.  He loved his country and while I knew he worked on some “interesting projects” at Wright Patterson AFB and other locations, he never shared his work or the secrets he was privy to.

However, he did have one interesting story that I have often thought about and for some reason as I completed my paperwork today, it came to mind.

One night we were sitting in his living room with its gorgeous views of the mountains.  He had been partaking of a little Scotch and we had been enjoying some idle chatter about everything and nothing, including recent advances in military technology.

Suddenly he got really serious, looked at me with his piercing eyes and asked me “Where do you think most of our recent advances in military technology have come from?”

I stopped for a moment, shrugged and said “With so many contractors working for the government, it’s not hard to see how smart people can create this stuff”.

Without hesitation, he asked again “It doesn’t come from here.  Where do you really think it comes from?”

Sensing that I had guessed poorly the first time, I responded “I don’t know.  Did we steal it from someone else, maybe the Russians or the Chinese?”

Getting a little agitated, he said “I just told you that it doesn’t come from here.  Where do you think it comes from?”

I had no response now, since if we didn’t create it and we hadn’t “borrowed it” from someone else, I had no suggestion.

He  persisted and asked me again where I thought it came from.

It appeared that he wanted me to guess something without actually telling me.  I was starting to get the idea of what he was inferring but I wanted to hear it from him and so I played dumb.  We explored the topic for a little while before he called it a night and went to bed. 

The next morning over breakfast, he looked at me across the table and said “I probably had a little too much to drink last night and may have said a few things I shouldn’t have said.  Anything we discussed last night is not to be discussed further”.

I made some crack about sharing it only with my closest friends and he hit his fist on the table and said “God damn it,  I’m not kidding.  It’s in your best interests to forget what we spoke about”.

The look in his eyes told me he wasn’t kidding and I assured him that I would be quiet about it.

Over the years, I have only shared this story with a few close friends but I have never shared it publicly until now, even thought what I am sharing is only part of what we discussed.

Even as I write this, I have no idea why I am sharing it on a blog where I muse about about leadership, strategy, technology and living.

However, as I think about that late-night conversation, a couple of quotes come to mind by people writing off things as impossible:

"Flight by machines heavier than air is unpractical and insignificant, if not utterly impossible." - Simon Newcomb, 1902

"There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will." -- Albert Einstein, 1932

So when I think back to the night when my father-in-law and I debated the mysterious, controversial origins of modern military technology and I think of brilliant people in the past who said that many of the things that we take for granted were once believed to be impossible, I wonder …..

Is it possible that in many situations, the difference between what we delineate as truth or fiction has nothing to do with what we are judging but is entirely based on the life experiences of the person doing the judging?

Perhaps if we were to come to this realization, we would stop looking at proving everything as right or wrong but instead, would use such opportunities to fill gaps in our knowledge.

As perhaps my father-in-law tried to do with me, the uber-left-brained skeptic who insists upon hard data before moving something from the “fiction” box to the “truth” box.

And besides, implying that modern military technology has its origins from “somewhere / someone else” is just fiction.

Isn’t it?

In service and servanthood,


Friday, September 16, 2011

Governments and Venture Capital

Or ….

Doing the Right Things For Success

As I read the latest stories of the US Federal Government’s failures as a venture capitalist, I am reminded of three things:

1. Not everything that the government invests in goes kaboom (despite the media’s attempts to convince us otherwise).

2. Many things that governments do invest in are beyond their ability to understand and do go kaboom.

3. Oftentimes, a government invests in something for political reasons first and business reasons second (if at all) and many of these also eventually go kaboom.

I remember a few years back when I was asked to audit a company that had accepted over $20 million in investment capital, including over $6 million in Canadian Government funding.  The company appeared to be struggling and I was asked to find out why.

Now keep in mind that this company was not in a market that I had expertise in so I spent a whopping 24 hours in advance to understand the market space they were in. 

My first surprise was that this company, after being in business for almost 10 years, was amazed at my knowledge of the market space.  Keep in mind that they had 10 years in this space while I had 24 hours.

I sensed that my journey into the twilight zone was about to begin.

After spending a day with the company, I projected a complete and total failure of the organization by a specific week in the upcoming autumn unless a specific list of things were addressed immediately.

The executives and primary investors of the company dismissed my gloom-and-doom report and went blissfully on their way.  It wasn’t a politically positive message either and so the Government representatives ignored it also.

I did not take delight in reading about them in the local newspapers later in the fall (during the week I had predicted) when they announced they had closed their doors due to “difficult market conditions”.

There is no joy in “I told you so” when many people lose their jobs and families suffer as a result.

A Minster in the Canadian Government later found out that I had predicted this failure and wanted to know the secret to my insight.  I received a letter asking me if I would go to the nearest Federal Government location and offer my “top secret insight”.

I was happy to oblige, went to the nearest Federal Government office and we compared notes.

Here is what I noted:

1. The company had no business plan.

2. They had no measurable, strategic outcomes.

3. They had no tactical roadmap to get them from where they were to where they needed to go.

4. They had no product development strategy to see what their customers actually wanted.

5. They had not conducted any type of market analysis to understand who their customers were.

6. They had not conducted any competitive analysis to understand who their major competition was.

7. They had not adopted any type of best practices, frameworks or methodologies in regards to their technology implementation.

8. They had no sales and marketing strategy.

9. There was no communication between the different business units, so a CEO would make a deal with a client and not tell the product team, the product team would develop functionality for a client without telling senior execs and without bothering to get the intentions wrapped up in a legally binding contract, salespeople made commitments and didn’t tell the product guys, customers would cancel new requests but nobody told the product group and so they kept developing, product teams would develop functionality without asking anyone if it was needed, etc.

In total, I listed 30 items of concern.

The people who had done the Federal Government due diligence prior to the company receiving the money followed a different process.

They sent a request to the CEO basically saying:

"Please explain to us why this offering is so good and why we should invest in you. Be as accurate as possible since we are relying on you to inform us as to whether this is a good investment”.

So they invited the CEO to spin a good story, didn’t validate any of the claims by drawing in third-party expertise and in turn spun it as a real win-win from a public-private partnership perspective.

The rest is history.

Sadly, many private investors who came in later provided money with the mistaken belief that “since the Federal Government has already done its due diligence, I don’t need to do mine”. 

Ignorance of strong business practices can be fatal.

By the way, the internal investigation was eventually hushed up and quietly went away also.

That’s unfortunate since the learning lesson and public accountability were also hidden away.

I’m not suggesting that governments shouldn’t invest in private organizations nor am I saying that every company they invest in produces a disaster.  There have been success stories derived from such partnerships.

However, when people invest in companies in order to influence the public’s short-term  perception in terms of job growth, to help a buddy at the cost of the taxpayer or to spin their political careers for their own benefit, they are looking at the short-term picture while seeing the long-term business success potential as being secondary in priority for the moment. 

They are seeking an answer to the question “How can I use this to benefit me or help me to be perceived as a ‘winner for the people?’”.  Such short-term thinking is rarely successful and relies more on luck than anything.

On the other hand, when people invest in companies from the standpoint of “how can I contribute to creating something that maximizes the return on my investment, both short term and long term?”, then the criteria by which success is judged gets much more stringent.

That’s not to suggest that this is a guarantee for success.  Companies fail despite the best of intentions and potential.

When one follows appropriate business practices while evaluating investment opportunities, one maximizes the potential for success of that organization, hopefully by the most effective and efficient means possible.

When an organization or individual not held accountable for success and not known for efficiency sees an opportunity to spin political bonus points instead, we have a much greater chance for failure and for significant loss of investment capital.

Investment capital that ultimately belongs to us …

… which is why we should care.

It proves the old adage that “It is always easier to spend somebody else’s money”.

In service and servanthood,


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Paying Attention to the Little Things

As I nurse an Achilles tendon injury, I am somewhat amused (painfully) at how a small part of the body that many of us don’t give much thought to could slow down someone who stands 6’3”.

It reminds me of how common this is in Life – how we often don’t pay attention to the little things in our personal or professional lives until we see the result of not paying attention; whether it results in degraded health or injury, a failed relationship, a dying business entity or a collapsing country.

As a strategy guy, the little things that many shrug off as not being important enough to worry about are the things I need to understand before writing them off as inconsequential.


Because when things fail or don’t reach their potential, many times this failure has its roots in that which we didn’t feel was important at the time.  Those little important pieces of awareness were lost amidst the noise of the things we thought were important, we were mistaken about the truths of cause and effect or we just couldn’t get over our own ego.

This is why, after a failure has occurred in a person, a company, a physical object or a country, it is usually very easy to discover the causes.  That which was ignored (accidentally or intentionally) naturally and logically progressed into something that produced failure.

When the analysis is complete and the reasons are obvious, we write them off by saying “How could we have known?”, “Who knew then that this was important?” or my favorite worthless cliché, “Hindsight is 20/20”.  Oftentimes as a result of this analysis, we learn how to do things better.  Sometimes we actually do things better.  Many times we do not.

When I look at the current challenges in the economy and on Capitol Hill, the political noise that attracts the media like a moth to a flame intrigues and worries me.

The media likes to hype up all the bickering, the gloom and doom messages, the complexity, etc. as news.

I see it differently.

For the many people I have been blessed to work with over the years, there is a percentage of people who, in order to hide their incompetence, loved to hide behind noise.

You could pick them out quite easily – the ones who didn’t know how to make a decision or the ones who were driving a private agenda that was different than their publicly stated one.  In order to disguise incompetence or motive, they would create a lot of noise through excessive posturing, intimidation, pointless meetings, useless information sharing, finger-pointing and fear mongering.

As long as they were able to keep up this noise, no one noticed that they were not competent enough for their role.  People were too busy trying to survive the fire storm and so the incompetent survived. In fact, some who have mastered this technique actually find a way to become the hero when they put out the fire that they started and no one remembers who actually started it in the first place.  Everyone is too relieved that the danger has passed.

And while everyone around them gets sucked into the maelstrom of confusion, the fire starter steps back, acting angry, confused or concerned while letting it explode around them, possibly thinking ‘Whew – that was close – almost got discovered there”.

So the next time you hear a lot of noise about the concerns on Wall St., the problems on Capitol Hill, the worries over wars around the world and problems in the nation in general, forget about what is being said and how it is being presented.

Listen carefully for what is not being said and then ask yourself “Why?”.  Remember that the people who want to portray themselves as the hero may also be responsible for having created the challenges in the first place and must be held accountable as a result.

Once you have gotten past the noise, you are on your way to becoming more aware of the real issues and the real solutions that are needed.

This is not a call for panic.  In fact, it is a call to increase one’s awareness and knowledge.  In an ever-changing world of ever-increasing complexity, knowledge is power.

Pay attention to the little things.  In the end they, like an Achilles tendon, are the things that will either hobble you or enable you to make greater strides in life …. for you, your family, your company, your country and the world

In service and servanthood,


Monday, September 12, 2011

The Fate of Empires …. and Companies

I recently read a summarized version of Sir John Bagot Glubb’s “The Fate of Empires and the Search for Survival” (1978, out of print), his fascinating observations about the rise and fall of key historical societies, all repeating the same results despite people’s desire for the contrary.

While there are parallels that readers could infer from the societies described in the book as compared to modern society, I was also intrigued by how the patterns described for typical society creation and collapse exist within companies as well.

Each dominant society, according to the author, goes through the following stages, specifically the ages of:

  • outburst (or pioneers)
  • conquest
  • commerce
  • affluence
  • intellect
  • decadence
  • decline and collapse

Dominant organizations go through a process that has often been described as the sigmoid curve, containing the following key stages:

  • inception – the company / project is often self funded and capital / resources invested often exceed results produced
  • growth – a positive return is being generated, with results producing (hopefully) some multiple of what is being put into it
  • maturity – the company is in a place of stability and is potentially a recognized leader in its space.  Many companies fall into the “if it’s not broke don’t fix it” mindset at this point, created by self confidence in their success and potentially setting the stage for potential failure.
  • decline – if new products, services, partnerships, delivery techniques, etc. were not adopted in the maturity step, decline and potential failure are inevitable.



The Sigmoid Curve

The key with business success is to make sure the business leaders embark on new product or service offerings or better delivery techniques somewhere in the maturity stage in order to start a new sigmoid curve and ensure ongoing health of the organization.  Failure to do so results in ultimate decline of the organization which may lead to reduced market impact, decreased valuation or total failure.

What I like about Sir John Glubb’s analysis of society is that it nicely correlates to the classic stages of the sigmoid curve.

Returning to his list as it pertains to business:

  • outburst (or pioneers) – the entrepreneur establishes a new idea that will “shake the world”
  • conquest – initial funding, perception, knowledge-gap, business or technology hurdles are overcome
  • commerce – the company gains traction and begins to generate sustainable income
  • affluence – the company begins to be recognized as a knowledge / market leader
  • intellect – the company has the resources and capabilities to explore R & D initiatives; seeking ways to increase market awareness and penetration or to explore things that it thinks are important to the consumer or to the organization
  • decadence – the organization loses sight of its competitors or the needs of its customers as it becomes blinded by “we’re the best in our space and we know what the customer really wants”
  • decline and collapse – failure to reinvent the organization’s offerings, branding, execution, etc. produce diminished results and the possibility of total collapse.

Within the first five stages (outburst to intellect), it is critical to recognize that one may or may not be the “expert” in all disciplines and knowledge.  Failure to recognize this makes the final two stages almost inevitable.

One of the most common mistakes I see in organizations ranging from startups to well-established organizations is the belief that their organization is different than all the rest, that somehow they will avoid the “laws of nature” that all organizations are subjected to.

And when they do this, they provide a reminder, yet again, that:

“The one thing that history teaches us is that history teaches us nothing” – Hegel

We must become a student of history in order to maximize our future.  When someone is not a student of history, it becomes easy to predict their future and sadly, it often resembles the history that they were ignorant of.

Regardless of the source, history provides the knowledge needed for success …. if we are open to the lessons revealed therein.

In service and servanthood,


Friday, September 9, 2011

Carpe Diem–Do We Know What It Means?

So many people use the phrase “carpe diem” (seize the day) as a personal mantra around manic productivity – that to seize the day means that one should drive one’s self into the ground in an effort to squeeze as much productivity out of the day as is humanly possible.  Some use it as a rah rah in an effort to convince others that they are making the most of their day when in fact they are not.

I have come to learn that carpe diem means something else.

Some years ago, a dear friend of mine by the name of Narender Nath had been trying to get on my lunch calendar for weeks.  While our relationship was very important, I kept deferring him because of my busy calendar.  I finally agreed on a particular Monday to see him for lunch the next day (although I remember thinking at the time “how will I get all this work done if I take a couple of hours for lunch?”).

During the same period, my friend and colleague Eric Bennett had been nagging me about the need to relax and had kept offering to take me to a Yankees baseball game.  He had box seats through his company and wanted to treat me to a night out.  I was too busy living my interpretation of carpe diem and finally called him on a Monday afternoon and left him a message that I would take him up on his kind offer at whatever time worked for him.

I was attending a parent-teacher night one Monday evening and kept running into a friend of mine by the name of Stephen Fiorelli.  As my family wandered from appointment to appointment, I kept passing Stephen in the corridor and at one point, he indicated that he had something important to talk to me about and wondered if I was available for a coffee after the event.  I had had a particularly busy day and asked if we could reschedule for another time, which he happily agreed to.

It was Monday, September 10th, 2001.

24 hours later, it was too late to tell Narender I was sorry for not having gone to lunch with him sooner, to tell Eric that I should have taken him up on his offer to relax and kick back for a few hours or to listen to Stephen as he told me whatever seemed to be on his mind.

There are so many stories I could tell about these guys and the other friends that I lost.

Funny stories like how Narender and I created Yellow Shirt Day in our company, how he taught me to swear in Hindi to defend myself against an abusive corner-store owner in the basement of our building or how he was fascinated by TV commercials when he moved to the US because he believed that commercials provided true insight into the American character.

Stories of dedication about people like Eric Bennett who was the true epitome of a guy who went above and beyond to make sure that his colleagues were successful.   It was his desire to help me be successful in my company that created the opportunity for him to introduce me to Narender.

Powerful moments like when we were at Stephen’s house with his wife, kids, family and friends waiting for news that Stephen was ok ….. at one point the doorbell rang and I looked out the window, seeing policemen and a priest at the door and my heart sank as I then knew otherwise.

Stories of bravery, after hearing that Stephen, as a Port Authority engineer, stayed behind with his team to help the firefighters with floor plans.  They evacuated the building as it began to collapse.  The team survived – he did not.

Stories that will live with me forever.

I learned a lot from these guys but the greatest thing I learned from their loss was the real meaning of carpe diem.

For me, it’s no longer merely mistaking activity for productivity.

It’s recognition that the world is filled with tragedy but it is filled with beauty also.

But unless we take the time to slow down, to enjoy it, to be grateful for it and to share it with the people who matter, then we haven’t really seized the day.

In fact, we’ve let the beauty and potential of the day slip by us.

Carpe diem, to me, is a reminder to focus on what is really important and not just what seems to be important.

I am a better person because of Narender, Eric, Stephen, their families and all the people I have been blessed to know who were lost that day.

Carpe diem calls me to remember them by treasuring each day as a powerful gift of Life.

Carpe diem.

In service and servanthood,


PS I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the incredible bravery of military servicemen, search and rescue, firemen, policemen, EMS/ EMT and all first responders, both during 9/11 and all who serve so that we may be safe.  I have reminded my children many times that when they see one of these people, they should always walk up to them and say “thank you” for putting their lives on the line, for so little pay and for people they will never meet.  Many of the firemen that I used to wave to as I walked to work in the morning in NYC rushed in to save others and never came out of the buildings.  We are grateful that they serve and sometimes, sadly, willing to make the ultimate sacrifice so that we may live ….. and they do so bravely and unselfishly.


eric       stephen    narender

    Eric Bennett          Stephen Fiorelli                Narender Nath



Narender in his yellow shirt (it wasn’t yellow shirt day).  I’m in the green shirt.  The guy between us, Tom, was stepping off the PATH train in the basement of the World Trade Center at the moment the North Tower was struck and was able to leave the WTC safely.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Courage to Say “It Can’t Be Done That Way”

I read an interesting statistic yesterday.

When the Social Security system was invented, the average life span of an American citizen was 61.

So offering to pay benefits when someone turned 65 was a pretty safe bet – there were very few people who would be collecting anyway.

Now that the average life span of an American man and woman is 75.6 and 80.8 years respectively, we are asking the Social Security system to accomplish the same result for which it was designed but with a completely different set of inputs. 

We want it to be self sustaining while paying Americans a pension that allows them to enjoy their retirement, ignoring the fact that we have far more people drawing from the system, the ratio of contributors to withdrawers is unsustainable, retirees draw for much longer and the amount each individual needs to draw from the system is much larger than when the system was created.

Politicians, not often known for their bravery when it comes to revealing the true state of things, keep tinkering with the system with the hope that they can fix it without revealing to the world that it is broken.  So instead of the desired result, we have a system that is bankrupting itself while at the same time, keeping the average retired American well below the poverty line.

The problem with reality is that we can’t hide from it, try as we might.

Sometimes we need to accept the fact that original intentions and assumptions, while having served their purpose for the day, are no longer relevant and in fact may be dangerous to embrace in the current environment.

When this happens (which, by the way, is a normal result in the evolution of any “system”), it is quite ok to admit that the current system doesn’t work at all and needs to be redesigned from the ground up.

Sometimes it’s better to gut something and start over - frightening, disappointing or angering everyone for the moment but then creating a result that everyone will like rather than deny there is any problem right up until the thing that needs to be fixed, whether it be a personal Life plan, organizational intention, large-scale computer system or government program, collapses beyond repair (taking innocent people and organizations down with it).

It’s like being given a Sopwith Camel (a World War 1 fighter plane with a maximum speed of 115 mph) and being told that we are to use it as a low-cost replacement for the Space Shuttle.

We can set an expectation now, temporarily disappointing people by denying the request and insisting that we be smarter with our intentions and our actions.

Or we can be another “yes person”, petrified of disappointing people and deferring the disappointment until years and bazillions of dollars later when people discover that we had no chance of ever getting it done.

In either situation, pain, anger and disappointment are inevitable. 

However, in one case, the feelings pass when we focus on a solution, complete the project on a high note and establish the potential for a bright future.  We might even provide the basis for a case study in a business strategy 101 course as the courageous way to do the right thing.

In the other situation, there’s also possibility of ending up as a business strategy 101 case study.

Just not the kind any of us want to be remembered for.

In service and servanthood.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

9/11, Conspiracies and Communication Failure

As I write this today, I am wearing a yellow shirt.  It is, after all, Yellow Shirt Day for me, something a group of us co-created with a colleague who was killed in the World Trade Center on 9/11.

As we approach the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the media is rich with various forms of documentaries including the obligatory set of suggestions of conspiracy.  Apparently people “in the know” know for certain, without releasing their secret sources, that 9/11 occurred because of government conspiracies, aliens, an angry God (or gods for someone), etc.  One guy in a documentary on CBC in Canada said that he believed that WTC 7 was constructed in the 1980’s with the demolition charges already installed in preparation for such an event.

There is no limit to how deep they will dig to find something that resonates with their misfiring mind.

There is, however, ONE thing that does bother me about 9/11.

In 1993, after the bombing of the World Trade Center, I was talking to my former father-in-law (now deceased) about the security threats facing the United States.  As a USAF colonel and former staffer at the Strategic Air Command (before it was folded into another entity), I felt he might have some insight.

He indicated that one of the US military’s greatest concerns at that time was the use of commercial aircraft against buildings and significant landmarks on US soil.  It was a concern, he said, because it was difficult to prevent and would be incredibly disruptive to the American psyche (creating fear that terrorists wish to induce).  There was also a great concern amongst military planners that should the need to shoot down an American commercial aircraft arise, would a USAF pilot be able to do it without hesitation and if he/she did it, what would the ramifications be that an American pilot was forced to kill Americans to protect other Americans?

Eight years later, the US was rocked by 9/11 and a number of us lost treasured friends, family members and colleagues.  President Bush, Vice President Cheney and others claimed we were caught by surprise – that no one could have predicted an attack in this fashion.

And yet I was told eight years prior that this was one of the greatest concerns of the US military and that they were trying to come up with mitigation strategies to prevent it or minimize its impact.

Now ten years later, former leaders are still saying that this attack and the techniques used caught everyone by surprise.

I don’t buy it.  If a civilian (and a non US citizen at that) was told by a senior military officer in 1993 that defending against such an attack was one of the highest priorities of the US military in 1993, then many people knew this was coming.

Maybe the leaders who claim they didn’t know truly didn’t know.  I leave that to conspiracy theorists to toss back and forth.

The fact that some people possibly didn’t know reflects how poorly our communications get when we have too complex a network to communicate across.  Too many people with too many opinions and too many conflicting agendas create too much noise and when this noise is created, important information doesn’t get communicated to the people who need it.  I see this level of confusion in many large organizations that I have helped over the years.  In their desire to over-communicate, they have instead over-inundated and failure of some type becomes inevitable.

Sometimes, such poor communication creates an inconvenience.

Sometimes it may create catastrophic business unit results or total organization failure.

However, there are times it has the potential to produce fatal results.

Such as the day when my friends Narender Nath, Eric Bennett, Stephen Fiorelli and 12 others were 15 of the thousands killed on the morning of 9/11.

I’m not a conspiracy guy.  But if a lowly civilian knew about the probability of these attacks in 1993, then I have to look at the poor communications and the billions spent on intel-gathering leading up to 9/11 as a huge failure in the intelligence community.

That’s not a charge of conspiracy.

It’s one of incompetence.

There is a huge difference.

Thomas Jefferson said it best LONG before 9/11.

I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.

In service and servanthood,


PS For an excellent analysis debunking traditional 9/11/ conspiracy myths, please go here.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

My Corporate Christmas Gift

It is a common tradition during the holiday season to send customers, prospects, colleagues and friends some variation of a Christmas / Hanukkah / Happy Holidays-type card.

While many of my friends will be receiving the same this year (in e*form of course), for some I want to do something a little different.

I’m thinking this year that I will buy a set of pocket dictionaries, tear out all the pages except for two and send those instead.  It will definitely be of more value to them in the long run.

The two pages will contain the definitions of two words, strategy and tactics, because a lot of people still do not understand the difference between the two.

On the inside of the cover, I will write the following quote:

"Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat." - Sun Tzu

Yeah, I’m a little agitated … mostly because I am witnessing great opportunities go down the drain because people don’t understand the importance of both.

Here is how the Oxford Dictionary defines and contrasts the two:

strategy - the art of planning ….

often contrasted with tactics - a plan for directing operations and movements

In essence, strategy defines the measurable intentions and outcomes (the big picture) and the process of defining the steps necessary to manifest them while tactics includes the detailed components of the plan and how the plan is executed.

Common sense, right?  I thought so too … however …..

Despite the overwhelming amount of knowledge in the world that defines them and describes how to create them, people still confuse the strategy (which defines the end goal) with the tactics (the means to the end) or choose not to define one or both of them before setting out on their corporate journey.

For example, I know of one organization that has aspirations to be a major player in a specific space.  They have no measurable outcomes or intentions at all.  Their “trusted strategy advisor” tells them that the strategy for corporate success is based on how they define their website, right down to how the HTML will be structured to make best use of SEO (search engine optimization).  When you ask them what the organization actually wants to accomplish and by when, they don’t know.  When you ask what their exit strategy is, who their competitors are, who their markets are, etc, they have no idea.

They’re too busy defining the website rollout, without having any idea how the website contributes to the as-yet undefined ultimate objectives and intentions of the company.  So they have confused random execution (poor tactics) with strategy.

Another organization has decided that they are going to roll strategy and tactics together into one package, trying things at random without any measurable outcomes and intentions while hoping at some point to randomly land on success.  Why are they trying this hybrid role of tactics and strategy?  Because they were told that it is impossible to create a plan with measurable outcomes – the best way to achieve your outcomes is to try a lot of things until you are successful (success, in their case, not even being defined until it happens, after which you can define it).  Uhhhhhhh ….. huh?  They have skipped strategy altogether.

Anyone want to take any bets on the success potential of these two organizations?

I agree – which is too bad because they are both onto fantastic ideas.

By skipping the need for strategic planning or by assuming that “my strategy is to start doing stuff and hope it comes together”, they are doomed to lackluster results at best (if they last that long) or failure in the worst case scenario.

If one doesn’t use strategic planning to know where the organization is going and how / why it should get there, then one shouldn’t even start out on the journey.

Once one has a strong strategic intention in place, then one must turn towards creating intelligent tactical roadmaps to bring that strategy to fruition.

All that’s left then is smart execution of the tactical roadmap. :-)

It’s like driving from New York to San Diego without first consulting a map or GPS but knowing that the drive should take 5 days.  It is pointless to set out, drive randomly for 5 days and then stop and look out the window to see where I am.  I have a greater chance of NOT having arrived than I do of being able to breathe the sweet Pacific breeze.

And that is now how I like to travel!

In service and servanthood,


PS Moving From Strategic Planning to Tactical Roadmaps

Many people struggle with how to create the tactical roadmaps necessary to manifest their strategic intention.  My website contains a complimentary diagram that explains the use of backcasting, a process growing in adoption that helps organizations create the tactical roadmaps necessary for sharp execution of their organization, rather than to randomly knock a plan together and hope for the best.   Please click here to obtain a copy. 

To your success.