Thursday, June 28, 2012

POTUS – The Impact of Lower Standards

After the Supreme Court ruling today that President Obama’s Healthcare Plan would stand, there were three tweets from the Democrat camp that really surprised and disappointed me.

The first was from Patrick Gaspard, Executive Director of the Democratic National Committee:


The second is from Greg Greene, the Media Outreach Director for the Democratic National Committee:


Being gutless about standing behind what he said, Mr. Greene deleted the tweet when it started to circulate around the web.  Unfortunately what is said on the web is forever, even if the source is deleted.

The third, and most surprising, was from President Barack Obama’s own twitter account:


Now don’t get me wrong.  Having worked on Wall St. for many years, I am not a prude by any stretch of the imagination.

However, hearing the President of the United States (or someone speaking on his behalf) imply the F word in an apparent taunt to citizens against Obamacare sets the bar to a new low in my mind.

No President is perfect and in private, Presidents have no doubt had much to say that reflected their gratitude for certain slices of America and their disappointment (or disgust) with other slices.  However, I’ve never seen a President so confident that he (or one of his representatives) would insult or taunt Americans.

In fact, in an election year, we usually see Presidents and candidates alike try to balance keeping everyone happy, promising what they can deliver while being vague and elusive (but without a definitive no) regarding things they can’t or won’t deliver.

When phrases such as “bitches”, “mother f’ers” or “still a BFD” are used, it lowers the sense of decorum and dignity of the Office of the President, the Office that represents the values and ideals that America stands for.

Values like courtesy and respect.

When the bar of respect is lowered, the nature of the dialog between the Office of the President and citizens changes also.  With the veneer of decorum and dignity further tarnished by these tweets today, I was amazed at how many people on Twitter responded by throwing the F-bomb right back at the President.

I remember a time when few people would dare say such a thing to the President.  Whether you liked the man in office or not, and whether you swore about him in the local coffee shop or bar, if you were addressing the President, you had the respect to address him as Mr. President.

It seems that once the bar was lowered by the POTUS (or his campaign staff), the level of conversation and dialog took on a new disrespectful tone.

And in times like these, with many challenges still ahead of us, this is not the time to establish a diminished standard of dialog that produces nothing but taunts and insults.

We still need to pull together and set the standard for decorum, dignity and respect to solve these challenges and to provide an example of citizenship and leadership that we want our children to model.

It is, after all, their future that we are creating, both in our choices of word and action today and the standards by which we wish them to live by tomorrow.

Standards that are established by how we live today.

In service and servanthood,


PS I’m aware that the twitter account for the President is shared by the President and his campaign staff and because of this, every tweet that appears isn’t necessarily typed by the President.

However, if I authorize someone to post tweets on my behalf, I make sure that such persons are in resonance with my values and beliefs since they are representing my values and beliefs with every message they post.  I am also responsible for any content that appears and if negative content is presented, I am required to address the matter appropriately.

For this reason, every tweet that appears under the President’s twitter account in fact represents the President’s values and beliefs unless he takes action to the contrary.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Software–Complex Solutions to Simple Problems

I’m having one of those rare moments when my blog will actually be related to my line of work (strategy and IT architecture) and not my personal passion about what is going on in the world.  I’ll try not to make it a habit. ;-)

In recent years, I’ve been seeing a disturbing trend in the world of software development where the solutions being produced are far more complex than the problems requiring the solution.

Equally disturbing are the number of IT groups who have forgotten that they exist to enable the business needs of their user community.  Many of these IT groups believe that their user community exists to fuel the IT group’s dreams of fun and experimentation and for this reason, fiscal and schedule accountability is rapidly being eroded in such groups.

While this may not seem significant to those not in the IT industry, these trends affect everyone.  Allow me to explain.

There have been a couple of cartoons over the years that many of us in the industry used to laugh at but as I get older, I don’t find them as humorous as I used to.

Here they are:

You guys start coding cartoon

Solving the problem before we know what it is.

What the user really wanted versus what they were given – click on the image for a higher resolution version to read the captions.


The IT industry has at its disposal an incredible plethora of tools, methodologies, frameworks and best practices that never existed when I first entered the industry in the early 80s. 

When used appropriately, adopting what best aligns with how an organization works and what its needs are, this collection of tools can produce powerful, robust, effective solutions.

When abused or used inappropriately, these same powerful enablers can create some incredible disasters (or ticking time bombs with as-yet-unknown catastrophic consequences).

It’s like splitting an atom.  If I do it properly, I can create electricity for thousands of years.  If I do it in a slightly different way, the resulting explosion can kill millions of people in a microsecond.

While many software solutions that have been created are very cool, do amazing things and have a lot of wow factor, I am finding more and more of them to be so complex that the people who created them are unable to easily describe the original problem or the solution they created.  If you can’t describe either the problem or the solution, how do you even know that the solution is the appropriate one?  How would you fix it if it breaks?

What is equally disturbing are the increasing number of IT departments writing software to satisfy their own interests and curiosities without care as to how this “research” can ever pay dividends to their organization.  As one former client and senior IT architect said to me as he prepared to spend a considerable amount of money on a project: “I don’t give a damn what the user wants.  This is what I want.”.

For this particular project, no business case had been established for the money that was about to be spent.  No business value for the users or the organization-at-large had been identified.  The users in fact hadn’t even identified a problem and therefore hadn’t requested a solution.

Undeterred, the architect knew what he wanted for his own needs.  He also knew that he needed users to approve of his plan in order for him to keep budget approval so the message offered to the user community was “we will enable your business to be more effective”.  Unfortunately, no one could actually qualify or quantify the subjective phrase “more effective” but that didn’t prevent the project from proceeding.

I eventually walked away from the project, unable to balance two conflicting project mission statements (a public one and a private one) and always having to flip flop between two different project plans (depending on who was in the room).

You Can’t Run From The Facts

In a Harvard Business Review article last year (Why Your IT Project May Be Riskier Than You Think), the writers found that 1 in 6 IT projects surveyed had a cost overrun of 200% and a schedule overrun of 70%.

Frightening numbers indeed and ones that should make the average IT group want to understand how they can avoid becoming such a statistic.  Unfortunately, most don’t care to do so and thus are likely to become another case study demonstrating how not to run an IT project.

Not only are the measurable costs disturbing, other less-than-obvious “costs” exist which should be of great concern to the average citizen.  In the case of governments, the military and the financial services industry, data privacy, data security and yes, even national security, are so tenuous that many people in my industry lose sleep waiting for the catastrophe which we know to be inevitable.

At the root of this problem – ego, denial and lack of focus

Every new project sets out with good intentions but too often repeats the mistakes of previous projects within the same organization or other organizations despite the amount of material that exists that people can learn from and use to improve their results.

Unfortunately, many IT groups believe that they would never create such a failure. Without having an honest assessment of their strengths, weaknesses and past performance, how do they really know?

There seems to be, sadly, a direct correlation between the size of the collective ego within an IT group and how unnecessarily overly complicated their solutions are. Such a correlation also negates the perceived need to understand how one can improve one’s execution and one’s result since the potential for failure is often perceived to be the forte of “everyone but us”.

One person in the online retail space who was soliciting me recently was asking me hypothetical questions such as “How would you design a parking lot for cars, trucks and motorcycles"?”  When I would ask specific questions about the requirements of the parking lot, he would keep insisting that the details weren’t important.

And therein lies the problem.

As long as IT departments stay in the world of conceptual irrelevance instead of being pragmatic and focused about what is needed, who needs it, when they need it by, what knowledge can be leveraged, who would make good collaborators and what the best solution for the problem is, many IT projects will continue to run over budget with late delivery at best and with the potential for a catastrophic ending at worst.

We have the resources to deliver a much better result when it comes to producing software.

The challenge is – do we have the will, the humility and the focus to learn how to apply these resources more effectively?

In service and servanthood,


PS A humorous example of an over-engineered solution to a simple problem.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

When Yelling “Fire!” Is Of Little Value

I’m having a moment this morning where I feeling like yelling “Fire!”.

As I review my briefings for the past week and for the upcoming weeks for my Wall St., government and military clients and contacts, I don’t like where the data points are trending.

I layer on ongoing scandals in institutions like the Roman Catholic Church and other organized churches, the massive failure of the Rio+20 Summit, the disguised intentions of many in the “green” space, the inadequacies in the UN as demonstrated by the Syrian disaster and how solvable problems such as world hunger and disease continue to run rampant and I think that if Jesus / the Buddha / the aliens / “whoever you are waiting for” are going to arrive, now is a good time.

I’m ordinarily an optimist who encourages others to see the glass as half full but today as I reflect on the data points that are trending in the wrong direction, I must admit that pretending all is well in the world is not helping solve our most pressing problems.  Promoting successes while ignoring failures or pretending they are not there is also not working very well.

Don’t get me wrong.  There is MUCH beauty and potential in the world and we must champion and promote such things.

However, the number of things that need to be fixed is growing rapidly and with ever-increasing significance and impact.  We need to grasp this and do something about them while they are within our ability to do so.

The people in power who make decisions on our behalf every day know this but don’t know how to share it for fear of creating a panic that will grip the world and make things worse.


Trying to educate people whose brains are already being painfully squeezed is like yelling “Fire!” in a burning theater.

In such a situation, the weak-minded will instantly have a mental meltdown or a heart attack and add to the problem.

The uber optimists will get angry with the alarm and will say that pointing out the existence of a fire is too pessimistic and should be ignored.

The people without a plan will trample each other to death while randomly or aggressively searching for an exit. 

The people who think they know it all will be indignant that a good movie is being interrupted and will immediately discredit the person yelling “fire!”.

The people who see opportunity to benefit from the disaster will sell useless products or ideas that won’t prevent the deaths of anyone in the theater but the theater-goers will feel better about their situation until the end comes.

Some people in the theater will decide that now is the right time to insist that the REAL issue at hand is the need for cheaper or more comfortable seats or that they should be able to demand that the seats be in their favorite color.

The politicians in the theater will insist as smoke fills the room that not only is there no fire but if people stick it out for the second movie of a double feature, there will be free popcorn for everyone. 

Meanwhile they go borrow some popcorn from the theater down the street, ask everyone in the burning theater to give back their popcorn so that it can be returned to them as free popcorn later or have their military beat up the people in the next theater and steal their popcorn. 

Between the two movies, they will deliver the message that if there was a real fire (which they assure everyone does not exist), it is the fault of someone else.

The media covering the event will over-analyze it, comparing it to past fires while offering nothing of value for preventing future events of a similar nature.  They will also reiterate the need to feel afraid for no reason in particular while not offering ideas to protect one’s self or enhance theater safety moving forward.

So yelling “Fire!” serves no function.

However, as I finish reading my briefs for the week, I am moving quietly but steadily towards the exit.

I am still very optimistic about our future.

But being an optimist often means we have to be realistic about what is happening around us and to take appropriate action in order to bring our optimism and the realism of our situation into alignment so that we can manifest our unlimited positive potential.

As for the people left behind in the “burning theater”, many times we have to acknowledge that we can’t save everybody.

If we get caught up attempting to save those who can’t or won’t be saved, we all go down together.

Such an approach is not being pessimistic or evil.

It’s being an optimistic realist (or a realistic optimist).

We need more of this outlook to create the world that we are capable of creating, saving that which is worth saving and that which contributes to a better, stronger world.

The Universe is not an optimistic system.  It is a realistic one with a mix of good and bad - beautiful things and ugly things.

Sometimes evil wins over good despite our best hopes, intentions and efforts.  After all, evil and good are often just perspectives, something many of us don’t like to admit.

With that in mind, those who live in the Universe need to make sure that their optimism is tempered with appropriate levels of realism if they are to live as productive a Life as possible.

And so while we should enjoy the beauty of Life, we must know how to react appropriately when someone yells “Fire!”, or better yet, take proactive action by seeing the potential for fire before the cry for help goes out.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,


PS There is a great TED talk presented by Tali Sharot about the danger of unrealistic optimism, found here.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Data Alone Doesn’t Make You A Genius

The daughter of a friend of mine was assaulted early on Sunday morning past.  When a devoted father goes to bed on Saturday night, looking forward to Father’s Day with his children the next day, the potential for such a nightmare is the furthest thing from his thoughts.

When it was carried by the local news media on various websites, some of the commentary was very disturbing.  People extrapolated that given the hour, she was probably returning from some seedy establishment and if so, she must have been dressed a certain way and if that was the case, perhaps she invited the assault (or deserved it).

Since I know this young lady, I know for a fact that none of this is true.  Even if it were true, a woman should have the right to be anywhere she wants and be dressed in any manner she chooses without the fear of being assaulted.  Unfortunately, such a right only exists in the perfect world.

As I read how these “geniuses’ reconstructed the crime scene without being there and with minimal data, I remembered the following story.

There was once a researcher who was researching the impact of loud sounds on insects.  He devised an experiment with an insect, a drum and a ruler to measure how high the insect would jump when the drum was struck.

He struck the drum and noted that the startled insect jumped 4 inches into the air.  This observation was carefully written down.

He then tied the insects front legs together, struck the drum and noted that the insect jumped 2 inches into the air.  This observation was also recorded in his journal.

Untying the front legs and tying the back legs produced the same result.

Finally, he tied all the legs together and struck the drum.  The insect did not jump into the air.  He struck the drum louder and then a third time but the insect still did not move.

Excited by his discovery, he recorded the following in his journal.

When all the insect’s legs are tied, the insect is deaf.

The Value of Data

Data is only of use when we interpret it correctly.  Interpreting it without context or in ignorance of other important, supporting data, is a waste of time in the simplest case and incredibly dangerous at other times.

And so whether one is judging my friend’s daughter’s situation or we look down upon the toothless, homeless person who smells to high heaven as they approach us on the street or we are preparing to launch a multimillion (or multibillion) dollar project, the same adage applies.

Just because you have some data doesn’t mean that you have the facts.

Without facts, knowledge cannot be created.

Without knowledge, understanding cannot find a home in our minds or our hearts.

And without understanding, the ability to help people overcome their challenges or to manifest one’s intentions (whether personal or professional) becomes difficult, if not impossible.

I think we should make it a practice to think about this before demonstrating our level of genius … or lack thereof.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,


Addendum: After I posted this, someone shared this picture with me that I thought was appropriate to share on this blog.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Global Warming–A New Approach Needed

I was listening to David Suziki’s daughter Severn Cullis-Suzuki talk about the intentions at the UN Earth Summit currently being held in Rio and her thoughts regarding the Rio Summit from 20 years ago and something interesting popped out.

Two intriguing sound bites from the interview, which can be found here, spoke volumes to me  as a strategy guy (approximate locations within the video shown for reference).

2:35 We haven't even come close to achieving the sustainable transition that we knew we needed then

3:10 We don't know how to fix the problems we are creating

As a business strategy guy, if someone tells me 20 years into a project that we don’t know how to fix the problems we are creating, I would have to ask the obvious questions:

1. Is the problem solvable?

2. If not, why are we doing it anyway?  Are there alternative solutions or fall-back plans?

3. If it is solvable, why does the solution continue to evade us? How do we adjust our execution to find and implement the solution?

In the business world, when a deadline is imposed because of regulatory, financial, strategic, tactical or plain old survival reasons, we rarely have the luxury of randomly executing with the hope that we will accidentally land on the solution prior to the deadline.

We execute, review our results-to-date, adjust our execution (and the expectations of those involved) and continue to execute.  Occasionally, difficult questions need to be asked which may mean killing the initiative.

Unfortunately in this scenario, according to global warming experts failure is not an option and that the time for solutions is NOW. This means that killing the initiative is not an option and that every passing day without a solution brings us closer to the abyss.

So if the sense of urgency is there, why do we continue to do the same things 20 years later while lamenting how much closer to “the edge” we are getting?

With a track record of little success in 20 years, the situation is obvious that the means of execution must change, including possibly adjusting the approach from prevention to how to thrive in a post-global warming scenario (or finding a strategy that implements both, with the latter being the Plan B scenario).

Otherwise, if we continue to do the same things repeatedly and don’t see the results we seek, Einstein’s Law of Insanity rules.

And in this case, failure will be the inevitable result.  Unfortunately, if the global warming advocates are correct, such failure will exceed our worst nightmare.

In business, we change our approach and our expectations when the desired results aren’t being produced.

I wonder why, 20 years into a project, the global warming advocates don’t do the same.

In service and servanthood,


Addendum: June 22, 2012

To prove my point, CBC just posted this article:

Rio+20 earth summit concludes with few commitments - countries agree to develop long-term sustainability goals - but without timelines

As most of us know, goals without timelines usually produce little of significance, especially when it comes to bureaucrats who like to avoid measurable objectives in the first place.

It reminds me of an unnamed source at the Copenhagen Summit in 2009 who said that a positive result of the Copenhagen Summit was that the representatives had pledged to talk more moving forward.

Exactly … to talk more.


It is difficult to balance alleged “urgent needs” against vague commitments without timelines.

Unless the sense of urgency is not as real as people claim.

Perhaps I should get some government grants to travel to a few of these summits on the backs of taxpayers.  Maybe then I will “see the light” when it comes to the reason and value of these summits. :-)

Addendum 2: June 22, 2012

Then there is this little ditty reported today: Green Drivel: The godfather of global warming lowers the boom on climate change hysteria

Addendum 3: June 24, 2012

Gwynne Dyer’s article, Rio+20: Vengeance Too Long Delayed, sums up the failure of the conference perfectly.  The following quote reiterates what I noted about how a different approach is needed in order to produce results:

The 49-page final declaration of Rio+20 contained the verb “reaffirm” 59 times. In effect, some 50,000 people from 192 countries traveled to Rio de Janeiro to “reaffirm” what was agreed there twenty years ago.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Newfoundland and Labrador Government–The Latest Newfie Joke

** This blog was originally posted in June of 2012.  Allegations surfaced in August of 2013 suggesting improprieties on the part of Minister Joan Shea, as noted in the addendum. **

As a proud Newfoundlander, born and raised in the distinct culture that it is, I am mostly indifferent to what is known as “the Newfie Joke”.

For the few who have never heard of them, they are usually jokes that poke fun at the intelligence or common sense levels of Newfoundlanders.  Some Newfoundlanders, with the strong sense of humor they are known for, have embraced this self-deprecating humor while some tell the jokes with a mainlander substituted for the Newfoundlander being poked fun at.

Whether one finds them funny, insulting or are indifferent about them, there is a new Newfie joke making the rounds that has me greatly concerned for the people I care about in that great province.

I call that joke the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

In recent weeks, great controversy erupted over new legislation (Bill 29) that severely limits the ability for citizens and the Auditor General to have any insight into the goings-on within the Government.  I wrote about this in my blog “We All Answer To Someone … Or Do We?”.

Now the Government finds itself in a new controversy with the appointment of Terry Styles as Chairman of Nalcor.

Nalcor is a major energy producer and distributor in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, with more than 800 employees and 2011 revenues of approximately $730 million.

While Mr. Styles may be a wonderful business man, he runs a beer distribution company in Stephenville (a small town in Newfoundland, population 6719) with 10 employees.

There’s a “small” leap in qualifications there that leaves me scratching my head.  When I think that the Chairman will influence major projects, including offshore oil exploration and the multi-billion dollar Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project, I am concerned about what Premier Dunderdale is thinking.

Discussion in the Newfoundland and Labrador legislature produced this exchange on June 18th, 2012:

Opposition Leader Dwight Ball questioned the premier on the appointments.  "What possible skills and experience were you looking for from those people so that they could assist the management team at Nalcor?" said Ball.

"Mr. Speaker, I have to tell you that I find this line of questioning offensive," Dunderdale responded.  "Why would anybody cast aspersions on me for, and question, my ability to be premier."

"Mr. Speaker, we're ordinary Newfoundlanders and Labradorians [and] we know how to serve the people of our province," said Dunderdale.

With all due respect, Premier Dunderdale, when a leader makes decisions that are of high impact and visibility, it is completely normal to have to justify those decisions.  A strong, capable leader knows this.

In this case, the Opposition Leader was asking an obvious question about the abilities of the appointees.  We all have to demonstrate relevant skills in anything we apply for.  Claiming as she did that Life experience trumps relevant skills and knowledge borders on ludicrous when the leap is as large as it appears in this situation.

For Premier Dunderdale to take such a question so personally so quickly is a warning that the Leadership Quotient in the upper echelons of the Government is mediocre at best.

Maybe, just maybe, when convinced by the bureaucrat puppeteers who pull the strings in the NL government that she should run for Premier, she didn’t realize that she would have to defend the decisions of the puppet masters who, when they find decisions being challenged, fade into the background and leave one to defend one’s honor, intelligence and capabilities.


Even worse, Premier Dunderdale doesn’t realize that she has been set up.  Former Premier Williams stepped down quickly, leaving her to make a number of blunders that will become her legacy.  Meanwhile, Dean MacDonald, a good personal friend of Danny Williams, will take over the Liberal Party and lead them to an “election upset” over Premier Dunderdale and her party in the next election.

It is a brilliant strategy set up by a lot of brilliant people.

Sadly, in the case of Premier Dunderale, if one allows one’s self to be set up in this way, then one’s abilities as a leader are open to questioning anyway.

And when the Premier reacts so strongly to questions that should be anticipated, she already knows this also.

Meanwhile, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador are left to wonder where this leaves them.

So there’s a new round of Newfie Jokes originating from the Legislature of Newfoundland and Labrador but they are more pathetic than funny and no one’s laughing this time.

Well .. most people aren’t.

Except for those who stand to benefit, now and in the future.

Unfortunately, those who benefit aren’t the common citizens of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

And with that, the last laugh’s on them … at their expense.

In service and servanthood,


Addendum: Out of respect for the current Liberal Opposition Leader Dwight Ball and to acknowledge the many emails I received praising his work as Opposition Leader, I agree with them that the choice of Dean MacDonald as the next leader of the Liberal Party is not a given and that Mr. Ball may lead the Liberals in the next election.  That being said, I believe the rest of my blog stands as noted. :-)  Thank you to everyone who has written in to make this point.

Addendum – August 15, 2013

Someone suggested to me that Minister Joan Shea (formerly Minister Joan Burke) and Mr. Styles were dating when the appointment to Nalcor was made.  I hope this is not true, as it would represent a serious conflict of interest should it be fact.  I reached out to Premier Dunderdale and Minister Shea for clarification but have not received a reply from either.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Economists, Weather Prediction and the Art of Alchemy

On Friday, my phone received an alert that dangerous thunderstorms were imminent with a 100% POP (probability of precipitation) of their occurrence.

Now, by my definition, 100% is pretty certain and so I was disappointed when the anticipated apocalyptic storm didn’t arrive.  At some point, the forecast changed to a 0% chance of rain and shortly thereafter, the rain arrived.

When the forecast was revised again to a 90% chance of rain and thunderstorms, the sun came out and that was the end of the rain for the weekend.

While I respect the science of meteorology, oftentimes the model that represents the earth’s weather systems is too complex for weather experts to predict with certainty.

A similar thought came to mind today as I watched an economist speaking with great certainty about how the global economic situation would play out over the next five years.

Unfortunately, like our complex weather systems our economic system is far too complex for a few models to properly understand and so when I hear an “expert” speak with certainty on where the economy is going, I look for something more realistic, such as the manner by which alchemists claimed to be able to transform lead into gold.

As this economist described his five year view, I was thinking “we can’t predict what is happening next WEEK and he has a five-year prediction”. 

Yeah … right.

Think of it this way.

Few experts foresaw the difficulties of the last four years (yes, SOME did see it coming and tried to warn the populace but they were shouted down by the recognized “experts”) and yet we continue to listen to how they believe they can predict the future. 

It’s like walking into an psychic’s office and having him / her ask you what you need and you think “You’re the psychic – don’t you already know?”.  

Oftentimes, we miss this important clue and rely on the self-described expert to continue to predict our future.

Meanwhile, in watching the performance of many economists over the last four years, the pattern has gone like this.

1. When monthly numbers come out, the “expert” extrapolates a trend from a single data point (which is impossible) and predicts that either difficulty will continue or that we are in the clear as far as difficult is concerned.

2. Political interpretation results in one of two options:

2a. If I am a politician in a governing party, I paint how the numbers project that recovery is underway no matter what the numbers really imply.

2b. If I am a politician in an opposition party, I paint how the numbers are taking us to doom and gloom no matter what the numbers really suggest.

3. When the following month’s numbers come out, they either exceed expectation if the numbers are good or are surprising if the numbers are bad.  Either way, the “experts” are surprised and extrapolate a new trend based on the new data point. 

4. Go back to step 2 and repeat the process.

When an expert is surprised once or twice, one can attribute that to lack of data, the need for improved models, etc.

When an expert is surprised repeatedly from month to month over the course of years, it then looks more like:

1. Incompetence

2. Excessive ego

3. Lack of real understanding

4. Inadequate models

5. Intentional misrepresentation, oftentimes to encourage spending and consumption, to reduce fear in the populace or to avoid difficult questions.

In any of the first four scenarios, it looks like no one is “driving the bus” and that the economic system, with a life of its own, will proceed in whatever direction its momentum is carrying it regardless of our efforts to predict or direct it.  The fifth scenario suggests an ulterior motive, which has its own complexities.

None of the scenarios is very comforting.

Unfortunately, people who don’t understand how the system works are at the mercy of advisors who make money no matter which way the economy goes.

Sadly, the same is not true for their clients who rely on these advisors.

Watching the Euro situation is a perfect case-in-point of how the experts attempt to predict things.

Experts who said that a specific result in the Greek election would be needed to hold the Euro community together applauded when they got the result.  Off hours trading went up as a result.  Then the experts realized that now that the right party had won, a coalition would be needed to actually make things happen and the market went down.  On top of that, once the coalition is in place, the actual difficult task of bringing major deficits under control would then have to be done and the market got even more jittery (especially given the fact that governments and effective deficit reduction plans are not common dance partners).

Throw in similar issues on a larger scale, like those in Spain, and the markets don’t know which way to turn.

Such lack of consistent, replayable, useful knowledge makes things even more laughable (and frightening) when someone appears on TV and claims to have the perfect crystal ball into the situation, especially when the word “bailout” enters the dialog.

Bailouts – The New “F” Word

Bailouts make the stock market happy.

Unfortunately, bailouts represent a deferral of a solution instead of a real solution and therefore should not be celebrated.  In fact, if the underlying causes for the debt issues haven’t been solved, bailouts should make people very nervous as the solution that will be required later will be more painful and complex than the current situation that was just avoided by using a bailout.

Bailouts in the 21st century have become the Hail Mary pass of the global economy.

Imagine if your favorite football team admitted to not having a game-day strategy outside of “we’ll do our best to hold on for dear life and go for the win in the final play of the game”.

That is a bailout.

Unfortunately, you don’t build many championship seasons when your primary strategy is the Hail Mary pass.

When the bailout comes, it’s like being maxed out on your credit cards and not being able to make a payment when suddenly your credit limit is increased.  You congratulate yourself for weathering the storm (even though you didn’t really do anything worthy of a reward) and you borrow money from your new-found credit to make your minimum payment.  Meanwhile, you live with the hope that everything around you will magically change so that the situation never happens again (even though you are not changing anything in regards to how you live).

You’ve not only not corrected what caused the underlying debt problem in the first place but in fact you have actually dug yourself deeper and yet you continue to hope that something will somehow change (with the exception of your own behavior and results) in order to create a brighter future.

When you find yourself in the same spot in the future, you act surprised and hope to get another credit limit extension and the cycle repeats.

Leverage or Be Leveraged

So when our economic advisor wins whether we win or lose, when economists can’t predict with certainty from one moment to the next what is happening and we can’t predict with certainty whether a politician is lying or telling the truth from one moment to the next, where can we turn?

We must take responsibility for understanding how the system works, to know how to maximize returns where possible (remembering that there is money to be made even in difficult times) and to learn how to mitigate risk.

Within the system, there are three types of people in the world:

1. Those who know where they are going.

2. Those who enable the ones who know where they are going or who benefit from their success.

3. The stepping stones, upon which the first two groups step on in order to manifest their destiny.

Which type are you?

How do you know?

If you are type 3, what are you doing about it?

When we rely on others too much, our future is tied to their intentions.

And frankly, I need more assurances of manifesting my future than to rely on that.

How about you?

In service and servanthood,


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

So How Did I End Up Here?

My friend Bonnie SMS’d me the other day and asked how my Life has been filled with so many adventures, stories of interesting people and such.

I thought about it for a minute and answered with all honesty “I don’t really know”.

But after an interaction today, I have a better answer for her.

I collect these stories and adventures because of something I do purposely …. and accidentally.

I stopped by a coffee shop today to get caught up on emails and happened to notice a couple sitting at a table nearby.

I was struck by a logo on their laptop that said “We <heart> motogeo”.

I was intrigued by this and Googled “motogeo” and found a number of hits that didn’t satisfy my curiosity.

I then Googled “We love motogeo” and voila, I was able to find this interesting site and this related project Lost For Good Project, focused on this simple message:

…. serve as means for supporting the people, communities and grass-roots organizations that are creating lasting, responsible and sustainable change within their regions. Our purpose is to help bring attention to these lesser-known endeavours, highlight their work and support them in their goals.

Their primary website tells a story of a couple on a journey – around the world and within their soul.  I realized that the couple who are the inspiration behind these websites were the couple sitting next to me.

Feeling like having a little fun, I tweeted them the following message:

@gomotogeo Looking forward to following your RTW!

Shortly afterward, their reply came back:

@HarryTucker Thanks! Glad to have you along - we're looking forward to getting underway :)

To which I couldn’t resist responding with:

@gomotogeo Hopefully you will have more enjoyable weather than today - although sitting in a coffee shop in the rain has its perks also.

Now if you’re a normal person, you will stop and think “How does this guy know that we are sitting in a coffee shop during a rain storm?”

They quickly deduced that they didn’t have a stalker and that maybe the other guy in the coffee shop is the mystery tweeter and so they waved and asked “Are you Harry?”.

We had a brief but powerful conversation around our common ties (we both lived in the NYC area at the same time), about striving to find one’s purpose, about breaking one’s bonds and doing what one wants to do in life and about making a difference in the lives of others.

I promised to share updates with my extensive network of their upcoming journey around the world via motorcycle and we each resumed our respective work.

As I reflected on this conversation, I realized that I had an answer to Bonnie’s question.

I collect these stories and experiences because I intentionally thrust myself into situations that allow them to be created.

It’s as simple as that.

I don’t intentionally create the experiences.

I intentionally create the circumstance that allows the experience to unfold.

After that, the story just evolves by accident.

Or is it by accident?

Personally, I don’t believe in coincidences. 

Wanted: A Sense of Purpose and the Courage To Follow It

Nita and Issa are examples of people who believe strongly in following their sense of purpose, wherever it takes them.

I think if more of us followed their example, the world would be a better place.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood.


We All Answer To Someone .. Or Do We?

In my native province of Newfoundland and Labrador, a filibuster is in progress as the Provincial Government debates Bill 29.  Bill 29 contains amendments in regards to requests for information from non-government entities, including the citizens of the Province.

As I read the bill, there is one section that stands out (emphasis added is mine):

      21. The Act is amended by adding immediately after section 43 the following:
Power of a public body to disregard requests
   43.1 (1) The head of a public body may disregard one or more requests under subsection 8(1) or 35(1) where
            (a)  because of their repetitive or systematic nature, the requests would unreasonably interfere with the operations of the public body or amount to the abuse of the right to make those requests;
             (b)  one or more of the requests is frivolous or vexatious; or
             (c)  one or more of the requests is made in bad faith or is trivial.

Vexatious, according to the Oxford dictionary, is defined as follows:

  • causing or tending to cause annoyance, frustration, or worry
  • Law: denoting an action or the bringer of an action that is brought without sufficient grounds for winning, purely to cause annoyance to the defendant

Back in 2006, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador was rocked by a spending scandal that resulted in bureaucrats and elected officials being responsible for absconding with funds in excess of $2.6 million.

If rumors of such an event  or other inappropriate activity were percolating today within the government and additional information was sought by the media or the Auditor General, such queries could cause significant annoyance to the defendant, whether it be the governing party or the specific individuals who were rumored to be acting in an inappropriate manner.

In fact, such queries could legally be considered to be vexatious and therefore, under the terms of Bill 29, could be rejected.

A slippery slope indeed.

The Master and the Servant

We refer to the people who work in provincial government as public “servants”.

I wonder who the master is and who the servant is when public servants are enabled to act without oversight, protected by legislation that enables them to turn away requests that in their eyes are vexatious or which they can label as frivolous in order to avoid further investigation of a potential wrongdoing.

The people who are empowered to deny requests for information are not even elected officials, being a group of unknown bureaucrats buried within the bowels of the organization and yet enabled with the power to decide what the government will reveal to its citizens.

Justice Minister Felix Collins noted that such legislation enables government to “find a balance in terms of giving people access to information, but also being good stewards of the country's assets and the country's information and records."

In a world where dishonesty doesn’t exist, such interpretations of the bill could be made.

However, people being people and in a legislature that has had, in its storied history, people who have used the system to their advantage, this bill creates a dangerous loophole.

If I were the type of person seeking to make personal gain on the backs of the taxpayer as people have done in the past, I would refer to this loophole as either Project Gravy Train or Project CYA.

Project Gravy Train (aka Project CYA) empowers unelected, unknown individuals to decide what information regarding the thoughts and intentions of the public masters, (oops, public servants)  are revealed.

It also empowers them to hide information that could be politically embarrassing or that which may reveal illegal, unethical or immoral activity.


If a privately-held company attempted to withhold information from the public that we deemed was important to know from a legal, ethical or moral perspective, we would demand that the “system” step in and right the wrong.

So why don’t we do the same when the keepers of the “system” are attempting to do the same thing with potential to benefit themselves?

If we were discussing really secret stuff like national security and the like, I would understand protecting the information.

However, this is information that, when revealed, allows us to have some sense of transparency and accountability within the ranks of public servants.

This is especially important when one considers that Premier Dunderdale is always chanting the mantra of transparency.

Such inconsistency of word versus action brings to mind an old joke about how you can tell if a politician is lying.

But I wouldn’t be so crass as to use it here.

Ahhhhh …. public servants.  By definition, they are supposed to work for the people but I think they believe it’s the other way around.

Unfortunately, as long as citizens don’t work harder to demand accountability from public “servants”, this perception actually becomes a fact.

So when we contemplate the need for transparency within government, let us not be convinced that restricting access to information is akin to protecting information being used for something more sensitive such as the war on terror.

However, there does seem to be a war in progress …. a war against accountability, transparency and common sense in government.

And that worries me far more than the war against terror.

In service and servanthood,


PS In fairness to public servants who actually do good work and are proud of their service to the public, the nebulous nature of this bill makes their job more difficult.

It’s like changing the speed limit of a highway from 60 mph to “whatever you feel is safe”.  Drivers will proceed to drive any speed, making enforcement of safe driving almost impossible (“well officer, you say I was driving too fast but I felt perfectly safe”).

So for those public servants, they run the risk of allowing a request that they felt was safe (but in fact wasn’t) or rejecting a request that they felt was vexatious (but wasn’t). 

This allows blame to be shifted to them should something nasty erupt after the request for information is responded to.  If something hits the fan later, someone else will scream at them or vilify them, informing them that their interpretation of the words vexatious and frivolous was incorrect and they will be punished as a result (potentially deflecting blame and responsibility away from the perpetrator).

The use of words that are relative, vague and open to interpretation produces an environment where someone will inevitably get hurt, either wilfully or accidentally.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Is That Your Final Answer?

That’s what I was thinking as an exhibit vendor stood in front of me at the Global Petroleum Show in Calgary, Alberta today.

The GPS is an amazing show for anyone who is anyone in the oil and gas sector.  The organizers of the event have created a world class event that is HIGHLY recommended.

The vendors that I spoke to in a wide gamut of disciplines were engaging, smart and experts in their field.

The wares that they displayed today provide a compelling example of how brilliant the human mind can be when there are complex problems to be solved.

All except for one vendor.

He had just finished telling me how his company could capture my data and store it on their servers until ready to blast it over to mine.  Yes – “blast it over” is a technology term … somewhere. :-)

Intrigued that he would be storing my client’s data on his company’s infrastructure and recognizing that my clients in the Fortune 25 space are HEAVILY regulated when it comes to data security, I asked him about his strategy to ensure the security of the data given my client’s regulatory requirements.

His response was a single word, “encryption”, to which I responded “Encryption is not an answer to a question about your strategy for data security, integrity and privacy but since you mentioned encryption, what type do you use?”

He replied “What difference does it make?”.

I indicated that his answers make all the difference in the world in regards to proving that his solution meets my client’s needs to which he responded “Who do you work for anyway?”

He just lost a deal.  He might have had the best product in its space (I doubt it) but as CEO of his organization, he would have to work extra hard to prove that to me by that time.

We Are Not Always Speaking To Whom We Think We Are

When we provide answers to questions, we are not only providing answers to the person we are speaking to directly but to every person that that person comes in contact with personally and professionally.

It reminds me of the Monk and Nagle song “The Twenty-First Time” when, as the singer turns his back on a woman collecting welfare, he wonders if he is turning his back on Jesus disguised as the woman.


Monk and Nagle–The Twenty-First Time


And so it is with this vendor’s flippant response.  He didn’t just respond to me – he responded to everyone in my network without caring to know who they are.

Unfortunately, unlike this blog, he won’t be anonymous in my interactions with my network.

I won’t be fighting to defend his answer or to give him a second chance either.  Why should I?  He burned all his lifelines with simple, indifferent and potentially ignorant comments.

Conventions Are Tough

Having been on the selling side of the convention circuit many times, I know how easy it is to get tired and frazzled when peppered with questions.

But we always have to keep our game face on – personally and professionally.

Especially when it is difficult to do so.

If we don’t, we may never know what we are throwing away or what might have been.

And so, when faced with a question that may be disarmingly simple, we should think before we respond.

Otherwise our final answer may actually be an answer that results in finality.

As for this vendor, I’m not too concerned.

There are plenty of highly-competent, super-intelligent, savvy vendors at the Global Petroleum Show who are happy to pick up the business that he throws away as he proves that Darwin’s insight on the survival of the fittest proves true in business.

In service and servanthood,


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Beauty in Simplicity

It is hard to deny that we live in a world of ever-increasing challenge.

Global financial pressures, the human race’s need to have a certain number of wars going on at any given point, the number of people who go hungry in an empowered society, corruption and waste in government, churches and charities designed to serve others and a plethora of other things can sometimes make it difficult to see the positive side of humanity.

Even when faced with challenges like global climate change, we often prefer to insult and fight each other rather than to come together to collect real data and to solve any issues that exist.

President Ronald Reagan had this interesting quote when addressing the UN General Assembly many years ago:

Perhaps we need some outside universal threat.  I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world.

Some days, I’m not sure that the arrival of aliens would be enough.

In a world where the media would rather fill our head with gloom and doom instead of a blend of reality AND optimism, it can be difficult to wonder where we are headed.

In the complex world of strategy and global technology architecture that I live in, I often see people who prefer to fill their world with complexity, either to hide something (including their own incompetence), to pretend to be something that they are not or simply because they have the misunderstanding that everything is a complex problem that requires a complex solution.

And then there are some who believe that the existence of complexity can be used to justify their existence, which is why some people feel threatened when people like me bring an approach that simplifies the complex wherever possible.

It is because of this plethora of complexity (most of it being unnecessary) that I appreciate and savor the beauty that comes with simplicity.

Especially from sources that are unexpected

One of the few television programs I watch is America’s Got Talent.  My reasons are many as I explain in an earlier blog “Putting It All On the Line”.

Last night I was startled by a simple but powerful performance by Joe Castillo who blends art, light and music to tell compelling stories.

How inspiring can someone be who has never outgrown the childhood love of playing in the sand?

Take a look for yourself.

Joe Castillo–America’s Got Talent


For those of you who celebrate a strong faith, here is another example of his work:

Joe Castillo–The Passion


And finally, one that touched my heart deeply as I think about the friends I lost in 9/11.  Warning – this may be difficult for some people to watch.

Joe Castillo–Never Forget–The 9/11 Story


I know many people who, in striving to find their life purpose, solutions to life problems or solutions to problems in general, seek out the most complex solutions.

Because they require complex solutions to often simple problems, they spend an inordinate amount of time creating these solutions.  Sometimes the solution is so complex, they never actually finish defining or creating it and give up in exhaustion (or in the case of many government and business projects, when they have run out of money).

Oftentimes the answers to many questions in our personal world, our professional lives and in Life in general actually lay in the simplest of things.

But in order to see those solutions, we must be willing to open our eyes, our mind and our heart to the simplicity that exists in a world of complexity.

We need to ignore the insistence of others that there must be a complex answer.

After all, it’s ok to put up our hand once in a while and demand silence as we seek answers.

When we do this, we are invited to see things in a different way.

As Joe Castillo invites us with a little sand, a little music and a little light.

In service and servanthood,


Friday, June 1, 2012

Viruses, Politics and Slippery Slopes

The news about the computer virus Stuxnet and its heir-apparent, Flame, is a disturbing development in international diplomacy that we need to pay careful attention to.

Now don’t get me wrong.  Iran appears to have intentions against a number of other nations that we cannot stand by and allow to develop.

But I’m not sure that supporting the development of VERY complex, VERY intelligent viruses is the answer.

When diplomacy fails and we have to resort to using traditional ordinance against regimes that we consider evil, the ordinance cannot be used against us in return since by using it, the ordinance itself is also destroyed.  The regime may have its own ordinance to use against us but they are not using our own against us.

However, the use of viruses is a different matter and as demonstration of the danger inherent in its use, let’s roll the calendar back to the 1980’s and a relatively unknown person by the name of Osama Bin Laden.

It served our purposes back in the 1980’s to provide him with money, training and intel to help him and his cohorts to repel the Soviets in their effort to invade Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, this training created a mind that was better enabled to turn against us, producing 9/11 and the significantly changed world that we now live in.

Encouraging, supporting, enabling or creating the virus that Iran now confirms is attacking it has the potential to produce a similar result on a much larger level.

Since the source code for the virus is now in many people hands, including the people whom it was supposed to attack, it won’t be long before variants of it are retasked to accomplish other tasks.

Such tasks could include using it against our own infrastructure including banking, transportation, communication, energy and self-defence systems.

When this happens, we will cry foul and claim that such actions violate international law.

This may be true but the fact of the matter is that we will have played a greater hand at enabling the antagonist than we would care to admit.

Our politicians need to think longer-term and understand the strategic and tactical ramifications of what they are doing and how their actions could come back to haunt us.

And we need to work harder at holding them accountable.

Otherwise, when the banking system goes offline at some point, trains stop moving, water supplies do strange things, cell networks go down, our electricity turns off or our defense systems deactivate or activate prematurely, it may be too late to complain.

Think it’s impossible?

Having been on the inside of many of the organizations in these respective spaces, I can assure you that it is extremely possible, especially given the sophistication of Stuxnet / Flame.

And besides ….. it’s when we believe that we are impervious and immortal that we are at our most vulnerable.

In service and servanthood,


Addendum – June 19, 2012

On June 19th, the Washington Post confirmed through sources that the US and Israel worked together to create the Stuxnet and Flame viruses.  It is a slippery slope indeed.  The story is here.

Addendum – August 7, 2012

Officials have confirmed that drone technology developed in the US is now being used by drug cartels to look for gaps in border security.  We have to be careful that technology designed to make our life more secure doesn’t place it in greater risk as a result.

Addendum – August 21, 2012

And then we have this headline Is the US government helping cyber crooks? as crooks may be using a variant of the Stuxnet virus to steal information (including banking info) from American citizens.  The problem now is that the evil has been released and has unlimited potential.  Can it be stopped?  I wonder.

You Can’t Please ‘Em All

I get hundreds of emails every time I post a new blog, with writers expressing opinions in alignment with and in direct contrast to the things I write.  My only regret is that I don’t have the time to answer each one individually.

One of the things that intrigues me are the people who insist that I focus strictly on one subject or another instead of the broad range of themes I like to write about.

Some readers would prefer that I stick with the inspirational side of my brain, along the lines of blogs like “I Met a Man On a Journey” or “Creating an Oprah Moment”.

Others prefer my more serious side with entries like “Syria and the Elephant in the Room” or entries that conspiracy-focused people enjoy, such as the blog “Something Wicked This Way Comes”.

Occasionally, I get to express a serious topic with a sense of humor, as I did with “The Tyranny of Secrecy” or “Conspiracies and the Attraction of Redaction”.

Many times I ache to tell more interesting stories from my professional capacity but I cannot for a variety of personal and professional reasons.

What Motivates Me

There’s a reason why I enjoy expressing such contrasting themes.

I believe that the world is filled with unlimited potential, unlimited beauty and the possibility of unlimited sharing and love.  When I feel overwhelmed with these feelings and the possibilities I see in the world, I naturally write about them.

That being said, I believe that such beauty and unlimited potential can be destroyed unless we invest the energy to protect it. 

It would be nice if the world only contained uber-intelligent, all-loving, unselfish people who aren’t driving agendas for personal gain at the expense of others.

However, in the serious world that I live in, I have had many opportunities to witness people who, if allowed to proceed with their personal agendas, would diminish the unlimited potential that we have on this planet.  When I see such people, I feel called to write about them, their intentions and their potential negative impact.

I don’t want people to think the way I do.

I just want them to think.

Taking Things For Granted

Our right and ability to live in a world of unlimited potential is not something we should take for granted.

When we take it for granted, we may wake up some day and discover that it vanished while we “looked the other way” or we ignored the “flashing warning lights”.

And so we should do what we can to promote, highlight and cherish the beauty all around us while at the same time, avoid embracing a Pollyanna viewpoint that if we ignore the evil around us, it will simply vanish or cease to exist.

As in the corporate world I live in, our greatest hopes, dreams and intentions aren’t dashed by what we are aware of.  They are destroyed by what we choose to ignore or by that which we shrug off as not important enough to understand at the moment.

I write about subjects that move my heart.

I write about what makes the world the beautiful place it is.

I write about what makes human beings the wonderful creatures that we are.

And I write about who or what has the potential to destroy our potential if we aren’t paying attention.

That’s why I like to bring a smile to your face on some days, to make you cry on others and to make you angry on occasion.

Because when I have done that, I have made you think.

And when I have made you think, my mission has been accomplished.

Closing Musing - Bilderberg Meetings

A number of people familiar with my background and my connections to people in Opus Dei, the Bilderberg Group  and other such groups have asked me for my thoughts on the Bilderberg meetings taking place in Virginia this weekend.   After all, groups like this attract conspiracy people and conspiracy people “know the truth is out there” and for some reason, they feel that I can help them find this truth.

And yes, in my official capacity on Wall St., I even worked for members of the Mafia at different points.  Wall St. has stranger stuff going on than one will see reported in the news and besides, these people have real jobs also. :-)

And so with a nod to the people who have asked for my thoughts about how the Bilderberg Group is taking over the world, I offer a snippet of the agenda for this weekend’s Bilderberg meetings:

1. The Roswell UFO crash of 1947 and the impact on pan-galactic seatbelt laws.

2. Alien abduction and the introduction of a less intrusive, more enjoyable probe.

3. Big oil and its evil intention to supply us with what we are demanding anyway.

4. Fast food and the need to make each of us 1000 pounds so that we can produce more energy for the Matrix.

5. The imminent destruction of the Milky Way Galaxy as we collide with the Andromeda Galaxy in 4 billion years and the call by retailers to get our Christmas shopping done earlier as a result.

6. The destruction of the soundstage in Nevada that for some reason, curiously resembles the surface of the Moon.

7. The 2012 theory, its positive impact on the publishing, new age and pharmaceutical industries and the need to find a new cause to keep those industries thriving.

8. The demise of Research in Motion and how to stem the tide of RIM jokes.

9. Making Air Canada a profitable airline.

Yeah … you caught me.

I don’t believe #9 is possible either.

And by the way, Elvis will be wrapping up the weekend with a concert of his favorite hits.

The world is a beautiful place.

But it stays that way when we make a conscious choice to keep it that way and we don’t waste our time, energy, money and unlimited potential on that which doesn’t matter.

In service and servanthood,