Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Maximizing Potential–Avoiding Ask-Holes

As I reflected upon a request of me recently, it’s not hard to figure out why so many organizations, whether for-profit, not-for-profit, religious or any other type are struggling these days.

The request violated what I believe to be a critical equation in engagement, the equation looking like this:

Actually, I’m just kidding.

The equation looks like this.


In my situation, the person making the ask ignored repeated indications of what mattered to me and had nothing to offer in return.  Unfortunately for them, the interaction did not produce the result they desired and possibly has destroyed the future potential for a positive interaction.  The interaction was all about their success at anyone else’s expense.

In fact, their ask list was so great that they created a relationship deficit that I like to refer to as an ask-hole (yeah yeah, pun partially intended Smile), where the asks were made in ignorance of what mattered to me and where there was nothing offered in return despite the number of asks.

Such ask-holes create nothing but frustration, ineffective relationships, untapped potential and poor results.  I touch on this in a slightly different way in this mindmap (click on the image for a viewable version).


True success that is sustainable and which produces a real “win-win” can only be manifested when there is a sweet spot alignment.

When you are trying to engage a person or organization, are you aware of the sweet spot of that person or organization, making offers that resonate with it before making asks that should also resonate with the same sweet spot or are you focused on creating an ask-hole?

Are you sure?

How do you know?

In service and servanthood,


Friday, May 24, 2013

Angels Amongst Us

As I write this blog, it dawns on me that my previous blog was almost my last.

Crossing a street in Calgary during a rainstorm today, a driver in a black Jeep, ignoring the fact that he had a red light and I had a walk signal, sped through his red signal straight towards me.

Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t aware of him coming as he was approaching from a blind spot in my vision, partially behind me, in the rain.

I, on the other hand, couldn’t be missed.  I was wearing a full-length rain poncho – one of those neon pink ones that once gazed upon, burns a silhouette of my 6’3” form onto your retinas that is still visible in your vision an hour later.

Fortunately for me, the guy in a blue compact car behind the Jeep recognized what was developing and blew the horn repeatedly in warning.

His warning caught my attention and as I turned and saw the Jeep bearing down on me, I dove one way, the aggressive driver in the Jeep swerved the other way at the last moment (even as he started directly at me) and I escaped a fate that I don’t want to analyze at the moment.

It happened in a matter of seconds as these things often do.

When the driver of the blue car was able to drive through the intersection, I waved to him in gratitude and he smiled and waved back as he drove off in the rain.

A passing, random connection with significant impact for both of us … or maybe not so random.

He is a living angel who, having completed his purpose for the day (at least with me), drove off without fanfare and without stopping to allow me to heap the accolades of praise and gratitude upon him that he deserved.

We are fortunate that there are angels like him amongst us, lifting others, saving others and doing what they can to make the lives of others a better thing.

They do it without hesitation and without a need for gratitude, praise or reward.

They do it because it’s the right thing to do.

And then they drive off into the rain ….

…. or ride off into the sunset ….

…. off to help someone else.

I am reminded today that even when we don’t think we need “guardian angels”, it sure feels good to know they’re around.

Maybe someone around you needs the help of a “guardian angel”.

Maybe the person who needs the services of a “guardian angel” is you.

And whether it is you who has an opportunity  to lift someone else today or it is you who needs to be lifted, there is comfort in knowing that there are angels amongst us and that help is on the way.

Where would we be without them?

In service and servanthood …. and in gratitude for all the angels amongst us who make the world a better place.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Strategy and Degrees of Insanity

I have a new plan to make the world indebted to me.

Every time someone offers me a penny for my thoughts, I will give them my two cents worth and will then invoice them for the difference.

Sounds insane, doesn’t it?

But is it any more insane than the various forms of strategy that many people and organizations embrace?

Take for example, the intention of traveling from San Diego to 60 Madison Avenue in New York City and the need to produce a strategy and a tactical roadmap to get me from my point of origin to my destination.

How do some people describe the solution necessary to accomplish this?

Scenario 0 – No Formal Approach At All

It is surprising how many people and organizations still believe that the following is a strategy ….

Or this ….

Or this (wandering blindly, potentially causing them to look like the thing they are trying to pin the tail on) ….

Or this (in absence of everything else) ….

…. when relying on these alone usually produces this.

Hopefully someone else’s lack of appropriate strategy and tactics doesn’t put you on the sacrificial table.

Lewis Carroll expressed this conundrum perfectly in this insightful quote from “Alice in Wonderland”:

“ One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. “Which road do I take?” she asked. “Where do you want to go?” was his response. “I don’t know,” Alice answered. “Then,” said the cat, “it doesn’t matter. ”

Scenario 1 – Irrelevance of Solution

Assuming a strategic intention and tactical roadmap exist, a solution may look like this and the owner will display it with great pride.

Unfortunately, the roadmap of China provides zero information of relevance to get me from San Diego to NYC although the details do look very impressive, especially to outsiders or people who have no context for the problem or the desired solution.

Scenario 2 – Overly Generalized View of the Goal

Some people have a general idea of the destination but define it too vaguely to hit it with any level of success.  They may also be ignoring the importance of knowing where they are starting from, thus missing critical contextual information.

Scenario 3 – Overly Detailed / Narrow View of the Goal


Some people have such a myopic view of the destination that they can describe it in incredible detail but have no context for anything else of relevance around it which would help them get to the destination (and in this case, they still don’t have the context of where they are starting from).

Scenario 4 – Solution Too High-Level

Excellent.  I can now see where I am and where I need to go, but what happens in between, the strategic plan and the tactical roadmap, defining the most effective way to get to my destination when and how I need to get there, are invisible.

Scenario 5 – Solution Too Low-Level

I can now see the path that takes me from where I am to where I need to go.  Unfortunately, I am also overwhelmed with a lot of other details that mean nothing to me and in fact may make my journey much more resource intensive or complicated.

Scenario 6 – Improper Resources

Oftentimes when a solution is required that has quick timing requirements or other significant resource needs, many teams need one of these to implement their solution in an appropriate manner ….

…. but are given one of these (wrong delivery medium and / or inappropriate resource availability) while being warned not to let people down.

Scenario 7 – Improper Resources … Again

The converse of scenario 6 also exists, where the solution would have been satisfied with this ….

…. but is complicated when someone insists upon this ….

…. or this ….

…. driving the complexity, time estimates, costs and other resource needs up significantly and unnecessarily.

Scenario 8 – Over Planning

Don’t be like this city that was teased by The Tonight Show. :-) Eventually one must translate intentions and planning into action and results(positive ones, hopefully).

Scenario 9 – Communication

Assuming that a great solution has been designed, communicating it in such a way that it is understood and acted upon appropriately is an essential ingredient to success.

There are many other important elements!

The bottom line is this.

Intelligent strategy and tactical roadmaps don’t happen by accident and even once they are in-hand, having them doesn’t automatically imply that they are appropriate or adequate for the situation at-hand.

Using processes such as backcasting (click on the diagram below) or some other formal, structured, vetted process is essential to success in this arena.


To believe otherwise is setting yourself up for failure …. which inevitably becomes a success opportunity for someone else.

And no matter how beautiful the strategy looks, the following is always true:

"However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results" -Winston Churchill

Which side of the failure / success equation would you rather be on?

Do you do what is necessary to accomplish this?

Are you sure?

How do you know?

Intelligent strategy and tactics are an art and a science. 

How do I know?

Offer me a penny for my thoughts and I will tell you. :-)

In service and servanthood,


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Master of Distraction

* A musing continued from Living on the Edge – How Close Do You Dare (March 29, 2013),  “Preventing A Disaster – Or Preparing To Survive One”, (November 29, 2012), "Divide and Conquer", (August 5, 2012), and “Financial Crisis” (March 11, 2008).  There is significant benefit to reading those first (oldest to newest) but it is not required. *


Four well-dressed men sat at one end of a very long boardroom table in a voluminous, softly illuminated boardroom, each studying the report before them.

One of them sat back and rubbed his eyes as the enormity of the report sank in.  Looking up at the wall, he studied the Seal of the President of the United States of America and realized that he wasn’t dreaming.

He wished he was.

And yet he was being called upon to lead this group and produce a solution to what he saw as an unsolvable problem

His colleague to his left cleared his throat and spoke.

“Well, gentlemen, here is the dilemma as I see it. The event at Benghazi was unfortunate but the press was unable to let it go, creating all kinds of difficulty for us as they ferreted out details that we preferred to keep hidden.  The Boston Marathon bombing was something we should have prevented but didn’t despite all the intel at our disposal.  The EU continues its spiral into continued recession.  The Fed has been artificially propping up the markets with the intention of showing consumers that there is confidence in the market but a few reporters have been exploring this too closely as well.  Even our efforts to increase the Department of Homeland Security’s level of preparedness for a potential domestic event by purchasing significant quantities of armor-piercing rounds has not gone unnoticed by the press.

With all of this stuff going on and the press getting too close, we leaked a little info about the IRS sniffing around into people’s affairs.  While we did this to distract the press, it has now backfired as the press has uncovered more wrong-doings on the part of the IRS than even we were aware of.

On top of that, we arrested 7 Pakistani and Saudi nationals with chemist-backgrounds after midnight last night, poking around Boston’s water supply at the Quabbin Reservoir.   Their claim that they were there for ‘intellectual curiosity’ reasons reminds us and our citizens that our essential infrastructure is totally unsecure and that our communication and first-responder infrastructure will collapse should a nationwide emergency occur as a result of the compromise of said infrastructure.  I could go on but there’s no need to rehash things yet again.  Congress and the press smell blood and we may be losing control of the situation and possibly the nation.  Thoughts?”

After an extended silence, a distinguished looking man sitting across from the leader spoke.

“If the average citizen knew the difficulty of running a nation so complex that its political, financial, judicial and societal systems have momentum and inertia all their own, maybe we could explain our vision and intentions in a way that would make sense to them, engage them and possibly avoid a more complex scenario.”

The colleague to the leader’s left laughed sarcastically and replied, “Since when has honesty been the best policy in politics?  How would you respond if your leaders held a press conference and said ‘we have no idea how anything works anymore, we have no influence whatsoever over the future direction and safety of our society and that the system just runs itself’?  Do you think that would be a confidence booster for the people?”

He paused for a moment and then said, “Gentlemen, we are no longer in the governing business.  We are in the positive message business with our goal being to keep the people contented …. and quiet.”

The distinguished man frowned, nodded slightly but said nothing.

The fourth member of the group, silent until now, said quietly, “How much longer do you think we can keep all of this under wraps before cracks start to develop and people lose confidence in the system and their leaders?”.

Again, there was extended silence in the group.

Having given his colleagues a chance to speak, the leader leaned forward and said, “If only we had something that could unite our citizens.  A common goal that everyone could embrace, a passion that would resonate with everyone …..”

He was interrupted by the distinguished gentlemen who said “Or a common threat that would unite the people”.

They stared at each other for a moment.

“What kind of threat are you thinking of?”, asked the leader.

The distinguished gentleman shrugged and said, “Perhaps that is where our esteemed guest can provide some guidance”.

They all turned their attention to the far end of the table.  A very tall, very thin man, wearing a slightly dated suit and dark glasses despite the soft lighting, quietly leaned forward as he recognized his cue.

Removing his glasses and pausing for effect, he spoke softly but forcefully.

“This is exactly where we can help”, he said, his thin lips pressing together in his best effort at a smile.

He gazed at each of the men, his large, dark eyes glittering despite the lack of obvious light to reflect off of them.

Each man shuddered as they gazed into the guest’s eyes.  Most people know evil when they see it.

The guest continued, “You need a distraction from the difficulties of the world.  We are about to offer your nation the greatest distraction it has ever witnessed”.

“And what assurances do you offer that our citizens will be safe in the course of implementing this so-called distraction?”, snapped the distinguished man.

The guest interlocked his very long fingers, sighed and then looked directly into the distinguished man’s eyes.  “I’m not used to people begging for help and setting the terms for their rescue at the same time”, he said threateningly.

Silence fell over the room as each man reflected on the decision before them.

The guest waited …. patiently.

After all, he had all the time in the world.

To be continued.


© 2013 – Harry Tucker – All Rights Reserved


This series, a departure from my usual musings,  is inspired as a result of conversations with former senior advisors to multiple Presidents of the United States, senior officers in the US Military and other interesting folks.

While this musing is just “fiction” and a departure from my musings on technology, strategy, politics and society, as a strategy guy, I do everything for a reason and with a measurable outcome in mind. :-)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Gurus and Experts–Are You Sure?

Have you noticed how the explosion of social media has produced an inordinately high percentage of gurus and experts in practically every subject?

When it comes to such experts, I’m amazed how many times I have been approached by “marketing experts” who claim to know exactly what my needs are (and therefore what the proposed solution should look like) before they have made an effort to understand my needs.

What gets even more entertaining is when they claim to understand ALL facets of the industry that they are in.

The next time someone offers me an amazing “one-size-fits-all” solution to my marketing needs and claims to be an all-knowing marketing technology guru, I think I will pull out the following diagram as produced by Luma Partners and ask the “guru” how well versed they are in the elements illustrated (click on the image to see a larger version).


The diagram nicely describes what a bewildering world the marketing technology space has grown to, how difficult it really is to be an expert in the space and how we need to apply appropriate levels of discernment when selecting a marketing technology “expert” … or any expert or guru for that matter.

Otherwise the result that the “experts” produce might be as overwhelming and / or confusing as the world that they live in.

I think that real gurus and experts have three attributes that are critical for success:

1. They don’t self-proclaim themselves as gurus and experts.

2. They have sufficient humility (not an excessive amount) to know they don’t know everything and that collaboration is essential to success.

3. They recognize that their greatest asset is the ability to listen first and then to speak instead of leaping in to solve a problem in absence of information.  They honor Gerald Weinberg’s 5 Minute Rule: “Clients always know how to solve their problems, and always tell you the solution in the first five minutes” and Stephen Covey’s 5th (of 7) Habit of Highly Effective People: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”.

I also think that if as many gurus and experts have been turned loose on the world as self-described, then most of our problems in the world should already be solved.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,


Social Media Amnesia

I am often amused when going back over family photos and seeing some where I don’t remember “being there” when the photos were taken.  Almost without exception, those photos turn out to be ones where I was the “official photographer” of some event and I was so consumed with capturing the moment that I wasn’t actually living it, thus creating a strange sense of localized amnesia.

I wonder if social media will produce similar events on a larger scale in the future.

I see so many people who can’t wait to “get away from it all” and once they do, they spend all their time tweeting updates, sharing photos on FB and Pinterest or performing other “sharing” tasks.  Some of my friends, while “resting”, post photos every 10 minutes or so (some with even greater frequency) for the entire duration of their vacation.

In fact, some post so many updates that the rest of us become exhausted by their vacation. :-)

I wonder what their families think of their social media presence or, from their perspective, their “social media absence”.

It seems that once they had a chance to “get away from it all”, that they merely shifted from one thing that consumed them (work or other source of pressure) to another thing (sharing).

What happened to “getting away from it all”?

We Need To Unplug

It’s a known psychological / physiological fact that time to truly unplug and recharge is an essential part of the human experience.

I wonder how social media and our inordinate need to share photos and updates of everything we experience will play out in terms of our need to rest once in a while in order to return to a sense of optimal performance.

For some people, they probably think “Thank goodness for social media.”, otherwise they wouldn’t have any memory of where they were.

Personally I’d rather truly immerse myself in a moment than worry about sharing it with others who may or may not even care about it.  Otherwise, in a few years I may not be able to tell when looking at old photos whether I am looking at my vacation or someone else’s. :-)

Do you prefer to truly experience your Life or do you put more emphasis on making sure that others are experiencing it?

What do you think the impact of such a decision will be on your Life in the future?

More importantly, what do you think the impact of such a decision will be on the Life of others who were with you when you were focused on being “somewhere else” mentally / electronically?

Are you sure?

How do you know?

In service and servanthood,


Monday, May 6, 2013

Problem Solving - Choose Your Solution Wisely

Last week I was meeting someone at a coffee shop in one of Canada’s primary coffee chains and sat down at the only table available.

Noticing it was covered in crumbs, I proceeded to sweep the table clean when I realized that in fact, the “crumbs” were small dead flies – about 30 or 40 of them.

Having had a few issues at this particular coffee shop before (which I had reported to staff but which weren’t acted upon) and knowing someone who worked in corporate for this chain, I decided to take action that I knew would produce a result instead of wasting my breath with the staff.

I took a picture of the dead flies and SMS’d it to my colleague in corporate.

The corporate folks acted swiftly and decisively (which I knew they would).

Returning to the same coffee shop for the first time in a week, I noticed that when some customers pulled out their smartphone, the staff was quick to tell them that picture-taking was not allowed even though the customers were not taking pictures.  As a result, I noticed a few awkward moments between customers and staff and a lot of poor assumptions being made.

It appears that the solution to the little dilemma I created last week when I reported the dead flies was to be more aggressive on cracking down on how violations are captured.

Perhaps if the business owner in question was as quick to manage the store more effectively and proactively, the need to finally send a photo wouldn’t have been necessary.

Meanwhile, I now see that the business owner is not only not proactive in effectively managing their business but they are paranoid as well.  Covering up future issues (and the reporting of them) appears to be a key priority.

It reminds me of how some people feel about breaking the law – that their actions are not illegal unless they are caught.

Stuff happens

In business, as in Life, it is important that we do the best we can to proactively meet or exceed the expectations of others.  On the occasions when we don’t achieve such an intention, it is critical that the action we take demonstrates to the other person that we really care about resolving the problem to everyone’s satisfaction.

Since problems are often inevitable, how we address them is often as important (if not more) than the existence of the problem itself and sends a clear message as to how much we really value the relationships that we create.

How do you resolve challenges that are often inevitable?

Do you go out of your way to acknowledge and fix the issue with the other person, showing others that you care about their perception of you and your relationship with them, or do you put your energy into other areas, including ignoring or burying the issue?

The choices you make become an important predictor regarding your future success – personal and professional. 

The actions you take based on the choices that resonate with you will speak much louder than any intention you may claim to have.  Failure to do “the right thing” may also create more issues, as it did for the customers in the coffee shop today who were accused of doing something that they were not.

How much value do you place on your relationships?

How do you know?

More importantly, how do they know?

In service and servanthood,


Addendum: In reflecting upon one customer who was challenged today, it occurred to me that this customer is a regular who usually sits at the table where I was sitting last week when I filed the report.  It wouldn’t surprise me if the staff thought it was this customer who filed the report which is why they zeroed in on him so quickly.  This is another example of what happens when one chooses to solve a problem in an ineffective or inappropriate manner or when someone jumps to inappropriate conclusions – potentially burning unrelated, previously undamaged relationships.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Blood Donations and Life Connections

I was honored this week to be invited to the Canadian Blood Services’ “Honouring Our Lifeblood” event, recognizing and honoring milestones for donors of blood products and it got me to thinking about my donations over more than 20 years.

At first I amused myself with thoughts of the recipients of my blood over the years, potentially numbering up to about 350 people depending on how it was used.

I was amused by the thought of them inheriting some of my traits as a result of the blood transfusion (impossible, I know, but I found it amusing to think about nonetheless).

I pictured friends and relatives of the recipients saying “I don’t know what happened to so-and-so but ever since the transfusion, they’ve been asking a lot of questions about everything, especially the questions “why?” and “how do you know?” and have become insane with helping as many people as they can”. :-)

But then I got to reflecting on how grateful recipients and their loved ones are for all people who donate blood products and how cool it is to consider that the gift of Life is offered with no thought of rewards, medals or a sense of indebtedness.

There are few such gifts in today’s world.

I reflected on all the people that I have dragged into blood collection centers in an effort to convert them into lifetime donors.  I think I’m operating at around an 80% success rate (with some funny and embarrassing stories along the way).

I also reflected on the many wonderful staff  and volunteers I have met in blood collection centers, how friendly they are, how dedicated they are and how I love to thank many of them with my favorite phrase:

“You give great needle”.

Oh yeah – let’s not forget about the free cookies.

Because it’s all about the cookies, right?

In the blood donation process, an anonymous connection is made between donor and recipient, a connection that binds them in ways mostly unknown to either in the anonymity of the donation process.

But a connection is made nonetheless, providing each side with the opportunity to see Life in a different way, a way that honors the miracle that Life is with its unlimited potential.

The connection also provides the recipient with an opportunity to experience more of the Life that otherwise may have been prematurely taken away from them.

So as I look at the invitation before me, it’s more than just a fun get-together.

It’s a reminder that we all have an opportunity to create miracles for people we will never meet (or to be the recipient of such a miracle).

And that’s pretty darn cool if you ask me.

And … oh yeah … let’s not forget the free cookies.

If you have never given blood, please consider giving it a try.

If you have given blood or continue to do so, from one donor to another, I’d like to thank you.

It’s a gift you will always feel proud to offer and one that a complete stranger will be extremely grateful to receive … for the rest of their Life.

And besides, statistically speaking, there is a good chance that the recipient of an anonymous donation may be you someday.

But between now and then, before you receive such an amazing gift, maybe you can even the karmic playing field in advance by helping a few others along the way.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,