Friday, April 24, 2015

Alberta Politicians and Their Visions? How About YOUR Vision?

Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality. - Warren Bennis

The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision. - Helen Keller

The political rhetoric is heating up in Alberta as the Province gets closer to its provincial election and as usual, social media is aflame with emotion-laced, data-less pleas by politicians and supporters promoting a message of “support my party or suffer doom from your ignorance”.

There are fascinating things I see in the discussions amongst the political minions when it comes to politics:

  1. Few of them understand the complexity of government and what it takes to run one even quasi-effectively.
  2. Few of them understand the plans of any of the parties that are running, including their own party.
  3. Few ask for data to back up political claims by any party, including their own party.
  4. There’s a lot of political Kool Aid being consumed. It has some interesting side effects, including making people wide-eyed and incapable of having reasonable, rational, fact-based conversations.
  5. Too many minions have very strong (translation: rabid) opinions despite lack of data or not being able to verify the data they have been provided with.
  6. Too few people understand this basic truth as expressed by Mark Twain: “Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable”.  Statistics may be “accurately expressed” but it may not be expressing a truth as interpreted / shared by the recipient (often done deliberately by the person delivering the original statistic).  For example, if I earned $1 last year and $2 this year, my revenue is up 100% over last year.  Sounds impressive until you realize I only earned an extra dollar.
  7. Few can define a truly measurable vision for their Province.  PS – “lots of jobs”, “great healthcare” and “strong education” are not measurable – they are hopes and dreams.  Ask them about their next vacation or even their new mobile device, however, and data flows freely and copiously.
  8. Practically all of them demand that politicians create a grand vision that bodes well for the minions in absence of a minion’s own definition.
  9. Minions, without any data and built entirely on emotion, simply know that their leader will guide them to salvation while all other leaders will guide them to hell.
  10. The amazing concept of how many people will vote for / against someone based on a single sound bite or a candidate’s appearance.
  11. The number of people who blindly vote for a party because they have always done it or because “it is their father’s party”.
  12. How many cowards find courage in anonymity on social media, discovering a voice of ignorance that feels encouraged to bash unfairly or spread misinformation / intimidation while hiding behind a nom de plume and a fake photo.
  13. The number of people who spoil a vote, cast a protest vote or don’t vote at all with the intent of “sending the system a message”.  The only message it sends is that you don’t care if your voice is heard or not.  In an interesting coincidence, many of those people are also the loudest complainers about their government.
  14. The number of politicians who get elected navigating / exploiting the nuances contained within the previous points.

It is human nature that we don’t take the time to really understand things around us unless it directly impacts us and while it is true that government does directly impact us, most of us don’t see it that way. 

It is also true that government is very complex, being too complex for almost anyone living on the planet to understand, interpret, guide or predict and if we took the time to understand all the nuances, we wouldn’t have time for other trivial, mundane things … things like living our lives, earning an income, supporting families and all of those other unimportant things.

For this reason, most of us say “you go do your governing thing and leave me to do my thing and we’re all good …. well, until you disappoint me and don’t give me what I want or need.”

Then we get angry, we pay little measurable attention to what politicians offer us in their new definition of our future and then we repeat the process.

Einstein’s Law of Insanity comes to mind, doesn’t it?

Parallels in Life ….

Few of us build a business, design a home or even plan a vacation without knowing exactly where we are going, how we are getting there, how much it is going to cost, how long it will take and how we are going to pay for it.

And yet we allow politicians to do just that when they promote grand plans with nothing measurable in them.

Imagine going to the bank for a loan, telling them that you are going to build “a structure”, you don’t know how big it will be, what it will be used for or when it will be completed.  You also remind them that at any time, you might tear down the structure and start all over or abandon it all together.  Oh … and by the way … you don’t know how or if you will ever be able to pay off the loan.  However, you remind the bank that the structure will be glorious in appearance, it will serve your needs well and will be a legacy for generations to come.

Try not to resist them too strongly as they escort you to the door.

The Bottom Line

Before we get all upset with politicians who exceed the bar in rhetoric but don’t meet the bar in reality, we need to ask ourselves this question:

What measurable vision do WE see for our Province?

If we can’t define a vision ourselves, how can we expect someone else to define one that we like and even if it is one that we like, how can we be sure that they are delivering on the vision instead of delivering a mere dream (or a nightmare)?

We don’t set out on a journey (or allow someone else to take us on one) unless we know where we are going or where we are being taken.

The same should apply to politicians.

Because if we don’t know or care where we are going or how we are getting there, doesn’t it seem a little insane to expect that a complete stranger has the interest, intention and capability to guide or take us there?

Otherwise, we run the risk of proving the lesson that Alice learned:

Alice and the Cheshire Cat

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to”, said the Cat.

“I don’t care much where ….”, said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go”, said the Cat.

“…. so long as I get somewhere”, Alice added as an explanation.

“Oh, you’re sure to do that”, said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

Do you care where you are going or where you are being carried?

Are you sure?

How do you know ?

What are you doing about it?

Because if you choose to do nothing or you choose to make uninformed decisions, I think you receive the government that you deserve and you therefore have no right to complain about it.

What do you think about that?

In service and servanthood,


Addendum – Alberta PC Party Goes Down In Defeat - May 6, 2015

Former Premier Prentice guided to the PC Party to a crushing defeat in the Alberta election on May 5, 2015.  Those of us in the PC Party who warned the leadership about the importance of being honest with citizens, about being respectful and to use data instead of fear mongering were told to mind our own business.

I guess a few voters felt the same way also and made it their business to tell the PC Party what they thought of them.

To know the difference between confidence and arrogance is to walk the fine line between great results and embarrassment.

The PC Party just learned the difference.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Are You Out of Time?

"Live life so completely that when death comes to you like a thief in the night, there will be nothing left for him to steal." - Anonymous

"Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live." - Norman Cousins

The #1206 “fiction” series continues …

“What do you want to do today?”

The question burned in Abigail’s mind as she drove along the highway, her mind occupied by the question she had asked Gabriel before setting off for the day.  It was part of their early morning routine – making love, breakfast, shower and then the inevitable “What do you want to do today?”.  Life had given her the freedom to do whatever she pleased but she found that the city she lived in was starting to disappoint her when it came to offering “things to do” and with that, the question had become difficult for them to answer in recent weeks.

Some days it was frustrating, other days they managed to find something to do and on other days, they just couldn’t see why they were here at all.

Her brow furrowed as she reflected on this and in her moment of total concentration, she also didn’t see the semi to her right that lost control and careened across four lanes before crushing her car.

Abigail awoke with a start and realized that she was sitting on a plush chair in a softly lit room.  “Wasn’t I just driving on the highway?”, she thought.

“Disorientation is normal”, a gentle voice on the other side of the room said, “Please relax.”

Abigail jumped slightly on hearing the voice and realized it had come from a person sitting opposite her. Try as she might, she could not make out any features of the person, being obscured by the soft shadows that fell around the source of the voice.  She attempted to stand up and realized that she couldn’t.

“Relax”, said the voice, “You are in no danger.”

“Where am I?”, asked Abigail, “I could have sworn I was just driving my car.”

“You are safe”, replied the voice, “That is all that matters right now.  I have something to show you but first I need to ask you this.  How well do you think you have lived your Life up to this moment?  Do you believe you have lived it to your fullest potential, Abigail?”

“What do you mean?”, Abigail asked, her brow furrowed in confusion.  “How do you know my name?”

“Observe”, the voice replied, ignoring her questions.

Off to her right, an image formed, holographic in form. Abigail stared at the “movie” that played before her.

She watched a woman sobbing, her head in her hands as her children stared at her helplessly.

Then the image changed and was replaced with someone else receiving bad news about their business.  “If only I had had the courage to take action earlier”, the person in the movie said.

The image changed again and Abigail watched in horror as a man savagely beat a woman.

Once more the image changed and she saw a young person sitting in a bedroom, a gun in his hand.  The person lifted the gun towards his head …..

And suddenly the images were gone.

Abigail swallowed hard and turned back to the mystery host.  “Who are they?”, she asked.

“They were people who were waiting for you”, replied the voice, “But you never showed up.”

“What do you mean, ‘I never showed up’?”, asked Abigail.

“Well”, the voice replied, “We spent years creating just the right experiences for your Life so that you would acquire the skills, knowledge and opportunity to help them but you chose not to honor the gifts or the responsibility we provided to you.  In not honoring them, you condemned to failure those whom you had been prepared to help.”

“I have no idea what you are talking about”, Abigail said earnestly, “I don’t even know these people.”

“That is true”, replied the voice calmly, “You don’t.  However, the gifts we had provided to you were intended to be shared with others who would in turn influence others and so on until the right people got to the people you saw at just the right moment.”

Abigail sat in silence, bewildered by what the voice was telling her.

“I suspect”, continued the voice, “That perhaps you may have been waiting for just the right moment to help others or to do more for others.  Would that be a lie?”

“That’s not a lie at all”, replied Abigail, “I’ve been very busy ….”

The voice cut her off.

“So if that’s the case”, it asked, “What would you consider to be the key things you need before doing more for others?  What is the one thing that, if it occurred, would enable you to do more for others?”

Abigail paused, struggling to answer the question.

“You can’t think of anything, can you?”, asked the voice.

Abigail shook her head slowly.

“And so the question becomes ‘If not now, then when?’”, observed the voice.

“If I had known what you are telling me, then I would have done something about it”, Abigail said, resisting the message that the voice was sharing.

“Are you sure?”, asked the voice, “How do you know?  Give me one definitive piece of proof to support what you just said.  We provided the gifts, the resources, the time and the opportunity.  What else did you need?”

Abigail was silent once again.

“We set everything up perfectly”, said the voice, “All you needed to do was your part.  By choosing not to do your part, you prevented others from playing their part for others.  How does this make you feel?”

Abigail felt her eyes tear up but she remained speechless.

“Do you not pray and read your Bible every day?”, asked the voice gently.

Abigail nodded quietly.

“Then either you believe what you practice and know that you have an Advocate in your corner who would not allow you to fail in the actions you take or you don’t believe such an Advocate exists, in which case you are wasting your time with empty words imploring guidance from a non-existent source of help”, asserted the voice.

“I believe”, said Abigail.

“If you believe but don’t take action, I would posit that you are either wasting your time or the time of the Person you are praying to when you ask for support or guidance regarding actions you never take”, challenged the voice.

Abigail said nothing.

“Then what are you waiting for?”, asked the voice insistently.

“I don’t know”, mumbled Abigail.

“All of these things you endure in your Life are for a reason”, the voice said, “If there were no reason for the things you enjoy and endure, then Life would mean nothing.  What would be the point of Life if that were case?”

The voice paused for a moment before continuing.

“Think of this”, it said, “Think of your time like money in the bank.  You can go to your bank and ask for an account balance – how much you have earned, how much you have spent and how much you have left.  You can always add more money any time you want.  Time is nothing like that.  You can’t ask what your initial deposit was, you can’t add more to your time account and once you have spent it, you cannot earn more.  Once the account is empty, it is too late to do anything with it.  Do you understand?”

Abigail nodded, still saying nothing.

“You must leave in a moment”, said the voice, “But first, it is important for you to understand the gifts you have been given, to understand what they are capable of producing and to understand the importance of exercising them vigorously every day.  They will provide a means of creating outcomes you are meant to produce for yourself and others.  Does this make sense?”

“Yes it does”, replied Abigail.

“Good”, said the voice, “Observe.”

Once again, a holographic image appeared next to Abigail and she saw images of herself.  One moment she was talking to a group of people, another time she was writing to someone, another time she was serving food to the homeless and finally, with some shock, she observed herself chatting happily with the President of the US.

“All things are possible to those who believe it to be so”, noted the voice.

She shook her head, not comprehending what she was watching.

“For those to whom much has been given, much is expected”, the voice continued.

Abigail started to speak but she was interrupted.

“Wait”, ordered the voice.

The image was replaced by the image she had seen earlier, of the young person lifting the gun up to his head.  As tears flowed down his face and he mentally said goodbye to the world, his phone chirped and he saw a text message scroll across the top of the screen.  “You are a great person”, it read, “I need to give you a hug today.”  The person dropped the gun beside him and as he wept in gratitude, he picked up his phone and texted back “I would like to get a hug from you today.”

“Now you understand”, said the voice as the image faded, “Our actions, good and bad, touch thousands of people we will never know.  Now I have one question for you before you go.”

Abigail returned her attention to the direction of the voice.

“You asked Gabriel earlier today “What do you want to do today?”.  Now I ask you, Abigail,  “What do you want to do today?”

Abigail opened her mouth to speak ….

“Blood pressure is stabilizing, doctor”, came a voice outside of Abigail’s peripheral vision.

Abigail suddenly found herself lying on her back, staring into bright lights and surrounded by masked people.

A masked face leaned in to hers, looked deeply into her eyes, said “Hang in there, Abigail.  You’re going to be ok.  You don’t know how lucky you are today.”

Somewhere in the back of her mind, she knew.

To be continued.

© 2015 – Harry Tucker – All Rights Reserved


May this serve as an inspiration and not a condemnation.

Do something for someone today ….

While you still have time …

And while they still do.

Series Origin

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 as well as my own professional background as a Wall St. / Fortune 25 strategy and large-scale technology architect.

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. :-)

This “fictional” musing is a continuation of the #1206 series noted here.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Why Politicians Fear (or Hate) People Like Me

Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality. - Nikos Kazantzakis

Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one. - Albert Einstein

We live in a fantasy world, a world of illusion. The great task in life is to find reality. - Iris Murdoch

The further a society drifts from truth the more it will hate those who speak it. - George Orwell

I’m thinking about running an ad on Craigslist offering to sell the people of Alberta dead parrots.


Because as the election rhetoric (translation: BS, obfuscation, intentional misdirection, etc.) heats up in the Province of Alberta, people like me who study strategy (and people) for a living watch with a mix of amusement, sadness and disappointment as politicians fall over each other attempting to sell the equivalent of dead parrots to the people.

And it seems that too many people either won’t tell the politicians that they don’t want dead parrots, they are afraid to demand a living parrot or they don’t dare to demand something completely different than a parrot at all, living or deceased.

Oh sure, there is lots of complaining, bickering and the like but the specific, measurable, meaningful asks are few and far between.

With that, the typical exchange between politician and citizen tends to look more like Monty Python’s Dead Parrot Sketch, where a slick salesman sells an unsuspecting customer a dead parrot by waxing on about its positive attributes like its beautiful plumage.

Unfortunately for the people, they are often easily beguiled by such smooth talking individuals and shortly after “buying the dead parrot”, the people return to lamenting that their choice did not produce the result that they hoped for or desired.

Too many politicians don’t care about this, since they have bought themselves another term in which they hope to convince the citizenry that something great is being accomplished and if nothing else, they bought themselves another four years to do “whatever”.

And so the cycle repeats, with the same “customer” going back to the same “salesman” every four years and he / she again sells them something they don’t want or need.

Meanwhile, people like me come along and instead of succumbing to the polished, practiced, political patter, we ask questions like “Why?”, “How do you know?” and “What data / knowledge can you offer up to support your belief / intention?”

We tend to view politicians and their promises through lenses like this one (click on the diagram for a viewable version):

Balanced Scorecard in Politics

Unfortunately, when people like me do this, most politicians don’t stick around long to even attempt to answer our questions, with the assumption that we are not in the market for a dead parrot or anything else they are selling.

In fact, since we represent a threat to the dead parrot market, they work very hard to avoid us, discredit us, threaten us (yes – it happens) or to outshout us.

They reason that for every one of us who can’t be sold a dead parrot, there are thousands more who can be and are gullible enough to be convinced that it’s either the best thing ever or that there is nothing else out there anyway so they might as well settle for it.

And besides, they posit – even a dead parrot can look beautiful and valuable when positioned in the right way.

Are you in the market for a dead parrot?

Are you sure?

Because if you are not, it takes more than complaining out loud in coffee shops, on talk show radio and on social media streams to make this point clear to the people who would like to sell you one.

Otherwise you will end up squawking like a parrot – a lot of noise and wing flapping while the desired potential and result in government fades away ….. again.

In service and servanthood,


Addendum – Alberta PC Party Goes Down In Defeat - May 6, 2015

Former Premier Prentice guided to the PC Party to a crushing defeat in the Alberta election on May 5, 2015.  Those of us in the PC Party who warned the leadership about the importance of being honest with citizens, about being respectful and to use data instead of fear mongering were told to mind our own business.

I guess a few voters felt the same way also and made it their business to tell the PC Party what they thought of them.

To know the difference between confidence and arrogance is to walk the fine line between great results and embarrassment.

The PC Party just learned the difference.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Going Bat Sh*T Crazy With Alberta Premier Jim Prentice

The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do. - Michael Porter

The election is on in Alberta and the Twitterverse has lit up with its usual cacophony of taunts, counter-taunts, jokes, lies, exaggeration, promises, counter-promises and the usual medley of stuff often found on #ableg and #abpoli.

As a strategy guy, I am always intrigued by choices people make – choices in their thoughts, words and actions and how such choices are in alignment (hopefully) with their intentions and goals.

And that’s why Premier Jim Prentice’s choice of songs to kick of his campaign is so intriguing.

He chose Nickelback’s Burn it to the Ground.  For those not familiar with the song, I have included a version below with lyrics although I will warn you that the lyrics are not safe for the office and possibly not safe for younger kids.

It is an interesting departure from the typical “rev up the crowd” song often used in political events in that the song contains lyrics like these:

Well it's midnight, damn right, we're wound up too tight
I've got a fist full of whiskey, the bottle just bit me
That shit makes me bat shit crazy
We've got no fear, no doubt, all in balls out

We're screaming like demons, swinging from the ceiling
I got a fist full of fifties, tequila just hit me
We got no class, no taste, no shirt, and shit faced
We got it lined up, shot down, firing back straight crown

It is intriguing as it is not only a song that one can’t play in public at many events (for example: a typical political stop at a senior citizens’ residence, any place where kids hang out or how about getting a women’s group to yell enthusiastically “all in balls out” ), it also reflects an attitude that is crude and classless.

And that is just the opposite of what one expects when it comes to the rules of decorum for places such as that of the Office of the Premier of Alberta.

Well, unless you are a blind follower incapable of independent thought who thinks that use of this song is hilarious or brilliant.  For those people, I would recommend that you find a nice public place, plant your PC Party flag proudly, start singing the song at the top of your lungs and see how cool it is (and how brave you are).  Better yet, have the guts to start using the lyrics in your social media streams.  Show courage – make sure your name and photo are clearly displayed for people to be able to identify you instead of using a gutless, unidentifiable pic and bio.

While there, make sure to add a line or two to your social media bio’s.

How about a nice poster at work?

Why not teach it to your kids for door knocking purposes?

You get my meaning.

Meanwhile, if I met the Premier (or any MLA or almost any human being in a professional setting) and made a comment like “Let’s go get shit faced and …”, I’d expect to be thrown out and to never be invited back.

And yet that is the message being used in the kick-off of a campaign???

Maybe he thinks it will appeal to the many Alberta drivers who like this vehicle embellishment:

Vehicle testicles

Fortunately for Alberta, most Albertans are too classy for this embellishment or the use of a song that suggests to other Canadians that the redneck jokes may be closer to reality than they really are since this is the best that the Leader of the Province can produce when it comes to rallying or inspiring people.

Bottom Line

It’s one thing to be confident going into an election.

But it’s another thing to be so overconfident (or arrogant) that one thinks that one can break rules of decorum and classiness with a song whose lyrics smack of ignorance, crassness and yes … a little too much redneck.

This is the downside of wiping out the Official Opposition as Premier Prentice did - it has given him licence to take the low road without fear of a negative backlash that would ordinarily have taught him that such strategy is a poor one … or potentially a losing one.

And when a leader or role model chooses to take the low road out of an excess of hubris as in this case, it sends a message to the people of Alberta (including our youth, the future of the Province) that the low road in anything is now an acceptable standard - that the principle of character doesn’t matter anymore.

Do you believe that the low road is an acceptable standard?

Do you think that the manner by which leader or role model thinks and acts matters?

What do you think?

May 5th is Election Day in Alberta – may what you think shout loudly in the polling stations.

Because politicians don’t seem to hear anything nor do they seem to care about anything unless the people tell them what the people think with a ballot. 

Well … that is unless the people like the label “no class, no taste, no shirt, and shit faced” … for themselves or for their leader.

Do you?

In service and servanthood,



Do you remember when this faux pas contributed to the list of concerns about former Opposition Leader Danielle Smith’s campaign a few years ago?

Danielle Smith campaign bus

I think today’s faux pas is much worse.

What do you think?

I also wonder what female PC candidates think of the line “We've got no fear, no doubt, all in balls out”.

I don’t think it sounds very respectful to them.

What do you think?

Addendum – Alberta PC Party Goes Down In Defeat - May 6, 2015

Former Premier Prentice guided to the PC Party to a crushing defeat in the Alberta election on May 5, 2015.  I guess the song proved more prophetic than he realized it would be.

Those of us in the PC Party who warned the leadership about the importance of being honest with citizens, about being respectful and to use data instead of fear mongering were told to mind our own business.

I guess a few voters felt the same way also and made it their business to tell the PC Party what they thought of them.

To know the difference between confidence and arrogance is to walk the fine line between great results and embarrassment.

The PC Party just learned the difference.

Hopefully they will also learn the art of branding, having discovered the danger of dropping the corporate brand in favor of a personal brand as demonstrated by the PC Party membership card which will obviously be changing.

PCAA Membership Card

Go here for an insightful analysis by Jordan Pinkster, President of the Calgary Southeast Constituency Board for the PC Party at the time this blog was posted.

The PC Party of Alberta should listen closely to his observations – there is much insight contained within.