Posts Tagged ‘Systems thinking’

Sensitivity

November 20, 2009

I listened to some sports talk radio while stuck in a traffic jam this evening.  The topic of discussion was the University of Kansas head football coach Mark Mangino and the complaints from his players about some comments he made.

Disclosure: I have no clue how Mangino treats his players.  I don’t care much.  He might have said some really bad things.  I don’t know.  But, the quotes I’ve heard so far don’t warrant the attention this is getting.

The show hosts were up-in-arms as they repeated the quotes on the air.  One rule of thumb I have is that if the quotes are repeatable under FCC rules, then it might not be terribly offensive.

Two callers in a row agreed with me.  The callers’ advice to the college football players – toughen up and get over it.  The show hosts thought the callers were way off base.  I tend to agree with the callers.   I strive to treat others with respect.  I think it’s a worthwhile goal.  I don’t see the upside to meanness.

However, I’ve also had a lot of rotten things said to me in my life.  My Mom taught me a very valuable lesson.  Sticks and stones.

The toughest part is that many times, buried in those rotten things was some truth.  That’s when it hurts the most, especially if you are not prepared to hear the truth.  But, I needed to hear it.  I benefited from listening.

The point the callers were trying to make is that with all of the attention given to the sensitivity of how someone says something, we forget that what they are saying might be right.   And sometimes, missing that truth in the message can be costly.

 

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Are You Qualified for that Position?

November 18, 2009

During the 2008 elections, friends thought I was crazy when I told them that I was disappointed in both tickets.  I said the most qualified person for the job of President is the vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, because she was the only one with organizational/political leadership experience.  But, I would also say that I thought that she was still not qualified.  I would want her to have more than a few years of leadership experience before promoting her to POTUS.  Give me at least one full term as Governor, maybe two.

I’d typically hear responses like: But McCain or Biden have been Senators for so long.  Or, Barack headed up an well-run campaign.  Thanks for proving my point on McCain and Biden.  Showing up and voting on stuff isn’t organizational leadership experience.  I’ll consider some of their being in the national public eye for so many years, but I’d still rather see them go run something else.  If you want to be POTUS, go run your state for a term or two, or go run a business, military unit or some Federal department.

As for Obama, the ‘well-run campaign’ defense is a joke.  A well-run campaign?  Go manage political campaigns.

What was a bigger joke was that people thought I was crazy.

I’ll go back to the NFL head coach test.  You own a team.  You want that team to do well, make fans happy and make money.  Who are you going to hire to run it?

You’re going to look for proven experience.   You’re not going to promote the guy that’s been working in the PR department for two years (and rarely shows up to work to boot) to run your team or the other guy who has been your team’s radio announcer for 20 years.  You’re going to look for proven talent within the college ranks and professional coordinators that have a fair amount of proven, concrete experience.  Guys who can usually provide a concrete list of results and achievements such as, “led offense to highest scoring ranking for 3 out of 5 years.”

Most of us would be more discerning about our choice of head coach than we were about our choice for POTUS.  One party chose glitz (a good speech giver) that provided a historic moment in the history of the country, tempered with a less historic vice-president just-in-case (“Stand Up Chuck!  Let the People See You. What Am I Talking About?”).  The other party chose the guy who had been around for awhile and they thought was well enough liked by the other side to pull some of their votes.

When did the idea that you should have to work hard to prove yourself die in this country?  Oh yeah.  I forgot.  We’re the country that can’t really figure out if a teacher is good quality or not (so we keep them all) and we don’t want to keep score in little leagues anymore.  We graduate illiterate troublemakers so we don’t have to do the hard work of enforcing discipline.

Critical Thinker Award

November 15, 2009

Andrew Hienze wins my most recent Critical Thinker Award for writing, What Health Reform Will Do to My Insurance, which appeared in the Wall Street Journal on November 13.

In the article, Hienze, “a registered Democrat living in New York City,” explores what will happen to his health insurance if the current House bill is signed into law. 

I award Hienze the Critical Thinker Award for taking an honest look of the real consequences of the good intentions of the health care reform.  I contrast that with others who write only about the good intentions of the bill.  Good intentions are fine, but intentions often do not match results.

Hienze uses real world experience.  He lives in New York, which already prohibits insurers from denying coverage due to a pre-existing medical condition.  He writes,

The result is that HMO plans in the state are now very expensive. The price of Empire’s basic, least expensive HMO plan is more than $13,000 a year for an individual, more than $26,000 a year for a married couple, and more than $39,000 a year for a family with children.

The result is that Hienze cannot afford full health coverage in New York.  He buys a hospitalization plan that covers hospital expenses in the event of injury or illness.  It does not cover the cost of physicians that are not hospital employees.  Under the currently proposed health care reform bill, his hospitalization plan would not be considered a qualified plan, so he would have to pay a fine that is about the same amount that he currently pays for his hospitalization plan – $2,000 per year.

That’s Messed Up!

December 31, 2007

Ever catch yourself thinking, “that’s messed up!” Do you ever ask why?

When something is messed up there’s a good chance that something wrong with a feedback mechanism somewhere.  I’m looking for a simpler way to say that.  I haven’t found it yet.

What does that mean?  Consider the example of spoiled teenagers. They live in a bubble of entitlement and self-importance.  Why?  Because they haven’t received good feedback from their parents.  Their parents haven’t held them accountable for their actions.  Teachers haven’t held them accountable.   Ever since they were young authority figures haven’t provided appropriate consequences for their actions.

To see a clear example of this, watch SuperNanny or Nanny 911.  At the beginning of every show the kids are out of control.  SuperNanny then provides much needed feedback to the parents: THE PARENTS ARE THE PROBLEM.  The parents are the problem because they aren’t consistently holding their kids accountable for actions.  That is, giving negative consequences for misbehavior and positive consequences for good behavior. 

So, the next time you see something that you think is messed up, give some thought to what feedback mechanism is broke.  You’ll be surprised at how quickly you can get to the heart of problem using this approach.