The Bunker

The Bush Administration has spent more than five years making close-mindedness, one-way conversation, we’re always right, no fresh facts or information, and insularity into highly predictable shared values for themselves — that is, for the answers to ‘how we do things around here in the Bush Administration”. Here’s the harvest.

Health Care and Ideology

Part of our cultural orthodoxy hates government and loves the market. It typifies the all-or-nothing, either/or-ism of our times. For the Republican Right Wing, this means: Thumbs up to markets; thumbs down to government. (It only means that in their advertising. In real life, the Republican Government of Bush and pals have piled up the […]

Principle of Disagreement

Edward Rothstein of the The NY Times has a wonderful summary and set of reflections about a recent Yale conference on strong leadership versus the popular will. Here’s my letter to him: Dear Mr. Rothstein, Thank you for the excellent report from the recent Yale conference about leadership and democracy. There is a strand — a view […]

The New Golden Rule

Over the past 36 years, the prevalence of obesity among 12 to 19 year old Americans has doubled — among children 6 to 11 it has tripled. Today, the percentage of kids who are either obese or overweight ranges from a low of 21% in Utah to 40% in Washington DC — and the average across the […]

When Decisions Are Not Enough

A number of retired military officers are calling for the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld. Meanwhile, the White House continues to support Rumsfeld with the same ‘doing a great job’ comments we’ve heard many times before, perhaps most famously applied to FEMA head Mike Brown in the wake of Katrina. Rumsfeld has certainly failed the test of performance. […]

The Dangerous Union

Today’s most dangerous union has no meeting or hiring hall, no dues, no plans for strikes and no formal organization or name. There are no workers in this union. There are folks who work. But neither their self image nor the image of them held by others would translate through the word ‘workers’. Today’s most […]

The WMD Doctrine

By now, all but the ideological zealots know that the Bush Administration ‘fixed the intelligence to fit the war’. Laying deeply flawed claims to being a “CEO presidency”, they also famously commented that they would roll out the war much like a product. And, so we might call this the WMD Doctrine: Words of Mass […]

Pendulums and Protectionism

Slate has a piece about the link between the Bush Administration’s failure in Iraq and a Congressional rush to protectionism by Ian Bremmer, President of the Eurasia Group (a firm that advises about political risk in a globalizing world). Bremer suggests that as the presidency weakens under dialy reminders of it’s mendacity and incompetence, politicians in both […]

Casualness and Swagger

“My sincere view is that the commitment of our forces to this fight was done with a casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions–or bury the results.” So writes Lt. General Greg Newbold (Ret.) in Time magazine about the incompetence and braggadocio of the rush to […]

The Shared Idea Of Transparency

All values, including financial and economic value, reflect patterns of belief and behavior. Think, for example, about pricing. Yes, pricing derives from some balancing of costs incurred, competition and some sense of what the item in question is worth to those who might buy it. All three, though: cost, competition, worth to the customer — mirror […]

Katrina Update

I just received the quarterly newsletter from an outstanding affordable housing organization in Portland, Oregon called REACH. The Executive Director’s opening commentary included this quote from NBC TV anchor Brian Williams, made shortly after Katrina: “If this disaster doesn’t lead us into a national conversation on the subjects of class, race, urban planning, the environment …. […]

Blended Values Strategies in Food

Shareholder value fundamentalists maintain that a maniacal focus on profits is and should be the central focus of all private sector enterprise. Their credo trumps all questions of family, social, political, environmental, technological, medical, legal and other issues of values with the single question: will it promote or detract from financial/economic value? Theirs is a […]

Business Credulity

Chauncey Gardiner, better known as Chance, in Jerzi Kosinski’s contemporary classic Being There, is a man whose entire experience prior to the events of the book exist within a strange, late 20th century American Eden: gardening on the estate of his adoptive father and watching TV. Chance has not tasted the fruits of knowledge, forbidden or […]

Flunking Quality Education

The New York Times reports that, for the first time, the No Child Left Behind law has been used by a state board of education (in Maryland) to take over failing schools (in Baltimore). Journalism being what it is today, the story focuses first and foremost on Republican vs. Democratic political squabbles in the state and city […]

Secretary Snow’s Star System

As noted last week, Secretary of the Treasury John Snow is out on the circuit hawking his boss’s wares. Just ask him and he’ll pull open one side of his tailored overcoat and show just how great the economy is doing as a direct result of tax cuts, unprecedented spending and deficits, and federal subsidies-and-rule-making for […]

Brand Is As Brand Does

Throughout history, human beings have deployed pattern recognition skills to ‘read’ situations and make choices. Our most distant ancestors read the signs in things ranging from scat to stars. We use brands. Unlike them, we live in markets, not wildernesses. We do not hunt. We shop. Like them, though, we must rely on the evidence […]

Snow Job

Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Treasury Secretary John Snow maintains the widening gap between high-paid and low-paid Americans reflects a labor market efficiently rewarding more-productive people. For example, Snow said, “In an aggregate sense, it reflects the marginal productivity of CEOs. Do I trust the market for CEOs to work efficiently? […]

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Today’s Slate asks, “Is Whole Foods Wholesome?” and follows up with this subtitle: “The Dark Secrets Of The Organic-Food Movement.” Here’s what the article tells us about Whole Foods: Pluses: “There’s plenty that’s praiseworthy.” The chairman of the company is dedicated to proving business can be ethical, socially responsible and profitable. One way the company achieves this […]

The Politics of Incompetence

We are well versed now in a Republican Party ruled by folks whose sole objective is power and winning and who have the support of marketing experts armed with block by block, 9 digit zip code level information on which to base branding campaigns that appeal to fear, greed, bigotry and the twin fundamentalism of […]

Knight-Ridder And Sustainable Strategy

Knight-Ridder and it’s chain of newspaper and media businesses is up for sale. Here are three stories about the finalists in the bidding — one story from Editor & Publisher, one from the NY Times, and one from the Minneapolis Star Tribune. I recommend reading all three. Before you do, however, let’s review some basics of business strategy […]

Ameriquest’s Return On Illegality

In January, Ameriquest agreed to a settlement with attorneys general across the country regarding a range of intimidating practices that the states considered illegal and that left thousands of customers with exploding mortgages threatening their security and well being. In the settlement, Ameriquest agreed to pay $325 million to consumers – an amount that often translates into […]

Did You Say Non-Profit Capitalists?

Yes. And you can meet Pacific Community Ventures by visiting not only their website, but also the websites of dozens of businesses benefiting from PCV’s investment, advice and other resources. PCV focuses on businesses that offer good wages and benefits plus skill and asset building to folks who live in low and moderate income parts of California. […]

What Gets Measured

What gets measured, gets done. It’s one of the core precepts of good management and good leadership. It is not always the easiest thing to do — especially if the challenge at hand is best measured — or evaluated – in qualitative ways. Reducing stress in your life, for example, is a more difficult measurement […]

Leadership 101

Among the principles of Leadership 101 are two critical aspects of effective communication. First, effective communicators tell the truth and listen. Second, in their communications, effective leaders are grounded (listeners have a sense the leader is on solid footing; that his or her messages are deeply rooted in strong beliefs) and clear (listeners can easily […]

Blended Values Strategies

Blended values strategies are choices about all the usual aspects of strategy — but with a twist: neither the pursuit of value (money, profits, winning, wealth) nor the pursuit of other values (social, family, political, technological, environmental, spiritual, creative, legal or medical) is the trump card for all critical (or even non critical) decisions. In blended […]

Rope A Dope

Those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it. It’s a famous — and wise — adage. Too often, though, the assumption is that one must be deep into scholarship to identify the themes, patterns and strategies to be avoided. Not so. Even sports fans in high office might find warnings to avoid — if […]

Thresholds Of Decency

In our complex 21st century, tens of millions of us experience what has traditionally been meant by the word community in the organizations where we work. It is in that context that we depend on other people we know for critical aspects of our lives: security, affiliation, meaning, and more. Each day we go to […]

Buy Clean Energy for $29.95

TerraPass is a wonderful idea. You can go to the website and, after calculating the emissions from your car or truck, purchase clean energy offsets for as little as $29.95. And, yes, nothing prevents you from purchasing clean energy well in excess of your car’s emissions. According to the website, TerraPass customers have helped reduce over […]

Both News And Advertising

“News is what someone wants to suppress. Everything else is advertising,” said Reuven Frank, a former head of NBC news. Insightful. And, incomplete. Frank’s comment reflects the widespread bias for either/or certainity. Either news or advertising. If only things were so simple. We live in a both/and world. Every item you read, hear, and see — whether […]

Performance Madness At Ford

Here’s an astonishing factoid from Laurence Haughton: “In 2005 Ford executives spent over 4.4 million management days tracking and assessing their company’s performance. That’s just short of 100 days per manager on average, over 19 work weeks looking at how everyone in every department was doing and creating new plans to hit budget. And if you […]

Science Update

Earlier posts have pointed to the corrosive effects of ideological claims of Truth (with a capital T) on the empirical and democratic (free speech) requirements of science. Whether it’s a fascistic young man without any science education dictating science policy or market researchers turning their fact-based findings of their own science on unwanted facts from other sciences, the […]

Back Story to Next Year’s 24

This week’s New Yorker has a wonderful review of TV’s long running show 24 and it’s protagonist Jack Bauer. As fans know, each season, Bauer, with others, defeats terrorists bent on havoc and do so over the course of a single day divided into 24 TV shows, one for each hour (actually, as the NYer points out, closer to 44 minutes […]

Headline: Some Shareholders Motivated By Self-Interest

The passion for uniformity sometimes induces otherwise sane folks to utter astonishing words. Or so it seems with these comments captured in an article at Institutional Investor about shareholder friendly corporations. First, the author of the article: “The presence of some unsatisfied owners at companies otherwise deemed the most friendly to shareholders highlights a growing concern among […]

The Stan Test

Whether you work at a for profit, non-profit or governmental organization, you might want to gather a group of colleagues and take the “Stan Test”: Do you have customers — whether consumers or businesses — who have done business with you over the long term? Would your customers be so shocked and disappointed if you […]

Competence Is As Competence Does

Any sincere politics directed at governing our complex world of markets, networks, organizations, friends and families would find its way to some minimum threshold of competence as a prerequisite to office. Minimum competence has no partisan home. A person either qualifies by exceeding the minimum threshold or does not. Minimum competence is also a prerequisite to performance. […]

Removing The Deck Chairs From The Titanic

That’s what is happening at General Motors. Having cast tens of thousands of families into financial jeopardy, eliminated tens of thousands of jobs, shuttered plants across the country, and reduced health and other benefits for current and prior employess, the weakened auto giant yesterday announced a cut in dividends for shareholders as well as reductions in pay […]

Best Super Bowl Ad

Kudos to Unilever and Dove soap for this year’s best Super Bowl Ad. These ads run just under $90,000 a second. Unilever, a multibusiness unit company whose brands are known the world over, chose to spend it’s millions on promoting self-esteem in young girls. It’s all part of Unilever/Dove’s ‘campaign for real beauty’ and, no surprise, offered […]

Hitler Youth

A 24-year old Republican campaign zealot with neither science credentials nor understanding is setting policy for the National Aeronautic and Space Administration. The policy is directed against the free inquiry and empiricism on which science rests. Put differently, the policy is aimed at destroying science in favor of fundamentalism. The odd thing, of course, is that so […]

Patriotism

“Give me liberty, or give me death.” — Patrick Henry rallying support for independence from the English military in 1775 “I would only point out that you really don’t have any civil liberties if you’re dead.” — Senator Pat Roberts rallying support for unlimited military power of the Commander-in-Chief in 2006 Posted by Doug Smith on February […]

Accuracy and Truth

When we share an understanding about roles such as customer and employee (or parent and child), the values we share — the predictability of our beliefs and behaviors — rises. For example, when you walk into a clothing store, there are a variety of highly predictable beliefs and behaviors that you as customer and those […]