Being Prepared – Who? What? When?

By Guy Higgins

On January 6th of this new year, Colorado was digging out from a winter storm that dropped up to a foot of snow in some places while dropping temperatures to -30oF in other locations. At the same time, Atlanta, GA was anxiously anticipating a different winter storm – one delivering temperatures just below freezing and mixtures of rain, freezing rain, sleet and snow. Continue reading

Artificial Intelligence – What Could Possibly Go Wrong … Go Wrong … Go Wrong … ?

By Guy Higgins

There is a very old joke that goes, “Shortly after take off, the passengers of a cross-country flight hear a pleasant voice over the airplane intercom, ‘We’re pleased to announce that this flight is being conducted in a completely automated mode. There are no pilots in the cockpit. Our excellent systems will fly you in complete comfort and safety to our destination. We wish to assure you that we have invested extensively in this automated system, and it is completely safe. There is nothing that can go wrong … go wrong … go wrong …’” Continue reading

Leadership “At the Front”

By Guy Higgins

Let me start with a short story about a trip I recently took. On my return, I was booked on a 1055 departure from an airport from which I had not previously flown, connecting to another flight in Houston, TX. I had no idea how slowly (or quickly) the security line would move, so I showed up with plenty of time (and, of course, went through security in about two minutes). There was no airplane at the gate when I got there because the airplane was coming from another airport, and making a stop at Houston. The weather was very foggy and did not improve. The flight that was supposed to arrive at my airport at 0925 couldn’t get into Houston and had to divert. This was known at about 0820. By 0900, with no airplane, we were told that the flight was being cancelled because there was no airplane. I was rebooked on a 1915 departure that evening. You can imagine all the fun that I and my fellow passengers had waiting around the (very small) airport all day. At about 1840, we were told that the inbound flight was delayed, but that it would arrive at about 1930. By 1930, with no airplane at the gate, we were told it was scheduled to leave Houston at 1950 and we would depart at 2040. When the flight arrived, we boarded and pushed back from the gate only to be held because of weather at Houston (my connecting destination). After waiting on the airplane for an hour with two status updates from the pilots, we taxied back to the gate, and we all lined up to get rebooked. I tried to rebook via telephone while waiting for the other passengers to work with the gate agents. After explaining to the phone agent that I would not connect through Houston to Los Angeles in order to connect to Denver – all the next day, I finally gave up and, working with the gate agents, was rebooked for a 0830 departure to Houston to connect to a Denver flight. Over a period of more than twelve hours, we were informed of the situation no more than four times. I know I was extremely frustrated, and I think my fellow passengers were too. This was not the worst experience that any traveler ever had, but neither was it a good experience. Continue reading

Leading Millennials

By Guy Higgins

I recently came across a short essay on LinkedIn. The essay was focused on the changes that organizational leaders need to make if they are to provide effective leadership to their millennial employees. I commented, briefly, on the post – saying something like, “If I understand this correctly, somehow, in the past thirty years, an entire generation of human beings has evolved so significantly that their cognitive processes have diverged from those of older humans in an extreme manner. GIMME A BREAK!” Continue reading

Organization and Re-Organization

By Guy Higgins

I just finished reading a very long post titled, Functional vs. Unit Organization. First, I think that it is an excellent discussion of the two ends of the organizational spectrum – functional and unit (or program or product). I urge the Noble Reader to read it.

I, however, want to take (sort of) issue with one point. The post discusses organizational structures and where problems arise – whether it’s a functional or a unit organizational structure. Those are important things to talk about. Even better, the author foot stomps that, before any work is done on the creation of an organization, there must be a problem statement – what is the problem (or are the problems) that are to be solved. This foot stomp is, I think crucial. But the next question that needs to be asked (my question) is, “How do you want people to work to solve that problem?” Continue reading

Identity Groups and Diversity

By Guy Higgins

Reading the local newspaper before the recent elections, I was struck by the headline, “Pursuing City Council Diversity.” The city in the headline is not the city in which I live, but my city council is also pursuing diversity. I want to start by outlining what the two cities are considering.

The city in the headline is considering a couple of new ordnances that would impose strict term limits on members of the council. The idea being that by compelling election of new members via term limits, they would increase the chances of electing people other than the “usual suspects.” The city council where I live is considering establishing advisory councils to bring different ideas to the city council. Continue reading

Executive Meetings – Critical Forums or Kabuki?

By Guy Higgins

Patrick Lencioni wrote Death by Meeting in which he explored the usefulness of meetings and made some recommendations about meetings – not just their conduct, but when and whether they were needed. I want to take a look at the effectiveness of “less structured” and “more structured” executive meetings by considering some meetings in which I have participated.

First, I want to look at two (very) small executive meetings that I prompted as a Navy Program Manager. In both cases, I planned to raise issues concerning resources with the three- and four- star admirals who controlled the needed resources. Both of these meetings fall into the “less structured” category. Continue reading

Left of X – Reprise

By Guy Higgins

At a recent meeting of the Colorado Preparedness Advisory Council, I mentioned that I had posted on “Left of X.” The council chairwoman observed that, “We call than left of boom.” Well, that got me to thinking. It really isn’t left of boom.

X is when something “starts” that will result in boom (that would be bad things happening). There is an interval between X and boom – and that interval needs to be considered. In my original post on Left of X, I emphasized the importance of being prepared and able to act before the archer shoots the arrow (Left of X), but I also mentioned that it remains important to be able to “shoot the arrow.” That’s right of X but left of boom. Granted, there may not be too much time between the two. Continue reading

Supply Chain and “Madam President”

By Guy Higgins

First, this is not about politics or even the recent election, but immediately after the election, hundreds of thousands of copies of Newsweek magazine, with a picture of Secretary Clinton under the title, “Madam President,” were distributed. Oops.

Newsweek immediately went about recalling those copies and issued a press release saying that a licensee had released the erroneous edition. “Not my fault” was the obvious assertion.

Well, this isn’t about politics – it’s about supply chain. Newsweek licensed printing and distribution of their magazine to this supplier (you can call them a licensee or anything else, but they are a supplier). Newsweek outsourced printing and distribution. But they didn’t outsource their brand or the ultimate responsibility for the error. They couldn’t! You can only outsource the activity. You cannot outsource the responsibility. Continue reading

KBO on the Shoulders of Giants

By Guy Higgins

Early in World War II, when Great Britain was facing the might of Nazi Germany alone, Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister, had a meeting with the King. They discussed all the things that were going wrong and the very few things that were moving in the right direction. The King, George VI, told his Prime Minister, “Well, Winston, KBO. Just KBO.” KBO – Keep Buggering On. When faced with seemingly insurmountable problems (and who could not view Great Britain’s problems in 1940 as insurmountable?), I think that the first thing is to show up every day and work on surmounting those problems – just keep buggering on. In doing so, he cajoled, inspired and led Great Britain through years of devastating defeats and horrific turns of fortune, all the while building the capability to win. Continue reading