Word Plasticity – The Scourge of the Modern World

 

 

 

 

 

Non Sequitur - Plasticity of LanguageConsider the following term ‘Flaccid,’ which is often mispronounced as “flassid” instead of the proper pronouncement “Flakcid” (Calvert, 2008).  Whereas, the term ‘Decimate’ does not mean extreme destruction, but the death of every tenth man and originates from Roman Military punishment (Calvert, 2008).  These are but two popular terms that are regularly plasticized in English communication through mispronunciation, lack of understanding the definition, and always with a hidden agenda.  Everywhere in all societies, and throughout all of recorded history, we find intentional misconception being passed as intellectual depth, through the plasticization of words.  Plasticization of words is nothing more than disconnecting words from standard definitions for a personal political agenda.  Many engaged in the intentional plasticization of words are “thought terrorists” who are trying to run their plan and break the mental will of people, demonizing those with knowledge of words as ignorant, and using the court of public opinion to employ emotions as a means to kill debate.

Plasticized words make the most trouble and unfortunately, public education in America does not appear to care; in fact, public educators are some of the worst abusers of words, disconnecting words from meanings to achieve an agenda, again mental terrorism.  Poerksen (1995) discusses this phenomenon in some detail, and the need to be more cognizant of the problem is but a small part of the solution.  Poerksen (1995) for example brings up the term ‘strategy’ the context might not be clear, and without specifying the intention and meaning, the audience becomes lost very quickly, but be confident they know and are doing what they understood.

Hitler’s Germany was famous for plasticizing words to make socially unacceptable actions, to be understood as acceptable with no negative consequences.  Consider how cattle cars were used in the transportation of Jewish Citizens, by plasticizing the term “cattle” the Jews could be eliminated, society could consider what they were doing as acceptable, and the political agenda of Hitler was pushed forward, because a human of different religion, handicap, and so forth has been reduced to cattle.

Poerksen (1995) is correct in labeling those who intentionally destroy language through plastic words as tyrants and their actions tyrannical.  Mao was an excellent speaker, but his methods of deceiving included making words plastic to cover abuses of people, destruction of lives, and to help his followers feel good about what they were doing.  Ex-President Obama used a TelePrompTer because extemporaneous speaking is not his forte, and because of the plastic words which were bent, twisted, and molded to deceive.  We all remember the promises of Ex-President Obama where ObamaCare is concerned.  However, what is fading from the collective public memory are the plastic expressions lauded upon Bergdahl to justify nefarious actions.  Bergdahl is but one small example of how Ex-President Obama manipulated language to hide, obfuscate, denigrate, and deride the American People.

Stretched Words

Shakespeare (2016) uses Hamlet to relate a line that applies to frequently; especially when communicating online, “… thou doth protest too much, methinks.”  Too often, those intent on misusing words are the ones protesting too much about something and now every communication, every interaction, and every person is a threat that must be lorded over by the intellect of the one protesting.  A recent example of this the world witnessed during Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation process, where the judge’s children were physically and verbally assaulted, but a warping of legal rights and guarantees justified the assault.  A careful review of any newspaper, news broadcast, and many politicians speaking will evidence the plasticization of words to justify actions, e.g. President Clinton, “Depends on what your definition of “is” is,” words to couch a threat while seeming to be helpful and friendly, or worst of all hide abuses of others through twisted logic.  Every time words become disconnected from standard meanings, society crumbles, language becomes useless, and the consequences are multi-generational.  Exactly as what transpired in recovering Germany after Hitler’s demise.

I had the great personal pleasure of speaking to a senior from Germany who lived through Hitler’s oppression and the recovery of Germany post-WWII, and the person I spoke with affirmed the most difficult social problem was relearning words and definitions to communicate without the taint of Hitler’s Germanic Language.  Hence, we can draw several lessons from this experience, language is trained and can be retrained, relearning language is a social problem fixed through social interactions and personal knowledge, and personal responsibility and accountability remain pre-eminent in communicating correctly.  Another lesson from my experience, history repeats itself and those with dastardly designs will always corrupt language to gain the advantage, before showing their true colors.  Every single despot in recorded history has employed plastic language to lull the population into acquiescence, before demanding loyalty.

What is a person to do in these difficult times?

Words Defined

  1. Know words and their definitions. Accurately knowing and using language supports society and improves communication. Do not be afraid of dictionaries, thesauruses’, and asking for help in making sure word selection is the best it possibly can.
  2. Ask questions about words used when unsure. If you know a word’s definition and the context appears to be off, be brave, ask questions, and insist upon the other person either clarifying or using more simple language to prove their point.
  3. Stop all use of emotion in communication. The people who insist upon employing passion do so to thwart logic, stop debate, and ruin lives.  If the sender wants to use emotion, stop talking, stop listening, and let the sender belittle themselves.
  4. Speak simply. Write simply.  Language and punctuation are excellent tools to communicate, use them, not emotion, not complicated terms, and know your intent in communicating.
  5. Speak and write specifically. Pronunciation, annunciation, and clarity come with simplicity and desire to build value for others through communicating correctly.  Know the intent of your communications.  Know and understand the purpose.  Answer through the message, “What do I want the receiver to do or know?”
  6. Listen. Forget active listening; active listening is not satisfactory to the societies we currently live in.  Commit to listening reflectively, for in listening reflectively we take active listening skills and add the desire to achieve mutual understanding.  Lacking mutual understanding means communication remains unsettled and unsettled communication breeds areas to abuse words, meanings, and intentions.

Please note, this does not mean someone becomes a communication police officer or communication stormtrooper.  Fighting plastic words is all about the individuals knowing, doing, and being better as a communication sender and receiver.  Aware of the duality of the roles in communicating effectively, with a desire to be the communicator of choice others follow.  Plastic words are intentional, and the person creating plastic words knows full well their fraud and deception, e.g., Ex-Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton.  In choosing to de-plasticize words, we choose to respect those who plasticize words but not speak with them until they become honest communicators while monitoring through listening.

References

Calvert, J. B. (2008, June 13). Words, words. Retrieved April 25, 2015, from https://mysite.du.edu/~jcalvert/humor/words.htm

Poerksen, U. (1995). Plastic words: The tyranny of modular language (J. Mason, & D. Cayley, Trans.). University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press.

Shakespeare, W. (2016). Hamlet [Kindle].

© 2018 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

The images used herein were obtained in the public domain, this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

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Shifting the Paradigms: A Hybrid Leadership Theory Plan – Allowing One’s Self to Create a Leadership Theory Template

Man, as defined as a species, learns by doing; this principle of learning is best showcased by the poem “What man may learn, What man may do” penned by Robert Louis Stevenson.  First, we see, and then we do; if “Imitation IS the sincerest form of flattery,” as proclaimed, then leaders are neither born nor made; thus, leaders are formed through the flattery of perception and emulation (Martin, 2012) [Emphasis Mine].  For example, a new recruit in the military, any military, learns how to be a leader by following, perceiving, and copying those placed above them.  The same pattern is copied time and time again until the top of the leadership pile is obtained or until something drastic happens to the top rung, i.e., premature death, elections, and other influences. This theory of leadership evolution places the training of the leader squarely upon the individual aspiring to lead.  The aspiring leader must choose whom to emulate, and in choosing, form decisions about why he chose that leader over another of equal or greater rank to emulate.

Emulation as a leadership theory places personality, emotional intelligence, preferred organizational culture and environment, and every other aspect of the leadership environment into the hands of the person aspiring to lead as choices of preference, while also removing excuses and leaving the leader fully responsible, accountable, and liable for the consequences.  As a species, we not only mimic those we hold in esteem, we magnify them.  Thus, a learner emulates certain behaviors and increases those behaviors (Coloroso, 2008).  Just as a child is taught to hit by watching his parents beat each other and the child, the child will not only hit but also will not understand hitting is unacceptable and will increase violence past hitting to using weapons other than fists.  The third generation of being taught hitting is acceptable generally moves to murder and incarceration.  Upon emulation, magnification occurs, and patterns will continue until stopped.

More often than not, leadership through emulation theory is interconnected to spiritual leadership theory. Fry (2005) claims spiritual leadership theory “… was developed within an intrinsic motivation model that incorporates vision, hope/faith, and altruistic love, theories of workplace spirituality, and spiritual survival through calling and membership.”  While Fry (2005) continues to justify this position, leadership through emulation remains a great-uncharted unknown or only researched through the bias of religious lenses and discounted.  Yet, the great truth remains; humans learn through seeing and doing, and thus, leadership occurs through emulation and agency.

Religion is merely a set of beliefs and practices people adhere to voluntarily.  The term spiritual discusses closely related character interests, attitudes, and outlooks.  While not devoid of religion, spiritual leadership theory does not entirely apply to the reality of life with enough applicable strength to overcome individual zealots or the anti-religious zealotry found in many organizations.  Many people do not realize that allowing religious freedom means accepting the term religion without feeling encumbered to onboard a religious theory.  Fry (2003) expounds upon the spiritual leadership theory, and while this theory includes many aspects of corporate responsibility personally held dear, the reliance upon religion can be a hindrance for those followers who might choose to lead but remain anti-religious.  Wren (1995) discusses leadership theories but focuses too much on a few while denigrating those not mentioned.  By relying too heavily upon charismatic, transactional, and transformational leadership, Wren (1995) loses the forest grandeur by focusing on seeds, not that this diminishes seeds, but there is so much more to see and experience.  The following leadership plan relies heavily upon what works and includes pieces of spiritual leadership for the active moral and ethical code, emulation leadership theory, and flexible thinking in organizational structure design.  The result is a highly trained, experienced, effective leader, capable of creating success in many different industries, environments, and situations.

All successful leaders like Presidents Lincoln, Jefferson, and Washington, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, among others emulate moral fortitude and character as well as personal integrity to leadership principles and existence in productive work efforts.  These leaders stood firm for core beliefs including truth, justice, mercy in the face of war, and built followers, who could then lead in difficult times and lead well.  The primary chain linking all these leaders remains a single item: when faced with a decision, they acted with no hesitation, no spinelessness, and no hypocrisy.  By choosing whom to emulate, in emulation leadership theory, the best can be onboared, magnified, and broadcast back into the organization forming a bulwark anchoring other people aspiring to become leaders.  Brady (2005) discusses levels of influence in launching a leadership revolution.  Part of the first level requires the aspiring leader to know the environment, history, basics of the organizational culture, and much more.  The main point in the plan is to emulate the best, choose new principles to include, discover new ideas that work, and employ this knowledge in direct personalized solution.  Due to the high amount of emotional intelligence inherent in the current employer organization, transactional and charismatic leadership are of limited functionality.  Transformational leadership theory has more application but does not include many elements needed to enforce the plan or to achieve success.  Leadership requires follow-on levels of influence that include preparation, desire, understanding the role of learning and adversaries, loving people, and developing people, who will choose to develop others.  Of particular importance is the principle of loyal opposition, also known as a courageous follower.  Building upon Chaleff’s (1995) discussion about the “Courageous follower” becoming a courageous leader, who can influence change, lead-in difficulty, and conquer, it remains imperative for followers to become those they emulate or the entire period of training is not valued by followers (Yukl, 2006, p. 134-139).

Personal strengths include a vast repertoire of benchmarks, successes and failures, working knowledge of psychology, depth as being a follower in stressful situations, and the drive of a bloodhound to find and fix.  Skills and talents under constant construction include communication, manners, modesty, and developing interpersonal skills between peers and current leaders without causing insult.  Personal weaknesses include a distrust of followers leading to problems with the delegation of authority, a reluctance to allow failure in followers, and an own abhorrence to perform tasks a second time after a failure.

The leader currently in existence needs experience to improve as described by Brady (2005), Jossey-Bass (2003), and others.  The leader imagined and envisioned for the future needs seasoning to become a reality; thus, allow yourself or your followers time to build into the leadership plan outlined.  The gaps are minor, and the weaknesses cannot improve without more experience in handling complicated situations.  In vague terms, the timeline might look something like this.  Within the next year, advancement would be from customer care professional in fraud to a curriculum designer or teacher/trainer/coach of adults for the current employer.  Within the next three years, or by the conclusion of an academic degree program, advancement would be from designer/coach/trainer into leading other coaches/designers. Within the next eight years, progress would be to a service delivery leader guiding leaders of other coaches/designers/trainers and eventually be advanced to a director of corporate training or vice president of training delivery and human resources.  Keeping this euphemistic plan on track requires sticking with a single employer, building a solid personal brand based upon successes, leveraging educational degrees while maximizing the previous experience and new experiences into solutions for the employer.

Recognizing that attitude, failures, and other people acting as variables on this plan requires communicating intent, working with people to convince them that end goals are attainable and the change needed to realize the end result.  Until this plan launches, it remains imperative to exemplify Chaleff’s (1995) descriptions of a “Courageous follower.”  This type of follower can emulate those in leadership positions while supporting the good and learning from current leadership mistakes.  In a seamless transition, the “courageous follower” employs emulation theories of leadership and gains the advantage while building the needed personal brand and accomplishments and preparing for future leadership (Yukl, 2006, p. 134-139).

Avolio (2008), Brady (2005). Paine (1995), and Wren (1995) among others, discuss another aspect of being a good follower and future leader, liberty.  America throughout history has provided excellent examples of what occurs when free people band into a society dedicated to liberty, freedom, and individuals empowered to choose their destiny.  Being a courageous follower requires freedom of choice, and all future leaders, regardless of theories espoused, need to remember the power of freedom when leading.  While some leadership writers discuss empowerment as a panacea term for everything from agency to low-level decision making, empowerment merely is freedom by a different name.  Free followers are naturally empowered to choose, and with training, proper guidance, and organizational support choose with confidence.  This is known as agency or the power to choose with responsibility and accountability for the consequences.  Honing this power to choose wisely, while protecting the opportunity to succeed and fail, promotes a level of trust and commitment to current leaders that improve morale, lifts people, and builds robust organizations.

While less than bare bones in many aspects, the leadership plan described remains flexible enough for significant changes in future prospects while being detailed enough to fit into the current lifestyle of potential interested leaders.  Experience has taught that detailed plans tend to force a locked down mentality in thinking, creating a box that hinders, hampers, and delays.  While some details must be included, a delicate balance is preferred when dealing with the vicissitudes of life.  Staying on track with this plan requires courage, fortitude, and emulation of the best and brightest to become a reality.

References

Avolio, B. J., & Yammarino, F. J. (2008). Transformational and charismatic leadership: The road ahead. Vol 2. Bingley, United Kingdom: JAI Press – Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Brady, C., & Woodward, O. (2005). Launching a leadership revolution: Mastering the five levels of influence. New York, NY: Business Plus – Hachette Book Group.

Coloroso, B. (2008). The bully, the bullied, and the bystander. (Living ed.) New York, NY: Harper Collins.

Fry, L. W. (2005). Positive psychology in business ethics and corporate responsibility. (pp. 47-83). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing. Retrieved from http://www.iispiritualleadership.com/resources/publications.php

Jossey-Bass, R. (2003). Business leadership: A jossey-bass reader. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.

Martin, G. (2012). The phrase finder: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Retrieved from http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/imitation-is-the-sincerest-form-of-flattery.html

Stevenson, R. L. (n.d.). What man may learn, what man may do. Retrieved from http://www.poetryloverspage.com/poets/stevenson/what_man_may_learn.html

Wren, J. T. (1995). The leader’s companion: Insights on leadership through the ages. New York, NY: The Free Press.

Yukl, G. (2006). Leadership in Organizations. 6th Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

© 2018 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

The images used herein were obtained in the public domain, this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

The Johari Window: A Tool of Incredible Proportion – Understanding a Key Psychology Tool in Call Center Relations

The Interest GridTo understand a principle takes time; to apply that principle involves experience; but to indeed change a person, the principle must be absorbed into the very fiber or essence of an individual, reaching comprehension through mental, physical, and spiritual understanding, some might even say the soul of the individual.  Freedom is one such principle; the tool for remaining free is the ability to choose, or agency.  When applied to organizations, the same path to success must be tread, but with many individuals onboarding the principles is a challenge.  Many people believing the same way is often described as a culture (Greenwald, 2008, p 192-195), or society, and when belief turns into dedicated and repetitive action, a paradigm is created (Kuhn, 1996), also called business processes and procedures.

Agency theory is a tool for understanding how organizational cultures become cultures.  Individuals apply agency, and when many make the same choices, the creation of an organizational culture occurs.  Emirbayer & Mische (1998) expand the term agency that gives reason why Tosi (2009) and Ekanayake (2004) both classify agency theory as an “economic theory” and how agency theory “… shapes social action [p 963].”  If Emirbayer and Mische (1998) are correct, placing more emphasis upon individual agency opens doors into re-shaping controls, control mechanisms, and affects the entire organization.  The power of agency to change people, organizations, and societies is immense.  Recognizing that people will always exercise agency, guiding that agency exercise is not so much a discussion of control, but of harnessing energy and momentum to develop individuals into a cohesive whole.

Johari WindowThe Johari Window is a tool for quickly assessing a situation before making a choice.  Consider the job of a call center agent; they must be technically savvy, adept at handling multiple tasks while engaging in productive conversation, and must be able to keep a caller enthusiastically engaged in reaching a solution quickly so that the agent ay meet business set metrics and production goals.  The Johari Window is suggested as a desktop guide in promoting self-knowledge in the call center agent to improve performance.  Having personally employed the Johari Window as part of logical thinking, I explicitly recommend, that before handing an agent this tool, training must be accomplished to help allow for clearer thinking that often leads to more speedy action.  The first Johari Window represented links to a .pdf that contains additional specific information for improving training in the Johari Window principles.

Open Area

Of all the locations in the window, the open area position is where the majority of people want to stay; wherein everybody and everything knows and is known. The unknown is frightening, and change in this location comes the slowest, if at all.  Each call center agent wants to, and needs to, feel confident in what is known and where they go when they do not know; hence, training as a continual process remains the catchword in this location, even though it might not be well received.

While the location is desirable, rarely will customers call in because they already know something.  Agents in a call center should leave new hire and continual employment training and start every working day from this location where they are known and know.  The open area could also be referred to as the preparation location.

Hidden Area

The hidden area is where business in a call center will occur most effectively.  The customer knows what they want, and the call center agent knows how to deliver what is wanted and through reflective communication mutual understanding is achieved to make the hidden area become known.  Imperative to understanding in this area is the power of choice, agency, to choose to reveal only pieces of what is wanted.  If the customer chooses not to disclose what is wanted, it is not poor service when the customer’s wants are not fulfilled. This point is especially important in understanding the voice of the customer (VOC) survey results and quality call review.  The only time the agent is in the wrong, in this location, is when the agent cannot choose and thereby communicates less effectively to the customer, delivering a poor performance in need of remediation.  Both the agent and the customer have something hidden and something known.  The importance of clear communication remains pre-eminent in this location.

For instance, two top call center agents were continally competing with each other for first place evaluation. The agent who routinely came in second asked why. The answer to improving performance is found in the hidden area, opportunities that guided the agent to drop AHT/ACW and increase VOC into productive communication towards a solution.  There is power in the hidden area to capture and employ. Train agents to be alert for hidden areas to gain improved performance, not through active listening, but through reflective listening where mutual understanding between the customer and the agent is reached.

Blind Area

Of all the locations in the Johari Window, the blind area is the most dangerous for call center agents.  When the customer has information the agent does not know, the result is lost resources, productivity, and customers.  Of course, the reverse is also true.  When the agent has information about the customer and does not voluntarily devolve the information, the customer is surprised upon becoming aware and is lost because of this blind area.  Then organizational reputation damage is complete.

For example, I was working in a credit card call center and regularly saw agents not bother to bring up account issues to save AHT/VOC and other metrics.  Hence, the customer upon learning of the negative actions would call back because opportunity in the blind area was sacrificed for potential short-term gains.  Operating blind means the agent and the customer are in danger.

Unknown Area

Chinese CrisisOf all the locations in the Johari Window, the unknown area possesses the most opportunity for delivering upon a service commitment.  Consider the Chinese character for a crisis that includes danger and opportunity as equals.  The unknown always combines danger and opportunity.  Danger is risk, risk of losing a customer, risk of saying the wrong thing and insulting, etc.  Opportunity lies in making the unknown known.  In the Johari Window, when the unknown becomes known, the unknown quadrant shrinks and the known quadrant grows.  The unknown quadrant could be considered the crisis quadrant.  Good skills in mastering the unknown to thwart a crisis, eliminate danger, and win the opportunity to create a powerful customer interaction.  The unknown area is where confidence in training overlaps with the customer’s crisis to maximize opportunities for service excellence.  If there is a single shred of doubt communicated to the customer in crisis, the opportunity is lost forever because the danger was not ameliorated. The unknown has many hidden dangers to be wary, but fear is not one of them because of excellence in training.

Working as an agent in customer retention was very lucrative.  When we could probe, dig, and investigate, generally we could save a customer and generate new business.  While the company spoke about, preached around, and dictated the use of active listening, the retention department was using reflective listening to glean details and save customers through reaching mutual understanding. In the unknown area, both parties struggle with not knowing and being unknown. Therein lies the opportunity for increasing business by becoming known and learning knowledge that is not currently possessed.

While the current Johari Window reflects proportional space for each location, reality rarely allows for such clarity.  Many times, an agent’s Johari Window will look like any one of the following, none of the following, or a mixture of all:

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The key for call center leaders is to train the call center representatives to first understand themselves and then to visualize who they are in the Johari Window in each call.  The more familiar the agent is with data gleaned from knowing themselves and the business, the more power each agent will have to handle the calls more effectively and efficiently.  In teaching the Johari Window, one of the many lessons I have learned is that people do not understand and second guess their limitations.  If a person has, or considers having, a small blind area, do they know their equally important unknown or open areas.  More than likely the answer is no; why, because of the need to invest time and other resources into improving themselves and their approach to others.

When discussing the agents understanding themselves, the call center trainer, first line supervisor, and managers will employ the eleven principles of change as discussed by Luft.  The agent will need to understand the energy lost in hiding, deceiving themselves, and the problems this causes them.  Cause and effect play a significant role in visually attuning the Johari Window to daily work activities.  The call center trainer, first line supervisors, and managers will need to be able to answer clearly and effectively “why” based questions about processes and procedures, while exemplifying the Johari Window principles.  Luft’s Point No. 5point number five is critical in this process, “Interpersonal learning means a change [is taking] place so that Quadrant 1 is larger, and one or more of the other quadrants has grown smaller.”  Do we understand what this means; as leaders, we exemplify making Quadrant 1 (Open Area) larger by learning.  Leaders are teachers, teachers are leaders, but both teachers and leaders must remain loyal to learning.

Consider Gilderoy Lockhart from Harry Potter.  Gilderoy Lockhart considered himself highly capable, gifted, and talented, but reality proved his ineffectiveness and limitations.  His example opens a second issue when using the Johari Window tool in a call center:  personal perception versus reality.  Gilderoy Lockhart would see his Johari Window as thus:

Johari Window - GL 1

Reality would suggest the following might be truer:

Johari Window - GL 2

The disparity between a person’s perceived understanding and reality causes significant problems in interactions in all types of societies.  In the call center, the agent will interact with various kinds of personalities; hence, the need to train agents in this tool and to understand themselves, including their likes, dislikes, triggers, emotional hooks, and talents brought to each call.  For the best opportunities for your agents to interact successfully, training them in understanding themselves is just as important as training the agent in organizational policies, business products, services, and sales techniques.

Ongoing, regular training remains a key component to highly effective call centers and capable workforces.  Without refresher training, regular training for new products, and annual training, the capable employee gets into a rut, the rut becomes a paradigm, and the employee becomes lost to attrition and slower productivity; but most especially, lost customer interactions hamper all levels of business performance.  One employee working slow can ruin a business, and the first indicator something is wrong is the higher cost of doing business.  Win the employee through training and then treat them respectfully to reduce operational costs and increase sales through training.

In conclusion, never stop asking why, encourage learning, and never fear using the answer, “At this time, I do not know, but I will find out and report back.”  When the discovery loop is closed with the individual, everyone learns, Quadrant 1 grows, and other quadrants reduce perceptibly.  Proving once again the veracity of the axiom, “Train people well enough to leave; treat people well enough to stay; and grow together as an act of personal commitment to the team.”

References

Ekanayake, S. (2004). Agency theory, national culture, and management control systems. Journal of American Academy of Business, Cambridge, 4(1), 49-54. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/222857814?accountid=35812

Emirbayer, M., & Mische, A. (1998). What is agency? The American Journal of Sociology, 103(4), 962-1023. Retrieved from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2782934

Greenwald, H. P. (2008). Organizations: Management without control. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Kuhn, T. S. (1996). The structure of scientific revolutions. (Third ed., Vol. VIII). Chicago, ILL: The University of Chicago Press.

Tosi, H. L. (2009), Theories of organization. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

© 2017 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

The images used herein, obtained from the public domain, this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

 

Leading the Call Center: Flavor of the Month Philosophies

Chinese CrisisHaving just completed a project that saw me leading a team in a call center, I want to make something clear; quick fixes and flavor of the month philosophies do not work.  I cannot stress this enough; yet, the practice continues to the detriment of call center employees and the organizations served by call centers.  Flavor of the month philosophies is the latest bestseller to fix the problems in business.  We have all seen these programs including, FISH, WAIT, Strengths Quest, and so much more.  These ideas are good ideas, and they possess value, but when changed monthly, these programs, never do more than briefly mark the surface intellect of the call center.  I am not disparaging these ideas in the least; let me elaborate as to why the flavor of the month idea fails.

The project previously mentioned when concluded saw the call center director very much converted to a program of definite value in and using one’s strengths entitled Strengths Quest as presented by Clifton, Anderson, and Schreiner (2006).  The culture of strength promotes unity, and by extension, organizational power, when combined intellectually, becomes the corporate culture.  Integration in business, especially in call center operations, remains crucial to bottom-line health.  The call center director invested a lot of organizational resources to capture everyone’s strengths, publish these advantages, and use this information to measure the call center.  The problem was the staff has no idea why they are investing company time in completing the “Clifton Strength’s FinderÒ (CSF),” and many completed this assignment while taking calls and distracted.  How verifiable is the data if the attention of the person completing the task is diverted?

My assignment, as a call center supervisor, included gauging the employees in the call center about their strengths.  Of the 10-employees in the call center, two had forgotten and blatantly said they do not care.  Three expressed a desire to retake the CSF to more fully focus on the task instead of completing it between calls.  Four employees asked why and what is the purpose of taking the CSF.  Finally, all the employees, when asked how they use the CSF data in their daily actions, expressed the same answer, I do not know.

Let’s be clear; there is nothing wrong with the latest flavor of the month programs to improve an organization, provided the leaders understand change, embrace change, train and teach “the what” and “the why,” and then remain committed long after the excitement over the bright new object fades.  I had the misfortune of working in a call center where the entire corporate culture was expected to change with every fresh flavor of leadership, and the organization is a mental mess.  What is a leader to do when each new flavor-of-the-month is presented as a potential fix for organizational dilemmas?  I suggest the following as a launching point for corporate discovery and leadership support.

  • If the organization is going to invest resources in a particular program, do not change for a set period, which includes pre- and post- measurement and evaluation. If the organization does not know where they start, they can never know what happened or where to go in the future.blue-money-burning
  • Organizational change must be more than surface polish or potential money (Blue Money) is lost, never to be recovered. Organizational change needs to fundamentally affect the organization and be allowed to produce measured results.  Does this mean that if something is not working, we keep at it?  No!  It means to provide sufficient time and measurement to gauge the application and the organizational change.  Many times beta-testing the proposed change can identify the processes, procedures, and other trouble points to be mindful of, or correct in beta-testing, to ensure full organizational change may occur with a higher chance for success.
  • Get everyone involved, enthused, and a willing advocate for the change. Getting everyone involved is not producing marketing materials and desk references.  Getting everyone involved requires explaining why and detailing what in the organizational change.  Getting everyone involved means there will be feedback, pushback, and rebellion.  Expect pushback, but never allow pushback to derail reform.  Pushback is a healthy activity that provides essential opportunities for the leader to explore solutions, answer questions, and evaluate the results.
  • Teach and train; train and teach. Learning should be a constant and desirable outcome of organizational change.  Teaching is not training, training is not teaching; but, both are critical skills needed for leaders and learners.  Teaching is helping someone else acquire knowledge.  Training is teaching a behavior or ability.  Teaching is usually one-way communication using measurement tools, e.g., tests to gauge knowledge learned and retained.  Training should be two-directional communication, is completed through experience in closely monitored environments, and includes 360-degree feedback to improve the training environment.  Never allow teaching and training to become the same confused term; while the words are closely related, they are not the same action.
  • When was the last time you discussed what you are reading with front-line employees? When was the last time you engaged a front-line worker about what they are reading, thinking, and ask for suggestions to improve?  When was the last time you asked to be trained on a process, procedure, or organizational action by those who do it all day?  If recently, did you ask why, a lot?  I promise you will be surprised when you have these conversations, especially since they open up opportunities to explain and expound, learn, change, adapt, and engage with those you lead.
  • Organizational change requires enthusiasm from all parties to begin to engage and deepen the shift from surface polish to fundamental culture adaptation. Enthusiasm takes many shapes, sizes, and colors, including the loyal opposition of followers, opinions, and feedback.  The leader must exemplify and honor, or support, the enthusiasm around them as a tool for succeeding in changing the organization.
  • Clarify intentions. Clarify processes.  Clarify procedures.  Clarify by asking follow-up questions and reflectively listen to obtain mutual understanding.  Clarification remains one of the most critical tasks in organizational change.  When confusion rears its ugly head, respond with explanation and follow-up, as detailed in two-directional communication.  When the comprehension is doubted, ask for feedback as an opportunity to increase clarification.  Clarification is both a tool and an opportunity; do not waste this opportunity and tool by neglecting those needing clarification.
  • Organizational change needs a mechanism for gathering data from many sources, including the employees affected, the vendors, the suppliers, and the customers. Open the valve for data to flow back.  One of the most horrific organizational changes it has been my displeasure to witness was increased because the leaders operated in a vacuum and never allowed data flow that was contradictory to the previously agreed upon results.  The leaders in this organization worked hard to refuse hard data, which contradicted their bias, and this ruined the business, the employees, and the customers.

I cannot guarantee following all these points will make organizational change succeed, roses bloom, bottom lines inflate, rainbows dance, and all of life fall into organized lines leading ever upward.  I can guarantee that without these points, organizational change that promotes an environment of learning will never be more than polish.  Consider the axiom, “Lipstick on a pig.”  The lipstick is not bad, the pig is not bad, but placing lipstick on a pig is out of place and does nothing to improve the pig.  Flavor-of-the-month changes are lipstick on a pig, not bad, but out of place until the entire organization is on board and enthusiastically supporting the move, and proper measurements are in place to gauge, measure, and report the change.

Business theorist Chris Argyris put forth a model, later discussed by Senge (1994) explaining our thinking process as we interact with the world.  This seven-step method is called the Ladder of Inference; according to this model, as we move up the ladder our beliefs affect what we infer about what we observe and therefore become part of how we experience our interaction with other people.  Organizational change can be plotted along the same model or ladder of inference.

Leadership LadderOrganizational change begins with information output; then collect data, preferably through listening and observation while doing the work; interpreting the data includes obtaining data, evaluating meaning, deciphering intent, and understanding value.  Please note, the assumptions should not be made in a vacuum and could be wrong; thus, always return to the data producers and ask questions to ensure mutual understanding.  Once conclusions are mutually understood, they become beliefs; but, don’t stop until beliefs become actions.

If a model is needed, please benchmark Quicken Loans and Southwest Airlines, both organizations are doing a tremendous job with the ladder steps, especially moving organizational beliefs into motivated organizational action.  Remember, one does not climb a ladder to view the horizon and scenery, they climb a ladder to begin working, carrying the tools needed to perform the work, and possessing certain knowledge that the work can be accomplished.  Climb the ladder of success with the intent to work, achieve, and move forward.

References

Clifton, D. O., Anderson “Chip,” E., & Schreiner, L. A. (2016). Strengths quest: Discover and develop your strengths in academics, career, and beyond (2nd ed.).

Senge. P. M. (1994). The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. New York: Currency Doubleday.

© 2017 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

The images used herein were obtained in the public domain, this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

Clearing up the confusion! – Understanding the Government of America

Representative Deb Haaland (D) sent out an email recently claiming America is a “Constitutional Democracy.”  I will endeavor to correct this confusion using simple terms, for Representative Haaland’s benefit, please allow me to elaborate.

A Republic finds its history lodged in the writings of Plato, who called a republic “possessing the structure and composition of the ideal state.”  James Madison provides America with the only definition needed for America to be a democracy, “We may define a republic to be … a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people; and is administered by persons holding their offices during pleasure, for a limited period, or during good behaviour [Emphasis added].”  A republic is a government system where the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives chosen directly or indirectly by them.  Finally, a republic is recognized by the head of the government not being a monarch or other hereditary head of state.  America has a Constitution that leaves all the power of the government in the hands of her legal citizens.  Legal citizens are not impostor aliens or terrorists captured on a battlefield; thus, US Constitutional Rights do not apply or cover these entities.  A Republic is formed around the principle that through property ownership, freedom is generated.  A Republic requires time, majorities that clearly surpass a simple majority, and when personal property is threatened or removed from individual citizens, that republic slips into a democracy.  A Democracy cannot climb into being a Republic, but the Republic can be reduced to a democracy.

Democracy, is associated with the “rule by the people” or a simple majority wins.  The associations of democracy have become more twisted since the mid-1930s and therein lies the problem, democracies have existed under the feudal system of government, the communists have tried to instill democratic changes, and dictators like Maduro in Venezuela have employed democracy.  Democracy other than being dangerous, is the belief that a simple majority rules for everyone.  Winston Churchill is correct, “No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”  The reason democracy is dangerous is the belief that people control the rule when they have nothing to do with the ruling.  Rulers of a democracy are not bound by the “Rule of Law” they are only restricted by statistics reported in opinion polls, which Mark Twain aptly called, “Damned lies.”

Consider the United Kingdom is a “Democratic Polyarchy” as they have a hereditary monarch ruler, and a democratic parliament, when the people demanded an exit from the European Union, the supposedly democratic parliament stymied and thwarted the people’s will to keep the United Kingdom in the European Union.  Venezuela is a democracy where the constitution was destroyed for personal power, the country was bankrupted for the enrichment of the few, and the people are now left starving wondering where their country went.

America’s founders were interested in creating a representative democracy, under a republican form of government to protect the property rights of individuals that generate the most freedom for the most people.  Under a republican form of government, everyone is first bound by the rule of law, in America’s case, the code we are all united under is the US Constitution, where even the government must answer to the lowest of citizens.  Important to note, a Republican form of government, does not mean that the Political Party “Republicans” are the party to rule exclusively.  The plasticization of words and terms continues to create confusion being where politics is concerned.

America was never expected to be a direct democracy, where Representative Haaland (D) is basing her erroneous statement regarding America being a “Constitutional Democracy.”  Here is where the fallacy resides, a constitutional democracy would only require a simple majority to enact new clauses in the constitution.  America’s Constitution requires ¾’s of the individual US States to ratify a Constitutional Amendment after the Constitutional Amendment has won supermajorities in the US House of Representatives and the Senate.  Thus, any fourth-grade student who has passed American History can tell how and why America is NOT a “Constitutional Democracy” as stated by Representative Haaland,  “Constitutional Democracy” is fallacious, deceiving, and meant to create confusion in the populace.  Since Representative Haaland (D) and Senator Udall (D) continue to disregard their own constituents, I expect more but have come to realize they will not adhere to providing a higher level of respect for the offices they individually hold, representing their constituents across the political spectrum.

Since we are discussing the rule of law, republics, and other related topics, let us dig a little into an item that is killing America and her freedom, the loss of private property.  Charles Reich, an American legal and social scholar as well as an author who was a Professor at Yale Law School, writes a paper every American citizen needs to read and be concerned over, this paper is referenced below, and the link is active.

Starting in the 1930s, during the “Great Depression,” changes were made to America’s methods of governance by the President, a willing media, and sycophants in the Senate and House, where the Federal and State Governments could begin to rule by largesse; picking winners and losers based upon obeisance to a bureaucrat’s whims, wishes, and will.  Reich lays out this history, walks the reader through the laws, and makes the case that because of democratic rule America’s Republic has been reduced to a feudal system where the government decides who gets the largesse and who does not.  With the Federal and State Governments making these decisions, business do not compete fairly upon their own merits, but upon how much taxpayer money they can bamboozle from Uncle Sam.  Unfortunately, the entire system hinges upon reducing private property ownership, and the freedoms private property allows, to feed the ever-hungry beast of Government consumption.

A perfect example is found in K-12 Schools; when a school insists they need more money from the taxpayer, they blame poverty and race as to why their students cannot learn, unless more money is poured into a failing school to purchase a “magic-bullet,” e.g., expensive new toy, technology, or program.  Providing three lies in one, and excusing designed incompetence for the failure of students who have been abused by the teachers.  Race governing ability is the first lie.  Poverty dictating intellect forms the second lie.  More money being needed in K-12 Education is the third lie.  The designed incompetence that allows or encourages, a teacher to pass a student that does not meet the standards of learning, is an abuse of students, not a problem of funding.  Here is government largesse in action, if the school board does not adhere to the lies of race and poverty affecting intellectual ability, that school does not get more money.  Repeatedly, we see these lies vociferously declared in the media, that poverty and race are holding a school/student back, and the government needs to spend more money.  When in reality, leadership in the school, reinstating the authority of the teacher, and respect is what is required for those schools, not more government largess, and indeed not another program or technology that no one can afford, and that will fail to achieve the sales pitch.

Thus, America needs to demand change through the ballot box, to insist that freedom and private property are returned to the people, and those representatives who have no moral center, or cannot serve their constituents from both parties equally, are removed from politics, indefinitely!  Since America is a Republic, and not a democracy (yet!), the problems in representation can be solved.

Reference

Charles A. Reich, The New Property, 73 Yale L.J. (1964). Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/ylj/vol73/iss5/1

 

© 2019 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

Poverty and Race Do Not Dictate Ability: Shifting the Educational Paradigm

From the 1960s, educators began believing and living a belief that poor minority students cannot succeed or learn to the same quality of rich white children.  This belief changed how K-12 Education was funded, supported by the government, and directed resources for education in America’s cities and towns.  Back in 1995, Milwaukee, WI., Douglas B. Reeves forever sundered the fallacious belief that poverty and race do not chain a student’s mind.  Except in 2019, the lie continues that if you are not white and rich K-12 education is going to be forever out of reach, that your poverty status means you cannot achieve, and your race will dictate how smart you are.  Race and poverty are still the demographic drums used to bleed resources, damage education, and stifle educational innovations.  Well, I say it is past time to cease the madness and demand those in education either reform or leave; for they are committing child abuse with their racist lies for personal gain and political power.

Referring to the Standards for Teacher Competence in Educational Assessments of Students (1990), a parent can find five areas of scoring a student’s teacher for quality of classroom efforts.  These five standards include:

  1. Is the teacher prepared before they instruct the class?
    1. This includes support from the school principals and the administrative staff at the school board level.
    2. The student should be evaluating themselves for preparation before classroom instruction for their personal desires to learn and work assignments completed.
    3. The teacher’s preparation should include written activities to measure student performance and be graded against a standardized scoring system.
  2. Does the teacher use a variety of activities and approaches during the instructional time to aid student comprehension? If so, what activities are being used?  If not, why?
    1. Get this answer early and check with the student often for compliance.
    2. Use the teacher-parent conference to obtain the teacher’s input.
    3. Never allow a teacher to single-mode and done a learning activity, this is a sign of a lazy teacher.
  3. What is the teacher doing to connect with students after instructional time activities?
    1. Student aid with long and short-term goal attainment.
    2. Communicating student strengths and weaknesses clearly to students and parents.
    3. Being engaged in curriculum correction with the principal and the school board.
  4. Are the teacher’s advice, comments, and suggestions being sought by the school principal and their administrative staff for both the local school and the school board? If not, hold the school board accountable and the principal responsible for ignoring the needs of the teacher.
    1. Teachers have first-hand accounts of how the environment, building facilities, technology, etc. are influencing and affecting the student learning process.
    2. Teachers are not the sole reason student’s fail, struggle, or succeed.
    3. If it takes a town to raise a child, then the teacher should be considered as a tool, a small part, in building the child, and while the teacher is often the face of the school, the teacher is part of a team. Know who to hold responsible!
  5. What is the teacher doing in the broader community of educators?
    1. This question goes beyond simple professional development and continuing education.
    2. This question points to the support the school and the district provide time to the teacher for involvement, and encouragement to pursue professional opportunities.
    3. Ask the teacher how well they are encouraged and supported to pursue professional involvement. Just do not lay the blame with the teacher if they express they are not fulfilled professionally.

Nowhere in those assessments of a teacher is the race of the child considered, the financial aspect of the children’s family regarded, or any other demographic considered.  The Standards for Teacher Competence provides for measuring teachers, why does the lie regarding race and poverty remain so prevalent; the answer lies in the school administrations, the amount of money available, and the expensive cars parked at the school district headquarters.  The school administrations have become fat and stifling upon the tax dollars used in education, the size of the school administration is killing education, robbing teachers of funds for the classroom, and ruining children’s opportunities for growth; precisely the opposite of the job the school administrators was hired to perform.

Reeves (2003) cites Peters and Waterman (1982) “In Search of Excellence” for the role and duties of the school administrators.

  • Focus upon academic achievement
  • Provides clear curriculum choices and support teachers
  • Opens the schedule for frequent assessments which provide students multiple opportunities to improve
  • Emphasizes nonfiction writing
  • Employs collaborative scoring of student work using standard grading guidelines
  • Builds a learning environment focused upon persistent, consistent, and reliable assessments reflecting student efforts and teacher support

Nowhere in Peters and Waterman’s (1982) work is race a contributing factor in brains or abilities.  Nowhere is the financial situation a student arrives at a classroom from reflecting a causal variable in classifying a student who can and cannot handle workloads in K-12 education.  That the belief that race and poverty influence abilities to learn is a lie has been known since as early as the mid-1960s; yet, this pernicious belief continues to saddle minority and poverty students with ever-decreasing standards, less focus in education upon factors that can improve the student’s ability to learn, and activities that challenge the student to excel.

Here is what the lie regarding poverty and race looks like in practice, using Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) as an example.  Please feel free to use your public schools as an example to rate the school district, the school principal, and the teachers of your communities’ children.

  • APS is the 31st-largest school district in the US
    • 20% of New Mexicans age 16 and older have literacy skills at level 1, the lowest level on a scale of 1 to 5.
    • New Mexico ranks 50th out of the 50-American States with a D- or a score of 66.2%.
    • As the biggest school district in New Mexico, APS has nothing to crow about as they are central to the low scores and literacy problems in NM.
  • Capital budget: nearly $1 billion in both new educational facility capital projects as well as improvements and refurbishments in the district’s schools between 2010 and 2016.
  • Current Projects: FD&C currently has 146 projects in design or construction totaling approximately $378 million
  • Square Feet: approximately 15 million square feet of traditional school buildings, portable classrooms, and administrative offices and facilities
    • From the Bernalillo County website, there are several graphs worthy of attention. Specifically, Figure 12: Bernalillo County, NM Detailed Education Attainment Breakout by Race (Age 25+).
      • 9% of Hispanic populations do not have a high school diploma or GED equivalent.
      • 3% of the American Indian population does not finish high school or attain a GED.
      • 3% of the white demographic does not complete high school or attain a GED.
    • Speaking volumes of the efficacy of the school board to address the problems in APS, and even more about the “10% dropout” rate APS crows about as a success factor. How many of those graduating are functionally illiterate and unable to obtain work after graduation?
    • Having spoken with teachers, it is blatantly evident that APS passes students who do not possess the skills, because of the restrictions placed upon the teachers to teach to the students, and not to a program, a system, or a process.
    • With nearly 50% of the population in Bernalillo County identifying as Hispanic, and almost 50% not finishing high school, when Reeves (2003) cites the equity gap caused by the lie that poverty and race dictate educational ability, here is the gap illustrated.
    • Yet, for all the billions of dollars APS oversees for education in Bernalillo County, the gap has not shrunk, ever.
  • APS believes in “magic-bullet” programs to “fix the gap;” proving again that insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly expecting different results. New in 2019 in APS school systems is yet, one more sure-fire, quick-fix, strategy to fix the poverty and race gap in education, and the results will be the same next year and the year after that, ad nauseum, ad infinitum.

America, you are the power that keeps the school districts alive.  Use the five points provided to assess the teachers, use the six-points above to evaluate and measure the school board, school administration, and principal, and then every time you see a school board, teacher, or principal out of compliance, demand change!  There is no excuse for an almost 60-year old lie to continue to thrive.  There is no valid excuse for failing to teach students in the K-12.  Poverty and race do not hamper or hinder when teachers are prepared, and schools are appropriately led, focused, and each student is assessed for consistent, persistent, and reliable growth.  Demand better; our kids deserve more!

© 2019 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

The images used herein were obtained in the public domain, this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

Uncomfortable Truths – Where is the Accountability for Designed Incompetence?

I-CareThe Department of Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General (VA-OIG) conducted a review and sent the following report on their findings, “… the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) incorrectly processed more than half of the 62,500 claims decided in the first six months of 2018.”  A less than 50% accuracy rate is unacceptable in every business, organization, and school; yet, the VBA gets a pass on designed incompetence?  Why?  Already veterans must scrounge, dig, and provide endless reams of supporting proof, or new and material evidence, to obtain a “service-connected rating” for injuries and disabilities stemming from military service.  For the most part, the veteran accepts this as the cost of receiving treatment, and for the VBA to incorrectly process less than 50% of the claims, where spines are concerned, is deplorable performance.

In support of the claim that this is designed incompetence, the following is quoted from the VA-OIG report, “… incorrectly decided claims resulted from VBA’s inadequate process for ensuring accurate and complete evaluation. VBA’s primary means of evaluating disability contains minimal guidance, and a procedure manual is too subjective in key areas, which can lead to an inconsistent evaluation for related conditions stemming from the primary disability.”  The VA designed the processes for the VBA to follow.  Hence the incompetence is designed into the system to create additional problems, issues, and pain for the veteran.  Leading to a question for the elected officials in Federal Service, “Why are you allowing this nightmare to continue?”

Spine AnatomyAs a business consultant and industrial-organizational psychologist, I counsel those hiring me to never allow a process to reach a second birthday without a full and complete review.  When training deficiencies are found, immediate action is required, and that action must be documented.  Why is the VBA getting a pass on not training, not designing competent and reliable working processes, and not held accountable for performance that meets a passing score?  Not mentioned in this VA-OIG report, due to being outside the scope of the investigation, is the longevity of this single issue.  Why is a Congressional Blue-Ribbon panel not demanding historical information, and detailing for the American Taxpayer, especially the veterans involved, the significance of the rating problems and holding accountable those who designed the incompetence into the process?  By the time the VA-OIG reports are released for public distribution, there is supposed to be an alert to the Congressional Committees overseeing these government agencies.  The media is often alerted at the same time the Congressional Committees are informed; yet, a failing score in rating the “Spinal conditions [accounting] for two of VA’s top 10 service-connected disabilities, doesn’t even merit crickets.  Media why not stop reporting junk, and start reporting problems needing rectification?

If you want the full report, use the following link.  The full report is design incompetence of the greatest magnitude.  Elected officials, it is past time for action on the issue of design incompetence that allows substandard performance in government service!

Where designed incompetence continues to be the applicable excuse for poor performance, look no further than the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).  The VA-OIG report on Hospice and Palliative Care (HPC) is a full-on description of design incompetence to rival the VBA and maintain their lead on abusing veterans for personal power.  Consider the following, “… The OIG determined that 10.3 percent of the reviewed patients had a formal HPC consult or an HPC-related interaction/conversation without a designated HPC consult or stop code.”  Of those records, the 10.3% who were appropriately handled, and the 87.3% handled improperly, 100% of the patients reviewed experienced issues where “… administrative data did not reflect all HPC services provided by VHA. Inaccurate administrative data indicate that VHA has an incomplete understanding of how much HPC service it is providing or how much is needed, which could affect [the] allocation of resources and planning.”  Design incompetence allowed for every patient to have problems with information related, services the HPC provided, and the “VHA has opportunities to ensure that HPC consults are documented and coded accurately to account for HPC services.”  “Opportunities,” 100% of the records had administrative issues, 89.7% were improperly handled, “opportunities” might be a slight understatement.  Show me a successful business where 89% of the customers are mishandled, and 100% of the customers are provided inaccurate information when contacting the company for answers, and I will show you the floating mountains of Pandora in reality!

Secretary Wilkie has his hands full, and entirely tied, by the bureaucracy, employee inertia, and the uphill battle with intentional design incompetence that allows people who have been in their jobs since Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden, to still not know how to perform their job.  Federally elected officials, I must ask, “How can a VA employee qualify for retirement or continued employment, without knowing the job, or doing, the job they were hired or promoted for?”  Like fingers on a hand, the Federally Elected Officials have employees placed in leadership positions doing the business of the elected officials, if those employees cannot honorably do the jobs, they do not need to remain in your service, as you serve those who chose you on the ballot.  Is this pattern clear?  The voters hold you responsible for how well the government works, why are you not holding those in your service accountable and responsible for their inaction and their designed incompetence that promotes a ready-made excuse for dismal performance?

From personal experience, design incompetence is the only excuse many VA employees have, and the excuse is worthless.  There is a director of a major department of a statewide VA Health Care System, who refuses to write things down for fear of being held accountable.  Hence, every employee under this director’s leadership has adopted the same philosophy, no written guidance, written policy, no written procedures, and this situation is considered acceptable direction to this directors’ superiors.  Design incompetence is fought by holding individuals personally accountable, training, and using the performance management process to improve adherence and compliance.  For the VBA and the VHA to continue to allow design incompetence to excuse the inexcusable is a leadership issue which needs immediate Federal Elected Official intervention in support of Secretary Wilkie.  Please give him the tools needed to clean house, correct deficiencies, and establish sound policies to move the VA forward successfully!  The tools include a muzzle on the union, improved hiring, and support for eliminating thugs, criminals, and incompetence at every level of the VA hierarchy.

© 2019 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

 

Experience + Education + Time + Reflection = Knowledge: The Knowledge Transfer Process

The Rule of 7-P’s can be expressed two different ways, that then communicate two significantly different outcomes; yet, both expressions are intertwined and cannot be separately employed.

Proper Prior Planning Produces Potentially Positive Performance

or

Proper Prior Planning Prevents Purely Poor Performance

When discussing the Rule of 7-P’s and knowledge transfer, both methods of communicating the rule remains continuously applicable. For example, a toddler takes a table knife and starts to insert the table knife into an electric outlet. The adults, knowing that a discussion about electricity, the potential electricity has for causing burns, shocks, and fires will be lost on the toddler; thus the adult simply takes the knife, shouts NO!, and maybe smacks the child. What knowledge was transferred; the lack of a plan in this knowledge transfer opportunity has resulted in poor performance. However, the argument remains, what will a toddler learn without experiential knowledge? For a potentially positive knowledge transfer process, why not create a plan and turn a negative into a positive?

Providing the next variable in knowledge transfer, KISS, or “Keeping (IT) Supremely Simple.” The “IT” here can be the plan needing to be simple, the words employed, the method of knowledge transfer, etc.; all of these are variables in the knowledge transfer process. The principle is the requirement to transfer knowledge simply. Whether the audience is a toddler, a teenager, or an adult, the principle remains, keep (IT) supremely simple. Now, I have been reprimanded for insisting that adults need simple knowledge transfer; I continue to disagree. How many adults enter a training opportunity with nothing else on their minds than the coming learning? How many adults have shut down their lives for the training to enable full concentration for knowledge transfer success? Hence the need to communicate simply even for adults.

Agency; in all the world, there is no variable more powerful. Agency, as defined by Aristotle, is an agent in action. The agent is a body with the power to choose, the action is choosing, and natural consequences follow. Agency is a binary solution, act or do not act. Both choices possess consequences that will be valued by the individual through choice, who will then follow the logic of past choices and valuations into a determined destiny.

Communication, or knowledge transfer, provides a sender and a receiver in interaction the opportunity to act and will share both individual and combined natural consequences. Consider the toddler and the adult; the adult wants to keep the toddler safe. The toddler wants to discover. Connected the toddler and the adult share an experience (table knife and an electric outlet) with consequences, and individually, they will enjoy or suffer consequences as well as collectively they will have consequences. A consequence is neutral, the value of the consequence e.g., good or bad, positive or negative, relies upon the individual to choose, or exercise agency as an empowered agent. Every agent possessing the power to choose will exercise that power, and cannot escape the consequence.

Self-determination is often confused with agency, even sometimes used synonymously for agency, but self-determination is not agency. Keeping these two items, separate and distinct, remains imperative. Self-determination is defined as “the process by which a person controls their own life.” Thus, agency is a binary solution and not a process. Self-determination is a process, or a logical movement from one instance of an agent acting to another in a continuous chain of events, or cycles, of perception, choosing, evaluating, consequence, leading back to a new choice opportunity. Knowledge transfer relies upon self-determination as the sender cannot dictate how the knowledge sent will be employed. Only the receiver can determine the usefulness, the value, and the application. To blame the sender for knowledge transfer failing is mentally disingenuous at best, since the sender and the receiver share conjoined responsibility for the knowledge transfer process, the consequences of agentic action, and individual effects that are stemming from the knowledge transfer interaction.

Sine Qua Non a Latin phrase meaning “an indispensable and essential action, condition, or ingredient.” Trust is the Sine Qua Non in knowledge transfer opportunities. Trust is always playing a role, but the sender will generally not know if they are a trusted source. Trust remains an essential ingredient in all knowledge transfer opportunities. With trust between agents, knowledge transfer occurs almost effortlessly. Without trust between agents, knowledge is always doubted, efforts to transfer knowledge are more difficult, and the consequences of the lack of trust might not be realized immediately. Trust is based upon experience, time, and contains many different degrees, or shades. For example, the toddler might not convey they trust the adult, but the toddler will remember their interactions with the adult, and these remembered interactions build over time and experiences. One day that toddler will be able to vocalize trust, and the adult in that situation will then be faced with knowledge for good or ill.

Realtors have a saying, a rule, an aphorism, “Location, Location, Location.” Knowledge transfer is also contingent upon location, many times, this variable is conveyed as the environment. Regardless, where knowledge is transferred remains an aspect of prior planning that determines positive or poor performance. Just as realtors often overlook location, the knowledge transfer process, without a plan, will stumble over the location. Consider the following, while serving in the US Navy, an officer was observed attempting to transfer knowledge while a sailor used a pneumatic needle gun to chip paint. Chipping paint on steel requires ear protection, many times there is a desire for dual-ear protection, earplugs, and a set of over the ear, foam insulated, muffs. The officer was then observed holding the sailor accountable for the knowledge transferred, to the sailor’s detriment. Other times this same officer was observed transferring knowledge in engine spaces, with running machinery in the background; with the same result, the sailor was held accountable for not receiving the knowledge the officer was sending. Time after time, the same lesson is available, proper prior planning produces potentially positive performance, provided the plan understands location, location, location.

Knowledge transfer relies upon A Priori and A Posteriori knowledge to understand and onboard what is being provided. Humans are creatures that build, and experience builds knowledge, and education combined with experience, builds knowledge. The valuation of developed knowledge is personally known and evaluated continuously then compared with present situations and available experiential knowledge. The human brain will always be trying and testing A Posteriori knowledge, A Priori knowledge, against explicit, tacit, procedural, descriptive/declarative knowledge bases to build new knowledge from current experience. With this retesting will come the natural consequence of new valuations, where something highly valued suddenly becomes less valued or even rejected outright. Thus, the oft-repeated need for proper prior planning in transferring knowledge; without a plan, or with a poor plan, potentially positive performance is not obtainable.

Murphy’s Law states, “No plan survives first contact intact.” Some people take this law and then refuse to plan. Other people take this law and plan redundancies Ad Infinitum, but never carry out a single plan. The most effective people take this law, realize the potential, and will create plans flexible enough to accommodate reality, while confidently moving forward with the plan to achieve the desired end goal. An agent in action will choose who they are where planning is concerned, and the resulting consequences thus create societies, learners, communities, and other collections of empowered agents that are drawn to those with similar choice and valuation cycles — providing the variable in knowledge transfer second to agency, peers.

A peer group, as mentioned, forms around a group of agents that follow similar thought patterns and valuation cycles. For example, smokers know the dangers of smoking, but continue to smoke, and quitting requires choosing a different peer group before the smoker can quit. While other smokers surround the smoker, quitting is either a “pie crust promise, easily made and easily broken,” or an unfulfilled wish, due to the peers chosen with which to associate. The choice and perceived valuation cycle prevent peer reevaluation; thus, the smoker will continue to smoke. Knowledge transfer is dependent upon peer influence. Consider, if the sender is not trusted by one member of the peer group, the entire peer group will be influenced, and knowledge transfer will suffer accordingly. Even if the individual has a different evaluation of the sender through experience.

Consider the following example, while serving in the US Navy, an officer was charged to teach a class on handgun safety. The officer began the class by pointing a handgun at the audience. The officer was trying to teach a basic rule of handgun safety: “if you do not personally know a handgun is loaded, all handguns are presumed loaded.” However, this lesson failed horribly! Everyone in the class had a different perception of the lesson and related their experience to their peers. Thus, trust for this officer plummeted and interfered with every lesson this officer taught throughout his career. The officer was a subject matter expert, had tremendous insight, and could impact people for good. This single incident followed him from ship-to-ship, and doubt in their capability to teach was sown, all through peer-to-peer communication, and the influence of peer groups.

The importance of understanding the Rule of 7-P’s, KISS, agency, trust, location/environment, Murphy’s Laws, peer groups, and self-determination, forms foundational knowledge needed to build a training program, improve teaching and training, and enhance the process of knowledge transfer. Thus, it behooves all agents to have this information to enhance learning and improve teaching performance. The cycle is clear, “we teach that we may learn more perfectly, so we may teach more correctly, and then learn more perfectly.”

© 2019 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

The images used herein were obtained in the public domain, this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

Experience + Education + Time + Reflection = Knowledge: Understanding the Formula for Knowledge

The newest baby in the physical begins life with urges, desires, but must learn everything, and along the way discovers a fact as incontrovertible as the rising sun, knowledge requires effort.  From the desire to be dry instead of wet, the baby cries.  From a desire for food, the baby cries.  Thus, physical life begins.  Muir (1930) makes clear that “Thought is matter; thought rules the world.  Thinking is intelligence (knowledge) at work.”  Please keep in mind, this topic continues to be fiercely debated and time does not allow a full exploration of each nuance; however, from seminal thinkers the following attempts to simplify the debate and showcases why the formula for building knowledge is the way portrayed:

Experience + Education + Time + Reflection = Knowledge

Returning to the baby analogy, the baby experiences light, but cannot describe why their eyes hurt from the light.  Thus, the first step in learning is an experience.  Through experience, choices are made, but the lack of understanding of consequences and communicating leads the baby to cry in frustration.  Thus, we can conclude that the first step in knowledge creation is experimenting and the resulting experience teaches preferences (Muir, 1930).  The movie “Teacher’s Pet” provides a quote solidifying the role of experience “… knowledge is the horse experience rides” (Perlberg, Seaton & Seaton, 1958).

Partanen, Kujala, Naatanen, Liitola, Sambeth, and Huotilainen (2013) conducted research on babies in the womb and stated that it is logical that the baby in the womb is learning a language.  Thus, providing the conclusion that the first education lessons are taught and experienced in the womb.  Upon birth, everything is being taught, smiling, laughing, crying, etc. are all lessons to be experienced with educational lessons.  For example, a baby responds to parental cues, smiling when they smile, laughing to make them laugh, crying when the parents are upset or angry.  All learned responses ever before a formal classroom.

Education and experience provide the first step in knowledge, often referred to as A Priori or knowledge gleaned from the world.  For example, the preference to have a dry diaper over a wet diaper.  No one has to explain to the baby that being wet is uncomfortable, creates pain, and is not desirable.  Epistemologists continue to debate whether education and experience are both involved in A Priori knowledge, but common sense tells the student that knowledge that we cannot describe where we learned it, is A Priori knowledge (Moser, 1987; Williamson, 2013).

The next type of knowledge is referred to as A Posteriori or knowledge that comes after a lesson (Moser, 1987; Williamson, 2013).  Consider the difference between hot and cold; how many babies touch something hot, get burned, have pain, and then learn the difference between hot and cold?  A Posteriori knowledge requires the next element in the formula for the full lesson to be taught, reflection.  A Posteriori knowledge requires time to reflect, and time and reflection bring more nuances of the hot/cold lesson to the enquiring mind.  For example, burns have blisters, scabs, pain, and so much more is experienced through the senses.  The smell of burning flesh stinks.  The redness, when touched brings back pain.  If the burn is severe enough, there are hospitals, nurses, doctors, and so much more added to the lesson regarding the difference between hot and cold.

The remaining types of knowledge are as follows, with a brief description:

  • Explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge. A Priori and A Posteriori are opposite ways to learn, so too are explicit and tacit knowledge opposites.  Explicit knowledge is recorded data that can be accessed through books, videos, recordings, and is generally found in formal classrooms and upon the Internet (Collins, 2010; Smith, 2001).
  • Tacit knowledge is the knowledge that is both difficult to translate into words and difficult to separate from emotions. For example, music performed by a young performer may be technically correct, but the emotions are stripped from the performance.  A master musician, in concert, translates the emotions effortlessly, while remaining technically accurate, and is astute to the audience during the performance.  If a junior musician asks a master how to translate emotions, the master musician will find it very difficult to explain how but will encourage the junior to explore their own emotions and continue practicing (Collins, 2010; Reber, 1989; Smith, 2001).
  • The next two opposing classes of knowledge are propositional and non-propositional. These classes of knowledge are also referred to as descriptive or declarative knowledge (propositional) and procedural (non-propositional).  Propositional knowledge is the knowledge that is passed through declarative or descriptive statements, where the teacher knows something is true, but cannot adequately detail how they know it is true.  Propositional knowledge is generally found in closely held beliefs, religions, opinions, and is the embodiment of experiential knowledge.  Propositional knowledge is embodied in formal education (Klien, 1971).
  • Procedural knowledge is usable knowledge. For example, technical manuals are full of procedural knowledge or step-by-step instructions to complete a task.  Procedural knowledge is the only knowledge that can be cited in a court of law and is the fundamental description behind intellectual property.  Procedural knowledge can be bought, sold, traded, protected, the rights to procedural knowledge can be leased, all because of the usefulness of procedural knowledge.  Procedural knowledge is all about gaining experience (Corbett & Anderson, 1994; Willingham, Nissen, & Bullemer, 1989).

To gain knowledge in any of the classes identified, we have shown that experience and education need time and reflection to empower the knowledge gained into usefulness.  Each of the classes of knowledge has learning theories to aid the student to explore that class of knowledge and more fully draw out lessons for future use.  For example, procedural knowledge could be learned through cognitive learning theories (Atherton, 2009; 2010), through Pavlov’s classical learning theories (Clark, 2004; Bitterman, 2006), and many more theories.  There is no explicit right or wrong in knowledge attainment, the formula provided simply reflects the steps to creating knowledge, and each individual will reorder these ingredients based upon needs, desires, and personal application.  A master artist in sculpture might have a different order for their knowledge attainment than a master painter or musician; however, all the masters will be able to communicate due to their mastery, not the order they place the ingredients in knowledge attainment.  Key to the knowledge attainment formula provided is that learning never ceases.  Each experience provides new lessons that will require time and reflection to completely master, or attain.  Hence the need to know how knowledge is created and the importance of the formula for future experiences, formal and informal educational opportunities, and desires for new knowledge.

A final aspect of knowledge is that knowledge can be gained and lost (Howells, 1996).  A lack of choosing to learn or experience robs time and costs knowledge.  For example, the ability to read can be taught, but when not practiced, it becomes harder and harder until the ability to read is lost.  Understanding what is read, can be taught, but the harder reading becomes, the less the words are understood until all understanding in the written words has been lost.  Due to the nature of gains and losses in knowledge creation and retention, it behooves the individual to choose to be continually learning, experiencing and employing time and reflection to capture the available knowledge (Teece, 2000; Tough, 1979).

References

Atherton J. S. (2009) Learning and Teaching; Cognitive theories of learning [On-line] UK: Retrieved from: http://www.learningandteaching.info/learning/cognitive.html

Atherton, J. S. (2010, February 10). So what is Learning? Retrieved from http://www.learningandteaching.info/learning/whatlearn.html

Bitterman, M. E. (2006). Classical conditioning since Pavlov. Review of General Psychology, 10(4), 365-376. doi:10.1037/1089-2680.10.4.365

Clark, R. E. (2004). The Classical Origins of Pavlov’s Conditioning. Integrative Physiological & Behavioral Science, 39(4), 279-294.

Collins, H. (2010). Tacit and explicit knowledge. University of Chicago Press.

Corbett, A. T., & Anderson, J. R. (1994). Knowledge tracing: Modeling the acquisition of procedural knowledge. User modeling and user-adapted interaction, 4(4), 253-278.

Howells, J. (1996). Tacit knowledge. Technology analysis & strategic management, 8(2), 91-106.

Klein, P. D. (1971). A proposed definition of propositional knowledge. The Journal of Philosophy, 68(16), 471-482.

Moser, P. K. (Ed.). (1987). A priori knowledge. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Muir, L. J. (1930). The upward reach. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret News Press.

Partanen, E., Kujala, T., Naatanen, R., Liitola, A., Sambeth, A., & Huotilainen, M. (2013). Learning-induced neural plasticity of speech processing before birth. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110(37), 15145-15150. doi:10.1073/pnas.1302159110

Perlberg, W., & Seaton, G. (Producers), & Seaton, G. (Director). (1958). Teacher’s pet [Motion picture]. USA: Paramount Pictures.

Reber, A. S. (1989). Implicit learning and tacit knowledge. Journal of experimental psychology: General, 118(3), 219.

Smith, E. A. (2001). The role of tacit and explicit knowledge in the workplace. Journal of Knowledge Management, 5(4), 311-321.

Teece, D. J. (2000). Strategies for managing knowledge assets: the role of firm structure and industrial context. Long range planning, 33(1), 35-54.

Tough, A. (1979). Choosing to Learn.

Williamson, T. (2013). How deep is the distinction between A Priori and A Posteriori knowledge? The a priori in philosophy, 291.

Willingham, D. B., Nissen, M. J., & Bullemer, P. (1989). On the development of procedural knowledge. Journal of experimental psychology: learning, memory, and cognition, 15(6), 1047.

© 2019 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

The images used herein were obtained in the public domain, this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

Honest Praise – Catch Your People Doing Good!

My professional library has many books, from many authorities, regarding how to lead, leading in change, crisis leadership, and more.  Except that none of these books ever discusses the most critical tool in a leader’s toolbox, issuing honest, timely, and relevant praise.

I am one of those people who had to repeat a grade in school, and I am glad I did, for it provided an opportunity to meet Miss Murphy in the Governor Anderson Elementary School, Belfast, Maine.  Miss Murphy has a smiling face, but you know there is a stick hiding nearby if needed.  Miss Murphy laughed and smiled, and was the first principal I had witnessed behaving in this manner.  Miss Murphy had laser eyes that sparkled with mirth and could freeze rushing water.  Miss Murphy was a nun who went into the world to make the world better, especially for children.

As an energetic person, a person with problems with authority, and a guy, I spent an inordinate amount of time in the principal’s office in school.  Please note, I am not bragging here, just recognizing an “uncomfortable truth.”  Miss Murphy related a story to me, from her childhood, about how she had been called to be a student crossing guard, where she exercised her authority a little too much, and some kids cried, parents called the school, and complaints were issued.  Her school principal called her into his office, she could clearly see on his desk the complaint forms, but her principal spent more than 10-minutes praising her leadership ability, her genuine care for smaller kids, and other observations where her good personality had been witnessed.  Miss Murphy claimed she left his office forever changed.

The day Miss Murphy related this story to me, she praised me.  I knew that she knew, I had heckled a teacher mercilessly in an unwarranted manner.  I knew that she knew, I had committed several other offenses needing her judgment and punishment.  Yet, she provided honest praise, where she had observed quietly, and she concluded this visit to her office with the words, “From these observations, I know there is good inside you.”  I can honestly say, this was the worst chewing out I ever had in a school principal’s office.  I left her office that day, feeling small and insignificant like never before, but also feeling like a million bucks and dedicated to being caught more often doing good.  More to the point, I had discovered what a leader is and made a friend that I wanted, desired, and hoped I could receive more praise from.

To the leaders in business, I would make the plea, “Catch your people doing good.”  Catch them regularly, praise them honestly, issue the praise promptly, and you will shortly see new behaviors, attitudes, and cultures in your workplace.  I have published this plea previously and been asked some questions, below are the questions and some examples to get started.

  1. Isn’t all praise honest?
    • No, all praise is not honest. A pernicious lie has been passed around that criticism can be constructive; this fallacy needs squashed forever and cast upon the bad ideas from history.  You cannot build people by criticizing them.  There is never anything “constructive” in criticism!
    • Honest praise is precisely that, honest and sincere. You mean what you say, and say what you mean.  Hence, when you feel thank you is insufficient, leave a note in a distinctive color praising the efforts observed.
    • For example, I witnessed a leader who used praise to help ease the pain of failure. A subordinate had worked hard to make a satisfy a customer and fix a problem caused by the company.  The customer refused the apology and swore revenge, making the efforts of this customer agent useless.  The leader recognized the efforts and issued praise for trying, for being a generally successful customer advocate, and for going above and beyond.  The customer agent never realized someone beyond their team leader had observed their efforts, and the employee broke down in tears of gratitude for the honest praise issued.  I personally witnessed renewed dedication from this employee, and the impetus for change was the note of praise.
  2. Timely praise; why does praise need to be timely?
    • Timely praise is all about recognizing and issuing praise while the events are still fresh, and when the praise issued has a real chance at affecting an individual’s future efforts. Timely is all about being engaged in that exact moment and stopping to recognize, through praise, the efforts, trials, and experiences of others.
    • I worked at a company for three years, in what became my last quarter, I was issued praise for actions taken during my first month on the job. Honestly, that praise was useless to me, and while I didn’t fully spurn the efforts at recognition, I certainly was not swayed, inspired, or even influenced by the praise issued.  However, other incidents where praise was issued timelier has been more influential; thus, the need for timely praise.
    • The employee mentioned above, the effort expended occupied time Monday through the disastrous conclusion on Thursday. The employee came in to find praise and recognition on Friday Morning.  Timely, honest appreciation, proved to be what was needed and changed a life.
  3. Why should praise be offered regularly?
    • Let’s be honest, issuing praise adds work to your day. You have to make observations, then you have to issue praise, and this is a generally thankless effort; especially when you have to “Wash, Rinse, and Repeat” countless times to visualize a return on your time and effort investment.  I guarantee this effort will not last, no changes will be realized, and this attitude will be observed to cause more problems, not less.
    • Let’s be honest, issuing praise is fun. Witnessing a person who has been caught doing good provides excitement to replicate.  Catching a person doing good provides me a pleasure valve release from the stress of meetings, monthly and quarterly reports, and the hassles of leading an organization.  Issuing praise allows me to get out of my office, make human contact, and enjoy the people side of my job.  I guarantee this effort will last, that deep life-altering impact will be felt by those working for this leader, and employee problems will reduce to the lowest common denominator.
    • Regular praise issuance means you are fully committed to giving praise, and this effort will be reciprocated in a manner unexpected. Like the contagious smile, issuing honest, timely, regular praise, will catch fire and the contagion will spread and permeate throughout the office like wildfire.  Your customers will even catch the disease of issuing praise.
  4. Isn’t issuing praise just “puffery” or building snowflakes?
    • No! A thousand times; NO!  Honest praise, timely issued, and regularly provided is not “puffery,” but a direct extension of how you feel towards another person.  A child brings their mother a dandelion.  Does the mother squash the flower as just messy, or takes the flower and doesn’t issue thanks to the child; no.  Why should workplace praise and gratitude be any different than the child and their mother?
    • Issuing praise and showing gratitude is treating others how you prefer to be treated. Do you like seeing your efforts recognized; then recognize others.  Do you like being provided expressions of gratitude; then pass out gratitude.  People take cues from their leaders’ actions more than their words; issuing praise and recognition is an action with monumental power.
    • Myron Tribus asked a question about the purpose of a business essentially asking, “Is the purpose of your business to be a cash spigot or to improve the world?” If cash spigot, you would never issue praise or gratitude, and the money is the only focus.  In this scenario, expect high employee churn, higher employee stress, and poor employee morale.  If the purpose is to build the world, why not start by building the internal customer?  Do you issue thank you’s to your customers; why not issue gratitude first to your internal customer, the employee?
  5. Do adults, and working professionals really need all this praise?
    • Mark Twain said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” Yes; working professionals do need to be praised.  However, because they are adults, false praise, criticism couched as praise, and fake praise is easily detected, and the resulting consequences are terrible to witness.
    • While serving in the US Navy, I experienced a Chief Engineering Officer who faked praise, criticized through praise thinking he was constructive, and his efforts turned the Engineering Department’s morale from high to depressing in less than seven days. The Engineering Department went from winning awards and recognition to absolute failure in inspections, drills, and daily activities in less than two-weeks.  The recovery of the Engineering Department’s morale never occurred in the remaining two-years I had in my US Navy contract and featured a big reason why I left the US Navy.
    • Thus, to reiterate; YES! Yes, adults need honest, timely, and regular praise.  Yes, praise is a tool that can be wielded to effect significant positive change or can be wielded to decimate and destroy.  Choose wisely!

 

© 2019 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

The images used herein were obtained in the public domain, this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

 

Tragedies, Travesties, and Uncomfortable Truths – Shifting the Paradigm at the Department of Veterans Affairs

For the uninitiated, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has three chief administrations the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), and the National Cemetery (NC).  The majority of the problems a veteran is going to experience originates in decisions from the VBA, which then influence care with the VHA.

I believe in giving credit where, and when credit is due; thus, please join me in congratulating the VBA for meeting a significant milestone.  From the VBA press release we find the following:

“On August 11th, VA updated portions of the rating schedule that evaluate infectious diseases, immune disorders and nutritional deficiencies. By updating the rating schedule, Veterans now receive decisions based on the most current medical knowledge of their condition.”

The reason this is good news stems from so many veterans leaving the military with problems caused in the service where the VBA has dictated there is no injury due to the rating scales, forcing the VHA into a treatment problem where the patient is concerned.  More on the rating scales issue momentarily.

I-CarePlease join me in mourning another death at the hands of the VHA, which is labeled by the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) as “largely preventable.”  A patient in the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center was in a mental health unit and committed suicide.  Largely preventable is a vast understatement when hospital leaders only begin caring about the veteran committing suicide after the suicide, where training and policy adherence was not mandated prior to the suicide, and the lack of cameras and staff monitoring allowed for a patient, already having trouble and this trouble is known to the hospital providing treatment, to take their own life.  No staff monitoring every 15-minutes was occurring; why?  Why were the cameras non-functioning?  How long had these problems been known and nothing was being done to correct these discrepancies.

Let me emphasize a truth about suicide.  A person expressing desire to suicide is not weak or lazy, and they will not “find a way.”  Having had depression sufficient to consider suicide in the past, I can tell you from personal experience that friends help, talking openly and honestly helps, and the emotional burdens placed upon a family when a suicide is successful are tremendous, as well as the guilt the surviving family must overcome.  This veteran did not have to die, their death was “largely preventable,” and for their death to occur on VA property, in a mental health ward, remains a tragedy.  That the VHA dropped the ball and allowed, through leadership failures, non-working technical means, and training deficiencies, this veteran to die is disgraceful!

The VBA is committing travesties of justice every day.  Consider the following, in the past 15+ years since I left the US Navy, I have had discussions with veteran service officers (VSO’s) across the continental United States on my own claim, and while supporting other veterans with their claims.  A recent example serves to illustrate the problem.  A Spine Anatomyveteran has bulging disks in the cervical spine.  The MRI shows disk degeneration, stenosis, and other problems in the cervical spine.  The veteran has an “S-Curve” in the thoracic spine caused by carrying bottled gas containers from the pier into the ship.  There is stenosis and disk degeneration in the thoracic spine.  The lumbar spine has bulging disks, degeneration, and stenosis.  Three separate areas of the spine, three distinct injured areas, yet, the VBA calls the spine issues, “Lumbar strain.”

Any person who has taken human biology in K-12 education can tell that spine issues in cervical and thoracic are not “lumbar strain” and would not need “new and material evidence” to understand that the first decision was flawed.  Yet, for the veteran to obtain a rating for their spinal issues, they must find an orthopedic spinal specialist, not affiliated with the VHA, and get a letter of diagnosis detailing why these separate areas of the spine are not “lumbar strain.”  The current corporate medicine world, finding an orthopedic specialist will require a non-VHA doctor as a primary care provider (PCP) to refer the veteran to a specialist.  Without a significant cash investment, time investment, and replication of VHA completed tests, x-rays, and MRI’s, the veteran will not be able to obtain a letter detailing the issues sufficient to sway the VBA in correcting their initial judgment.

The veteran will be stuck between three bureaucracies, the VBA who is denying the claim for spinal injury, the VHA who cannot diagnose and document a problem sufficient to meet the VBA standards, and the corporate medicine outside the VHA.  Yet, anyone with a passing understanding of human anatomy and biology can logically make the leap that the spinal issues cannot all be lumped under “lumbar strain.”

I continue to ask, “What is a veteran to do?”  Many times, the veterans in this position are either unemployed or employed below their skill level because they are in pain, they have medical issues requiring treatment, and they cannot obtain the treatment needed because the VBA has not allowed a military service claim to be placed upon the medical records for the VHA to treat.  To chain medical professionals to a rigid and dead bureaucracy, by refusing their ability to diagnose a problem for another VA administration is, without a doubt, a terrible decision, and dangerous practice.  To refuse to investigate a medical problem, restricted breathing with chest pain because the pain is not related to heart and lungs remains a travesty and an abuse of the patient.

To the elected Federal officials, why are you not demanding improvement to the VHA and the VBA?  Why do veterans have to die in the care of the VHA before any improvement is made to the bureaucracy you created?  Where does a veteran go to obtain relief from the bureaucratic nightmare where the VBA and the VHA are refusing to help the veteran?  The tragedy in this entire article is that the VA cannot enforce policy adherence, controlling the risks to avoid incidents like those detailed, and demand better performance from the people and the systems that are supposed to help the veterans.  The travesty in this article is the policymakers between Secretary Wilkie and the front-line employees; who is helping the veteran navigate these rocky shoals and dangerous waters of government policy?

I have met some great VSO’s, employees of the VBA and VHA, and interviewed with phenomenal people working in the National Cemetery; yet, they all have the same problem, the millstone around their necks is the regulations, policies, procedures, and red-tape of the VA that has been designed to refuse help as the first response to every question posed.  Thus, as I have asked Senator Udall (D-NM) and Representative Haaland (D-NM), as well as countless other Federally elected officials between 1997 and the present, what is a veteran to do to obtain the help they need from the VA?  Who would the veterans approach for guidance and support?  When the VBA is demanding “new and material evidence” before acting to support a veteran, how does a veteran obtain this evidence?

I know of hundreds of veterans who were affected by an independent duty corpsman in the US Navy who threw records over the side of the ship to avoid being held accountable for bad decisions and patient abuse.  Because these records are not in the medical files, injuries sustained in the service are not documented, and the VBA will use this as an excuse to deny claims.  What is a veteran to do?  Where does the veteran go?  How does a veteran correct something that occurred beyond their control to obtain treatment for decades-old injuries?  You the elected officials allowed the bureaucracy to be built, you are responsible for correcting these issues experienced, what are you doing to affect change and support Secretary Wilkie in fixing the VA, and by extension the VBA, the VHA, and the NC?

The American people are watching how you treat veterans, and we are not pleased!

 

© 2019 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the photos displayed.