Patient Health and Safety Concerns – Phoenix, VA Medical Center

Alyshia Smith
Medical Center Director
Carl T. Hayden VA Hospital
650 E Indian School Rd
Phoenix, AZ 85012

08 July 2020

Dr. M. Dave Salisbury Ph.D.
10002 N 7th St
APT 1125
Phoenix, AX 85020

Subject: Healthcare policies that endanger patients.

Dear Ms. Smith,

I have been a patient of the Carl T. Hayden VA Hospital since 1998 when my family first moved to Phoenix.  I was a witness to the award-winning days, and have been a witness to the dead veterans, paper waiting lists, and incredible fall of the Phoenix VA Medical Center.  I want to help fix this VA Medical Center and moved back to Phoenix specifically for this purpose.  As an organizational psychologist, I have made a careful study of the VA, as a patient, as a previous employee, and as a concerned citizen.  I blog about VA issues because “I-Care” about the VA.

One of the first lessons taught me in new hire orientation training, concerned the Emergency Room and the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA; 1986), a federal law that requires anyone coming to an emergency department to be stabilized and treated, regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay.  EMTALA was being abused in the hospital I worked at and I reported this issue.  EMTALA is being abused at the Phoenix, VA Medical Center.  Twice I have followed my primary care providers’ instructions to report to the VA ER for treatment, and twice I have been refused service.

30 June 2020, I was refused service at the VA ER because I cannot wear a mask due to breathing issues.  I was informed upon entering that I could hold the mask in front of my face and this is an acceptable workaround.  Upon entering the ER to be checked in, the office staff refused the information provided at the entrance, and said: “If the mask is not worn, we are refusing service.”  I have had shortness of breath, not lung-related, for many years now and cannot wear a mask.  This information is noted in my VA Medical records.  I have been through several rounds of breathing tests which confirm my lungs work great, but I remain short of breath, and when I wear any mask my problems breathing include lightheadedness, dizziness, nausea, and eventually my vision grays and I pass out.  The original problem was diagnosed at the Salt Lake City VA Medical Center (2010/2011).

08 July 2020, I walked into the VA through the South Entrance.  Not wearing a mask and those performing the COVID check did not offer a mask, offer a face shield, or say anything.  I walked to the ER, the admitting person did not mention my need for a mask, nor did they ask why I was not wearing a mask, I was checked in to be seen in the ER.  I was triaged and the triage nurse did not say anything about a mask.  I sat in the ER for 3-hours and none of the medical staff, hospital staff, employees, or Federal Officers walking past ever mentioned the need for a mask.  I walked to the Patriot Store feeling sick because of diabetes and needing food.  On my way, an employee whines about me not wearing a mask, and I ignore this person as my medical information is private and I should not have to explain to every nosy-nelly about why I am not wearing a mask.  I go to complete my purchases and suddenly the VA Police, who were called by the unknown VA Employee, are there insisting I need to wear a mask.  I explained, for the first of at least 40-times that I cannot physically wear a mask to protect my health and safety.

I realize the VA Police are executioners of policies that they have no say in forming and I refused to be anything less than professional as we walked back to the ER.  By the time I arrive back in the ER, my police escort has grown from 2 to 7 or 8, led by one plainclothes person claiming to be a Lieutenant and the other was a uniformed Lieutenant.  My intransigence at wearing a mask was not disorderly conduct, but a patient safety issue. I have a hard time breathing and when I must speak, this exacerbates my breathing condition.  I was accused of yelling, and before I could explain, I am being threatened with being arrested, cited, and thrown out of the VA ER.  By this time, I am in trouble physically and neurologically, between diabetes and my need for food, and the neurological condition I suffer through, my stress levels are making a bad situation worse.

A person identifying themselves as a doctor handed me a face shield and my wearing of the face shield did not stop the harassment from the VA Police over not wearing a mask.  During my conversations with Timothy Mikulski from the Patient Advocates Office after the last time, I was refused care illegally at the VA ER, I was told wearing a face shield is acceptable.  Thus, when I put the face shield on, I was expecting to be left alone.  Instead, I was demanded to either wear a mask or be arrested.  My third threat in less than 5-minutes for not wearing a mask, even though I now had the face shield properly worn for the same 5-minutes.

Eventually, I am arrested, I experience a seizure where I fell to the floor and injured my knee, then was hit repeatedly in the spine while being “patted down,” which continued to collapse my legs and increase my pain.  I was handcuffed to a bench in a holding cell where I bruised my right wrist because my seizures include my arms jerking and with one arm handcuffed to an immovable bench, I could not control my body and the handcuff was not allowing my involuntary movements increasing patient harm.  I have a bruise and scratches from the handcuff on my right wrist.

Here is the problem, the policy for wearing a mask does not have exclusions for those of us who cannot wear a mask.  Thus, wearing a mask creates more health problems, the potential for injury, and issues for the medical staff who are already overworked.  If a face shield is acceptable as a replacement for a mask, why was my wearing the face shield insufficient to closing the police issue?  If a face shield is not acceptable as a replacement for the mask, why is the patient advocates claiming this is acceptable?  If wearing a mask is so important, why was no one bothered by my not wearing a mask until the nosy employee called the Federal Police?

I sat in the bench seat beside the bookshelf in the ER.  Multiple officers, staff, and more walked past and no one was bothered, no one said anything, no one made any fuss over my not wearing a mask for three full hours while I was waiting in the ER.  Even when I interacted with the employee’s passing nobody made any comments.  This is a failure of policy, or it is the unfair harassment of a single person by overzealous police officers.

Let us talk about access to medical records.  The Federal Officers harassing me, sent one of their own to view my medical record for a statement from my PCP regarding my inability to wear a mask for health reasons.  I told the officers what they would find, “Records pertaining to my being diagnosed with shortness of breath and difficulty breathing.”  They claimed that since those records were from my time in Albuquerque, I was “blowing rainbows up their butts.”  Hence, even if my medical records had reported a message from my PCP, I would still have been in the wrong.

From my time as an employee, Medical Support Assistant, VA ER, Albuquerque, I know that the police do not have a reason to be surfing my medical records.  Yet, in the holding cell, I heard them discussing my medical records, my mental health diagnosis and cracking wise about details in my medical folder.  How did they get my medical records?  Why did they have possession of my medical records?  What is the purpose of the police having access to my personal medical files?

I freely admit, by the time the VA Police handcuffed me, my “cherub-like demeanor” had melted away.  When I am in extensive pain, I cannot think clearly, speak coherently, and my ability to suffer fools and liars is non-existent.  But this entire affair was brought about by a policy that does not make sense, a nosy employee who does not need to know my medical history and two overzealous lieutenants who need their ego’s clipped!

Another issue, why is my full SSN, DOB, and Full Name printed on the triage wrist bands?  Why are all VA ER patient’s data displayed in human-readable data on the wristbands?  This is a HIPPA and PII security issue that was supposed to have been corrected back in 2014.  Human readable data being bandied about places patients at greater risk for having their identity stolen.  This is especially true on an item regularly thrown away.  As someone who has followed the VA problems with protecting veterans, protecting data, and adhering to rules and regulations, I find this lapse highly questionable.

The following is requested:

  1. Remove the arrest and cancel the citations.
  2. Correct the policy.
  3. Train so the policy is properly applied, fairly communicated, and a standard is set. Removing individual adaptation and personal interpretation.
  4. Correct the PII on the wrist bands and other printed patient documents to protect the identity of the veterans. This is a simple fix of programming and your IT department should be able to complete this task easily.

Thank you for your prompt response in this regard.

Sincerely,

Dr. M. Dave Salisbury Ph.D./MBA

© Copyright 2020 – M. Dave Salisbury

The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the pictures.

All rights reserved.  For copies, reprints, or sharing, please contact through LinkedIn:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/davesalisbury/

America – Let’s Elect a Few More Bastards

Non est vivere sed valere in vobis …. merentur melius quam tu tibi semper sit.

Finest HourPersonally, I am tired of soft speakers who speak platitudes and inwardly are ravening wolves.  Pres. Obama spoke softly, carried no sticks, drew red lines without consequences, and America is far worse for having had him as a president.  President Clinton also spoke well; but, severely lacked morals, courage, a sense of honor, and America suffered.  Both President’s Bush spoke well but lacked intestinal fortitude, grit, backbone, and ultimately were bad presidents for America.  President Reagan had grit, spoke eloquently, was respected, and was a bastard whose enemies honored him and feared him.  President Trump for all his good qualities is plain and abrupt.  But, inwardly he has a spine of iron, and demands accountability first from himself, and then from those around him.  Recently, I heard President Trump referred to as a “Bastard of a Bully!”  I think we need to elect a few more bastards.  People with grit in their teeth, iron in their spines, tongues that can lash and whip, and hands with calluses from doing actual work.

Anthony Liccione is quoted as saying, “A company of wolves, is better than a company of wolves in sheep’s clothing.”  For too long America has been electing legions of wolves in sheep’s clothing.  People who can utter pleasing words, but lack a spine, morals, convictions, and calluses from doing hard work.  We have elected the political poison we currently suffer because they make a good speech.  I remember an election, in fact, it is the only time I ever voted for Senator John McCain.  His opponent was lackluster, the race was a non-presidential year, and I had heard a couple of speeches and thought Senator McCain was worthy of my vote.  Not two days after McCain’s victory, I witnessed how spineless and useless McCain truly was and my eyes opened.  McCain was a traitor to America, and unfortunately, he had excellent company in the long-term emplaced members of Congress on both sides of the political aisle.  I am glad to say, I never made the mistake of voting for McCain ever again.

Grit is a MarathonAs an independent thinker, armchair historian, and a morally upright citizen, I have been doing more work every election to scrape the shield of whipping cream off the crap sundae the electorate is handed, and know who is being offered for election.  The more I scrape, the more worthless those running for office appear.  Terry Pratchet is quoted as saying, “He was the sort of person who stood on mountaintops during thunderstorms in wet copper armour shouting ‘All the Gods are bastards.’”  That is the type of person America needs in political office.  Not the namby-pamby, wishy-washy, flim-flam artists, but people who insist that the government needs to be smaller, thus consequentially more flexible in crisis.  We need people who have suffered under the rule of bureaucrats and beat the hell out of them to achieve, despite the bureaucracy.  We need more grit!

Grit - DefinedWhat is “Grit” you might ask; well, since America has not seen a lot of grit, please allow me the opportunity to describe this precious commodity. Grit is a positive, cognitive trait based on an individual’s perseverance of effort combined with the passion for a specific long-term goal or end state.  At least, that is what the academics call grit.  Of all the people America remembers who have had a positive and long-lasting influence upon American culture, John Wayne is near the top, and if anyone embodied grit, it was John Wayne who is quoted thusly, “True grit is making a decision and standing by it, doing what must be done.  No moral man can have peace of mind if he leaves undone what he knows they should have done.”  In understanding grit, I have oft called upon T. S. Eliot, “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”

As a child, I once watched the Boston Marathon, it was as interesting to me as watching a dandelion grow, only the finish line really mattered.  As an adult, I saw nonedited pictures of runners during a marathon and understood that which I could not see as a child.  I saw men and women who had bowel movements, torn large pieces of skin away and were bleeding copiously, or thrown up on themselves and still kept running, and I came to understand why grit involves the mindset of living life as a marathon and not a sprint.  Marathon runners are not pretty at the finish line, they know about heartache, failure, blisters, torn muscles, dog bites, shoes failing, weather changes, and so much more.  The marathon is effort incarnate, planning that fails, sorrow, misery, and a finish line.  A marathon is grit embodied, sticking to a plan day in and day out, not for a small period of time days/weeks/months, but months/years/decades, because the goal is worth the effort.

On the Maine coastline, just south of Belfast, is a marina called Bayside.  As a child, I spent time delivering the Bangor Daily News to Bayside homes and got the honor to meet and talk to several of the lobstermen who came and went through Bayside’s docks.  I never expected to see professional lobstermen and fishermen in Bayside.  I was told Bayside was where the rich Boston people had summer homes and playboats.  One very senior lobsterman taught me a lesson one day about grit that I never forgot, “Without grit, pearls are impossible.”  He talked about how small amounts of grit wore down large rocks, that lobsters used grit to clean, and how grit polished.  My grandfather a few summers later taught me how to polish steel until it shined using grit.  I look at President Trump, and for all his faults, I can also see how grit has polished him until he shines.  Maybe a little more grit, that comes with 4-more years as President, can soften more of his abrasive character; but, when I see the growth that the first 4-years has brought, I cheer for President Trump!

PatriotismAmerica, I think it is time we learned a valuable lesson where the selection of politicians is concerned, “Be a good enough person to forgive the losers elected in the past, and smart enough to never trust them again with political office.”  America has lived the words of Soren Kierkegaard, “There are two ways to be fooled.  One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to accept what is true.”  It is true, at all levels of government, poor choices have been made, rotten and unintelligent boobs have been placed in power above their ability.  In the military, we called this “being promoted to a person’s maximum level of incompetence.”  Well, this is an election year, and we will have another next year and the year after.  We have been cheated and abused by the smooth-talkers long enough.  Let us elect some true bastards!

Let us elect people who buck the system, who take the bureaucrats on and win.  Let us elect some people who have grit, backbone, and knowledge from experience, not just a degree from a wealthy school and experience as a lobbyist.  We need police officers who know about laws, we need farmers who know about growing things, ranchers, and dairymen who know about long days and short pay because of taxes and dumb decisions made in capitals that kill their businesses.  We need manufacturers who make things, and we need people who do not want to live their lives in the capitals of America feeding off the work of others as a parasite, but who work while elected and long to return to doing what they love.

The Duty of AmericansGeneral George Patton was a bastard; but, he is remembered for being the biggest bastard of them all in WWII, and when the chips were down, he won by being the biggest, grittiest, most hated bastard America had ever sent to war.  I suggest ripping a few pages from General George Patton and Ayn Rand’s book, and electing people who have trod the gristmills of life with bloody feet and callused hands, who live the following: “The question isn’t who’s going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me!”

America, you are the superheroes in your own story, rise!

Thomas Watson said the following about friends, but it applies to politicians desiring to lead just as well, “Don’t make friends who are comfortable to be with.  Make friends who will force you to lever yourself up!”  Politicians should be forcing us to leverage ourselves up, to rely upon ourselves, not the government, and the politicians America needs, know that government is a necessary evil and nothing else!

Lever Up

© Copyright 2020 – M. Dave Salisbury

The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the pictures.

All rights reserved.  For copies, reprints, or sharing, please contact through LinkedIn:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/davesalisbury/

What is a Statue? – Knowing the Paradigm

Fallen Soldier StatueIt seems fitting that on the Fourth of July, a remembrance of what a statue is should be described, and penned for all the world to see, to read, and remember.  The world has recently witnessed the violent and unhinged protestors tearing down statues.  Witnessed spineless elected officials taking statues down for every reason but the truth, and we have seen violence when the ignorant mob has been refused.  Like spoiled children without a stern parent to correct behavior, the world has watched; but, does the world remember what a statue is?

A statue is made of bronze, stone, iron, usually a combination of all three, intent to remind the passerby of greatness achieved.  The mob in all its anger and horrible glory would have Confederate statues pulled down as “symbols of racism.”  When in reality, those symbols, were erected to remind us of both the good and the ill found in each human heart.  The Confederate Soldier who fought for his home, his friends, his family, and his way of life.  The Confederate Soldier fought gallantly, bravely, and the American Union is better, stronger, and more powerful with the reminder than without; thus, in times past a statue was built to remember, lest we forget and must suffer a repeat of history.

Pres. Lincoln StatueThe statue of Christopher Columbus so hatefully despised, rudely treated by mob violence and elected official stupidity was erected not as a monument to a man, but to commemorate the birth of an idea and an ideal that became these United States of America, a Free Republic if we can keep it.  Christopher Columbus was a man, the same as those in the mob, he had light and dark inside him.  Who is his judge, who is his jury pool, who has the power to judge his actions; not I, nor the mob who despises and defaces the likeness of a person who achieved greatness through sacrifice.  Thus, through sacrifice, the Great American Experiment was launched.  Throughout time immemorial, the current generation has built monuments, statues, to honor the sacrifice that has brought about greatness.

The sad truth of the matter, the mob in its anger deems themselves powerful enough to pull down those sacrifices remembered, to throw away those sacrifices as if they did not matter, and then has the effrontery to suggest they know better than the entire rest of a civilized body.  The spineless Dane-Geld paying politician deems themselves not the protector of the honor of those sacrifices remembered, but the arbitrator of the masses and the statue is blamed.

Washington at Valley Forge

The statue is blamed and then torn down, cast forever from the minds and memory, no longer an artifact to be remembered, to have stories told, and kept alive from generation to generation as a means of learning history.  No longer to be a symbol of remembrance for sacrifices that led to greatness.  No longer to lift and inspire hearts and minds.  But, the media talking heads will say, “Those statues torn down can be erected some other place, out of sight, in an area where the mob cannot choose to become inflamed.”  In telling this lie, a single truth was sacrificed, but the ignorance and lie remain, to the shame and the derision of those who know what a statue truly is, and why that statue was needed.

The truth is, the mob chose to become angry, to vent their anger as domestic terrorists, not protestors.  The truth is people protest, but when the protest interrupts daily commerce, blocks traffic, starts fires, using the fear of the mob to cause damage and mayhem the people are no longer protestors, but terrorists.  Consider some of the first terrorists in American History, many have been called upon by the media and the mob to justify their actions.  The Boston Tea Party has been called upon to justify the actions of the mob.  However, the Boston Tea Party is but one of the first acts of war that sundered, forever, the hold of the British Empire upon America.  Another act of domestic terrorism, the firing upon of Fort Sumter by Confederate ships as the opening salvo of the American Civil War.  Consider Francis “The Swamp Fox” Marion during the Revolutionary War.  Commander Marion led a guerilla war against the British across Carolina.

Confederate Soldier Statue 2The difference between these early domestic terrorists and today’s domestic terrorists, is not that they won, but that they sacrificed for the idea, they gave all not for a statue or a holiday, they gave all for something better and hoped their sacrifice would be remembered.  Look at the riots in Watts, no statues were erected, the land is blighted, the area almost ungovernable, and nobody remembers the names of those domestic terrorists that started the riots in Watts.

The difference is clear when the statue of General George Washington is looked upon, do you see the first President of America, or do you remember the sacrifice of sitting amongst his men at Valley Forge, having his soul and body scourged by weather alongside how many countless others, but staying the course because he was the leader, and his Army loved him?  Do you choose to remember General Washington as the man who could have been King and the death of the American Experiment had he not refused the third presidency; or do you choose to belittle and bemoan because the General had just as many faults as you or I?  Would you tear down the memory of his sacrifice, which is wrapped in the sacrifices of the entire American Army from the earliest days of America to date, or will you choose to remember?

Columbus StatueJust as the mob chooses to be angry, indifferent, and ignorant, so we must choose at this hour in America.  Do we choose to stand, remember, and honor, or do we allow this American Republic to end like Rome before it when faced with a similar threat from domestic terrorists?  What is a statue, it is a visible commitment that declares for all the world, “Not on my watch will your sacrifice be forgotten, your heritage besmirched, and your honor be for naught!”  Not on my watch will America fall to the byzantines amongst us, who have chosen ignorance and passion over logic and reason!  Not on my watch will your statue fall without mourning and a burning desire to see your statue returned to its place of prominence and glory!

A statue is not to remember a single individual, but a moment when people pulled together to achieve greatness, sacrificed personal interest, using character and fortitude to stay until the job was done.  Christopher Columbus would have never left Spain with the sailors doing their tasks individually, and together they achieved greatness.  The statues of Christopher Columbus are not erected to a man, they were erected to a memory, an event, and a promise of desiring to discover, learn, and grow.

What is a statue; it is a commitment, it is a pledge, it is a solemn vow, it is a means of remembering.  A statue is not the property of the government, it is the hearts of the people displayed.  A statue is the reminder of the good that comes from reaching ever upward, for desiring our children to be better today, then we were yesterday, so their children may attain greatness tomorrow.  What is a statue; it is a visible reminder of all the good one man, woman, or child can do when they believe in something bigger than they are.

What is a statue; it is America, the individual citizens, promising…

We Will Not Forget!

© Copyright 2020 – M. Dave Salisbury

The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the pictures.

All rights reserved.  For copies, reprints, or sharing, please contact through LinkedIn:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/davesalisbury/

Let’s Talk About the VA – The Insanity Must Cease!

I-CareWhen the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) does something good, I praise them.  The VA recently had a good report come from the Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG), apparently there was progress made in improving performance once policies were written down, training of employees occurred, and over time there has been an improvement, however small and seemingly insignificant.  I offer my sincerest congratulations on making progress and change on this issue.

Carl T. HaydenHowever, I will castigate and deride all abuses of veterans, myself included.  At the Phoenix VA Medical Center, the Carl T. Hayden VA Hospital remains a hotbed of bureaucrats on a power trip weekend from Dante’s first ring.  The abuses at this hospital continue and the leadership needs to be corrected!

For those who do not remember, the Carl T. Hayden VA Hospital in Phoenix, AZ used to be an award-winning hospital, a pillar of good performance, and an example of how VA Hospitals could be run.  Then, the director was changed, the hospital staff changed, awards stopped coming, and veterans started dying.  Leading to the fiasco of dead veterans on paper waiting lists, during Pres. Obama’s reign.  CNN reported on April 30, 2014, that at least 40 United States Armed Forces veterans died while waiting for care at the Phoenix, Arizona, Veterans Health Administration facilities.

On 29 June 2020, I reported to the VA ER sick and in desperate need of assistance.  The assistance was refused because I cannot physically wear a mask.  In my medical records, it is noted that I suffer from shortness of breath and any mask exasperates this problem.  In direct violation of Federal Law that commands all emergency rooms to see whoever walks in, the ER staff refused me service due to the “Mask Policy” as part of their “Covid-19 response.”  No options, no exceptions, no excuses, I as the patient could either endanger my health or find a different hospital ER.

The Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA; 1986) is a federal law that requires anyone coming to an emergency department to be stabilized and treated, regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay.  EMATALA also dictates that no person can be refused treatment in any Emergency Room.  The EMTALA is not new and is part of the training from day one for all staff at the VA.  For ER staff, this is the golden ticket and special care is taken to ensure this law is followed to the letter; rather, this law is supposed to be the premier standard from which good health care policy is built for emergency rooms.  Except, the Carl T. Hayden VA Hospital in Phoenix, AZ., and the Raymond G. Murphy VA Hospital in Albuquerque, NM., both appear to be the exception to EMTALA, by order of the staff bureaucrats, who are supported in their illegal and nefarious behavior by the hospital administration collectively, and the hospital leadership specifically.

Raymmond G. MurphyI have written previously of the patient abuse I witnessed, and reported, at the Raymond G. Murphy VA Hospital, in Albuquerque, NM.  I have written about the patients turned away by nurses and other staff because these staff members refused to follow the law.  I reported the risks and problems being run by refusing patients in the ER, and this all fell on deaf ears.  Well, I will not stop raising this illegal practice as a major concern for the hospital leadership all the way to Secretary Wilkie and the elected officials in Congress who refuse to act to improve the toxic culture found in the VA.

You, the bureaucrats in the VA cannot break the law with impunity and your actions are leading to major patient safety concerns, increased hospital operating costs, and putting real people in real harm!  I spent more than an hour in the VA Parking lot trying to calm my breathing down to safely operate a motor vehicle, so as to drive to a different hospital emergency room, where I was treated without ever having to deal with the mask issue.  While in the VA Parking lot, I was attended to by three Federal Police Officers who were willing to try and get me seen at the ER but were stuck trying to force the “Mask Policy,” regardless of my physical inability to wear a mask without causing additional harm and injury.  The Federal Officers were called because the ER staff reported a violent and non-responsive patient had just left the building.  I was both responsive and never violent in the ER.  Regardless of the fact that I was extremely short of breath, unable to walk, and unable to be seen at the VA.  When the officers found me in the parking lot, I could barely breathe and was so weak from lack of oxygen that I was graying out in vision and other major issues; thus, how the ER staff can say I was violent and non-responsive is beyond my comprehension.

The behavior of the ER Staff at the Carl T. Hayden VA Hospital in Phoenix is beyond the pale and bordering on obscene, as well as illegal!  Where is the accountability?  Where is the patient advocate?  Where is the Administrator on Duty who has the power to demand corrective action?  Where is the rightful opposition; well, I know where the rightful opposition is, it is buried with the dead veterans, who died awaiting care at the hands of the VA!

VA SealWhere is the patient advocate in this problem; well, that night after being refused care I reported the problem to the patient advocates office via secure message, and the following morning, the patient advocate replies that “It is VA policy to mandate all people wear masks if they desire treatment.”  Not caring about the federal laws governing ER visits, not even bothering to mention that the treatment by the staff as reported was ludicrous and vile, and not even to bother to ask if I was seen elsewhere.  Just a brief, less than 100-word, statement telling me my concerns for my safety and health are not important and policy must come first.  The perfect bureaucrat, with the most detestable response it has been my displeasure to experience since the last time I visited the DMV.

I am sorry but everyone is required to wear a mask at the VA Facility. I understand you may have shortness of breath but you can wear a mask and undo one side every couple of minutes. This is for your safety and the others around you.

T. C. M. [Name Shortened for Privacy]
Patient Advocate

Will someone please explain how this can occur?  Will an elected official please demand a behavior change at the VA, and remain interested long enough to facilitate the solutions Sec. Wilkie needs to effect change?  How many veterans will have to die needlessly at the hands of the VA before the elected officials decide that veterans’ lives matter and the VA is taking our lives?

I get it, there are a lot of problems in America, and more in the world.  But, the US House of Representatives, instead of passing a budget, which they are statutorily mandated to do, is writing letters, and meddling in Israel’s business.  If the US House has the time to meddle and jump down every rabbit hole on the political landscape, they must have time to assist the veterans and improve the VA.  If the US Senate has the time to meddle, postulate, and pander, then they have the time to review the plethora of VA-OIG reports and begin assisting the VA Secretary in correcting the problems in the VA.

The saga continued this over the first two days of July and forms the bitter cherry on top of the crap sundae the VA is trying to serve the veterans.  I received a call from my primary care provider’s nurse who has the attitude of supreme petty authoritarian to a lesser subject, reminding me several times that the mask policy was political, trying to blame all hospitals in the region of implementing a similar policy (which is fake), and then trying to excuse himself by claiming he was just a messenger and not involved in the policy implementation.  Concluding the call, with the temerity to tell me that I was in the wrong to not follow VA policy.  The patient advocate had the effrontery of sending a message to me stating that I should have asked for a full-face shield instead of a mask.  Seeing as no face shields were offered as a workaround, seeing as the policy enforcers demanding only a mask as the single viable and allowed option, and seeing as I spent more than an hour while in extreme pain trying to be seen to no avail, none of that mattered, the patient was at fault, per the patient advocate.

LinkedIn VA ImageMy cherub-like demeanor has taken a bloody beating over this incident.  Worse, my health has suffered tremendously and I have had to question myself and my advocacy of the VA.  The behavior of the bureaucrats and petty authoritarians of the VA at the Carl T. Hayden VA Hospital in Phoenix, AZ is detestable, and I can only conclude and wonder if I am having these problems, what are less outspoken and less knowledgeable veterans suffering?  I will not be the quiet little mouse in the corner where my safety and the safety of other veterans are being endangered by the politics and illegal actions of Federal Employees.  The policy is wrong and needs immediate revision before more veterans die at the hands of the VA!I-Care

© Copyright 2020 – M. Dave Salisbury

The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the pictures.

All rights reserved.  For copies, reprints, or sharing, please contact through LinkedIn:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/davesalisbury/

Insane Abuse – The VA Edition: The Leaders of the VA Must Shift the Paradigm

I-CareDuring new hire training for working at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) New Mexico Medical Center (NMVAMC), the first day contains a lot of warnings about what you can and cannot do as a Federal Employee.  Annually, there are mandatory classes that must be passed to remind an employee of their obligations as a Federal Employee.  Leading to a question, “How could an attorney for the Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of General Counsel (OGC), be allowed to break the law for eight years?”  The department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) investigated after a second complaint about the same person was received, and only then did the OGC take action.  The attorney in question was released from government employment, but where is 8 years’ worth of wages being requested back?  Did the attorney lose anything other than an undemanding job and title where they could be paid for not working for the Federal Government while advancing their private practice, violating ethical laws, and breaking several Federal Statutes along the way?

What this attorney has done is insane, it is an abuse of trust, and for it to go reported and not acted by the senior leaders at OGC represents inexcusable abuse!

ProblemsOn the topic of insane and inexcusable abuse of the VA, the VA-OIG investigated the Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System in California and found a supervisor in an “other than spouse” relationship with a vendor and they used the VA property to improperly conduct business on contracts the supervisor oversaw.  These actions are a clear and blatant violation of the Federal Statutes on contracting as a Federal Employee, even if these consenting adults were married, it would remain illegal, unethical, immoral, and inexcusable!  Yet, because the supervisor quit during the investigation, the VA-OIG has no power to take any action.

Federal Employees are blatantly breaking the law, abusing the trust and honor of their stations, flagrantly flaunting ethical, moral, and legal regulations with impunity.  Why?

From the VA San Diego Healthcare System, California, we find another VA-OIG inspection. Staff manipulated time cards for seven fee-basis medical providers to pay these individuals on a salary or wage basis rather than a per-procedure basis.  While the medical center took appropriate action and no VA-OIG recommendations were made, the question remains, “Why was this behavior allowed in the first place?”  Another supervisor, improperly acting in their office, and abusing the VA; this behavior is inexcusable!

moral-valuesThe VA-OIG performed an audit, also referred to as a “data review.” “The data review consisted of a sample of 45 employees and found the employees were paid an estimated $11.6 million for overtime hours for which there was no evidence of claims-related activity in the Fee Basis Claims System in fiscal years 2017 and 2018, representing almost half of the total overtime paid. Significantly, 16 of the 45 employees each received more than $10,000 in overtime for hours during which there was no claims-related activity.”  The Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Community Care (OCC) is backlogged and this is leading to late payments to providers, delays in care, and is generally a bad thing.  However, the sole reason for the overtime being abused was due to a lack of processes, poor supervision, and training.  These are the same three excuses that are used by the Department of Veterans Affairs – Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) and is designed incompetence at its most disdainful and egregious level.  Worse, this was a sample of employee misconduct on overtime pay.  How many more cases are floating in the OCC that were not included in the audit that will pass unresearched because the VA-OIG did not refer the cases for disciplinary recommendations?

The VA-OIG cannot be everywhere and clean every hole in the VA organizational tapestry.  This is why supervisors and leaders are in place to execute organizational rules, regulations, policies, and monitor employee performance.  Why are the supervisors and mid-level leaders not being held accountable for failing to perform their jobs?  If overtime pay is going to be clawed back from the employee, the managers, team leaders, and supervisors need first to write and train to a policy standard.

Root Cause AnalysisThe VA-OIG conducted a comprehensive inspection of the Eastern Kansas Health Care System, Kansas, and Missouri.  The findings are startling for several reasons, one of which being the deficient lack of leadership leading to poor employee satisfaction, patient care issues, lack of knowledge in managers and supervisors, and minimally knowledgeable about strategic analytics.  Essentially, there is a lack of leadership in this healthcare system.  The director has been working with a team for 2-months, but the director has been in charge in 2012.  Leading to questions about long-term staffing replacement, staff training, building the next generation of leaders, and why this long-term director can brush off the criticisms of leadership failure because the team has only been in place for two months at the time of the inspection.

Again, the VA-OIG audited a system and found a lack of training, lack of oversight, lack of leadership, and made recommendations to “close the barn door, after the horses got out.”  From the VA-OIG report we find:

“The VA-OIG found that VA lacked an effective strategy or action plan to update its police information system [emphasis mine]. In September 2015, the VA Law Enforcement Training Center (LETC) acquired Report Exec, a replacement records management system, for police officers at all medical facilities. Inadequate planning and contract administration mismanagement caused the system implementation to stall for more than two years [emphasis mine]. LETC spent approximately $2.8 million on the system by the fiscal year 2019 [emphasis mine], but police officers experienced frequent performance issues and had to use different systems that did not share information. As of April 2019, only 63 percent of medical facility police units were reportedly using the Report Exec system, while 37 percent were still using an incompatible legacy system. As a result, administrators and law enforcement personnel at multiple levels could not adequately track and oversee facility incidents involving VA police or make informed decisions on risks and resource allocations. The audit also revealed that information security controls were not in place for the Report Exec system that put individuals’ sensitive personal information at risk [emphasis mine].”

Behavior-ChangeNo controls, no direction, no strategy, no tactical action, losing money, and not even scraping an F in performance.  The repetition in these VA-OIG investigations is appalling!  Where is the accountability?  Where is the responsibility and commitment to the veterans, their dependents, and the taxpayers?  Where is the US House of Representatives and Senate in demanding improvement in employee behavior?  Talk about a culture of corruption; the VA has corruption in spades, and no one is taking the VA to task and demanding improvement.

The VA is referred to as a cesspit of indecent and inappropriate people acting in a manner to enrich themselves on the pain of veterans, spouses, widows, and orphans.  There have been comments on several articles I authored which would make a non-veteran blush in describing the VA.  These actions by supervisors and those possessing advanced degrees do not help in trying to curb or correct the poor image the VA has well and truly earned.  A behavior change is needed, culture-wide, at the VA for the tarnished reputation of the VA to begin recovering.

Only for emphasis do I repeat previous recommendations for a culture-wide improvement:

  1. Start a VA University.  If you want better people, you must build them!  Thus, they must be trained, they must be challenged to act, and they must be empowered from day one in the classroom to be making a difference to the VA.
  2. Immediately launch Tiger Teams and Flying Squads from the VA. Secretary’s Office, empowered to build, train, and correct behavior. These groups must be able to cut through the bureaucratic red tape and make changes, then monitor those changes until behavior and culture change.
  3. Implement ISO 9000 for hospitals. If a person does not know their job but has held that job for over a year, every person in that employee’s chain of command is responsible for training failures.  Employees need better training, see recommendation 1, need clearer guidelines and written policies.  Hence, with the VA University training, each process, procedure, rule, regulation needs written down, and then trained exhaustively, so employees can be held accountable.

There is a theory in the private sector called appreciative inquiry.  Appreciative inquiry is the position that whatever a business needs to succeed, it already has in abundance, the leaders simply need to tap into that reservoir and pull out the gems therein.  Having traveled this country and witnessed many good and great employees in the VA Medical Centers from Augusta ME to Seattle WA, and from Phoenix AZ to Missoula MT I know that appreciative inquiry can help and promote a cultural change in the VA.  I do not advocate a “one-size fits most” policy for the VA, as each VISN and Regional Medical Center has a different culture of patients, thus requiring differing approaches.  However, the recommendations listed above can improve where the VA is now, and form a launch point into the future.Military Crests

© Copyright 2020 – M. Dave Salisbury

The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the pictures.

All rights reserved.  For copies, reprints, or sharing, please contact through LinkedIn:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/davesalisbury/

Let us Open the Dialogue – Black Lives Matters Edition

BLMI want to begin with a question, knowing the controversy over Black Lives Matters Websites, is the following website the official BLM website: https://blacklivesmatter.com/?  If this is not the official website, where is the official website?  Does this website represent another false BLM website?

I want to point out, here in the beginning that when you know justice, you know peace.  When there is no justice, there is no peace.  This single principle, “Know Justice, Know Peace” is the foundational variable upon which every successful society has risen, and upon which every failed society has suffered and fallen.  I begin with my first honest questions; would you please describe the image used and the purpose of the symbols and language?  What does “winning look like?  Does the definition of winning depend upon which color a person was born with?  Why the raised fists?  Why the color scheme?

The following article is based directly from Black Lives Matter’s Website, mentioned above, under the subheading “What we Believe,” the honest researcher can find some interesting points that matter in the ongoing conversation about the group, Black Lives Matter (BLM).  I find the final paragraph a most interesting place to start.

We embody and practice justice, liberation, and peace in our engagements with one another.”

PeaceHow can an organization believe in and practice peace among their fellow men, when members are looting, rioting, burning, attacking, and destroying?  Consider for a moment what this statement is saying, practicing peace means disowning the violent fringe, demanding your name be stripped from those acting in such a disreputable manner, and demanding the “Rule of Law” be applied, so that peace, which is the freedom to live without disturbances like riots, attacks by looters, and the tranquility of seeing tomorrow be better than today, become achievable for all.

LiberationLiberation is defined around the idea of setting someone free, releasing a person from oppression, and imprisonment.  Liberation and freedom can only be accomplished under the “Rule of Law,” where all peoples are held to the same standards, rules, and social behaviors.  Without regard to race, color, creed, religion, and lifestyle choices.  Who is BLM dedicated to liberating?  Why is BLM dedicated to liberating that population?  How does BLM plan to go about executing a plan to liberate?  All valid questions, but not discussed anywhere on the website.

ScalesJustice is the act, behavior, and the treatment of all according to a moral code.  For example, one of the earliest moral codes known to man is recorded as, “Doing unto others as you would have done unto you.”  The mainstream media has reported on BLM rioters and looters, destroying the businesses, shops, and employment of fellow black people, in traditionally black neighborhoods.  How is this tactic practicing justice?

Throughout history there have been groups dedicated to improving the lives of their fellow men.  Personally, I support these groups, when the fruits of their actions are evident in promoting a better society for the community they claim to represent.  Personally, I despise and loath any group claiming to be for a specific population and that group does nothing but enrich themselves at the expense of the populations that claim to serve.  Hence, BLM, which are you?  I cannot honestly tell that good is being done by your organization to the support of your community.  This is especially true when the mainstream media is reporting your members are pillaging, looting, and thieving at the expense of the community you purport to serve.

With all the disparity between action and published written claims, I am left to ask, “What type of group are you?”

Bob MarleyWhat do the following mean, in practice and daily application?

We are guided by the fact that all Black lives matter, regardless of actual or perceived sexual identity, gender identity, gender expression, economic status, ability, disability, religious beliefs or disbeliefs, immigration status, or location.”

For example, history has shown where skin color and personal beliefs are different if a person believes they are black, are they allowed to be members in full standing?  If a person looks to possess one skin tone but believes themselves to not belong to that skin color’s purported race, does this disqualify them?  How does this statement equal the actions purportedly by BLM members in the pillaging seen in America recently?

SocksWhat does the following mean in daily application?

We practice empathy. We engage comrades with the intent to learn about and connect with their contexts.”

Does this empathy extend to police officers or other people of authority?  Why?  What does being empathetic do for your group?  How are the current methods of engagement with “comrades,” working?  How does empathy improve connection and context arguments to improve the black communities?  How are those efforts working?  Personally, I do not see any empathy, and the context of engagement tends to be negative.  Hence, I am asking honest questions, looking to open dialogue.

Content of their CharacterWhy this particular statement, and what is it doing to support child-rearing, and ending the practices that have been harming the black community since 1960?

We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.”

What evidence is being used to justify this path of child-rearing will build a stronger black community?  Where is the time-tested research reflecting that the nuclear family structure is harming or causing a disservice to the black community?  In my youth, I was privileged to know many older black Americans who discussed black community problems, failures of politicians, and honestly looked for answers to pass onto their children.  In none of these conversations was the “village” methodology mentioned ascribed as a good method for improving the black communities.  In fact, the opposite was true and the older members of the black community were quite vociferous in their arguments against this practice.  What has changed?  When did it change?  Where is the proof?

I recently read several articles by economists who looked at nuclear families in all types of races, colors, creeds, religions, and non-nuclear families in the same races, creeds, religions, and the economic impact of not having a nuclear family was distinct and clear.  From only an economic perspective, those children raised in nuclear families, without experiencing a divorce, were multiple times more likely to be successful themselves, when race, religion, creed, color, and so forth were controlled.  I am not asking for convincing evidence, I simply want to know how this conclusion was drawn and understand the process for making this decision.

What is “public justice work?”  One of the major problems in current society is that of plastic language.  Plastic language uses words that sound good and stretches them into something that means one thing, but in practice is something completely different.  For example, “fair” is often bandied about as a term.  Fair means that all are equal and receive equally.  Yet, many times fair is plasticized to mean a slanted proportion of a population gives more, where another slanted population receives less.  Fair in this instance has been abused and plasticized into meaning in practice something it does not mean.

CommitIn reading the “What We Believe” section multiple times, I am struck by the frequent mention of the homosexual communities.  Without regard for race, America has roughly 4.5% of the population as identifying as homosexual.  According to the same Gallup Poll, without regard for sex, approximately 3.7% of the black community identifies as homosexual.  Leaving some questions about beliefs unanswered.  A recent research study on traditional beliefs in sexual prejudice and race found that the black community of males tended to be more traditional towards the role of men in society, and less open in their biases towards homosexuals in general.  BLM has been reported to represent the black community, has been reported to have their finger on the pulse of what makes a person black, and knows the black community as its members are the black community.  Hence, why would the black community report one thing to researchers and another to BLM regarding the tolerance of the community towards homosexual people?  Especially to the point of repeating multiple times the opposite of traditionally reported views.

Let me be clear, I do not care what you believe as an organization.  I do not care what you believe individually as people.  Provided those beliefs do not infringe upon another person’s US Constitutionally guaranteed rights, you may believe and act according to your beliefs without any qualms from me.  When your beliefs infringe upon another person’s rights, liberties, and ability to pursue happiness, you have now crossed the line and I will oppose you.  I swore this as an oath to become a Soldier and a Sailor and I would be dishonest before God if I acted any differently.

Action is a different matter entirely.  If your action support society, even I might not personally approve, I will give you a pass because your beliefs have become a positive action in a community.  If your actions are negative towards any portion or segment of society, I will oppose you to my last breath.  Again, this was an oath taken before God and I will not change to fit a social narrative!  Any act of violence is inappropriate and detrimental to society as a whole and the community’s aims and goals.  I do not care if that violence is taken by a KKK, BLM, Antifa, ISIS, Catholic, Protestant, etc. it is violent in nature and deserves nothing less than a violent conclusion.

Lady JusticeLady Justice is blind and armed for a reason.  Not to kill without cause, not to judge with the balance of mercy, and not to use her eyes to allow one to escape the same crime another would be punished for, that is true justice, under the law.  I support the “Rule of Law,” and as such will not see the US Constitutional Republic be destroyed on my watch.  The questions asked above are honest questions.  What does BLM believe and where are the actions supporting those beliefs?

© Copyright 2020 – M. Dave Salisbury

The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the pictures.

All rights reserved.  For copies, reprints, or sharing, please contact through LinkedIn:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/davesalisbury/

Tiger Teams – A Potential Solution to VA Issues: An Open Letter to Secretary Wilkie

I-CareTo the Honorable Secretary Robert Wilkie
Department of Veterans Affairs
Washington D.C.

Dear Sir,

For almost a decade, I have read and studied the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) from the position of patient, employee, concerned citizen, and now as an organizational psychologist.  During this time, I have read many Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) investigation reports, and yearned to be of fundamental assistance in improving the VA.  I have an idea with potential for your consideration, “Tiger Teams.”

In the US Navy, we used “Tiger Teams” as “flying squads” of people, dedicated to a specific task, and able to complete work quickly.  The teams included parts people, technicians, specialists, and carried the authority of competence and dedication to quickly fixing whatever had gone wrong during an evolution, an inspection, or even in regular operation.  It is my belief that if your office employed a “Tiger Team” approach for speedy response, your job in fixing core problems the VA is experiencing would be easier.  Please allow me to explain.

Tiger TeamThe VA-OIG recently released a report regarding deficiencies in nursing care and management in the Community Living Center (CLC) at the Coatesville VA Medical Center, Pennsylvania.  The inspection team validated some complaints and were unable to validate all complaints because of poor complainant documentation.  Having a Tiger Team able to dispatch from your office, carrying your authority, would provide expert guidance in rectifying the situation, monitoring the CLC, and updating you with knowledge needed to answer the legislator’s questions regarding what is happening.  The VA-OIG found other issues in their investigation that were not covered under the scope of the investigation, leaving the VA-OIG in a difficult position.  Hence, another reason for a Tiger Team being created, to back stop and support the VA-OIG in correcting issues found outside their investigatory scope.

Fishbone DiagramFor a decade now, I have been reading how the VA-OIG makes recommendations, but where is the follow-up from the VA-OIG to determine if those recommendations are being followed and applied?  Too often there is no return and report feature built into the VA-OIG investigation, as these investigators just do not have the time.  Again, this is what a Tiger Team can be doing.  Taking action, training leaders, building a better VA, monitoring and reporting, building holistic solutions, and being an extension of your office on the front lines.  Essentially using the tools from your office to improve the operations locally, which builds trust between the patients and the care providers, building trust between the families and the VA, and delivering upon the Congressional mandate and VA Mission.

Another recent VA-OIG report also supports the need for a fast response Tiger Team.  Coordination of care and employee satisfaction concerns at the Community Living Center (CLC), Loch Raven VA Medical Center, in Baltimore, Maryland.  In geographic terms, this incident is in your backyard.  While the VA-OIG inspection was rather inconclusive, and recommendations were made, it appears some things are working in this CLC and other things are not working as well as they should.  By using a Tiger Team as a flying squad, intermittent and unannounced inspections by the Tiger Team can aid in discovering more than the VA-OIG could investigate, monitoring the situation, and reporting on progress made in improving performance.

As an employee, too often the director of HAS would claim, “That problem is too hard to fix because it requires too many people to come together and agree on the solution.”  Or, “The solution is feasible, but not worth the effort to implement because it would require coordination.”  Getting the doctors and nurses talking to and working with administration is a leadership role, providing support to leaders is one of the best tools a Tiger Team possesses one authority is delegated.  The Tiger Team presents the data, presents different potential solutions, and the aids the leadership locally in implementation.  As an employee I never found a problem in the VA that could not be resolved with a little attention, getting people to work together, and opening lines of communication.  Thus, I know the VA can be fixed.

Root Cause AnalysisThe Tiger Teams need to be led by an organizational psychologist possessing a Ph.D. and a personal stake in seeing the VA improve.  The organizational psychologist can build a team of like-minded people to be on the flying squad, and these team members should be subject matter experts in VA policies, procedures, and methods of operation, and should change from time to time.  I have met many people from the VA who not only possess the passion, but are endowed with the knowledge of how to help the VA, and I would see the VA succeed.  Yet, I am concerned that the VA is not changing, not growing, and not developing the processes and procedures needed to survive, and this is damaging the VA, which leads to wasted money and dead veterans.

Why not have a flying squad for each VISN, who can meet to benchmark, compare notes, and best practices.  Who work from home and visit the local offices in the VISN, reporting directly to your office with a copy to the VISN leadership.  Whose job is to build the Tiger teams needed to oversee, provide expert support, and practical analysis.  The idea is to help you gather real time data, improve implementation of VA-OIG recommendations, and meet the demands of Congress.  If a Tiger Team, with the functioning Flying Squad, can save one VA-OIG inspection in each VISN, by improving that VISN, medical center, CLC, etc. before it becomes a major problem on the sSix O’clock News, then the Tiger Teams have paid for themselves.

All veterans know of the Phoenix VA Medical Center debacle, where veterans died while waiting for appointments.  I fully believe that had the VA Secretary had a Tiger Team in place, the root causes of that incident would have triggered the necessary flags to save lives and avoid or mitigate the catastrophe.  Flying squads are the Tiger Team in action, and action should be the keyword for every member of the team.  The mission of the Tiger Team should be to find and fix root causes, repair trust, and implement change needed to improve VA operations at the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), and the National Cemeteries.

The VBA is especially vulnerable, and in need of outside resources to support change.  Recently the VBA was involved in another scandal involving improper processing of claims for veterans in hospital over 21-days, resulting in millions of dollars either overpaid or underpaid to the veterans.  Training, managerial oversight, and proper performance of tasks was reportedly the excuse the VBA used, again, to shirk responsibility.  Tiger Teams can provide the support needed to monitor for, and encourage the adoption of, rectifying measures and VA-OIG recommendations, not just at the VBA, but across the full VA spectrum of operations.

Please, consider implementing Tiger Teams, from your office, assigned to a specific VISN, possessing the authority delegated to run the needed analysis, build support in local offices, and iron out the inefficiencies that keep killing veterans, wasting money, and creating problems.  I firmly believe the VA can be saved and improved, built to become more flexible, while at the same time delivering on the promise “To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan” by serving and honoring the men and women who are America’s Veterans.”

I-CareThank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Dave Salisbury
Veteran/Organizational Psychologist

© Copyright 2020 – M. Dave Salisbury

The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the pictures.

All rights reserved.  For copies, reprints, or sharing, please contact through LinkedIn:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/davesalisbury/

Dane-Geld: A Warning to the Mayors and Governors of America

Dane-GeldDane-Geld is “a land tax levied in medieval England, originally to raise funds for protection against Danish invaders.”  The 11th Century saw many frightened landowners who wanted peace raised money to pay-off the warring tribes of the north, called Danes.  From across the land, the rulers gathered penny and pound to buy protection from these warring tribes.  When the Dane’s saw how easy it was to obtain gold, they moved in and took the lands, and whole civilizations dropped into barbarianism, and the only reason we know these stories today, were the warring tribes of the Dane’s met cold steel in a furious fist and were beaten back.

Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem on this topic, called coincidently enough, “Dane-Geld.”

“It is always a temptation to an armed and agile nation
To call upon a neighbour and to say: —
“We invaded you last night–we are quite prepared to fight,
Unless you pay us cash to go away.”

And that is called asking for Dane-geld,
And the people who ask it explain
That you’ve only to pay ’em the Dane-geld
And then you’ll get rid of the Dane!

It is always a temptation for a rich and lazy nation,
To puff and look important and to say: —
“Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.
We will therefore pay you cash to go away.”

And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
But we’ve proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
You never get rid of the Dane.

It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
For fear they should succumb and go astray;
So, when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
You will find it better policy to say: —

“We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
No matter how trifling the cost;
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that pays it is lost!”

Who, pray tell, is the modern Dane’s?  We currently call them Black Lives Matter (BLM), Antifa, and other extremist factions in American Society.  We call them ISIS, we call them terrorists.  For terrorists they are, and terrorist history has called them from day one.  Requiring a fearful reputation for violence, these people come to disrupt society, damage business, destroy goods, and wreak untold havoc and destruction.

Gadsden FlagMayors, Governors, you have a choice, to pay the Dane his pound of gold, or to fight the terror in society and be remembered.  The Mayor in Philadelphia during the riots past gave up entire city blocks for the Dane’s of her city to destroy, the Dane’s were not appeased, they moved in, and now control larger sections of the city than ever before.  Seattle’s mayor recently paid the Dane’s and has become the laughingstock of America over CHAZ.  Minneapolis, Detroit, Chicago, and so many other cities across America have bent the knee, paid the gold, and will never be rid of the Dane.

You can try and appease a mob.  You can fight a mob.  These are your only two options.  There is not third selection possible, for the mob, you fear today will be your rulers in captivity tomorrow.  Ask the city of Philadelphia if they like their new rulers.  Ask the community of Watts in LA if they like their rulers post LA Riots.  You can break a mob into individuals and hold them accountable, and you can try to pay off a mob, but you cannot do both, and you will lose short-term or long when you act against the mob.  Better to lose short term and win, then appease and lose everything to the rule of a mob.

For those city councils crying to appease the mob with defunding the police, I would that you would take a hard look at the closing stanza from Kipling.

“We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
No matter how trifling the cost;
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that pays it is lost!”


If you replace the word “nation” with city and county, you will understand the stakes you are suffering under currently.  I cannot stress enough the need for you to rise up, put some backbone on, tie on your work boots, and go to war against the powers of oppression and tyranny.  Call in the National Guard, the State Militias, we the sheepdogs of war will respond.  Do not allow America to fall on your watch because you think paying Dane-Geld is easier and more respectable.  For I promise you, if you do not stand against the tyrants today, the rest of America will have to stand against a stronger and more violent tyrant tomorrow!

The mobs, the rioters, and the looters currently rampaging are domestic terrorists, and make no mistake their sole aim is to destroy your town, your city, your county, your state, and your country!  Quoting from President Roosevelt, “We, too, born to freedom, and believing in freedom, are willing to fight to maintain freedom. We, and all others who believe as deeply as we do, would rather die on our feet than [to] live on our knees.

National GuardJoin us, ye politicians, who tremble!  Military Crests

 

© Copyright 2020 – M. Dave Salisbury

The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the pictures.

All rights reserved.  For copies, reprints, or sharing, please contact through LinkedIn:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/davesalisbury/

Structured Incompetence – The Department of Veterans Affairs and Congress

I-CareThe Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is allowed the ability to govern themselves, provided they meet specific guidelines and legislated goals and directions.  The Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) was established to provide legislators and the VA with tools and processes to improve, as well as to investigate root causes, and make recommendations for improvement.  But, here is the rub, the VA-OIG has no teeth to help their recommendations hold the attention of those in charge to make changes.

In December 2014, the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA), passed Congress and was signed into law by the president; FITARA is a historic law that represents the first major overhaul of Federal information technology (IT) in almost 20 years. Since FITARA’s enactment, OMB published guidance to agencies to ensure that this law is applied consistently governmentwide in a way that is both workable and effective.  2014 saw the VA slow the loss of private data from the VA, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Data Breach is gaining momentum and will crest in 2015, and in case memory has failed 2014 saw an explosion in VA malfeasance get uncovered starting with the Carl T. Hayden VA Hospital in Phoenix, AZ.

December 2020 will mark the sixth anniversary of FITARA, and President Trump signed a five-year FITARA bill in May 2018.  The VA-OIG in reporting progress on FITARA at the VA has this to report,

“… The audit team evaluated two groups of requirements involving the role of the VA chief information officer during [the] fiscal year 2018. They related to the CIO (1) reviewing and approving all information technology (IT) asset and service acquisitions across the VA enterprise and (2) planning, programming, budgeting, and executing the functions for IT, including governance, oversight, and reporting. The audit team found that [the] VA did not meet FITARA requirements and identified several causes.”

The number one reason for non-compliance after almost six-years was, “VA policies and processes that limited the chief information officer’s (sic) review of IT investments and the oversight of IT resources.”  Not mentioned in the VA-OIG report is how many of these processes and policies had been enacted since 2014.  The VA’s own processes and policies reflect structured incompetence, making a ready excuse to be out of legal compliance with legislated obligations.  If this was a private business, and the legislated obligations were not being followed exactly, no excuse could keep the leadership team out of jail and the business in operation.  Hence, Congress why do you allow this egregious behavior by public servants?

On the topic of structured incompetence, foot-dragging, and legislated obedience, the VA-OIG issued a glowing report of compliance because the VA was found to be in compliance with three of the five recommendations from a VA-OIG inspection on the Mission Act from June 2019.  The progress made was on all aspects of the Mission Act except mandatory disclosure.  Why does this not surprise me; of course, the VA has had, and continues to suffer from, a horrible case of refusing to report, disclose, and communicate without severe prodding and legislated mandates.  Thus, I congratulate the VA on being in compliance with the Mission Act for the last three consecutive quarters on a total of three recommendations from the VA-OIG; this is a good beginning, when can we expect improvement on mandatory disclosure?  Structured incompetence relies upon disclosure malfeasance, collective misfeasance, and leadership shenanigans.

On the topic of structured incompetence, the VA-OIG reported that the Northport VA Medical Center in Northport, New York, prior medical center leaders did not plan effectively to address deficiencies in aging infrastructure.  Which is the polite way of saying, the buildings are old and maintenance has been creatively haphazard, so when steam erupts from fittings and contaminates patient treatment rooms with asbestos, lead paint, live steam, and other construction debris, a small problem becomes a multi-month catastrophe.  Thankfully, the VA-OIG reported no harm to the patients or patient care restrictions from this episode.  Unfortunately, the VA-OIG cannot hold the managers and directors of engineering services responsible.  Having worked in several capacities in engineering I am astounded at the following recommendation from the VA-OIG, and covered under creatively structured incompetence:

“… The OIG recommended that the medical center director develop processes and procedures for submitting work orders—including for notifications when work orders are assigned and reviewed for accuracy and consistency—to help the center’s engineering service prioritize work and manage [the] resource.”

Will the VA-OIG please answer the following questions, “Why is this the hospital directors’ job?”  You have an entire engineering plant, with a supposedly competent director to oversee engineering operations, why and how should the hospital director be focusing such extensive amounts of time on the job that rightly belongs to the engineering plant director?  There are several technology-based programs and options that can perform this work, and form reports automatically based upon performance by engineering staff in completing work orders.  Why is the VA-OIG recommendation not including an automated process to improve performance?  The lack of oversight in the engineering department is both creatively and structured incompetence, because the VA-OIG report recommended following the master plan, reporting progress to the master plan, and suggested that the director of the engineering plant needs to be doing the job they are collecting a wage to perform.

Behavior-ChangeOn the topic of creatively structured incompetence, we find the following from the Department of Veterans Affairs – Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA).  A veteran patient that spends more than 21-days in hospital for treatment is supposed to be placed on 100% disability, and be paid at the higher disability amount.  Those veterans with mental health concerns are supposed to have additional support to aid them in managing their benefits from the VA.

The VA-OIG estimated VA Regional Office employees did not adjust or incorrectly adjusted disability compensation benefits in about 2,500 of the estimated 5,800 cases eligible for adjustments, creating an estimated $8 million in improper payments in the calendar year 2018. The OIG estimated 1,900 cases did not have competency determinations documented for service-connected mental health conditions.”

Why is this another case of creatively structured incompetence, because every time the VBA gets caught not doing their job, the reason is training, reports not properly filed, and lack of managerial oversight.  I could have predicted these reasons for structured incompetence before the investigation began.  That managerial oversight, employees not filing proper and timely reports, and training not occurring for employees has been an ongoing and repeated theme in VBA incompetence since early 2000 when magically the VBA was behind in processing veterans’ claims for disability.  This theme stretches to the VBA inappropriately deciding claims for spine issues.  The same theme was reported in the VBA improperly paying benefits.  The list of offenses by the VBA is long, and the excuse is tiresome.  The VA-OIG reported:

Employees who processed benefit adjustments also lacked proficiency. They lacked sufficient ongoing experience and training to maintain requisite knowledge. This is also why employees were unclear on the requirement to document the relevant competency of veterans admitted for service-connected mental health conditions.”

ProblemsHow ironic that the root causes of a VA-OIG inspection would find people being paid to perform a job, but are not actually doing the job because they lack proficiency, training, managerial oversight, and are unclear on what they are expected to do in their jobs.

To the elected officials of the US House of Representatives and the Senate, the following are posed:

  1. If you hired a carpenter to enter your home, perform work, and you discover that the carpenter does not know the job they were hired and contracted to perform, what would be your response?  If your answer is to keep that non-working carpenter in that position, in your home, I must wonder about your intellect.
  2. How can you allow this structured incompetence to live from one VA-OIG report to the next? How can you justify this behavior at the VA?  How many other offices of inspectors general reports are reporting the same structured incompetence in Federal Employment and you are not taking immediate action to correct these deficiencies?
  3. Why should anyone re-elect you; when we the taxpayers endure this incompetence, paying you and them to abuse us. You were elected to oversee and manage that which we cannot; yet, you continually strive to perform everything but this essential role.  Why should we re-elect you to public office?

GearsThe following suggestions are offered as starting points to curb structured incompetence, improve performance, and effect positive change at the Department of Veterans Affairs, which includes the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), and the National Cemeteries.

  1. Implement ISO as a quality control system where processes, procedures, and policies are written down. The lack of written policies and procedures feeds structured incompetence and allows for creativity in being out of compliance with legislated mandates.
  2. Eliminate labor union protection. Government employees have negotiated plentiful benefits, working conditions, and pay without union representation, and the ability for the union to get criminal complaints dropped and worthless people their jobs back is an ultimate disgrace upon the Magna Charta of this The United States of America generally, and upon the seal of the Department of Veterans Affairs specifically.
  3. Give the VA-OIG power to enact change when cause and effect analysis shows a person is the problem specifically. Right now, the office of inspector general has the power to make recommendations, that are generally, sometimes, potentially, considered, and possible remediations adopted, maybe at some future point in time, provided a different course of action is not discovered and acted upon, or a new VA-OIG investigation commenced.  This insipid flim-flam charade must end.  People need to be held liable and accountable for how they perform their duties!
  4. Launch a VA University for employees and prospective employees to attend to gain the skills, education, and practical experience needed to be effective in their role. I know from sad experience just how worthless the training provided to new hire employees is and this is a critical issue.  You cannot hold front-line employees liable until it can be proven they know their job.  Employee training cannot occur and be effective without leadership dedicated to learning the job the right way and then performing that job in absolute compliance with the laws, policies, and procedures governing that role.  Training is a leadership function; how can supervisors be promoted and not know the role they are overseeing; a process which is too frequent in government employment.

I-CareI – Care about the VA!

When will the elected officials show you care and begin to assist in improving the plight of veterans, their dependents, and their families?

 

© Copyright 2020 – M. Dave Salisbury

The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the pictures.

All rights reserved.  For copies, reprints, or sharing, please contact through LinkedIn:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/davesalisbury/

 

Customer Service Begins with Employees – Knowing the Paradigm

During the last 60 days, I have had the ability to see two different companies and their training programs up close and personal.  Both companies provide call center employees, and currently, both companies are employing a home shored or remote agent to conduct call center operations.  Neither company is handling remote agents very well; and, while both companies have excellent credentials for providing exterior customers with excellent customer service, both companies fail the first customer, the employee.

ProblemsCompany A thinks that games, contests, prizes, swag, and commissions adequately cover their inherent lack of customer service to employees.  Company B does not offer its employees any type of added compensation to its employees and treats their employees like cattle in a slaughterhouse yard.  Both companies talk an excellent game regarding treating their employees in a manner that promotes healthy exterior customer relations, but there is no substance, no action, no commitment to the employee.  Company B has an exceedingly high employee churn rate, and discounts that rate because of employees working from home and not being able to take the loneliness of an office atmosphere.  Company A has several large sites and is looking forward to having employees back on the call center campus.

When the conclusions for employee dissatisfaction were shared, the question was raised, “How does the leadership team know when the employees are not feeling served by their employer?”  The answer can be found in the same manner that the voice of the customer is found, mainly by asking the employees.  Neither company has an employee feedback process to capture the employee’s thoughts, ideas, feelings, and suggestions; relying solely upon the leadership team to provide these items.  Neither company overtly treats its employees poorly, Company A does have a mechanism to capture why employees leave the organization.  Company A was asked what they do with this information and refused to disclose, which is an acceptable answer.

Consider an example from Company A, a new hire has been in the hiring process since January, was informed they were hired around the first of April but was also told the next start date/new hire training class has not been scheduled due to COVID-19.  The employee is finally scheduled for a new hire class starting the first week of June.  Between the time of being hired and the start date, the employee begins taking classes Mon thru Fri, 1800-2100 (6:00pm to 9:pm).  The employee is scheduled to begin work at 1030 in the morning and work until 1900 (7:00pm).  The new hire asks for help with the schedule, the classes being taken will improve the employee’s skills upon graduation on the first of August.  Training is six weeks long, but the overlap is only 9 working days.  Company A’s response, either drop the classes or quit the job.

Internal-CS-Attitude-Low-ResThus, the attitude towards employee customer service is exposed to sunshine, and regardless of the games, prizes, food, swag, commissions, etc., the employee-customer service fails to keep highly talented employees.  This example is not new, and is not a one-off, unfortunately.  The example is regular business for employee treatment, and as the trainer stated, there are always more people for positions than positions open, so why should we change operations?  Since January Company A has been working unlimited overtime to fill the gap in open positions.

Company B informed all new hires that training is four-days long, and upon completion on the job training commences.  On day 3, training is extended to five days, on day 4 training is extended, and on Saturday, training is extended to a mandatory Sunday.  No excuses, no time off, no notice, and no reasonable accommodation is provided to make other accommodations for children, medical appointments, etc., and by the time Sunday arrives, the new hire class has already logged 60-hours in a week that began on Tuesday.  Several employees are unable to make Sunday and as such are now kicked out of training, and will lose their jobs once HR gets around to giving them the ax.

Neither employer offers reasonable accommodation to employees working from home, as working from home is an accommodation already.  Marking the first area of risk; if an employee works for your organization, regardless of the attitude of employee treatment, reasonable accommodation is the law in America, and similar laws are on the books across the world.  Yet, both companies were able to eschew the law and deny reasonable accommodation.  Company B did it by never responding to the employees after they missed a day of work during training.  Company A did it by forcing the employee to decide without the aid of HR, claiming HR does not have any power in the decisions of training.

Now, many people will advise the employees hindered in their job search that the company does not serve them.  That fit into a new organization is more important than money.  That if an employer does not serve their employees, that employer has no value and the ex-employee is better off.  Yet, the companies hired these people, went to great expense to onboard these people, and now must spend more money to hire more people to fill the gap.  Both companies will have to pay overtime and other incentives to get the newest new hires through training.  All because of the disconnect between serving internal customers and external customers.  Many business writers have said, the only customer business has, are the employees.

Leadership CartoonMyron Tribus used a water spigot to help explain the choices of business leaders where employees are concerned.  A business is either a money spigot and customers, employees, vendors, stakeholders, do not matter, so long as the money keeps rolling in to pay off the shareholders.  Or business is a spigot with a hose on it to direct the efforts of the business through the relationships with employees, customers, vendors, stakeholders, and shareholders, to a productive and community-building long-term goal of improvement.  Either a business is a money spigot or a community building operation, the business cannot do both.

With this analogy in mind, the following four suggestions are provided for businesses that either want to change spigots or need help building the only customer relationship with value.

  1.  Decide what type of business you want to be, and then act accordingly.  No judgment about the decision is being made.  Just remember, the greatest sin a business can commit is to fail to show a profit.  Employee costs can make and break employers and profits.
  2. Provide a feedback loop. Employees are a business’s greatest asset, the greatest source for new products, new procedures, new methods of performing the work, and new modes of operation, and until the leadership team decides the employees have value, the business cannot change to meet market demands.  In fact, that business that does not value employees, cannot change at all, ever!
  3. Be “Tank Man.” As a child, I remember watching the Tiananmen Square incident unfold in China.  I remember watching a man, stand in front of a tank and bring that tank, and several more behind it, to a standstill.  Nobody knows this man’s name, but many remember his stand.  Be the example of world-changing customer service, even if no one will ever know your name.Tank Man - Tiananmen Square
  4. Many parents have told their children, “Actions speak louder than words.” At no other time has these words been truer.  Act; do not talk!  Show your employees’ customer service and they will conquer the world for you.  Actions to take might not mean expending any money.  Showing someone you care is as simple as listening, and then helping.  LinkedIn daily has examples of hero employees who do more, serve better, and act all because their leader acted on the employee’s behalf.
    • Blue Money BurningConsider Company A for a moment, the time of class overlap was 1-hour. The number of days the overlap was going to affect that employee, 9.  Thus, for the cost of nine hours at $17.00 per hour, or $153.00 USD total, an employee was lost.  How much blue and green money was lost getting that employee hired, just to see that employee leave within two days of starting?  How much more blue and green money will be lost to replace that lost employee?

No longer can employer hope to treat employees poorly and still achieve financial success, between social media and modern communication, the word gets out that an employer does not care about their employees.  No longer can labor unions abuse non-union members autonomously.  No longer can a business walk away from social and community abuses with impunity.  The choice to treat people as valuable assets is an easy choice to make, choose wisely!

© Copyright 2020 – M. Dave Salisbury

The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the pictures.

All rights reserved.  For copies, reprints, or sharing, please contact through LinkedIn:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/davesalisbury/

The Role of the Military in American Society – Knowing the Paradigms

Military CrestsAccording to the US Constitution, the President is the Commander in Chief of all the US Military branches including the National Guard and Coast Guard.  Article II of the U.S. Constitution endows the President with this power.  Article I of the Constitution gives the U.S. Congress the power to declare war; a purposeful separation of powers instituted by the Founding Fathers that underscored a fear of large standing armies and their potential to impede a free and republican society.  The term “reserve component” collectively refers to two organizations—the Reserves and the National Guard.  The Reserves are a Federal reserve force that augments the active component as personnel requirements dictate.

The reserve force is controlled by the US President and can be mobilized to meet the Federal Government’s needs.  The purpose of the reserves is to provide trained persons, available for active duty, in time of war and national emergency, and to fill the ranks of active forces when the mission demands.

National GuardThe National Guard has two missions—a Federal mission and a State mission.  The Guard’s primary mission is to support the States in times of natural and human-made disasters.  Guard units in each state can be mobilized by the Governor to provide support within the state or, under certain conditions, across state lines.  This occurs when the Governor declares a state of emergency following civil unrest or natural disaster.  The U.S. Constitution places control of the National Guard firmly in the hands of the Governors of each state, there are legal provisions that allow the President to mobilize National Guard units for Federal service.  The National Guard can be mobilized in whole or in part to support the nation in times of emergency, in response to national disasters, or in times of war.  The State Governors are subservient to the US President, and the Secretary of Defense, but answer as the Commander in Chief for the National Guard in their states.

The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 forbids the use of U.S. Armed Forces in law enforcement activities on U.S. soil, except for the purpose of putting down rebellions or enforcing constitutional rights if state authorities fail to do so. The President can invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807 and go above a Governor’s head to activate National Guard troops if the Commander in Chief believes the response requires this action.  For example, school desegregation in 1957 following the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, and again in 1992 during the riots in Los Angeles following the acquittal of police officers charged with beating Rodney King.

The PrinceWhere the role of the military is concerned, J. Pournelle and S. M. Stirling wrote a series of books that when combined form the compendium “The Prince” (Baen Books).  The stories discuss the role of government and the role of the military in government as a tool.  When things get screwed up enough, the military is forced to be the janitor.  The military is never the best solution, as the military solution is akin to the largest hammer in the toolbox for correcting societal behavior.  The military is not a scalpel, you cannot perform surgery with a bomb.  Thus, there are always innocent casualties when the military option is exercised, much to the chagrin and disappointment of the citizen population on the receiving end of the military action.

The US Constitution as originally drafted provided the American people the US House of Representatives as the house of the people.  The governors of the individual states received their own house as a means of keeping control of the Federal Government, the Senate.  The US Constitution was drafted to see the American Citizen on top of, and control, all the government entities with the Federal subservient to the states through the Senate, the people through the House, the judicial branch independent of the executive, and the legislative able to exert influence upon the executive.  The US Constitution had local governments to protect the citizen from the county, the county to protect the citizen from the state, the states to protect from the Federal, and all governmental bodies controlled by the individual citizen through legislatures.  The roles of governors and the power of the Federal Government have been corroded since the passing of the 17th Amendment 08 April 1913.

The 17th Amendment changed a constitutional dynamic and in so doing allowed the Federal Government to dominate the states, the House of Representatives lost the consensus of the people, and the growth of the government at all levels has been usurping the rights, freedoms, privileges, and power of the independent citizen for over 100-years.  But, before anything can be changed, the American Citizen needs to understand the role of government and the role of the citizen in government.

In discussing the role of the law enforcement official, (part one of this series), is as a community peace monitoring and behavior-modifying official, and tool of government.  A Military is a tool of the government, can command behavior changes, and uses force to empower obedience to the Government.  Consider the Tiananmen Square incident in China.  The local enforcement officials could not command the protests to break up; thus, the military was called in from the borders of China, to break up the demonstrations.

LDS ImageThe Doctrine and Covenants, Section (Chapter) 134, of The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-Day Saints (2013), provides clarification on the role of the citizen in government and remains a go-to treatise on government, law, and the citizen’s responsibility.  It must be recognized that governments are expected to be for the benefit and use of man, to create a good and safe society.  Governments use the law to dictate behavior, as agreed upon by the consent of the governed.  However, the government cannot and should not violate the “free exercise of conscience, the right, and control of the property, or harm the protection of life.”  The civil magistrate (law enforcement officials) are required to restrain crime, punish guilt, but never suppress or interfere with the freedom of the soul.

The role of the citizen in government is to support their governments, showing deference to the officials of that government, not support sedition, rebellion, riots, and so forth as destroy the peace and safety of the society in which they reside.  The role of the citizen is to be a vocal participant in their government is provided this opportunity, but nothing allows for, or excuses, rebellion, sedition, tyranny, or other such actions that destroy the common peace of that society.  The citizen requesting the laws be changed have a process for changing those laws and should make their petitions known to the government.  Hence, if a law enforcement official does something deemed improper, there is a system in place to review the situation and act if warranted.  The citizen does not have the right to take matters into their own hands.  Informed and proper action is spelled out in law; thus, use the law to improve the conditions, do not become a hooligan, and place yourself outside the protection of the law!

I would like to thank and acknowledge the work of SAMHSA for their contributions to this article.  As a precursor to the study of the military in society, I recommend J. Pournelle and S. M. Stirling’s book “The Prince.”  Truly this primer should be required reading for anyone desiring to learn the proper role of government, the military, and the association with the citizen.  Finally, the treatise on belief as discussed from The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-Day Saints is a marvelous document that sits beside and compliments my copy of the US Constitution, Bill of Rights, and other American Founding Documents.

Military Crests

© Copyright 2020 – M. Dave Salisbury

The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the pictures.

All rights reserved.  For copies, reprints, or sharing, please contact through LinkedIn:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/davesalisbury/

Society Needs the Family – Knowing the Paradigms That Shape American Society

School of DarknessA colleague said I should read a book, “The School of Darkness,” by Bella V. Dodd.  As an immigrant in the early 1900s, the book is discussing coming to America, losing one’s belief structure with its tenets, traditions, and ties that bind, and discovering the emptiness of society, which tried desperately to replace the family and religion.  The author only discovers this emptiness and the need for family and religion after a lifetime of fighting against the influence.

The ideal family, found in many cultures, religions, and communities across the world is of one father, loving one mother, and raising children in what is called a nuclear family.  Early in the 1900s, the families with close ties as a family, who kept the traditions of religion, found in America plentiful opportunities and made strong the American Society.  Those nuclear families without strong ties to a belief structure weakened American Society, but not in ways or methods cognizant at the time, and only understood through historical observation and dissection.Nuclear Family

Consider, for a moment, James Hardy’s writings (2015) on divorce in America; in the Colony of Massachusetts Bay, there was created a judicial tribunal that solely settled divorce matters in 1629. “This legislative body could grant divorces based on adultery, desertion, bigamy and in many cases impotence. In the North, the colonies adopted their own approaches that made divorce available, whereas the southern colonies did all they could to prevent the act even if they did have legislation in place.”  Notice the distinction between North and South that was apparent in pre-Revolutionary and Civil War society supporting both conclusions needed for a strong community, family, and a common religious belief structure.

Fast forward to 2020, and the current divorce rate is 2.9:1000 reporting from 45 states and the District of Columbia.  With the medium marriage lasting 11 years and falling, and around 30% of marriages suffering disruptions leading to divorce.  The future of the nuclear family in America remains grim, unless fundamental changes in, and desires of, people change; America is soon to disappear.  The American Civil War taught this lesson well, the need for strong families, based upon a core belief structure that lifts the human mind from pettiness, selfishness, and authoritarianism, remains the two keys an individual will control to keep the American Republic safe from enemies foreign and domestic.

Role of ReligionWhich religions lift the soul, I do not speculate; however, I can tell how you can tell.  The answer is the same from generation to generation, first know yourself.  Second, research the religion’s works.  Finally, seek religions that bring light to the world sickened mind.  I have known great and good people in all the different sects of religion in this world.  The key I have found comes in living the religion, not just professing that religion.  As one lives that religion the tenets of that religion will either inspire, uplift, edify, and grow the spirit and the soul, or it is time to find a new religious structure.  Regardless, before the traditions of religion, the traditions of the family must be understood and cemented together.

Religion QuoteThe Jewish religious tenets are deeply respected by this author for the blend of family and religion that is born from the belief structure.  Some Catholic tenets speak to the same family and religious mixture, several Christian religions also speak to this mixture of home-based family-centered religion.  The Muslim faith tends to support a community based around the mosque, and not as much on the individual family.  The religious foundations and actions of The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-Day Saints are very like the Jewish religious beliefs, the Amish, Quakers, Dutch Calvinists, and more who also carry a strong family first, religion second, approach to building strong communities through strong religious traditions, by first focusing upon the family and home-based religious practices, building into strong religious communities, and then to strong and morally upright citizens.  Yet, I have witnessed the same in Atheist communities, where the beliefs of non-belief led to strong families asking questions, seeking truth and developing the person through strong familial bonds.

Building a child, with strong familial bonds, which will then build a community, a state, and a country, is the work of two parents in a nuclear family.  But what supports the parents in the difficult job of rearing children, the local community and the extended family are helpful and needful, but most important traditions of belief.  Dodd in, her book, reflects this lesson as she taught freshmen in college, generally from tearing the student from improperly rooted belief structures and transplanting them into the heady and hedonistic thoughts of social families replacing nuclear families, shucking religious traditions in the process.

Religion Quote 2Why is Communism doomed; because it attempts to replace the family with the government.  Why is Socialism doomed; it expands the power of government until the government becomes Communist and tries to replace the family with the government.  Why has Capitalism been such a breath of fresh air to the world through the American Republic; because it leaves the family alone from the fingers of government intrusion.  Government intrusion, which chokes the agency of man for the mind control of the government.  Fascism was doomed to failure, for it worked hard to replace the family with social groups, social families, and corroded the human spirit until nothing but violence and rage remained.  Does this sound familiar; it should, for this is the same path being used in education in 2020, learned in the early 1900s, and dedicated to the eradication of America through slow corrosion.

Religious ThoughtAs an older child in a large family, with a large extended family, I once asked, “Why do we gather as an extended family with all the expense, the work, the travel, the hard feelings, etc.?”  The answer never made sense to me then, and makes less sense now; yet, there is a truth in the answer that is more felt than understood, “We do it for family.”  In the movie “Fiddler on the Roof,” Tevye sings about “Tradition” and how familial and religious tradition extends into confidence and strength for the individual to understand who they are in society, and by extension in a country.

From the nuclear family comes confidence in knowing one’s self.  Does this mean that non-nuclear families are inferior; no!  It simply means there is a larger role for extended families and the community to render assistance.  Yet, the extended family and community cannot replace or render invalid the responsibilities of the parents.

Consider two families.  Family A loses their father as the oldest is just entering high school, the youngest daughter is just barely 18-months.  The mother is left to raise the family having married her high school sweetheart.  Family B is a product of divorce, the mother has custody of the children, and she and her new boyfriend work two jobs apiece, leaving the children to fend for themselves except when the grandparents can “take the kids.”  Family A the children continue to heal from their father’s abrupt passing and are strong in family and faith.  Family B the children have no roots, and they struggle with the religion of the parents and grandparents.  They struggle because their mother has no religious connections due to both employment and lifestyle choices.  The children are good kids, but they are confused, and the person who could settle their confusion, has abdicated the responsibility, and the grandparents can only do so much as partial parent replacements.  While the extended families and communities surrounding both families help and support as they can, the lack of parental responsibility and awareness of the mother in Family B, and the awareness and devotion in Family A, makes all the difference between these two families.

ReligionsHaving traveled across America for the last 25years, and ¾’s of the way around the world, I have a few observations that can strengthen the family.  I share the following as a warning, for if the family is not supported, the actions seen by the domestic terrorists in recent days, as evidenced by the riotings and lootings will only grow until America is lost forever.

  1. How much is enough? America is a capitalist and materialistic country; yet, for all that, there remains much good in America worth preserving.  Answering this simple question determines where standards, limits, and lines are drawn.  For example, how much sports watching is enough?  How much money is enough?
  2. We sacrifice for that which we love. It is a simple axiom, but the truth in a simple sentence.  Do we sacrifice that which is good for the better?  Do we sacrifice that which is better for the more desirable right now?  Do we sacrifice the best in us to fill an appetite?  Consider Family B, the mother chooses to never marry again and remains quite vocal about her decision; but, what is the cost for the sacrifice and the consequences of the decision?  Of her children, the first two are girls, who are confused.  Her young son struggles between the men of her mother’s life setting an example, and what he sees of his grandfather’s life and social circle.
  3. Social societies cannot replace the family. Social prominence cannot, and never will, fill the emptiness at the end of life.  My wife played for the funeral of a man who was politically well known, so much in fact, that the governor of AZ came to the man’s funeral, as well as many in the AZ State Legislature.  A couple of mayors of Phoenix were in attendance, some people with ambitions for federally elected posts were in attendance, and more.  Yet, I wonder today, 5years after his passing, if these same people remember the man.  My wife is still in touch with his wife, but I cannot help but wonder regarding this man’s children and grandchildren.
  4. Allow religious belief systems to change you personally, and your family collectively, through living a religious and moral centered life. President Adams, in discussing the US Constitution stated, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”  Look from the 1900s to 2020 and one inescapable fact emerges, the loss of the nuclear family has led to a degeneration of social values, morals, ethics, and people.  While the law has attempted to curb this dilemma, President Adams’ quote becomes ever more applicable.  America was founded upon a Judeo-Christian foundation of philosophies and the loss of religion is tearing America apart at its foundational core.

Martin Luther King in discussing individuals and society, morals, and religion, stated the following, “… you have got to change the heart and you cannot change the heart through legislation. You cannot legislate morals. The job must be done through education and religion.”  While the rest of the quote goes onto try and validate the opposite, Rev. King has a point, the law can only go so far in dictating behavior, legislating morals, and decreeing standards.  Without a moral and religious society, America has nothing, is nothing, and falls a failed experiment in improving the human condition.

moral-valuesAmerica needs strong families, which possess a core of religious traditions, practiced in the home, and acted upon in society.  The days of allowing truancy due to race, the communist teachings in schools and the lies that society can replace the family must be fought and won by families informed.  America can survive the current attacks but needs every citizen fighting for the survival of this set of ideals embodied in the US Constitution.  We need morality and religion to return as the core that motivates people to action for America to survive.  It is possible to win against the forces arrayed against America domestically and foreign, but we need nuclear families, and those families need a religious core; there is no other way.

© Copyright 2020 – M. Dave Salisbury

The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the pictures.

All rights reserved.  For copies, reprints, or sharing, please contact through LinkedIn:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/davesalisbury/

Plasticization of Words and the American Political Left – Shifting the Paradigm

Non Sequitur - Plasticity of LanguageI love words; I was taught from a young age three invaluable lessons:

  1. Speak the King’s English with exactness.
  2. Correctly pronounce and enunciate your words.
  3. If you do not know what a word means, and misuse it, you are wrong and must correct your mistake immediately.

Growing up, these rules were inviolable.  You could use any word you knew the definition of; but, you had better pronounce that word, enunciate, and be able to defend yourself when asked.  Since 1990, I have become detested with two things the American Political Left has chosen to do that is atrocious and worthy of the vilest condemnation, racism, and the plasticization of words.

As a student of history, the American Political Left has, from the inception of political parties, been telling lies to hide political skullduggery and shenanigans, to obfuscate issues, and derail issues.  The plasticization of words has shamed many a person, has cast doubts that have ruined elections, and been exercised tirelessly to tear America apart.

Pentagon BureaucracyConsider a term oft used to describe the political left, “Social-Justice Warriors.”  Long have I asked my political left-leaning colleagues what this term means, how it applies, and the veracity of the term as a description of societal action.  Breaking down the term, we find three definitions taken from Dictionary.com:

Social: Adjective – relating to society and its organization; Noun – informal social gathering

Justice: Noun – just behavior or treatment; administration of law or authority

Warrior: Noun – an experienced soldier or fighter

Social Justice WarriorThus, to extrapolate meaning from the definitions, one would conclude a social justice warrior is “a person in society, looking for the social administration of law, who has experience fighting for the proper administration of law.”  Yet, the definition from the dictionary for this term is 180-degrees different and is termed derogatory, “a person who expresses or promotes socially progressive views.”  Those rioting and looting in the streets got there because a social justice warrior enraged the community on an issue that is racist, one-sided, and emotionally driven.  Lest it is forgotten, the term being applied to the people driven by emotion to launch protests that become mob violence is derogatory in nature, critically disrespectful of the person calling themselves a social justice warrior.  But, the social justice warrior carries this title as if it were a compliment and a badge of the highest esteem.

Thus, language is plasticized to confuse, interfere, and claim moral superiority, while at the same time damaging the basic fiber of America, destroying small businesses, and ruining commerce.  In reviewing the historical records of riots in America, the term social justice warrior appears to have cropped up as a neutral or possibly positive term in the 1990s, but by 2011 the term had gained its derogatory connotations with the rise of social media.  Many victims of social justice warriors claim they have been “thought policed,” “word policed,” attacked for not being appropriately centered on progressive politics.  The social justice warrior is often extremely biased, self-aggrandizing, sanctimonious, but first, last, and always puerilely unreasonable!

Social Just Warriors 5A recent attack by a social justice warrior regarded the inability of poor black people to have government-issued photo ID, and that without that photo ID, the poor black person would be disenfranchised in exercising voting rights.  My response was that holding any person down by race was racist, and the social just warrior preceded to become unhinged.  Let us be clear, anytime a person’s race is the sole reason that person, or group of people, cannot take part in something, is racism, and the person espousing that opinionated garbage is racist.

In fourth grade, shortly after the Christmas Break, Governor Anderson Elementary School, Belfast Maine.  The teacher is Mrs. Ohlund, I am repeating fourth grade because I was accused of being socially unprepared for fifth grade.  I express doubts about Martin Luther King and a negative opinion regarding “Black History Month.”  Then I am falsely accused, for the first of many times, of being racist.  I lost three recesses, had to write a paper by way of apology, and was forced to spend the rest of “Black History Month” not participating in the events planned and scheduled.

Social Justice Warriors 4From that day to this, I have been attacked for not seeing race, not being sensitive to the race of others, and refusing to allow a person’s race to be an excuse for poor performance, bad language, and infantile public and private behavior.  I remain unapologetic; I am not a racist!  I hold myself to the highest standards publicly and privately as my first obligation to society.  Without regard to race, color, creed, etc. I hold others to the same standards.  I am willing to teach and remain willing to learn as my second obligation to society.

Senior Chief Cloud (DCCS) gave me a tongue lashing in the US Navy because I could not understand the verbal interlocution of a second-class petty officer.  The second-class petty officer used “Ebonics,” while on duty as a form of speech, and I had no idea what he was saying.  Off-duty, this same second-class petty officer spoke differently and I was able to understand him, just fine.  I was accused of being racist, disrespectful, and obstinate for not understanding the intentional speech patterns of a higher-ranking person.

Social Justice Warrior 2I quickly learned that if any other race of person employed “Ebonics” they were told to speak properly, but there was a pass for black people.  When I pointed out this was racism, I was sent up on charges for being disrespectful to see the Commanding Officer.  In the US Army, I was the only white person in my squad in S. Korea.  I was never invited to squad parties, social get-togethers, or allowed into training.  I asked why I was being excluded and was told it was because the squad leader did not understand white people.  The command structure supported the exclusion, and I was left without support as a new soldier in the US Army.

When white people treat black people in a manner that segregates, separates, or allows lower standards based upon race, this is considered racism, and rightly so.  Yet, when black people reflect the exact same behaviors, the socially progressive elements in America rush to defend this behavior, and it is still racism.  The term racism sees no colors, understands no race, and cannot distinguish between people.  The term racism has been plasticized and forced into seeing colors and races, but only when directed in one direction towards black people; and, this is wrong!

In S. Korea, I met some of the most amazing people, gifted, talented, intellectually brilliant.  In S. Korea, I never felt I was a foreigner; the people accepted my small gestures to learn the language and were very kind.  Yet, in South Chicago, South Detroit, Bakersfield, Palisades, and other traditionally black neighborhoods, I am a foreigner, and the people not only treated me like scum on their blocks but insisted I did not belong.  How is it, I can feel more welcome in a foreign country, than on American soil, simply because of my race; this is racism!  The same is true when I visited Bahrain, and the Rock of Gibraltar, highly integrated societies, where I was the foreigner but was never treated as a foreigner or an outsider.  But, travel to Jersey City, Burlington, or Baychester and I was told to wear armor because I was going to be shot.  As a point of interest, Bruce Willis has this same problem in the movie Die Hard 3, and Hollywood treated that overt racism as a movie plot; this is wrong!

Social Justice Warrior 3In the name of racial equality, America has been taught since the early 1980s that words create problems, and some words cannot be used by “white people.”  This behavior is inherently racist and spreads the problems of race, not improving racial relationships.  During President Obama’s reign, America learned that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are racist.  Fluffernutter sandwiches are racist.  But, this is not so, they are sandwiches, food, and delicious.  Yet, through plasticization and a social justice warrior, suddenly, a staple of millions of people is now “off-limits” and cannot be consumed.  My local sandwich shop had to stop selling a peanut butter honey spread on bagels as a sandwich option because the owners feared being picketed.

It is time for Americans to stand together against the tyranny of plastic words.  Terms see no race, color, creed, and can do nothing but form expressions in communicating ideas.  People see colors, race, creeds, handicaps, and more, words do not.  The plastic words employed by the political left need to be called out every single time a new term arises, and the following are some suggestions for reducing plastic words.

  1. Get to know words and their definitions. It is okay to look up new words and use them in daily vocabulary.  It is okay to have a vocabulary to fall upon to describe, detail, and inform your communication.
  2. When in doubt, ask for clear definitions for terms. If this is the second or more instance, compare definitions from previous explanations, and every time the definitions do not match the intent, call that person out.
  3. Insist upon pronunciation and proper annunciation of words. The English language is beautiful when properly used, and the proper usage of language improves the world.  Be the speaker that makes flowers bloom in another person’s mind through language.
  4. Swearing, cursing, and vile imprecations do nothing but degrade the speaker and lower the speaker’s intelligence. Insist that speakers improve their language usage before speaking as a sign of respect.  I show my respect to you by guarding my tongue, you show your appreciation and respect to me by guarding your tongue, and communication advances both of us.
  5. Plastic words are a social disease and a tool of weak and untested minds. Remember, emotional outbursts are not tolerated by parents from children, and are even less tolerated by adults towards other adults.  Teenagers should be able to get away with back-talking and emotional hyperbole, why do we allow these same outbursts from adults?

Words DefinedImproving communication is all about knowing and using language succinctly and precisely, and then supporting proper social behaviors through courage and tenacity.  There is no reason the grocery store, the restaurant, and other social and community gatherings should be an atmosphere of foul deprecations, excuses for small minds to emotionally lose control, or for adults to imitate the worst childish behaviors.  Standards promote freedom, and the US Republic is all about personal freedom through responsibility and accountability for one’s self.

© Copyright 2020 – M. Dave Salisbury

The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the pictures.

All rights reserved.  For copies, reprints, or sharing, please contact through LinkedIn:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/davesalisbury/

Symptoms Not Cause – Shifting the Paradigm at the Department of Veterans Affairs

I-CareFor Memorial Day (2020), the National Cemetery, through the directive of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), restricted the placing of flags at several national cemeteries, upsetting the plans of Boy Scouts, and angering countless veterans, survivors, dependents, and extended families.  However, the intransigence of the VA on this matter is but a symptom of a larger problem.

ProblemsThe Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) recently released two additional reports on behavior unbecoming at the VA.  The first report concerns the delays in diagnosis and treatment in dialysis patients, as well as patient transport at the Fayetteville VA Medical Center in North Carolina.  The second is another death of a patient, as well as deficiencies in domiciliary safety and security at the Northeast Ohio Healthcare System in Cleveland.

The VA report from North Carolina includes significant patient issues, especially since two veterans died while in the care of the VA.  Significant issues are generally code words for incredibly lax processes, and procedures that are easily avoided, provided people care enough to do their jobs correctly, succinctly, and thoroughly.  Where patients are concerned a dead patient is pretty significant.  Two dead patients are beyond the comprehension of a reasonable person to not ask, “Who lost their jobs over these incidents?”

Patient A, has leukemia, and from the VA-OIG’s report we find the following responsible parties:

“… A primary care provider failed to act on Patient A’s abnormal laboratory results and pathologists’ recommendations for follow-up testing and hematology consultation. Community Care staff did not process a consult and schedule Patient A’s appointment.

Patient A died from a gastrointestinal bleed while waiting for transport to a hospital from a (VA Contracted) [long-term] care facility.  Patient A’s delays in care led to death in hospital, and the failure of a hospitalist to initiate emergency procedures contributed to the veteran’s passing.  Patient A’s death is a tragical farce of bureaucratic inaction, compounded by the same symptoms as that allowed for Memorial Day (2020) to come and go without the honored dead of America being remembered.  Symptoms not cause.

Patient B, was also in a (VA Contracted) [long-term] care facility, in need of transport back to the hospital, and the administrative staff’s delays had Patient B arrive at the hospital in cardiac failure, where the patient subsequently died.  In the case of both patient’s facility leaders did not initiate comprehensive analyses of events surrounding the patients’ deaths or related processes. But, this is excusable behavior at the VA due to frequent executive leadership changes impeding the resolution of systemic issues.  I have been covering the VA-OIG reports for the better part of a decade and this excuse is always an acceptable excuse for bureaucratic inaction.  Hence, the first question in this madness is to the VA-OIG and it needs to answer, “Why is this an allowable excuse?”  Don’t the people remaining know their positions sufficiently to carry on when the executive team is in flux?  Again, symptoms not cause.

The patient death in Northeast Ohio, started with the domiciliary, on a VA Contract care facility.  Essentially, the patient died because of methadone being provided without first gaining an electrocardiogram.  Oversight of the contracted domiciliary did not include accuracy checks on paperwork, but the VA-OIG found that for the most part, the contracted domiciliary was following VA Contracting guidelines.  From the report, no gross negligence led to the veterans passing, and for the most part risk analysis and other post mortem analysis were conducted properly.  Why is this case mentioned; symptoms not cause.

When I worked at the New Mexico VA Medical Center (NMVAMC) I diagnosed a problem and was told, repeatedly, to not mention the problem as the director would be furious.  The problem is bureaucratic inertia.  Bureaucratic inertia is commonly defined as, “the supposed inevitable tendency of bureaucratic organizations to perpetuate the established procedures and modes, even if they are counterproductive and/or diametrically opposed to established organizational goals.”  Except, the bureaucratic inertia I witnessed daily was not “supposedly inevitable,” it was a real and cogent variable in every single action from most of the employees.

I spent 12 months without proper access to systems, but the process to gain access was convoluted, unknown, ever-changing, and so twisted that unraveling the proper methods to complete the process and gain access was never corrected, and this was a major issue for patient care in an Emergency Department.  Why was the process so bad; bureaucratic inertia.  Obtaining information about the problem took two different assistant directors, two different directors, a senior leader, and the problem was identified that licensing requirements were the sticking point in the problem.

InertiaBureaucratic inertia is the cause of too many issues, problems, and dead veterans, at the Department of Veterans Affairs.  The symptoms include delays in administrative tasks that lead to patients dying for lack of transport to a hospital.  The symptoms include cost overrun on every construction project the VA commences.  The symptoms include abuse of employees, creating a revolving door in human resources where good people come in with enthusiasm, and leave with anger and contempt, generally at the insistence of a leader who refuses to change.  The symptoms include a bureaucrat making a decision that has no logical sense, costs too much and is never held accountable for the harm because the decision-maker can prove they met the byzantine labyrinth of rules, regulations, and policies of the VA.

Veterans are dying at the VA regularly because of bureaucratic inertia.  Hence, as bureaucratic inertia is the problem, and the symptoms are prevalent, it must needs be that a solution is found to eradicate bureaucratic inertia.  While not a full solution, the following will help curb most of the problem, and begin the process for the eradication of bureaucratic inertia.

  1. Give the VA-OIG power to enact change when cause and effect analysis shows a person is “the” problem in that chain of events. Right now, the office of inspector general has the power to make recommendations, that are generally, sometimes, potentially, considered, and possible remediations adopted, provided a different course of action is discovered.
  2. Give the executive committee, of which the head is Secretary Wilkie, legislative power to fire and hold people accountable for not doing the jobs they were hired, and vetted at $110,000+ per employee, to perform. Background checks on new employees cost the taxpayer $110,000+, and the revolving door in human resources is unacceptable.  But worse is when the leaders refuse to perform their jobs and remain employed.
  3. Implement ISO as a quality control system where processes, procedures, and policies are written down. The ability for management to change the rules on a whim costs money, time, patient confidence, trust in leadership and organization, and is a nuisance that permeates the VA absolutely.  The lack of written policies and procedures is the second most common excuse for bureaucratic inertia.  The first being, the ability to blame changing leadership for dead patients!
  4. Eliminate labor union protection. Government employees have negotiated plentiful benefits, conditions, and pay without union representation and the ability for the union to get criminal complaints dropped, and worthless people their jobs back is an ultimate disgrace upon the Magna Charta of the United States of America generally, and upon the seal of the Department of Veterans Affairs specifically.

Leadership CartoonSecretary Wilkie, until you can overcome the bureaucratic inertia prevalent in the ranks of the leadership between the front-line veteran facing employee and your office, lasting change remains improbable.  Real people are dying from bureaucratic inertia.  Real veterans are spending their entire lives in the appeal process for benefits and dying without proper treatment.  Real families are being torn asunder from the stress of untreated veterans because the bureaucratic inertia cannot be overcome from the outside.  I know you need legislative assistance to enact real change and improve the VA.  By way of petition, I write this missive to the American citizen asking for your help in providing Sec. Wilkie the tools he needs to fix the VA.

The VA can be fixed, but the solution will require fundamental change.

Change is possible with proper legislative support!

© Copyright 2020 – M. Dave Salisbury

The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the pictures.

All rights reserved.  For copies, reprints, or sharing, please contact through LinkedIn:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/davesalisbury/

Fiscal Insanity is not Fiscal Responsibility – Reports From the VA

I-CareConsider your home finances, you and your significant other are working hard for the paycheck.  Your significant other comes in and reports they have improperly paid the mortgage company, the electric company, the car loan, the gas company, and the credit cards over the last year to the tune of $100,000.  These funds are not recoverable, did not reduce your balances, did not pay ahead, did not apply to your account, and your significant other expects to be praised for improperly paying the bills.  What is your response?

The Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) released a report on how the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) remains out of compliance with the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act (2010) for fiscal year (FY) 2019.  The report is replete with the obvious, the VA refuses to be fiscally responsible for American Taxpayer dollars.  Consider the following from the VA-OIG report:

In FY 2019, VA reported improper payment estimates totaling $11.99 billion for 14 programs and activities, $2.74 billion less than the total reported in FY 2018 for 12 programs and activities.

The quote is supposed to be good news, and a major gain, and deserving of applause.  Except, two programs were added between FY 2018 and 2019, thus reducing the overall performance.  The VA-OIG report states something that should be obvious to every household in America, “Improper payments are any payments that should not have been made or were made in an incorrect amount.”  Please keep in mind, the VA is not being tasked with eliminating improper payments, simply following the legislation, and reducing those payments.  The VA has legislatively mandated targets they are “strongly suggested” to meet.

VA did not meet annual reduction targets for a program considered at risk for improper payments and did not report a gross improper payment rate of less than 10 percent for six programs and activities as required. VA satisfied the other four IPERA requirements.”

The VA-OIG inspection for improper payments was not an audit, does not demand full and open books to be reviewed by third-party auditors for accountability of taxpayer dollars, reading the VA-OIG report is simply looks like the VA, including the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), and the National Cemeteries, self-report compliance estimates for meeting the targets.

Wrapped up in the VA-OIG report is the following gem of bureaucrat complicity.

“… Identified that four programs and activities have been noncompliant for five consecutive fiscal years, and two activities were noncompliant for three years.”

Thus, further reducing the overall adherence to Congressional oversight and fiscal sanity in properly handling the American Taxpayer money.  The VA-OIG reported that the VA is required to submit to Congress plans to come into compliance, and it was considered good news that the VA was able to do this for two high-priority programs with a monetary annual loss of $100 Million; but overall, I have to rate the VA’s ability to self-identify and self-correct fiscal problems at a very low F-.  The audacity of the VA Bureaucrats to not even follow all the VA-OIG recommendations, on such a softball legislative requirement mystifies.  From FY 2018 to FY 2019, the VA refused to comply with a VA-OIG recommendation, and this same recommendation has been carried over into FY 2020 in the hopes that the VA will come into compliance.

Blue Money BurningReturning the original analogy, if your significant other was reporting these failures to comply, how long would that person remain a significant other?  Yet, somehow, we, the American Taxpayer, accepts this type of poor performance from government bureaucrats.  The legislation is not working to improve performance after 10 consecutive fiscal years of trying.  Leading to the following recommendations for immediate Congressional action.

  1. Order a full, open, and transparent audit of the VA.  I don’t care what is found in FY 2019, just perform a complete audit and bring all the books and budgets of the VA into a single source.
  2. Set mandates for compliance with hard deadlines to meet. Without accountability built into a system for improvement, you cannot expect improvement.  Deadlines insist upon compliance.
  3. Start holding actual people accountable for not acting fiscally responsible. The charade has to end, the suggestions for improvement should never have started, and you, the elected Congressional Representatives, are responsible for correcting the fiscal ship of state!
  4. Insist upon adherence through personal liability. If a bureaucrat cannot handle the position they have been hired to hold, they need to be removed.  Not coddled, not protected, not another paycheck!

Congress demands every business in America be held accountable to basic accounting practices; why then does the VA get a pass?

© Copyright 2020 – M. Dave Salisbury

The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the pictures.

All rights reserved.  For copies, reprints, or sharing, please contact through LinkedIn:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/davesalisbury/

Word Plasticity – The Scourge of the Modern World

Non Sequitur - Plasticity of Language

Consider 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.

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.