The Year-End Maelstrom! – More VA Shenanigans! (Where is the accountability?)

2021 has finally ended, but before it ended, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) increased the pace, and the following is but a taste of the year-end insanity foisted into my inbox.  With more than 45 emails to sift thru, some of the topics had to be culled, and I regret that I had to cull the emails.  Each and every VA-OIG report deserves to be scrutinized, evaluated, and the actors punished, many times with criminal court.  I don’t know what’s worse, summating these stories or getting hit with a truck; seeing as I have been hit by a truck, I think the truck is easier.

We begin the recount of VA-OIG stories with another veteran, deceased because the VA Medical Center refused to do their job and provide continuity of care after a 33-day hospital stay.  Leaving me wondering if this was intentional malpractice due to the cost of the veteran to the VA.  Listen to the findings of the VA-OIG, then make your own decision.

The Malcom Randall VAMC’s interdisciplinary team (IDT) failed to develop a discharge plan that adequately ensured patient safety and continuity of care.  The Malcom Randall VAMC did not have a discharge planning policy that outlined IDT membership, communication expectations, or roles in discharge planning.  The OIG found that the occupational therapy provider did not verbally communicate a new recommendation for a home safety assessment or take action to stop the discharge until the safety concerns were addressed.  Additionally, an attending physician failed to review written recommendations for home healthcare services from consultative and ancillary providers before composing the discharge plan for the patient.  The social worker, who had significant responsibility for ensuring the adequacy and safety of the patient’s discharge plan, also failed to incorporate recommendations by the occupational therapy provider and failed to discuss and offer home health services to manage the patient’s venous leg ulcer and monitor infection of the right leg.  The OIG also found that social workers did not consistently complete thorough and detailed psychosocial assessments that would be pertinent to discharge planning.

Remember when the media became hysterical when then VP Candidate Gov. Sarah Palin suggested ObamaCare would institute “Death Panels?”  Bureaucrats decided that the government had invested sufficient money into a patient and was going to stop providing medical care.  When this media hissy-fit was going on, I claimed that the VA had been exercising this right to discontinue care for a long time.  Several people took umbrage at this commentary; yet, what do we find from the VA-OIG, a dead veteran, five recommendations by the VA-OIG to do the job these “providers” were already hired to perform, and I am left thinking, “Death Panel in action.”

What else should I conclude with no accountability, responsibility, and consequences?

On the topic of holding a job with responsibility and not being held accountable, we find another hit to the VA and their lack of IT/IS security.  Desiring brevity but passing along factual information, the following summary has been condensed:

The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) standardizes security and risk assessments for cloud technologies for federal agencies, including VA.  In April 2019, the VA Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) received allegations that VA’s Office of Information and Technology’s (OIT’s) Project Special Forces (PSF) was not following FedRAMP policies or VA policy for deploying software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications.

      • The VA-OIG found that OIT granted security authorizations for applications FedRAMP did not authorize.
          • Eight of the nine applications cited by the complainant were used on the VA network—some without FedRAMP or VA authorization.
          • Another three applications were approved to operate on VA’s network without FedRAMP authorization.
      • The OIG did not substantiate that PSF-developed applications were improperly managed outside the VA Enterprise Cloud group.
      • PSF did not follow VA security requirements in developing interfaces that allow third parties to “plug into” the VA to send and retrieve data.
          • OIT personnel stated, “no formal OIT authorization process until April 2019.” After that date, the review team did not find instances of VA-authorized applications without FedRAMP authorization.
      • OIT staff “apparently” misunderstood the FedRAMP authorization requirements for SaaS applications containing data classified as less sensitive.

Please note if you think the VA IT/IS performance has improved since April 2019.  You are sadly mistaken, as in 2021, there have been three major VA-OIG reports declaring how IT/IS systems at the VA remain insecure, failing legislative mandates for basic security, and are hopelessly too expensive and useless.  I have two VA-Apps on my phone, both of which work “sometimes,” and never sufficiently support the end user.  Worse, these apps do not interface with the old software the VA is helplessly tied to while the new software continues to prove its uselessness and security problems in real-world beta testing.

Tell me, would you trust the government, any of the alphabet agencies, with your child to babysit?  If not, why do we trust the government to secure our identity?  If so, please elaborate, for I would love to know of a government/NGO operating with trust and efficiency.

Continuing under the heading of failure to perform the job hired for, we find the VA-OIG issuing a total of 20 recommendations to Vet Centers.  The Vet Centers included record keeping of suicidal veterans seeking mental health support as a point of reference.  Not for the first time, but I keep hoping it’s the last.  The VA continues to fail veterans, abuse veterans actively, and take advantage of veterans, and I remain unconvinced this torture of their customers is not intentional.  Maybe not all employees, for I have met some great employees, but the leadership appears hellbent on killing as many veterans as possible.

Why isn’t this big news, huge headlines, and a major story to the corporate media?  Where is the coverage?  You cannot convince me that 1)You are not aware of this story and 2) That you are unfamiliar with its implications.

VA statement on GPO printing and mailing delay

WASHINGTONDue to supply chain and staffing shortages, the vendor contracted by the Government Publishing Office to provide printing services for the Department of Veterans Affairs is experiencing delays in printing and mailing notification letters to Veterans and claimants.  The disruption may impact the ability of some claimants to meet required deadlines via written correspondence with the VA.

In response to the mailing delays and to protect the best interest of claimants, the Veterans Benefits Administration is extending its response period by 90-calendar days for claimants with letters dated between July 13, 2021, and Dec. 31, 2021.

For those not aware, everything in the bureaucracy abbreviated as the VA is time-sensitive.  Miss a deadline, and you have no opportunity to recoup lost time without investing significant amounts of resources.  Since I continue to be in an embroiled battle with the VA over not receiving a proper decision in 2004, time delays represent problems untold due to budget cuts and bureaucracy, and the VBA and VHA bureaucracies will do everything they can not to help you.  Then we add the time delays, and the consequences can be disastrous.  Think veterans dying with an active application for benefits, and you come close to how big this story is, and not covering it with wall-to-wall coverage is the epitome of lackluster asininity!

It took dead veterans on waiting lists to get bad press through the Media fawning over President Obama; what will it take to penetrate the media quilt for Biden?  Continuing under the heading of failing to do the job you were hired to perform, we find another VA-OIG comprehensive healthcare inspection (CHIp).  Guess what; this one is beyond utterly dismal and flagrantly reprehensible!

The administration and delivery of care to female veterans continues at its expected and atrocious, slovenly pace, being outstripped by one-winged butterflies.  How can the VA Leadership continue to keep their jobs when they allow such incorrigible behavior from lower staff members?  Would the elected Representatives and Senators address this question?  You were hired to scrutinize the government; that is the only other job you have after writing fair and equitable legislation to all citizens.  Why should you be re-elected when this behavior abounds, and you refuse to scrutinize the executive branch officers?

Consider the following,  “The VA-OIG audit team estimated that improper payments for acupuncture and chiropractic care amounted to about $136.7 million during fiscal years 2018 and 2019.”  Continuing, “The audit team also found that VHA did not always follow guidance when reauthorizing acupuncture and chiropractic care.  Not documenting assessments of prior treatments before authorizing additional care may interfere with veterans’ treatment.”  Failure to ensure your underlings have established proper processes and procedures that are effective and followed is a prerequisite to holding a leadership position.  Where is the leadership at the VA?  Where is elected representative scrutiny?  What are the consequences for doing a poor job of cleaning the house and protecting the taxpayer?

How big is this problem?  Try upwards of $341 Million, on top of the $136 Million already discussed, and before the full force and cost are known on delays in properly notifying veterans in a timely and efficient manner.

The VA-OIG audit team found that some providers are billing VA at a significantly higher rate for high-level evaluation and management services than their peers in the same specialty.  The team determined that in fiscal year (FY) 2020, more than 37,900 non-VA providers billed and were paid for significantly more high-level evaluation and management codes than were all providers in that specialty on average.  These non-VA providers received about $39.1 million (13 percent) of the approximately $303.6 million paid for all non-VA evaluation and management services.

Additionally, some providers billed separately for evaluation and management services when the global surgery package was in effect.  This package is supposed to cover all surgery-related services for a set period.  The review team identified more than 45,600 providers were compensated about $37.8 million in FY 2020 for these evaluation and management services.

Improper payments were not easy to detect because VHA staff did not retrospectively audit medical documentation as required.  Additionally, the OIG found no evidence that VHA or contractors trained non-VA providers on documenting evaluation and management services, similar to how VA providers are qualified.  The OIG determined VHA risked overpaying for evaluation and management services by about $19.9 million in FY 2020.”

While discussing audits, failed processes, and the lack of consequences for senior leadership, we must break and wish a “Happy Birthday” to the audit hits turning 10, 12, 15, 21, and older.  It never ceases to amaze me how these financial failures can continue to age, and nobody is held accountable!  May you age out and finally be corrected!  Would the elected leaders of America like to know why the VA is consistently failing financial audits?

VA continued to be challenged in consistently enforcing established policies and procedures throughout its geographically dispersed portfolio of outdated applications and systems.”

Now, explain why we should re-elect any elected official to office?

Elected officials, your job is to scrutinize and write legislation; that is what we, the electorate hired you to do.  Do you realize the far-reaching consequences of your failure to perform your job?  Let me introduce you to an example:

Anthony Medrano, a veteran of the US Marine Corps and former employee of VA, admitted that between approximately November 2015 and May 2020, he submitted claims to VA in which he purported to be disabled to obtain caregiver benefits for his wife, when he was actually able-bodied and even participated in fitness challenges and coached youth sports.  Medrano was sentenced in federal court to eight months in custody for defrauding VA out of more than $183,000.  He executed this scheme while employed by VBA as a veterans service representative, a position in which he explained benefit programs and entitlement criteria to veterans applying for VA benefits.”

Or the following:

Barry Wayne Hoover of Tampa, Florida, a veteran of the United States Navy, exaggerated the extent of his visual impairment to receive VA disability benefits to which he was not entitled.  Specifically, Hoover manipulated the results of subjective tests of his peripheral vision to reflect that he had only a five-degree visual field and was legally blind.  VA found that Hoover was 100 percent disabled based on those manipulated tests.  Hoover was found guilty of theft of government funds and making a false statement to a federal agency.  He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison.  His sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 2022.”

How about this:

Professional Family Care Services, Inc. (PFCS), a home health services company based in Fayetteville, North Carolina, has agreed to pay more than $45,000 to settle civil False Claims Act allegations related to fraudulent billings for work by a recently convicted felon under their employ.  During 2015 and 2016, PFCS billed VA for home health services provided to W.R., an Army veteran, even though, at that time, W. R. was residing with the company’s employee, Certified Nurse Aide Tracey McNeill.  PFCS based its billing for those services on falsified timesheets provided by McNeill, who failed to provide both the time and quality of care required under the VA program.  After several months living with McNeill, purportedly receiving home health services provided by McNeill through PFCS, W. R. had to be admitted to the hospital.  He was extremely malnourished and ultimately died within a few days of admission.  Earlier in 2021, McNeill was convicted of wire fraud for her misconduct related to W. R., sentenced to 12 months and one day in federal prison, and ordered to pay over $90,000 in restitution.”

Morality is exemplified by leadership and then exercised under scrutiny.  Because you, the elected officials, refuse to be morally upright and scrutinize the government, the executive branch officers and employees have become careless, irresponsible, and taken the American Taxpayer for a ride!

Each time the VA-OIG reports an investigation beginning with the death of a veteran, the root cause is always a failure of people to do the job they were hired or contracted to perform, and the casualty is a dead or severely injured veteran.  The culling of the email included a urologist who performed procedures, puncturing internal organs, and not notifying the patient.  Several other CHIp summaries reflected the egregious and despicable leadership hidden at VHAs and VAMCs across the country.  Other Vet Centers possess failing bureaucrats just trying to hide until they reach retirement and escape.

America, you deserve better from the alphabet agencies representing the executive branch!  Fellow veterans, please do not give up hope; we can still help protect this country from those enemies domestically located who make your lives a living hell.  Please pass the word, these VA-OIG investigations deserve to be read, and questions asked!  Elections are coming; join the fight as a citizen and run for office.

© Copyright 2021 – 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 images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.

Year End (2021) – An After Action Report

Bobblehead DollBetween Christmas and New Year 2019, I accepted an offer to write more frequently for a group that, at the time, was calling itself “No More BS.”  What an amazing opportunity the challenge to write more regularly became, and how much I have come to enjoy writing.  Like all things in life, the challenge came with a cost; I had exhausted myself mentally, I was spent by October.  Physically my body could not answer the call of my mind, and my mind was screaming at me to stop.  Let’s talk about drivers and BS, for the importance to American society success is found in ending the BS.

Little Joey Biden and his Afghanistan Debacle are still unfolding, and I fully admit this turn of events from August 2021 has left me numb.  When America left Hanoi (April 1975) and Vietnam fell, many Americans, especially veterans, felt defeated in ways hard to describe.  Who knew that in such a short space of time (less than 50 years), America would repeat Hanoi (August 2021) by a couple of magnitudes?  Some very cynical veterans I know suspected the politicization of Afghanistan would lead to a repeat of history; but, I can honestly say I never expected Biden to act in such a disastrous and self-defeating manner.

Leaving Americans, allies, and stakeholders on the ground, holding the bag of responsibility, remains the quintessential yellow-spine craven move of the new century.  One of the greatest insults from my time in the US Military was the corporatization of the military officer corps.  Disconnecting responsibility and accountability, honoring weak-kneed drivel to the detriment of the professional NCOs and the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines has been utterly unacceptable.  Why; because every corporatized military in history has failed!  Now, America has Afghanistan and Vietnam, and the government leaders refuse to acknowledge they are the problem, and the sitting president rewards pubescent behavior.  Sickening!Angry Grizzly Bear

The military, to be effective, must be out of sync with the society they protect.  A sacrifice principle is required from those who love country more than themselves and voluntarily wear their country’s uniform.  Yet, the politics and political leaders refuse to allow the military to act at home and abroad, so we repeat history.  May I ask, how many more Vietnam’s and Afghanistan’s does America need to relive before accepting that personal sacrifice is quintessential to a strong military?  Mr. President, Little Joey, when does the BS end, and the motivation to lead return from bureaucratic hands to professional officers and NCOs?  For I warn you, what you have right now is a mob, and you desperately need a military!

But, Afghanistan, in all its depravity, is not the only outrage from this year where BS needs to end.  Consider something with me, the power of jury trials.  High-profile trials have been occurring and continue through this holiday season and end-of-year celebrations.  How incredibly grateful I am for the rule of Constitutional Law that provides for a jury by peers.  More often than not, juries get the law right and hand down fair verdicts.  Yet, the Corporate Media refuses to accept that jury trials are the best method for handling problems in a constitutional society.  I have seen the media meltdowns repeatedly when juries hand down verdicts the media have tried and failed to influence.

Now ask yourself, dear reader, why does the media try cases before all the facts have been presented?  Power, the answer remains ever simple, the media have become what they consider as THE single greatest power in American society.  The self-delusion is a steaming hot pile of BS dished up for public consumption 24/7/365, and the media refuses to eat the BS they are serving.  Considering themselves better than common citizens, above the law, the media companies have decided they can arbitrate, decide, and deserve to be listened to and obeyed.  Well, jury trials work, and it is time more journalists are introduced to the concept through defending themselves in a court of law.

QuestionWorse than the corporatization of the US Military has been the continual erosion of the rule of law.  The Uniform Code of Military Justice is regularly abused for the benefit of the powerful and the destruction of the weak.  When the law is cheapened, joked about, and castigated, the trust in civil society is broken, and the military is but a smaller example of what is occurring in American society as a whole.  When warriors are not judged by their deeds, but upon their political connections, the society hiring warriors, training warriors, and sending them into harm’s way will quickly find the warriors are gone.  Their replacements are not worth the honor and trust.  Leading to society being taken over and destroyed.

Feel free to disagree, but Rome remains the quintessential example in history of what happens when a republic fails to accept social consequences, infects its society from within, and then picks fights with neighbors.  Rome had the greatest military in recorded history, and it fell ingloriously all because the military, a microcosm of the society as a whole, decided politics was more important than the rule of law.  Popularity became more important than law and obedience to the rule of law.  Who taught Rome to fall; who brought the Roman Legions to their knees?  Look no further than their politically elected leaders who spent their time and the people’s money in riotous living, perversions, and trying to evade responsibility for their actions.  Tell me, are we not seeing the same exact abuses in current society that is witnessed on the pages of history with Rome falling?

What is the only difference between Rome’s fall and any other government with elected political leaders?  Advanced weaponry to include nuclear weapons.  What is the only safeguard in republican and democratic societies strong enough to save those societies from repeating Rome’s example; learning history and obeying the rule of law.  Of the two, learning history is more important, which is why learning history was the second casualty in the fight to overthrow the rule of law.  The first casualty was teaching students how to read.

The abuse of children remains an utter abomination, and rightly so.  But until the political leaders can be made to accept they are facilitating abusers of children masquerading as K-12 School Districts and teachers, the abuse of children, the wasting of precious resources, and the sacrifice of innocence will continue and worsen.  In Virginia’s gubernatorial election this past November, the central theme was public education.  Virginia, as your newly elected officials come into power, are you willing to watch those elected and demand they obey the electorate’s will and change education in your commonwealth?Lemmings 1

Over the holiday, I watched heart-wrenching videos of parents who almost lost their child to suicide because the teachers groomed the child into transgenderism, all without the parent’s knowledge.  Worse, the parents were abused by the government when the teachers involved called “Child Protection Services (CPS).”  Tell me, when bureaucrats join together for the abuse of those they are duly sworn and duty-bound to protect, who is at fault; the elected leaders!  What did the elected leaders do when the parents complained; they joined forces to continue abusing the child and the parents.  The exact opposite of what they were hired to do, scrutinize the government employees and protect the electorate from abusive government operations, practices, and people.

Unfortunately, some of you think this is only happening in California, Virginia, New York, or some distant city/county/state.  No, the truth of the matter is this is occurring in your child’s school district right now.  Your children, grandchildren, cousins, and neighbors are all being abused and harmed, and the rot is at your doors.  Don’t take my word for it; investigate for yourself.  Go to local school board meetings and ask to see the curriculum your child is being exposed to, and you will find the truth, and the truth will first abhor, then anger, and then motivate you.

I hope the motivation will be sufficient to inspire action to become more informed, pay closer attention to local political races, and stop allowing incumbents a free pass to officiate in the destruction of America.  One of the frequent conversations in my home is, “What are my plans after I complete the Ph.D. degree I am chasing?”  The temptation is real to run for political office, either mayor or school board, sheriff, or judge; I want to get into this fight to defend the America I love.  Most people think the battle for America’s soul is being fought in the US Senate or House of Representatives when the reality is the fight for America’s soul is being fought and lost in local elections, and it is time to find strong candidates who are willing to run for office and fight this fight locally.

Jesus, Minion Memes Aren't Funny : terriblefacebookmemesThe biggest lesson I have learned in writing this year, a degree doesn’t represent smarts or capability; those come by working in the trenches for something more important than self.  The US Navy taught me endurance in the face of insurmountable odds and enemy shenanigans, and the US Army taught me to think and have grit and determination.  I know I am not perfect; I am not the “picture perfect politician.”  I prefer blue jeans and button-downs to suits and ties, but I know people, and I prefer real people to the fake effrontery currently holding the reigns of political power.

Writing this past year, I have faced my demons, and while I still fight those demons, I know the need to engage is real, helping others promotes healing, and teaching provides the opportunity to learn more perfectly.  I know the power of citizens motivated to protect hearth and home, and I celebrate freedom.  I would see my neighbors armed with knowledge, possessing the motivation to speak out and act according to beliefs and win the American heritage left us.  I believe in America, and I know that when Americans are left alone, they use the power of freedom to change the world; all we need is to shrink the government, and America will begin to blossom again.LinkedIn Image

Shrinking the government begins locally.  The local government protects against county and state government abuses.  The state government protects against federal violations.  The federal government protects borders and provides for the common trade of goods across state lines.  Limiting government is not a bad idea at all; in fact, it is the only good idea that can help save America.  Join me!

© Copyright 2021 – 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 images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.

Quality in a Warehouse – Reimagining the Process

Working DollarOver the last 20+ years in and out of warehouses, it never ceases to amaze and horrify the quality department operations and the waste of resources spent in either making up for failed quality or haphazardly running quality programs, thinking they are a waste of time.  Even those companies who focus resources on quality never seem to understand the trifecta of operational integrity (Product in, Quality, Product Ship) that quality could bring to an organization.  The reality is simple, quality is either your focus, your company is growing, or quality is a nothing burger, and your company will eventually be purchased or bankrupted.  There is no third option; we need to be clear on this point; quality is this important!

In quality and part of many compliance requirements are counting to ensure inventory is correct.  The counts break down into three types:

  • The Hunt – goes by many names but generally requires a person to count everything in a specific inventory location, e.g., shelf, rack, drawer, bin, etc.
  • Cleaning Inventory – is almost always called a cycle count, and its main job is to take the errors found in the hunt and clean them up, resolving specific issues.
  • Correcting Inventory – goes by many names but is generally used as a specific action where research is required, combining the hunt and the cleaning to find particular errors, lost product, and specific SKU issues.

If the counts were ordered by a financial institution instead of the quality department, the processes for clearing the errors might differ; the names often vary.  Yet the categories are pretty generalized to cross industries and remain applicable to a general discussion on operational improvement and excellence.  Specific companies will change names and processes, but I affirm the categories are sufficiently described to be practical and applicable.

Money

A fact of life, inventory is expensive, counting that inventory burns blue money, and those funds are generally not recoupable!  When speaking about money, colors of money are critical to a discussion.  Unfortunately, too many business leaders are either too concerned with green money or not cognizant sufficiently of the other colors to see how they all play roles on the bottom line’s performance.

  • Blue Money: Potential Money.  For example, buy a hammer with green money and invest $20.00.  But, in the hands of an experienced tradesperson, that hammer is worth thousands of times this amount of money over the life of the hammer.  The inverse is also true; in the hands of an inexperienced tradesperson, the potential for loss of money is incalculable!
  • Red Money:   Specifically, debt where interest is owed, on top of the principal, and other cash outlays.
  • Black Money: Dead Money!  Dead money cannot earn interest, cannot be spent due to fear, and cannot be used anywhere.  For example, drop a $10.00 bill into the sofa, and that money is as dead as yesterday’s fish!  Worse, once found that capital is usually in someone else’s hands.
  • Green Money: Cash!  Plain ol’ greenbacks.  Be those digital dollars, actual paper money, change, etc.; this is money that can still be invested, spent, and transferred for products.  Generally representing the bottom line.

While other colors exist, the focus is on these four types specifically.  Let’s use an analogy here for a moment.  A warehouse company hires a person to count inventory (green money outlay).  That inventory person invests time to count inventory (blue money) errors in stock could be red, black, green money errors, based upon how the inventory problems are resolved.  If no inventory problems exist, only the blue money was spent potentially finding the mistakes.  However, if errors were made and inventory errors exist but were not found by the inventory counter, more potential money has been lost than green money.  There is a blue, green, red, or black money loss on top of the original investment to have the inventory counted.

There is an axiom pertinent to quality in every industry, “Burn enough blue money, and green money evaporates with no trace.”  Hence, if the quality people are burning too much potential money to find defects in inventory, green money (cash) will disappear off the bottom line without anyone ever knowing or tracking the loss.  This brings the conversation back to types of counts and the problems in quality operations.

Fundamentals of Reconnaissance

Anyone who has ever conducted reconnaissance will know and understand the connection between quality and inventory in a warehouse and reconnaissance.  For those not familiar, here are the fundamentals of reconnaissance.  Reconnaissance is all about observations and reporting, communicating and making decisions about intentions, forecasting, and deciphering to make the best decisions while passing relevant information to leaders.  Guess what; The same is true of quality departments, especially in warehouse inventory.  The seven fundamentals of reconnaissance are:

  1. Ensure continuous reconnaissance occurs
  2. Do not keep reconnaissance assets in reserve
  3. Orient on the reconnaissance objective
  4. Report information rapidly and accurately
  5. Retain freedom of maneuver
  6. Gain and maintain enemy contact
  7. Develop the situation rapidly

Essentially, in civilian speak, the fundamentals of reconnaissance boil down to initial observation, data collection, data analysis, response to data, and response assessment (evaluate actions with an eye to the improvement of response).  Repeating only for emphasis, every employee in a manufacturing or warehouse environment is part of the quality chain of events.  They need to know how their actions individually lead to group (business) success.  Case in point, a stock person stocks a bin with a product; if that bin is crammed full, the product is going to fall out, become damaged, and create problems for the next person to look at that inventory location.  If in a manufacturing environment, if stock feeding machines are not uniformly loaded into the machines, damage, injury, and death potential are maximized.Inventory Quotes Humor. QuotesGram

It is important to remember that this is part of the first step in reconnaissance, observing what is currently happening.  Observation is also part of the most basic type of count, the hunt.  Knowing what the inventory looks like, how to access that inventory, maneuvering on a production floor, personal safety, and equipment knowledge and safety are all part of properly observing, collecting, and reporting data.  A person I know once told me, “Keep throwing spaghetti at the wall until something sticks.”  What is not mentioned is the need to prepare the spaghetti so it will stick when thrown.  Observation is where preparation occurs, and the business skipping preparation will always fail to capture the data for analysis accurately.

Counting Inventory

The hunt represents the counts with the least return on investment and a need.  Hunting inventory errors is akin to hunting game only with a camera.  You might get good pictures, but hunting with a camera will not fill your belly if you are hungry.  Personally, I despise the hunt and have long advocated for these counts to be removed from the quality department’s count types or be redesigned to become more valuable.  Simply counting inventory for the sake of hoping to find an error is anathema to good business sense and propriety.Inventory Quotes Humor. QuotesGram

Remember, a paradox occurs when two items are compared, and at first glance, they are opposites, when in reality, and with consideration, the truth is revealed they are more closely related than they are opposing.  The same is true to counts that hunt for inventory defects and proper observation, providing why I despise the hunt counting.  Preparation is a prerequisite to revelation, knowing where the inventory is, how to maneuver in a warehouse, and reach the stock; all this and more are essential.  Yet, when counting inventory, I affirm there must be a better way than endlessly sending people out to count, hoping to find defects.

Some companies have mixed inventory hunting counts with shelf maintenance and bin cleaning defects.  Warehouse rash, trash, litter, dirt, and debris in a warehouse remain a significant safety issue and should be cleaned regularly.  However, if the stock person is not already cleaning and stocking bins and shelves properly, the quality assurance person sent out to hunt for defects will become demoralized and stop cleaning up after the stock handlers.  Whether those stock handlers are pickers, packers, pullers, stockers, etc., the title is less important than the role they play in quality for handling the inventory, keeping a steady strain on the cleanliness of the shelves, bins, and storage locations, and correctly placing the stock into the inventory locations.

Several colleagues who are part of the quality control group in warehouses express similar sentiments to the following: “My job in quality would be a lot easier if those stocking shelves and those pulling stock to ship would pay more attention to how they handle the stock and the inventory locations.”  To which my answer is always the same, “Are all your people aware of the role they play in quality?”  By the comments answering my question, it is fundamentally clear that there is a Grand Canyon-like chasm between those not officially in quality and those in other roles, and fixing the problem, and eliminating the useless hunt counts, is all part of bridging this chasm!The Crazy Work Related Moments (51 pics) - Izismile.com

Hunt counts do one thing valuably, they provide an innocuous way for quality people to learn the inventory and observe conditions generally, which sounds like two separate actions, but in reality, they are the same action.  That’s the entire value in hunt counts; these counts cannot clean inventory defects; they can only take a picture and report that picture to begin another warehouse process.  The frequency of errors in the inventory hunt process forms a view that reports how clean or dirty a warehouse’s inventory process is; but, this report can be related with greater accuracy without the hunt counts.  Unfortunately, because the data reported is shared in numerical values, individual bias in the statistical reporting tools can be manipulated and often is misrepresented by conscious or unconscious bias.

Hence, we can conclude that the hunt count by itself has little to no value (green money), is expensive (blue money), and will heavily influence the acquisition and maintenance of red, green, and black money.  What is a person to do?[2020's] Top 11 FAR CPA Exam Study Tips - Pass on Your 1st ...

Possible Solutions

Possible solutions are aptly named because no warehouse is exactly the same, no company is exactly the same, and the quality department mission will always differ from one business unit to another and between businesses that compete.  I admit I am heavily biased against hunt counts in the warehouse and manufacturing industries.  However, I am also heavily biased about removing something that works for something untried in the hopes it will replace a flawed system.  Thus, the solutions proposed remain possible solutions to initiate the spark to a future conversation and obtain input from smarter minds.

  1. Since the hunt counts are basic, and the roles of stockers and pullers are very similar to an initial role in quality where learning and observing inventory is a prerequisite, make the entry-level job for stockers/pullers/quality all the same position—cementing the need for everyone to play an active role in quality while also removing lines that separate.
  2. Fundamentally change the hunt count to focus not on inventory locations that appear clean but those in chaos. Chaos in an inventory location should be the primary focus for correction, not simply a mindset that everything will eventually be counted, so invest in useless counts to make work.  Hence a stocker or puller would approach an inventory location with problems and count that full location while cleaning and straightening that location and reporting that location as problematic for corrective remediation with the last person who visited that inventory location.
  3. Stocker/pullers will not be able to correct defective inventory; this is a Sarbanes-Oxley headache for compliance, but this is a good thing. A level two quality associate could then be dispatched to that newly cleaned, organized inventory location to perform inventory correcting actions, thus speeding the corrective inventory action and providing better data on associate activities.
  4. Part of reconnaissance is using data more wisely; this includes capturing data details, improving training, promoting quality as a mindset for every employee, and analyzing the data for specific corrective actions the business can initiate in inventory locations, shapes of packaging, and handling stock more efficiently to prevent damage. Follow the data path to root causes and act on correcting root causes.

Final Thoughts

Knowledge Check!Qualitative data is almost useless by itself.  Quantitative data is practically meaningless by itself.  Thus, operational reports must contain both types of data to provide a clear picture of events and be the most useful in improving decision-making.  More to the point, mixing both types of data individual bias and subconscious manipulation of the data is more difficult, thus mitigated.  Reconnaissance is all about communicating and capturing data for analysis.  Why should a business leader only have quantitative data to base decisions upon; hence the need to understand data and use data more wisely.  Never settle for only one type of data in a report, never settle for what has always worked in the past, and never allow business processes and procedures to live longer than 18 consecutive months without a full review and torture testing to check for better ways and means.  It cannot be emphasized enough, “If you do not try the impossible, you will never achieve the possible.”

© Copyright 2021 – 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 images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.

Customer Service – The Story of Customer Service Failure!

At the very core, customer service is a transactional relationship between people, people representing a need, and people hired to represent a company that can fill the need.  The variables in the transaction are how the transaction occurs, the speed, cost in resources including money and time, and the business processes for compliance and business need.  Customer service is always valued by those seeking the transaction, not the company representatives involved.  When poor customer service is determined, customers will report the problem vocally and with emphasis!!!

My Internet connectivity began having significant latency, packet delivery, and reliability problems at the start of November.  I called the Internet Service Provider (ISP; Xfinity) after spending considerable time texting with a technical support representative to no avail.  I scheduled technicians to come to my house, also to no avail.  The following is the account of ineptitude, hatred of customers, and the wasting of my resources by the ISP.  As a side note, the problem is still not resolved sufficiently to handle VoIP, data transfer, and maintain reliable connectivity.  My modem has been changed, my service plan changed, my cabling has been inspected and replaced, and the problem remains at the end of December 2021.

A critical part of this story, the technicians spoken to in-person and online have been outstanding and provided excellent services, even though the problem remains.  However, the same cannot be said of those providing phone service on the account, and especially cannot be reported from the retail outlet.  Report card on the un-service received by the account representatives includes, but is not limited to:

  • Being hung up on
  • A representative who cannot pronounce their words and offered nothing but hostility
  • Unnecessarily transferred
  • Improper information provided
  • Not active listening
  • Not listening

The retail outlet, however, is exceedingly worse, with behaviors to include, but not limited to:

  • Refusing to service the customer
  • Denying customers the ability to transact business
  • Refusing the agent tools to conduct business
  • Poor information
  • Needlessly making customers wait

The excuse offered for such deplorable and ignominious behavior; the customer must wear a mask.  Even after reporting the customer could not wear a mask, the customer was refused service, denied their transaction, and threatened with arrest for not complying with mask mandates.  Seriously, in four different attempts to conduct business, the mask service refusal was used twice, twice the agent was sent to service the customer outside the retail establishment without any hope of accessing the customer’s data, and produced information that was inconsistent, at best, with that received from the telephonic agents.

Leading to a genuine question, during periods of government mandates and in extremis situations, whose job is it to prepare customer service agents to service customer transactions, the customer seeking a transaction, or the business leaders?  In extremis situations arise, almost daily, this is part of business, but how you the business leader choose to treat customers is remembered forever!  If I treated my customers, employer, and fellow employees as Xfinity has treated them, I would not be able to keep a job or have customers in my business.  Yet, too often, since 2020 and the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, companies have placed the onerous upon the customer seeking a transaction to facilitate the atmosphere and environment conducive to completing the transaction.

I admit, fully, that Xfinity, before and during the pandemic, in the three or four different states I have been unfortunate enough to be forced into becoming a customer, has had a consistent problem with customer service.  I am not singling out the experiences in Las Cruces, NM, as poor.  The entire company has a poor to terrible reputation where customer service is concerned; thus, signaling that the problem is organization-wide and leadership-centered.

Leaving the question, asked by Myron Tribus, as applicable to Xfinity/Comcast, “Is the enterprise a money-pump, or is it to be a source of good to society?”  From observation, money-pump is the only answer deducible from customers’ incredibly inhumane and disgustingly decrepit treatment.  Yes, I include employees in the customer label, for I have spoken to several employees who have left the organization in utter disgust with nothing but contempt for the leadership.

Long have I wondered if the leaders of Xfinity have ever called their customer service department, suffering through the automated answering service.  The automated answering system time to reach an agent has grown significantly and become less valuable.  Then, when you finally get to a live person, you run the risk of being hurried off the phone, hung up on, provided information sending you to a retail outlet, or heaven forbid you to have to call back multiple times in a day.  The customer is left asking about the leadership hatred for customers.

John Pinette used a line, “My cherub-like demeanor,” to discuss how he felt standing in lines, especially when a customer would ask, “How small is a small?”  Most customers can forgive a problem requiring in-depth review or additional time; most customers can even forgive a harried agent for being less than perfect.  I know of no customer who is willing to take the garbage thrown by Xfinity as “customer service” and remain pleasant and kind.  After multiple years of Xfinity’s poor customer experience with unreasonable prices, and inept employees, my “cherub-like demeanor” has evaporated!  I cannot tell which is worse, the DMV, the VA, AT&T, or Xfinity, where incredibly useless customer service is concerned.

Please note, replacements for your services are actively being pursued.  I will not tolerate longer the abuse of the customer!  I will no longer be the customer waiting for improvements!  I will not be ignored or denied service when I pay such extortionate rates and receive deplorable (at best) service and support!  To all the Xfinity customers, evaluate the price to value equation for yourself, and if you agree, join me in seeking out the competition!

© Copyright 2021 – 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 images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.

Reverence, Conflict, and Contention – Understanding Improves Capability

Several commenters have erroneously confused conflict and contention and harangued me for promoting conflict.  With this article, I intend to dispel the confusion and encourage understanding.  These three principles, reverence, conflict, and contention, are paradoxically connected, and a greater understanding is needed.

Reverence

Some of you think that reverence only belongs in church settings, and frankly, your lack of insight into this word is why we are discussing reverence.  Please, turn off the voices in your head for a minute.  M. Russell Ballard provided etymological understanding for the term reverences pertinent to this discussion.

Reverence may be defined as profound respect mingled with love and awe. … The root word revere also implies an element of fear.  Thus, reverence might be understood to mean an attitude of profound respect and love with a desire to honor and show gratitude with fear of breaking faith of offending.” – God’s Love for His Children

Webster also provides additional insight into reverence.  Reverence contains definitions, including an action to show respect; a feeling of mingled awe, respect, and admiration; veneration; esteem heightened by awe (wonder), as of a superior; especially, such a feeling toward deity.  Finally, we find more insight; reverence includes treating with profound awe (wonder) and respect, or veneration.

Many Christian religions sing a hymn that encapsulates reverence, “How Great Thou Art.”  The first stanza is my favorite:

O Lord my God!
When I in awesome wonder
consider all the works
Thy hands have made,
I see the stars,
I hear the rolling thunder,
the power throughout
the universe displayed.”

Take anything you see out your window right now.  Flowers, trees, grass, snowfall, frost, cars, asphalt, window glass, etc., and consider the hands, science, and creation of that item with wonder.  With awe, consider the birds, bugs, animals, humans in all their variety.  Want to know a secret?  You just showed reverence.  More importantly, you made a choice to open your mind to see past the mundane and explore the higher plains of existence with your human eyes.  What are the consequences of awe and wonder, joy!  Reverence brings joy!  Want to know another secret; one of the most challenging problems all societies face is choosing to show reverence and look with wonder and awe upon the world around us.

I can build a house; well used to be able to build a house, now all I can do is teach my skills to someone else.  But, guess what, I am the first to declare I am no expert, and their remains much I can and want to learn.  Want to know another secret; learning shows reverence and brings joy.  I marvel in awe at craftsmen displaying their skills, be it building a house, fixing engines, creating delectable goodies, or simply watching small children explore the world, I choose to view in wonder the majesty around me, and this brings joy!

What is Joy?  Why pursue Joy?

Joy is defined loosely by Webster as “Intense and especially ecstatic or exultant happiness.”  But does not fully encapsulate what joy is; joy is mental peace, mingled with an uplifting spiritual feeling, leading to physical contentment and feelings of well-being.  Joy is a pursuit, not the object, not the destination, and is a drug you can become addicted to quickly.  However, pursuing joy for pleasure is a pathway to problems, for joy does not contain truth, only the recognition of accomplishment.  Joy is a by-product of choices leading to success in achievement.

The pursuit of joy includes failure, feelings of hopelessness, and even despair, physical and mental pain, and anguish.  Yet, joy is still sought and pursued, why; because at the end of the day, joy occurs when goals are accomplished, and in evaluating the goal, we find the struggle worthwhile!  When we, as individuals, choose to stop pursuing joy or achieving a goal, we die inside, leading to physical and mental disease.  This is why retirement is such a bad idea, why giving up is so physically, mentally, and spiritually destructive, the loss of joy can physically, mentally, and spiritually kill a person.

The lack of joy precedes a loss of hope, bringing with it soul-crushing despair, depression, and opening the door for that individual’s destruction.  Why pursue joy; to avoid the death inherent in hopelessness.

Contention

Let me be perfectly frank, contention and conflict are not the same.  While the terms are close, they are distinct and tell different sides of the same story.  First, contention is an act of striving or an assertion.  Contention is a violent effort to obtain or protect something vehemently!  There is effort, struggle, exertion in contention; there are violent efforts, and the core of contention is pride.  Pride breeds animosity, animosity breeds struggle, and struggle is contention, where pride is demanding that violence is acceptable as a means to achieve the desired end goal.  When contending, “The ends justify the means.”

Contention is animosity personified into action, effort, and desires become evident as contention unfolds.  We cannot forget these facts about contention.  Consider the following; I went to work in a hostile atmosphere; due to a contract signed, I could not quit and find a new job, and reassignment was not going to happen.  Jealousy and pride entered because I was very good at my job, and violence followed like the sun rising after a moonless night.  The result was that contention was born and festered, violence was perpetrated against me, and the violence was acceptable to the leaders as it gave them feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction.

The violence was justified because I was “too good” at my job, made “decisions above my paygrade,” and “I needed to be taught humility.”  The result was four disastrous years of struggle, incredible stress levels, and mental torture, with physical acts of violence thrown in to spice up the environment.  Contention is pride expressed through violence and justified to fit the individual’s desires.

Conflict

I have written a lot about conflict, conflict’s benefits, how conflict is a tool, and the dark side of conflict.  At its most fundamental level, conflict is all about helping spur growth, development and bring about change.  However, I cannot stress this enough; conflict is NOT contention.  Conflict is not born of pride and a desire to feel better about yourself through violence.  Conflict can be observed in a disagreement or difference in opinion, but conflict does not include emotional hyperbole (pride).  Conflict should be about mental disturbances spurred by people seeking greater ideas and ideals, personal growth, or team development.  Does conflict lead to contention?  Yes, because pride enters into the disagreement, emotions are injected, and desires to be right at any cost dictate it is time for violence.

My wife and I have a conflict.  She does not like being mentioned, even obliquely, in these articles as she feels it is disrespectful.  I disagree because she has achieved much, and when she is mentioned, even obliquely, it is not to denigrate or deride, but as an example of what can be achieved and what I want to become.  She has gained a lot in self-mastery, and I long to learn how to achieve similarly; thus, it is not disrespect, but profound awe and wonder, mixed with desire, that I mention her.

Our marriage has been a long string of conflicts leading to personal growth, primarily for me.  I have learned that when I feel my emotions begin to boil, it is not her that is wrong in the conflict, but me.  Those emotions are pride screaming, “Oh, please let me be right!”  When the reality is, if I took some time to cool down, mentally focus, and look at my perceptions, I could see where and how I was wrong.  My parents possess a contentious relationship, and many times I have longed to see them divorce and go their separate ways.  I have observed them get into physical fights, watched them argue over BS while something else was the real problem, and I have witnessed several seasons of intense warfare between them.  Hence, I possess a motivating influence to be different, even if I have to unlearn and relearn.

Thus showcasing the significant difference between contention and conflict, growth never occurs in contention, EVER!  Contention only breeds more violence, not personal growth, not individual development, not team cohesion and goal attainment.  When the dust settles from contention, there are generally physical, mental, spiritual wounds and scorched earth between the opposing foes. In contrast, conflict breeds individual growth, personal strength, and goal success.

Leaders, followers, encourage conflict, teach how conflict can lead to contention, monitor conflict closely, and do not try to solve the conflict.  Settle contention, but do not deprive people of conflict.  Use wonder and awe as tools to breed an inquisitive nature and explore with a mind full of reverence.  Therein lay the path to joy; pursue the path!

© Copyright 2021 – 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 images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.

Identity Problems – A Frank Discussion

Several weeks back, I made the declaration that the more labels a person adopts, the harder it becomes to be a person and know who you are.  Multiple labels saddle a person with mental struggles that become physically exhausting.  Each label comes with social responsibilities, cultures, and expectations that cannot be shirked as long as a person has adopted that label.

For example, I am a dual-service disabled veteran.  Thus, I carry the cultures, expectations, and responsibilities of sailors and soldiers.  Consider what the expectations of a soldier are, and that image is part of the identity and societal responsibilities for being a veteran soldier.  Being disabled carries societal expectations, both mental and physical burdens.  Consider the Marines, and every Marine is a Marine for life!  You graduate basic training and earn the title Marine, and you will ALWAYS be a Marine!  Again, that title and label hold societal expectations voluntarily onboarded, and never will a Marine lose the attitude and social expectations of Marines.

The same is true of every single label a person voluntarily chooses for themselves.  The label will attract specific people into your social circles, but only as long as you willingly live the life expectations of that label.  Each label selected will form identities and mental challenges to meet the social expectations, a heavy burden indeed!

In a recent Tik Tok video, a person proudly declares more than 50-labels, preferred adjectives and pronouns, and identities. The video lasted more than 3 minutes, and I felt sorry for the exertion this person will face every minute they have these identities onboarded.  Another person watching this video declared that the subject claiming their labels was mentally ill; I agree with that sentiment.  Why; because the subject will never know who they are because of the noise of the labels, which includes the social pressures, the responsibilities, and the expectations.  I do not know the name of the person in the video, I would not share that video due to the privacy respect I have for others.

Who are you?

Even though current society in 2021 declares confusion between who and what a person chooses to be, not what are you.  For example, I do not like, nor do I onboard, the identity of disabled.  I am NOT disabled, handicapped, injured, and working on healing, but NOT disabled.  Consider the power of words for a moment.

The transitive verb “dis” means to show disrespect, insult, or criticize.  As a prefix, “dis” is defined as the opposite of something, depriving someone of something, excluding someone, or expelling someone.  Thus, a disabled person is either being disrespected, insulted, or criticized, deprived, excluded, expelled, or is the opposite of able.  Frankly, when we are made aware of the etymology of words, we are then more aware of why people choose to adopt or not adopt certain words and labels.  Do we understand this problem of labels just from an etymological perspective?

Regardless of plasticization, words hold power over the mind.  Words become identities, thoughts become things, and research supports that labels hurt mental processes and can permanently scar.  Yet, who and what a person chooses as their identities are not considered a problem in current society or a mental illness.  People’s choices reflect their identities to attract those in socially accepted circles.

Thus, who are you?  Who do you choose to be?  Are those identities sufficient?  While not as important as who a person is, the last question ranks a close second.  How many identities can you physically onboard and live successfully?  As a fan of simplicity and a follower of the KISS rules, as detailed by Murphy, the god of perversity, I keep it supremely simple to protect my energy levels and allow my identity to shine through.  Having only a few identities enables me to select social commitments, restrict the mental noise and exertions, and hold myself accountable to a few identities to grow as a person.

Returning to the Tik Tok video subject and their 50+ labels, identities, and preferred pronouns, we must ask, what is sufficient?  A follow-on video by this person reflected the physical exertions from conforming to identities and social pressures.  Worse, this person had onboarded several more labels and identities. They reflected the mental illness and physical drain caused by trying to live up to all the label responsibilities.  An extreme example; unfortunately, no; the pressures to onboard labels and identities have grown exponentially, mental problems are too significant to quantify, and they are growing.

Not just in America, the confusion about who a person is, the identities, and their inherent loads, have become a global phenomenon.  What are the mental health professionals doing; causing harm by not discussing the physical and mental exertions of onboarding too many identities.  It is up to the individual and parents of minor children to understand and help learn and teach simplicity in labels allows growth as a person, not more identities, but less.  Fewer identities provide freedom for growth, identity exploration and empower mental health, leading to improved physical health.

Identities

As a pre-teen, I struggled with the concept of my identity.  Religion was a curse, my family was worse, and I did not know who I was, thus strangling what I could do or become.  I got jealous of how my sister could get away with breaking the rules and thought I should be a girl.  I struggled with wanting to be a girl for several years as I learned who I was and what I wanted to be.  If this problem occurred right now, professionals would counsel me to adapt and change my body through drugs and surgery, compounding my identity problems.  Yet, what helped, was getting to know me!

I had several people help me form an identity I could be comfortable living with as I explored my options, fought to understand my role and purpose, and embraced my potential.  It took time, lots of time.  It required patience with myself, a moral code I could live in, and a desire to learn—all of which I had to develop from scratch.  My identity is forged in the fires of adversity, for the consequences of my choices during this time played a role in how I went to school, what I chose to learn, and where I found employment and socially accepted company.  Some of those consequences hang around even all these many years later.  Some consequences I have been able to live long enough to survive.

Worse, as I have learned more about myself, my identity has changed, bringing with it consequences of change.  Music, movies, humor, education, and more are part of an identity that forms a life.  Choices bring consequences; how we value those consequences (e.g., good/bad, profitable/unprofitable, etc.) will determine our eventual destiny towards understanding who we are, so we can become what we desire to see in the mirror.  More lessons I had to learn, then and only then, could the value of religion be discovered, the value of family understood, and honor and pride and commitment to self appreciated as an identity to live.  Crucial to this growth and development, I know when to cut social ties, drop music and movies into the trash, and I am imperfect in changing, but I have some lessons I would see others learn to avoid pitfalls.

      1. Commit to learning using the question, “Who am I?” as a core principle to discovery.
      2. Allow yourself time to think, ponder, and consider before committing to an identity. I always wanted to be a soldier, but I loved the ocean.  I did not understand the value of these paradoxical options, and by rushing headlong, I had to learn an identity after living that identity.  Arduous path; know first, then adopt an identity.  Let me try and simplify that with my favorite axiom,  learned as an Emergency Medical Technician, “Never take your body where your mind has not traveled first!”
      3. Comfort is key. If you are not comfortable, your conscience tells you something is wrong.  An identity should require physical strain and mental confusion.  Yes, you can delude yourself for a time/  Ultimately, your conscience, spirit, intellect, whatever you call your inner voice, will break through and tell you your identity is not mentally acceptable.  If your identity choice is not comfortable, it will affect your physical health negatively.
      4. Never stop learning; learning leads to change, and change is good!
      5. When in doubt, turn to lesson two, give yourself more time before committing to an identity.

I love hard rock, big hair bands, and southern rock.  Steel guitars, banging drums, and headbanging to an excellent beat are an identity with power.  But headbanging gives me incredible headaches.  Too much rock and roll, and I cannot think clearly, and the ability to control my thinking is paramount to me.  Do I adopt the headbanging identity or not; sometimes, I am all in for a solid rock fest.  Mostly, I listen to the inner voices and moderate my music.  See, lesson two continues to hold power and lesson four keeps me thinking how much longer will I affect my identity with an uncomfortable identity with physical pain.

Choose carefully, evaluate often, and allow yourself the freedom to grow by not onboarding labels without due consideration.  Please, consider your gender and biological sex as integral to your ultimate destiny and comfort.  Before you are comfortable in your skin, you have to be comfortable in your mind!  If you want to explore identities, explore, but explore smartly and be cognizant of the social responsibilities, expectations, and cultures inherent with an identity.  Observe those with those identities closely for the consequences of thier identity.

I cannot betray a confidence, but I have witnessed how traumatic experiences can be the impetus for forcing an identity change.  A close associate went to a party, had a mickey slipped into their drink, and woke to a new reality.  The consequences of other people’s identities can negatively impact your identity, especially if you do not know who you are!

I have never been comfortable with the hard rock, headbanging social aspects of rock and roll identities.  The illicit drug use, the promiscuous sexual encounters, and the extremes in living frankly scare the hell out of me!  But, I love the music, and I love much of the wardrobes in this identity, even though I will NOT wear makeup and cannot play a musical instrument.

Life is a journey; travel safely using the axiom, “Never take your body, or anyone else, anywhere your mind has not already traveled.”  Think, ponder, consider, and then act confidently.

© Copyright 2021 – 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 images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.

Leading the Call Center – An Invitation

QuestionThere is a question in all corporate training, all industries, every professional position, “What is the value of training?”  Generally followed by “How do I know there is value in training? and the incredibly astute question, “Where is the value in training?”

Leadership is looking sideways and helping those who follow climb up, thus empowering the leader to climb to the next level.  Yet, the lingering doubt remains, “How do I measure success in training?”  Long have I advocated that the leader is a teacher and a learner, which are fundamental to success.  Whether that teaching comes from delegating authority, empowering people to act, or directly teaching someone struggling, the leader is always learning through teaching so they may learn more perfectly.

As part of my research into call center training, it has been discovered that those who receive official training, and those who learn their duties on the fly, have precisely the same chance of being successful; this is an indication of not the power of training, but the motivation of the learning adult.  There is a difference between adults, and the difference is the individual propensity to learn, discover, dig deeper, ask questions, and apply the results pursuing why.  Thus, one would naturally ask, “What is the difference between a learning adult and an adult who actively chooses not to learn?”  I think I know the answer, I have anecdotal evidence that supports my conclusions, but I would like to test these conclusions.

The Invitation

As part of my doctoral degree program, I must conduct research and report the findings.  I am inviting your American-based, English-speaking call center to help me test the assumptions and conclusions for my research.  The business will not be named, the individuals participating will not be named, and the study will occur online and outside regular business hours.  I want to interview 10-15 of your call-taking/front-line contact center employees using online interviewing software.  I want to interview 10-15 call center trainers, also employing online interviewing software.  Finally, I would like to take the information gleaned from the first two groups, sit down in a focus group, discuss what was found with 5-7 senior call center leaders, and glean their information, conclusions, and ideas.

I would ask that those participating in the research have a LinkedIn profile as a tool to verify years of experience.  No single participant would be featured in more than one of the participating groups.  All names of individuals will be hidden behind a participation code, and any identifiable business information will be deleted from the transcripts.  All findings will be reported in aggregate to avoid any identifiable information from potentially leaking into the published research.

Call CenterAs a bonus, those who help through participation, if they are interested, can receive a copy of the finished dissertation via email or physical copy, depending upon their preference.  My purpose in researching the call center is to dynamically review the adult learner in the pressure-cooking learning environment of call centers.  I have worked as an agent and a leader of agents spanning formal education.  The degree does not make the person, nor does a degree make a leader.  What makes the leader is their commitment to learning and teaching.

Please, join my research. Entering the study is possible through emailing msalisbury1@my.gcu.edu.  If you would like to verify my credentials, don’t hesitate to contact my chair Professor Dr. Susan Miedzianowski in the College of Doctoral Studies at Grand Canyon University, via email: Susan.Miedzianowski@my.gcu.edu.

© Copyright 2021 – 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 images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.

Circling Back to Compassion – Important Additional Information

MumbleAfter discussing compassion as a tool for the leader’s toolbox, it was pointed out that compassion has been plasticized in modern society, and further discussion on the topic is required.  The intent here is to help provide practical steps for building a compassionate team, making compassionate people, and soliciting compassion as the prime response in customer relations.  There are some truths requiring stress to ensure a clear understanding is provided.

Compassion

The dictionary declares that compassion means “to suffer together.”  Intimating that compassionate people feel motivated to relieve suffering for they have felt the pain of suffering in another.  But, compassion is not the same as empathy or altruism.  Empathy is all about taking the perspective of and feeling another person’s emotions.  The taking is dangerous, the feeling is dangerous, and combined empathy becomes all about the person’s selfishness taking and feeling, not the sufferer. Compassion is when those feelings and thoughts include the desire to help, taking nothing, onboarding no selfish emotional entanglements for personal gain, simply a desire to help relieve suffering. Altruism, in turn, is the kind, selfless behavior often prompted by feelings of compassion, though one can feel compassion without acting on it, and altruism isn’t always motivated by compassion.

The focus of compassionate people is to help without personally benefiting a person or animal in pain.  Be that pain physical, emotional, mental, etc.; the focus is always on the other and on helping as able.  Interestingly, compassion is rooted deep in the brain, whereas empathy, sympathy, and altruism are not.  Compassion changes a person fundamentally for the better, whereas research supports that sympathy, empathy, and even altruistic actions do not.  Hence compassion can be a tool in a leader’s toolbox, whereas sympathy and empathy, more often than not, are useless in building people and teams.  It is clear that compassion is intentionality, a cognizant decision to act, and the purpose is always to help.  Sympathy, empathy, and altruism are unconscious emotional desires; unless the person showing these emotions is there for personal gain, deception is intentional and conscious.

  • Truth 1. It cannot be stated enough, or more strongly, emotions are a cognizant choice based upon social cues, learned social rules, and judgments to obtain a reward.  Several good references on this topic exist, but the best and easiest originates with Robert Solomon, “Not Passions Slave: Emotions and Choice.”
  • Truth 2. Emotions are active responses, not passive, and emotions do not happen to an individual sporadically or spontaneously.  Again, several good references on this topic exist, but the best and easiest originates with Robert Solomon, “Not Passions Slave: Emotions and Choice.”

Where compassion is concerned, especially the conscious use of compassion as a leadership tool, the leader must become aware of emotions’ role and social influence and be better prepared to improve people and build cohesion in teams.  Because of compassions intentionality to render help to others, understanding how emotions are a choice and why is like putting glasses on to clarify what is happening, why, and how to duplicate or eradicate the emotional influence.  Thus, the need to emphasize these two truths, even though they are similar, are distinct and need complete understanding to best position the leader in building people.Knowledge Check!

Plastic Words – Tyranny in Language!

  • Truth 3. Uwe Poerksen, “Plastic Words: The Tyranny of Modular Language,” remains an excellent source and cautionary tale on what we are experiencing in modern society where words are captured, bent, disconnected from common definitions, and then plasticized to stretch into what that word is not intended to be used for.  There are a host of plastic words, phrases, and entire twisted languages dedicated to exerting tyranny through communication using plastic words.

Consider the following, culled from APA’s junior website, “Psychology Today.”  Please note, the article linked is the author’s personal opinion; however, for understanding the plasticity in compassion found in modern language, a better example is difficult to find.  The author insists that compassion requires using both sympathy and empathy to be compassionate.  As discussed above, sympathy and empathy should not describe or define compassion. While the words are similar, the conscious intentionality of compassion means sympathy and empathy are not, and should not, be included with compassion.

Yet, the author still provides clear guidance on compassion, insisting that compassion be ruled with logic and wisdom.  Please note, showing compassion does not mean the compassionate person needs to go into debt, sacrifice themselves, or invest to the point of exhaustion in another person.  Logic and wisdom dictate that you are not less compassionate when you govern compassion with temperance, but the reverse.  A critical point of knowledge stumbled upon while trying to plasticize compassion as sympathy or empathy; compassion requires logic and wisdom, temperance, and judgment, all conscious, active, and involved decisions to be the most effective in building people.

Finally, compassion is a two-directional mode of building people.  Both parties in a compassionate relationship are choosing consciously to engage in compassion.  Hence, both will share in the consequences; sympathy and empathy are all one-directional from the giver to the receiver, with no reciprocation.  Thus, stretching compassion to include sympathy and empathy, or even altruism, disconnects the fundamental ties of compassion from logic, and chaos ensues; where chaos exists, tyranny occurs!

Using Compassion – Focusing Upon Potential

Opportunity is potential; potential is triumph waiting for an effort to be applied.” – Dave Salisbury

The above sentiment is one of my favorite truths because of what Mumble’s Dad Memphis said in Happy Feet, “The word triumph begins with try and it ends with a great big UMPH!”  What does the informed leader do to build people?  They recognize potential, both strengths and weaknesses, as a means to grow in themselves and others.  Compassion enters when an event occurs as the emotion of connecting and building relationships.  An analogy, compassion, could be compared to the mortar used in laying bricks.  Each person and event are bricks, and by using compassion, the bricks are organized into a wall of strength.  What is the potential of a single brick in a pile; hard to say.  Organize them with compassion, and the potential becomes visible to all.

Practical Activities for Building Compassion

The following are helpful suggestions for building compassion in yourself and others.

    1. Show genuine emotion; if you’re happy, smile! If you’re struggling, let people know.  Our society has been built upon hiding what has been going on for too long.  People begin a conversation with, “How are you doing?”  The expected answer is “fine,” good,” “okay,” etc. yet, when you know how you’re doing, these answers just spread lies.  Are you building an environment where people can be honest about how they are doing?
    2. Compliments are a big part of showing compassion. Yet, too often, we cannot compliment each other without problems of sexual harassment.  The giving and accepting of compliments build trust and comfort between people.  Open the environment for giving and receiving compliments.
    3. Praise and expressions of gratitude cannot be understated as needed tools for building people. Research supports that honest, sincere, and frequent praise is better than cash for brain health and motivation.  Again, open the environment for issuing praise and gratitude.
    4. Employ reflective listening; reflective listening is listening to understand the speaker and build a two-directional solution. Active listening is easily faked; the other listening methods do not include listening, hence the need for reflective listening.
    5. Curiosity reflects a genuine interest in someone else. Ask the other person’s interests, find common ground, and build from there.  Do not forget to share.  For example, what books have you read recently?  Got a hobby, share new skills.
    6. Invest time! You cannot build compassion without investing time in yourself and with your team!  Take the time, invest the time, and employ patience.

© Copyright 2021 – 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 images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.

Jacob and Esau – The Perils of Government; An Analogy

Bobblehead DollSeveral books of scripture, in multiple religions, record the story of Jacob and Esau.  Jacob and Esau are twins male children of Isaac and Rebekah.  The boys were competitors for their entire lives.  Esau acts outside his parent’s wishes in marriage, sells his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of pottage (stew or beans; something cooked in a pot), and late in life is reconciled to Jacob even though his people continue to have animosity towards Jacob’s people to this day.  While the story of these twin brothers remains useful to those in religion and teaches several morals of importance, Jacob and Esau represent a classic tale of why government should be limited in size and scope.

Genesis 27, Old Testament, contains the story of how Jacob obtains the birthright blessing, which had been sold to him by Esau for the aforementioned bowl of pottage.  Consider with me what would have happened if the same bloated government we have right now had meddled in the affairs of Isaac, Jacob, and Esau.  The cost of meddling in the internal family affairs, the government would have taken 40% inheritance tax.  Esau would have always had the government as a millstone and ready excuse for not reconciling with Jacob, and lawyers and government officials would have further sundered the family.

Remember this, for it has importance in the following discussion, the government does not grant freedom, EVER!  As described and stated in the US Constitution and US Bill of Rights, freedom comes from a power higher than government, and government was only, ever, instituted for the benefit of man.  Ask yourself, is your government benefitting you?Plato 2

I guarantee the answer is no; regardless of the political spectrum, you prefer.  Why, because the government should not be exerting powers in areas that control or curtail the freedoms of the people.  Esau never valued his birthright, so selling it was easy, and a bowl of pottage was a rich reward for something he did not value.

How expensive is government-funded medical treatment?  Some will claim, but those receiving treatment never see a bill; really?  Costs are more than merely a statement representing the need to pay money.  What about the loss of privacy?  What about the loss of freedom to choose what treatments and providers are best for you?  What about the loss of innovation to the thumb of oppression from the government?  What about the loss of self-reliance and the health benefits of independence?  What about the destruction of your community and the connections people felt with and pride for community hospitals?  What was lost when the medical community forced, through the abuse of government intervention, the knowledge of herbs for the sterility of Big Pharmaceutical drugs?

For the hope of a prosperous retirement, what was sold; freedom and money in the now.  Yet, one should ask, where does the government get the power to take money, then give it back at some future point?  Except, how many of those government retirement Ponzi Schemes are fully funded, even with all the money flowing in?  The answer is as empty as Esau’s bowl.  Still, the government continues to steal money through forced taxation and purchase the hopes and liberties of citizens for that hoped-for bowl of pottage, prosperity in retirement.Plato 3

For the hope of reducing poverty, the government purchased a class of people whom they could abuse and ignite for political gain anytime they want or desire.  To create this aggrieved class of people, the government took over welfare programs, bought people with bread and circuses, asked them to stay in government houses, live on government food, enjoy government-provided entertainment, etc.  What was sold for this bowl of pottage; liberty, potential, freedom, upward mobility financially, safety and security, and hope.  What has been the consequences of this purchase; a permanently aggrieved class of people who look longingly at another’s possessions and desire them through theft because hard work is racist, demoralizing, and stops the government handouts.  Worse, the government had to grow in power and size to “manage” this class of people, creating those with six-digit salaries to rub the purchased people’s faces in the irony of what was lost in the purchase.

The United States has been waging a “War on Drugs,” almost since its founding.  The government considers one drug “good,” mainly due to the ease of controlling it for taxation purposes, and another drug “bad.”  Yet, how successful has it been in this “war?”  Not at all, and its failures are increasing year-over-year, even while new methods of taxation are being invented to manage “legal drugs.”

Alcohol in the United States has had a history of acceptance, tolerance, legal banning, and returned to tolerance and acceptance, all through human desires, abuse of government powers, and the need for tax revenue.  Sin taxes, the class of tax used to allow a citizen government approval to get drunk, stoned, or inject poison into their bodies, are among the highest taxes in America.  Yet, the more the taxes increase, the more people want these products, and the more the government wants people to use these products, for we see the purchase of something transitory using something highly precious to barter.  What is more precious than time and physical health, and what is purchased but something that can only temporarily ease pain or provide relief at best.Apathy

Tobacco has been a favorite drug of the government for its population to enjoy, pushing the popularity of the drug even while condemning and restricting how, when, where the drug can be enjoyed.  Tobacco farmers have played vital roles in American history, and the product has been a significant cash crop for government revenue.  Have you ever wondered where the money and research facilities originate to improve cigarette addiction?  Have you ever considered where the marketing materials originated to pitch the health benefits of smoking?  Do you realize that government is the biggest provider of money for research and marketing purposes?  Never forget the government has become flush with cash, pushing tobacco, regulating tobacco, and licensing tobacco.  Now ask yourself, why would the government give on the one hand and take on the other, because it is making money with both hands as people sell something precious for something valueless and transitory.

Do people get injured and need assistance; yes, but the government is never the answer to provide help.  Are there those who are trying to thrive and escape poverty; yes, but the government is never the answer to providing help.  A truth from time immemorial, governments do not produce anything; thus, the government must first take through legalized theft, taxation, and legal abuse to give to someone else.  Every representative government must walk a balancing act between what a government is and what responsibilities a government must shoulder.  Except, how many continue to make Esau’s mistake and sell something incredibly precious for something transitory and essentially valueless?

Worse, evaluate the consequences of allowing the purchase to occur.  First, the seller experiences buyer’s remorse, anger, jealousy, regret, and the government making the purchase laughs, making the bitterness of the sell more poignant.  Second, the seller needs an outlet for this buyer’s remorse.  In an effort to continue to purchase while appeasing, the government allows the seller to go destroy the property and goods of another less politically connected person and calls this social justice.  Third, the abused class of people who are not politically affiliated or are political rivals, whose property is being destroyed, looks on, and envy, malice, and contempt are bred, which furthers the goals and desires of the government.The Duty of Americans

Esau took a long time to be reconciled to Jacob, but it first required admitting that he had sold his birthright (something of great value) for something transitory and valueless (food).  Jacob and Esau’s story remains of great importance and a cautionary tale, especially for understanding why government needs to be smaller, less involved, and less able to abuse the citizenry.  For too long, the governments worldwide have either abused their powers to purchase or been established as a tyrannical and oppressive government.  Either way, the government is the problem, and the answer continues to be the same, curb the government!

Knowledge Check!If COVID has taught the populations of the earth anything, let us learn this valuable lesson, the government is the problem, not the solution!  The size of government is oppression, the cost of government is theft, and the loss of precious freedom and liberty for transitory and valueless gifts or benefits which come at too high a price in treasure and other precious resources.  We, the owners and the abused of government, must change how we think and feel about the role of government before all is lost to the ever-hungry maw of government and self-interests!

© Copyright 2021 – 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 images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.

Build People – Compassion, a Tool For The Leadership Toolbox

A Theory About CompassionSympathy and empathy remain emotions quite dangerous, and I will include a caution to avoid these emotional entanglements.  Yet, in discussing sympathy and empathy, a question was raised regarding compassion, and I would speak to this tool.  Please note that sympathy and empathy are not compassion, and understanding the difference remains fundamental to using compassion correctly to build people.

Compassion

The dictionary declares that compassion means “to suffer together.”  Intimating that compassionate people feel motivated to relieve suffering for they have felt the pain of suffering in another.  But, compassion is not the same as empathy or altruism.  Empathy is all about taking the perspective of and feeling another person’s emotions.  The taking is dangerous, the feeling is dangerous, and combined empathy becomes all about the selfishness of the person taking and feeling, not the sufferer. Compassion is when those feelings and thoughts include the desire to help, taking nothing, onboarding no selfish emotional entanglements for personal gain, simply a desire to help relieve suffering. Altruism, in turn, is the kind, selfless behavior often prompted by feelings of compassion, though one can feel compassion without acting on it, and altruism isn’t always motivated by compassion.

[Evolutionary roots for compassion] – Check this video out!  Well worth your time!

The focus of compassionate people is to help without benefiting personally a person or animal in pain.  Be that pain physical, emotional, mental, etc.; the focus is always on the other and on helping as able.  Interestingly, compassion is rooted deep in the brain, whereas empathy, sympathy, and altruism are not.  Compassion changes a person fundamentally for the better, whereas research supports that sympathy, empathy, and even altruistic actions do not.  Hence compassion can be a tool in a leader’s toolbox, whereas sympathy and empathy are more often than not useless in situations.

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” – Dalai Lama

Compassion does not just happen. Pity does, but compassion is not pity. It’s not a feeling. Compassion is a viewpoint, a way of life, a perspective, a habit that becomes a discipline – and more than anything else.  Compassion is a choice we make that love is more important than comfort or convenience.” – Glennon Doyle Melton

It is clear that compassion is intentionality, a cognizant decision to act, and the purpose is always to help.  Sympathy, empathy, and altruism are simply unconscious emotional desires; unless the person showing these emotions is there for personal gain, for deception is intentional and conscious.

Please note, I am not delving into the various types of compassion.  Other researchers have done this, and frankly, I feel like Mark Twain’s quote has come to life, “We have studied something so much, we now know nothing about it.”  If you want a resource for diving deeper into compassion, check out Dr. Paul Eckman’s “Emotional Awareness” as a launch point.  Be advised, emotions are a choice made consciously, and too many researchers refuse this belief.  Passive emotional beliefs rob us of fundamental power and abilities for being human.

“Let our hearts be stretched out in compassion toward others, for everyone is walking his or her own difficult path.” – Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Compassion as a Tool

Leadership, as a job, contains equal parts of teaching and exemplifying.  Compassion for self is observable through the words and actions of a leader.  Do you insult yourself by calling yourself “stupid,” “ignorant,” etc.?  If so, your followers will automatically presume you will do the same to them.  The tool compassion begins with relieving internal suffering, and compassion for others is nothing but an extension of compassion for self applied through action.

Compassion for others begins with kindness to ourselves.” – Pema Chodron

It is a lack of love for ourselves that inhibits our compassion toward others. If we make friends with ourselves, then there is no obstacle to opening our hearts and minds to others.” – Anonymous

It is not enough to be compassionate. You must act.” – Dalai Lama

Consider the teacher you admire most; did they show compassion?  I guarantee they did, and their compassion is one of the most significant reasons you hail them so highly.  Compassion is not a weakness but, in fact, a strength and a motivating reason to be a better leader.  Through compassion, we train ourselves to become more tolerant of our own faults and then extend this kindness to others.

Leaders ask yourself:

    1. When was the last time you showed compassion to yourself?
    2. How much compassion do you practice daily, first on yourself, then upon your followers? – Inherent to note, you cannot be critical of yourself and compassionate to others. Compassion cannot be faked; treat yourself better.
    3. Do you build compassion and promote compassion? How often?
    4. What motivates you to develop and encourage compassion?

Using Compassion as a leader

Look for a way to lift someone up. And if that’s all you do, that’s enough.” Elizabeth Lesser

When we give ourselves compassion, we are opening our hearts in a way that can transform our lives.” – Kristin Neff

Compassion is so often the solution.” – Anonymous

Aesop has a fable about a lion with a thorn in his foot, removed by a shepherd.  M*A*S*H 4077th related this story with Aesop’s shepherd being Androcles, a Christian who was to be fed to the lions, but the lion remembering the kindness, refused to eat.  Other variations of this story exist, but the moral always comes back to support the truth, “Compassion is so often the solution” Anonymous.

In fourth grade, my second trip through this grade, I had the great privilege of witnessing the power of compassion by a principal.  The principal (Miss Murphy) told me a story of her youth where she had been a crossing guard and abused her power one day.  The child complained, and the following day her school principal called her in, but instead of punishing her, he offered praise, sincere, appropriate, and heartfelt praise.  Miss Murphy could see the complaint on the desk of her principal, knowing she should be getting punished, but instead, the compassion of the principal changed her life.  I was a third-generation extension of this principal’s compassion, through Miss Murphy, who knew I was busted for the umpteenth time, should have been expelled from school, and punished severely.  Yet, Miss Murphy had witnessed good and used this moment to express praise for the good witnessed.

NO FearI have tried not to let Miss Murphy’s compassion end with me and pass along her lesson often.  Compassion and praise remain instrumental tools in every leader’s toolbox.  Do not fear using these tools frequently, for then you also will change a life, even if that life is only your own.  I am a better person because others have provided me compassion; pass it along!

© Copyright 2021 – 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 images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.