Here is a thought experiment to get your mental juices flowing
Who am I?
- a multi-billion dollar enterprise
- with a long and distinguished history, filled with notable achievements, and some dismal failures
- have for held a position of international leadership for decades
- associated with a core function of any modern nation and economy
- provides products and services that are indispensible to modern life
- lately, appears to be disconnected from the “customer base” and out of touch with changing global trends
- have had operational failures attributed to leadership failure
- leadership executives have a clear, extensive career path and are carefully selected for promotions and positions of increasing responsibility
- current leaders are highly successful, career professionals with decades in the operational environment at the helm, and supported by world-class analysis and qualitative advice.
- Little to no evidence of cost control over their core processes
- Constrained by long term contractual obligations that are too expensive to maintain and too expensive to amend
- Recent failures have become so visible and widespread as to be an object of public scorn and disgust.
- Current leaders are by all accounts bright, loyal, innovative, articulate, humble, decisive, experienced, highly educated, nuanced, intelligent, thoughtful, good listeners, respectful of other points of view
Underwhat conditions do the positive attributes of leadership become irrelevant to the current situation?
By what criteria should we evaluate the situation to determine if those conditions are met?
Can we know the causal factors that reliably lead to success? How would we know we are right?
Can success come from unpredictable variables? If so, what does that say about our model of leadership and the qualities we look for in leaders? Has this dialogue affected your opinion of the concept of leadership? What are your reactions?
Now this is the kind of change we can all hope for:
President Obama’s nominee for secretary of theNavy was involved in a divorce that drew national attention for his secret taping of a conversation between his wife and his family priest that he used against her in court proceedings.
Did Team Obama runout of tax cheats like Mr Geithner?
At our trading workshop this weekend, wr reviewed a numbver of what I consider to be milion dollar ideas: ideaswhich, over the course of a lifetime should produce a net value add greater than a million dollars in trading performance. While we were doing that in the middle of our assembled traders and institutional money managers, the idea of reflective learning came up several times. here is a key insight.
When you are viewing charts of previous trades and you suddenyl see a pattern or a technique that was not apparent to you the first time, it is easy to classify the failure to see it and act upon it as a “mistake”. Think about the power of the words we use to characterize these kinds of events. If you call it a mistake then you are basically treating your reflective learning as an opportunity to beat your self up. Is it really healthy or useful to feel terrible about missed opportunities that you only discover by opening yourself up to the possibility of learning? No wonder we hate school.
Its not fair to label the person we were in the past in the heat of the moment of trading, sitting here in the comfort of our ivory tower, no stress and with the perfect insight of hindsight.
Either geithner was too stoopid to figure out how to pay his taxes, in ehich case he doesnt deserve to be Treasury Secretary and also deciding which businesses will win and lode or he was an intentional tax cheat, in which case he also doesnt deserve to be Treasury Secretary.
Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.), probably the most knowledgeable man in Congress about the car bailout, and someone who argued months ago in favor of a pre-planned government-sponsored bankruptcy for GM and Chrysler, calls the Wagoner firing “a major power-grab by the White House on the heels of another power-grab from Secretary Geithner, who asked last week for the freedom to decide on his own which companies are ‘systemically’ important to our country and worthy of taxpayer investment, and which are not.”
Corker calls this “a marked departure from the past,” “truly breathtaking,” and something that “should send a chill through all Americans who believe in free enterprise.”
Hey Mr Geithner, ( the Tax Cheat): how about payng your taxes without first being ordered to do so before you tell us who is worthy of winning and losing?
Team Obama is placing their bets on the idea of Leadership being responsible for results.
The latest manifestation of this is in the call for the resignation of the CEO of GM, Rick Wagoner. The proposition is that Obama, from his vantage point of President, USA (CEO, USA?) is in a position to determine that the causal factor in the failure of GM and Ford and Chrysler can be attributed to leadership and not, let’s say, to one of the reasonable and possible outcome-states that happen all the time in the conduct of business in a complex adaptive system of world markets, where complexity precludes certainty.
The argument of complex adaptive systems (CAS) is that we lack the ability to compute cause and effect relationships and that we cannot “know” with anything like certainty, that a particular factor is the probable cause of a particular result at a particular time.
The problem with having a pattern-making evolutionary brain is that it uses pattern-making processes that lead to success in individual survival issues, where cause-and-effect is more plainly seen, and applies it inappropriately to situations that are fundamentally different in terms of size, scope, complexity and uncertainty.
Imagine a monkey that beats on a drum and is rewarded with a banana, regularly. Given enough iterations, he would be entitled to conclude that one event influences if not causes the other.
Imagine the monkey then gets thirsty and beats on the drum and it happens to rain and his water bowl fills up and he drinks. Do you imagine the monkey not concluding that his drum has certain important properties? And what if the tribe of monkeys gets mad at the first monkey because now when he beats on the drum it doesn’t rain? Would they conclude it is a failure of leadership? The monkey lost his mojo?
We know better than that. We’d never make that foolish mistake. Its obvious that drumbeats have nothing to do with rain. Clearly drums make bananas appear! Look at the evidence!
Is it a reasonable proposition that Obama can diagnose the carmakers’ business environment and conclude that it was leadership failures of Mr Wagoner that were the cause of the problems at GM …AND …. that the appropriate solution, here and now, is to fire him?! and this will have some direct measureable effect on performance in the foreseeable future? and that somehow the President has this ability to diagnose, assess and treat, when the collective wisdom of auto executives and boards, who have life long experience in the nuances of this complex business environment are unable to see that? And is it reasonable that this is his decision to make?
Take a look at Wagoner’s background and experience and the collective experiences of the boards and senior leaders of GM and Ford and compare that to the executive experience, and the private commercial business experience of Obama and Team Obama. Now decide that IF YOUR LIFE DEPENDED ON IT, which group of people were in a better position to know what to do with GM going forward? The farther you are from the problem the more certain you are that your simple solution is both obvious and correct.
Now, take that same philosophical approach and apply it to the recommended solutions that Team Obama is applying towards every major issue of national concern and consider the complexity of each decision domain, and then consider the laws of unintended consequences, and the connectivity of the various elements of society and how they can affect each other in unforeseen ways, and consider just how smart it is to allow the newest kids on the block to make sweeping changes of national magnitude in very little time, with little to no public debate.
Then reflect on the wisdom of the Founding Fathers in creating a cumbersome system for creating change which prevents “the wisdom of experts” from changing things too far and too fast. We’ve plenty of evidence of what happens when you let “experts” run everything according to “expert plans”
My sense is that our national leaders are going thru a shaman’s dance to assign blame and hope for the best. We might as well be selecting who we want to hold the rainstick to shake at the clouds to end the drought..
Seriously. Obama is qualified to say that Wagoner should be fired? How about, stick to your enumerated powers and leave the markets alone. Get us out of entangling alliances. bring the troops home. Secure the borders, enforce the rule of law. Stop borrowing money to get out of debt.
Geithner the Tax Cheat had the nerve to lecture the nation to stop worrying about how much we make and focus on what we can accomplish with what we can keep. How about shut up until such time as you pay your taxes?
Leadership in complexity takes on different dynamics when the cause and effect rules of the system cannot be known.
My working hypothesis is that the adaptivity is improved by maximizing decentralized execution, combined with limiting the consequences of individual situations to the local areas much as possible. This design REQUIRES inefficiency, to allow other elements of the network to react, adapt and respond to ‘brushfires” in time to save the rest of the network.
This happens to be why DNA is the most successful adaptive construct on the planet: gazillions of small decisions, rapidly tested, where success is rewarded all out of proportion to the initial investment risk, but where failure is localized to immediate surroundings. Bad mutations die fast, and that’s the end of it, sorrowful as the individual case may be. But the successful mutations thrive and propagate and benefit the entire species.
In that kind of model of society or organizations, our understanding of leadership, of what it can do and be and what it should do and be, and how we evaluate it as effective or not, must be radically adjusted.
No, let me eat my own cooking, and say our understanding of leadership should carefully evolve.
“ We’re in a government-dependent financial system; I never thought I would live to see the day… We’ve got to fight to get away from that.”– Paul Volcker
Meanwhile China lays the ground work for the slow but steady disassembly of the US economic strength worldwide by proposing an IMF managed global reserve currency which will erode US hegemony.
Meanwhile St Obama never met a 1T program he didn’t like, nor a salary too small to penalize.
Was working on my final draft for my research proposal and had the following reflection about the issue of Validity in qualitative research. Since I am aiming for transformational changes in our strong military culture, and am using individual Voice (narratives, stories , interviews etc) as the basis for describing the current situation and desirable paths for change, the concern for Validity comes not from individual stories per se, but in the comparison between my entire dataset and the “Word as it really is” in the eyes of decision-makers.
My sense is also that the quality and insights that arise from individual narrative Voice will have an authenticity that must be considered valid as a data point. The validity concern I now perceive as being a function of having the narratives and stories cast broadly and fairly enough that they represent something that will be seen as truth. The threat to validity from individual narrative will come from assertions that the stories are not representative of the whole, and not from questions of individual perspectives, which will be honored as a matter of course.
In other words, a decision-maker who may not like the reports from the street may try to say
“…all the stories you report are “True” and valid, because they are perceptions, Mr Long, but you have not covered the whole topic/school/population to give a fair reading of the Real Truth, s we will persist in our ways. Thank you for your interest in national defense…”
So, now it is clear to me that I must look to answer the issues of Validity from a methodological and sampling perspective, and not just from the rigor of individual data point collection.
Wow 1: Lofland and Lofland p.37. “…It is precisely the “spy quality” of covert research in closed settings that raises questions about it propriety in social science”
It strikes me that even if you take care to protect individuals by withholding their names, your results may end up introducing harm if the organization you are reporting to or for, takes actions to “get” the problem makers thru changes of policy. These are the kinds of 2d and 3d order effects that you may end up subjecting subjects too even though you are hiding names and identifying features. I am thinking hard about the privacy rights of people in public places, wondering when the need to know and study outweighs the rights of privacy.
Lofland & Lofland, p.41 “…the ethical concerns engendered by covert research do not fully disappear with the decision to be a known investigator, but are merely muted….”
I think that because they are muted, and therefore more easily overlooked, they are all the more important. It’s not enough to announce once at the beginning; you almost need to have visible “nametag” to remind people of your role, and your dual role if you are researching inside your own organization where you have other usual, normal roles in play. Its like you have to remember to keep reading people their rights, not just the first time, but in each session.
Lofland and Lofland, Ch 3 Notes:
- Ethics of power relationships in the roles between investigator and subject. I am attracted to AR precisely because of the equality that is possible when subjects are acting as co-researchers.
- Relationship characteristics drive ethical and power issues,
- The ethical status of covert research: and 3 types; deceit by omission is crucial concept
- Public research at a distance:
- Quasi private: a good discussion of the effect of intent vs results that informs the ethics of being a hidden researcher. The example of the opportunistic researcher in the factory, conducting a study because he is already there to earn tuition vs that of the deliberate hidden researcher is instructive.
- Private; norm-fitting behavior that serves to “fit in” and simply to be a member of good standing take on an ethical quality of legitimizing the group norms simply to be able to study. Has a moral quality to the decision.
- Good section on ethic resources on page 39
- Known investigator: sacrifices anonymity for public acknowledgement, at the risk of studying inauthentic behaviors.
- The importance of social group connections and navigation to assist you in gaining access to key people, events and decision-making. If you have gained social trust you may be entrusted with insights into what are normally private considerations by groups and people.
- Candid, brief, direct accounts of your research, with a view to explaining simply “why” they should participate, an explanation that avoids a dissertation of an answer.
- Adopting a “learner” attitude is smart and often productive; should avoid “gaming” or being smug about it though.
- The issue of respecting boundaries of the subjects and organizations being studied. Can present some moral decisions of course. A decision to halt the research because of behaviors you observe that you cannot tolerate will run into the ethical dilemma of non-disclosure that you may have negotiated initially. The priest’s or lawyers dilemma ethics apply here.
- Confidentiality issues are central when we are looking for transformational behavior changes. The Vidich case study is a good discussion of these implications on page 51.
- have to learn to anticipate the kinds of findings that might put you into these decision spaces prior to negotiating for confidentiality and boundary agreements.
Rubin & Rubin Ch6 Notes: The Responsive Interview as an Extended Conversation
1. The differences between ordinary conversations and responsive interviews:
a. Continuity over time
b. Focused thematic attention
c. Explicit clarification of meaning and intent (spend more time in interviews making the tacit explicit than is usually the case in conversation)
d. Difference in purpose between narratives (construct of what happened) and stories (themed to make a point or represent a point of view)
2. The interview is guided towards the purpose of the researcher; I would agree if you already have a specific informational goal in mid, but how much does this become confirming your own bias and not being open to where the story wants to go needs to go? Is there a problem with confirmation bias in that observation from p.110?
3. Guiding away from formal answers through artful question design, although you do have at least a semi formal relationship at work as a researcher. Is this disingenuous?
4. I like the metaphor as a series of linked stages to structure the interview
5. The formulas for establishing rapport are at the same time helpful advice, but ironic in that they are rules for being spontaneous and “real”
6. Easy questions, tough questions, concluding questions, with management of emotional states, and ending with open ended contact options
7. Good discussion of evaluating the interview as a way to study your own process as well as examining the data itself. Could have had more advice on how to rehearse the interview ahead of time and having a purpose statement to keep you focused during the process. Ie, “What I must get from this interview is….”
Lofland, J., David, S., Anderson, L., Lofland, L. (2006). Analyzing Social Settings A guide to qualitative observation and analysis (Fourth ed.). Belmont, Ca: Thomson.
Rubin, H., Rubin, I. (2005). Qualitative interviewing: The art of hearing data (Second ed.). Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications.
Its ironic to see the Democrats huffing and puffing about the incompetence at AIG among the executives who have the nerve to to be honoring contracts to key leders who elected to remain at the company. The Democrats say that such a violation of common sense and the public trust disqualifies the leaders of this private corprotion from being entrusted with more public money. How I wish that Congress were held to that same standard.
Is there anyone or any organization more incompetent with caring for the public’s money than the government? Have already lost accountability of hundreds of billions of dollars from TARP 1, have supported the Fed printing another 1T out of thin air, and yet have the nerve to think they should be the ones to decide who are to be declared the winners and losers. If they wanted to be efficient about it, they should simply suspend any pretense of the rule of law, nationalize ALL assets and redistribute according to their whim. At least it would fast track their bungling and get us to their preferred endstate.
But because it takes brains to hold on to money as well as to acquire it, socialists would soon be broke after any such grand nationalization.
update: more on the story: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/4ff2f77e-1584-11de-b9a9-0000779fd2ac.html