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Consistent Where [Cough] Critical; Variable Where [Achoo] Valued

My_way It's cold and flu season at the Johnson house.

We expect it.  We have two grade school children (petri dishes with legs), and a high school teacher (a clearing house for teenage germs).  Hence, it's no surprise when we start sniffling, sneezing, coughing, and wheezing.

But let's face it: who has time to be sick?  At the first sign of sniffles, I was hitting the Zycam.  When the cold became evident, I started on the Emergen-C fizzy drink packages.  Even with cold remedies, nothing is easy.  My wife and I got into a discussion about whether one should add the powder to a glass of water, or put the powder in first and pour the water over it.  She has her way of doing it; I have mine.  It wasn't a huge issue.

The bottom line is the end result:  we needed to get the contents of the packet into our bodies.  Everything else is just fluff.

We tend to lose sight of that issue in our businesses.  We all work with those people whose mantra is "my way or the highway" or "but we've always done it that way" or "you're not following proper procedure" ...AAARG!  You can even show them that another way may work equally well, if not better, but it won't matter.

When I consult with clients, I always remind them of the phrase "consistent where critical; variable where valued."  In essence, you only need the micromanaging level of consistency if different techniques will affect the outcome (adversely).  We all have our own way of doing things, so if adding some variability is valued by the end customer, then it should be considered.  I worked with a business analyst who insisted her template for an implementation plan was the one and only way it could be done, and she quit talking to me when I chose another format which communicated better with the people on the front lines.  The project was still implemented; the end result was not affected.

So, what battles are you fighting over process?  Do these squabbles fall into "consistent where critical" or are they more "variable where valued"?  By figuring this out, you may save yourselves hours of meetings and hundreds of argumentative emails.

As for us, the Zycam/Emergen-C cocktail seems to be working; our colds are subsiding... regardless of how we combine medicine with water.

I Can't Hear You

Let me introduce you to someone you may not know:

Or maybe you remember this guy from 2004:


Gee, I sure hope you remembered to turn down the volume on those two videos before you listened to them.




Stark raving mad lunatic.

True accomplishment does not require an increase in volume from the person accomplishing it.  True accomplishment stands on its own.  A whisper should suffice.

What are you trying to say?  What's the message?  Who's the audience?  Do you feel the need to bellow about your "master's in communication"?  (I'm sorry... that one just makes me chuckle.)  Must you bark your intentions to take over the world?

Roaring your own accomplishments really just makes you look ridiculous (I submit Exhibits A and B for the court's consideration).  If the accomplishments need to be broadcast loudly, let others do that for you... they're called fans... but you're the one who creates them.

Think about how you communicate accomplishment (achieved or intended).  Why shout when a whisper would do?  Save the shouting for when it's really merited.

Brother, Can You Spare Some Change?

Congratulations, Republicans, on your big win yesterday.  The voters really sent a message to Washington.  But just to be clear, it's not necessarily the message you think.  Two and four years ago, a message was sent also.  Americans were weary of the Bush-Cheney Iraq fetish.  They wanted a President and a Congress who were going to fix things here at home.  Our economy tanked, and it seemed nobody cared.  So the voters let Democrats have a shot... in a big way.  Two years ago, Democrats had the White House AND a filibuster-proof Senate AND an overwhelming majority in the House.  The agenda was theirs for the taking.

Conflict_Response Unfortunately, it wasn't the agenda that a majority of voters wanted.

Health care?

Cap and trade?


Um... no.

So the voters have sent another message, but this message isn't so much about ideological or political stances.  This message is one of accomplishment... or potential accomplishment.  So let me spell it out for the 112th Congress:  Work TOGETHER and get something done.

We who fill in our voting bubbles and pull levers really don't care who gets credit.  We want to see you identify problems and solve problems.




National Security.

Come on, people.... FOCUS!

But, in all fairness, you're Washington Insiders, so maybe nobody has ever taught you how to play well in the sandbox with each other.  So here's some assistance from Frameworks 4 Learning.  This is the conflict response model.  You've all been in competition and compromise mode for so long, you may not have realized there is a different way.  It's called COLLABORATION, but it requires a different mindset than you've used before.  Instead of "me vs. you" or "Democrat vs. Republican" you'll have to at least pretend you're both on the same team, and that the PROBLEM IS THE ENEMY.

Am I naive to think that Congress can "Carpe Factum"?  Perhaps.  But somewhere tucked away, there's a little bit of idealism in me that says U.S. Government still works.  You in Congress no longer have the luxury of games.  The clock is ticking on the economy and our crushing national debt (how's your Chinese, folks?).  The clock is ticking on the environment.  The clock is ticking on educational reform. Tick-tock-tick-tock. Can you work together?  

Let's hope so... two years can go by very quickly.

Environmentalist vs. Economist

Garden I've purposely avoided most of the election topics in my blog over the past several weeks.  This has taken considerable restraint on my part, as there has been SO MUCH fodder, but I didn't want to cloud the messages of accomplishment with others' perceptual filters on candidates and issues... there are a lot of strong feelings out there from both sides.

I am, however, going to tackle one issue that's on the Iowa ballot.  On the surface, the creation of a Water and Land Legacy fund is a brilliant idea.  I've become more more engaged and interested in environmental issues, and I believe we're all called to be good stewards of our planet's resources, whether or not we believe in global warming.

But beyond the surface of this idea, things fall apart.  First, I'm not sure why this measure is a constitutional amendment.  This seems like overkill, and it makes it appear as though our governor and legislature can't do their job well enough to make this a reality through their own responsibilities.  The purpose of a constitution is to define/limit/expand rights... mostly for the individual.  When it comes to organizations, the legislature should be defining the parameters by which they operate.

The second issue with this measure is funding.  They've structured it so that a sales tax increase is necessary to fund it.  For those who have not gone through a couple of semesters of economics in college, sales tax is regressive; in other words, it hits the lower and middle classes worse, because these classes use proportionately more of their income to spend money on taxable items than do the upper class.  Maybe it's the systems thinker in me, but why not increase fines and penalties on environmental infractions to fill the coffers?  That way, the more companies and individuals are caught breaking environmental laws, the more the environment benefits (basic cause and effect).

While you can guess which way I'm voting on this measure, that's not really why I chose to write about it.  I want to challenge all of you to have these kinds of internal arguments before you go out and try to argue with someone from a different party or political mindset.  Based on the commercials and the bad arguments I've witnessed, we seem to have more absent-minded voters than we have absentee voters.  Please try to be informed and to think before you pull the lever tomorrow.

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