What This Blog is About

A long time mentor and friend, Cicely Berry, often says: "all we do comes from our need to survive".

Cis is the Voice Director of The Royal Shakespeare Company. Her profound work and deep appreciation of the human spirit has affected diverse communities all over the world.

Will take you to my current work.

This blog is dedicated to the belief that the overall health of a community or organization is a clear reflection of their ability to communicate.

"Cada cabeza es un mundo" - Cuban proverb

"Every head is a world"

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Incentives & What They Can Encourage

The reimbursement system “tolerates and even financially rewards poor performance by hospitals that fail to prevent hospital-acquired complications,'’ write the report’s authors, Dr. Heidi Wald and Dr. Andrew Kramer, health care policy researchers at the University of Colorado at Denver. - December 19, 2007, NY Times Making Hospitals Pay for Their Mistakes

Friday, December 14, 2007

Designing the 'Care' into Health Care

"Improving the user experience could inspire people to tap into the system more regularly to help stave off more serious illness"

This article comes from an interesting perspective. Taking a look at what the patient is looking for from a designer's perspective. User centric needs is a subject that e-business advocates have understood for years now. Interesting to see the same fundamental logic put to a discussion of health care. Worth reading.

"To a designer's eye, efficiently providing for a basic need is indeed the fundamental issue. But it should be possible to go beyond rudimentary solutions to achieve the overall objective of a healthy population by also addressing an essential question: What does the individual want and need from the experience of health care?"


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Communicating Today & A Personal Note

"The application of technology has reduced differences among the productivity of transformational and transactional employees, but huge inconsistencies persist in the productivity of high-value tacit ones. Improving it is more about increasing their effectiveness for instance, by focusing them on interactions that create value and ensuring that they have the right information and context than about efficiency. Technology tools that promote tacit interactions, such as wikis, virtual team environments, and videoconferencing, may become no less ubiquitous than computers are now. As companies learn to use these tools, they will develop managerial innovations smarter and faster ways for individuals and teams to create value through interactions that will be difficult for their rivals to replicate. Companies in sectors such as health care and banking are already moving down this road". -

Eight business technology trends to watch

James M. Manyika, Roger P. Roberts, and Kara L. Sprague

December 2007, McKinsey Quarterly

This observation from the McKinsey authors is certainly true as they advise executives to understand that "Technology alone is rarely the key to unlocking economic value: companies create real wealth when they combine technology with new ways of doing business".

Technology is meant to carry out our intentions and that requires our ability to communicate clearly. In health care, a complicated world of the urgent and the measured use of skill and expertise, too much today gets in the way of connecting peoples' abilities and peoples' needs.

I have written before of my brilliant uncle, the business man and social innovator. Just before Thanksgiving, on the evening of his 97th birthday, he died. Still brilliant and provocative and knowing. His pacemaker replacement had been successful but with some complications. Painfully, I will always believe that a major complication was the contractual relationship that the facilitating hospitals had to complete the surgery and aftercare. He just stayed in the hospital too long with too much transportation from one place to another for simple tasks to be performed.

Communicating in today's world often means implementing at the same time. For my great great uncle, this was something he clearly understood.


Communication Today & A Personal Note

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Walking On Eggshells

It's not uncommon in dysfunctional families to hear the phrase "it's like walking on eggshells" used to describe the difficulties of communicating with one or more family members who tend to control or even terrorize free exchange.

Sometimes, its subtle and sometimes, the process is brutal. However, feeling that the truth is dangerous or painful, rather than expected, permeates the everyday wellness of everyone involved.

In today's workplace, where there is assertion of being global, diverse and inclusive, there is often an undercurrent questioning of what is really true.

Sensing that geo-political references and "other influences" may actually be driving certain organizational behaviors today, tend to put unspoken pressures on people. We work to achieve objectives and don't always feel able (free) to talk about what's on our minds.

Now this may seem dramatic. But is it? In a world economy, driven by network centric information, brokered by players who have sometimes obscure value chain relationships, where are the places to speak freely?

Issues like outsourcing are often spoken about as inhibitors and conversely, as natural growth patterns by the same organizations when they need to define or defend decisions accordingly.

Confusion, as part of a working strategy, is not so unusual.

Walking on eggshells. It's something that people practice in places they don't quite trust -- yet don't feel ready to leave.

So, they learn to live with it and walk gently.

Does this sound familiar to you?

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Health & Care - Are They 2 Seperate Thoughts?

I paid a visit to my uncle today. He is in a nursing home which is serving as a re-hab center following two recent surgeries to replace his twenty year old pace maker. My uncle will be 97 years of age in a few weeks. He is brilliant and witty and wanting to go home.

I have written about him before. He has been an extremely successful entrepreneur and community leader. Recently, he offered an opinion on people who resisted change in the workplace, saying that in business, "change makes people aware of you".

Today, my uncle seemed a bit weary of the now seven week stay in one facility or another. What's really troubling -- is that he has done quite well with his two, very detailed surgeries. It's the travel from one facility to another for the follow-up needs that have been difficult. And its the waiting, based on one doctor's schedule, for one piece of awkward equipment to be removed that is taking its toll.

My uncle waits. The staff waits and the family becomes more frustrated for this one moment of aggregated understanding to approve a simple action that will give him some relief.

Sometimes, it seems as if the intelligence we have built inhibits the very objective of our expertise and our skills.

It's as if my uncle's health and his care are two separate entities right now, caught in an overcomplicated health care system.

The irony is that in his "local" hospital his name is on the wall because he helped contribute to building that institution. Of course, he was concerned when he was first told that he would need to go to a much larger hospital for surgery. However, when I visited him in the more complex hospital , I marveled at how the medical team had managed to maintain his comfort level and intimacy of treatment. It was testimony to their professionalism and their core values.

But now, valuable time and patience (his and his family's) have been lost, mostly due to schedules and additional transportation. One has to wonder what causes these unfortunate hold-ups.

In an earlier blog, I wrote about the simple truth that we can get information for any part of any automobile faster than we can get information about medical records in most cases.

While there are reasons to argue for this medical gap, information and implementation go together in health care.

Old schematics for how to organize hospital patient treatment are based on doctor's schedules and shared cost structures between the hospital and the doctor.

These agreements are long overdue for re-structure. Of course, this is only a single thread in a complicated story. However, it did not look so complicated this afternoon.

PS: Later this morning, I hope to call my long time friend and mentor in the UK, who is bravely traveling and continuing to work while in need of some serious orthopedic surgery. She is waiting in the U.K. health care system to be told when she can have the operation.

Sound familiar to a family experience in your life? Welcome your comments.


Friday, October 5, 2007

2 Interesting Health Care Stories In One Day

Microsoft Offers System to Track Health Records – NY Times 10-5-07

Microsoft is starting its long-anticipated drive into the consumer health care market by offering free personal health records on the Web and pursuing a strategy that borrows from the company’s successful formula in personal computer software.

Microsoft announced HealthVault, an online platform where personal electronic health records can be stored.

The platform allows patients to share medical information with doctors and hospitals.

The venture by Microsoft, which is called HealthVault and was announced yesterday in Washington, comes after two years spent building a team, expertise and technology. In recent months, Microsoft managers have met with many potential partners, including hospitals, disease-prevention organizations and health care companies.

The organizations that have signed up for HealthVault projects with Microsoft include the American Heart Association, Johnson & Johnson LifeScan, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, the Mayo Clinic and MedStar Health, a network of seven hospitals in the Baltimore-Washington region. The partner strategy is a page from Microsoft’s old playbook. To make its operating system, Windows, the dominant platform for personal computers, Microsoft persuaded other companies to build on its technology, and it helped them do it.

“The value of what we’re doing will go up rapidly as we get more partners,” said Peter Neupert, the vice president in charge of Microsoft’s health group.


More Doctors in Texas After Malpractice Caps – NY Times Oct. 5, 2007

Four years after Texas voters approved a constitutional amendment limiting awards in medical malpractice lawsuits, doctors are responding as supporters predicted, arriving from all parts of the country to swell the ranks of specialists at Texas hospitals and bring professional health care to some long-underserved rural areas.

The influx, raising the state’s abysmally low ranking in physicians per capita, has flooded the medical board’s offices in Austin with applications for licenses, close to 2,500 at last count.


I have been away for a while working on a health care project and frankly, thinking a great deal about what we can really do to help one another in our workplace.

Please feel free to comment.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Someone of Age to Influence The Future Workplace

An 80-Year-Old Poet for the MTV Generation

Published: August 27, 2007

MtvU, the subsidiary of MTV Networks that is broadcast only on college campuses, will announce today that it has selected its first poet laureate. No, he doesn’t rap. And it’s not Bob Dylan, or even Justin Timberlake.

It is John Ashbery, the prolific 80-year-old poet and frequent award winner known for his dense, postmodern style and playful language. One of the most celebrated living poets, Mr. Ashbery has won MacArthur Foundation and Guggenheim fellowships and was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1976 for his collection “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror.”

Excerpts of his poems will appear in 18 short promotional spots — like commercials for verse — on the channel and its Web site (mtvu.com, which will also feature the full text of the poems). In another first, mtvU will help sponsor a poetry contest for college students. The winner, chosen by the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa, will have a book published next year by HarperCollins as part of the National Poetry Series.

“We hope that we’ll help discover the next great poet that we’ll be talking about for years to come,” said Stephen K. Friedman, the general manager of mtvU, which broadcasts at 750 campuses nationwide.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Mistakes to Learn From - Datability Minus Ego

Just a few years ago, it would have been astonishing for a foundation, particularly one as traditional as Carnegie, to publicize a failure. Today, though, many of the nation’s largest foundations regard disclosing and analyzing their failures as bordering on a moral obligation.

“There’s an increasing recognition among foundation leaders that not to be public about failures is essentially indefensible,” said Phil Buchanan, the executive director of the Center for Effective Philanthropy, which advises foundations. “If something didn’t work, it is incumbent upon you to make sure others don’t make the same mistake.”

New York Times, July 25, 2007 Foundations Find Benefits in Facing Up to Failures

Foundations seem to be making advances lately that other organizations have talked about but not really enacted.

Have you seen instances of collaborative behaviors, changes in jurisdictional attitudes or organizational transformations that are putting foundations in the avant of accelerating cultural shifts?

If so, please join in.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Near Misses

"If the airspace is totally under the control of the air traffic controller, there is a tremendous sense that Big Brother is watching on radar and that the pilot doesn't really have to look out the window."

The problem for pilots is that as they approach major airports, they must concentrate on the controllers' signals, diverting their visual attention from the skies. Concludes the report, in a considerable understatement: "A way must be found to resolve this very real dilemma." - Charles Spence, spokesman for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association

Time Magazine, July 2007

The article in Time is called Sky Jams. The reference from Charles Spence dates back to 1979.

Here's my point. Business travel is a concern for all of us and the recently reported "near misses" at congested airports have revealed a complicated set of issues.

Infrastructure, long out dated computer tracking technology and lack of appropriate investment are key components to near misses.

Taking a breath from the reality of this situation, it becomes obvious that the overall metaphor for business practices in M&A situations, innovation initiatives and cultural accelerations may indeed, suffer the same set up for near misses.

Human interaction often comes into play at the last moment to counter the loss of updated measurement criteria, communication realities and networking abilities.

Just as the pilots have to look to the "controller's signals" and not out the window at what really exists -- is it possible that we have created the foundation for people in position to routinely make decisions without a clear picture of what they are facing?

Near misses. Has this become an accepted way of doing business rather than taking the time and money to update what is needed to be able to view a genuine current state?

At this point, the technology and the human interaction are more than available for the update.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Two Helpful Perspectives on Network Realities

Patti Anklam has just published Net Works A Practical Guide to Creating and Sustaining Networks at Work and in the World.

I have worked with Patti and have learned a great deal from her. The title is an honest description of what her committed work offers.

Another associate, Bruce Hoppe, publishes a vital blog.

Bruce is on to critical issues like the visualization of networked information and much more.


Some Things Change & Some Appreciate Watching

We all have heard about, participated or become curios about Social Networking issues affecting the workplace.

Organizational Networking Analysis (ONA) mapping and Value Networking Analysis (VNA) are two current tools used for understanding either the roles or the content sharing that exists between communities.

Enough time has passed with significant work and substantive data to really affect the organizational design of today's companies.

Yet, it remains to be seen who has actually approached what a Network Based Organization looks and acts like.

If you have any examples please let us know.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

My Uncle's Insight

I went to visit my uncle the other day.

Well past his 95th birthday, this man has had a wonderful career as a businessman, community activist and entrepreneur. It's become a pleasant ritual for me to take him some cannoli (his favorite desert) and to ask his advice on work and other worldly issues.

Talking about the cannoli, I was describing to my uncle how the Italian bakery owner was telling me that each time he does some new construction work at his bakery it seems to increase his business. My uncle laughed. By the way, if I were to state my uncle's name, just about every New Yorker would recognize it since one of his projects was to establish a landmark New York Gourmet marketplace.

Anyway, my uncle laughed and said "it was always a principle of mine in business to understand that change makes people aware of you".

He re emphasized this when I said to him that I often work with people who are concerned or fixated with change. He just said, "it only helps".


Interesting Counterpoint Articles

Front page of the NY Times. Two articles about the changing workplace and the world of transportaion.

A Corporate Divorce on the Cheap
Daimler, now free of its struggling U.S. partner, can look ahead to a promising future as a stand-alone maker of trucks and luxury cars.

Published: May 15, 2007
STUTTGART, Germany, May 14

Nine years after they exchanged vows at a huge, lavishly choreographed news conference in London, Daimler and Chrysler signed their divorce papers Monday at a sparsely attended briefing in an auditorium at an aging Mercedes-Benz factory here.

As bookends, the two news conferences vividly illustrated the dashed dreams of the Daimler-Chrysler marriage.

And published yesterday.


For more than a thousand years, Venice has had gondolas but never a female gondolier. But now there is Alexandra Hai.

By Dave Yoder for The New York Times

As Alexandra Hai plies the canals, many people shout encouragement. She won the right to run a hotel gondola but not to be called a gondolier.
After a decade of struggle, Ms. Hai has won the right to be a gondolier — sort of. A court recently allowed her to paddle around the canals of Venice, but only for the residents of one of the city’s hotels.


Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Ethical Implications of Emerging Technologies

This survey is from UNESCO and was prepared by Mary Rundle and Chris Conley, Geneva Net Dialogue.

I keep reading it to understand more about what we are all experiencing.



Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The Inarticulate Innovator

I have written about this notion of the Inarticulate Innovator before. However, it is a concept that deserves repetition because this is an idea that is born from neglect.

In many communities and organizations, there are people who have real ideas and innovative notions to offer, but for some reason or another, do not easily choose to articulate.

I am a talker. And, I most assuredly have inhibited others at times. Group behaviours do that on a regular basis. If the ability to communicate is a real indicator of a community or an organization's overall health (mentally, physically and financially) then, it is imperative to find and encourage the Inarticulate Innovator.

In the work place this can become very debilitating for people. It can also become very liberating and healthy when recognized.

Give a click on Comments and join in.


Communities of Need

“What we're doing is we're trying to maximize our innovative ability. We don't only give care, we try to develop better care tomorrow” – Dr. Herbert Padres, The New York Sun, April 20, 2007


This article tells an important story about a doctor of immense experience now leading a complex hospital environment in New York City. His background is in psychiatry.

However, his reality now resides in dealing with the fundamental issues that patients, bureaucracies and practitioners are facing everyday. The need to discover roles and responsibilities that will make sense in a world that has more format than responsive form when it comes to survival and the ability to provide skill, care and knowledge.

Take a look and see what you think. In the work place, it is common to use terms like "Communities of Practice" and Communities of Interest". I suggest, that we are all in some way members of Communities of Need. And, that includes the great institutions like hospitals searching in earnest for their working relationships.

By the way, this article was given to me by Gerry Frisch, founder of (GFA) Gerald Frisch Associates, with expertise in validating commuunication in organizations.

Mr. Frisch is working today, as I write this and targeting hospital leadership as potential clients. Mr. Frisch will not mind my commenting, that he has just entered his nintieth year of productivity. And, as a professional and recent succesful hospital patient, he brings an interesting perspective on Communities of Need.

Give a click on Comments and please, join in.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Language & Creating Distance

This is a very serious subject and one that takes time to discuss.

However, we are currently being hit with a number of influences/explanations that seem to approach such a critical discussion with a limited and perhaps, purposeful set of visions.

Closed or private languages can be both exclusionary by design and liberating by experience.

Just as we hear an argument right now in the "Infotainment" world about Hip Hop language vs. the style of Talk Show hosts, and what represents freedom of speech vs. abusive behavior, it seems to me, that a fundamental point is being missed.

The pointing of one supposed offense vs. another is camouflage.

Language, like living communities can morph into "Gated Communities". Places where ideas, behaviors and exclusionary activities separate people. In these places, the antithesis of freedom of speech exists because freedom of thought is reduced by the power of exclusionary beliefs and consequential activities.

Sometimes, these beliefs are seemingly justified because of a need to survive by demonstrating the realities and pain of long time exclusion.

Sometimes, beliefs can be built by fear alone that is unfounded. When there is no true balance for vision (and here, I mean the word vision as the ability to see what is in front of us), danger is indeed, possible. We have all lived with that danger and understand much of it. Discussing it however, seems difficult for us.

The philosopher
Ludwig Wittgenstein said that "pain is a private language". Artists give us a glimpse into that privacy, which is an extraordinary experience and a very human one. That is one reason that censorship is not even a debate. If it were, we could never have allowed Shakespeare to have written the volumes of work he accomplished with his irreverent and volatile language.

Language can create distance. And, we can drive agendas to cover our own accountability in the work place by describing what others say.

One of the most revealing words we tend to hear is the simple, but dangerous word -- "they". Nothing is more declarative in these so called debates then when I here: "they say" or, "why can they say etc. etc."

Please Click on Comment and join in.


Friday, April 20, 2007

Safety In The Work Place

I cannot join the crowd and try to say something meaningful about the Virginia Tech tragedy this week.

However, I can say that this terror touched my own family. My wife's family, has several students at Virginia Tech and also two recent graduates who remain closely networked. They are safe today. My wife's niece speaks clearly about her ongoing appreciation of the culture, community and leadership that her school represents to her. And, how odd she finds the questions she sees being positioned in the news.

It is not for me posture or try to publicly understand a complicated and deeply disturbing scenario of one person who has affected so many people.

So, what I will say and what I will continue to try and focus on in my work, is very simple. The ability of an organization or a community to communicate is a true indicator of the overall health of that community. This includes, the drivers, physical, mental and fiscal health of the community or organization.

While it's hard to argue with this kind of statement. I am not certain, that it's so easy to recognize without understanding more deeply, the fundamental realities of communication.

Please click on Comments and join.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Diversity & Freedom of Speech In the Work Place

A great deal of talk this week in America, about freedom of speech.

How this freedom is used and the ramifications when people are offended by remarks made by radio or television workers. They may be "celebrities", but they are indeed, workers. And so, the issue develops quickly, as to firing or punishing the offender for the remarks.

Here's a perspective:

1. Freedom of speech is not only about the ability to say what you choose. In an open society, freedom of speech represents the ability to carry on conversations that share knowledge, question the status quo and enlighten opinion.

Consequently, languishing in adolescent like apologies and self serving constructs for what one has said, are useless. Looking at, and confronting what gives credence to an underlying atmosphere of divisiveness and bias as acceptable, instead of tasteless and damaging to everyone, is far more valuable.

2. Diversity in the work place really does allow us all to understand different perspectives. It's astounding in this day and age, to see just how non-diverse radio, newspaper and television infrastructures and their broadcast facing personnel organizations remain out of date.

Consider this definition of Diversity in The Work Place. Diversity Represents the Removal of Anything That Inhibits the Professional and Personal Development of People at Work.

Now, place that definition against what you are hearing this week about remarks regarding racial and gender statements and what people are suggesting should be done. Firing, censoring etc. are actually symptom based solutions. Perhaps, appropriate for consideration and perhaps, not really appropriate in terms of freedom issues.

What if, we reject hearing the next pathetic apology and start getting to what really makes this such a continuing story in America right now. And, anywhere in the world?

By using this definition of Diversity in the Work Place perhaps, we can see if there are not better alternatives to using Free Speech and reach more meaningful and relevant points of understanding than statements like "I am a good person who said a bad thing".

  • What are the accepted languages of separation and why?
  • What makes for a growing history of disdain as entertainment?
  • How dangerous is Infotainment when people cannot place it in context for real decision making?

    Please click on Comment and respond.



Saturday, March 31, 2007

Building Other Kinds of Work Places

Yesterday, I met with someone I have trusted and respected for many years. His work as a learning expert has always been driven with integrity and care. I was interested to hear about his work in School Reform, something he has been involved with for several years.

We talked for hours and frustration drove through the passion and commitment he cannot avoid in anything he works at. Here's one thing he mentioned that I heard, that I hope I am overstating. However, I fear that I am not.

He said that "...if a child does not learn to read by the 6th grade or by nine years of age, it's pretty much decided in our school system , especially if it's a boy, that child will be going to jail. And, budgets and the building of jails in the U.S. are based on the metrics of that expected population". Whether this is fact or his view and experience, I am not certain. But I trust his knowledge.

Now, my mind was racing back to a conversation with a brilliant graduate student in a technology and design course that I had guessed lectured at about five years ago. I remembered him telling me that he wanted to bring his family from India to New York. And, that while he wanted to do very innovative work, he could not refuse the job offers he was getting to create deep programming on school testing standards. He related to me that he felt the kinds of programming he would be involved in might set metrics and standards that would be in place for a long time based on the political will and intentions of the initiatives in place.

Prisons are an industry. Another workplace that often drives the economy of a town, city and related state systems.

However, like the aging workforce, where a startling number of people turn fifty years old every hour of everyday, according to studies by organizations like Watson Wyatt, prisons too, are experiencing an aging population. Not just the muscle bound exercise yard constituency, but a population needing a host of different responses to their realities.

If the danger of the aging workforce to large organizations means a loss of people with knowledge (and it does), causing these organization a dangerous inability to meet productivity requirements in the very near future, what does this aging prison population mean to the economy of their work place?

Once again, I am thinking about the way the ancient Greeks defined economy. As the ability to sustain the life of something for as long as possible. Not about money.

Are we providing for the next generation of prison populations figured by metrics via another form of Demand Fulfillment? And, more cynical, by Demand Creation?

I am not suggesting this as a foolish conspiracy axiom. What I am suggesting is:

Children at any age want and need to change.

It is natural and expected.

What is not natural is to predict that children cannot change. And, therefore, by using these kinds of proposed metrics as indicators of human reality, we can move ahead on the budget agendas in hundreds of offices around a country that is based on free decision making with a dreadful plan and unlimited consequential adjournments supported by fabricated statistic determinations.

Please click on Comment and join in.


Saturday, March 24, 2007

Produce, Profitability & Rhetoric

This article in the NY Times Business Section today, tells a world of stories. In the U.S., we are hammered with volatile language everyday, with talk radio and television rhetoric about immigrant labor, global sourcing and related issues.

The Times article is called "The Labor of Raising Fresh Produce". It's an interview with the chief executive of Del Monte Produce (thought of as a classic American brand). His name is
Mohammad Abu-Ghazaleh.

Q. In parts of the country in the latest harvest, crops went to waste because of a labor shortage. Do you struggle with finding enough workers?

A. This is a challenge, something that we have to work on. We have a big operation in Arizona, where we produce melons in the spring and fall. And we use a lot of labor in the fields for picking and packing. This, of course, is a situation where we have to live with the new wages that have just been passed on by Congress. And also the issue of having access to labor from Mexico. This is an issue that the whole industry is dealing with. Our prices to the consumer haven’t been raised to handle this increase in labor costs. The additional costs will have to be passed on to the consumer. We won’t be able to absorb the costs for a very long time.

Q. When you recently reported your fourth-quarter and full-year earnings, you said that 2006 was your most challenging year. Why?

A. Higher costs from energy. That affected packing and plastics and logistics in every way. Prices for everything went up, and all of a sudden. At the end of 2005, when we projected for 2006, we never expected energy and fuel prices to shoot up by 50, 60, 70 percent. Also, the dollar has weakened over the past year. And the currencies in our producing nations have shot up.

Q. How will you turn things around in 2007?

A. We closed operations that were not so profitable, like some potato operations and onion operations in North America, and sold some others. We also closed some pineapple operations in Hawaii, where costs were extremely high. We will see benefits from these actions. We are also working on some pricing, like with bananas, in North America.

Q. Where do you see the most opportunity for growth this year?

A. We are focusing on our new markets, Middle East and Africa. Countries like the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, where we have a successful poultry operation.
In Africa, we are focusing on North Africa; Algeria is a strong market in particular. We have just opened a state-of-the-art plant for processed meats in Jordan, and we will market the products throughout the whole region.
We are also now entering into ice creams in Europe. We are experiencing high growth rates in volumes, and we are intending to expand that into new markets as well.

And this from me, Sal.

In the U.S., the average life expectancy of a migrant farm worker has been consistently placed to be under 50 years old for many years now, from sources like the Center for Disease Control.

And this, from
http://www.pbs.org/now/politics/migrants.html NOW, Bill Moyers and PBS.

Children who work on farms are governed by different rules than those in any other occupation. They can start work at age 12 if accompanied by a parent. Child farm laborers can also work longer hours.

According to the General Accounting office more than 100,000 children and teens are injured on farms each year.

The Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs has found that half the youth who regularly perform farm work never graduate from high school.

Back to Sal.

Some will view this post as "liberal" in nature and just more rhetoric. Others may see it as cynical or even as a clue to what makes a country trustworthy of financial investment and forgo the humanity angle.

Economies are driven by "foreign" investments and cash flow especially at times of war when cash is critical. The trade offs for cash flow are often surprising to the non-initiated.

To understand the geo/economic/business decisions that are made and to connect the dots between the NY Times article and what people in the produce workplace really experience requires a deeper discussion than the nonsense we are fed everyday.

We are all powerfully involved as owners, managers, consumers and laborers of the food work place.

I am exhausted from the useless family type arguments about politics while this work place embodies the very survival instincts of everyone in a world where distribution is so blatantly unfair.

And, it's become just too easy to accept the conversation of the food industry. Starvation in our cities and country sides around the world is commonplace at the same time we think about what's for dinner as some political agenda is radiated through an infotainment format.

What formats do you believe affect our perception of these kinds of issues? Radio? Television? Print? Internet? Conversation? Social Networking?


Friday, March 23, 2007

What's In An Aspect Ratio?

What changed in our buying behaviors that drove us to wide screen computer and television screens? When and why did our preferences move from square to rectangle?

Wide screen was radical only a few years ago and thought to relate only to certain technologies like High Definition imaging.

Painters have always created to have us sense the image beyond the dimensions of the canvas that we see in front of us. Stage directors always attempt to create a realm beyond the stage we see.

Is it possible that today, since we are hammered with repetitive images on television and computer screens, that wide screen may offer us a sense that more exists beyond the repetition we see and hear?

Or, is wide screen a true example of Demand Creation? Something that has been initiated for us to embrace and buy?

Perhaps, gaming and a sense of bringing home what people once had to go to a movie theater to experience, provides us a sense of safety and control of the entertainment and information we encounter. Often, the information we get on our screens is intolerable from a human point of view and yet, it becomes almost like Teflon in the way we don't quite feel or acknowledge the experience of receiving it.

What is this change to wide screen? This stretch of image. What do you think it represents?


Friday, March 2, 2007

How Do We Co-Design Development?

"Everywhere you find innovation today, a community is involved."– Patricia Seybold, author of Outside Innovation: How Your Customers Will Co-Design Your Company's Future (Collins, October 2006).


Check this article out for the fundamental reality that in today's environment the workplace and the marketplace are often one and the same.


Saturday, February 24, 2007

Now & Then

"Our Industrial Credo was the precursor to what is known today as the Johnson & Johnson Credo. Written by General Robert Wood Johnson in 1943, the year in which the Company announced its intention to become publicly traded, Our Industrial Credo was based on Johnson's first documented statement of a company's social responsibilities, Try Reality" - J&J, Our Credo History http://www.jnj.com/our_company/our_credo_history/index.htm
I find it fascinating, that in1935, in a pamphlet titled TRY REALITY, Johnson asked his contemporary industrialists to accept what he called "a new industrial philosophy". He believed this "to be a corporation's responsibility to customers, employees, the community and stockholders".

What Do You Suppose That Pamphlet Might Suggest for Today's Reality?

In today's dynamic and often virtual workplace, how do we assure people what the original Credo required and intended for employees in our contemporary workplace?

And, who would be the "industrialists" that Johnson would speak to now?

A 1948 version of the Credo promised workers that:

"They must have a sense of security in their jobs. Wages must be fair and adequate, management just, hours reasonable, and working conditions clean and orderly. Employees should have an organized system for suggestions and complaints. Supervisors and department heads must be qualified and fair minded. There must be opportunity for advancement — for those qualified and each person must be considered an individual standing on his own dignity and merit".

I am writing this at 2 AM. Where's the Credo when I need it?


Thursday, February 22, 2007

How Do We Maintain The Workplace?

"28B going to colleges ...

Prosperous alumni helped make 2006 a record fund-raising year for colleges and universities, which hauled in an all-time high of $28 billion - a 9.4% jump from the year before.

Stanford's $911 million was the most ever collected by a single university. It was followed by Harvard, which raised $595 million, then Yale ($433 million) and the University of Pennsylvania ($409 million).

Last year, the top 10 fund-raising universities collected 16.3% of all gifts, or $7.2 billion, compared to 14.7% in '05. The top 20 institutions accounted for more than a quarter of all fund-raising." - New York Daily News, February 21, 2007

Recently, I spoke with a person important in my life, whom I had not seen for a while.

She told me that she is currently teaching in a middle school in Brooklyn NY, that is dedicated to students whose education has been disrupted by illness, war or poverty. I was amazed how much this school is accomplishing with the limited resources they are able to pull together.

What do you think invigorates and drives the future of our workplace?


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Can We Re engineer The Workplace for Today's World?

Job Corps Plans Makeover for a Changed Economy - NY Times, February 20, 2007


“Once you could go into the Job Corps and get a G.E.D. and go out and make a living,” said Esther R. Johnson, a career executive in the Labor Department with a doctorate in education who took over the corps last March. “You can’t do that anymore.”

This article actually has some hopeful insights, as well as some harsh realities about today's environment for young people who are not easily included in the general offering of opportunity in the U.S.

It set me thinking about how acceptable the concept of re engineering is for corporations. Yet, the idea of re working the workplace, to meet today's realities, seems less of a possibility somehow.

Recent thinking about re engineering unions for example, or looking at public education from individual needs as opposed to a "commodity" approach, seem to echo lessons learned from large organizations.

A number of well known companies nearly lost their identity and existence before understanding that they had really lost their ability to reach the customer before re configuring their efforts.

Starting simple, while building understanding works well. Focusing on something achievable where people will learn together, what they could not learn alone, is fundamental.

This effort to makeover the Job Corps and contemporize the potential of that long standing (and successful in many ways) initiative seems very interesting.

"Dr. Johnson wants the Job Corps to aim higher, helping graduates into careers with a bigger paycheck.

To do that she plans to lengthen the average stay for many graduates beyond the current 11.4 months, improving their reading, math and vocational skills. She also wants trade courses to connect more closely with college programs and emerging industries, and she thinks the corps must double the number of graduates, now just 10 percent, who go on to higher education".

My guess is that even more may be achieved if this is really set in motion.

Do you have examples of complex issues where focusing on simple, but meaningful objectives would help jump start a significant effort?

Look forward to hearing from you.


Sunday, February 18, 2007

What Makes Work Valid?

I had the privilege and adventure to have worked with Lee Bruer, a true innovator, writer and director. One night, Lee said to me:

"I love working with amateurs and I love working with professionals. It's the people who are in between that drive me crazy".

Who Decides What's Work and What's Just Curiosity at Play?

Often, I encounter conversations with people who have valuable contributions but little belief that their contributions are "legitimate" because they are not part of a recognized workplace.

The article referenced below on crowdsourcing begins to put an interesting picture on how different industries search for a diversity of thinking and lower cost product development and product availability. While companies may use crowdsourcing for their purposes, I like to think about this to help realize that no one owns our ability to work. To think. To innovate. - Sal

From the article:

  • Technological advances in everything from product design software to digital video cameras are breaking down the cost barriers that once separated amateurs from professionals. Hobbyists, part-timers, and dabblers suddenly have a market for their efforts, as smart companies in industries as disparate as pharmaceuticals and television discover ways to tap the latent talent of the crowd. The labor isn’t always free, but it costs a lot less than paying traditional employees. It’s not outsourcing; it’s crowdsourcing.

  • Pharmaceutical maker Eli Lilly funded InnoCentive’s launch in 2001 as a way to connect with brainpower outside the company – people who could help develop drugs and speed them to market. From the outset, InnoCentive threw open the doors to other firms eager to access the network’s trove of ad hoc experts. Companies like Boeing, DuPont, and Procter & Gamble now post their most ornery scientific problems on InnoCentive’s Web site; anyone on InnoCentive’s network can take a shot at cracking them.

The Rise of Crowdsourcing - WIRED Magazine, Issue 14.06 - June 2006
By Jeff Howe http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/14.06/crowds.html?pg=3&topic=crowds&topic_set=

Do you have examples of work that you believe in but just don't consider "legitimate" unless it's defined by an organization? - Sal

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Loss of a Fine Actor

Last week, I read that Ian Richardson had died.

I first met Ian when I was a young man, working at the Brooklyn Academy of Music or BAM, as it is called. I got the job resulting from a challenge by a teacher, Jane Ward, in a grad course on repertory theater. She was annoyed that I would spend so much time talking about "experimental" theater when she said I had no real knowledge of the "legitimate" theater.

In her frustration, she offered to hire me as her assistant for two weeks at BAM, where she was the Production Stage Manager. An extraordinary woman, Jane has influenced the creation of a number of America's arts institutions. I took the two week job and remained working there for nine years. It was that compelling a workplace.

Like many workplaces, I spent more time there than I did with my own family. It was at BAM, that I would first learn about working across and beyond the traditional boundaries I was conditioned to expect.

Because of this experience, I find many current conversations about "world-wide work teams" to be missing a fundamental understanding of what it means to work together and learn as you go. To build something from nothing and accept that things will change as you build.

When it came to staging a performance at BAM, everything was about collaboration or nothing got done. Leadership often moved to where expertise resided and where it was needed. Not from the hierarchy alone.

New relationships started with an empty stage. Some productions with a year of planning and others with only a week or two.

All the relationships were accelerated with the arrival of actors or dancers, and technicians from all over the world to begin set up. And, this also included local communities who found a home for their original cultures to showcase their traditions. Some of these relationships would last a lifetime.

I will never forget those inevitable Monday mornings, when a visiting company had just moved out on Sunday. The next day, the resulting rows of empty dressing rooms always created a very real feeling of loss that cannot easily be described.

Ian Richardson was one of the Royal Shakespeare Company's lead actors when BAM brought the first full scale RSC productions from the UK to Brooklyn.

This was at a time when the venerable old Brooklyn theater had just survived being demolished and turned into a parking lot.

It was also a time of the strong political dis ease of the Viet Nam war as we were painfully adding new words like AIDS, to our culture.

Many of the performances were important reflections of that time. Theater was providing a significant voice and this profound workplace was a living microcosm of what we were all experiencing.

With visionary leadership, much courage and a shared drive across functions, BAM remains today, one of the world's great performing arts centers.

Skilled stagehands and wardrobe crew worked endlessly as office staff, ushers and artists all understood we were building something together.

Long before phrases like "On Demand" were invented, centuries of stagecraft traditions acknowledged fundamental audience realities. There was no way to avoid the expectations of a waiting audience in a theater rich with the history of fine performers and meaningful performances.

As part of the team to bring the first RSC productions from Stratford-upon -Avon to Brooklyn, I got to meet Ian Richardson and others, who would help shape my work expectations for a very long time.

While millions of audience members will remember Ian from the stage, screen and television as always perfectly voiced, dignified and handsome, I will have the lasting influence of several quite talks with him about work.

I was twenty-one years old when we met and full of arrogance and passion for what I believed, and still believe -- theater has always been a way of society talking to itself about itself.

I had no inhibition to giving my theories to this accomplished actor. A man who could rivet an audience with a selected moment of extended pause as strongly as he could with a beautifully articulated monologue.

We had two conversations that I remember quite clearly. One was about sleep. Another , about working to experiment.

Sleep was difficult for him, he told me. People I am sure, did not easily see in his perfect demeanor and voice, the hours of rehearsal, learning and commitment to his craft that someone working at his level, carries with them everyday. He was afterall, an actor.

During the other conversation, he gave his kind encouragement to a kid who perhaps, talked a bit too much about experimental theater work, as I drove him to a CBS Sunday Morning television interview, on a day when Ian had very little time to himself.

This is how I remember his words. And if I am mis quoting him, I am not sure, that he would mind.

"Keep doing your experimentation, it's too difficult in our world (referring to the arena of a large world renowned theater company) to easily try new things, and it's important to all of us".

It was not until I read the sad news last week, that something made me realize that here was a man whose entire carrier was predicated on collaborating with others. Whose craft was based on making work visible and whose workplace was a stage that extended to others. Yet, he always appeared somewhat singular. Individual.

In Some Way, I have Missed Somethig Fundamental

That Ian, when he was exhausted and talked to me about sleep, was also saying, that we are all part of our workplace, in a way that we should appreciate and care for more deeply than we take time to.

Another Lesson I Keep Missing

We team for strengths and weaknesses and that is appropriate.

Maybe that's why people in organizations have to work so hard to reach collaborative behaviors? Because, it's in the collaboration that we reveal our individuality. And perhaps, our vulnerability. Our humanity.

It is amazing to me when I recall all the effort, collaboration and excitement it took to have that audience in Brooklyn walk into the Opera House and see the Royal Shakespeare Company perform. And, to understand that this was a relevant and meaningful representation of theater in a current world, much the way Shakespeare used history to reflect on what his real world political and societal conditions imposed on his time.

It was powerful to see Ian Richardson on that stage, perfectly positioned in his workplace, in a neighborhood he had never seen before. Playing the role of Richard, a King, at a time when the very neighborhood BAM occupies was and still is, placed in the continuing struggle between the powerful and those in need.

Well, the memories may be mine, but the connections belong to all of us.

I remember, a fine actor who was kind to me.

I trust that I have not used his good name too much for my own purpose and that there will be benefit in posting this story.


Making Work Visible

"The whole company prizes visibility"...

The ‘Toyota Way’ Is Translated for a New Generation of Foreign Managers - NY Times, February 15, 2007

“For Americans and anyone, it can be a shock to the system to be actually expected to make problems visible,” said Ms. Newton, a 38-year-old Indiana native who joined Toyota after college 15 years ago and now works at the North American headquarters in Erlanger, Ky. “Other corporate environments tend to hide problems from bosses.”

This Part is From Me (Sal)

In The 21st Century Intranet, Jennifer Stone Gonzalez wrote in 1999, that the singular most important communication issue we faced was "to make work visible".

Today, many Intranets still carry a tone of an electronic magazine with a paternalistic sense of command and control communication. And, it goes beyond Intranets, to really creating collaborative ways to communicate. But it's not really about technology. It's about our intentions and what we expect the technology to enable.

Intranets that are used, move decision making faster than traditional management roles allow. In addition, true collaborative frameworks put executives into the mix instead of outside the mix, simply reviewing and approving. Customers simply don't have time for that anymore. And that switch in the mix becomes a change management element that's real, not theorized.

Old models, where work is not visible and collaboration is not supported, tend to keep the management and continuous development as separate entities, as if the customer world is subject to the company's analysis.

But Toyota sounds different in the above referenced article and aware that different audiences see and hear the same messages differently.

“There is a sense of danger,” said Koki Konishi, a Toyota general manager who heads the (Toyota) institute. “We must prevent the Toyota Way from getting more and more diluted as Toyota grows overseas.”

Communication and Implementation - What's the Difference Sometimes?

This is part of our contemporary issue of concurrent communication and implementation. Speed of information is often speed to customer. And, that's not easy to grasp from either a cultural or operational point of view. It is easy however, to relate to if you are on the other side, as a customer or partner with expectations.

How visible is your work? How acceptable is it to have work made visible in your workplace?

And please understand, this is not just about big organizations.

We are all in this together.

I am especially hoping to hear from people who teach, work at home, engage in research or partner in our diverse workplace.