My Green Journey – one quarter in…


A much healthier-looking top shelf

In Happy Endings, really a post about beginning than ending, I described the conversation that was the origin of my green journey. The theme of that particular WordPress challenge was “Tell us about something you’ve tried to quit. Did you go cold turkey, or for gradual change? Did it stick?

I was giving up an unhealthier way of eating and I am pleased to report at the end of the journey’s first quarter, it is working. It may well be working because many of the changes that I have made have been small in nature but large in effect.

Reduced caffeine

I used to churn through a half dozen or more cups of coffee a day. I’m now down to one coffee a day. True, it is the bannofee described here that fills a 700ml smoothie mug I only have one a day, the coffee component is just one normal cup of coffee, the remainder being two bananas and a cup of almond milk, usually unsweetened. So I’m saving in coffee consumption and I am sleeping way better – not as long now but the sleep I get is sooooo much better.

The only time when I will have a coffee that’s not from home is when I am with someone socially – that is really no change from pre-Journey – but I am more likely to consider, if the option is available, a non-diary option…or I might just say “Starbucks, do your worst…” the nearest Starbucks is at least two hours driving from here so it’s not a big risk…

Reduced dairy

I’ve dropped my milk intake right back. It would be down to zero but I had a few litres, quite a few litres, of milk stored in the freezer that I am disposing of the traditional way. Once that is gone, the only cow milk, I’ll have here will be frozen in small bottles, about 250ml each, for cooking and any other circumstance where an alternate milk type won’t cut it. Those bottles will be the smoothie bottles above: they were reduced to $1.99 and, even full, were cheaper than any empty bottle the same size that I could find. I could have done the same with cream bottles but disposing of the original contents may have been defeating the purpose.

I’ve also got a few kilograms of cheese in the freezer and am slower disposing of that in the traditional manner. I am keeping a small quantity of mozzarella and parmesan around as I have yet to identify a suitably tasty non-dairy substitute for these specialist cheeses.One of my original objections in Happy Endings was that there was no life without cheese but I did find and make with relative ease a non-dairy cheese recipe that not only met the requirement but which is easier and less messy to make than dairy cheese (note to self: write up and share notes from non-dairy cheese experiment).

Cream remains a necessary staple for desserts although my sugar not-quite-craving has reduced substantially and so thus has the numbers of desserts prepared.  Beyond an occasional (less than once a week) non-dairy ice cream in a cone, I hardly ever have dessert now unless I am entertaining (well, I am always entertaining: what I mean is when we have guests for dinner). But you cannot have butterscotch pudding or brandy cream on waffles without real cream from a real cow.


I didn’t notice any real change when I swapped almond milk for cow milk but I definitely felt slower and heavier as soon as I went back to cow milk and dairy cheese. I don’t need much more incentive than that to stay my healthy course so far as dairy is concerned.I used to have an off-the-shelf iced coffee with my emergency breakfast i.e. those mornings when coordination and organisation are sub-optimal,  from the garage in National Park but it made me feel the same way so I’ve dropped that as well.

I mainly use almond milk in cups of tea and coffee and in my pretty-much-daily bannofees; and rice milk for bulk applications like on my breakfast muesli. The rice milk is cheaper than the almond milk and useful when the main purpose of the ‘milk’ is to soak. Drinks taste slightly different with almond milk, not better or worse, just different, and I notice that the original taste of the drink remains more distinct than with cow milk. After an awesome coconut coffee at Eat in Ohakune a couple of weeks ago, I am going to try using coconut milk for those (now) rare occasions, mainly when we have guests, that I have a normal coffee, like, with no bananas. After my pretty-much successful pumpkin spice latte, I am confident that I can froth up coconut milk much the same way as normal milk…


I had more to say on this than I thought…to be continued…



By Terry O’Neill.

Gradual improvements in practice continue on concussion issues with the horizon a far distant mirage. It sounds simple: “a temporary unconsciousness or confusion caused by a blow on the head” (Concise Oxford English Dictionary), and from the Latin concutere: to dash together or shake.

The issue’s always with me. Fifteen years ago our younger daughter was squashed and bashed in a vehicle collision and the devastating effects of her serious head injury will be with her, and the family, for the rest of her life. There’s no outward sign of disability, and her good looks mask her debilitating injuries within. She married and gave birth to two sons and fatigue dictates absolute rest daily after lunch with demanding tasks sometimes rescheduled next morning, and also she has to accept outside help with children and housekeeping – for a “normal” life that will never be normal again. Nevertheless, magnificent therapies, and all that love can do, means her confidence still improves and she “has a life”.

Concussion in sport may have additional dimensions.

In an earlier “As I See It” column I quoted Ireland’s Dr Barry O’Driscoll whose strong opinions lead to his resignation as a leading IRB medical advisor because the IRB introduced the controversial brief concussion bin, and this five minutes Pitch Side Concussion Assessment (PSCA) was later extended

Rugby players’ collisions vary in impact and severity but former All Black James Broadhurst has suffered a nagging headache for six weeks, and consequently, is ruled out of the remainder of the 2015 ITM competition. Broadhurst, a one test All Black, copped a couple of head knocks against Wellington in August and played until halftime. Broadhurst’s plea to players: “Don’t try to tough it out. I took a knock and thought I’d be all right. Two minutes later I copped another one that cost me my ITM season.” Now he wonders if his rugby career is in limbo.

While research continues on concussion after effects, it’s essential to also focus on causes of head knocks. Tackling in rugby needs to be redefined. The growing number of former rugby league players employed as defence coaches introduced the chest high tackle to control or slow ball distribution. This technique increases head to head clashes. Should rugby encourage the redevelopment of “around the legs tackling” with the head safely behind the opponents knees? Should we not examine the style of rugby whereby there are too many mismatches with bigger and heavier forwards consistently used as first receivers against lighter tacklers? Should supervision be more intense at the breakdown where players individually throw themselves head first into the fray?

Tentative moves are afoot whereby rugby tackling above the shoulder can earn a penalty. But wheels of change turn too slow.

Barry O’Driscoll insists the power of television, and the huge commercial influence, highlights the glory of the club, or the team, and not player welfare. Will only a fatality accelerate those wheels of change?

Parents won’t encourage their children to participate in any sport where the well-being of each player is not the paramount concern.


…now I understand…

Source: broken and ready ‹ Reader — click and read…trust me, it’s worth it…

I’ve taken a break from WordPress for most of the year and only today opted back into following my favoured writers. Most nights before flipping the lights out (or being thumped in the face by the volume I’m reading) I try to wade a little further through Stephen King’s Dark Tower epic (almost done with Book III)…tonight, I opened up WordPress’ Reader instead and found Rara’s latest post, the electrons still dripping…her words struck such a  chord I am up and writing at something past twelve…

I don’t usually write when I’m upset.  When something hurts me, or twists my truths, or shakes the core of my world– I phone a friend.  I brew some tea.  I ask my mother a question she couldn’t possibly answer, and I write a million notes down in one of my million notebooks.

I don’t usually write in the moment of a broken heart.  I’m not ready.

I wait to digest my thoughts.  I taste them– the flavor and texture– and then let the acids that fizzle inside of me break them down.  I let the fire inside of me burn them up, until all that is left over are the indigestibles.

Right now, I can’t seem to process anything.  My insides are completely full of huge, indigestible feels….


…They know my elevator pitch by heart.

You probably know it, too.

It goes like this:
You are loved.

Every word I waste and every story I spend, all comes back to this….

Wow!! I’m speechless, at a loss, shaken by the power of Rara’s words, as unformed as she may think them to be…she’s been through tough times recently (read between the lines in this is not a test) I’ve followed her work for a long time and this post is one of her best…

If the sun goes down over a man in India, while he washes a pot big enough to bathe in, and he doesn’t know he is loved– what does it matter?  If the sun rises on a woman as she piles veterinary books in a tote bag, somewhere in the middle of Illinois, and she doesn’t know she is loved– what does it matter?

What indeed? Not so long ago, someone I know got to a point in their life where they no longer felt valued, felt they were not loved, that they had got to a point where there was no way back, not even a tunnel for there to be a light at the end of…a very dark place…

Some of you may think you know who I’m talking about but, trust me, you probably don’t…no one sees all my faces and for now that’s good with me (I thought of using a house of cards to illustrate my many facets but now that Google search only returns four zillion pictures of Kevin Spacey…)…don’t play Sherlock, just pick up on the message…

When I heard, I was angry…

…angry at them, who I know would fight, kick, scratch, gouge, and bludgeon to help others, for not doing the same for themselves…it’s OK – it’s not selfish – to fight for yourself…for not calling emailing screaming calling for fire sending smoke signals cutting crop circles that said I need some help here, yes, me, over here, help me, help me, help me…

…angry at me for not reading the signs…if there were any…all too often we only see these through the lenses of 20-20 hindsight…and angry at myself for not being able to generate some sort of retroactive rescue mission to interdict that moment of uncharacteristic weakness and leave nothing but scorched earth behind (yep angry angry)…

…angry at all those insignificant casual/causal clumsy pin pricks that wear people down, the petty games that literally suck away the will to live…

…and just generally angry at a world which allows people with so much to offer to get to a place so dark and, let’s be honest, when I get like this I’m kinda an equal opportunity anger sort of guy…spreading the love as it were…

Angry’s good sometimes…it purifies and clarifies thought…and this story has a happy ending…helplessness haunts the dark places..and those around them…you can always do something…even teach a horse to sing…if nothing else…

I can sit in my folding chair and hear your message, and hope you’re hearing mine.

You are loved.

No matter where you’d be on a faded map, if you were just a scattered dot.

You are loved. You are valued.

I am loved. I am valued.

Today’s Rara badge of courage


Why Lessons Learned Programmes Don’t Work

Budgetary battles are raging across the US Department of Defence and every service and agency desperately rounds its soapboxes, sacred idols and hobby-horses into a defense circle…it’s a desperate, no holds barred struggle for the survival of the most precious as opposed perhaps to the most needed. Unsurprisingly, this results in a steady dribble of pro/con article on the various issues or perceived issues. This one struck a chord as the five stated reasons resounded from my years in the lesson learned field…you’ll need to read the artcile itself to see that author’s take on such ‘initiatives’…

Five Reasons to Boycott the Air Force’s Savings Initiative : John Q. Public.

1. Your Time is Too Important.  The lessons learned programme may be more form than function i.e. regardless of best intentions, hopes, dreams and aspirations, it does not have a clear and effective method of initiating and embedding the behavioural change that heralds the ‘lesson learned. In this is the case and sadly, so many of them and other ‘continuous improvement’ programmes are, then your time may be better spent contributing to the organisation in another way, possibly as simple as just doing your day job to the best of your ability, and fostering a local climate for change in improvement around your immediate work area.

2. Your Participation Will Harm the Air Force’s Credibility. Or whichever organisation you represent…there are few things worse for an organisations credibility than a broadly and publicly promoted programme that visibly does not work…”What? you can’t improve your own improvement programme..?

3. The Program Enables a False Impression. An improvement initiative by its very existence promotes a perception that things must improve. Unless, however, the lessons learned programme is well-designed, well-implemented and well-lead, it is almost always doomed to fail. Once again, some time more would be done to improve the organisation if local change was encouraged and fostered – it is only very rarely that a large scale programme does not result in cookie cutter ‘solutions’ that are inflicted across an organisation and while maybe fixing one problem, create ten more.

4. The Initiative Is Itself Wasteful.  Absolutely and more so if it includes an incentive programme where staff are or may be rewarded for offering suggestions under the guise of initiatives and innovations. Without a good system and excellent leadership, the great risk is that staff will fixate on the reward and dedicate more and more time to dreaming up innovations than just doing their job and resolving issues when they encounter them. Moreover, just because something is called an initiative, does not mean that it is: in fact, the more strident the initiative narrative, the less likely the programme is to be innovative and more likely it is to be just another bureaucratically-inflicted drag-producing waste of time and resources.

5. There’s no reason to associate oneself needlessly with failure. Yes, sad but true. Despite all the good intentions, if the programme is tainted – and let’s face it, most improvement initiatives are even before the ink on the initiating directive dries – then why flog a dead horse or allow it to undermine by association those things that do work.

Don’t get me wrong…I am dedicated to lessons learned concepts and practices (I hope so after all these years!)  however initiating and embedding change in even a small organisation is not a simple thing and nowhere as simple as the loudest advocates might, in their simplistic ignorance, have us believe. Like any programme seeking to change a status quo, it must first understand the environment in which it will be conducted, who the people are (outside of the Borg, there is rarely any single collective group of ‘the people’), what shapes and influences them, what their hopes, dreams and aspirations are, and it must really understand how the organisation actually works (as opposed to what has been chiselled into process and procedure files.

So, when the innovation initiative evangelists coming knockin’, just think carefully about what they are really selling…

The first law of aircraft…

…acquisition is that it must look good and thus Euro Hawk stumbles at even that first hurdle…

I subscribe to a digest of UAS-related issues from the Small Wars Council – often it lies dormant for weeks but this evening it delivered this corker item from Germany…an absolute how-NOT-to of aircraft (yes, unmanned aircraft ARE aircraft too) acquisition…

…because, of course, the second rule of aircraft acquisition is that it must actually meet a user requirement. One of the great idiocies of UA in the last decade is that people who really should know better are regarding UA as capabilities in their own right. The sad unfortunate and inconvenient truth is that UA are just like any other aircraft in that they provide a means to carry a capability through the air to (hopefully) create or apply specific effects. Those effects will probably fall into one of three functional groups of air power: Sense, Move, or Engage.

Some way down the acquisition path, there will be a decision point where the nature of the aircraft may need to be considered in terms of whether it should have seats or not. This decision should be based on a number of factors driven to a large extent by the environment in which it is expected that the aircraft will operate. And this is where the German methodology for Euro Hawk (assuming that such exists) unravels…surely not even the most zealous proponent on unmanned aircraft would realistically accept for a second that a large UA like Euro Hawk was ever going to be allowed to operate in the congested skies over western Europe?

The ‘sense and avoid’ issue is a bit of a red herring…the problem is not those airspace users that play by the rules: it is those that do not who pose the greater threat – unfortunately, as in so many things, it is the actions of the few that shape the rules that govern the many. The airways would most probably be far safer if all large aircraft flew automated courses, controlled by a central skynet air traffic control. Human error is one of the more common causes of air incidents and thus a higher, not lesser, degree of automation in the airways would promote flight safety. The Sully Sullenberger’s of the world aside, if a large modern aircraft suffers a major systems failure, the skill and experience of the crew is only so capable of countering that failure. The main benefit of a flight crew aboard an aircraft in distress is their real-time situational awareness that is denied to a emote operator.

But, getting back to the Germans…half a billion euros down the gurgler for a capability that it not only cannot operate at home but that it probably should not have ever thought it could so until UA are integrated into civilian airspace, something that is unlikely to occur on a large scale any time soon. But, airworthiness and compliance issues with Northrop-Grumman aside (get better contract writers), this investment need not be wasted. There is nothing stopping Germany entering into an agreement with one of more other nations for its Euro Hawks, if ever delivered, or a replacement UA (if they really really must have a UA in this class and not a more flexible manned ISR platform), to operate in someone else’s less congested airspace to maintain air and ground crew proficiency and possibly contribute to other outputs. There has been discussion that UK Reapers (which also cannot fly in western European airspace) may be based in Kenya to do exactly this. If Kenya does not appeal, why not Australia or New Zealand…?


UA are no  more capabilities in their own right than manned aircraft. Aircraft are a means of getting a capability to a specific point to create a  desired effect, and (ideally) back again.

Don’t give up the dream but definitely stop stoking the fire for premature integration of UAs into congested civilian airspace – just stoke the embers for now.

Read the contract before you sign it – if you don’t like it, then bin it (before you commit half a billion euros) and wait or identify a replacement supplier. Northrop Grumman is not the only player in this game.

The age of manned aircraft is not over yet.

Think outside the square – does your large expensive UA really have to be based at home?

Knoco stories: Explicit knowledge is only valuable if it is accurate

Knoco stories: Explicit knowledge is only valuable if it is accurate.

These issues are symptomatic of rural lifestyles – we have exactly the same here: our phone apparently loops out into the lawn before heading up the short driveway (about 25 metres), under the long driveway (about 110 metres), up to the gate, back under the long driveway, does a few more loops outside the gate before ducking back under the fence to the Telecom connection point…


Raurimu 020

The ‘short’ driveway: the phone cable runs left to right across the base of the steps and then under the right side of the concrete…

Raurimu driveway Aug 04 - 1

The ‘long’ driveway…the phone cable burrows under the far end of this and meanders up the left side about a metre or so off the seal, before doing a few loops where the mighty Diamante is parked and then ducking under the to the Telecom connection point where the white marker is on the right…

At the time we put in our garage in 2007, we got the Telecom guy out to track the cable’s path before we did any serious digging – just in case – and marked it with some dazzle paint. Over time the dazzle paint became distinctly less dazzly, and eventually faded away before I got a Round Tu-it vis-a-vis actually mapping its path for next time that information was needed.

So I sympathise with Nick because we’ve been in exactly the same position and launched off on the advice of ‘well-informed’ and “knowledgeable’ locals and also ended up with recreations of the Somme. Maybe it’s symptomatic of us and knowledge guys, just like a mechanic always drives the crappiest old car, or the talented joiner you know hasn’t had a handle on his loo door for coming on five years (yes, you know which son-in-law you are!!), that we struggle to apply what we know professionally when we step through the gate of home sweet home…?

So in regard to the five lessons learned functions of collect, analyse, decide, implement and verify, it sound much like Nick has skipped what is probably the most vital function, that of Analyse. More often than not in lessons work, the raw OIL is not as it seems and when subject to a lens of rigorous analysis, the issue and the actual lesson are often totally different from that which you might expect at face value from the original OIL.

It is so very tempting, especially in metrics-fixated environments, to seize the apparent low hanging fruit and find that one very quickly goes from a mess to a really mess and all of a sudden you are reacting to your solution, somewhere in which is buried the original core issue. What’s that I hear from the cheap seats? Sounds like ‘COIN”? Absolutely!!! Those five same functions apply just as much in COIN, although we’d prefer to use Irregular Warfare when in polite company, as they do in lessons learned:

Collect as much information as you can about your problem.

Analyse it, ignoring you preconceptions and gut instincts; examine it from every angle, and develop some courses of action.

Decide which course of action you are going to implement – it’s OK to opt for none and go back to do more collection and analysis.

Implement your course of action, all the time ensuring that situation hasn’t changed around you, reverting you to dead-horse-flogging mode.

Verify that your solution has addressed the original issue AND that it hasn’t created a whole bunch more.

In the story that Nick tells, he does not provide much information regarding his neighbours reliability as an information source but it is probably a safe assumption that there was no malice involved. Taking a punt, it may have been that the map provided indicated the intended path of the drains until someone remembered the village story about a German bomb landing in that corner of the field and not making the right sort of bomb post-impact noises. Discretion being the better part of valour, the drain took the longer road – just in case – but a drain’s a drain and why bother the council with any explanation of why the permitted path wasn’t followed. Whose to know? Well, for starters, the guy who is out “…an extra day and half of digger hire and labour rates, 10 dead trees, and a garden that looks like the Somme at the height of World War One…”

This would be something that we would see time and time again in the ABCA Armies Coalition Lessons Analysis Workshops (CLAWs): We just can’t, well, shouldn’t anyway, take presented information at face value be it raw OIL or a map of the drains without asking some critical questions about it…and being prepared for some answers that might be both unexpected and unpalatable…

The rocky road to learning

Continuing on the ‘learning’ theme from yesterday, I’m sure that we have all had at least one ohnosecond experience in our professional lives…now that I am older and wiser (apparently) I have given up on sending strongly-worded but incredibly witty and insightful emails to senior staff detailing the errors inherent in current and proposed plans and strategies. I do however still have one minor foible (yes, that’s correct, just one!) that causes me to still have reason to occasionally curse the response times of the Outlook ‘recall’ facility. On occasion, normally only when the context is important, I transpose the words ‘not‘ and ‘now‘ i.e. when I mean ‘not‘, I will write ‘now‘ and vice versa. Hands up everyone who can see some potential for humour and general chaos in that…it’s just one of those things and the more that I am conscious of it and try to avoid it, the more likely it is that at least instance of this foible will slip through. It’s not even like ‘w‘ and ‘t‘ are immediately adjacent or that it is one of the unfortunate quirks of the demon the reside within the spellcheck tool…it just is…

Some mistakes may be career-ending and some potential contenders are listed in this link to InfoWorld’s annual roasting that a friend posted a link on Facebook this morning:

It’s time again for that beloved holiday tradition in Cringeville known as the Golden Gobblers. These awards were created to honor individuals in the world of technology whose giblets we’d be happy to see roasted and served on a platter.

But other mistakes, no matter how face-reddening, should be more opportunities for teach and learning…

Does anyone ever query why an individual acted in a certain manner?

Could it be a result of inadequate or incorrect training, the absence of good role models and mentors?

What is the work environment and its general culture and ethos – if any?

Has the individual been honestly reported on – or have superiors failed to confront  and address issues with whitewash reports that make themselves look good (‘There’s no problems in MY organisation!“)?

And for the offended party…

Has an actual crime been committed or perhaps did you dress from the Emperor’s wardrobe this morning?

Is a wounded (slightly dented?) ego more important than developing and growing your people and your part of the organisation?

Even, could it be possible that you and some of your approaches and methods are contributing more to the problems than to the solution?

Are you contributing to the development and growth of the broader organisation or more aligned with maintaining a status quo, like the reed that refuses to bend…?

Without advocating rabid workers’ rights or the introduction of total workplace socialism, and noting that there are definitely people who need to move on or be moved on from an organisation, score-settling and retribution are not the best rationales for doing so… “I’ll teach them a lesson they never forget!” is NOT the mantra of a for-real learning organisation nor one that expects to continue to deliver credible and useful outputs (as opposed to just meeting its metrics)…And this brings us back to the three qualities discussed yesterday…leadership…initiative…balance…

On Petraeus

Frederick Humphries. The FBI agent who launched the investigation into Paula Broadwell’s email accounts did it as a favour [corrected US to real English!]  for gal pal and wannabe-Kardashian Jill Kelley. He then leaked news of the probe to two right-wing congressmen, igniting one of the biggest scandals in CIA history and bringing down its director, General David Petraeus. Somewhere along the line he generously shared a pic of his pecs with Kelley, launching an FBI investigation into his own conduct.

This quote is from the InfoWorld Golden Gobblers mentioned above. Yes, note the irony that the agent who’s actions led to the resignation of the Director of the CIA for inappropriate behaviour appears to be guilt of the same offence himself. Under the incredibly wonky US justice system, doesn’t that automatically discredit the case against David Petraeus, noting that he doesn’t actually appear to have committed any criminal offence himself?

I hadn’t wanted to comment on this affair (no pun intended – OK, maybe just a little…) until the smoke had cleared somewhat in the wake of the Benghazi attack…and it now seems possible to derive a few insights from what’s been released…

Senior staff can have just the same sort of weak moments as normal people.

Said weaknesses do not necessarily affect their ability to do their jobs. This, of course, does not apply to those senior moments involving fraud or sexual (or any other form of) assault but then these are open and shut criminal offences.

The moral minority that screams for blood at every perceived wrong-doing may do well to wonder if militaries would be any better as organisations if the Dalai Lama was appointed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Chief of the Defence Staff or Chief of the Defence Force. Probably not…the love-ins and chanting would be pretty cool for a while but I would have to at some point question their deterrent value or usefulness next time there’s a need to respond to an unplanned contingency.

The organisation is unlikely to be a better place for losing the likes of David Petraeus and potentially John Allen – the mob once sated will put away their pitch-forks and torches secure in the knowledge that they are protected by the mantle of national security that they continue to erode.

I’ve watched some of the current and historical coverage of Paula Broadwell and the strongest message that comes across is that “It’s all about ME, ME and ME!!!” and my take is that she is a selfish and self-seeking individual who has abused the privilege of access and taken it as a right. I’m wondering if the oxymoronic joke about Army Intelligence applies to Ms Broadwell and whether this is something that the former general could have borne in mind from the first time he met her? While not excusing David Petraeus’ actions in the affair,  those are really a matter between him and Mrs Petraeus. Jill Kelley strikes me in the same way, twisting the privilege if access as a Friend of MacDill into a perceived right of access to senior leaders who in all fairness may have been totally unaware of what was going on behind the scenes.

So what could have happened in a smart learning community? Ummm…

The FBI might learn from its part in the affair and ensure that its agents follow set protocols and procedures, certainly in regard to the triggers for taking an issue out of the organisation to Congress or the Senate.

The Friends of MacDill programme is reviewed to ensure that the definitions of privilege and right and well understood by all. My understanding is that this is a useful and beneficial support mechanism for the base that probably does not warrant threats of closure because of the actions of one or two individual.

The Director of the CIA is given some time off to sort his personal life out before returning to the job.

Commander ISAF is left alone to focus on a particular difficult period in the force’s existence i.e. is this really stuff that you want to be bothering your senior commander in your second most costly campaign in the last decade?

Ms Broadwell (it’s unclear whether she remains a Mrs) is encouraged to take some time out, sort her own personal life and stay away from the media where she is not doing herself any favours.

The moral minority have a fire sale on pitch forks and torches, all slightly used…or maybe just have a fire…

Leadership – initiative – balance


Leading through change

While driving around the Net searching for some information on leading change, I found this recent ‘First Word’ in the October 2012 Air Force News. Pretty good stuff, I thought, on the effects of both leadership and individual initiative in fostering and maintaining a satisfied and thus effective and efficient work force which in turn fosters and maintains the delivery of critical outputs…

Does your Unit have a good reputation and is it one of the sought-after areas to work in? Is it judged as a critical Unit and the people within it as skilled and capable? Is it a ‘key’ capability in the RNZAF?

By ‘key’ I don’t mean as judged by the quarterly reports, not by efficient management processes, nor by the myriad of statistics required by higher command each month; these I would expect from any unit in the RNZAF. Rather, your Unit will be judged as the best to work in by two measures:

(1) by the other units (that is Squadrons, Joint Forces and so on) that you support, and

(2) by the individuals who work within the unit.

So what part do you have to play in all this?

If you are positive and enthusiastic about your job and the people around you, then this will set the tone for the Unit. People will want to work with you—they will seek positions in your Unit. Strive to make your unit the best organisation to work in, with emphasis on innovative policy, development, and capability for the RNZAF, and very focused programmes; focussed because we have limited resources.

I think we all need to be challenged and given opportunities. In order to do that you should encourage initiative and allow others to present and sometimes implement new ideas. Some ideas will work and others will not—but you won’t learn unless you try, and you must take calculated risks. An Officer, SNCO, or for that matter any staff member, who is afraid to make a mistake or to present a counter view is not contributing to the team. Remember, fear stifles initiative, imagination and ideas—and the organisation will inevitably stagnate.

We are “beings in process,” forever developing, learning and adapting. I encourage you to challenge what you do. So let’s think about how we can change and improve the work we do. Think about the future, and use all those bright young men and women who work in your unit—that’s you—to move ahead. I challenge you to improve the products we produce, to improve the processes used to get there, and to make your Unit an enjoyable and rewarding work environment. The latter point is important to our success. Everyone should be provided with an environment in which they can work with little constraint. I want you to create a climate where someone’s worth is determined by their willingness to learn new skills and grab new responsibilities.

As stated in the Better Public Services Advisory Group Report, “…the single most critical driver of successful change is leadership.” I would add that this leadership must come from all levels in the organisation. And here I’ll take a leaf from GEN George Patton. He said: “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” I expect to see lots of ingenuity.

Remember that we are not at war, but those in uniform can expect to be deployed for operations at any time, so balance your job and home life with appropriate priorities. I want you to be in the military for the long term, so keep your work effort and priorities balanced. There will be times when you will be required to work long hours, or be away from your family—for training, conferences, project activity, exercises and the like—and this is when the RNZAF will be first priority. 

I also encourage you to set yourself some personal goals. Everyone in the RNZAF has integrity, judgement, energy, balance and the drive to get things done. don’t just use these assets at work; apply them to your private life as well. 

You are the people who make the Unit function. You make it happen and you set the example for others to follow. I expect you to provide guidance, direction and oversight to your personnel and to others in the RNZAF so that they may also succeed. So take responsibility for, and ownership of, your particular area. Make your Unit a great place to work and be effective and enjoyable.

When Field Marshall Slim made his so-often quoted comment about the relationship of morale to materiel being as ten is to one, he was referring to far more than simple materiel, I’m sure. Today he probably would have specifically targeting the metric mentality that thrives within modern organisational communities…i.e. the “I’m OK because I’m achieving my targets and completing my directed tasks” philosophy…you might be a lumberjack too but, trust me, anyone hanging their individual or collective  hat on THAT philosophy is NOT OK!

The leadership and learning relationship is not new but this article draws in a couple of other themes that aren’t as common in the discussion. The first of these is initiative, specifically personal initiative. It’s all very well being the best leader in the world but not worth a stick of old rhubarb if the rest of your organisation are content to just follow your awesome leadership example. YOUR people must not just feel empowered but they need to be motivated to dive in and take a (considered) punt to make things that need to happen, happen. The old catch-excuse of “No one told me to” (Why didn’t you do something) is almost as bad as the Nuremberg “I vas only following orders” (Why did you do something?). Individual members of a successful organisation should be applying ‘so what, then what, now what?‘ thinking all the time – and where they may occasionally, perhaps, get it wrong or not fully right, the ‘system’ should be there to assist the learning process. If we don’t screw up from time to time, how to we get better…?

When JFK said “Ask not what your country can do for you but rather, what you can do for your country” he wasn’t meaning that the two questions are mutually exclusive. The other theme that is blended in nicely in this challenge is that of ‘balance’: work/life balance, balance between those things that have to be done and those that you can simply do, balance in looking after yourself and looking after the job (hint: the job may not reciprocate). People crack funnies about the US Army’s long standing (1989-2001) recruiting logo “Be all you can be” but it probably endured for so long because it appealed so directly to a fundamental aspect of what the military is meant be all about: regardless of someone’s roots or background, a fresh start offered exactly that opportunity to ‘be all you can be’. But it doesn’t just stop there – it can and should extend out into the broader relationships of families, friends and communities.

Many years ago, decades actually, I read a comment (on paper – it was so long ago that this interweb thingie wasn’t even a twinkle in someone’s Astounding Stories!) that, contrary to the popular perception of Vietnam veterans in the US being burned-out, drugged-up no-hopers, that many of the 2.7 million Americans that served in uniform in Vietnam actually came home and become leaders and forces for positive change in their communities. Being all they could be because their experiences had given them a new perspective on what was really important – and that wasn’t some clipboard-mounted tick-and-flick philosophy focussed on just doing the bare ‘minimum’, of perception-polishing than actually doing the job. As as stated in DCAF’s Challenge, it’s about extending that balance and perspective into our family and community lives as well. Of  gripping up challenges and doing those things that need to be done but always maintaining that awareness of ‘balance’.

So taking that closing sentence “…Make your Unit a great place to work and be effective and enjoyable…”, if your work place or your home or your community doesn’t feel like a great place to be, if it doesn’t feel effective and enjoyable, rather than just sit around and bitch into your milk about it, perhaps it’s time to consider what changes may be needed (noting that YOU may be the one that needs to change!) and applying some personal individual leadership, initiative and balance yourself. While it is true that good things rarely come without hard work, it is equally so that they rarely come without someone making them happen.

Why is it so hard to deliver lasting change?


Lessons seem to fall into the big gap in the middle - obvious design flaw!

This article bounced in via one of my connections on LinkedIn or Facebook…it’s interesting but on the light side especially it’s parting shot whimper “…In summary, change at all levels is tough and many initiatives fail to deliver – that’s human nature. But, never give-up trying…” I really hate these “…oh, well, it’s just human nature…” pseudo-arguments. They essentially just say “…it’s all too hard…” and, in the lessons world, that’s just not true.

The problem is that people and organisations see lessons learned as some sort of blend between a universal panacea for all that ails them and good old-fashioned magic (except that, of course, magic generally works whereas lessons learned…). Lessons learned or L2 as it is becoming known in ‘in’ circles is not difficult, not that hard and certainly not magic…like most trades, skills and professions, there is a fundamental need for practitioners to have some idea of what the hell they are meant to be doing.

The simple fact is that the perception that enduring lessons are so difficult to implement is because most people and organisations tend to focus on the solution and not the reason why behind it. So, after some time, normally when those with first-hand knowledge and experience of the original issue and the applied solution move on, we are left with an implemented solution that slowly loses context as the individual and corporate memories of reasons why behind it fade into insignificance. What we are left with then is either dogma where that solution continues to be implemented without any real knowledge of the why, or satisfaction of the urge to change especially if the solution is considered onerous or too hard.

Even more important than the actual implemented solution we must keep alive the reasons why the solution was implemented in the first place – this allows use to evolve if and, when necessary, as circumstances and environments change.

While I was drafting this post this morning, the first Knoco newsletter for 2012 dropped into my inbox. It has some good pointers, even though it is technically about knowledge management than lessons learned (like there’s a difference?) (text in italics in from the original Knoco article, the rest is my thoughts):

How to build a KM strategy

There is no such thing as an “off the peg”, “one size fits all” knowledge management strategy.  Every organization needs to create their own knowledge management strategy, which fits their own context and their own business needs.  Here is how to do it (for more detail, order the strategy guide)

Start with the Business Drivers

Looking broader than a mere business perspective, driven by bottom lines, etc, look at what your organisation or agency is actually meant to do and why. There’s that word again ‘why’ – the good old ‘in order to’ of the mission statement…if you’re deviating from your chosen path of truth, light and purpose, you need to identify why – and whether that is both a good thing and a sanctioned thing: the two do not always go hand in hand.

Identify the knowledge that is crucial to delivering business strategy

Work out where that knowledge lies

It is the easiest thing in today’s world to simply drown in too much information: the crux of any system has to be getting the right information to the right people at the right time and knowing that they know how to apply it – again the rationale of all the ‘rights’; otherwise, really, what’s the point?
Knowledge management, at its simplest, consists of building a system to transfer strategic knowledge from the people who have it, to the people who need it, in an effective, efficient and routine manner.
So once you have identified the strategic knowledge, you then need to map out where it lies, and where it needs to be transferred.
Is the knowledge centralized, in a small number of company experts?  Is it dispersed among a community of experienced practitioners?  Is it created as best practices and lessons from projects, living in the heads of the project managers?

If it’s penny-packeted away, do you need to kick in some doors? Does the organisation still have bastions of ‘need to know’ resisting ‘need to share’? Do they even know that there is external interest in what THEY do and produce?

Understand the audience

It’s absolutely crucial to understand the users of the knowledge; how many there are, and the degree of context and knowledge they have already, then knowledge needs, their working styles and habits.  The knowledge demographics of the organization are important (see section below), and knowledge supply needs to be compatible with working style. A mobile workforce, for example, needs to be able to access the knowledge of their peers through smart phones or other mobile devices, while a office based workforce can use desktop computers.

Simply, despite our natural inclinations to revert back to this, there is no easy simple cookie-cutter solution to much except, of course, cutting cookies.

Choose an effective transfer approach

The two main strategic approaches for knowledge management are Connection and Collection, otherwise known as personalisation and codification.  Although any knowledge management strategy will need a combination of these two, one might receive more focused than the other.

A Collection approach, where knowledge is collected and codified and made available as documents, is effective where the knowledge is relatively straightforward, and needs to be transferred to a large number of people, for example in a company with a large turnover of staff, or a company wishing to transfer product knowledge to a large sales force.

A connection approach, where knowledge is transferred through communities of practice and social networks, is suitable for complex contextual knowledge shared between communities of experienced practitioners.

When you get down to it, you need to be able to apply and actually apply a blend of both what are referred to as collection and connexion approaches (when did connection lose the ‘ct’???????). Things won’t solve all things and neither will talk – together they may.

Drive Pull before driving Push

Many of the knowledge management strategies we asked to review, talk about “creating a culture of knowledge sharing”; in other words, they seek to promote publishing and “push” of knowledge around the organization.

This is the wrong place to start.  There is no point in creating a culture of sharing, if you have no culture of re-use. “Pull” is a far more powerful driver for Knowledge Management than Push, and we would always recommend creating a culture of knowledge seeking before creating a culture of knowledge sharing.

Create the demand for knowledge, and the supply will follow.  Create a culture of asking, and the culture of sharing will follow.

While I don’t necessarily agree that ‘ a culture of knowledge sharing’ automatically leads to a ‘push’ culture, I do agree that ‘pull’ is the most effective way to go. While staff must pull information to themselves, some knowledge sharing culture is necessary for there to be anything to pull in the first place…Create just a ‘culture of asking‘ and all that may happen is that people wull turn away when you approach the water cooler…

Which all comes back to the original question “Why is it so hard to deliver lasting change?” It is hard because current L2 practitioners focus tend to too much on the lessons for its own sake; worry less about ensuring that it is current, relevant and practical for its targeted audience; and pretty much totally forget the key rationale for the change, the reason why – that’s not doctrine, that’s dogma….

The magnificent seven ride again…

…through the streets of Wellington…

…but we looked a lot better than these guys…yes, really…

A group of us who had all been young (and in some cases, not so young) officers together, concentrated in Wellington last night for a bit of a get-together, in some cases we had not seen each other for a good seven or more years…apart from a grey hair or two, we were all as slim and sharp as we’d been back then…

Josh from CDSS and I drove down together yesterday afternoon and the drive both ways gave us a good opportunity to discuss a bunch of current affairs topics – we stayed at the Halswell Lodge in Kent Terrace: as Josh said, we really want to be focussing about where we want to end up and less about where we’re starting from. A very good point as my thought had been to stay at someplace like the James Cook but the natural progression of a staff ride through night-time Wellington is invariably towards the bottom end of Courtney Place i.e. just round the corner from the Halswell Lodge…

It’s a good lesson and one that obviously links directly into the Princess Leia Doctrine  – before you come in, have a plan for getting out!! Somewhat topical in a week where the US recognises the rebel “government” in Libya, just as France states that it can see a path where Ghaddafi stay in power…as some have said, a clear application of two of the three stages of the France Doctrine:

– Start war.

– Surrender.

– Claim all glory.

It’s not actually clear who or what the US has actually recognised or what the mid- to long-term results will be when that “government” comes to power – almost assurably there will be a number of score-settling activities to ensure that any and all Ghaddafists are dealt to as well as anyone else that the new “government” feels they need to square away as part of their consolidation of power…It is pretty certain that one of the big lessons of Iraq, that existing governance and other structures should be kept in place as much as possible during transitional phases, will be learned again should this “government” come to power…

It’s interesting to note as well that NATO’s appetite for social and moral justice has yet to extend to Syria where protest and suppression continue unchecked; and that hardline Islamic elements may be gaining the whip hand in Egypt…will the call be made “Hey, Hosni! Holiday’s over, dude! Get back in there and sort your country out again!” ?

Anyway, back to the Seven…we’d hoped a few more might come out of the woodwork but it was a crappy Wellington winter night and there’s a rematch tonight but we could only do the one night…so very good to catch up again with some of those who helped make me who I am now (Yes, guys, it’s all your fault!!) and to have a night out in NZ – normally any big nights I have out are ‘post-dinner networking’ activities while I am working overseas. Very impressed to see that there are still pubs in NZ that not only serve beer in jugs but big glass jugs as well – good effort, the Green Man Pub – great pizzas and fries too!! Of course, we almost didn’t get to the Green Man after leaving St Johns in Cable Street as our SOF rep ‘led’ us in the opposite direction!! “Yeah, I know where I’m going…trust me…” Never a Tui billboard around when you need one…

I think we finished up around 2-30ish after a fun few hours in Boogie Wonderland, a retro disco-era bar (“Don’t touch the glitter balls – puhleeeease!!” Well, don’t put them in arm’s reach then!). Post-pizza I’d had a top-up pie along the way but Josh hadn’t and we grabbed some horrible Chinese food from someplace at the bottom end of Courtney Place – the sole redeeming thing about that was that I bought a bottle of Coke that was well sited for post-crash out dries this morning…

So bit jaded this evening with an early start to get back to the Lodge before it gets snowed in – probably our first snow there this year…watching the reports coming out of Norway…just one nutjob…as one tweet stated ‘Oklahoma City, not 911’…a brutal reminder than in this environment of complexity, you can’t predict and interdict all ‘the people’…sometimes the measure of success is how well you respond…