Sunday sermon-ettes, the sequel

Good Sunday morning all and enjoy the day. A few tidbits have been bouncing around in my head, so I will commit them to writing for your review and critique. The tidbits are light on religious tone.

Guns and butter: For some reason, in the US we spend more time discussing protecting the right to own a 34th assault weapon than feeding 34 people. We have far too many food deserts in our country where the closest food is a convenience store. Far too many in our country are undernourished. Yet, pick up any local paper on any day of the week, and you will find multiple gun killing stories. Better gun governance is essential, but it is a nonstarter with the NRA who is more interested in gun sales. I think our priorities are off.

Kicking poor people in the teeth: Along those same lines, our President is pushing the Republicans in the Senate to vote on whether to kick 22 million Americans in the teeth or 34 million, many of whom are in poverty or near poverty. It should be noted the President said he would not touch Medicaid. I guess that detail escapes him in his desire to have a photo op of him signing something.

Brexit is a hard pill to swallow: The word Brexit sounds like one of those new fangled drugs to cure something you did not know you should worry about. I think voters were not told the whole story and many are wishing they had a do over. As foretold, the financial companies who based their EU regional business in London, are making definitive plans to move. Bank of America just announced a move to Dublin, Citigroup is moving folks to Frankfurt and other places, and Japanese banks are doing likewise. While I  understand the desire to fully govern your future, the UK is harming its future growth. That is not just my opinion, but that of financial experts.

Shrinking to greatness is not a good strategy: Speaking of financial growth, limiting relationships with other countries is not conducive to growth. And, a venture capitalist noted that what creates jobs is customers. Plus, when we discuss global trade, we need to reflect the whole picture and that is the foreign owned companies who make things here with American workers. Why? Selling big durable products is more cost effective and less risky if they are not shipped from abroad. Just ask BMW, Toyota, Husqvarna, Michelin, Mercedes, Volvo, Mitsibishi, etc. about their plants here in the US.

The bible says many things: There is a minister who upsets a few applecarts by preaching that the bible should not be cherry-picked to support points of view. His obvious example is in Genesis where God tells Adam and Eve to go forth and multiply and then gets mad at them when they like being naked with each other. The question is how did they know how to go forth and multiply? The minister’s premise is we should take away the overarching messages that are taught therein and remember the context of when the bible was written.

So, on that note, go enjoy your day, whether you choose to practice your multiplication tables or not.

 

We need Dave

One of my favorite movies is called “Dave” starring Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver. Kline plays the title character who is asked to be a puppet President propped up by the Chief of Staff (played by Frank Langella) after the President has a stroke. Dave is tapped due to his close resemblance to the President which he has parlayed into an act for parties.

Yet, Dave turns out to be a surprisingly good President who gets further enabled when the First Lady (Weaver) realizes he is a fraud and her husband (who she loathes  due to his affair) is in a coma on life support. She encourages Dave to be a true people’s President and he flourishes. Unlike the President he replaces, he focuses on jobs and helping people when needed. The best segment is when he asks his accountant, Murray, played by Charles Grodin, to find money in the budget to help disadvantaged kids and then plays his ideas out in front of his cabinet to the fury of the Chief of Staff.

Thinking of the line from Simon and Garfunkel song, “Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio, our nation turns its lonely eyes to you,” I would insert Dave’s name for the needed hero. Rather than the man who is President in name only, we need Dave to come to the rescue and take the reins. It cannot be the Vice President who has become chief sycophant to the President agreeing with every inane thing he does. We need a hero who truly cares about people and relationships, values those who serve and inspires others. The “valuing those who serve” is important as our current President shows disrespect to hard working civil servants as well as his staff and due process.

Two key undercurrents of the movie are the relationship Dave has with his Secret Service lead (played by Ving Rhames) and his respect he gains for his Vice President (played by Ben Kingsley). He values them and they show him respect in return.

So, if we could trade out Dave for Donald, we would be in a much better place. And, if he cannot do it, maybe Michael Douglas’   “The American President” could be tapped.

 

The exact opposite of what is needed

Since tribal fervor gets in the way of good information sharing and debate, we end up with laws, bills and executive orders/ comments which are the exact opposite of what is needed. This troubles me greatly, as if you took the time to look at data and explained what the change would do, people would not be supportive of the change.

Here are a few working examples:

– Treating Muslim Americans poorly, blocking travel from Muslim countries, and criticizing the London Mayor who is an exemplar of successful Muslims in the western world make us less safer. Ostracizing Muslims feeds into the recruiting messaging for Islamic extremist groups; welcoming Muslims and involving them in conversations and diligence is making us safer.

– Defunding Planned Parenthood will increase the abortion rates, health care cost and poverty. Poverty is highly correlated with larger family size. Family planning reduces the number of unwanted pregnancies. Plus, women’s health for low income families improve which saves money.

– Cutting back on renewable energy investment and tax breaks will be dilutive to job increases and rural economies. Many of the solar and wind energy jobs are occurring in rural settings where they are needed. The market for solar and wind energy continues to rapidly grow as the prices fall. Investment in these areas is accretive to growth.

– Regulation is not the enemy. Inefficient and ineffective regulation are. Dodd Frank needs improvement, but we need to be mindful of the changes. The ACA needs improvement, not repeal. Very few industry leaders advocate for regulation – it does not mean they don’t need them, especially when greed exists. We need to govern our regulation either paring, repealing or improving where needed. Here is an example – when Erskine Bowles was asked to head the Small Business Administration he reduced the application for assistance from 42 pages to two.

– Pulling back from global leadership will make the world less safer. America helps provide guardrails to global crises. The more we abdicate responsibility, the less safe it becomes for America and the rest of the world. We must be engaged and collaborative.

I have many other examples. What do you think? What are your examples?

 

More mid-week musings on D-Day

I would like to make a shout out for the memories of those veterans who stormed the beaches at Normandy and for those who are still alive to tell about the necessary horror of doing something so difficult. Imagine being on ship in transit knowing there was a good chance you might not see the next morning sun.

With that bravery in mind, a shout out is needed for all the police officers and civilians who have stood up to terrorists, whether they are Islamic extremists, white supremacists, or with mental issues they cannot control. I am so saddened by the loss of lives and their families who have to mourn and deal with their deaths. There is no honor or glory in killing innocent civilians – you are simply a murderer, no more, no less.

While not as dramatic as terrorism, the US President pulling out of the Paris Climate Change Accord was an extremely poor move. Especially with his speech citing his reasons teeming with untruthful statements. With the President mentioning jobs, he seems to be overlooking the double digit growth rate in renewable energy jobs. Per John Oliver on his recent show “Last Week Tonight,” with China investing US$ 361 billion to create 2 million renewable energy jobs, the President is creating jobs with this move, just in the wrong country.

Speaking of China and climate change, Governor Jerry Brown of California signed an agreement with the China to join together to fight climate change and promote renewable energy. By itself, if measured as a country, California is the 7th most prolific generator of solar energy. It should be noted that several other states are joining with California to support the Paris Accord.

Our President has greatly harmed America’s global leadership by pulling out of the Paris accord. We will no longer be at the grown up table as a country and will be ignored on these issues. Fortunately, we are passed a tipping point on renewable energy and these states, cities and businesses will carry our banner for us working with the rest of the globe. The President does deserves credit for galvanizing Americans to support fighting climate change.

Extremely poor form, but not surprising

Rather than focus on the obvious concerns about the timing and reasons given for the firing of FBI Directior James Comey, I want to focus on the absence of common decency exhibited by our President. Firing someone should be hard, but one thing you must do is let the person know before you tell others not involved in the process. Apparently, Comey found out while making a speech across the country after someone saw it on a TV news report.

That is extremely poor form, but not a surprise given our President’s history of taking advantage of people. It should be noted that a White House source said the President kept the firing close to the vest, so the roll out was chaotic, even beyond their normal chaos level.

As a former manager, I have had the misfortune of having to let someone go. Even after vetting the issue to make sure this action was ultimately needed, it still bothered me to have to ask someone to leave and it showed when I did it. The process must be handled with as much grace as possibly can be mustered.

Yet, our President did not take the time to make sure Comey knew beforehand. Comey served our country for many years and deserved better. When a senior person was being let go in my office by the bold line matrix management, I asked if I could sit in to honor the man’s thirty five years of service. We owed him that.

To me, it is very obvious this President is hiding something. The fact he wanted to get the firing announced in time for the evening news is telling. The fact he wanted to do something to respond to Sally Yates saying he knew well before Flynn’s firing that Flynn is trouble is telling. The fact Comey was fired after he wanted to expand the scope of the Russian investigation per several Senators is telling.

But, let’s set that aside. The fact our President fired someone and announced it before the employee acknowledged it is telling. It tells me exactly what kind of leader our President is.

A windy day at sea

On Monday, I read an article written by Bloomberg called “Costs for generating wind power at sea drop.”  The gist of the article written by Jessica Shankleman and Brian Parkin is the cost of building a wind facility offshore is now less than building a new nuclear power plant and getting closer to the cost of building a coal power plant.

It should be noted this is the cost of building and does not factor in the present value costs of retrieval, transportation, environmental degradation, distribution, maintenance, litigation and health-related costs, which make coal energy less palatable than wind energy. Just maintaining coal ash many years during and after the life of a coal-fired plant is something utilities would love to avoid, as it is the gift that keeps on giving, in a negative way.

Per the article, “Across Europe, the price of building an offshore wind farm has fallen 46% in the last five years – 22% last year alone.” The average building cost is $126 per MWH versus $155 for nuclear and $88 for coal. Yet, Henrik Poulsen, the CEO of a Danish utility, noted “If you have a sufficiently large site with the right wind speeds, then I do believe you can build offshore wind at least the same price as new build coal in many places around the world.”

Heretofore, the significant growth in wind energy has been in our plains states, with Texas leading the way. Iowa gets a third of its energy from wind energy. Yet, the US is expected to build offshore wind in a significant way in the future. Our goal is “install 86 GW of turbines at sea by 2050. That’s six times the 14 GW of capacity now in place worldwide, according to the Global Wind Energy Council.”

Wind energy has overtaken hydro-energy as the leading renewable source in the US. Like solar, it is taking off in installation and job growth. And, with the significant efforts from folks like Tesla owner Elon Musk on large-scale battery storage, it will grow even more. As we speak, Musk is helping out Australia with a power outage problem with a goal of setting up a battery storage facility in 100 days or it is free.

This is the progress that needs to be discussed as it is exciting, environmentally needed and job-creating. Investing in an increasingly obsolete energy is throwing money away.

 

 

Rewarding inefficiency

As a former consultant, I have witnessed too often how some are rewarded for their inefficiency. For those who have never worked for a consulting firm, the management goal is to bill all time to a client. So, pressure is applied to record all time spent working on that client, then pressure is placed on the account manager to bill the time charges in the system.

The dilemma begins when you are working on a set  budget for a project and the agreed upon maximum amount cannot be billed, unless you speak with the client first about why additional work is needed. With those further removed from the budgeting/ billing process, they are told to record time, whether they are inefficient or not. As they are measured on billable hours, people who are inefficient are actually rewarded for their inefficiency.

So, Joe is inefficient on his work and has 1,800 billable hours for a year. Susan is efficient and works well within budgets and has 1,500 hours. Joe will get more rewards for his work, even though the company had to write off 300 of his hours that exceeded budgets with clients. I should note this is not an uncommon dilemma. What Joe fails to realize is future project managers may say we cannot use Joe as we always have a write off. So, this may right itself long term, but in a matrix managed world, Joe does not report to the account and project managers, so he will be judged by his supervisors.

Why am I thinking of this? Our President is getting kudos from his followers for doing what he said he would do. The problem is much of what he said he would do may not be the best course of action. While I applaud looking at infrastructure and looking strategically at how we can increase domestic jobs, measures like building a wall or introducing a travel ban will do very little to accomplish making us safer and dealing strategically with immigration. Neither will ignoring the far greater terrorist threat in our country of anti-government and other domestic hate groups that are already here.

I have written earlier these tactics are more like a gorilla beating on his chest than they are about solving real problems. Data centric analysis should drive what we should do, rather than the campaign rhetoric of a man who is not known for his desire to perform due diligence. So, let’s not reward inefficiency. Let’s focus on doing smart things that can help our country. Building a wall and banning travel are inefficient.