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Archive for the ‘poor leadership’ Category

Watching it burn

Some of us who have managed projects know a little bit about budgets. Simply put, a budget is a bucket of money set up to pay for all of the line items in a project – or a series of projects.

Typically, the budget is set based on little things like what the client (internal or external) is looking to accomplish, what the client is able to spend, and ROI: (Return On Investment) Do the project’s benefits outweigh its cost, etc.

If you’re thinking “wow, that sounds like it takes a lot of planning and strategery,” you’re right. It does. The one thing you want to ensure as a project manager is that the goals, tactics and budget are aligned before a project starts: If the project is going to cost more than the budget allows, something is going to have to be cut from the project. Simple, basic stuff. If you don’t do this, you might run out of money before the project ends, which isn’t good. Your options then are a) ask the client for more money, b) close the project before having delivered it 100%, or c) eat the added cost. None of these options are good.

It’s with this simple methodology that I look at our federal budget deficit. Is it more complex than a marketing campaign? Of course it is. Infinitely so. But the principle is the same: Figure out how much funding you need to operate your series of projects (social security, national defense, infrastructure, research, wars, etc.), make the necessary adjustments, and go forward with what you can afford.

… Except… that isn’t how everyone understands the fundamentals of running a business/country. The latest Budget Deficit figures look pretty impressive. From CNN.com:

The White House on Monday predicted a record deficit of $490 billion for the 2009 budget year, a senior government official told CNN.

The deficit would amount to roughly 3.5 percent of the nation’s $14 trillion economy.

The official pointed to a faltering economy and the bipartisan $170 billion stimulus package that passed earlier this year for the record deficit.

The fiscal year begins October 1, 2008.

The federal deficit is the difference between what the government spends and what it takes in from taxes and other revenue sources. The government must borrow money to make up the difference.

President Bush inherited a budget surplus of $128 billion when he took office in 2001 but has since posted a budget deficit every year.

Wow.

Maybe I am reading this wrong, but if the FY’09 $490 BILLION deficit is indeed for the 2009 budget year, we’re talking about overspending $1,342,465,700 per day for 365 days in a row.

Wait… Let me get this straight. The US government is overspending (all up) at a rate of 1.3 BILLION dollars per day?

Tell me I’m not understanding this correctly. Please. Someone tell that figure needs to somehow be stretched out over the last 8 years or something… Pretty please? Tell me there is no way that the United States of America’s operating budget is so poorly managed that it bleeding $1.3B per day. Tell me I am wrong about this.  Tell me there is a plan to fix this. One that doesn’t involve a) just printing more money, or b) borrowing from foreign banks.

Maybe this kind of topic changes the conversation when it comes to what types of questions really need to be on people’s minds (and lips) when political candidates (from Presidential elections down to your municipal seats) run for office. Maybe the conversation should shift from soft broad-sweeping opinions about religion and security to cold hard facts and specific plans to fix what is broken. And by the way, this isn’t an indictment of either political party. Republicans and democrats together need to fix this – which is to say this isn’t just about this candidate or that one, but about us, American taxpayers and voters, who perhaps should refocus our attention when it comes to our definition of political leadership, and what our silver-haired years will be like, and the future our children will inherit.

Maybe there’s a branding lesson in there somewhere, both for world powers and the political candidates who aspire to help run them.

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Metallica is writing the book on how to sink an A-list brand (namely their own).
Step 1: Lose your relevance sometime in the mid 90’s and see sales dwindle over the next decade. Blame music downloads and the MP3 format for your market downturn – instead of accepting that you’ve lost touch with the times.
Step 2: Instead of adapting to a changing market and embracing new distribution channels (which worked well for thousands of bands, including the Greatful Dead) hire lawyers to try and fight the entire world. Hope that you can sue the world into not changing.
Step 3: When things don’t go your way, bitch and moan until you’ve repositioned yourself as the brand that constantly bitches and moans instead of making music… and has nothing to show for it.
Step 4: Make a point to put personal gain ahead of your fans, and scream it off every media rooftop. For years on end. Until even your peers think you’re out-of-touch morons. “We need to make more money!!! We’re rock stars!!! You people are stealing our product every time you listen to it!!! We will sue you for listening to our songs!!!!”
Step 5: Spend more time in court than in the studio or on tour.
Step 6: Run out of money and decide it’s time to get back to being a band since the fighting the world deposition at a time gig isn’t working out so well. Only it’s too late to get back to your roots because you stopped being artists and musicians long ago, and you suck now. You’re just too stupid to see it yet.
Step 7: This whole media2.0 thing sounds fly, so you invite bloggers to come listen to some of your studio sessions in the hopes that they will share their amazement at your crazy-cool talent. Surely, this will revive your career. Only you’re too old, the gig is up, and the bloggers aren’t going to lie about it.
Step 8: When your bonehead plan backfires and the bloggers’ reviews turn out to be pretty negative, threaten to sue them.
Step 9: Realize that what you need is good old PR and advertising. Upon getting a few quotes, start looking for promising lawsuits to file in order to finance your comeback.
Read the story here. It’s pretty funny… yet sad.
What a bunch of dopes. Just make good music for crying outloud!!!

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Ask any Army infantryman, Marine or even Naval aviator what they think of the Air Force, and they’re likely to scoff at the question. Some will be polite and try to spin something nice. Most will just tell you what they really think – which isn’t great.

And honestly, when this is the kind of decorum the Air Force breeds into its officers as they graduate from its “prestigious” academy, perhaps we can infer that its leadership issues start early.

Without getting too political here, it doesn’t help that the Commander-in-Chief doesn’t seem to know how to behave in public either. Especially while the US is at war.

Especially as US servicemen and women are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Especially as the Air Force is days away from firing its two most senior officers in a very public and embarrassing series of unacceptable scandals.

This is clearly not the kind of image the Air Force needs to be perpetuating right now.

I won’t dwell on the President’s bizarre behavior… but I can’t help but wonder about the kind of young officer who would find it acceptable to chest bump the Prez.

Seriously. Where are we? In a frat house? Earth to the bonehead in uniform acting like a complete jackass: You are bumping chest with the commander-in-chief. Get a friggin’ clue.

Why have uniforms at all if you’re going to act like a dumb college kid at the first opportunity to goof off? Why salute at all? Why have any sense of rules and procedures when you’re in the Air Force? After all, this is the era of “whatever,” right? None of that old, stiff military crap matters anymore, right? The uniform is just for show these days anyway, right? Something cool to wear to score girls on Friday nights?

Think again (from the Guardian):

The US air force’s two most senior officers were sacked yesterday after repeated blunders in nuclear weapons handling, including the mistaken shipment of detonators to Taiwan and the bungled transport of six deadly cruise missiles by unsuspecting pilots.

The air force chief of staff, General Michael Moseley, and civilian secretary Michael Wynne were asked to resign by senior Pentagon officials in advance of a report that is expected to pass embarrassing judgment on the nuclear errors.

The resignations had been expected amid simmering tension between the defence secretary, Robert Gates, and air force leaders. Gates has blasted the air force as not fully committed to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, urging it to send more of the unmanned planes known as Predators into the war.

“Because people were stuck in old ways of doing business, it’s been like pulling teeth,” Gates said in a speech this spring to the air force academy.

Yet the deciding factor in the military shakeup appears to be two nuclear slip-ups by the air force, which Moseley and Wynne have led since 2005. The air force admitted in March to sending Taiwan nuclear fuses that it believed were helicopter batteries, a gaffe that one senior defence official called “disconcerting”.

A bigger mistake came 10 months ago, when six nuclear missiles were flown from North Dakota to Louisiana without any of the air force officials on board knowing about their hazardous cargo. The incident was deemed so serious that President George Bush was immediately notified. The air force unit that flew the six missiles failed a safety inspection only last month, according to the Washington Post.

Moseley was also reprimanded by Pentagon auditors in April for pushing ethical boundaries in his friendship with two private contractors who won a $50m (£26m) contract in 2005 to produce flight shows for the air force.

The Pentagon inspector general found in April that the contract to promote the Thunderbirds aerial stunt team was tainted by improper influence and preferential treatment. No criminal conduct was found.

Moseley was not singled out for blame, but the investigation laid out a trail of communications from him and other air force leaders that eventually influenced the awarding of the contract. Included in that were friendly emails between Moseley and an executive in the company that won the bid.

“It is my sense that General Moseley’s command authority has been compromised,” Senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat on the Senate armed services committee, said at the time.

Replacements for the two leaders were not immediately announced. Forcing out both the uniformed and civilian chiefs of a military service is a rare move, but Gates sacked the army secretary last year amid a scandal over the mistreatment of injured soldiers at the Walter Reed hospital in Washington.

Bush was aware of the resignations but “played no role” in the process, according to the White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.

Having been a military officer, I can tell you with absolute certainty that the type of behavior that led to the Air Force’s troubling lack of professionalism over the last few years (and its dreadful reputation across the services) begins with the kind of senseless dumbassitudes displayed during this year’s commencement ceremonies: You cannot divorce bad command decisions from bad decisions. The “what the hell” attitude that allows a graduating cadet/officer to treat the President of the United States like a frat buddy is the same kind of attitude that leads officers to lose six nuclear warheads for a few hours, or to think it’s okay to sell out their office for financial gain.

Professionals take their jobs, responsibilities and behavior in public seriously. Unprofessional people don’t. And in the case of a military organization, lack of professionalism kills.

The Air Force Academy would have done better to train its graduating class to salute the President and not get dragged into his bizarre behavior. I am quite sure that servicemen and women operating in war zones would have respected them a whole lot more for it.

Instead, these graduating men and women in blue only perpetuated the decades-old anti-Air Force sentiment that leads to the reactions I have been hearing all week: “Yeah, well… that’s the Air Force for ya. What did you expect?”

I don’t know what I expected. Maybe some common sense. Maybe some decorum. I guess I was thinking about the wrong branches of the military.

But then again, maybe Monday, I’ll go bump bump chests with my CEO.

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