Archive for March, 2013

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EVENT SOLUTIONS….

March 11, 2013

OK, one too many times I have been questioned about why I am not at Event Solutions….and since I am grumpy and trying to get out of town, I am going to answer with honest candor.  Much of what they are teaching at Event Solutions are things I was doing and teaching others to do 30-40 years ago.

I know the topics seem revolutionary and forward-thinking. I know they benefit a large audience.  They simply do not hold interst for me.

Yes, I am stsill interested in the big picture and growth for the future; Yes, I am glad the subjects are still being taught to educate those who have not had the fortune to have been involved in performance improvement/incentives/world travel/ and creating events that matter for as long as I have.  Unfortunately the classes offer no new value to me as I continue to serach for how to apply new adult learning ideas and basic principles to a future world.

So the cost of attending a conference in a location I did not like on my first trip in the 1970s and still do not find fun nor exciting just to see and be seen and hang out does not seem fiscally responsible to me.  Add to that Tutera, Bailey and all have become a “Been There; Done That” experience in my mind.  It was good the first time they were featured; but……

And yes, I will skip at Bahamas trip with the ISES bunch as well.  I accept I am jaded by how lucky I have been in my life, but once upon a time the ballroom sections of one the Bahamian hotels were informally called, not A, B, or C but CHERYL, JUDY, and PAT because they generally were reserved for us non-stop January-April.  So again, been there, done that, don’t need to repeat – even though the structure and perhaps the content of the gathering appears at least on the surface to hold promise and I applaud those involved in bumping up the quality of education a notch for their efforts.

Like I said, you keep asking the same question; I guess it’s time I shared the real answer.  Maybe I won’t be asked again.

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MISCELLANEOUS THOUGHT-STARTERS

March 11, 2013

 

COLLABORATION  AT THE STATE LEVEL

 When Dayton put forth his original budget, I clearly heard him say “This is Plan A’ – followed in the next breath with comments about the first step as we move to Plan B or C.

 

To me that signaled “Here’s the first pass; look at it and lets go from there to draft a final plan.

 

That approach is spelled C-O-L-L-A-B-O-R-A-T-I-O-N.  What about that do the Republicans not understand?  But judging from the cries, whines, and accusations from these folks ever since, I think they assumed they were in Pawlenty land – My way or the Highway.  So we have heard a lot of loud NOS to Plan A…but constructive, workable alternatives? Not so much.

 

And so Dayton himself is left to submit his own Plan B while they smile and claim “victory” when they should be hanging their heads in shame.   Same old…same old.  I am not impressed.

 

Now they will have a second chance.  Do we REALLY think they will catch on?  Guess we have to wait and see.

 

EDUCATION FOR CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS

 

Recent stories have launched a new Legislative discussion – the methods and costs to educate students with special needs.  And once again I have to ask:  WHY do we always focus on the problematic outcome and not the issue?  Could we discuss how we could better understand and thus control CAUSE so that perhaps we can afford the investment in educating those that are affected?. 

 

Although we focus on special “needs” because they deviate from the norm, do we ever ask – what are special strengths of these children and what are we doing to harness those strengths for the better of society as a whole?

 

Again, I am reminded of a circumstance I have highlighted before.  Thorkil  Sonne was opening a company to fill an established need – performance testing software.  As he outlined the desired skills for new employees, he recognized “neuro-typical” or “normal” people generally did not have the skill set to do well in his company; however, his autistic son was a perfect fit.  Sonne’s company now utilizes a significant number of people with autism in his workforce.

 

Sometimes I wonder if our unsuccessful search for the one answer for the cause and increase in the number of children diagnosed with autism may not be simply explained, as “we have not found the answer yet.”  Perhaps the increase of autism as we migrated to a world of computers, software and all things digital is simply the result of  evolution. Our world today needs many different skills than the world of yesteryear.  Think about it.

 

 

 

 

 

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FILIBUSTERS. CPAC, 2016 ELECTIONS and more…

March 8, 2013

Rand Paul’s Filibuster

A live filibuster!  I don’t like the approach he took; don’t agree with much of what he stands for, but I applaud Rand Paul for reminding our national statesmen what a filibuster is and how to do it.  We the people they all represent now need to insist this stalling/objections technique is indeed returned to its intended purpose for all.  Ban the silent filibusters!

After a normal legislative debate or hearing, if one is not knowledgeable and passionate enough about the issue to filibuster with thoughtful comments and reason, one should get out of the way.  Simply vote your opinion and/or that of your constituents, and hope you are in the majority.  Silent obstructionism is cowardly.

At the same time, I was pleasantly surprised to see the “angry old birds” put country over party. Now I am sure they were partly motivated by concern over dividing rifts in their party that threaten its very existence;  thus were  inspired to tack a bit towards reality. But nevertheless, McCain had to go far to put down the Fonda innuendos, and Graham certainly rose to the occasion by asking where the objections were when drones were invented, produced, and used on George W.’s watch.

All in all, I still think a filibuster staged for drama and not results is the last gasp for air and before it is done by either party, some hard questions should be asked.

On this occasion, it is a simple question:  Does the party- that for some reason prides itself on its fiscal responsibility- have any idea what the Paul stunt cost our nation? 

Add it up:  prep time plus 13 hours delivery of legislative and support staff salaries…costs just to have the sound, lights, heat, building available…all the press coverage….not to mention the cost of time lost that impact other more vital topics.

And since the focus was nonsensical and far removed from a “real” issue, perhaps an invoice for that total cost should be sent to Rand Paul directly for payment out of his “Paul for President in ‘16” campaign fund.

For that was the REAL reason for staging this show, I think!

CPAC

What can one say when this Republican gathering adopts a theme of “The Next Generation of Republicans” for their upcoming strategic gathering……and then invites Mitt Romney, Sarah Palen, Newt Gingrich, and Donald Trump as the “thought-leaders”.  OMG!

What is it about losing the 2008 and 2012 elections do they not understand?

I am beginning to see signs of desperation and meltdown here…..

 

2016 Elections

 Really folks….I know it is not as much fun, but could the pundits please focus a little on what lies before us in 2013 before picking Presidential favorites for 2016 and starting that incessant polling that means absolutely nothing?!!!

Fracking Discussions in Illinois

The negotiations between the oil industry and the environmentalists in Illinois represent a promising first step, although the list of provisions is not all-inclusive by any means.

For example:  What’s the impact of silica dust to air pollution to human harm as truck after truck hauls sand through your neighborhood every day?  What does the additional of 600-800 filled to overflowing dump trucks daily using your roads and bridges do to the infrastructure and who pays for repairs?  What is compromised in citizen traffic use on those same roads?  What is the cost of car repairs-dents and window damage- from flying debris?  What can be done about noise abatement?  What is the estimated impact on property values along the routes? And then there is the immeasurable loss in aesthetic value-as the beauty of the drift-less country along the Mississippi is destroyed.

Nevertheless, Illinois is making a first step in the right direction, I guess, and I am glad to see that discussions and collaboration are taking place at a state level and not being left to an individual neighborhood, village or township with no resources to fight the big guys. I expect some good first precedents will be set in this process that we can learn from and expand as needed.

Muslims…Exemplars of Western Ideas

A great column by Steve Chapman appeared in the Strib today.  After reading it, it made me pause and think…I suggest it become mandatory for all!

His comparison of crime/terrorist statistics for US/European Muslims vs. the track record of our own “right-wing extremists” is pretty enlightening and good food for thought for all.  If nothing else, it should trigger some fact-checking activity that jars the white “supremists”  a bit.

Unfortunately, I am afraid that “fact-checking” exercises for some will focus efforts on only right-wing resources…not any more known for truth and accuracy than those on the very left! 

At any rate, the article stopped me in my tracks; made me think twice about some of my own opinions, and see a totally different picture than I would have expected.  Good topic and good writing!

Minnesota Manufacturing Jobs

Interesting study results regarding the difficulty of filling the open Minnesota manufacturing jobs …the standard, unqualified/lack of education response appears to reflect – at least in part – a myth.

Hopefully, the study becomes a first wake up call to motivate these companies to understand they, too, need to take a look at where they stand…stuck in the 1950s or on board and moving forward to take advantage of 21st century talent, opportunities, and resources.

From what I read, this study was well worth it.  Now, how do we move forward, guided by the results?

Employment Progress

Employment statistics now mirror those of March, 2008, during the Bush Administration. What, you did not hear the celebratory bells and whistles?

I expect that is because it has now become difficult for the Republicans to continue to point to Obama as the culprit who is doing nothing to create jobs. Funny how numbers and dates give us a perspective that cannot be argued,  isn’t it?

That aside, we can only hope the Republicans will now turn from that distortion and hype to finally coming together collaboratively with the Democrats to seriously address identifying issues and crafting solutions that lead to continued growth.

Softly, though, out there in background, I am starting to hear the rumblings of the new Obama attack….Is ”It’s the economy, stupid”  being replaced with “It’s the debt ceiling, stupid”? 

The good news I guess, is that Obama has made a bold move….after trying for four years to work with McConnell and Boehner-both far too intent on making him a “one term President” and at the same time  trying to rope in some of the unruly factions of their own changing party dynamics. The President has drawn a line in sand and signaled a new approach.  He has now done an end run, has had two meetings with Republicans he invited to the table at the suggestions of informal party leaders , and we will see if this approach works to get  the disgruntled back on track and working together as they are paid to do, to solve the issues of this country.   Meanwhile, I have chosen to close my ears to the public whines of two kettles calling the pot black with their taunts of “leadership”.  I am convinced they will never see Obama leads for the generation he is; not for the generation he and others are replacing.

Miscellaneous Ramblings

Check out www.NobelPeacePrizeForum.org.  If you have an open schedule this weekend and are not drawn to the magnet of the Auto Show, this gathering at Augsburg and University of Minnesota campuses should not be missed. Brother Ali will be delivering a message that from reading his opinion piece in the STRIB today, I trust should not be missed.  All I can say is what will it take to wake up white Americans to the multicultural future of our city, state and country!

 

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FLEXTIME

March 8, 2013

Yahoo announced an end to Flextime and a few took note.  A home-based corporation, Best Buy, announced an end to Flextime and launched a war!

By this morning, the STRIB had published a surface-level front page “above the fold” summary article and the Opinion Exchange on A -11 exploded with typical back vs. white articles about a topic I am convinced is neither.

I think this is a gray issue because it is focusing a bit too much on women and how the changes impact women with families. But more than that, it raises other issues:

 Changes in technology can be a PLUS…they make it possible to stay connected and “do” some types of work; and yet in my world of events, ideas are being refined to indicate technology support is NOT the only answer and at times is the inappropriate reaction.

 

I believe the often measured advantages of face-to-face engagement also yield desired             results so perhaps it is time for our thoughts to turn towards a hybrid approach – not a traditional either/or

Traffic congestion needs to be faced head on.  Flextime has been championed as the way to reduce congestion, but we need to honestly face this issue. The 20th century model of suburbs/exurbs and 2-5 cars per family is unsustainable.

 

It may help the auto industry growth, but it contributes to a growing energy issue and increases the demands for infrastructure that many don’t want to pay for.  In today’s world we can hardly maintain existing roads and highways, let alone the expense to design and build new. It is disconcerting that top work-at-home areas are located on the fringes of the bigger metro area…and as I have pointed out previously, these are the very groups that cry help and clamor for better roads, but vote no to funding to support that infrastructure.    

he public arguments are flawed.  We are not talking either commute or use flextime connectivity.  The reality is, for the most part, some combination of the two methods is employed by most.

That said, reverting to prior practices of the 20th century is not the answer either.

Most offices are not designed to facilitate meaningful interaction and idea exchange except in a formal conference room setting…which is “somewhat” ineffective at best   

 I am convinced we will not see marked improvement or an equitable solution until “Boomer” management is either retrained or replaced.  Leadership styles we learned and were applauded and recognized for do not necessarily yield results in today’s world.  Hierarchal management does not measure well against a collaborative atmosphere where leadership takes on the role of facilitator. Eliminating flextime may seem the right answer to a boomer, as instinctively, it even does to me…but will it give us better results and more innovation with a workforce that thinks very differently than we do and is motivated in very different ways?

 

Finally, flextime discussions often attribute the growth of free-lancers and consultants totally to job loss due to the recession – thereby establishing expectations that they will go away when the economy improves.

 

Again, I dispute that.  I suggest some number of freelancers, consultants, and independents work from home because they represent a new generation – one that does not necessarily need institutional structure nor recognition to thrive.

 

Instead of dismissing these independents, we might do well to acknowledge that advancing technology gave these folks the tools they needed to free themselves from the constraints of a structured corporate world – and have no intention of returning to the fold.

 

When one weighs all the pros and cons, I maintain the discussion has no “right” answer. It is an evolving process in a world that has been forever changed by the recession, a new generation of workers and new thinking.  Just as the boomers revolutionized the workplace, so too are the younger Millennials.  Accept it; understand it; celebrate it; and maybe even try it.

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FLEXTIME

March 8, 2013
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HOMETOWN LOYALTY or RATIONAL THINKING?

March 7, 2013

Since Mayo came to St Paul and asked the state to commit to $500 million of infastructure upgrades in Rochster over 20 years to be paid for by $3 billion in state tax income which will be generated by Mayo and partners investing $ 5-6 billion in improvements and expansion, I have been trying to explain the rationale of this request to those who think wrongly that Mayo is asking for a handout- and comparing it to the football stadium.  Only an Opinion piece in STRIB by Bill George supporting this request  has been encouraging as the rest of the press about it seems to be fueling the fire of misunderstanding.

And then last night, a NEW Rochester issue surfaced.  I heard it first on KARE; verified the tone on a second news station and then read about it this morning in the STRIB.  “The Sky Is Falling” say the pundits – IBM just announced they are cutting 200 workers from ther facility in Rochester.

And once again, the pundits are not reporting; they are influencing.

I listened to and read the anouncement of cuts of 160-200 persons over the next 18 months at IBM Rochester and shook my head at the hype as it seemed to me, the Press is trying to create an issue.

At worst, it represents 5% to 7% downturn in the IBM workforce and at most a .1-2 % loss of jobs in Rochester and surrounding counties/communities as a whole.  Yes – point 1-2 percent – hardly measurable – spread out over 18 months of time.

IBM has been in midst of business shift for some time.  Yes, back in the 1950s, it opened as a manufacturing plant in my home town and at its peak, it employed 4200 persons in Rochester.  That was BIG; as Rochester at the time was relatively small – under 30,000 I think (although I have not taken the time to check that figure) That was also the IBM known round the world as BIG BLUE that manufactured a lot of BIG massive computers all over.  That was a Big Blue that did not change quickly enough and almost lost its way.  But it did change and its focus has also changed and it shows in the Rochester facility , with a new emphasis on services-NOT manufacturing.

This is now an organization known for new 21st century skills…think The Institute for Knowledge-Based Organizations, Lotusphere,  and other innovative IBM strategies – particular in the world of Social Learning.  This is the IBM featured in Tony Bingham and Marcia Conner’s guide in transforming organizations through social learning. This is not the IBM of 60 years ago!  In fact, as I reflect, mimic IBM and THINK!

But I digress.  The Rochester cuts may in fact be a balancing move to OFFSET 200 jobs added 2 years ago to supplement the services focus that now exists at the Rochester campus with its “customer solutions center, Blue Gene supercomputer technology center, and a solutions technology division that specializes in design and prototypes.”

Will it hurt Rochester?  Consensus is, probably not.  Frankly, it looks to be a responsible change!

A recognition and implementation of a shift in business focus requires different skill sets.  Rather than cut first, and then rebuild (a financial advantage to any business, but usually a burden on existing employees) perhaps IBM  chose to transition slowly over almost four years time  to change the mix of employee skills to better support their current business mission.  The overlap most likely may have cost IBM.  But in the end, they will employ the same number they employed in 2010.

So where is the issue?

For me, I think the issue is the PRESS. 

Or perhaps it’s ME?!!  Maybe unbeknownst to me, I have reverted back to another lifetime to that little town in which I was born – that had the top schools in the state, a City College that EARNED me credits when I transferred to the University, and a medical system that kept me healthy and taught me a better way of delivering medical care than anything I have experienced in the almost 50 years I have lived in the Twin Cities.

Now that thought certainly gives me something to ponder about!

 

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MAYO HOMECOMING

March 1, 2013

After 25 years of “buying local” medical support, this week I returned to the standard of excellence demonstrated at the Mayo Clinic.

The last time I received medical services at Mayo, the Gonda Building had not been built; the plazas had not been built; the streets surrounding the Mayo Building had not been closed.  So I arrived by cab at the Gonda building with a bit of trepidation…do I know where I am going?  Will I get registered and still make it to wherever I need to be for my first appointment at 7:30?

I hesitantly walked to the Admissions Desk, gave my name and was asked my first question.  Did I know my clinic number?  Why yes, in fact I have my card right here – although it is 25 years old, I said apologizing for its outdated appearance.  The person assisting me looked at the card, and immediately welcomed me home; sharing that having a number starting with “1” was indeed special and signaled a long time patient.  Yes, I said, I was born here. Well, within a minute or so, two other staff joined the conversation, extending a welcome back; glad I was returning….and explaining that clinic numbers beginning with “1” were special….less than 500,000 persons had been registered as new patients before me; and numbers issued today begin with a 7….so more than 6.5 million new patients have been processed since I was first registered. 

And then I was off to GONDA 15S to the Hands Clinic…within seconds I was welcomed and escorted to the x-ray technician for the necessary picture of my hands.  As they were being taken, I thought to myself- isn’t this nice?  No long wait; and better yet, I was getting the test the doctor needs to diagnose what is wrong with me-instead of not only paying for but going thru the “torture” of an MRI first, and THEN learning an x-ray will be a better tool.  Imagine the novelty of that.

I have spent the last 10 years being subjected to MRIs as the FIRST diagnostic tool (in 2011, 4 in one month – 3 of which were dismissed by the specialist to whom I was referred and replaced with the ordinary x-ray.)  So when we went right to the x-ray, I was impressed and comforted….as well as reminded that at Mayo, physicians earn a salary…they do not get referral fees like the physicians at the clinic I frequent.  A good sign, I thought, – I am already getting a signal that the patient and the diagnosis still comes first; not how much the referring doctor can rake in in fees which then incents him to start  with the $6000 MRI diagnostic tool first.

I was then escorted to a consultation room…and RIGHT ON TIME at 8:30, there was a knock on the door and the resident physician entered. We talked; he showed me my x-rays and explained them in detail; he tested range of motion and strength, and did many a measurement of same….and he even did range of motion and strength measurements on my neck – the source of trouble the last time I was a patient at Mayo in 1985. I was impressed with that kind of follow up.  And I was impressed that for the first time in 25 years, I am seeing the test results and having a doctor explain them to me.  What a novel idea.

I made a comment that the neck was doing well, although it had been a battle last year to get a referral to Sister Kenny for traction to treat a flare-up.  We chatted about the neck issue; I explained I now have  a second vertebrae beginning disintegration but that last year was only the second flare-up since I had visited Mayo for it 25 years previously.  I shared that my current physician had immediately started to talk surgery for a fusion last year and I had explained to him that I was specifically told by Mayo when diagnosed, that if anyone in the future recommended surgery, I was to immediately ask for a referral to Mayo – and NOT succumb to surgery without a second opinion.    We laughed that I could not remember the vertebra number that was impacted, but I had clearly remembered the rheumatologist’s advice and was adamant that surgery would NOT be done in Minneapolis…in spite of that, my Mpls. doctor sent me to an orthopedic surgeon at Sister Kenny – who took an x-ray – NOT an MRI and validated that I did not need surgery; but perhaps a little traction would give me some relief.

Fortunately the shared story led to the opportunity for me to explain that I had actually asked my Mpls. doctor for a double referral – one for the hands, and one to address the rotator cuff issue, as well as the concerns I have with my right leg and foot…residual problems from my fall in 2002. Unfortunately, my doctor in Minneapolis gave the referral for the hands only.

Now, knowing the “system” in Mpls., I presume it was an intentional overlook, as it cut my own doctor “out” of referral fees, but I admitted I had grown very distrustful of the guy and would be searching for a new doctor once I was returned from Mayo.

At this point, the doctor excused himself to have a consult with my actual staff physician to whom I had been assigned.  After a few moments, they returned together; the staff doctor asked if I was related to Sonja Kranz (she is a therapist that works with these doctors and is my nephew’s wife). We chatted about the relationship and that she had recommended at Christmas that I should now get to Mayo since I was not better.

By this time, we were all one big happy family and I was silently marveling at how well they do this; how comfortable I felt; and no anxiety for whatever may come next.

They gave me the diagnosis on the hands; they gave me three options for treatment complete with descriptions, time commitments, and success ratios; we talked a bit about fact that I was concerned whether it might be all based in rheumatoid arthritis because of history of same in my family, but that I had asked for the last two years to have my blood tested for the rheumatoid factor but it had never been done to my knowledge.  As part of the referral process, they did have the most recent blood tests from January and confirmed that no test had been done for rheumatoid factor BUT that the readings of the standard blood tests did show in three categories that something was going on with my auto-immune system. 

 Hmmm.  Isn’t it interesting that my local doctor had not picked up on that?

At any rate, I picked the medication as the first choice for treatment.  They advised the prescription was a bit expensive so that if I was NOT realizing relief fairly soon, I should call them directly and we’d make arrangements to move to the next step.  That, too, was comforting.  If it DID work, they had prescribed 3 refills and if I wanted to continue after that, again, call them directly for renewal of the prescription.

So at this point, I thought we were close to the end when the staff physician suggested if I had time, we could schedule all the tests yet that morning that would be needed for the shoulder exam and the foot/leg exam and that I could work with the Desk for a date to return for the consultation with both staff physicians.  WOW!

So off I went to the desk – where the attendant found two staff doctors with openings on the same day, and sent me to another floor for an appointment in 30 minutes to do all the needed tests.

By 11am, I was dismissed until mid-March and was on my way across the street to meet my sister for lunch.  As I waited for her in the lobby, I marveled at the experience I had just had.   YES!  This is quality of medical treatment I grew up with; this is the kind of treatment I expect and do not get in Minneapolis.  Instead, I visit with a doctor who acts like it is the first time he has seen me; remembers nothing about me and sends me to specialist after specialist – located all over the metropolitan area for tests and consults….Why in the world don’t I just go to Rochester once a year for an annual physical and be done with it?  I am sure if tests were needed, I would get them the same day, at the same facility, scheduled via an integrated system on-line …followed by resulting reports being added to that growing history – instead of vanishing into a file folder stashed somewhere non-retrievable!  

All in all, I had a wonderful Mayo Homecoming and may consider making them my “Home Base” once again!