Posts made in November, 2011

Appreciation…the mark of a leader

Posted by on Nov 25, 2011 in Leadership | 0 comments

As I celebrate Thanksgiving here in the US with my family, I think about the meaning of the holiday.  In its most basic terms, this holiday is about appreciation.  We are appreciative for the things we have – our freedoms, our families, our friends, traditions shared around a great meal.  It’s a time to reflect. It’s interesting that a country makes it a priority to stop to appreciate.  This day commemorates both the individual and collective act of appreciation; and, to me, it serves as poignant metaphor and a reminder to the leaders of organizations.  Appreciation is one of the rare human behaviors that motivates regardless of culture, age, or geography.   It is universal.  Not only is it universal, it is the supreme motivator.   People will literally die for appreciation.   Napoleon Bonaparte recognized the power of appreciation when he said, “A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon.” ...

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Understanding human-caused downtime

Posted by on Nov 18, 2011 in Incidents/Downtime | 3 comments

In my thirty or so years of working in mission critical facilities, I have studied and investigated many incidents involving human-caused downtime.  Most of these incidents fall into five major groupings – all preventable. Communication Errors Spoken communication is tough.  If you don’t believe it, just ask the people working on Siri, Dragon, or other speech-recognition software.  Local slang, vernacular, pronunciations, and meanings can add confusion and misunderstanding.   When I reported to my first submarine in the Navy, there were announcements being made over the boat’s PA system that I didn’t understand for a couple of weeks.   Usage of abbreviations, local designations, and “speed announcing” made it difficult to understand.   Another problem I noticed:  For those that had been there for some time, the announcements actually faded into the background noise…another very dangerous situation, especially since these were important safety announcements.  Have you ever listened to a song on the radio and then later realized the actual lyrics were something entirely different than what you thought?  Our minds can play tricks on us.  Oftentimes, we hear what we want to hear or expect to hear (Hearing What We Want to Hear, 4/1997, Chenausky).   Add to that communications that are not clear…such as using letters like “C”, “B”, and “D” within spoken operational orders and you start to appreciate the complexities that we interject into our communications.  How we communicate can add risk to our operations....

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Training costs — but the lack of training costs more

Posted by on Nov 14, 2011 in Training | 0 comments

“In 1979, the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station suffered a meltdown which caused billions of dollars in losses. One of the main contributors to the accident was lack of training (Presidential Commission Report, 1979). In 2008, a powerful explosion at the Bayer CropScience plant in West Virginia caused the death of two operators and injured eight others. This plant was producing methyl isocyanate (MIC), the same gas that killed over 4,000 in Bhopal, India. The explosion was caused in part by lack of training (U.S. Chemical Safety Board, 2009). Though not as dramatic, but possibly just as costly, Google’s reputation was tarnished and the company lost millions of dollars after they experienced an outage of all of their App Engine applications. One of the listed causes of the outage was a lack of training (Google, Inc., 2010). There are countless examples of why training is such an important investment for mission critical facilities....

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Beat Google!

Posted by on Nov 11, 2011 in Innovation | 0 comments

When I worked for a large data center co-location provider, I was privy to the headquarters of several large internet companies.  During this time, these companies were in fierce competition for the Internet search market.  When I visited Yahoo, there were signs up that said “Beat Google!”  I was at Microsoft and there were signs saying “Beat Google!”  A few months later, I started work at Google and I saw a sign on one of the cubicles that said “Beat Google!” Google was one of the most innovative companies I had ever worked for.  And being involved in that environment made me realize that truly innovative companies never keep their focus on “the competition.”  Instead, they focus on how they can advance their passions.  Apple, under Steve Jobs, focused on his passion for elegance and simplicity – and that focus literally turned Apple into a company that helped define our culture.  Google focuses on doing “cool” things and in the process changed the way we find things on the Internet and how we navigate this world.  Jeff Bezos followed his passion for business – writing up the business plan for Amazon while driving from New York to Seattle – and revolutionized retail.  I’m pretty sure that any business Jeff wanted to pursue would have been wildly successful. ...

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