School to hand out iPads to eighth-graders & A New Poll

Check out the perks of middle school in the 21st century tween twilight year:

via Education Digest, June 23, 2013: Summer classes offered to techies – Santa Cruz Sentinel.

When the 2013-14 school year begins this fall at Holy Cross Middle School..[ed. Santa Cruz, Ca.], the eighth-grade class will receive iPads to enhance their educational experience. The school has been working to develop an integrated curriculum that uses the high tech devices as a teaching tool in grades kindergarten through seventh-grade. In August, each eight-grader will receive an iPad to use as their own personal interactive technology based learning platform, said principal Michael Hooper.

Wow. I wish I was an eighth grader, again!

Wait.

No, I don’t.

<shudder>

The idea of getting a new iPad had me there for a minute…until I remembered actually being in the eighth-grade .

Yeah. I don’t think having the entire Apple Computer company bestowed, itself, could secure a do over of that slice of rusty razor blade heaven. May the iForce be with you, kids.

California EDD is a Bully

Conspiracy theories have never interested me and gratefully, I don’t experience paranoia. There have been only one or two occasions where I had to recognize that I was being targeted and even then, I ignored the signs until it was impossible not to escape what had become obvious. Generally speaking, I guess I just prefer not to worry about much. Acknowledging and believing any of the things I just mentioned kind of creates a need to worry, so I avoid that.

Today, though, I have to admit that I am dealing with a bully and a very nasty, powerful bully at that.
The California Employment Development Department has become a government sanctioned bully. I don’t think it has always been the case, but, now I can’t ignore the signs.

When I won a recent appeal of an EDD determination, the ALJ (Administrative Law Judge) told me to expect repercussions because my file was evidently flagged. To be truthful, I chose not to believe her. I countered this warning in my head by thinking she must be having some personal issues with her job and was venting some resentment.

I should have heeded her warning.

Since that appeal hearing, the EDD has been relentless. The ALJ decision reversing their determination and reinstating my claim has been ignored. But that is the least of the tornado unleashed by the EDD on my attempts to continue with my claim.

I have received letter upon letter of determinations that claim the exact same accusations and denial of benefits that my original appeal had addressed, and I have had to separately request an appeal for each and every one of them. Even though the requests were received and even though the law requires that a determination be reviewed upon notice of appeal, there will be no review. There will be no admission of receiving my appeal request forms. Despite my having their own documentation stating that the paperwork was received, it doesn’t matter.

Because they are allowed to act without oversight, without a means to contact and without being held accountable to tell the truth or obey their own laws, some of us, the unemployed in California, are dealt with brutally. They hold our feet to the fire, requiring compliance with their rules while withholding benefit payments that are needed in order to comply.
And then they run you up a flag pole, directing you to send email that is then ignored and whether or not it gets a response, the information in the message is kept out of your file. There is no record of giving them the information they demanded be sent.

What is in your file may shock you. In my case, an interviewer documented statements he claimed I had made that were diametrically contradictory to what had actually been said. Then he based the decision to deny benefits and demand repayment with penalties for lying on the false statements he attributed to having been made by me.

Fortunately, the ALJ reviewed the evidence and the actual circumstances negated the possibility that I had made these statements. The EDD lied and the judge reversed their decision.
But they weren’t penalized. In fact, they don’t care what was decided. They refuse to pay benefits and there is nothing ANYONE can do about that.

They are one, unsupervised and out of control bully terrorizing whomever they please in the ranks of the unemployed. They kick and abuse the people with the least ability to protect themselves. They force people to live in a limbo state where they can no longer purchase food but also do not qualify for subsidized food programs. They force us to search for work hungry, often rendered homeless and to interview in clothes we can no longer afford to wash travelling by foot after having been forced to liquidate the family car in order to survive another unexpected month of absolute poverty.

Who is responsible for this? Who is supposed to be watching and accounting for the actions of the EDD? Why have they been given freevreign to abuse their powers? It is wrong. It is so very wrong. I hope someday they are held to justify the havoc and suffering they caused to those who were chosen as “flagged”.

It is a total disgrace.

“Is there ever any certainty that you’re doing the right thing right now?”

This question I ask myself frequently. Frequently meaning once per heartbeat, sometimes more depending on what I’m doing. I don’t think I’m kidding.

So, when I read about it at the zenhabits blog, my response to myself was: “What a brilliant post.”

In the vernacular found only inside my head, that means that I think I need to print this out and put it somewhere where I can see it. It could alternatively mean that I want to have it tattooed on the back of my hands, but, that’s ridiculous because then I can’t save phone numbers and grocery lists there, anymore.

The blog post’s title The Worry That You’re Doing the Wrong Thing Right Now hooked me at the word “Worry” because I normally don’t. I’m not a “worrier”.  You know who you are because everyone else usually knows, too. I’ve not met many worriers that don’t share their worries.

I’ll be honest, hearing another person’s worries annoys me. Not all the time, but it specifically does when that worry includes something I raised concerns about prior to their embarking upon whatever it is that is worrying them now, after disregarding the concern.

Why would you beg me to say “I told you so.” this way? I really don’t want to be that person. So, instead, that annoyance heard in my voice is the best I can do to not cave and be that person.

It turns out though that there are a few things I do worry about and when I do worry, I go big, so these are not momentary thoughts or preserved for times committed to rumination. They run as an infinite loop and if not for my finding a break point, like a solution or death, I have no doubt that into perpetuity they would go.

I do worry about knowing what the right thing is that I should be doing in that moment. This can result in my starting everything and finishing nothing. It can also result in my not doing anything at all if enough energy is given to the worry and paralysis sets in. That would have the potential to do interesting things to my self esteem if I believed in that concept. (That’s the subject of a different post.)

If you share this worry, check out this zenhabits blog. I can’t imagine any reason why you wouldn’t like what you read.

Transparency is More than a Buzzword

I take a radical position when it comes to the concept of transparency. At least I do when it involves people in a role that makes them responsible for the care and safety of another person. You are entrusted with another person’s care and trust when you are in a position of power and are another person’s access to the resources they must have in order to be protected from harm. This includes supervisors responsible for managing employees, parents raising dependent children, people who bring animals into their home, elected officials and many others. You get the idea.

Bottom line being: If you are in a role of responsibility for someone else and you believe that you have to keep some things “unaccounted” for (secretive), you shouldn’t be in that role.

In this post, I use the example of a parent to dependent children.irresponsible

Recently, I read a post written by someone who felt guilty for outing her sister to the father of her sister’s children. She discovered that her sister was habitually using methamphetamine and after she witnessed some perceived effects it was having on her sister’s ability to parent her kids, she contacted their father and let him know that her sister had acquired a meth habit.

From the perspective of a mother, the ex-wife of an addict, and someone who has her own history of making irresponsible or unhealthy choices (like drinking half a bottle of Southern Comfort when I was 13 on New Year’s Eve. I still gag thinking about it.), her post struck quite a few chords in me.

I’ll preface what follows by solemnly swearing that my intent is not to come across as being self righteous or morally superior. I’m not. And though it is true that the reckless behaviors  I refer to occupied the time prior to and to a lesser degree, after my kids were either grown, graduated or gone, it was not only a function of my being a ‘responsible mother’. It also helped that I was either married or too busy to make time in my life for high-risk behaviors.

And, when I have made the time, I usually did so for incredibly pathetic reasons like, for example, not wanting a guy to lost interest and go away. My rationale being that by engaging in whatever he was interested in was the only way to save the relationship.

A number of years and cars and jobs and homes and infidelities and bad memories and attorneys and heartaches and lost opportunities later, I know that irrational and unhealthy decisions are made by both addict and non-addict, by both the inebriated and the sober alike.

As a lifelong enabler, I am here to tell you that the addicts and alcoholics I have had in my life had nothing on my crazy making behavior when I stopped being accountable to myself.

My reason for admitting this is very specific: I want anyone who faces a similar guilt as the author of the post who felt terrible because she said something about one parent’s drug use to the other parent, to know that you did the right thing. To the woman who inspired me to write this, I applaud you for recognizing that your sister’s children could be at risk and doing something to protect them.

Realizing that kids are not empowered with a means or an ability to protect themselves from the fall out of their parent’s choices or unexpected circumstances (like illness and job loss), provides them the opportunity to have an alternative outcome. If someone is not willing or able to realize that they need to provide better circumstances for their kid’s sake, bringing those circumstances to the other parent’s attention (If not the other parent, someone who is in a position to both care and make relevant decisions) is a courageous and necessary thing to do.

Bluntly speaking, if a self-determining adult chooses to do things that they believe needs to be kept secret in order for their children to remain in their care, there may be a good reason why.

I understand that may be a controversial assertion, but in my world, self-determination begins and ends with one’s own self and once it bleeds over to determinations made for a different self, there is a very high bar to clear–especially–when the other person whose life is being determined for them is completely vulnerable and their very lives dependent on someone being responsible for their survival.

If, for example, her sister was deciding to act (as is her prerogative) in a way that she believed could not be made transparent to the father of those children because it puts her role at risk, then her role, by default, should not serve in the capacity of being accountable for her kids.

Being accountable means you are the one responsible to account FOR something TO someone. That someone is, by and large, a stakeholder in whatever it is entrusted to your care.

A stakeholder is someone with a vested interest–not a passive, passing, past, former, fleeting, or future interest–but someone who has a quantifiable real investment and has made a commitment to the success of that investment. Success for accountability is measured by the outcome. How well did you account for the thing under your watch to stakeholders? A poor accounting will create a risk that the outcome will be failure. When it comes to our kids, any amount is an unacceptable amount of risk.

So, in this case, the sister made a few decisions. One of those decisions, in particular, to not refrain from using methamphetamine, deservedly got her “fired”.
You can’t both decide to be accountable for the life and development of a human being and then not account to their stakeholders the choices you make that are potentially dangerous for the person you are responsible for. You can’t be both for and against a thing entrusted to your care.

You must step up to that trust or you must step down from that position of responsibility.

It is all or nothing because if self-determination is to exist, it must exist completely or it just doesn’t exist at all. If you make choices from a position of power that prevents someone else from determining how they live, you are a tyrant. Left unexamined, tyranny destroys individuality. Where there is no individuality, there is no self to make determinations for. Humanity becomes a collective hive of interchangeable commodities–no one is indispensable, no one is excellent, and no one matters. Not even the tyrant.

To the author of the post: I hope you don’t lose a second of sleep wondering whether or not it was a good idea to let dad know that there were circumstances left unaccounted for that he should know. The children wouldn’t be able to do this for themselves. You served as their proxy and that was the only right choice.

The Price of Prevention in Partner Management

I intrunawayissueerviewed for a job, recently, with the CEO of a start-up company in San Francisco. While describing some ideas about projects that contribute to a positive customer experience, I brought up the subject of managing problems early enough to prevent them from having a negative impact on customers of a product.

In this case, the context is an integrated solution that incorporates business partner products or product APIs. The changes by either the partner’s development team or the company’s engineering group need to be mutually compatible so that both are releasing viable working solutions to a mutual customer base.

In a context such as this, which is becoming increasingly common, changes will be introduced that cause a problem. The problem may be noticeably apparent to the end user or it may be completely obscured from the user perspective that has a range of possible consequences that determine its relative urgency to resolve.

Unless the problem is found internally during product testing and easily traceable to the changes responsible, there will be a window of time left open where the problem has been confirmed to exist and the root cause has not been identified. This is when it would, I told my interviewer, be advantageous to have had implemented a system that provides a road map for managing co-development with the partner ecosystem.

Specifically, I used one example of the many components such a system includes, and that was conflict management. When serving a mutual customer that is experiencing a problem with a product that combine separate development efforts from more than one company, there is often that window of time left open that I mentioned earlier when it is unclear where the source of the problem originated.

Unfortunately, this also can lead to finger pointing and unnecessary delays to solving the problem. Without having a system in place or at the least, an attentive and experienced person who recognizes the need for a resolution path, the communication breaks down and heels get dug into the ground while the customer, the company and the partner experience loss of trust in their relationship to one another.

I realized while talking with the interviewer about this one specific area of the partner management strategy, that he was either not aware of this possibility or believed that it wasn’t that important.

Not an uncommon perspective. The truth, however, is that the consequences for each of these un-managed conflicts is the significant loss of resources, and worse, the potential to damage relationships with both customers and within the business ecosystem that are not recoverable.

Being aware of how detrimental the costs of unmitigated risks such as this actually are to your business is the first step to preventing them from undermining success in the market. This is not an exaggerated claim.

I have studied and been engaged in escalations within a company that ultimately cost millions of dollars in lost revenue, lost customers and lost business relationships. That was for only one issue and it was an issue I discovered could have been resolved before it ever began had the first indications of a pending conflict been successfully managed.

I didn’t have the chance to explain any of this during my interview and without understanding why it’s so important to implement such a system, my idea about creating virtual mediation opportunities in the Cloud went as far as one ear and didn’t even get so far as to pass through the other. I was met, instead, with a furrowed brow and look of confused annoyance.

So, I learned an important lesson about both CEOs and interviews. CEOs are probably unaware of issues at the level of product development and talking about initiatives that a CEO is unable to associate with relevancy to an interview is likely to cause them to think their time is being wasted. Wasting any interviewer’s time doesn’t bode well on anyone’s interview success.

The interview, I may have bombed. However, I did leave with reinforcement of my belief that not enough awareness exists in the upper layers of the corporate enterprise about why escalations happen and how to prevent many of them. Without this awareness, there will not be the requisite support to implement a system that addresses this component of having a partner ecosystem and the losses will continue to bleed companies of money, customers and relationships.

Where do we begin to fix this problem of awareness in an industry? A company? An organization? A team? A manager?

Why No-one Likes the HR Lady

I just finished reading the article When You Google “Human Resources Is”… posted on SmartRecruiters‘ blog. In it, the author explains his theory as to why company HR departments are generally disliked by both rank and file employees as well as management and executive level staff.

It’s difficult to argue with the point he makes that the HR function is perceived as corporate policing and basic party pooping.

It is probably true that people, inImage general, are not inclined to enjoy following someone else’s directives to do or not do whatever it is that is supposed to be done. Personally, I can admit that the surest way to get me to do something is to tell me that I can’t or that I am not allowed to do that thing. It is a red scarf taunting a bull. Of course, this is my first reaction, which is not something I necessarily can control.

I am, however, fully accountable for the very next thing I do and because I realize that this reactionary response on my part does not serve me well in adult society, I put the brakes on having fits when I’m told what to do by people in positions of legitimate authority–like, for example, the CHP officer that pulled me over for speeding. I wasn’t speeding but that really didn’t matter at the time.

When the nice man tells me to give him my license, registration and proof of insurance I don’t choose that time as my opportunity to express my opinion about how I think he’s doing his job. I smile, sign my ticket and thank him for his service and speed off. If I am not interested in losing my current job, when HR tells me I must do something, my big girl brain is capable of respecting the rationale behind the directive. I appreciate their service. No, really. I do. If I am able to understand and abide by the rules, I suspect most other people are, as well, so I think there is also something else going on as to why we so unilaterally think HR sucks.

So there is some truth in the idea that the function contributes to the general unpopularity of HR, but, I also think there’s another more problematic antagonist. HR is a department staffed with people who unlike anyone else in the organization, is afforded an extraordinary & singular amount of power.

The people who represent HR have access to information that is available to no one else. They are not required and therefore do not reciprocate the favor of providing essential insights. Coupling this with the ability to disrupt someone’s means of putting food on the table and a roof over their family’s head, it is, I think, appropriate that they are given something of a hairy eyeball.

What I mean is, if anyone is afforded unique and unparalleled privilege & power, I fully expect that to be accompanied by a requisite level of accountability and oversight. But, that’s not what I typically see in an organization.

Typically, I notice HR is staffed by people who don’t instill much confidence in me that they can handle this kind of power without letting it get the best of them. Power makes people heady. It’s seductive. It likes to be seen and it likes to show off. What better vehicle to use than someone who is of average intelligence and just graduated from college with a B.A. in Comparative Literature? Of course, not every individual fits that stereotype, but it only takes one of them to ruin someone’s whole day when there is inadequate oversight.

It’s not their fault, of course. The problem, ultimately, is with company leadership. When the article asserts that executives (aka company leaders) are equally disdainful of the HR role, it reinforces my suspicion that many companies are being led by well compensated place holders for leadership because if the executive teams are comprised of people who feel intimidated or annoyed by HR representatives in their company, than who the heck is actually running the business? Who is responsible for the HR  culture at the company? Who is overseeing the people wielding all that power? That is what makes this sentiment a chilling one to consider. I have met some of these leaders and their HR representatives and the impression is one that doesn’t cast a favorable light on the business, in general.

What Triggers an Alliance Partner Escalation? Part 1

When an issue exists that is important to one of your company’s Alliance partners, these are some of the reasons why the issue will be escalated by the partner.

  • Partner perceives a lack of attention or priority to resolving their issue
      • Over promising and under delivering: Include a buffer when giving time estimates. Assume something will go wrong and build that time into the decision.
      • Not engaging the right people soon enough. The right people are necessary to provide the right information. If not included from the beginning, the wrong people are going to provide the wrong information.
      • Add a cushion of time to absorb unanticipated delays when estimating how much time until something can be delivered. Never promise an ETA without knowing what actually needs to be done to deliver.
      • Don’t promise anything that requires the work of someone else unless that person is on board with doing that work.
      •  If not explicitly set or checked for them and mutual understanding is not confirmed, Partners will naturally create their own expectations and make assumptions
         And, so, in fact, will everyone else — you, me, and especially HP!
  • If a Partner thinks a response is inappropriate (unexpected or unreasonable), it reinforces the idea that it is necessary to engage more authority in order to have problem solved.  That’s a trigger.
  • When unrecognized or mismanaged, an escalation trigger can result in an unmanaged escalation driven by inflated urgency.

Example:

A  Partner expresses concern, doubt, anger, frustration or expresses disagreement with a decision or expresses an urgency on their part AND does not receive an adequate reaction & response.

    • The right person should engage with the Partner to acknowledge what was expressed and to discover what expectation wasn’t met. If they discover the expectation was not “set” correctly or was based on a false assumption, an adjustment can be made. If the expectation was created when a commitment was made to the Partner, this person will determine what needs to happen next.

 

10 Ways to Prevent Frustrating Delays To Resolving Alliance Partner Issues


Do these things to prevent untimely resolution of an alliance partner’s issue

  1. Submit all the criteria expected when creating a problem report and submitting it to an issue tracking system.
  2. Make sure you have an issue tracking system. Home grown is fine as long as it creates a unique identifier for each submission and keeps an accurate historical record that can be referred to later.
  3. Anticipate what information will be requested by the first person to respond.
  4. Begin securing resources or availability to resources when the problem report is submitted.
  5. Do not allow a problem report to sit in a ‘need info’ or ‘pending some information’ status. The goal is to have the status set to ‘assigned’ or some equivalent to it is receiving active attention from the right resources.
  6. Provide what is requested or required before critical windows of opportunity close.
  7. Don’t advocate for solutions to problems that have no value to your company in solving.
  8. Let the Partner know that they will be expected to participate in the process by providing access to whatever equipment, information, or testing is not otherwise available to your company in order to resolve their problem.
  9. Document a potentially escalating situation immediately. Notify the appropriate teams to create or update their problem watch list BEFORE there is a crisis.
  10. The expected response and status update requirements should be listed in a Service Level Agreement (Your company has these in place, right?). If they are not being met, make a push or notify the people who have the power to push.
  11. Keep all information and communication linked to the problem report. Keep this information organized. If not added to the problem report documentation, preserve its history. For example, send to an archived list and refer to the thread in the documentation or create an archive for this purpose.

Escalations – Part 1

cat_in_danger

What is an escalation?

When word of a new issue begins circulating on the water cooler circuit and in management meetings, I often, if not always, hear some variation of one of the following comments:

“I don’t think this should be an escalation.”

“This is not an escalation.”

“We shouldn’t treat this as an escalation.”

Each of these has its’ own meaning and intent, but, the truth is, once a problem has been addressed outside the expected solution domain with more resources, which includes capturing the attention of senior management, that problem already is escalated.

These additional resources also include intensification or expansion of visibility and an application of greater effort or investment of time.

So, we can think whatever we like about an issue, but, if we are spreading word of it in our conversations or spending brain cycles thinking about it when we hadn’t been previously, by definition, the issue is escalated.

And, that is not a problem. The real problem is that people often react very strongly to the term “escalation”. Depending on the organization, it could carry such a negative connotation, that just a strategically placed mention of it in a discussion thread is enough to change the course of an entire project. I have seen it happen more times than I can remember in one particular group.

However, stepping back from what it means to escalate an issue by separating the things accompanying it that we have experienced such as commitment of expensive resources and unfavorable attention that disrupts the flow of plans and strained relationships, the term itself is unrelated to any of the negative consequences attributed to it.

An escalation is simply a description of what we can readily observe. It is a previously unresolved issue that has been determined to need something that it hasn’t received or cannot receive in the initial solution domain. This determination led someone to bring additional attention to the issue by asking for a different solution domain.

This could happen for a few reasons. Primarily, however, it always has an initial cause and that is change. Something has changed. This is where the real difficulty is that people attribute to the escalation, itself. Prior to an issue escalating, something changed and when it did, the people who are escalation phobic weren’t prepared and may not have been aware of the change or its significance.

So, to reiterate, as far as the definition of the term “escalation” is concerned, a problem that continues to be addressed using the same resources and as a result continues to be a problem may cause an intensification of consequences, but until the resources are altered to address the problem, it is not an escalation. It’s becoming a potentially more difficult problem to solve, but the problem isn’t escalated until something changes to take the problem outside the solution space.

What does “outside the pool of expected solution resources” mean?

Outside the pool means

“Intensification or expansion of visibility and an application of greater effort or investment of time”

Solution resources means

“Focus, materials, effort and time required to solve a problem.”

So, in a business context, an expected pool of resources for a problem is the pool established for solving problems that might occur during the course of business operations. The resource pool established in a Finance department will be different than the resource pool established by an Engineering department. The product of their business operations are different, as are the problems that result.

Once a problem is defined, if it is not solved as expected it may be escalated. An escalation occurs when someone recognized as having a legitimate claim on the problem indicates that the current pool of resources is inadequate to solve the problem.

This is indicated in a number of ways. Some of these include:

  1. Contacting the solution owner’s manager to request a review of the problem.
  2. Requesting additional engineers or a higher skill level be accessed to help solve the problem
  3. A determination being made that a problem prevents the launch of a product until problem is no longer present.

“A crisis on your part does not necessitate an emergency on mine.”

Ok, we’ve all seen that poster hanging in someone’s cubicle (usually in an IT department) But, it also applies in its own way to escalations.

  1. An escalation requires people before a problem is considered an escalation

A problem can become more problematic without anyone around to notice it, but an escalation describes what the solution pool will be once a person makes an evaluation. So, proverbially speaking, if a problem happens in the woods and no one is around to notice it, can it become an escalation? The answer is “no, it can’t”.

  1. An escalation may exist independent of all parties involved in the problem’s solution.
  2. A problem may exist that is an escalated problem to one group and not so for another.

This means that an escalation on my part does not require one on your part.

A managed escalation in one department, team, or company does not constitute a mandate on the part of any other department, team, or company to recognize the escalation or recognize any requirement for providing escalated services.

In other words, just because you have an escalated problem doesn’t mean that I am required to give you my resources to help solve that problem unless it’s agreed that an escalation on your part necessitates an escalation be acknowledged on mine.

And here is where much unnecessary relationship trouble often begins: assuming otherwise.

The solution as to how agreements like this can be made is not difficult. It’s done through service level agreements (SLAs) and executive mandates.

A company could, for example, make a blanket policy that states when Department XYZ is managing an escalation any organization that is determined to be a necessary resource pool to solve that problem must provide preemptive priority to the escalated problem until de-escalated.

This works when I have to acknowledge your escalations and you have to acknowledge mine. It’s not going to work if it only runs one direction. The typical behavior I’ve observed is that an escalation isn’t acknowledged outside the escalation origin until forced by an escalation created in another organization when senior management and above are brought in to review. SLAs are very effective in addressing this before it creates “escalation phobia”.

Escalations – Part 2 to follow.