Archive | October, 2013

Be an Onion, a specific and clear onion

2 Oct

In the past couple days the government shutdown has been a primary occupant of my thoughts. In fact it’s had a significant impact on my mood. Like many I was frustrated and even disgusted by the flagrant disregard politicians were showing in the sacred duty they had the honor of being elected to do– running the government. I use little “g” on purpose because I’m not talking about specific departments and agencies but the core role of our government. As free men and women we chose to enter a society under the belief that we’re better off together. A fairly well accepted mode of thought, but as always the devil is in the details. Living with others necessitates compromise and stability, which means laws and order and that results in a framework called government to help dictate and shape the details. Getting to be a part of the government that gets to guide these details and help ensure they uphold our values (Life, Liberty, and pursuit of Happiness sound familiar?) is undeniably honor.

Their job exists fundamentally as a chosen alternative to anarchy. But now we have politicians pissing all over everything, and all the while still getting paid! So opened the flood gates pouring out anger and frustration: “F congress”, “stupid politicians” etc.

It was in the midst of one of these rants that a friend pointed out I was not being specific in my blame. At the time I didn’t particularly care but after some distance I realized he was right. It is critical that in the moments of failure to be specific about not only what is the problem but why it happened. I work for a large company in supply chain, and if we had an escalation from up top pertaining to an operations or logistic failure, saying “the stupid trucks were late” would be a far from acceptable response. In fact in every major mishap we’ve dived deep, churned through the data, recreated the story and analyzed exactly at what point did our existing procedures fail. All of this was in an effort to understand where the gap was. But then we went further, we tried to evaluate the probability of repetition and the corresponding impact. Do we need to enact change and if so, what is the recommended new course of action. Not being detailed, not being specific was simply is incompetent. And that incompetency if widespread would mean the company would never learn or improve so would eventually shutdown…

We are all part of the same giant organism. So as we talk about the failure of our government it’s important to be specific. It’s important to have details and it’s important to use the right vocabulary. It’s important to allocate blame, not for shaming others but because this is how we fix problems. Google went down a month back; can you imagine trying to fix that problem without being allowed to say which system caused the failure?

Comments like “the government sucks” is just about as productive as reading Green Eggs and Ham. I’m guilty of it, we all are. And I can do better. Rachel Maddow does an excellent job being specific when she points the finger at Republicans. And Senator Schumer goes even further to say it’s a specific faction, primarily Tea Partyists, within the Republican Party along with a weak John Boehner. The point is that they were specific in the why and this matters because of the follow-up “what can we do next.” On NPR they discussed today how pressure from constituents will factor into how long this shutdown lasts. But that pressure has to be clear and specific to have impact, it has to hold the right individuals accountable. Both now and in the future.

Over 1.8 Million people are not getting paid and we’re in a blinking competition. So be an onion.