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Friday, September 29, 2017


What is not measured is not managed.

I attended a training session a couple of days ago that was sponsored by another office at work.

The subject matter was the Baldridge method of quality control and how we apply it to our organization.

This topic and all related topics is incredibly interesting to me. It should be interesting to anyone running a company. Because no matter what methodology you use - Baldridge, Lean Six Sigma, or even a simple Excel spreadsheet to track actual versus target - you won't get results unless you assess, publicize and discuss exactly how well you're doing.

I remember years ago watching a TV segment about a cruise line. Every single employee on the ship knew how their specific job contributed to the bottom line. On that basis they know how well or badly they're doing. And of course, management knew as well.

And Amazon. They have a number for just about everything (sometimes, perhaps, to a fault). The employees even rank each other (we do this also, albeit in a smaller way, where I work). Things are different when you know you're getting a number.

How fitting to talk about this as we approach the eve of Yom Kippur. God is judging us. He hides His face, though. So many of us use this fact to trick ourselves into believing that He is just a convenient figment of imagination. 

No.

In any case, measurement and management go together and if you don't talk about your numbers, then you aren't doing a good job.

So we talked about assessment. And you know me, the obvious question comes up, and I can't stop asking it all day: If we're actually studying ourselves so much, why isn't everything running perfect?

The whole time we were doing that I remembered back to a prior job where I did the exact same thing in order to improve our newsletter. No ratings on the articles means the articles are boring. 

That time, I rolled out the system and it died on the vine because my supervisor didn't want to offend anyone who wrote articles.

This is the same supervisor who let me redesign the newsletter so that it mostly featured photos. That one we rolled out in the middle of the night because we knew feedback would kill it in favor of many words and techno-speak.

The next time I tried rolling out a transparency and free collaboration effort on a large scale was at another government agency and as it happened the tool was Yammer. The thing was so easy to use and so fun that even the head of the agency signed up. 

But I made the mistake of telling my boss's boss, and I will never forget her words:

"Kill it."

I asked one of my employees for feedback and she said in a nice way that I should vet my ideas more before getting carried away with them.

But the truth is, in a large bureaucracy, if you constantly vet your ideas you can be sure that they will be thrown in a dark hole where nobody can ever see them.

So now I am trying to work with people I know and trust to give me good feedback, who also want good things for the organization. 

I also partner with people who have more clout than I do, who are better-spoken, higher-level, and who are in a position to incorporate the ideas I suggest.

But you have to live your credo.

So the other day I followed up on a training session in branding that I gave about six months ago.

Every session has reviews and I had not received mine.

They arrived and it seemed that the audience was very not happy.

About 20% said that my session was "very valuable," while 40% said that it was "not at all." On the positive side people said that they liked the emphasis on personal branding. On the negative side they disliked that the session departed from what was printed on the agenda.

This was the comment that stuck with me the most--it stung!:
"Branding session was a complete disappointment. Went into it with high expectations. The speaker was rude, judgmental and was all over the place. Her style made people not want to talk for fear they'd be criticized. I would never recommend her for another conference."
What do you do when you get a comment like that? Several of them?

You pick up the phone and you call the organizer.

In the end, I understood exactly what had happened.

As I told her, when my audience walks into the room I gauge their level of expertise in the material as versus what is on the paper. Normally it is at that point that I decide to break from the agenda somewhat, so as to make the material relevant for them.

There has never been a session where this did not happen.

We agreed that this was a group with a very basic understanding of branding and so my assessment was right.

Where I went wrong, and why I offered to come back and do a follow-up session, was to fail to create a bridge between where they were and the material we needed to cover.

Even though we only had a limited amount of time, I should have cut the introductory discussion off and moved toward the more advanced material, whether or not they were ready for it.

It was my determination as an instructor that I should trust my judgment and leave them with a very good understanding of the basics of branding. In a world where everyone and their brother seems to think they wake up and are experts.

That, I think, is why 20% said they really got a lot from the session. And why 40% really didn't want to hear what was said.

Once I was a consultant and a client did not want to pay for the branding assessment that was done because the gap between their image of themselves, and the clients perception of them, was just too vast.

"You must have gotten it wrong!"

The truth is that branding is a painful exercise. It has to be. If it isn't, you just aren't doing it the right way.

I make these assessments public as a way of being honest with you about my successes and my failures in life.

And yes, I did offer to do the session again, at no charge, as "Part II". And was roundly--if politely--rejected.

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Copyright 2017 by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own. All rights reserved. Photo by Robin Higgins via Pixabay (CC0 Creative Commons).

Thursday, September 28, 2017


The problem is the human factor. As follows:
  • Government cannot decide whether its jobs are ultimately a "jobs program" or the products of a legitimate workforce planning system based on merit. Meaning, some people are getting paid as a way of paying them back for other things. This is inefficient. 
  • The most highly paid people in the civilian government workforce are theoretically there to make the difficult decisions that will lead the organization forward. As a practical matter however their hands are tied by the irrational demands made of them by those higher up in the system. Most of the time, they cannot challenge such decisions unless they are willing to lose their jobs in the process.
  • The level of technology literacy among experienced government employees is shockingly low. Every dollar we spend having people design work solutions based on outdated knowledge is a dollar wasted. The reason that seasoned government employees are not technology-literate is that their leadership generally does not invest, motivate or otherwise compel them to take steps in this direction. It's just too much of a hassle.
  • Similarly, the government does not effectively or efficiently collect or use data to drive decision-making. The reasons for this are debatable but probably have something to do with the very human fear that data, and the accountability it drives, will result in losing both power and money.
  • For the sake of expediency, government executives rely heavily on contractors to accomplish work. This is a failure of both leadership and management; a cadre of well-trained, well-managed and properly paid government employees would get the same work done at a far lower cost.
Federal employees are overwhelmingly dedicated to serving the public. Properly managed, trained and empowered to make improvements as needed, they could save a great deal of taxpayer money in the process.
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Content and photo by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. Public domain. All opinions are the author's own.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017


It is that time of year when we look back over the past twelve months. Personally, professionally, it is a time of reflection.

But judging yourself -- and being judged by others -- is not easy. It gets very psychological, very fast. Denial, deflection, and other defenses spring up. And most people find it very difficult to stay balanced.

On the one extreme there are those who blame themselves -- for just about everything.

Other people don't seem to have this problem -- it's always someone else who created the problem -- and nothing is ever their fault.

It gets even more confusing.

I've noticed that the people who seem on the surface to blame themselves all the time, actually tend to refuse accountability. For example they will say things like: "I'm just not good at this." As if to say, even if it is my fault, you shouldn't expect a different result next time.

On the flipside, the people who deflect blame -- who say things like, "The computer system runs too slow," or "My team is absolutely terrible," etc. -- secretly hate themselves. They feel frustrated not with the inadequacy of other people, but ashamed of their own incompetence, because their standards of competence are just so incredibly high.

On both extremes, the root of the problem is flawed thinking. It took someone else to point this out to me.

I was talking about a period of my life, a year approximately, when everything seemed to go straight to hell.

"God really punished me."

"What? Why would you say that?"

"Because obviously. Look at all the bad things that happened."

"God wanted you to learn."


At that I had to go quiet.

It was the sound of thunder, the flash of lightning. The storm in your mind when you suddenly perceive reality.

All those bad things -- what I was calling "punishment" -- those were God's way of getting my attention. (You can call this belief the Universe, if you prefer.)

I do believe we occupy this lifetime only to carry out a mission. The point is not just to get it done though. We are also supposed to learn along the way.

Looking at things as a perpetual victim of circumstance -- you're either always incapable or always suffering from the incredible foolishness of others -- clouds your ability to perceive this fact.

You go through life in victory, in control, as a non-victim when you take an empowered approach to the risks and mistakes that you have chosen to make. When you stand up and deal with the circumstances in which you find yourself at any given moment. When you decide that you will learn from everything, even things that hurt you terribly.

You do other people a service when you think of your interactions with them as a form of performance appraisal. The feedback you give comes to them not only through your words, but also and primarily through your body language, your tone of voice, your actions, your consistency, and the deeds they see you do completely unrelated to them.

Life is about learning. Punishment is not, and should not be, about gleefully inflicting pain.

It is difficult but powerful to take upon yourself accountability.
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Copyright 2017 by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own. Public domain. Photo via Pixabay: 

https://pixabay.com/en/white-male-3d-man-isolated-3d-1871394/

Tuesday, September 26, 2017


I've been ghostwriting for a client and got hired again, thank God, to write a follow-on article.

The client is upset about the many abuses of power they have observed in the Jewish Orthodox world.

I have become conscious about the fact that corruption-hunting can easily degenerated into toxic hate.

I am concerned that my voice will be used as a tool of hatred against religion, Judaism, and Jewish people.

The first draft of the first article was unfortunately headed in that direction. I gave it to the client too soon. Fortunately I was able to provide a second version in time. 

The final draft did not contain hateful language, and it had the right message of balance: evidence-based concern linked with a forward path. A positive attitude. Hope. Maybe even healing.

Last night I talked to the client and put my concerns out front. We are in the Days of Repentance now. I don't want my work to make any more hatred ("sinas chinam"). I am turned off by how much hatred I see in the OTD/activist community.

My client smiled when I expressed this concern. It was a video call and I could perceive that her soul had lit up. It was a flame that flickered bright, if only momentarily.

"I have seen too much," said the client. "I am weary."

It was difficult for me to assert my idealism given that the client sees horrible things every day which I could never deal with. But I felt good about trying anyway.

My email to the client ended off with a prayer that God should bless our work so that it actually helps people.

In your haste to do the right thing or to make a buck (or both), please don't destroy anyone's faith. Don't make people hate on other people either.

Hate the behavior, not the person.

If you catch me breaking this rule please go ahead and call me out.

In God's eyes all of us are precious flowers.
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Copyright 2017 by Dannielle Blumenthal Ph.D. All rights reserved. Photo copyright 2017 by Dr. Blumenthal.





Monday, September 25, 2017


PR success with God's help. Dan Schere at the Washington Jewish Week covered an event I organized at Magen David Sephardic Congregation in Rockville, on women's self defense. 

Sophia Marjanovic did a great job. Tori Garten at Barton MMA attended and tag teamed with her. 

Sophia donated all the proceeds to the synagogue. 

Article is behind a paywall so here is a screenshot. 

Friday, September 22, 2017


The major task for me, on the Jewish Sabbath and on holidays, is to avoid engaging in work.

For me, work is the Achilles' heel of faith. 

Because when I work, I feel invincible. But of course, nobody is.

Facebook showed me a photo of myself five years ago. I looked so much younger and thinner then.

Today I wake up, and I am not the same person.

It takes me a few minutes to get going--maybe it's my platelet count acting up again, maybe it's menopause.

I find that I am grateful just to get vertical without too much trouble.

Yesterday we went out and I saw a lady take about fifteen minutes to get from inside the building to a taxi waiting outside.

The frailty of my body is upon me. And it doesn't get very much better from here.

So we went to synagogue yesterday, after I struggled in the morning not to think about work.

We looked at the seating chart and figured out that we were sitting in the same exact place as last year. 

Of course, some people had taken our seats. But it didn't seem worth arguing for the short amount of time we'd be there.

I find it very difficult to sit in shul, but like my father in law (may he rest in peace) used to say, "you can either go to synagogue or to the hospital."

So I sat there. 

On the way to my seat I'd picked up a couple of chocolate chip cookies they had left outside for the congregants. (Have I mentioned that I've gained two pounds so far and it's only been 24 hours?)

I saw someone in the lobby that I'd become casual friends with, or so I thought, and said hello warmly. 

She seemed not to see me, so I said it again. 

Then she walked right past me and said hello to someone else.

"Did she just purposely ignore me?" I asked my daughter, who nodded. "Wow."

Of course I knew what this was all about--politics--and I chose to let it be Rosh HaShana.

It's a test of faith, I reminded myself.

Not working is a test.

Not getting angry is a test.

Getting to synagogue is a test.

So we went into the synagogue and the Rabbi asked everyone to be quiet.

He asked again and again, and mostly the women listened but there was one man who either didn't hear or didn't care.

I watched the man walk around the shul and hug and kiss his friends.

I tried to decide who was right in this scenario, the Rabbi--who was clearly trying to preserve the holy nature of the service on one of the holiest days of the year--or the congregant who did not seem to have much longer on this earth.

In the end, I went with the congregant.

About two minutes later--after I'd walked in and out a couple of times to deal with that suffocating feeling I get in shul--they opened up the ark.

I looked at the Torahs inside.

The men started praying very loudly, in unison, and I could feel God's presence there.

Involuntarily I started to weep. Involuntarily my head bent forward.

In my mind I went back over all the pain of of the past. 

Thankfully I've blocked out much of it, but somehow there is always more, and it all kind of hovered over me.

I knew we were being judged, and I prayed to God to judge us for the good. I prayed for many things, which I am not going to share with you here.

My daughter gripped my arm when she saw me weeping. "Mom, are you OK?"

I didn't answer her, because I knew she knew the answer.

About 15 feet in front of me there was a child, maybe six or seven years old, maybe eight, wearing a pretty but much too short minidress and frankly it could have been the attire of a twenty-something out on the town.

She was a carbon copy of her mother. 

The child had fancy patent leather shoes on her feet. Her mother was standing to her left.

The next thing I knew the child had clambered up to a railing to watch the services. Her underwear was visible from the back. 

Her mother was patting her on the bottom repeatedly.

The entire display was disturbing, the dress of the child, the dangerousness of her stance on the rail, the way the mother was literally putting her hand on her ass. 

I felt a very strong desire to call Child Protective Services, and then--after a year of reading about corruption and child sex trafficking in the United States and worldwide--shook my head mentally inside as I quickly realized the futility.

After that it was hard to get back into prayer and then it hit me again:

This is another test of faith. Can you stay in the moment and pray to Him.

The rabbi announced that he was about to make the blessing on blowing the Shofar.

I moved leftward to go back to my seat and take a prayerbook. I stared at the page, not really reading.

And then the shofar cried.

Tekiaaaaahhhhhhhh.....

Tekiaaahhhhhhh......

Shevarim Teruah.......

Sobbing, broken, shattered and afraid, I stood there naked before God and begged Him to have mercy, just have mercy.

We all have so much to lose. We all need so much help.

May God help us and restore us, and may He bring us peace.



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By Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal, Ph.D. All opinions are the author's own. This blog is hereby released into the public domain. Photo credit: G. Sankary/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Wednesday, September 20, 2017


As a child I grew up on a steady diet of a certain kind of sitcom. Their names kind of run together -- All In The Family, One Day At A Time, The Jeffersons, Good Times, The Facts of Life, and M*A*S*H.
In many ways, the producers of these shows shaped my worldview. They put characters out there whose lives were tough, and even dangerous. Relationships provided a temporary respite at best from a largely harsh existence.
In the show M*A*S*H, Hawkeye Pierce (Alan Alda) played a wiseass doctor struggling to get through the Korean War. He's stationed far from home, with too many patients, an unpredictable case load, a life-threatening environment and not enough good staff or supplies. While the overall head of his outpost was decent enough, Hawkeye always had too much on his hands and there were politics galore to be navigated.
But he was also a gifted doctor, and he made the unit work. As a much older person now, I look back on the lessons I got from that show and think frequently that I apply them in my work. As follows:
  • You have to have a sense of humor. Hawkeye could make a joke out of anything. Work is often tense and scary. It's good to help people let down their guard a bit and unfreeze some of the tension.
  • Being technically competent doesn't give you permission to be a jerk. Hawkeye had a special way of taking egotists down from their perch.
  • Everyone is different, but everyone is part of the team. Even though he worked with a lot of different kinds of people, some of them very difficult to get along with, Hawkeye had a way of making everyone fit into a single coalescing whole. The sense of unity didn't come from changing who people were, essentially. It came from understanding the nature of their mission and its urgency.  
Now, you may be thinking that seven year olds shouldn't think about management much, if at all, and I can't say that I disagree with you. The truth is, way back then it was just funny to see Hawkeye give Frank Burns the business.
But ideas have a way of getting into our heads, and the younger we are the more firmly they implant themselves in our subconscious.
Maybe this isn't the biggest deal, but I think I learned a lot from watching Hawkeye Pierce in action.
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By Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal, Ph.D. All opinions are the author's own. This blog is hereby released into the public domain. Photo via Wikipedia.

Friday, September 15, 2017



They say that public speaking is more terrifying than death for many people and this is the same reason why, more often than not, your presentations are terrible.

It’s not that you don’t know your subject matter. You probably know it better than the back of your hand.

It’s not that you aren’t prepared, either. Most likely you’re not only studied-up, but probably spent a little too much time hitting the books before your big Ted Talk or senior briefing.

The problem has nothing to do with you. The truth is that while some of us are clearly more theatrical than others, presentation skill is a skill that can be learned.

So why are you so bad at it? Why is your audience changing the channel, at least mentally, for 99% of your talk?

The issue is a basic flaw in your thinking. Please, rinse and repeat the following four words:

IT’S NOT ABOUT ME.

IT’S NOT ABOUT ME.

IT’S NOT ABOUT ME.

If you get up there thinking about yourself, I can tell you right now: your talk will have zero impact. Or worse.

The reason great speakers affect us so much is that they are totally swept up in the power of their message.

It is impossible to focus on yourself and also put the spotlight on a topic that matters.

Fear of public speaking is a sign that you’re definitely making this mistake. Your negative emotional investment is a gigantic red flag, signaling that your talk is wrapped around your ego.

The next time you have to give a talk, subtract yourself from the equation. You can prepare to do this in a very simple way — start doing videos.

No, you don’t have to publish them on YouTube or Periscope or wherever.

You should however practice the art of speaking into the camera, on a regular basis. And then play back the video, to see what you look like while talking.

The point is not to evaluate your performance as a speaker.

It’s also not to gauge whether you know what the hell you’re talking about.

Rather, it’s about getting used to the fact that you actually look pretty bad on video.

Once you accept and get over that fact, and also manage to swallow your many flaws as a speaker, you’ll get past your preoccupation with self altogether.

The truth is that the thing you fear the most is actually very real. You aren’t all that good, you have a million flaws, and when you stand up there people know it.

It’s ceasing to care that allows you to focus on the topic at hand.

I am Jewish, and I happen to have a big nose. It used to embarrass me and I seriously considered a nose job.

Now I like to laugh. That’s me, that’s my schnozz, that’s the sun dancing off my wrinkles.

It’s okay to go gray and to grow a potbelly, too.

What people really do care about is the beating heart inside you.

Good intentions, married with good thinking, is what carries society forward.

Our most pro-social instincts go to work when we see you on stage.

Be a part of the solution and not the problem.

Get over your ego and put your message out front.

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Posted by Dannielle Blumenthal on September 15, 2017. All opinions are the author’s own. This post is hereby released into the public domain. Graphic by geralt via Pixabay (Public Domain).

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Recently I started reading the book Crucial Accountability: Tools for Resolving Violated Expectations, Broken Commitments, and Bad Behavior (Patterson et al., 2013). 
 
The main idea I've gotten from the book so far is that cooperation breaks down when 2 conditions are present:
  • The other person thinks you're disrespecting them.
  • The other person thinks that working with you will cause them some form of harm.
If this theory holds true, then the formula for getting people to work with you is this:
  • Show them respect AND
  • Focus on a mutual goal -- meaning, it has to benefit both of you.
How this works in the real world:
  • Respect is shown through word and deed. It is what you say. It is your eye contact. It is your demeanor. It is your body language. It is listening. It is time. It is giving people credit for good ideas and good work. Etc.
  • Focusing on a mutual goal is shown through appreciative inquiry. What do you want or need? What do I want or need? Where do the two intersect?
If you don't know how to start changing dysfunctional dynamics at work, start with customer service. It's a goal that everyone can relate to, and a positive outcome benefits everyone as well. Like this:
  • Think about this: How do my colleagues contribute to serving the customer? Reflecting on others' roles is a way of stepping into their shoes, and that mental awareness will in turn help you to approach them with a respectful attitude.
  • Act on this: "We don't want any complaints coming in, that's for sure." With those words, you're saying, "You and I both need to deliver excellent customer service, because the outside world only sees one face. When we get good ratings, it reflects well on all of us."
Unfortunately, very often, we don't have conversations about good working relationships until something has fallen apart.
 
Focusing on respect and win-win cooperation can prevent a crisis from coming up in the first place, and can also help repair the damage once it has occurred.
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By Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal, Ph.D. All opinions are the author's own. This blog is hereby released into the public domain.

On Wednesday, September 13, 2017, I was fortunate enough to hear a lecture by sexual assault and domestic abuse survivor Dr. Sophia Marjanovic, on the subject of self-defense for women.

Also in attendance was Tori Garten, assistant instructor at the Barton Mixed Martial Arts Studio in Glenmont, MD. She teaches self-defense for women on a regular basis, and has a special understanding of its psychological benefits.

The class ran for two hours and was extremely informative. Though it is impossible to capture everything that was said (and demonstrated physically), here are some key points:
  1. People who commit sexual assault are predators. They are not normal.
  2. Predators are generally not strangers. They are people you know and who are close enough to get into your space, gain your trust and disarm you sufficiently to attack.
  3. Predators are generally Caucasian and they are male.
  4. Predators tend to attack over and over again. You are not special — they do not love you — they only want prey.
  5. Predators use an array of tricks that can be identified and avoided. One example is telling you too much about themselves when they first meet you — getting much too close too soon. Another is “teaming” with you against the world. A third is telling you that “you’re a bitch” or “you’re so stuck up” in order to get you to act the opposite, and succumb to their pressure. Remember, if they can pressure you then they don’t have to use force. But the behavior is predatory nevertheless.
  6. You’re not paranoid. If you get a bad feeling, avoid the person.
  7. Predators will do anything not to get caught. So they prefer to work alone and get you alone. Don’t go to isolated places with someone who gives you a bad feeling.
  8. Law enforcement and other authoritarian professions attract predators. Women who are stuck in domestic abuse situations with police officers are in a living hell of assault and inability to escape someone who lives off of controlling every aspect of their lives, to the point where they will even follow them to the women’s shelter.
  9. The court system is not set up to favor the victim.
  10. In every scenario, your best defense is avoidance. If you spot predatory behavior, avoid the person, avoid being physically near them, and run away from them if you can. However, if you cannot avoid a problem and you are being attacked by a predator, know that they can overpower you by sheer force of adrenaline. Be ready to gouge their eyes out or worse. You don’t want to do it, but if your life is at stake, know that and be ready to save yourself.
A single session obviously isn’t enough to convey all the training a person needs in order to protect themselves. So it’s worth it, if you can, to take the time and learn how to deal with an attacker physically.

I personally found the practicing portion to be very upsetting — especially the part where Sophia and Tori showed us what to do if someone is dragging you away (wrap your leg around their calf from the outside so they can’t walk). But the discomfort is all the more reason to get educated.

Someone pointed out that it’s important to know who will help you in times of crisis. I thought that was a great point. It isn’t just about defending yourself, but also about finding a network and a community of supportive people.

At the end of the day, we have to look out for ourselves, and one another.

This isn’t a theoretical matter. It is the real reason why God put each of us on this Earth.

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All opinions my own. This blog is hereby released to the public domain. Photo by dmitrisvetsikas1969 via Flickr (Public Domain).

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

From my own experience and observation, the best way to connect staff is to provide them with an internal Facebook type platform and mostly leave them alone to talk. There are two caveats:
  • Leadership should get involved now and then to share key messages and to respond to issues of significant concern.
  • You can’t penalize people for expressing strong negative opinions.
 We could debate whether the internal conversation platform needs to have a project management component. I personally think the two should be firewalled from one another to promote the idea of a safe space for watercooler discussion.
 
The higher level strategy behind letting people have “complaint sessions” within the firewall, safely, is that you’re actually hearing what they perceive rather than issuing missives from an echo chamber on high. If you take the time to create a true environment of trust, my guess is that people will also take the time to listen to leadership messages that clarify misperceptions. They will also be less likely to seek solace by giving anonymous interviews to the media.
 
It should also be considered that a “true environment of trust” requires skillful partnering and buy-in among all leaders and managers as well as the subject matter experts connected to human capital. All of these parties not only need to understand “how people are thinking and feeling about work” but also need to participate in framing a rules-based environment for discussion so that it does not degenerate into a free-for-all.
 
The software itself will likely be a difficult learning curve for some and attention will need to be paid to ambassadors whose entire role for the better part of a year is to train people in its adoption. 
 
Give them the tools, give them the rules, get out of the way, but be ready to step in when there’s a problem.
 
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By Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal, Ph.D. All opinions are the author's own. This blog is hereby released into the public domain.

This morning I did a brief video on the need for a National Institute of Manufacturing. More specifically, we should have the National Institutes (plural) of Manufacturing (NIM), with centers dedicated to specific subject matter with the potential to help promote economic prosperity and security for our Nation.

Why is the NIM so important? The Godly purpose and the promise of manufacturing is to provide us a level of material comfort sufficient that we can house, clothe and feed ourselves. At that point we can focus on what really matters — taking care of our families, helping others in the community, and contributing to a Nation that is strong and proud and capable of supporting the goal of a peaceful and stable world.

Key points:
  1. We’re Leaving Money On The Table: I was sensitized to the importance of manufacturing when I served as Associate Director for Communications at the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, out of NIST (now called Manufacturing USA). In that position, I learned that the United States is at tremendous risk of losing its competitive advantage in manufacturing as other countries bring new ideas to the lab and then to market.
  2. Other Countries Are Doing It: Other countries are taking manufacturing seriously enough that they are investing in manufacturing directly and deliberately. It makes logical sense to do so: What better way to serve the people than to learn how to feed, house, clothe, transport and defend them efficiently and cheaply?
  3. We Didn’t Debate The Different Models Fully Enough: The Obama program is a set of public-private partnerships. The business model was defended not only on its merits (that they would be uniquely situated to promote innovation gains) but also that the American people did not want to hear about yet another centralized government program (i.e. a centrally funded manufacturing agency). However, by keeping the concept of the National Institutes of Manufacturing (NIM) off the table, we lost the opportunity to debate whether such a structure would ultimately be more beneficial to Americans. My personal opinion is that we do need a centralized government structure, similar to the National Institutes of Health, which funds basic research and which makes the results of that research available for the benefit of Americans regardless of their affiliation with the program.
  4. Financial Accountability: The Obama-era program was stood up in great haste. It is not an exaggeration to say that hundreds of millions of dollars went towards it. Though the people involved are extraordinarily smart and no doubt motivated to promote national innovation and prosperity, the lack of a defined accountability structure and the involvement of extra-governmental parties promotes a lack of transparency and accountability. Having the NIM located within government would make Congressional oversight far more effective.
  5. A Government Institute Can Better Control Intellectual Property: Other nations are taking our money as they copy our inventions. A government-run institute can control IP and stage the release of information so that that Americans have the advantage for a certain period of time before others (frankly, our enemies) can get their hands on it.
  6. Sharing The Wealth Happens Eventually Anyway: The point of the NIM is not to prevent the rest of the world from recognizing the gains of innovation. The point is that Americans need to manufacture food, housing, cars — we need to manufacture wealth — in order to be effective at taking care of our people.
  7. The Pie Grows Bigger: Innovation comes from God, and God can create infinite wealth. The false belief that “there’s only so much” leads to a competitive mentality that limits our opportunity to innovate. The NIM would help us to grow wealth for the benefit of all, and to apply our resources more intelligently.
The fact of the matter is that many kids in America are going to school hungry, and their parents are living on ramen noodles. We can and should get to the point where the manufacture and distribution of food and other necessities is a top national priority.

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Photo credit: kallu/Flickr (Creative Commons). Posted by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal on September 13, 2017. All opinions are the author’s own and do not represent any agency, organization, entity or individual. The written content of this post is hereby released into the public domain.

Monday, September 11, 2017

As an innovator I find that the incentive for organizations to take the risk is usually crisis. Not PR. 

I have failed a lot and been punished a lot when the organization wasn't in enough pain to want a pain in the ass around. 

Conversely I have been patted on the back when the concept delivered had the potential to avert a major or minor disaster. In these instances the innovation is not so much the "what" but the "how" -- can you help me get it done faster better cheaper or show me how we didn't need to waste time on it in the first place? 

Alternatively -- can you explain someone else's innovation to me in a way that I can understand it (CRYPTO!) 

There is also huge role and appreciation for people who can mainstream other people's innovation. Let's face it the "what" is a dime a dozen, everybody's got an idea, but not everybody has the skill to make it real.

_____

Originally posted to LinkedIn 9/11/2017 by Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal, Ph.D. All opinions are the author's own. This content is hereby released into the public domain.

Sunday, September 10, 2017


The fact of the matter is that we live in a deeply divided, even incendiary political climate in which the news has become more of a weapon than a medium for conveying facts of importance to citizens. 

In such an environment, it is literally dangerous to utter a single word, no matter how benign, lest it be twisted into something that the speaker never intended to say. 

Nevertheless, the government must continue to communicate. In fact, it must overcommunicate, to ensure that the public has the information it wants, needs and is entitled to. By this I mean that communication happens on Department and agency websites as well as through social media. 

Not only should all channels be used, but information should be made readily available to all parties -- journalists, citizen bloggers, users of social media, as well as employees -- and they should be encouraged to use it.

There are five areas, or themes, that ought to be prioritized in this process focus of attention:
  • Crisis response: Right now all eyes are on Hurricane Irene as it barrels into South Florida. We hope and pray for the well-being of its residents. But as we do so, we need to know what is happening down there. Everything from how many people have lost power and where; to how many people have been rescued; to the moment-by-moment recovery effort must be documented in full.  
  • Controversy: The people inside an agency are well-positioned to understand the technicalities of an issue in ways that most members of the public simply do not have access to. It is therefore critically important that the government take extra steps to educate and inform people about the facts behind an issue, not in a partisan way, but in a way that sheds light on its complexity. For there is no controversy that lacks a very complex origin and history.
  • Data: For obvious reasons, the government has a colossal amount of information on just about any subject under the sun. The communication task--I would argue, duty--is to make that information (documents, photos, videos, and so on) as easy as possible for the public to find. I have seen instances where data was held up out of fear that it wasn't accurate enough, or that it would be misused. But if the information is public, the government should release it, and not in a dense way but in a manner that is easy to find and understand.
  • Services: This much should be obvious, but the public should not have to buy books and access private services in order to understand the services that the government makes available, very often for free. Providing information about how the public can help themselves, using the services the government provides, should be a given.
  • Requirements: Government is a bureaucracy, and the bureaucracy is incredibly hard to understand for all but the most educated and experienced technical experts. Telling people how to comply with laws, regulations, policies, rules and requirements--again, in a way that is accessible to the average, high-school educated person--is a basic communication duty.
Communicating well and often this is not only the right thing for the government to do. It also helps reverse the historically low level of trust that the public holds toward the government. 

With the right communication, not to mention the right actions to support it, it is possible for the government to have credibility when it says: "We are here to help."

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By Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal, Ph.D. All opinions are the author's own. This blog is hereby released into the public domain. Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images/29611 via Pixabay.

This is a difficult topic to discuss but I will just put it right out there: I am going through menopause.

Going through menopause means that you will, at any given time: have hot flashes, be irritable, get dizzy, be tired, and lots of other fun stuff I will leave it to you to look up and memorize at such time that it is your turn.

As things stand it appears that menopause is quite the taboo topic. You are allowed to discuss it with: your mother.

Also you can discuss it with any people of the female persuasion (are we still allowed to say female or is that politically incorrect now?) who appear to be in their late 40s-early 50s.

When I tried this exercise with a friend at synagogue she said OH MY GOD, I FEEL YOUR PAIN DANNIELLE and then laughed a wild, loud laugh.

“You gotta get yourself a lotta, lotta herbs, my friend.”

“More herbs? I have a cabinet full.”

“Yesssssss,” she replied. “And soy milk. Lots, and lots of soymilk.”

Great.

My other friend, from work, also happens to be going through “the changes.”

How do I know this?

She walked in to a meeting — it was freezing cold — and stood there mopping sweat off her brow.

Like a drug dealer I sidled up to her and whispered, a little too loud:

“Soymilk? Soy pills? Hormone replacement therapy?”

“Nah, I don’t like any of that stuff,” and waved me off. “I would rather sit here and SWEAT.”

To each her own, to each his own.

But God has not forgotten me.

I went to synagogue yesterday sick again from the faintness.

At one point in my life a rabbi suggested that He has better things to do than “micromanage our lives.”

Maybe this is true, but God’s infinitely loving and caring micromanagement was fully on display yesterday, in what could only be a miracle.

I went back home, not able to sit in the service at all.

I sat on a chair in the kitchen, defeated.

Every week I go to synagogue. It’s part of my personal 3-step recovery program, what I call “Back to Faith.” Now bear in mind I don’t do any of these perfectly, but they are the observances I focus on:
  • Observe the Sabbath.
  • Keep kosher.
  • Go to synagogue with my family every week.
Inevitably every week, something comes up to block me from going to synagogue. A minor spat, a bit of rain, over-involvement with whatever I’m doing at the moment, excuse after excuse.

This week it was menopause.

So I’d been defeated by the gremlin of anti-religion, at least for the moment.

And then a thought came to me, seemingly out of nowhere:

“Boil four eggs and eat them. You can go back to shul (synagogue).”

Instantly I knew that God had made a miracle.

The dizziness that made me unsteady on my feet was caused by a hormonal imbalance.

Looking it up quickly online confirmed it: Eggs have progesterone. Eat eggs to combat the dizziness. (Here’s a page with Chinese change-of-life remedies, including that one. Don’t use this advice as a substitute for seeing a doctor, please.)

I boiled four eggs and they came out perfect. I ate them hurriedly, not wanting the family to come home before I had a chance to return.

I was scared to go back. What if the eggs didn’t work?

So I waited five minutes.

Within five minutes, I was fine.

This isn’t the beginning or the end of the miracles. There are too many to count. I know them, I feel them almost daily.

I understand that the fact I am alive, that God keeps me here to do what needs doing and to take care of my family, is a miracle in and of itself.

My daughter asked me yesterday:

“What does observance mean to you? How do you decide which things to keep and not keep?”

“It wasn’t my decision,” I explained to her.

“Left to my own devices, I wouldn’t have been religious.”

“Then what is it?” she asked.

“God has made it clear to me, I have no choice.”

“What does that mean?” she said, her eyes dark and worried.

“Either I find my way back, or He’s taking me.”

There is a strange joy in knowing that God cares about you so much He will go to any length to keep you on the straight and narrow.

It is a strange but very real journey I am on.

I tell you the truth as it appears to me.

What you do with that information is always your choice.

As the Jewish New Year comes upon us, may God bless us all, with good health, peace and prosperity.

__________

Posted by Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal September 10, 2017. All opinions are the author’s own. This post is hereby released into the public domain. Photo by Ruth Lindsay via Pixabay.

Thursday, September 7, 2017




My friend Sophia hates that I support Donald Trump and is forever asking me how I can be a feminist and advocate for a man who talked about “grabbing women by the p — .”

I don’t like to get into it with her because a) it never ends well, and the last time I did we ended up not talking for a long time, and b) she is a survivor of abuse and it seems emotionally wrong to debate someone who has been repeatedly traumatized over the subject you’re discussing.

But last night she tagged me on Facebook in a post hashtagged #StopBetsy. Apparently Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is reexamining Title IX enforcement on college campuses, a decision that even the leftist New York Times endorses, mainly because of how easy it is now to mark an accused perpetrator as guilty.

In a July 21, 2017 article titled “Betsy DeVos Is Right: Sexual Assault Policy Is Broken,” Cathy Young notes that under the current standard, based on a so-called “Dear Colleague” letter from the Department of Education, Office of Civil rights, only a “preponderance of the evidence” standard is recommended before an accused is declared guilty.
“This means that if the school believes it is even slightly more likely — as in, a 50.1 percent chance — that an assault accusation is true, it can deem the defendant guilty. This is a far lower threshold than the ‘clear and convincing evidence’ standard previously used by many schools, let alone the ‘beyond a reasonable doubt” standard used in the criminal justice system.”
The letter goes even further, note KC Johnson and Stuart Taylor in The Washington Post (January 31, 2017). It:
“...required universities to allow accusers to appeal not-guilty findings, a form of double jeopardy. It further told schools to accelerate their adjudications, with a recommended 60-day limit. And, perhaps most important, OCR strongly discouraged cross-examination of accusers, given the procedures that most universities employed.”
Of course, schools want their federal aid money, and when the Department of Education speaks, they listen, notes Young:
“This new standard can create a powerful bias against the accused, especially when coupled with the Obama administration’s threat to yank federal aid from colleges that do not move aggressively against sexual assault.”
My friend is much more of an activist than I am, and I trust her integrity quite a lot. But I didn’t understand what the hashtag campaign was all about.

So I asked her: If DeVos is only saying she will look into this issue, what is it exactly that you are protesting?

And the response was predictable — lots of emotion, lots of anger. Not a lot of fact.

As James Damore (@fired4truth), author of the now-infamous Google Memo on inclusivity and silencing, recently asked:
“If we’re going to have sensitivity training for the insensitive, will we also have de-sensitivity training for the overly triggered?”
Sophia tells me that I lack empathy. I take that point. I am not expressing the amount of empathy I should.

But we can’t make justice through feelings. We have to make justice through the objective application of law. Fairly. To both sides. No matter how much we hate it. That is my point.

Regarding Title IX, in my opinion, the schools should not be trying these cases at all. The police and the courts should handle all of it. The concept of keeping federally funded campuses free of sexual harassment and assault does not require all this extra bureaucracy. In fact it just makes things worse.

The police should be working with the schools and the hospitals to improve evidence collection and make it automatic. You prosecute rapists with data.

The schools should be keeping alcohol and drugs (and substance abusers) out. Partying intoxicated and rape go hand in hand.

Schools can also partner with local high schools and elementary schools to teach relationship skills. Many people grow up in abusive homes. They can be normed out of it.

Additionally the schools can use the dorms to teach sustainable human behavior. How to grow things. How to repair things. How to make decisions about common property.

I don’t disagree that society lets rapists off. I do think women and men are equally aggressive. And that we can be more creative about redirecting human energy toward positive ends._____

Clipart image by OpenClipArt-Vectors via Pixabay (Public Domain). All opinions are my own. This post is hereby released into the public domain. Updated January 8, 2017.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017


This year, on April 23, 2017, the Jerusalem Post — citing Germany’s Interior Ministry — published a piece asserting that “Germany is a hotbed of Iranian spy activity that targets Israel.”

Other countries Germany investigated included Russia, China, Turkey, Syria, Algeria, Libya, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Morocco.

On October 26, 2016, the Times of Israel shared the existence of files from Russia’s KGB showing that Israeli officials at the highest ranks were part of
“an extensive Soviet spy ring in Israel, encompassing Knesset members, senior IDF officers, engineers, members of the Israeli intelligence community, and others who worked on classified projects.”
Just about a year before that, on January 29, 2016, citing “documents attributed to leaks by former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden,” Reuters (via the Huffington Post) published an article asserting that:
“The United States and Britain have monitored secret sorties and communications by Israel‘s air force in a hacking operation dating back to 1998.”
Meanwhile, two years prior, on May 6, 2014, Newsweek published an article claiming that “Israel Won’t Stop Spying on the U.S.”

More than 60 years ago, after World War II ended in 1945, more than 1,600 Germans, including Nazi leaders, were recruited to work for the U.S. government, in “Operation Paperclip.” The extent and nature of this initiative has been heavily investigated as is documented on the website of the CIA.

The effort was cloaked in secrecy. On June 7, 2006, UK’s The Guardian ran an article asserting that Israel’s capture of one of the worst Nazi war criminals, Adolf Eichmann, “caused panic at the CIA.” This because both the Americans and the Germans knew where he was for several years, but did not tell Israel — “they believed it did not serve their interests in the cold war struggle.”

That spycraft is ubiquitous in the world today goes without saying. It is an activity as old as time.

The question I have is, are we all clear on the global rules of engagement? Or should we be content with an “anything goes” mentality?

If we want to end physical war between nations, we ought to come to a clear international understanding of the legitimate ends of intelligence-gathering, and the penalties for broaching their limits.

“You don’t bother me, and I don’t bother you.”

Common sense dictates that respect for international boundaries also dictates respect for a nation’s inherent right to privacy.
____

All opinions are the author’s own. This post is hereby released to the public domain. Photo by Couleur via Pixabay.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Exhuming the victims of the Sarmas massacre for burial, 1945. Photo of exhumation via Yad Vashem, via MemorialMuseums.org
Many people don't like to talk about death. But in my family, it has always been the tradition to help out the Chevra Kadisha, or "group who does the sacred." These volunteers make sure that Jewish people receive a proper religious burial. I never understood how, or why, we were so connected to this particular area of Jewish life, nor did I understand why I felt such a personal need to advocate for women. That is, until my father sent me the videotape of my Zayde (grandfather), who recounted his experiences in a series of interviews with the Holocaust memorial organization Yad Vashem. For awhile I couldn't watch the videos; too painful. But then on Tapes 4-5, Zayde tells an important secret he never revealed to me in his lifetime. I had to share it with the world. - Dannielle

Background

Sarmas is located in the south of Transylvania, a region in Eastern Europe.

For centuries, Transylvania was part of Hungary. After World War I, in 1918, the ethnic Romanians declared independence and laid claim to the land.

But Hungary wanted its land back. During World War II, with the help of Germany and Italy, Transylvania was partitioned in 1940, and Hungary took the north.

Beginning in 1941, Hungary and Romania fought together, alongside the Nazis, to defeat the Soviet Union. But on August 23, 1944, Romania flipped and allied itself with Russia.

Hungary resisted this show of Romanian independence. On September 5, 1944, Hungary invaded Sarmas and other parts of Southern Transylvania, which it wanted to reclaim.

On Monday, September 11, 1944, Hungarian troops arrested and imprisoned all the Jews of Sarmas. They forced them into the barn of a man named Ioan Pop, who served as "road overseer." The house would serve as "the ghetto until the 'final solution' could be carried out."

The Torture

The Hungarians had entered Sarmas singing loudly.

The torture started soon after.

At first it did not seem so bad. On September 11, the first day in the improvised ghetto, the Jews were allowed to get some things from home.

But the next day, September 12, the Hungarians ransacked the Jewish homes, taking everything they could.

There was no food or water left by September 13. The Romanians and a few Hungarians tried to help them. But they were kept out, on threat of being shot to death.

September 14 started with a group of old Jews, in their 70s and 80s, marched to the courtyard to "perform...all kinds of dances."

On the night of September 14, the invading soldiers spent the night gang-raping Vera Hasz, daughter of Arthur Hasz, who was chief engineer and manager of the Sarmas mill.
"That night the National Guardsmen dragged Vera outside, brutally beat and raped her. She fought to defend herself. Her screams and the noise of the scuffle mixed in a macabre fashion with the artillery rumblings that heralded the approach of liberation not more than 18 miles away. She returned in the morning. Bleeding, pale, humiliated, she lay next to her parents and seemed to be motionless for the rest of the day." 
The day of September 15 saw more starvation, more "games," and more robbery. And the night saw another gang-rape:
"In the evening Vera Hasz was brought again -this time with another Jewish girl -to be tormented and raped during the night by National Guardsmen and gendarmes....'the girls returned in the morning almost unconscious, lying during the whole day as if they were dead.'"
When the Jews asked what would happen to them, the Hungarians said they would be transported to another town to work.

That night brought the Sabbath, but it was not a Sabbath for the Jews.
"After another warm summer-like night amidst hunger, thirst, and rape, the morning dawned with compulsory dancing and gymnastics for the elderly. "
On Saturday, September 16, they gave shovels to twenty young Jewish men.

Those would be used to dig their own graves.

As the Jews were taken to the site of the massacre, they panicked. Arthur Hasz had the chance to run away, to the forest. But he could not:
"Pointing to his wife and the bleeding, beaten Vera, he said 'Thank you--God bless you--but I just cannot abandon them.' And he stayed."

The Massacre

Here is a close-up of the corpses. They were murdered on September 16-17, 1944, just before Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year.


That night, the Hungarians set about their business.
"Mr. Aluasi remembered the eerie silence in the darkness of the moonless night, full of terror to come. After midnight there was an exchange of light signals between the Hungarians on the hills and those on the highway. Mr. Aluasi, a veteran, sensed what was to come; he said to Mr. Mocean, 'Now they are going to kill the Jews.'"
The Jews had to climb to their graves. If they could not walk, the Hungarians beat them into walking.

The Jews were forced to strip naked as the Hungarians did not want them buried with their clothes.

They were divided into two groups.

The sound of killing went on for hours as the Hungarians changed shifts.

The Jews were:
  • Shot by machine guns
  • Beaten with shovels
  • Beaten with other objects, likely bayonets
Their skulls and bones had deep fractures. Some of the bones were cut entirely.

The children were buried alive. Thrown straight into the graves.

The Aftermath

The Hungarians warned the witnesses not to talk.
"National Guardsmen, Hungarians from the village, came to their houses and, brandishing their guns, asked: 'What did you see last night? Did you hear anything?' They frightened and threatened the foresters and their families."

My Zayde Buried Them

My Zayde, may he rest in peace, returned to Sharmash after being detained by the military police. He found out that his father, may he rest in peace, had died of a heart attack in his absence. And that his uncle had been massacred, along with every other Jew in Sharmash.

It is thanks to my Zayde that the victims of Sarmas were buried.

  1. He asked until he got the truth.
  2. He negotiated to buy land for a cemetery.
  3. He made sure they received a religious burial.
  4. He made sure all 139 victims were buried within one day.
  5. He made sure a monument was put up in their name.
  6. He hunted down the killers
  7. He ensured that the killers were brought to justice.
He promised all the credit to others.

He never told me what happened.


In 1999, my grandfather told the story of his role in burying the victims -- when Yad Vashem asked him to testify on video.

You won't find the name of Rabbi Shmuel Stroli in the history books.

This is my way of recognizing what a truly great man he was.

The kind of human being I can only aspire to be.
__________

By Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal, Ph.D. All opinions are the author's own. This blog is hereby released into the public domain.