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The Audience Was Not Happy

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. 


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.


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).

How Government Leaves Money On The Ground

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.
Content and photo by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. Public domain. All opinions are the author's own.

Performance Appraisal

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.

Copyright 2017 by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own. Public domain. Photo via Pixabay:

A Note On The Ethics Of Muckraking

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.

Copyright 2017 by Dannielle Blumenthal Ph.D. All rights reserved. Photo copyright 2017 by Dr. Blumenthal.

PR Success: Washington Jewish Week Covers Women's Self Defense Event

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.