Posts Tagged ‘facts’

Scapegoats, Lies, Misdirected Retaliation

October 30, 2010

Warning – this is a political post of sorts – I am violating my own posting rules, and I won’t be accepting comments. I have license, after all, and Tuesday’s elections are just around the corner…

Let me Set the Stage…

At Rockwell, and later at Alcatel, I managed network management products – largely software, mostly misunderstood, and greatly unappreciated products. These products were very complex and somewhat “cantankerous”.  They overtaxed the computational resources of the time and required terrific amounts of RAM. One of my network management products required 2GB of ram, and in that day (the very late’80s), it was the largest amount of RAM that HP had ever installed in a computer. I think that RAM cost us upwards of $20,000 per CPU. RAM is much cheaper, now!

Wrestling for company resources was a brutal experience – it was nasty politics at times. When a sales opportunity for transport products fell through, the excuse was a lack of the right network management product in the product line in one instance. When a transport product release was late, one excuse ventured was distraction and insufficient resources in the development groups due in part to a focus on interfacing with “unnecessary network management products”. When budgets were cut, the first target was the network management product line that “contributed nothing” to the bottom line – “nothing but headaches…”. Not true – none of those claims were true, but that was the persuasive opinion posed by people who were competing for scarce resources. It required a lot of time and energy to defend my own resources and propel my products forward. I was successful only through the consistent and continuous presentation of facts.

Yup – nasty politics – but, that’s reality. Politics is embedded in some way in every decision – in the household, the community, the company and the country. The levers of National politics are the same as corporate politics.  When times are good, “the facts speak for themselves” – sometimes a bit too gloriously and sometimes a bit embellished – and no one notices the inaccuracies. When times are bad, it seems that accurate facts don’t matter at all, and the search for a scapegoat commences – or a distraction surfaces – or falsehoods are “a dime a dozen”. What is most distressing is that  in good times and bad, facts simply don’t seem to matter today – emotions and persuasively posed opinions easily take the center stage, scapegoating becomes a common defense tactic, and misdirected retaliation satisfies the masses. Falsehoods are readily swallowed by those who “like what they hear” and who are either too busy or too lazy to dig just a little bit deeper to check the facts for themselves. Sometimes, I think I am watching a bunch of children run the world!

My Point: Where are the Facts in this Election?

I get nervous when I look for facts to support decisions and don’t find them. I get really anxious when debate is opinion-focused and not fact-focused.  And I swear that the sky is falling when all I see and hear are diversionary tactics such as scapegoating, lies and misdirected retaliation galore. Well, the sky is falling…

The National politics today is rich in scapegoats, lies and misdirected retaliation – “Muslim terrorists”, illegal immigrants (anti-any immigrants for that matter), the Chinese, the immoral perverts who prey on our children. Dribble. I was incensed when a news reporter recently quipped that, “we were attacked by Muslims on 9/11”, and that was why there shouldn’t be a Mosque near old World Trade Center. My Goodness – we were attacked by a group of extremists, and extremist groups come in every stripe and color. I guess that we were attacked by Christians in Oklahoma City (try an “extremist group”).

What is happening here is that fear is being “farmed” – fed and harvested and transformed into anger. The Nazis were skillful at doing this, and it is beginning to happen right here and right now. Look at the emerging Tea Party – a movement of anger fueled by fear that seeks (through individual voices not well unified, yet) to eliminate the Fed, shred the IRS, halt immigration, abolish the 14th Amendment, withdraw from the World economic community (the Group of 20), and perhaps even pull out of the U.N. And when angry groups are motivated by fear, things get dangerous as reckless and irrational people grab power to make shortsighted changes with a huge potential for dramatic and calamitous unintended consequences.

I like the smell of chocolate chip cookies, fresh baked bread – and Facts.

I fear that as the economy continues to stutter and the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, I will like less and less what I “smell” as politics become more urgent and desperate and polarized and irrational with scapegoating, lies and misdirected retaliation at every turn – and more and more opinions will trump cold hard facts…

Who is dedicated to presenting the facts? Too few people.

(I like the smell of cookies – I like the smell of cookies – I like the smell of cookies)

FACTS Overcome FUD – and HAC, too.

November 9, 2009

My early product line management PLM career at Rockwell International’s Network Transmission Systems Division and later Alcatel was a “tough row to hoe”. My products were element-layer and network-layer management systems for telecom networks. For the network operator, these products were expensive to purchase, a little mysterious and esoteric for the uninformed, a heavy burden to maintain, and for 99.9% of the time these systems were nearly invisible and seemingly unneeded. Try justifying that purchase to the decision makers… It was a tough sell because there were so few facts to demonstrate a rational need. On the other side of the table, these products were especially difficult for me to garner funds for their development. I was severely challenged to show how much revenue my products would generate when our customers didn’t want to purchase these products in the first place. Worse, these particular management system products were “bargaining chip give-aways” to “seal the deal” if necessary. My customer counterparts and I were often in the most unfortunate position of having FUD as the only sales tool in our PLM toolbox. Measuring the real contribution to the bottom line for my products whether for us or our customers was impossible.

If a justification effort turns to the tools of FUD – fear, uncertainty and doubt, any seasoned executive will recognize the “ploy” from a subordinate and is likely to reject the “amateurish” effort outright. And if the seasoned executive can, they will often wield the tools of FUD themselves on less experienced adversaries to disarm a conflict or force an agreement – FUD is fast to foist and often effectively glosses over many troublesome details.

I learned a number of valuable lessons from the old PLM days, and I continue to pass them onto my clients at every opportunity:

1) In the absence of facts, hire the best salesperson you can to sew the seeds of hope, ambition and confidence – HAC – to counter FUD. In a battle exclusively of metaphor and hyperbole, charisma wins out to justify a “leap of faith”.

2) FACTS overcome FUD – and HAC, too – always! It is always worthwhile to discover facts and master their presentation. Facts tell a story that FUD can not.