Thought I would share a couple of videos from Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show (currently called “The Daily Social Distancing Show.”)
Category Archives: Education
I didn’t really realize until Linda pointed it out, but helping my youngest with her classes is forcing me to relive High School . . . and I hated it! I cut so frequently, it took me an extra semester and two excruciating terms of Summer school to graduate. And she’s only a sophomore!
Concurrently, time is beginning to exert itself. I had no trouble keeping up with my kids through my sixties, but my energy level is waning, probably exacerbated by the need to stay put, which results in lack of exercise and eating a little too much . . . of some of the “wrong” things.
Oh, well. It’s raining (actually, mostly drizzling) outside, so gloomy seems to fit the moment.
The following is a post from an earlier blog of mine, The Cranky Curmudgeon. It was posted on February 27, 2006.
Why do people, perfectly rational in other ways, defend the indefensible? Why do they continue along a path that is demonstrably wrong and easily abandoned? I’m not talking about the barbarous torture being carried out in our name, with our money, by our government. I’m talking about the indefensible butchering of the English language by educated, enlightened people.
I’m talking about people who are scientists, who make their living off understanding and precisely defining physical properties of phenomena in order to reshape the world and our relationship to it. People who demand, and thrive off of, minutiae – accurate minutiae.
I heard three words in a meeting the other day that just drove me crazy. These three words were:
- Libary (for library)
- Ec Cetera (for et cetera), and
- Hierarchial (for Hierarchical)
Hearing these words butchered gives me the chills, but I learned a long time ago not to question an Engineer’s pronunciation of any word, lest one wishes to be the recipient of a surprised, somewhat pained expression followed by a derisive comment on one’s propensity for detail. Something like “Well. You knew what I meant. What are you? A Lawyer?”.
Well. Maybe. Maybe I knew what you meant and maybe I am a Lawyer. The latter part of the question is of no real consequence, and can be safely ignored as the silly attack it is, but the former isn’t necessarily all that clear. I knew what you meant? Could I be certain?
One of the simpler equations in physics is f = ma (force = mass x acceleration). Would an Engineer complain if I expressed it as f = na in a paper or in an analysis of a design or test results? Would it be OK if I said “Well, it’s only off by one letter and, after all, you know what I meant” (hee hee)?
I suppose, to be fair, there is the tongue twist factor to take into consideration. After all, library, et cetera, and hierarchical take a bit of concentration and practice to say properly. But here’s the real issue. Language is used to – now get this – communicate. Good, accurate, complete communication requires precision. It ain’t horse shoes or hand grenades.
So here’s what I have to say to those sloppy speakers who complain about merely being asked to correct their butchered pronunciations and complain they’re close enough to being “there”.
They’re ain’t no there their. You’re turn to figure out where your going (sic.)
Can we please stop using the phrase “Rule of Law?” The law has been used in this country for some of the most racist, vicious, and nefarious acts committed anywhere and it’s not, IMO, a useful phrase. Better that we use “Equality Under the Law.” Here are a just a few examples of laws that have been passed or rulings that have been handed down that make the point:
Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 – At the time it was passed, Chinese were only .002% of the population, but white people were worried about maintaining “racial purity.” Like today’s fears of immigrants, it was claimed they were taking jobs from white Americans.
People v. Hall – 1854. In this case, the California Supreme Court ruled that Chinese people had no rights to testify in court, adding them to the language of the laws at the time that stated “No black or mulatto person, or Indian, shall be allowed to give evidence in favor of, or against a white man.”
The internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II was facilitated by numerous laws and Executive Orders, including EO 9066, signed by our “Democratic Socialist” President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. My own in-laws were forced to assemble at Santa Anita Racetrack, where they resided in captivity until they were transferred to the Granada War Relocation Center in Colorado (AKA “Amache”) where they were interned for over two years.
Slavery – The laws supporting slavery are too numerous to recount here, as each state had its own “Slave Codes,” which were designed to give slave owners absolute power over their slaves, including forbidding slaves to even defend themselves or their family. In many, they were forbidden from learning to read or to leave their plantation without written permission. All of these restrictions were perfectly “legal” at the time.
The history of the U.S. and Native Americans is rife with treaties and acts continuously taking away land or forcing entire communities to leave their ancestral lands and move to less desirable locations, as well as hundreds of treaties which were broken by the U.S. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 forced the removal of five tribes, culminating in a forced migration later known as the “Trail of Tears.”
There are numerous instances in history, especially notable ones being the laws passed in Nazi Germany making it unlawful to aid Jews and providing for their imprisonment and extermination. All these were done under the color of law, e.g. the “Rule of Law.” We need to stop using this term. As I noted above, “Equality Under the Law” seems far more on point if we’re interested in freedom, justice, and equality of all peoples.
My youngest daughter (I have two) is in the 10th grade in high school. Her history class is studying the French Revolution right now and, during the Thanksgiving break she decided she wanted to build a scale model guillotine for extra credit. She, of course, enlisted my help. It never even occurred to me that I could probably find something online that would suffice and, in fact, I just looked and found a couple of places I could have purchased a kit. Here’s a really simple one. Here’s another.
As it turned out, I think I jumped at the opportunity to re-arrange our ridiculously stuffed garage, so I could get to my woodworking bench and use all the tools I’ve purchased or was given over the years and haven’t used for nearly a decade. Amazingly enough, they all worked despite some rust and corrosion.
I took some pictures as I was going along, and finished it yesterday so she could bring it to school today. This afternoon, I came across the original note her teacher gave her with the “rules”, e.g. it must work, it can’t have a sharp blade, and it isn’t due until Friday . . . grrrrr. Frankly, I became a wee tad obsessed with pulling this off and I’m glad it’s done and gone. I was having a hard time doing anything else, even though there were periods of time in between gluing and when I needed to build up my confidence that I could pull something off. Sometimes it mostly involved my remembering how to do something.
I made the whole thing out of a plank of 3/4″ thick Pine and a hobby piece of 1/4″ Oak. Since most of the table called for 3/4″ square pieces, I had to use an old table saw designed for onsite carpentry. It belonged to a friend of mine and, even though it’s been in my garage for at least 17 or 18 years, it still belongs to him. I just get to use it. Some of the cuts I had to make concerned by fingertips greatly, but they all managed to survive.
At any rate, here are some photos.
This is another paper I found on my computer. Truth to tell, I have no idea who wrote it. It could have been me, but I don’t remember. I searched the phrase from the title in Google, but could not find anything. Inasmuch as I retired from Rocketdyne (and the pursuit of enterprise-wide KM) nearly 10 years ago, it could be from something I encountered more than a decade ago. Nevertheless, I’m sharing it with the caveat that I’m not claiming to have written it; I’m only asserting it’s an important document for anyone who’s struggling with getting their organization’s people to share their knowledge for the benefit of their company. My experience, as well as my discussion with those who are still involved in the corporate world, is that knowledge sharing is still nowhere near as widespread as I think it should be. So, without further ado, here’s that Baker’s dozen of reasons people aren’t sharing:
- They don’t know why they should do it. Leadership has not made a strong case for knowledge sharing. Solution: Have the leader of the organization communicate regularly on knowledge sharing expectations, goals, and rewards.
- They don’t know how to do it. They have not received training and communications on how to share knowledge. Solution: Regularly communicate and conduct training, webinars, and knowledge fairs. Web-based training and webinar recordings should be available for all tools.
- They don’t know what they are supposed to do. Leadership has not established and communicated clear goals for knowledge sharing. Solution: Establish and communicate clear knowledge-sharing goals.
- They think the recommended way will not work. They have received training and communications but don’t believe what they are being asked to do will work. Solution: The KM leaders, knowledge brokers, and other members of the KM team have to convince people in small groups or one-on-one by showing them that it does work.
- They think their way is better. They are used to working on their own or collaborating only with a small group of trusted comrades and believe this is the best way. Solution: Regularly share stories of how others are benefiting from sharing knowledge using the recommended ways. This should help sway those stuck in their current ways to consider using better ways.
- They think something else is more important. They believe that there are higher-priority tasks than knowledge sharing. Solution: Get all first-level managers to model knowledge-sharing behavior for their employees, and to inspect compliance to knowledge-sharing goals with the same fervor as they inspect other goals.
- There is no positive consequence to them for doing it. They receive no rewards, recognition, promotions, or other benefits for sharing knowledge. Solution: Implement rewards and recognition programs for those who share their knowledge. For example, award points to those who share knowledge, and then give desirable rewards to those with the top point totals.
- They think they are doing it. They are sharing knowledge differently than the recommended ways (e.g., sending email to trusted colleagues or distribution lists). Solution: Assign people to work with each community and organization to show them how to use the recommended ways and how they work better than other ways. Providing a new tool or process which is viewed as a “killer app” – it quickly and widely catches on – is the best way for the old ways to be replaced with new ways.
- They are rewarded for not doing it. They hoard their knowledge and thus get people to beg for their help, or they receive rewards, recognition, or promotions based on doing other tasks. Solution: Work with all managers in the organization to encourage them to reinforce the desired behaviors and stop rewarding the wrong behaviors.
- They are punished for doing it. As a result of spending time on knowledge sharing, they don’t achieve other goals which are more important to the organization. Solution: Align knowledge-sharing processes and goals with other critical processes and performance goals.
- They anticipate a negative consequence for doing it. They are afraid that if they share knowledge, they will lose their status as a guru (no one will have to come begging to them at the time of need), that people they don’t trust will misuse it or use it without attribution, or that they will not achieve other more important goals. They are afraid of asking a question in public because it may expose their ignorance or make them appear incompetent. Solution: Position knowledge sharing as being a critical success factor for the organization. Facilitate ways for people to establish trusting relationships through enterprise social networks and face-to-face meetings. Recognize those who ask in public, and provide ways to ask questions on behalf of others.
- There is no negative consequence to them for not doing it. Knowledge sharing is not one of their performance goals, or it is a goal which is not enforced. Solution: Work with all first-level managers to get them to implement, inspect, and enforce knowledge-sharing goals. This needs to come from the top – if the leader of the organization insists on it and checks up on compliance, it will happen.
- There are obstacles beyond their control. They are not allowed to spend time sharing knowledge, they don’t have access to systems for knowledge sharing, or they don’t have strong English language skills for sharing with those outside of their country. Solution: Embed knowledge sharing into normal business processes. Provide ways to collaborate when not connected (e.g., using email for discussion forums). Encourage those with weak English skills to share within their countries in their native languages.
Managing Culture Change
Corporate culture consists of three levels: Artifacts; espoused values; and shared tacit assumptions. Each of these levels is important in understanding not only what corporate culture is, but how it works, and how it can be both changed and used to the benefit of the organization as a whole.
Artifacts consist of real, tangible things which can be associated with the organization. For example, McDonald’s has its golden arches, KFC has its colonel, and Nike has its swoosh. These are the most obvious, though not necessarily the most powerful, artifacts which can be associated with a company or organization. The more important artifacts are, for our purpose, things like architecture, décor, and the way people act while at work.
Some of the deepest feelings attributable to an organization’s culture are engendered by artifacts. For example, outside the main entrance to Rocketdyne sits an F-1 Rocket Engine. The engine stands approximately 20 feet high and, at its base, is around 12 – 15 feet in diameter. In front of it is a simple, bronze plaque, which informs you that this is the engine, along with four others, which lifted the Apollo Lunar Modules off the earth on their trip to the moon.
For anyone who works there, and knows anything about the company where they work, this engine evokes powerful feelings of accomplishment and success. I know from firsthand experience and observation that this frequently translates into a willingness (at the very least, resignation) to work that extra hour, to take a little more time in assuring your work is the best it can be.
These may be characterized by, among other things, an organization’s beliefs, level of communication, and methods of accomplishing it mission. These values may be seen in such things as a company’s rules, policies, and procedures. It may be found on the walls as slogans and posters. In talking to members of the organization you may be told that the company believes in things like teamwork, “best practices”, continuous improvement, and lean manufacturing.
At Rocketdyne, the corporate mantra involves team-based component production, commitment to safety, scientific analysis at all levels of the corporate structure, and lessons learned, in addition to other policies and procedures too numerous to mention. It is the background against which our daily activities take place and translates into copious collections of data, numerous briefings to higher and higher levels of management, and close inspection and analysis of every piece of hardware which goes out the door.
However, while many of these concepts may be spoken of, and may even appear as items of value on the corporate web pages and on slogans and posters put up around the plant and offices, it does not necessarily follow that they are actually carried out in our day-to-day lives. Frequently, managers and others who will say they believe in stated policies, are nevertheless placed in positions where they are required by more specific policies to do exactly the opposite of what the company says it believes in.
At Rocketdyne, this can be seen in the use of individual awards and yearly performance reviews, in spite of the outer appearance given by a team-based organization. This is a case where the management, due to executive requirements, fails to “walk the talk”, and falls back on “the way we’ve always done it”.
This inconsistency leads to what is arguably the most important aspect of culture, the real, deep assumptions by an organization and its members of how to accomplish the daily tasks, the sum total of which are the company’s true vision and mission.
Shared Tacit Assumptions
This is perhaps the most pervasive and, with respect to efforts at change, the most insidious of the three aspects of corporate culture. They are the things which “go without saying”, which we accept as the ways of the world, or the ways in which things get done. People cannot readily tell you what their culture is, any more than fish, if they could talk, could tell you what water is.
In the same way, a company’s shared tacit assumptions are taken for granted. Many, if not most, people are incapable of seeing any other way to perform a task or get a particular result. It is all they know, and to think otherwise is, in a word, unthinkable.
At Rocketdyne there are numerous ways in which this happens. They are frequently discovered only when something goes wrong, or when a series of small things go wrong which, by themselves might go unnoticed, but which lead to a major problem. We have studied the Valuejet disaster in 1995 at some length, yet as soon as we return to our jobs we occasionally find it easy to forget that it can, and sometimes does, happen to us.
We have instituted numerous methods of improving quality and performance, such as quality circles, continuous process improvement, and total quality management. We are in the process of instituting “lean manufacturing” and some of the aspects of the theory of constraints. Nevertheless, we continue to assume individual action and heroics are the real way things get done. We look for the engineer or mechanic who will come up with the answer to difficult problems, and neglect to look to the whole company for answers.
Recently, some managers have been looking for people who can “think out of the box”, who are capable of changing their frame of reference and understanding our problems in unique ways, or approaching them from a different perspective. Still, the focus is more on the individual and not on the team.
If one sets about to change a company’s culture, its view of the world, it is of the utmost importance to understand not only these three aspects of culture, but also the depth with which they pervade the organization. Failing to do so will certainly result in a misapprehension of the difficulty involved in change.
The most important things to realize are: 1. Culture is deep – it is tacit and gives meaning and predictability to our daily lives; 2. Culture is broad – it involves every aspect of our work and sometimes even invades the way we conduct our personal lives, and; 3. Culture is stable – people are generally not fond of change, and are far happier when everything goes along smoothly, just like it did yesterday and the day before. Any attempt to enforce change is likely to produce resistance and anxiety.
As formidable as the technical and procedural issues of Knowledge Management are, the need to change an organization’s culture far exceeds them. Most all have heard the term “knowledge is power”. This is generally perceived to be so and frequently translates into a desire to hoard information. Many organizations have experienced the “building of empires” which stands in the way of its freely sharing collective knowledge. Without a major change in our attitude toward ownership of information, we will not be able to take advantage of the tools available to us.
Peter Senge, in his book “The Fifth Discipline”, writes of the steps and the “core disciplines” involved in creating a learning organization He points out that, among those disciplines, is that of having a shared vision, and why it is important. Here is what Senge has to say about shared vision.
“In a corporation, a shared vision changes people’s relationship with the company. It is no longer ‘their company;’ it becomes ‘our company.’ A shared vision is the first step in allowing people who mistrusted each other to begin to work together. It creates a common identity. In fact, an organization’s shared sense of purpose, vision, and operating values establish the most basic level of commonality. . . .
“Shared visions compel courage so naturally that people don’t even realize the extent of their courage. Courage is simply doing whatever is needed in pursuit of the vision.”
I can think of no better way to conclude my paper. Moving from our current relationship with collective knowledge, our intellectual capital, may well require a massive rethinking of our entire corporate culture. There are organizations, mostly younger and already possessed of a shared vision which includes becoming a learning organization, who are already pursuing this path.
However, there are numerous, often older organizations which will be hard-pressed to find the courage and character it will take to let go of the control they feel they now have and embrace a new kind of control; that which comes from an entire organization pursuing the same goals and vision. Until we experience the transformation from being data and information driven, to being truly knowledge driven, we will frequently be at war with ourselves.
Management provides some of the understanding of the problem, and the vision
and direction we must strive toward. However, without fundamental changes in
our attitudes the path will be long and fraught with difficulty. It is, however,
truly a worthy struggle and is almost certainly inevitable. Changes in
technology are coming at us with greater rapidity. We have no choice but to
develop new ways of thinking to better take advantage of the new tools placed
at our disposal. We owe it to ourselves.
 Edgar H. Schein, The Corporate Culture Survival Guide, (San Francisco, CA, Jossey-Bass, Inc., 1999), pp. 15-20
 Schein, Op. Cit., p. 21
 Schein, Op. Cit., pp. 25 – 26
 Peter M. Senge, The Fifth Discipline, “The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization” (New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell, 1990; A Currency Paperback, 1994)
 Senge, Op, Cit,. p. 208