Announcement – Future Game Plan

Here’s the game plan for the way ahead for this blog.  I’ve completed my Autobiography through Chapter 7 at this point and now it’s time to start a rotation of topics once again.  For the next couple of weeks I’m going to begin to catch up on some other topics.  I will continue Jonathan’s Dream and finish posting what’s remaining for both Organizational Aerodynamics and Nurturing Organizational Growth.

I’ll also continue again with my online novel, Portraits of Life.  You haven’t missed anything at this point because nothing further has been written.  I have pondered where these characters will go and what might happen to them in the future, and I’ve decided that eventually they will interact with each other and their lives will all somehow meet up, but I’m not certain yet as to how that will all happen for everyone.  So stay tuned!

Then, as Advent is less than six months away now, and Christmas four weeks afterwards, I’m going to start posting the Christmas Songs that I’ve written in order to have them all posted online by Advent.  In many respects, the Christmas songs I’ve written have some of my favorite lyrics, as they tell the story of Jesus’ birth from various different perspectives.

Eventually, I’ll take the DAT (Digital Audio Tape) versions that I have of my songs and transfer them to individual CD tracks so that the simple demo versions of my original songs that I’ve made will be available for any musician to listen to.  They will then have the lyrics, chords and melodies of each song available to them to study and play if they wish.  That may happen eventually, but not until my backlog of historical material has been posted and I’m all caught up to the present day – whenever that will be.  I give credit to a friend of mine at work who is a great music lover, an excellent singer and an avid Frank Sinatra fan, for suggesting that I must eventually put the audio version of my songs online…so despite my inadequacies as a performer and a singer (and there are many, many of them), as a songwriter I would like to have the melodies available for all to use – because as a musician, I would find them invaluable if I wanted to play one of the songs I’ve written.  I think this is what I meant about making myself vulnerable…

Towards the end of June I have the time to start a new project, and I’ll start scanning my photo albums into the computer so that I can post photos that are relevant to my autobiography.  I won’t post anything in advance of the actual storyline (except for the Gulf War photos that have already been posted), but I’ll post the photos as the autobiography unfolds.  All in all, starting after the July 4th holiday weekend, I’ll then go back to a complete rotation of topics and photos, so that I can get everything online in equal measures and at a uniform pace.  That way, both you and I get to sample many different things on a regular basis, and I’ll even go back to writing original articles about whatever comes to mind from the pile of topics that I have “racked and stacked” just for that purpose!  :)

I’ve had time to “ponder” where I’ve come now with this blog, and to think about where it is ultimately going.  Of course every author would someday like to be published, but there is something very profound for me that I discussed in the article, “Expecting Nothing In Return.”  I like the freedom and the expression of posting everything online for free.  I think the internet is the very future of publishing itself anyway – everything will eventually go online and Google will have it all at your fingertips for your reading pleasure where and when you want it.  There is a great amount of authenticity involved in this process.  There is a certain honesty in putting one’s life online, “warts and all.”  This blog will always be rated “PG” because I won’t put anything here that a child couldn’t read for themselves.  The Truth is a very organic approach to life.  Someday, I will no longer be here, and the record can stand as I have written it to the best of my ability for potentially a long time afterwards.  So the ultimate aim of this blog is the Truth, to document how I’ve both lived and viewed life, as but one person of billions of human beings to have experienced the privilege.  In this way, when that final day does come, announced or unannounced as it may be, the result of this effort will be the story of a single life, a single person, who looked for both truth and meaning in what he called, “Life, Love and the Human Condition.”     

Cheers,

Mark    

Managing Water to Prevent Flooding

Every year we hear of significant flooding in many communities across America and see the television images of homes flooded and destroyed.  We also hear that underground water resources are being depleted in many communities because of increased demand for underground water by agriculture and growing communities.  This article proposes a solution that many communities could implement that would take care of both of these issues at the same time.

To often communities rely on levee systems to keep water out – especially if they live along a river system.  Natural flood plains disappear because population centers grow and expand into them.  Farmland and pasture lands that were annually flooded by overflowing rivers have been replaced by subdivisions in many areas.  Relying on levees for protection will eventually lead to the devastation of the community because once the level is breached or fails, the water will quickly fill in all the areas that the levee was built to protect.  Once the water breeches the levee – it has no natural way to return to the river system as the levee blocks it from returning to the river.

What has to happen is that communities must plan for all of the excess water to go somewhere – away from populated areas.  When cities along a river build up levees for the purpose of walling the water out, the river level simply goes up as the river continues downstream.  At some point downriver the levees can no longer contain all of the additional water that the river is carrying, because the natural flood plains are gone and levees keep it in the river channel proper.  The ideal solution is for cities to relocate away from the river channel and restore the system of natural flood plains.  However, this isn’t feasible in most instances.

Whenever dams can be used to retain water in a reservoir behind them, this can be a good solution.  The reservoir provides recreation for the population and can be very scenic; however, the environmental movement to remove dams has grown specifically in an attempt to return river systems to their natural state.  The problem for population centers is that river flooding is one of the basic natural conditions of any river system.  It is as natural as the wildlife and ecosystems that grow up along a riverbank.

The best solution that would work for everyone is a system where rivers are allowed to return to their natural state of flooding, without damaging population centers.  The way to do this is to first designate parcels of rural county land to be designated wildlife floodplain areas and for the county to either purchase this land directly or set up a system for landowners to deed the areas as wildlife conservation areas while retaining ownership.  The county then needs to provide a natural system that allows for excess river water to flow to these rural areas without damaging any property.

Constructing this natural overflow system is not very difficult.  In essence it works as a relief valve when the river is stressed by excess water.  Dry channels or dry river beds need to be dug away from the river itself at an elevation that is above the natural water level of the river.  This dry river bed continues to a point where there is enough area to construct a retention basin of a significant size that the water can flow into.  It has to be rural enough to not threaten another population center away from the river.  An abandoned gravel pit or wildlife area is an ideal choice.  Once the retention basin fills with water it allows the water to naturally seep back into the ground to replenish the water table.

These overflow dry river channels will have berms around them of raised earth that was excavated from the channel or basin.  Once constructed, they are replanted and allowed to return to a natural state, similar to the natural areas around them.  Wildlife and a natural ecosystem will follow, creating a wildlife habitat that returns the land back to its most natural condition.  During times of flooding, the river rises and some of the excess water is carried away to fill the retention basin, and when necessary overflows into the conservation area.  If every county along a river system did this where feasible, the entire river system would be relieved of the excess water capacity and the existing levees would easily hold the remaining water.

Communities need to plan and coordinate together throughout the entire river system to allow the excess water a natural place to go.  These retention basins could actually be large dry lakebeds, available to fill when necessary.  Wildlife would prosper, the land would be kept in a natural state and population centers would be less threatened from the devastation of major flooding.  To do otherwise is foolish and to invite significant loss from flooding in communities across America.

Live, Love, Think, Exist

When I started this blog I needed to come up with a username in order to get started.  Not knowing just where this blogging venture would ultimately take me, I thought that I’d just string together a few key words that had significant meaning to me.  It wasn’t until after establishing the blog that I found out that livelovethinkexist.wordpress.com would be the official address.  In fact I couldn’t even find my own blog very well on my own.  I had to ask my son (kids know everything about technology these days) how to easily navigate to my own page, and in about 5 seconds he showed me.  :)  I’m glad the next generation is fully equipped to work with this new and evolving technology, because I’m barely keeping my head above water with it!  Don’t even ask me if I know how to use a camera phone…because I don’t.

At first I thought, that’s an awkward site address to use – no one will find it on the internet!  The more I thought about it the more I actually liked it – and here’s why.  First of all, most people will find this site from a simple Google search, which is one of the most amazing wonders of the modern world.  To query Google for a piece of information and get hundreds of thousands of results instantly is beyond my ability to even fathom.  Secondly, once someone finds this blog all they have to do is save it under their favorites or email the link to someone.

So the fact that my blog has a long site address doesn’t concern me in the least.  What I actually think about it is that anyone who is interested in what I discuss here will appreciate the thought behind the site address.  My readers have to be Thinkers and Ponderers, or what I discuss won’t interest them at all.  They also have to be Dreamers, Adventurers, Poets, Readers and Children at Heart – otherwise they wouldn’t enjoy the many future Sam the Tugboat stories that I will write and post here or read the chapters of Jonathan’s Dream, which takes place in a far different world than what he was expecting.  My readers have to be Musicians or they wouldn’t be interested in the 200 original and copyrighted songs that I’ll soon start posting online.  Folks who read this blog will be interested in topics I call From the Heart, concerning Love and Passion – but from a spiritual and cerebral sense, not physical – so everything posted here will be friendly for all ages and backgrounds.  My readers will have an interest in Community and Personal Fulfillment – topics concerning both the individual and the greater social fabric that surrounds us.  My blog will attract people who are interested in Business and Organizational Theory – how to nurture organizations into a more productive common effort.  There is no limit to the variety of topics that I’ll post here, usually something new every day or every other day, that will allow them to check in with a cup of coffee or tea and spend a moment reflecting on the world around them with me!  :)

In a word my readers will be a lot like me…(now that’s a scary thought!)…Inquisitive, Open Minded, Practical, Common Sensical, Folksy, Good Hearted, Spiritual, Dependable, Reliable, Free Thinkers, and Community Minded.  But if you discover this site and don’t think that you are any of these things, fear not – everyone is welcome!  You may just discover something new about life or about yourself or about me that will give you too a chance to pause and ponder, to look out at the distant horizon and wonder what is on the other side, to smell a flower or return a smile, or decide to read a children’s story to a young child.  In the end this blog is for you – my readers.  It is also for me as it is very therapeutic and provides an “official” excuse for my many ponderings.  Years ago in school my mind was often a million miles away as I gazed out of the window into the far corner of my imagination.  Now I can share those thoughts with you also.

In a partnership with my readers, anything that I post on this site is for your reading pleasure.  You can copy it, you can mail it, you can collect it, you can scrapbook it, you can give it to a friend, you can talk about it in school or do anything with it you like.  If you’re a musician and like the song lyrics and chord structures that I post here, you’re free to play the song – however you choose to interpret it – to your heart’s content.  Because, in the end, life is all about a contented heart.  It’s about self satisfaction and self discovery.  It’s about doing your best for yourself and for everyone around you.  It is to Love and Serve God.  The only thing that I ask of you is that if you like something I’ve written here – share it with a friend.  And when you do, simply say that it came from this blog, and don’t profit from it in a monetary sense – only from an intellectual basis.  My life is now an open book for the world to see and read about.  There is no income generated here – just a passion to share with you what I think is important in our world – the Truth as I understand it to be.  So readers, I want you to Live with Passion, Love with Commitment, Think with all of Your Ability, and Exist with an Essence, Vitality and Joy that oozes from every fiber of your being.  Or as Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, offers:  Cogito, ergo sum“I think, therefore I am” by René Descartes , and “Carpe diem” – “Seize the Day” a phrase from a Latin poem by Horace.

Implementing a Quality Culture in Your Organization

Years ago, I was given the task to implement a Quality Program in an organizational environment that consisted of multiple flying and support units with a variety of different mission statements between them.  Some of these organizations did the same thing from different locations, some overlapped in areas of common interest, and others were unique to themselves.  The only problem was that we didn’t have a Quality Program to offer them, as it hadn’t been written yet – so I had nothing to introduce or implement.  So I decided to start from scratch and go back to the source documents in order to provide our organizations something to use until the official Quality Program arrived at our doorstep.

So I read Dr. W. Edwards Deming, Joseph M. Juran, and a handful of other works by various quality experts in order to understand the nature of this world of quality that I was to implement, as I had never had formal quality training before.  The more I read the more I came to understand was that perhaps I didn’t have the jargon on the tip of my tongue – but I know quality when I see it.  We all do.

Much of what quality is all about is basic common sense – the things that parents and teachers do every day to focus their children in a positive direction: do your work properly, promptly and be proud of what you have accomplished.  Don’t cut corners, dot your i’s and cross your t’s.  Stick with it until you are finished.  Make it look presentable.  Sign your work.  Help others around you if they don’t understand the task or activity.  If you do it right the first time you don’t have to go back and do it all over again correctly.  The sayings and common wisdom go on and on.  The concept of quality has existed ever since man created the wheel, and it turned out lopsided and didn’t roll very well.

These days “Quality” is a business in and of itself.  There are Quality Consultants, Quality Experts, Quality Training Organizations, Quality Positions, and Directors of Quality – the list is endless.  Large organizations that “implement” quality often do so in ways that creates a “parallel organization” to the original mission that their organization was set up to do.  Quality Processes, Quality Positions, Quality Teams, Quality Inspections, and Quality Reviews create this “Quality Organization in parallel” that crowds out and overpowers the very mission that the original organization was set up to accomplish.  In addition, the added expense of hiring the Quality Experts, attending the Quality Training, purchasing and implementing the Quality Software, and the time, expense, reports generated and energy involved can be overwhelming.

I watched a documentary over the weekend about a great warship that was built in Scandinavia a few hundred years ago.  It was the biggest and most powerful warship of its day ever built.  On the day it was launched in all of its glory, it promptly sank minutes later in the harbor.  After resting on the harbor’s bottom for all of these years in cold, pristine conditions, it was brought to the surface and completely restored and now sits in a museum.  I think of modern companies in this same manner.  It turns out the warship was completely top heavy and unstable in the water.  It had an extra row of cannons on the top deck, and not enough ballast below – so it rolled as soon as it was launched and sank.  The extra “processes” and bureaucracy can make any company “top heavy” and the overhead cost can sink a company as fast as that warship when the margins are tight.

I believe that quality needs to be embedded in the existing organizational structure so that no position on the organization chart is recognized as a “quality position.”  Quality can operate within whatever tools and software the company already uses on a daily basis.  No extra expense needs to be made in supporting a quality culture.  Every employee or teammate can Google all the quality terms in the lexicon and study concepts and definitions on-line for free.  The point is that implementing quality doesn’t have to involve any overhead costs, any new positions, any new software or any Quality Consultants.  Much of the knowledge is common sense and everything else is available on-line for free.  Everyone can educate themselves about quality.

After graduating from college all those years ago, long before the Internet came along; I had the concept of teaching myself about whatever I was interested in.  One of my core beliefs has always been that everyone should strive to know a little bit about everything, so if you meet someone you can at least have some common ground to converse.  Once we are taught to read as a child, we have all the tools necessary to educate ourselves – and now with the Internet that ability is absolutely fantastic.  Anything you can think of you can Google and thousands of pathways are available to whatever you want.  In my day you had to go to the library – today it is at your fingertips from anywhere in the world.  Of course there is bad information out there and of course not everything is suitable for everyone – but it is there and it is available and it is free.  Who could have imagined this world of information before?  I took a college computer course back in the day when it took a thick stack of punch cards to compute what a normal calculator can do so much faster and better today.  I can’t even believe today’s technology.

So we all have an innate and common sense understanding of Quality.  We also know that the knowledge is free and the information is easily available, and implementing Quality shouldn’t be an economic “drag” on our organization’s budget.  However, there is a “wall” or “barrier” that we can’t overcome as an organization despite our “bootstrap” efforts to implement quality into our organization – Bureaucracy.  Governments and “official” organizations implement “standards of quality” that can’t be achieved without hiring the Quality Experts and Consultants, buying the Quality Software, implementing the Quality Forms and inviting the Quality Inspection Teams in order to get your Quality Stamp of Approval so your organization can actually produce the outputs or products that it was set up to do.  There is no “bootstrap” method to evade these requirements.  I really think that bureaucracy will be the downfall of modern society.  Once the government gets involved, the bureaucracy that follows will overwhelm any organization like a tsunami – and smother the life out of it until it no longer exists.  It started with warning labels on plastic bags and ladders.  It set standards for automobile manufacturers that are driving them out of business.  It is never ending and relentless.  Soon everything may just implode on itself from the weight of bureaucracy.

In one area I will relent and give the Quality overhead and bureaucracy its due: businesses that are so technical and specifications that are so precise that anything less means failure.  An electron microscope has some pretty tight tolerances, rockets work or they don’t, and computers are immensely complicated machines.  The expense, research, expertise, and technology required to produce these types of products requires all of the investment that a modern Quality Program entails – that I will acknowledge.  For everyone else out there, we will continue on track.

At the individual level all of the “processes” and expenses aren’t required.  An individual is a “stand alone quality program.”  You can apply quality (I use quality with a small “q” from now on) in every corner of your daily life to make improvements to it – your home, health, family and work environment.  As a small organization, you can “bootstrap” quality easily at no cost or expense.  If you are a small or mid-size organization with no government mandated regulatory requirements involved, then you too can implement quality to improve your product, save costs, increase efficiency and improve your organization’s health and vitality.  The following “10 points to quality” can be used as an initial guide to point you in the right direction.  After that, you and your organization can educate yourselves to create your own quality culture at no additional expense to what you are now doing.

1.     Whoever leads your organization is responsible for quality – whether it is you as a single “stand alone” entity or the CEO of a company.  The leader sets the organization’s direction, tone and standards.  It is the leader’s job to create an “environment” or “quality culture” that allows the concept of quality to thrive.

2.     Managers at all levels are the key to implementing quality.  They “own” the processes involved, make the decisions, and guide their teammates in all areas and at all levels of the organization.  I believe that it is “poor management” that is the real downfall of companies everywhere.  If managers would just do their jobs properly, then everything else becomes attainable.  Managers are responsible for empowering teammates, incremental work center improvements and for meeting their customer’s expectations.  If they are incompetent, then everything falls apart.

3.     Every manager and every supervisor by definition is a quality instructor.  The primary roles of mid-level leaders includes: coaching, mentoring and instructing their teammates.  The concept of quality must be applied on a daily basis in the work center and not viewed as a quarterly or yearly academic exercise.  No one outside of your team can be “responsible” for quality.

4.     Every individual in your organization must endorse quality internally with their every fiber, not in a lip sync “oath” or “quality mission statement” but actually believe in incremental quality improvements deep into the very marrow of their bones – and apply it to everything that they do.  It has to become a passion for them.  Every teammate is essential for a quality culture to grow and develop.  Teammates are at the “pointy end of the pencil,” the “keystrokes of the keyboard,” and where the “rubber meets the road.”  If teammates don’t apply quality concepts at the lowest levels of a process within your organization – it can’t succeed.

5.     Every work center is a quality working group.  Natural work centers where teammates work together in an office or in a common process must implement a quality approach as a team effort since they are all involved together in everything they do.  Internal and external customers are everywhere and must be recognized as such.  Every group of teammates at every level in your organization have to think and act as a team.  From the break room to the board room – every individual and every group for every process – from the entry level clerk to marketing to sales to design to support to IT to the delivery truck driver – has to be involved and “believe” that quality improvements over time can make the entire organization better.

6.     An emphasis on quality must be believable.  We all recognize a “half hearted” effort.  Quality is either a total comittment or it really doesn’t exist.  It isn’t an “every other Tuesday” or weekly, monthly or annual exercise.  Everyone knows if it is believable from the top on down.  To put something on paper doesn’t mean it exists if the person operating the machine doesn’t believe in it or adopt it – quality has to permeate the entire organization and everyone in it.  To create a quality culture is to have it sink into everyone’s mentality, conversation, task and process.

7.  Individuals must be empowered at every level to do the right thing and make the right decisions at every opportunity that they can.  Empowerment allows an organization to be more than the mere sum of its individuals.  A quality culture and emphasis is required to ensure the long term health and survival of your organization.  Individuals develop a sense of ownership in a process once they are empowered.  If they really believe that their work signature reflects the very best they have to offer – there’s no limit to what they can do.

8.     Individuals must believe that they can make a difference.  They must be mentored and nurtured to rise to their potential.  Leaders, managers and supervisors at all levels need to “grow” their teammates to be more than even they believe they can become.  Every teammate is the most precious part of your organization – spend the time to invest in them to ensure the organization’s success.  If teammates believe in themselves, in continuous improvement, in the organization’s mission and in your customers – they bring an intangible element into the equation that can’t be purchased – which is more valuable than gold.

9.     Personal initiative must be recognized.  Teammate recognition is essential for a healthy organization to thrive and prosper.  Not everyone sees recognition the same – some like public recognition, some private praise, some look to a flexible schedule, some desire certain benefits, bonus pay, merit pay or simply a raise.  However recognition is perceived, it has to be tailored to the circumstances and to the teammate’s desires – otherwise it won’t be a motivation to them.  Proper recognition for all teammates’ efforts will allow quality to prosper and grow into a true quality culture throughout the organization and at all levels.

10.    An emphasis on quality has to respect an organization’s history and achievements.  You can not erase an organization’s history with a clean sweep or force quality into an organization and expect your efforts to thrive.  People are proud of their past, where they came from and how they did things – despite the results or success of those efforts.  Take the building blocks that are there, turn them into a solid foundation, and build upon those efforts.  If an organization has a proud history – acknowledge and celebrate it – use it as a launching point into the future as a source of pride and heritage.

The bottom line is that teammates at all levels are the key to quality; quality is not an academic exercise but a daily application; a quality emphasis and involvement belongs at every natural work center at every level of the organization; you can’t impose quality on an organization but instead it has to be adopted by every teammate or it won’t be believable or work; and the ultimate goal is to create a quality environment or culture that permeates everyone’s thinking and process at every level of your organization.

So what was the result of my Quality Program initiative all those years ago?  I wrote and implemented my own plan, centered on the 10 points listed above, and it was a success.  Roughly five months later an Inspection Team arrived to inspect us on a program that hadn’t been delivered to us yet.  All in all, we passed with flying colors, and I was officially recognized for my efforts.  There was one defining point in the whole experience that was more important to me than any other – including the public recognition from the Inspection Team.  I was visiting the office of the individual that had originally assigned me the task one day, when his Executive Secretary asked me out of the blue to sign her personal copy of the quality program that I had written.  It literally stopped me in my tracks from the depth of response I had from her very sincere request – and of course I signed it for her.  I will never forget that moment in time – it is captured forever in my memory.

Six months later another individual took over the quality position – and shortly afterwards the official Quality Program finally arrived at our doorstep.  The only thing that is important to take away from this entire experience is that we were able to implement quality on our own and still pass an official inspection visit – all from a dead start.  We spent little money on it – for reproduction costs only – and laid a solid foundation for the new program to build upon.  In life you can achieve whatever you set out to accomplish – and quality will go a long way to getting you there!