52 Songs for 52 Weeks: Week 27 – Something About England by the Clash

I thought the old man could help me                                                                                             If he could explain the gloom

***

I missed the fourteen-eighteen war
But not the sorrow afterwards

The Clash are almost universally recognized as one of the most influential bands of the punk rock era (an argument could be made that the Ramones had more impact). 

Called “The Only Band That Matters” by fans and even music critics, the Clash dominated the airwaves from 77 to 83 with blistering energy.  They reached new heights of popularity in 1982 when their album Combat Rock spawned two mainstream hits (Rock the Casbah and Should I stay or Should I go?).   That kind of success never works for a rebel band and founders Strummer and Jones would never record together again. 

Something About England is an obscure song from the Clash’s least popular album.  But it has all the great qualities of a Clash song – energy, the strange balance between Jones and Strummer’s voices – and most importantly a great story to tell;  namely the devastation of two world wars on England, as told by an old man to a young man.  Just fantastic.

http://youtu.be/cFU6EF8vJAc

The few returned to old Piccadily
We limped around Leicester Square
The world was busy rebuilding itself
The architects could not care

-cj cheetham

52 songs for 52 weeks will get your music collection up to par. If you want to have a better music collection – check in each week . Add a song a week and in one year’s time your music collection will be the envy of all your friends.

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52 Songs for 52 Weeks: Week 26 – Follow you, Follow me by Genesis

My love I hope you’ll always be
Right here by my side if ever I need you

http://youtu.be/h9zj11gf9Qk

I’m not a huge Genesis fan and I’m not a huge Phil Collins fan, but this was our wedding song 21 years ago today – september 21st 1991.

It is just about the perfect love song.

It’s hard to believe that it was 21 years ago that I got to dance with my wife for the first time to this song. Great memories. I have no idea why I am so blessed.

I would have never achieved anything or done anything good without my wife. I thank God for Christy.

Everyday is such a perfect day to spend
Alone with you

-cj cheetham

52 songs for 52 weeks will get your music collection up to par. If you want to have a better music collection – check in each week . Add a song a week and in one year’s time your music collection will be the envy of all your friends.

Are You Creating a “Resourcefulness” Constrained Workplace?

Leveraging ideals to solve real problems

Here’s something I used to believe when it comes to problem solving:  In any endeavor, when it comes to problem-solving realism must be applied and realism must drive the outcome.  Therefore, nothing is worse than pie-in-the-sky solutions that are unattainable and unaffordable.  You might even catch me saying things like “let’s not have the perfect solution become the enemy of a very reasonable and good solution.”

However, over the years I have come to a new position.  Leveraging the ideal solution is not only important to solving an organization’s problems but it is essential to understanding the very nature of your problem.   The leader, rather than squelching subordinates from floating ideal (and perhaps fantastic) solutions, should encourage this behavior.  Once an ideal is agreed upon, that ideal can be studied and then, only then, should realism enter the picture.  Ideals must enlighten realism.

The ideal: invisible soldiers that walk through walls

Picture yourself in a room full of military planners.  A group of terrorists have kidnapped Americans and are holding them in an unknown building in an urban environment.  To complicate matters, the Americans are being held in a hostile nation, so you will get no cooperation from locals.  You are trying to solve an incredibly complex hostage situation.

Immediately the team leader starts looking for options and his team start talking logistics, intelligence, special operator teams, etc.  There are a lot of ideas about what can’t be done.  We won’t have time for this or those resources aren’t available, etc.  It’s a very realistic conversation.

Then some guy named Jones down at the end of the table says – “what we really need is invisible soldiers who walk through walls.”  Everyone stops and looks at this guy.  Somebody just shakes their head and they get back to how many C-130s are we going to need? 

The Boss finally says “Jones, let’s stay focused on the problem.”

The team is off and running to find a solution and Jones keeps his mouth shut.  They may even find a workable solution, but Jones is disengaged because he now realizes his ideal solution was a dumb idea.

But was it a dumb idea?  Not really; if you analyze an ideal solution you can learn an awful lot about what you actually need. 

Analyzing the Ideal

Let’s look at Jones and his idea for invisible soldiers who walk through walls.  Assuming that this is agreed upon as an ideal solution, what is it about invisible soldiers who walk through walls that make it ideal?

A quick analysis of invisible soldiers that walk through walls might yield the following principles of the ideal: 

–          Friendly forces move undetected by the enemy (Stealth)

–          Our forces can see and hear our enemy but they can’t see and hear us (information superiority)

–          We are undeterred by physical barriers such as buildings and walls (freedom of movement)

–          We have thinking human actors at the point of attack (mentally agile actors)

–          Invisibility limits the risk to our troops (security)

–          We can avoid a large conflict (precision engagement)

You get the idea – we could make a list for hours about the benefits of invisible soldiers who walk through walls.  The bigger lesson lies in the parenthetical remarks above.  When you take the time to analyze an ideal solution, it will reveal to decision makers the principles that the team must strive for.  Things like stealth, information superiority, security etc.  These things make up the ideal solution and a leader must ensure that the real solution, even if it can’t rise to the level of the ideal, incorporates the principles of the ideal solution.

In other words, Jones said something very important at the conference table.  The ideal principles are very germane to the actual answer.  They must enlighten the realist’s decision-making.

A “Resourcefulness” Constrained Environment

In the Air Force today, we are constantly reminded that we are operating in a “resource constrained” environment.  By resource constrained, senior leaders want us all to know that we don’t have enough equipment; we don’t have enough people; and we certainly do not have enough money to do everything that we need to or would like to do as a force.  In fact, there is hardly a speech given by leaders at any level that doesn’t talks about the “resource constrained environment” we are operating in and how it is going to get worse.

I don’t disagree with any of that.  We are resource constrained.  However, this is not different than any other time in American history.  We have always been resource constrained.

The danger in focusing on constraints is that it constrains your problem-solvers enthusiasm.  It squelches your idea generators.  If leaders go into a problem solving session by saying “we don’t have enough money, equipment or people but we have to do something” – they will get lousy inputs from their subordinates. 

Here is something I have seen over my career in the Air Force:  A junior officer says he needs X, Y, and Z in order to solve a problem.  The response from senior leaders is “we don’t have any X;  Y is way too expensive and I am using Z for something else.  You have to understand, Junior, we are in a resource constrained environment.”

The problem goes unsolved.  The junior leader (and the senior for that matter) thinks that X, Y, and Z are not “realistic” and therefore they say “forget it.”  Even more damaging, the next time there is a problem – the junior leader starts his problem solving by remembering we are in a “resource constrained environment” and he doesn’t look for an ideal solution, but rather one he might be lucky enough to get some backing on.  A half-measure that is funded is better than nothing at all, so knock off the dreaming, he thinks.

Equally discouraging is the fact that no one ever really analyzes the ideal of X, Y, and Z.  Why analyze “invisible soldiers that walk through walls?”  It will never happen.

The ultimate result is that leaders begin to create subordinates who can’t solve problems.  The subordinates get better at listing constraints and limitations to solving problems then they do at actually imagining victory.  The leader may as well start handing out ball caps with an upside down Nike symbol on them.  He can tell the team “Just Don’t Do It” and they can all where their anti-Nike hats.

The leader has succeeded in creating the Resourcefulness Constrained Environment – which I guarantee you will be much more damaging than the resource constrained environment.  Kill you team’s soul and their can-do spirit, and no amount of money can solve that.

A Way Ahead.

Ideals are like stars; you will not succeed in touching them with your hands.  But like the seafaring man on the desert of waters, you choose them as your guides, and following them you will reach your destiny

  • Carl Schurz (address to Faneuil Hall, Boston.  April 18, 1859)

Leaders, we have to get back to encouraging ideals and idealism in our subordinates.  Do not constrain your subordinates with endless negative talk about what can’t be done and what will never work.  It is up to you to free them to imagine things that will revolutionize what your organization is doing. 

Too often junior leaders are confronted with a drumbeat of negativity and short-comings disguised as “realism.”  This leads to leaders at every level who are incapable of imagining creative solutions; they are terminally negative; and they focus more on what they don’t have rather than what they need to do.  They get very good at thinking in a constrained way.

Believe me I see it every day.  Leaders who have been so conditioned by constraints that they are literally incapable of solving problems.  They focus their attention on managing inertia rather than imagining the ideal.  They will argue why they can’t do something – and they will argue that all day long.

***

The ideal is your friend, leaders.  It is not a waste of time.  It is the inspiration for organizational excellence.  Will we ever have invisible soldiers, time machines, and endless supplies of energy?   I don’t know.

But what I do know is that by analyzing those ideals and other ideals still unimagined, we can discern what makes them ideal.  Then as leaders, subordinates, and problem-solvers, we can strive for the effects that make something ideal to begin with.  That is called organizational PROGRESS.

Stop crushing it with you indignant realism.

-cj cheetham

52 Songs for 52 Weeks: week 25 In My Place – by Coldplay

For some strange reason, Coldplay (like U2 before them) gets an incredible amount of criticism just because they are one of the best bands in the world.  Oh well.

Coldplay has yet to put out a bad album – which is a testament to the consistent good songwriting.  They can create huge songs ideal for stadiums – but when they slow down a bit, I think they are really at their best.

I was lost, I was lost; I crossed lines I shouldn’t have crossed

Everyone can relate to that.

http://youtu.be/gnIZ7RMuLpU

-cj cheetham

52 Songs for 52 Weeks: Week 24 Blue Moon by the Marcels

Blue Moon, you saw me standing alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own

Admit it – you don’t own a single “doo wop” song.  Why?

the glory days of rock n roll – diners, cars, and great music.  There are a lot of possible best songs from the late 1950s and early 1960’s that formed the golden age of radio.  If you are going to have classic rock and roll song, it just has to be Blue Moon.

Guaranteed to make you smile.

http://youtu.be/7giOrKYIwpQ

-cj cheetham

P.S.

In case you were wondering, it’s something along these lines:

Bom ba ba bom ba bom ba bom bom ba ba bom ba ba bom ba ba dang a dang dang
Ba ba ding a dong ding Blue moon moon blue moon dip di dip di dip
Moo Moo Moo Blue moon dip di dip di dip Moo Moo Moo Blue moon dip di dip di dip
Bom ba ba bom ba bom ba bom bom ba ba bom ba ba bom ba ba dang a dang dang
Ba ba ding a dong ding

Bom ba ba bom ba bom ba bom bom ba ba bom

52 songs for 52 weeks will get your music collection up to par. If you want to have a better music collection – check in each week . Add a song a week and in one year’s time your music collection will be the envy of all your friends.