The Day the World Will Stop: Changing of the English Throne

Queen_Elizabeth_II_March_2015

Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II

In 114 days (as of May 9, 2015,) Queen Elizabeth II’s legend will take one step further into history. On September 9th of this year she will become the longest-serving royal (63 years, 217 days) to ever grace the English throne. If you are younger than 65 years old you will not have known anyone other than Queen Elizabeth as the leader of England.

It is said she will not abdicate her throne, but will reign until her death. That is the expected choice, but possibly not the wisest.

It is likely her Majesty does not understand the impact her death will have on the world. Humans cling to the idea that some things do not change, and there are few people in the civilized world who don’t have a mental and/or emotional attachment to her and her place in our world. She is the constant that we all rely on to know that some things do not change.

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The Queen’s Royal Coat of Arms (UK)

During her reign as Queen we have had twelve Presidents in the United States (Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush (41,) Clinton, Bush (43,) and Obama.) We have seen movie stars, rock stars, athletes all come and go, but Queen Elizabeth has always been there.

In a world of instant communication, her death will affect more people than anyone in the history of the world. People will remember where they were and what they were doing the moment the news is announced. If her death coincides with a change in royal leadership, it will magnify the impact on the world.

Queen Elizabeth 1953

Queen Elizabeth II in 1953

The event of her death and the passing of the English crown will be seen by some as the perfect opportunity to take advantage of an emotional situation. The majority of the world will pull closer together in grief, but those who seek radical changes in politics, government, the economy, or just seek to hurt the Western world, will use the chaotic feelings of the loss as a way of creating more chaos.

The royal family will be dealing with the loss, and the matters of royal duty at the same time. The coronation of the new King may not happen for a year or more; however, the details of transitioning power from Her Majesty to the His Majesty will involve changes in staff, new protocols, and a thousand other items that have not been done for over six decades. All this will happen at a time when few will be able to focus on anything beyond the loss of woman and icon that has been an unflickering beacon of the Western World.

However, if she reached this milestone in four months and then decided to abdicate sometime in the next year, a calm, undramatic transition would preserve the stability of the royal role the hearts and minds of the world. As the former queen with over sixty years of experience, she would become the most valuable and trusted counsel for the new King.

Her eventual passing will still devastate the emotional state of the world, but with a new King already on the throne, the world will know that England’s royal, non-political leadership will live on.

God Save the Queen.

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Death By Incentive Program

_DSC0363 (2)Incentive programs are the tip of the sword in organizational suicide. They are often designed by people who believe that there is a single cause leading to a positive effect in achievement. The reality is that life isn’t that simple. Here are three examples of incentive program fails:

EXAMPLE 1 – Retaining Major Customers
ISSUE:  A business owner loses a major customer and believes that it was because his employees weren’t responsive enough to the major customer’s needs.

INCENTIVE:  The owner creates and incentive program that rewards employees for being more attentive to major customers. (Potential measures:  Major customer satisfaction surveys, increase in revenue from major customers, response time data.)

EFFECT: Some employees learn how to gain the favor of the major customer through unethical tactics:  i.e. kickbacks, access to inside information about the major customer’s competition, sacrificing minor customers in order to be more attentive to major customers, giving more product or service to the major customers and charging it to minor customers, etc.

RESULT:  The owner finds out that some unethical employees look like superstars to the major customers, while ethical employees seem to be failures. Minor customers, a primary source of new revenue, leave for competitors leaving the company with a few major customers that demand special treatment.

EXAMPLE 2 – Improving Student Performance
ISSUE:  Recognizing and reinforcing good student behavior and educational achievement.

INCENTIVE:  Teachers are given special reward tokens to give to students who display good behavior, or who perform exceptionally on class or homework assignments. Students with the most tokens are given a special reward at the end of the school year.

EFFECT:  Some teachers give out tokens liberally and gain favor with the students. Some teachers attempt to ethically administer the program, but find that they are not consistent in giving out tokens to the students for similar positive events. Some teachers do not buy into the incentive program and rarely give out tokens.

RESULT:  High performing students discover that their behavior and achievements is subject to different evaluators who create an reward system that is not objective. Students who are recognized feel superior to other students, and other high performing students become angry, frustrated, and discouraged.

EXAMPLE 3 – Improving Productivity
ISSUE:  Motivate management to improve to eliminate wasted time and resources.

INCENTIVE:  Financial bonuses for top managers who have higher output per employee and/or expenses, OR have lower cost per dollar of revenue.

EFFECT:  Managers discover that by making salaried employees work longer hours and not replacing old equipment as needed, they can look more productive. Employees may not like working with broken or outdated equipment, or be required to work longer hours, but that is not what is measured, so it is irrelevant to the manager.

RESULT:  Other indicators (high turnover, loss of customers, etc.) might indicate a failure of the manager in performing his or her duty; however, because the incentive is to improve productivity, those factors are ignored. The manager looks like a superstar and yet the division or department has severe morale issues and is a business failure._DSC0361 (2)

Why Incentive Programs Fail
Despite the popular idea that incentive programs are a good motivational tool, there are four reasons why they are not.

Organizational success is not a science, but an art

Incentive plans are based on the old idea that the ends justify the means. True organizational success is all about the ‘means’ and the success comes only after multiple factors combine. Organizational success often can’t be repeated because it was contingent on the talents of key team members who brought key talents or skills into the formula of success.

Cause and effect are rarely in a one-to-one relationship

Whatever is defined as the positive outcome, people will find multiple ways to achieve the desired goal, regardless of ethics.

People are not ethical by nature

Incentive programs encourage unethical behavior. The goal is assumed to be the highest priority and that is tacit approval to some that anything goes as long as the goal is met or exceeded.

Some organizations intend the incentive program to encourage unethical behavior

Executives cannot tell their employees to be unethical, but they can create the environment that fosters unethical behavior in pursuit of the indicators of success. This protects the company and puts all the risk on the employees.

Incentive = Manipulation

People who design incentive programs explain that the intent is to reward good behavior, and they fail to complete the sentence, “through manipulation.” Manipulation requires a lack of respect. Most people want to do the right thing and don’t need to be tricked into doing it. It is possible that unethical behavior is stimulated by incentive programs because the person feels disrespected by the use of manipulation and responds by obtaining the reward while sabotaging the program.

The Need For An Incentive Program?
Organizations that need an incentive program indicate a failure in leadership. Any business or school should know who its best performers without an artificial measurement program in place to identify them. In addition, any organization should have an ongoing effort to recognize and reward the best performers. Leadership that is effective in celebrating success will be setting the example for others without manipulation through an artificial program that disrespects people and will likely be vulnerable to unfair evaluation and unethical behavior.

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Free Range Parenting: How to Say I Don’t Love You

Abandoning a child does teach a lesson: Parent's don't care

Abandoning a child does teach a lesson: Parent’s don’t care

The parent always correct. That is the basis of free-range parenting. The idea that a parent should be allowed to do whatever they want, including nothing, with their children.

I grew up in rural northwestern Colorado. The idea of ‘free-range’ is common in farming communities where it refers to animals. It means the rancher allows his animals to roam on open land, usually federal land and expends minimal personal resources on the care and maintenance of his or her livestock until it’s time to round them up for sale. The expectation is that some of the animals will be lost to predators, but the money saved by not feeding and watering them is worth the risk.

In parenting, ‘free-range’ is applied to the children of the mother and father. The concept is that children of almost any age will mature faster as unsupervised survivalists than under the care and monitoring of an adult. It is as stupid as it sounds.

Rafi and Dvora Meitiv: Children with a lack of parenting

This idea gained national awareness when Rafi, a ten-year-old boy, and Dvora his six-year-old sister were picked up by law enforcement when they were reported to be unsupervised about a mile from home. They are children of Danielle and Alexander Meitiv who believe that their children should be allowed to roam free on streets and in parks in order to learn the lessons that life offers. The parents have been charged with child neglect.

The real issue with free-range parenting is not one of parenting style. Parenting style requires that you actually take the responsibility to be a parent, which free-range parents don’t. Free-range parenting can be compared to having something of infinite value entrusted to someone, for which they go to the back door and throw it as far away has possible.

The critical issue with free-range parenting is assuming that children are born with an automatic sense of right and wrong. They are not. Children learn good behavior and they learn it from the human examples around them. Left on their own, many children experiment with cruelty and seek to satisfy baser desires, especially when one child is older and/or stronger than another child.

Parents have to constantly guide children to understand the concepts of boundaries, respect, kindness, responsibility, and humility. Often children battle against parents when told that certain behaviors and/or actions are not acceptable, but as a child matures they begin to understand that parents are acting out of love in teaching proper social behavior. They understand this, often because they see other people around them who lacked proper parental supervision and who are social failures as an adult.

A free-range parent is also setting themselves up for failure. The child will soon discover that the more they stay away from the parents, the less hassle they will experience, so the detach themselves emotionally from the parent. Once a child has found the parent to be irrelevant the opportunity for the parent to offer advice and guidance is lost forever.

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Goodbye to HelloFresh

Instructions for preparing HelloFresh meals

Instructions for preparing HelloFresh meals

We were not in the market for a home delivery meal service, but when I received a coupon for three meals for less than $30 from HelloFresh we took the plunge. 

HelloFresh is a subscription dinner service. For the normal price of $69/week we could have a UPS truck stop at our house every Tuesday (or any other day) with the ingredients and recipes for three meals. The box had three large ice blocks with the meat under them and the other ingredients on the top. The meals were enclosed in a large plastic bag in case the ice began to melt and leak.  

The meals were for two people, (you can get boxes with meals for four) and the quality of the ingredients were good with one exception, an avocado that was overripe. 

The issues with the service are as follows: 

Extremely limited menu – HelloFresh has two menus to select from, a meat menu and a vegetarian menu. You cannot mix the meals from the two different menus. On the meat menu, they offer three meals of their choosing, or we could have selected from two alternatives; however, we found the alternatives to be less palatable than the three primary choices. 

Odd menu choices – The lack of quality cuts of red meat on their menu is obvious. The red meat offerings during the two weeks were flank steak and a meal with hamburger mixed in with the stuffed pepper meal. The six meals were:

  • Pan-seared chicken & pea pilaf
  • Citrus skillet shrimp
  • Wasabi-glazed (flank) steak 
  • Goat cheese-stuffed chicken roulades
  • Indian stuffed peppers (with hamburger)
  • Oven-roasted salmon

Alternatives for week one were:

  • Fregola Sarda & Sweet Italian Sausage
  • Pea & Asparagus Gnocchi

Alternatives for week two were:

  • Mustard pork chops
  • Burst tomato & squash fusilli

The menu targets the person with eclectic taste and/or someone who loves the challenge of cooking new foods. If you are a person who can only find four or five acceptable choices on a typical 50 item restaurant menu, HelloFresh is not for you.

Heavy on frying – olive oil and the skillet are prominent aspects of preparing a HelloFresh meal.

Increased prep and clean up time – the HelloFresh website proudly states, “Cooking Made Easy.” This was not our experience. If you are an experienced chef you might be able to meet the prep times listed, but we found that it typically took about an hour to prep a HelloFresh meal. Clean up took at least two to three times longer than clean up for our own home cooked meals.

Confusing recipes – HelloFresh breaks down the recipe in steps; however, each step is written in paragraph form with multiple sub-tasks in each paragraph. It requires re-reading the same paragraph multiple times to make sure you don’t miss a step.

Cost – At almost $70 for three meals, HelloFresh is an expensive meal service. I estimate that the ingredients for each meal cost around $10, so we paid about $40 for shipping, meal planning, and ingredient procurement while still being responsible for the cooking and clean up.

Excessive delay between order and delivery – All orders for the next week must be in by Wednesday midnight of the previous week regardless of what day it is delivered. That means the food for the meals is probably ordered/finalized on Thursday. That would make the process for HelloFresh much easier, but it sacrifices convenience for the customer and means the ingredients delivered late in the week are likely as old as the ingredients delivered at the beginning of the week.

Of all the issues I have with HelloFresh, it is the lack of choice. The limitations set by HelloFresh indicate a minimal budget and a lack of commitment to the concept of home delivered meals. That suggests an organization that lacks the financial and human resources to meet the expectations of the customer.

I have tried to understand what market HelloFresh is attempting to capture; however, with the menu limitations, cost, and eccentric meal choices, it is mystifying who would pay for a glorified shopping service that places customer choice and convenience as secondary to their own.

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J. K. Rowling: The Unexpected Author

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Jo Rowling A.K.A: J. K. Rowling

This week my son’s Elementary school is engaged in a venture into the world of Harry Potter. The teachers of 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades have divided the students into the four Houses of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. This is an opportunity to look back on the single person who created a series of fictional children’s books that revitalized reading for millions of people of all ages.

Any story of great personal success is characterized by being the correct person, in the correct place, at the correct time. That is a requirement. The story of J. K. Rowling is more compelling for why she was the correct person.

Her birth name is Joanne Rowling and she uses “Jo” in casual environments. She has no given middle name but was asked by her publisher to disguise her name so that young boys would not know that Harry Potter was written by a woman. Since she had no middle name she used her grandmother’s name, ‘Kathleen,’ and thus became, “J. K. Rowling (her last name is pronounced, ‘rolling.’) 

Rowling accomplished the unthinkable. At a time when reading books was declining and the Internet was blossoming, the idea that one person could ignite a renaissance of book reading was considered absurd. Rowling’s first publisher told her to get a day job because writing children’s books would never provide enough income.

Like William Shakespeare, there is no significant indicator in Rowling’s pre-Potter life of her eventual rise to the top of the literary world. Still, there are earlier experiences that probably contributed to her success. Among them are the following:

  • Her parents met at King’s Cross Station in London, which became the fictional departure point for the fictional train station departure point to Hogwarts. [Potter influences]
  • As a child she was known to write out a story and read it to her sister, Dianne. [Early fiction writing]
  • Her mother, Anne, was a science technician and also taught science at the Secondary school that Rowling attended. [Priority of education]
  • She speaks English, French and studied German in Secondary school. [Broad-based education]
  • She read and is an admirer of Jessica Mitford, a British-turned-American journalist, author, and political activist. [Ethics, writing, and honor]
  • She has a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in French and the Classics from the University of Exeter. [Writing and knowledge]
  • She studied a year in Paris. [Broad-based education]
  • She taught English in Portugal [Life experience]
  • Her mother had multiple sclerosis (MS) and died while she was writing her first Harry Potter book. [Life experience]
  • Rowling suffered from depression triggered by several life events (Unemployed, her mother’s death, her divorce, etc.) [Life experience]Harry Potter Covers

The idea for Harry Potter apparently came in 1990, during a four-hour train delay to London. She began writing as soon as she reached home and among the first chapters written was the final chapter of the last book. The first book was not finished until 1995. It was submitted and rejected by twelve publishers before it was finally accepted by Bloomsbury Publishing in England the follow year. 

She went from living off of State benefits to a millionaire in five years. Since then, she has devoted a large portion of her fortune to philanthropic causes. 

Though remarkable, Rowling’s financial success is not as significant as what she did for slowing the decline of children reading for fun during the period her books were published (1996-2007.) According to a study by Common Sense Media, 9-year-olds reading for fun at least one to two per week dropped only one percent from 1984 to 2004; however, by 2012 that dropped by another four percent (76% in 2012.) For 13-year-olds the decline in reading for fun from 1984 to 2004, was six percent, but that decline nearly doubled five years after the last Harry Potter book was published (down an additional eleven percent in 2012 to 53%.) 

No one, including possibly Rowling, herself, could have expected anyone to capture a worldwide audience, as did the Harry Potter series. She brought new readers into the literary market that had no interest in reading. Her unexpected achievement is a reminder that what is possible extends beyond the impossible.  

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Religious Liberty Laws Violate The Bible

Dave Granlund cartoon

Dave Granlund Cartoon: Liberty for who?

The irony of conservatives effort to allegedly ‘preserve’ religious liberty is that they are actually inflicting one person’s religion on others through their business activities. The concept that other people should be forced to accept one person’s bias is discussed in the Bible, and conservatives are taking a position opposite of what is taught in the New Testament.

Romans 14 nails Christians to the cross of behavior. Nowhere in the New Testament is the definition of what it means to be a Christian better explained than in this single chapter. Paul, in his letter to the Romans explains to Christians:

You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: “ ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’ ” So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.

Romans 14: 10-13
New International Version¹

2015 APR_DSC0001 (182)Both before and after this passage Paul offers examples of what he means by ‘passing judgement.’ The examples make it clear that the issue is not about what issues a Christian can condemn or protest regarding someone else’s choices, but that no Christian has the authority to judge another person.

The Religious Liberty laws passed in Indiana and other states emphasize the ‘right’ of a person to impose his or her religious beliefs on others who do not share those beliefs. The assumption is that a person can judge someone else’s personal choices, judge them as sinners, then refuse that person access to their products or services. This is in violation of the teachings of how a Christian is obligated to behave.

Applying the full meaning of Romans 14 to the situation, a Christian business person should not only accept another person’s lifestyle choices, and not judge them, but they should do everything possible to accommodate that person and their choices. Paul emphasizes to the Romans that a Christians obligation is to make peace, not conflict:

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.

Romans 14: 19
New International Version

The Religious Liberty laws are actually anti-Christian laws.

¹(KING JAMES VERSION – Romans 14:10-13)
But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.

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Common Core: Are You A Good Switch Or A Bad Switch? Part III

PART III:  An Answer to the Question:  Good? or Bad?

Implementation of Common Core/US News and World Report

Implementation of Common Core

THE VERDICT
In the past year significant political forces have targeted Common Core. The protests have been at near hysterical levels in many communities around the country. The complaints about Common Core are as follows:

  • Standards create a factory-like environment that attempt to put all students in one ‘box.’
  • Teachers focusing on test scores, not educational achievement
  • Parents don’t understand math methods
  • United States history under Common Core is un-American because it includes both positive and negative aspects of the history of our country
  • A belief that parents should define school curriculum, not the school, district, state, or federal government
  • A belief that President Obama is behind the implementation of Common Core and other conservative conspiracy theories

Many of the issues have been generated by conservative voices after a push by Republicans during the past election cycle to ignite anger and votes against public education. Almost all of the complaints would have occurred from any attempt to improve and refine American educational techniques, especially when those improvements involve standardization for all American schools.

If you believe that setting minimum standards in reading, writing, and math is bad, then Common Core is bad. If you believe that children in your community should graduate with similar skills to other students around the country, then Common Core is good. If you believe that a high school degree should be the end of a person’s education, then Common Core is bad. If you believe that every student should receive an education that would prepare them for college, then Common Core is good.

THE REAL PROBLEM
Despite the politicizing of Common Core, there is a real issue in implementing any change in education. Funding.

Any business that seeks to upgrade or improve their methods knows that there is a real cost to any change. Yet, even smart business people seem to forget that to improve our educational system requires a major funding commitment. It takes money to research and establish new programs. It takes money to train school districts, principals, and teachers. It takes money to create new teaching materials, and it takes money to educate parents.

What Common Core is missing is the funding needed to make it a success. Until we can accept the fact that a commitment to education requires a commitment to funding, then we will continue using 20th educational techniques in a 21st century world. America’s efforts to update our educational system will cost money and Common Core is a victim of a society that has abandon quality education because it costs too much.

THE HYSTERIA OF THE LOUDEST VOICES
Unfortunately, Common Core lost a lot of support in the past twelve months. Much of that was due to the political rhetoric during last year’s campaigns, but some teachers are also pulling back support. This is not surprising. As parents become more vocal in opposition, few teachers are willing to oppose parent sentiment even if they are wrong.

Common Core is not a perfect educational system, but it does attempt to better prepare America’s children for a higher level of achievement. Most of the real issues can be resolved with better funding. Just as a school built in the 1950’s is no longer relevant for 2015, education methods of the pre-information era are not relevant today. Our population is continuing to increase and the skills our children must have to thrive as adults are going to advance. Education is going to be expensive, but if we don’t pay now, we will pay more later.

PREVIOUSLY:  Part I:  A Primer in American Education 
                            Part II:  What is Common Core?

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