I rarely run across a song and a group that I have never heard. And not bragging… just when you make it your business to notice and know music, it is a shock. Recently people have given me the tagline “… and his encyclopedic knowledge of music” It is why I love listening to Sirius XM Deep tracks… and Wikipedia 😉 Between them, I can still occasionally reward my brain with something that it has to process for the first time… and, wonder is something that only gets better when you use it… often…
Leadership topic - wonder
about changes in the market and drives innovation. Comes up with a lot of new and unique ideas; easily makes connections among previously unrelated notions; Is good at bringing creative ideas of others to market; has good judgment about which creative ideas and suggestions will work;
Roadblock – Shuts down discussions before they begin, focuses only on what has been done before, Closed judging language versus focusing on questions and learning
The wonder of Power
As we deplaned in Atlanta, we were looking for directions to the private jets section of the Airport. Catching a taxi across the tarmac, we arrived where the Powerful people fly, and waited for our Division President to arrive. We were due for an important update on the project he was the Executive Sponsor for, and the only time we could find was to fly back with him from Atlanta to DC… So if you are wondering, we flew down from DC to fly back with him … to DC.
Having poured a good portion of my life into the “Circus” project over the last 6 years, I was not going to simply sit back. It may or may not have been renewing, but I stayed up all night polishing our “appeal” of the Division edict demanding the use of older hardware, and turned it into a Clever and compelling approach. The net was that we had a very cost-competitive bid because of the savings on ground systems, the easy access to commercial off-the-shelf tools, and the general market appeal of the PC. I walked our exec through it, but I couldn’t go with him. Imagine what that must have felt like to him – once again taking a Clever and risky approach into a President’s office…
The code name for the series of PC’s that were the centerpiece of our Space Station Demonstration Lab was appropriately: “Circus”. All the Clever code names were things having to do with “circus” – like the network was “Ringmaster”, which is what I had now become. Our proposal would incorporate all of the elements simulating execution of the whole computing infrastructure. We had Fiber Optic Networks, Color Displays, real-time test equipment, all coordinated with a simulation environment that leveraged IBM’s PC’s in every element. Sadly, we had just been told, our proposal was mandated to bid the Division Standard 1750 chipset – or don’t bid…
The wonder of Clever
One of my constant refrains was “how can we compete with our cost structure so out of line??” As we had finished our prototype to great accolades, we were now in the process of putting together a real proposal to get this system sold and installed into the Shuttle. I priced out an “empty” box – that is NOTHING in it, and NO actual design work. In 1983, that was $250,000 for each piece of equipment, and a Non-recurring cost of over $4 million. Finally, someone pointed out what I was missing… and no wonder. “This is a cost-plus based business – your profit was 6% of your costs… “
August 18, 1981 would change the world – the day the IBM PC was announced. Built by a small, Clever team at their Lab in Boca Raton where Dad had worked when I was in junior high, the impact on all of us is still profound. For me specifically, I had grown up around microcomputers, having built one around the previous version of the Intel processor, and had been observing since then what would be coming. As I came home excited and talked about the new computer that we would get at home, my wife observed, “Does this mean we are getting a raised floor?”
partners in Clever
They had been in a conference room for nearly 2 days now, reviewing problems with our Division’s largest program. These partners had been collected to recommend changes to get it back on track. It was to be a state-of-the-art new approach to computing on a new state-of-the-art submarine. All eyes had turned to the senior architect of the systems that were used on the Space Shuttle who had been flown in. He paused … and after a very uncomfortable silence said “It’s a Bar problem”. Unclear someone asked… and he clarified. “We can fix this …we might as well go drink.”
Our design danced to life “right on schedule”, a Clever way of saying we made it just in time. After struggling for weeks, our 2nd Line manager had “offered” that if we didn’t have it running soon, they would fly in some “real” engineers from our main site to “help” us. As you might expect, it was not music to our ears … and that type of management triggered exactly the response he wanted. Maybe not the TONE he expected, but it had gotten our system running, and mostly on schedule. A good thing, as I was now the Project Manager…
It was another late night in the lab, and by now we had been slugging away at our project for over 18 months. It was just me and my office mate/partner, everyone else had long gone home. We KNEW our design would work but it just was not coming to life. Each reset, it would make it a bit further than before… then, nothing. Finally, I looked at the pattern coming up, and realized that 6 of the signals never changed. “I think those memory chips are bad”. Replacing them, we hit the reset button… and up came the greatest 7 characters I have ever seen: MACSBUG.
The wonder of Effectively Right
The sun wasn’t up as we rose for the 3 am bus ride. We were up early because the time of the launch was 7 am, and with traffic near the Cape, we didn’t want to be late. I had been invited to come down for the launch of our experiment which, through no small set of wonders, we had Effectively completed on time and within the Right budget. It was now stowed in the back of the Space Shuttle and was about to blast off with STS Mission 41-G, the 17th flight.
The lack of cooperation and coordination in business shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did. Today it was very clear as I was talking with the lead investigator of an experiment that had already flown in space. Sponsored by the part of NASA that was dedicated to non-manned flight, they literally hated those of us working on Manned Space. They had, in fact, put the first United States satellite in space, but since the Astronaut crew was announced, their budgets and centrality to the NASA mission was dwarfed. It was no wonder that he was very hesitant to even talk with me…
Knowing how and who to renew
As we were cleaning out the apartment, moving apart for our first “real jobs”, my best friend and roommate came into the living room with a handful of ties. “Can you tie these for me?” He was one of the smartest people I have ever known, and yet, had no Knowledge of some of the simpler things that are important. I understood – as I had been through this exact experience when I was 13 and someone showed me how to tie a tie before a big event in Junior High. Now I was able to repay and renew that favor…
executing with and without Knowledge
Sitting with 6 Seniors as a sophomore was not that different for me. I had always been younger than my classmates having started school at barely 5. The instructor was my adviser in the Physics program… who suggested I take the class as he only taught it every other year. When he started writing Maxwell’s equations on the board, I asked an obvious question to me: “What is the upside-down triangle?” He suggested I come see him after class…
wonder about Knowledge
The beautiful spring evening was interrupted with a “fire alarm” that had all the students from the largest set of dorms on campus outside. As we were milling around wondering, a young man climbed out on the balcony with his guitar, an amp and microphone, and started serenading the crowd. It was a great distraction and everyone loved it. A few minutes later, he announced his name, and that he was running for student body president and wanted everyone’s vote. It would have been great, but we had our own candidate in the election…
Knowledge that observing is not enough
Working full time, and carrying a full load, I still had some energy left for other things. My interest in politics had burned out by the end of high school, but this evening, I was sitting in a meeting of the Leadership Council for the Engineering School observing the President. Being a lifelong student of great salespeople, this guy was amazing. And so full of himself at the same time. But for some reason, he came over after the meeting, and we started talking, and the next thing I know, I was the Parliamentarian for the group (given my Debate experience) … and next in line to be President…
partnerships in Knowledge
As I rolled into her apartment, I was trying to make some idle chatter as it was clear we were both nervous. It was our first official “date” although we had gone out with our Church group a number of times, and this was the next logical step. The Student Government Group for the Engineering School was hosting a banquet which I had asked her to. I mentioned, “… and we have a really great band for the dance after”. Frozen does not begin to capture the mood that instantly appeared…
Charlie’s Angels was one of the top shows when I was a freshman, and everyone had “THE” poster of Farrah Fawcett in the mostly not swimsuit on their walls. And there was a girl in our sister dorm that was her spitting image. To get people to know each other, there were “mixers” between the floors, and this night it was the typical loud music and beer, and not really my scene, so I went downstairs… and there she was sitting on the steps. I didn’t really Know what to do, but I sat down and asked her if she was not enjoying the mixer? “Not really my scene – I would rather be out dancing.” I said I knew how to dance (those lessons came in handy…), and once she learned I had a car, we were off.
Knowledge to engage
As I was slowly awakening, I noticed that my feet were really hurting. And, that it was really cold. Both made sense when I realized I was halfway to my 8 am Statics class, running so I wouldn’t be late for the exam… with no shoes and barely a shirt on with early morning temps in the ’30s – cold for Texas. I am sure I made quite the sight running in at the last minute. I had studied, but now I realized why the 8 am MWF class was still open during registration 😉
I was the last speaker in the last round of this debate tournament, at least for our team. It was the one tournament I had invited my parents to come and see me perform in my new VIsion: Debate. I had been tearing it up on the trail across Texas, winning many rounds and tournaments, with “hardware” (trophies) becoming a natural thing to bring back home to Tyler late almost every Saturday night. This was not that wonderful experience.
wonder how to make perfEct Easy?
“Play the Simple Ball”. Standing on a field that cold March morning, it was my admonishment to the young men preparing to play the game they love and qualify for the Finals – if we could win this match. We had jelled well this season, but this last hurdle was to beat our archrival – the wonder of which were mostly our close friends, including the Coach of the other team…
“DAD!!! I am keeping the time – NOT you!!!” Ok then – so much for the Goal of playing music together 😉 It was during practice with the Church band we had both joined as we attempted to support “Contemporary Worship”. The chance to actually play with him was wonderful… and being 17, frustrating to us both. But his kickdrum was in fact better… and allowed me to relax, and simply wonder what was happening – both on stage… and with me…
wonder… Cleaning Up
You have today. While always true, particularly today is the day to Clean Up anything you need to put a “2021” on. For me, it is ordering supplies and other expenses that I can accelerate into the rearview mirror, and then downloading fiscal records (stop laughing – I do actually keep them – mostly). It is one of those business practices that I used as a game each year that I continued to play in this new path. The wonder is I still do that mentally – stuck thinking eventually someone will figure out that I need to get a “real job”…
wonder of Beliefs
“You are really odd!”. That was the greeting from a fellow coach standing outside of the conference room at Darden Business School. You might think that was a bit harsh, but the wonder is that is a compliment to me. Literally raised to be “different” for as long as I can remember, it is ironic that now I am known as a great connector of people and friends. And the real wonder is that without the early Church’s most radical stance, you wouldn’t be reading this…
Arriving on a late afternoon flight to Mountain View, we had to save our energy for the return flight… in only 5 hours. The Red Eye home was required to keep a meeting with a key customer that could not be moved. And we wondered and worried about this meeting, mysteriously called with only 24 hours’ notice, mandatory, and with an attendee list that was not clear. Luckily the business leader I was scheduled to meet in that customer meeting was on the flight out and back… so we would be in whatever this was together. And that made all the difference…
“I know that we have the right team to pull this off!” said our VP from the front of the packed room. Giving us encouragement was one of the wonders of this particular leader’s talents, and what had got us all together. And, the wonder now was that this speech was exactly the same we had heard about a year before… and wasn’t working. Now it sounded more like pleading… and the feeling in the room was different – more desperation, and less belief we could actually do this…
Continuously wondering about Change?
If you study people, you quickly recognize that putting them together into groups and teams is… complex 😉 And if you wonder why I love studying musical groups, you can see how simply adding one new person completely changes things. In the research around Teams, the highest performing have been together for more than 2 years… but less than 5. Balancing Change and Continuous is something that is worth wondering about…
wondering what is The Middle?
The Moody Blues create music you cannot approach casually. Yes, they have amazing – well everything – but it forces me to really think — hard — wonder about things. Even the title of the albums put you in a different place – like today’s – To Our Children’s Children’s, Children. Those don’t exist for me – yet..
As I stepped into rediscovering Joy, it is not a surprise it is related to creating things. Raised in a family of tinkerers, I was always in the process of either building something or helping someone build something. The wonder of imagining something that hadn’t existed before was something that was second nature with my Dad, having built things even in his youth out of scraps around his house.