Thursday, January 31, 2008

It's about jobs not politics

Sen. John McCain talked about the Michigan job flight and told the state that “the jobs aren’t coming back”.

Tough talk, and the truth. Just like the textile jobs that left New England for the south and then fled to Mexico, and points east once the jobs are gone and the factories closed, the cost of restarting is just too high.

My question for Senator McCain is - As a leader with vision, what’s next?

Since the federal government set up the rules that make shipping those jobs out of the US cost effective for the businesses, how will the federal government step up, accept responsibility, and restructure the rules to create replacement jobs that pay as well as the ones lost?

If you think that it’s not the governments job to take these steps, read the preamble to the US Constitution:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. (Italics added)

So, Senator John, what is your plan?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Employee turnover and your choices

I just noticed an infomercial about training to be a motorcycle mechanic. It reminded me that most mechanics, when I was young, were hired with little or no formal training and trained by the employer. In the last 40 plus years (told you how old I am didn’t I) employers expect workers to come fully trained at their own expense.

I guess they objected to the training costs. But like most things, the cost didn’t go away it was just shifted to the employee. If I bear the cost of my training, why shouldn’t feel free to run down the street to the next job that offers me even a slight advantage.

I don’t owe the company anything because I brought my skills with me, you just want to rent with no long term commitment. If that drives up your cost through turnover - you decided this was the relationship you wanted with your employees.

Friday, January 25, 2008

An open question to those of you who would be President

Remember when the hot idea was to shut down social security and have us all invest in the stock market?

I’d like to hear your explanation of how that would work during an economic down turn like the one we are feeling now.

The problem with social security was never not enough money, it’s that the money was “invested” in IOUs when congress “borrowed” it for the general fund. The the real problem is that congress now wants to default on that debt to the American people

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The media does it again

Once again the media underrates peoples intelligence and tries to frame the debate to the lowest common denominator. See this article at

Once again the link works in preview but not on the blog. Heres the url so you can see the article -

Monday, January 21, 2008

Focus on the right stuff

Since I recently retired I find I read the job search articles with a very different perspective. When I was really looking for a job, I looked for ways to improve my job search but now I find I am just amazed at how little the advice matches my experience as a hiring manager. A great deal of the advice relates to presentation.

When I was hiring technical workers and engineers one of the last things I cared about was presentation. One great maintenance technician sent a hand written resume on lined notebook paper. This would have hardly been read by the HR department because of it’s presentation. The point is I wasn’t hiring a resume writer, I was hiring a maintenance technician. The skills in fixing complex electronic equipment was the ONLY criteria. PS. I hired him and he was great!

Yes, I know that written communication is important in many jobs, but resume presentation has little to do with daily business correspondence.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Hiring the millennial generation

I keep reading about business having to hire consultants to help understand the new crop of workers. Seems to me the attitude of the new workers is really a reaction to the attitude of the companies.

Over the last 20 years I’ve watched companies shift their view of workers from a resource to a cost. Part of that shift has caused companies to use more and more temporary help agencies and contractors to fill job openings.

Since companies view workers as easily replaceable, the workers have accepted that view of themselves. With the advent of sites like connecting workers withe jobs, workers view them selves as a commodity for sale to the highest bidder AND with lots of bidders. While this may not be true for all jobs, it certainly is for high tech.

Sending the jobs off-shore is accelerating this view. The simple truth is companies (or at least their employees) understand what is happening, and how to fix it. The companies are still in denial and are trying to get different results without changing what they are doing.

Benjamin Franklin said “Insanity is doing the same thing the same way and expecting different results”.

Friday, January 11, 2008

People and the environment

Make the tools and information available and people will understand the right thing to do and do without government regulation.

See the article at Red Herring.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Shock Doctrine

I just finished reading Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein. First the references to the events and documents are well and clearly identified with resource information to allow fact checking. Second the facts matched my memory of the events as reported at the time. It really paints a clear picture of why my career seems to have been so tough in the last 10 years or so.

I think Ms. Klein has clearly identified the problem - politicians who have accepted a now failed economic theory and who can not or will not reexamine that theory in light of real experience. She also identified that the middle ground between the two competing theories has been the most productive in the past.

Read this book.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The balance between business and workers

Perhaps I’m over reacting to “The Shock Doctrine” , the latest book I’m reading. It deals with the practice of introducing laissez-faire practices during a crisis. The crisis could be a natural disaster or an economic down turn but the theory is that while people are focused on the crisis they won’t notice the changes in policy.

While not a formal student of history, I do read a lot and try to pay attention and my simple analysis is that the US middle class has prospered in a managed economy not a laissez-faire one. Right now we seem to be moving back to the days when big business had few restraints and treated workers as disposable.

It seems to me that when the founder (or the small group of founders) still control the business, enlightened self-interest can guide good business policy AND good social interaction. When you have share holders and a board of directors is seems that society has to provide the enlightenment.

Of course if society gets too “enlightened” the pendulum swings too far the other way and business can’t survive. So we have to try and walk that delicate balance between what’s good for business and what’s good for workers.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Why I oppose torture

I keep hearing references on the news about the propriety of torture. Should we or shouldn’t we? I really don’t understand the question. Torture really doesn’t work against a trained subject. One of the classes I took before being shipped to Viet Nam way back when was how to deal with being tortured.

The theory is 1. Don’t talk. 2. OK, you can’t keep quite faced with any more pain, lie. 3. OK, you can’t lie any more - tell all you know. By now the torturer doesn’t know the truth from a lie and you’ve bought enough time for your side and what you knew is now obsolete. Now if I know that, so do the people the advocates of torture want to question. How effective can torture be if it’s going to take a long time to get unreliable answers?

Even if we do agree that torture is necessary, who is going to be your torturer? Your husband, son, wife or daughter? What will inflicting pain on another human being do to the torturer? Do you really think you can teach someone to hurt other people and not change them?

All our lives we are taught not to hurt our playmates, now you’ve broken that training to create a torturer - how do you de-train them? I don’t want my kids or my friends kids or your kids to be that torturer.