Monday, January 31, 2005

A Quick Report on "Linked – How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else . . ."

Two weeks ago I shared my reaction to Duncan Watts’ book, Six Degrees. I have just finished reading what I consider to be a companion piece. Dr. Albert-Laszlo Barabasi is the Emil T. Hofman Professor of Physics at the University of Notre Dame. He and Duncan Watts have crossed paths and have influenced one another’s work over the past several years. Barabasi has summarized for a lay audience the results of his research into the science of networking in his work entitled: Linked – How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means for Business, Science, and Everyday Life.

Linked methodically lays out the case that there are universal laws being discovered that demonstrate remarkable commonalities among networks as diverse as molecular structures within cells, airline hub and spoke route systems, electric power grids, the Internet, and the web of connections that led to the spread of AIDS.

Barabasi used the spread of Christianity in the First Century as an early example of networks enabling the viral spread of a message. He attributes the Apostle Paul’s network of contacts and his travel through the network that was the Roman Empire’s transportation system for much of the success of the spread of the Gospel message. No wonder Notre Dame wanted this man teaching physics on their campus!

If you are as intrigued as I am about the theory that lies behind much of the proliferation of social networking discussion that exists today, I think you will find Linked a worthwhile book to read and to ponder.

Al Chase

Bill Belichick's Naval Academy Roots

I was at Logan Airport yesterday when I ran into Boston Globe sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy (of “The Curse of the Bambino” fame). I have exchanged e-mails with Dan in the past, so we stopped to talk – mostly about our mutual perceptions of Tom Brady. And then Dan headed for his gate to catch his flight to Jacksonville, which will be his dateline for the next seven days.

When I opened my e-mail this morning, I saw that my friend, John Byington, a Naval Academy alumnus, had passed along an article that Shaughnessy had written in the Globe last week. The article calls attention to the role that Annapolis played early in Bill Belichick’s football career – helping his Dad break down film of Navy games.

Below are some highlights from that column. For the full column, check the archives of the Boston Globe.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005



The dad of the coach was a coach. More than most, he can appreciate what he's been watching almost every Sunday of the NFL season for the last few years. "This is what you strive for," said 86-year-old Steve Belichick, who retired in 1989 after 33 years of scouting and assistant coaching at the Naval Academy. "That's what you've got when you have everybody on the same page, with the same objective, and they don't care who gets the credit."Tom Brady doesn't give a goddamn whether he gets any credit, or Troy Brown or Corey Dillon. They're all interested in the objective, and that's to win. If they win, they all get credit. I don't see any of them thinking that they are the ones responsible for making the team go. Everybody recognizes that if we all pitch in and work like hell, and do what the coaches plan, we will succeed."

Bill Belichick's Patriots are all about preparation and execution. They are unselfish and they do what the coaches tell them to do. It's stuff that was expected of every player at Annapolis when young Bill was breaking down films at the age of 9. It's extremely rare at the professional level. The dad of the coach is a humble man. Assessing his son's success, he credits Bill's natural intelligence and curiosity about all things. But he won't give too much credit to any head coach, because he was an assistant for so many years and he knows the staff rarely gets enough credit.

* * * *

Steve Belichick thinks young Bill's exposure to the Naval Academy has much to do with the success of Bill Belichick as an NFL coach. At Annapolis, Bill learned about accountability, responsibility, hard work, respect for authority, and being on time. These were days when Navy was a national power and Billy Belichick was playing catch with Heisman Trophy winners when he was 8 (Joe Bellino) and again when he was 12 (Roger Staubach). Steve Belichick was friends with Paul Brown and young Bill met the football deity when he was 13. Something must have rubbed off.

Young Bill also learned how to break down film when other boys his age were assembling model cars with rubber glue. While his dad ran the projector featuring next week's Navy opponent, Bill Belichick would record the down, the hash mark, the formation, and the defense for each play. The kid had great penmanship. His pages were neat and helped Steve prepare his reports.

* * * *

Young Bill didn't talk much when he was around the Navy coaching staff. But he listened to everything; he was a sponge for strategy. And unlike a lot of young people in the 1960s, he had great respect for the regimented lifestyle at Annapolis. The Super Bowl Patriot roster owes much of its character to lessons Belichick learned at Navy.

"The academy and the people there influenced him greatly," said SteveBelichick. "The people that are there, you have to admire their mission and what they go through."

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

A Quick Note - the Blizzards of '05

Over the weekend, my neighborhood of Boston got buried under three feet of snow.

It was memorable, it was exhilarating, it was record setting, it dominated the news, it was a thing of beauty.

During the same period of time, the Heinz Field neighborhood of Pittsburgh got buried under four periods of Brady, Branch, Bruschi and Belichek.

It was memorable, it was exhilarating, it was record setting, it dominated the news, it was a thing of beauty.

Go Pats!

Chief of Staff - A Force Multiplier (Part II)

In last week’s posting about the Chief of Staff role, I cited James Quigley, CEO of Deloitte & Touche, as an example of someone who rose to the top of the organizational chart by serving in a Chief of Staff role early in his D&T career. I also quoted Quigley as saying that he currently has three individuals reporting to him who function in Chief of Staff capacities.

Today, I would like to examine some of the specific functional roles a good Chief of Staff should be able to perform on behalf of the C-level executive being supported. My observations are based upon a composite of several Fortune 500 companies with whom I have discussed Chief of Staff roles over the course of the past few months. These companies include leaders in Consumer Packaged Goods, Electronic Trading, "Big Box" Retail, Consulting and Telecommunications industries. For the sake of the example below, we will assume that the Chief of Staff (COS) is supporting the CEO, although the same principles can be applied in supporting a COB, COO, CIO, CFO, etc.

· The Chief of Staff Role does not replace the role of a good Executive Assistant. The COS and the EA work hand-in-hand to ensure that the CEO’s time is planned and expended with maximum efficiency and effectiveness.

· The COS is best used in tracking strategic initiatives by monitoring progress towards meeting goals and achieving benchmarks, analyzing data, ensuring follow-through on the part of key players, and sustaining momentum needed to drive these initiatives.

· The COS reviews action items decided upon at each strategic meeting. He/she prepares a written summary, checks with each attendee to get sign-off on agreed-upon dates of completion and confirms the party responsible for following up on each action item.

· Between meetings, the COS stays connected with members of the committee, collecting data, alerting the CEO to progress or problems in carrying out the initiatives agreed upon.

· The COS creates and operates a reporting system that allows for a timely flow of necessary data into the office of the CEO from all relevant departments and direct reports.

· The COS assists the CEO in developing communication between committee meetings, setting agendas, creating initial drafts of communications to key strategic team members, helping to prioritize plans for addressing issues that are impacting progress towards initiative benchmarks.

· The COS serves as a first alert system – an extra set of eyes and ears – keeping the CEO aware of unanticipated problems to be addressed or opportunities to be considered.

· The COS develops and oversees a process for capturing, cataloging, analyzing and disseminating key lessons to be learned from initiatives, with a view towards helping the CEO propagate best practices throughout the enterprise.

· The COS functions in the role of “ambassador” for the CEO, buffering communication with other members of the strategic team in cases where there are sensitive issues to be addressed.

Here is an example of this role in practice:

COS calls Brand Manager for Brand XYZ:

“Tony, this is Sharon. We agreed that next Tuesday you would meet with Bob to report on progress in changing the packaging. You mentioned in your weekly report that your design team is three weeks behind in agreeing upon a new package. I know that Bob is very concerned that if we can’t deliver the next packaging on schedule, we are going to lose more market share. I know your meeting next Tuesday will go well if you come with a specific plan for how to get this project back on track before the next Board meeting. See you Tuesday at 9:00."

It would take a pretty extraordinary individual to be able to juggle all of these balls, satisfy all of the key stake holders, massage sensitive egos and do it all with efficiency and grace. And such an extraordinary individual would have to be content and fulfilled serving in a “support role.” Where would one find such an individual? I will address these issues in my next COS posting.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Barron’s Tips Its Cap to the Sales Force – The Locomotive Pulling the Economic Train

My friend, Tom Glass, is a regular reader of this Blog, and a frequent contributor – regularly weighing in with ideas, responses and comments. Tom was kind enough to make me aware of the following article that appeared in last week’s Barron’s and was written by Jack Falvey. I was intrigued by Mr. Falvey's premise and encouraged by his anecdotes, so I want to share them with you.

* * * * *
To Create a Job, Make a Sale
Economic growth doesn’t come from Washington. It’s built one customer at a time

When Pat Hughes was a salesman for Employee Benefits Plans Associates in Hampton, N. H., his job was to convince his prospects to self-insure their basic health-care costs, and then let his company provide the needed claims services on a per-employee basis. His Third Party Administration business grew rapidly. Each new account required the addition of more service people at EBPA to work with new clients.

Hughes not only created jobs; his company had to add temporary buildings to house all the new people. At one point, the premises looked like one of those elementary schools with a half-dozen portable classrooms connected to the main facility.

Five or six million American sales professionals get up each business morning to spend their days driving the growth of our economy by selling new business, which spawns yet more jobs—those dedicated to producing the goods and services to fulfill customer orders. Three trillion dollars’ worth of gross domestic product is fueled in this way, one sale at a time. (Initial jobless claims rose by 10,000 the week before last, the highest number in several months.) The nation’s salespeople must make more calls and close more sales to attempt to turn this tide yet again.

Selling new business is what creates jobs. Our economy’s not a weather front that passes overhead while we wait for sunshine or brace for a storm. It’s a gigantic, manmade enterprise that creates wealth and jobs in direct proportion to the rate of development of new businesses.

But, too often, we’re led to believe in a fairy tale: that the president, Congress and the Federal Reserve chairman can go to their offices and flip switches that somehow will turn the U.S. economy on (or up, or down) and create jobs.

The tale continues thus: The companies then make profits, put them in the bank or pay them out as dividends to shareholders. And then, if the companies are not too greedy, on occasion they might buy some new equipment. Finally, the tale ends when, out of the goodness of their hearts, they add a few jobs.

Not so.

Not All Inventors Sit in Research Labs

“Nothing happens ’til somebody sells something,” was the motto of the late Arthur “Red” Motley, onetime chairman of Parade magazine. He sold the advertising that moved the goods of his time.

It is as true today as it was then that, in order to thrive, sales professionals have to be as imaginative as the inventors of the products and services they sell. By creating the desire for new products and services in their customers, salespeople create jobs and wealth.

Before you can consider profit and loss, of course, you must first deal daily with revenue and expenses. You forecast revenues and then budget your expenses accordingly. You then must generate revenues and control expenses to produce the earnings.

The last thing most companies want to do is add people—because people are still the most costly component of business. Companies add to their payrolls only when increasing sales drive them to it. The engine that drives growth and job increases has always been rising sales.

The Knock-On Effect(s) of Knowledge

Sales professionals are the ultimate knowledge workers in our society. They listen to what their target account is trying to accomplish. They also tell their prospects what others have been able to achieve with the goods and services being proffered.

If common goals are found, the two sides might then agree to take some risks together and move a new product or service successfully into circulation. (Trusting business relationships are critical to business and economic progress.) Economists can tell us about the results of such activity, but they must recognize the causal relationship of sales to jobs to wealth creation if they want to offer valuable analysis or policy judgments about economic growth.

The price of oil or onions is of importance only to those in the petrochemical field and those selling vegetables. Everyone else can make minor adjustments to changing prices of oil or gas by doing with less energy. Or if the prices of cabbage or cucumbers get out of hand, they can go without salad.

Daily Grind

Tax incentives and the cost of money are factors, but the driving force is the chance of future gain. Encouraging clients to take that chance is what salesmen must do, often against great odds. For example, almost daily, they must overcome the doom and gloom being forecasted by the nightly TV news anchors.

Conversely, each morning, to get business moving, sales professionals must establish the good news they hope to spread in order to win the contracts that will keep them—the salespeople—in business and the economy humming. They sell the hope of future gain, cost reductions, or profits, against the caution and wait-and-see attitude engendered by the talking heads of the evening before.

This is what gives birth to jobs—a promise of reward for risk. Few clients will take risk without good reason, and good reasons are what sales agents must provide. They must work vigorously, too, against that well-known international company, “Status Quo Inc.”

In down times, sales professionals must work harder with a smaller return on the effort invested. They have to make more calls to set up more meetings, to gather more information to put more deals on the table. Risk aversion and caution will reduce the number of deals that close. Minor bad news delivered 24/7 has major economic impact.

Harder to Drive Than an 18-Wheeler

In business, the hardest number to drive upward always has been the sales line of the income statement. But when that number finally rises, everything else follows. And only then can new products or services be developed, new facilities built and new jobs created.

Not every sales proposal will work; that’s the variable in the dynamic. There is nothing as frustrating as an idea whose time has not yet come. Yet on occasion, an idea can be brought to the light of day, after great effort—and if it’s cleverly conceived and executed, a new concept, a new approach or a new product results that rewards its creators handsomely.

This is how our system works: As new sales are created and new jobs result, the old order slowly changeth—and the new order must be joined in order to assure survival. It is not quite Darwinian evolution, but it is close enough to keep us all on our toes, and constantly talking to the in-the-field salespeople that are out there, acting as the eyes and ears of our economy, as well as its drivers.

A Dynamo Grows One Client at a Time

Pat Hughes adjusted to the changing times of the group health-care marketplace. After becoming sales manager and eventually president of EBPA, he has moved on to found W.P. Hughes & Co., his own group benefits agency, to offer different approaches to the challenges his new customers face. He’s now a consultant in the group health-insurance field, and a licensed insurance broker.

After he won his first new account, he had to hire an inside person to respond to his clients’ needs. A job was created. He went back into the field and convinced a former associate that it was time to upgrade his company’s health-benefits package. Similarly, a former vice president of Fleet has started a new bank in Worcester, Mass., that offers more individually-tailored services than the behemoth banks. New jobs created so far: about 50. Additional jobs are being created one new client at a time, as new ways of solving business problems are being developed. All this is slow going. Creating jobs is hard work. Creating confidence is even harder, but it’s key to driving sales, profits and the need for additional people to get what’s being sold out the door.

Our economy does it better than any economy in human history, but we still do it one sales call at a time. We win some, we lose some and some are postponed but those in sales are out there every business day doing their best to create jobs. When the next monthly payroll numbers are reported, remember where those jobs came from and who made them happen.

* * * * * *
JACK FALVEY is a freelance business writer living in Manchester, N.H. He is founder of, a best-practices advisory firm for sales professionals.

Editorial Page Editor Thomas G. Donlan receives e-mail at
January 17, 2005

Friday, January 21, 2005

A Quick Reading Report - "The Plot Against America," a Novel by Philip Roth

For Christmas, I received a copy of Philip Roth's latest novel. From his early days of giving us Goodbye Columbus and Portnoy's Complaint, to his more recent offerings American Pastoral and The Human Stain, Roth has remained a compelling and critically acclaimed American novelist. When I first heard of the book's plot, I was skeptical: America is led by a Nazo-sympathizing President Charles Linbergh after a landslide defeat of FDR in the 1940 election.

I have just finished reading the book, and came away feeling as if my time had been well spent.

I was born a few years after the action of the book, but I remember vividly my parents recounting tales of the state of the country just before and during WWII. Roth presents a plausible scenario that cleverly lays a fictional plot atop a realistic substrate of historical fact.

I recommend The Plot Against America.


Timely Prayer Request from Iraq

Through two friends of mine, West Point graduates, I received the following prayer request. Regardless of how you feel about the current prosecution of the war in Iraq and the upcoming elections, I encourage you to read the missive below and respond as you feel led and as your faith may dictate.

* * * * * *

I received this from an old Army friend who is a general officer. Thought you could appreciate it.

Sent: Thursday, January 20, 2005 9:57 AM
Subject: Prayer Request from Chaplain stationed in Iraq
From: CH (CPT) Lyle ShackelfordBattalion ChaplainHHD, 57th Transportation Battalion "Keep 'Em Moving"

I have an urgent request for prayer. Your prayers can make a difference.
I am an Army Baptist Chaplain in Iraq. I'm am sure you will be moved by this request even if you do not personally know anyone involved. Thank you in advance for your faithful prayers in this matter.

As a transportation battalion, my unit will be delivering the voting machines and the ballots to villages and cities throughout Iraq during the upcoming elections. (January 30/31) Our convoys are prime targets for the insurgents because they do not want the equipment to arrive at the polling stations nor do they want the local Iraqi citizens to have the chance to vote; timely delivery must occur so that the elections occur.

Encourage your friends and family members and those within our churches to pray specifically for the electoral process. Historically, the previous totalitarian regime would not allow individual citizens to vote. Democracy will not be realized in Iraq if intelligent and competent officials are not elected to those strategic leadership positions within the emerging government; freedom will not have an opportunity to ring throughout this country if the voting process fails. Announce this prayer request to your contacts throughout your churches, neighborhoods, and places of business. Those with leadership roles within the local church post this message in as many newsletters and bulletins as possible.

There is unlimited potential for God's presence in this process but if we do not pray then our enemy will prevail (See Ephesians 6:10-17) A prayer vigil prior to the end of the month may be an innovative opportunity for those within your sphere of influence to pray. This is a political battle that needs spiritual intervention. A powerful story about God's intervention in the lives of David's mighty men is recorded in 2 Samuel 23:8-33. David and his warriors were victorious because of God's intervention. We want to overcome those who would stand in the way of freedom. David's mighty men triumphed over incredible odds and stood their ground and were victorious over the enemies of Israel. (Iraqi insurgents' vs.God's praying people). They don't stand a chance.

I will pray with my soldiers before they leave on their convoys and move outside our installation gates here at Tallil. My soldiers are at the nerve center of the logistic operation to deliver the voting machines and election ballots. They will be driving to and entering the arena of the enemy. This is not a game for them it is a historical mission that is extremely dangerous. No voting machines or ballots. No elections. Your prayer support and God's intervention are needed to give democracy a chance in this war-torn country.

Thank you for reading this e-mail. Please give this e-mail a wide dissemination.

Thank you for your prayer support for me and my family. Stand firm in your battles.


CH (CPT) Lyle Shackelford

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Chief of Staff – A Force Multiplier!

Last year, I attended a symposium sponsored by the Boston University School Management. The two keynote speakers were Lee Iacocca and James Quigley, CEO of Deloitte & Touche. In preparation for hearing Mr. Quigley speak, I read his bio printed in the conference program. What jumped out at me immediately was the fact that early in his career with D&T Quigley has served in the role of Chief of Staff in the Office of the Chairman.

I had already begun to be intrigued with the role of Chief of Staff – a role I am convinced is under-utilized in the business world. Since many of the candidates I place are military veterans, through learning of their careers, I have become familiar with the military functional role of the XO – Executive Officer. The Navy’s Command Leadership School in Newport, RI devotes an entire course to training XO’s to function in their role as “Second in Command.” A friend of mine, a West Point graduate and Desert Storm combat veteran, recently spent several years as Chief of Staff supporting the Chairman of the Board of a Fortune 100 Company. My friend calls the role of the Chief of Staff a “force multiplier.” Properly deployed, a good Chief of Staff can exponentially magnify the effective of the C-level executive he or she is supporting. Yet I find that it is the rare company that employees a Chief of Staff. Even more rare is the corporation that has a Chief of Staff and utilizes that person and that role to full effect.

During the course of the BU Symposium, I had several opportunities to have one-on-one conversations with Mr. Quigley, and to query him on his background as a former Chief of Staff. In answer to my question about his retrospective look at his early role as Chief of Staff, the gist of his answer could best be summarized as follows:

“I am not sure I would be where I am today if I had not been given that extraordinary opportunity early in my career. I was rubbing shoulders on a daily basis with all of the strategic decision makers in the company. I was exposed to ideas, challenges, responsibilities and opportunities that most people at my age and at my stage of career never dream about. In addition, I was mentored, coached and stretched by visionary leaders who gave me opportunities to prove what I was capable of doing.”

I was interested in testing out whether, in his current role as CEO at Deloitte & Touche, Quigley still held as high a view of the role of Chief of Staff as he had early in his career. In my last meeting with him that day, I asked: “Do you currently have someone serving in the capacity of Chief of Staff in support of you?”

Quigley answered: “No; I have three different persons in that role, each one providing invaluable support in a specific area of tracking strategic initiatives.”

There is the proof of the pudding!

In my next posting, I will discuss the specific duties that a good Chief of Staff should be able to perform, and the ideal background of a person tasked with these responsibilities.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Malcolm Gladwell, Paul Nixon and Apple's Tipping Point: Macs for the Masses

I love it when ideas seem to flow together from a variety of directions. Here is just such a confluence.

I love the work of Malcolm Gladwell. His The Tipping Point gave me a whole new language and set of theoretical constructs for understanding the practical implications of making connections. I just ordered on line his new book Blink which I will react to in this Blog a few weeks hence. It deals with seemingly "snap" decisions that appear to be made in the blink of an eye. I can't wait to read it!

Using the concept of "Tipping Point" that Gladwell popularized, Paul Nixon, "a Web designer at the University of Arizona, created an infographic that illustrates what many have been saying all week since the release of Apple's new lower-cost PC and MP3 player products at MacWorld, which is that Apple finally has got a shot at the mass market." (quotation is from the Blog "Between The Lines")

Below is the Link to Nixon's infographic:

Apple's Tipping Point: Macs for the Masses

I just got off the phone with my son, Tim, who is currently working and living in Poland. Having heard of the launch of the new iPod Shuffle, Tim had been thinking about the very fact that Apple's growing market share in the MPS player world will have a spin-off effect for its market share in the PC world.

Interesting times we live in!


Reaction To The "New Yorker" Article – JMO’s in History as Catalysts for Change

In response to yesterday’s posting that provided a Link to the New Yorker article on informal networks of communication arising among our troops in Iraq, I received a fascinating e-mail. Bill Batten is a regular Blog reader and contributor. With his permission, I share the thoughts that he offered yesterday.


Been traveling but wanted to say a special thanks for posting the New Yorker article. It may well be recording a watershed moment in American military history where generational differences, communication developments (internet, quick messenger) and political developments (terrorist/political group actions) all combine to substantially change military and political programs. Now having said all that, as you know, that is the "natural" course of history - where the pre-existing paradigm is no longer valid and a new paradigm is successfully carried forward (albeit with continual tweaking) until it encounters a situation where it, too, no longer works.

In the Civil War it was the rifle's longer range taking precedent over the musket's shorter range. The European style of advancing ranks and point-blank shooting led to senseless slaughter with no tactical advantage. The Union's junior officers of that era were the ones to first recognize and implement a new tactical approach to maximize their advantage over the primarily musket-equipped Confederate forces. Likewise, as Steven Ambrose wrote in his D-Day book, it was the junior officers that improvised and led unaffiliated small groups of men off the beach, up the cliffs and over the top to success at Omaha beach. The younger generation will naturally be the first to question the"established" way and, because they are also the ones on the scene being shot at, will be the ones synthesizing information that leads to tactical changes.

Two quick stories:As you know, I travel a bit and predominately use Southwest Airlines. Two weeks after this past Thanksgiving I was trekking back from Providence and changed planes in Baltimore. I was in the "A" boarding group and was in the line processing onto the plane. As I was passing by the head of the "C" line, I noticed a fifty-something fellow wearing an attractive gold lapel pin. I asked him what did he do to get the attractive pin, expecting to hear "30 years at xyz company" or "belong to abc association". Instead he looked down at his lapel with a non-comprehending look and looked back up to say "it is for my son's death in Iraq". Not knowing what to say, I asked when this happened. "Two weeks ago". Where? "Fallujah - he was with the Marines". I boarded the plane, knowing that this man's family had suffered a great loss.

After meeting that bereaved father in Baltimore, I got on the web and researched the lapel pin. It was a Gold Star Pin. The attached URL shows the pin and the USMC application form.

My father-in-law served in WWII and said there were Blue Star Mothers. The Blue Star Mothers flew blue starred flags on their homes signifying they had a child serving the military.

Second story:
I flew back yesterday from St. Louis via Chicago-Midway. A group of Army men were on the plane. A man in his forties (he later told me he is 46) sat beside me. Turns out these fellows are Illinois National Guardsmen who had just come back from Iraq four days prior and had been given four day family passes before returning to Fort Bragg for what I understood to be the unit's de-briefing/de-compression period before returning home. My seatmate and his wife have a real estate business in the south side of Chicago. They have a fifteen-year-old daughter. He has been deployed for essentially two years. He has 27 years in the service (Army and National Guard) and he is not sticking around for 30. He has already been extended the past year and this is quits for him. His reasoning was that another deployment is inevitable within the next three years for his N.G. unit. He further said his wife has had to shoulder the full brunt of running the family business while also dealing with their daughter's concerns about her dad. He made an interesting comment about Marine reservist units only being deployed 6 months, the Navy and AirForce reservists being deployed 90 to 120 days and Army reservist units being deployed for one year or longer at a time. He was a high-grade sergeant and managed a field kitchen. This jives with anecdotal information regarding reserve units losing men/women to retirements at a rapid rate. It sounds like Washington will have to address this issue sooner rather than later.

Thanks to Bill for taking the time to comment.

As always, I welcome additional thoughts and comments on the issues covered in these postings.


Thursday, January 13, 2005

Real-time Lessons from Iraq in Creative Networking

One of the regular readers of this Blog, a 1972 graduate of the Naval Academy, responded to yesterday's "Six Degrees" posting with the following comments:

I read your Six Degrees blog just after reading the article below. It is about the adaptive requirements and the networks that have sprung up in the Army to deal with Iraq. I was struck by how close the examples from the Army fit the concepts you drew from the book.

It’s a long article and you have to get into it a ways before he talks about how informal networks evolved within the Army and then challenged the official “networks” for value.

Given your knowledge of the military, I think you’ll find it of interest.

Best Regards,

I read the New Yorker article last evening and found it to be a compelling story of how the theories that Dr. Watts discusses in his book are being played out on an hourly basis in the Middle East with life and death consequences. I think you will find reading this article worth your time.

The New Yorker: Fact

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

NASCAR Dads Wanted! (Seriously)

Here is a posting you never thought you would see from The White Rhino!

I have a protégé and close friend who works for a major publishing house. They are looking to branch out beyond the traditional bounds of book publishing. One idea is to go after audiences that might not think of themselves primarily as book lovers, but who have a need and desire for information that would come in a format that is not limited to printed books. One such market could be NASCAR fans. Early ideas would include producing audio books of NASCAR drivers telling stories of their careers or narrating particular races, downloadable video from the cockpit of the car, live video feeds from the Pit, videos and interviews with the crew at work preparing the car, etc.

If you have a love for NASCAR or know someone in your circle who is a NASCAR fan, I would love to hear about additional ideas regarding the kinds of information that you would like to have available for purchase about the sport - information that might be provided by a publishing house willing to think outside the box and to disseminate information in a non-book format.

Dale Junior and I thank you!


“Six Degrees” – A Reaction to Professor Watts’ Seminal Work

As I promised in last Friday’s posting, I am returning to the topic of Dr. Duncan Watts’ work: Six Degrees – The Science of a Connected Age. It is not my intent to review the book here; there are plenty of good reviews available from sources more knowledgeable than I about the science of networking. My purpose is to share with you some of my responses to reading this volume as I processed how the information might relate to my profession and my world of networking.

The book is not a user’s guide to social networking. This is not “Networking for Dummies”! It is a thoughtful treatment by an academic theotetician of a fascinating topic – or to be more precise – an intriguing network of interrelated topics.

In presenting the material in his book, Dr. Watts tells two stories in parallel. At one level, he describes the evolution of his work and that of his colleagues in trying to solve the problem of modeling and understanding the dynamics operating within a wide variety of networks. The networks described include electric power grids, social networks, AIDS and Ebola virus epidemics, hierarchical organizational charts in Fortune 500 firms and financial markets.

At another level, Watts uses the story of the arc of his research as a case study to describe the emergence of a whole new branch of science: the science of networks. In one sense, as I made my way through the ten chapters of this book, I felt I had been invited into a microbiology laboratory to view the results of experiments in which Watts and his gifted and visionary colleagues had served as human Petri dishes that had hosted the incubation of germs of ideas that had been cultured from a wide variety of disciplines and streams of thought.

As a recruiter and an avid practitioner of social networking, I found much to ponder in these chapters. Chapter 5, “Search in Networks,” is particularly relevant to the problem of how best to think about finding the right person via directed searches or broadcast searches. I also found enlightening Watt’s tracing of the development of the popular concept of “Six Degrees of Separation,” from its inception in the 1967 research of social psychologist Stanley Milgram into the “small-world problem,” through its current level of cachet in popular parlance.

As a Renaissance Soul who believes firmly in the value of helping companies to discover and to hire broadly-educated generalists as leaders, I was particularly encouraged by Chapter 9, “Innovation, Adaptation, and Recovery.” Standing on the shoulders of two MIT professors, Chuck Sabel and Michael Piore, whose 1984 book, The Second Industrial Divide, warned of a sea change in industrial organization, Watts surveys the challenges of organizational structure and communication in an age of ambiguity. Implicit throughout this book is a point that he makes explicit in this chapter: the only way to function effectively in this world of growing complexity and ambiguity is to utilize strategies of collaboration across traditional boundaries. This principle is certainly true in facing the challenges of creating a new science of networking. In order for researchers to be able to begin to model network behaviors and dynamics, boundaries had to be crossed and chasms bridged that had traditionally separated scientists in their own fiefdoms of physics, economics, mathematics and sociology. I see the same dynamics at work in the nascent field of nanotechnology, in which biologists, physicists, material scientists, electrical engineers, optics specialists and software engineers are all working together to solve problems and seize emerging opportunities.

In much the same way, the only reasonable approach to resolving complex challenges within organizations is to create collaboration strategies that connect individuals and teams that traditional have done their work in isolation from one another. As a compelling case in point, Watts dissects the Toyota-Aisin crisis of 1997 and its stunning resolution.

I am more convinced than ever before that the challenges of complexity and ambiguity in the world of business will be faced most successfully by companies that have the vision to hire as leaders Renaissance Men and Women who understand at the very core of their being the value and power of collaboration across traditional boundaries of thought, academic discipline and functional role within an organization.

I am grateful to Dr. Watts for taking his experience from academic research and making it applicable and accessible to those of use practicing networking outside the world of academia.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

A Guilty Pleasure

I do not watch much TV. Sure, I don’t miss many Red Sox or Patriots games on the tube, but beyond that, I find that there are too many other more interesting things to do with my time that to sit in front of the screen at home. I would much prefer to curl up with Michael Crichton’s latest book, State of Fear than to be bludgeoned by another episode of “Fear Factor,” or even to watch Crichton’s own creation, “ER” as the once-riveting series, now long in the tooth, winds down in its final season into broadcast bradycardia. I prefer reading Six Degrees, Prof. Duncan Watts’ volume on networks, than watching what the TV networks have to offer during prime time.

So, it was uncharacteristic of me last evening to be sneaking a peek at my watch during a dinner meeting with one of my candidates and his wife. The young couple with whom I was dining is a pair of wonderful, fascinating and delightful individuals, so the issue was not one of boredom. I was enjoying our conversation. It was just that the minute hand on my watch kept creeping closer to 8:00 PM EST – the hour when the Fox series “24” airs in Boston.

This past Sunday evening’s double episode marked the beginning of the fourth season for this breakthrough series. I did not become ensnared by the show’s gravitational pull until near the end of the first season. Co-workers in my office began to talk about the series over lunch, so I finally caved in to watch Jack Bauer do his thing, and I was hooked.

During my dinner meeting last evening, as I observed my mounting level of discomfort over the prospect of missing part of Monday night’s episode, I stepped back to ask myself the question: “What is it about this show that is so compelling?” I am not sure that I have yet arrived at a satisfactory answer to that question, but I’ll share my preliminary and inchoate thoughts as they begin to take form.

Good writing – I have an appreciation for a well-constructed story line and tightly written dialogue. I am not aware of many other shows currently available on TV that match “24” in these areas. “West Wing” often comes close in its writing and story line, and I have been told that the new series “Lost” has its moments, but good writing is all too rare in the world of broadcast entertainment.

It does not insult my intelligence – As I watch, I find myself thinking – either trying to follow the plot twist, trying to anticipate what may happen, or trying to understand what is motivating a character to act or speak in a certain way.

The characters are nicely nuanced and three-dimensional human beings - Jack Bauer, the protagonist and serial pursuer of domestic terrorists, is a tragically flawed hero. He is no Billy Budd-like Christ figure, but a recovering drug addict who is not above using terror tactics to fight the bad guys.

Villains that we love to hate - Last season’s ex-First Lady was a classic villain, constantly twisting reality and truth in new ways to advance her nefarious schemes. This season’s new head of CTU is not above using national security assets to intervene to prevent the LAPD from arresting her schizophrenic daughter.

The ever-escalating tension - With each barely audible tick of the clock in the background, the tension mounts like a tourniquet being slowly tightened. Each episode ratchets up towards a jaw-dropping climax – and usually does so without becoming formulaic.

Fascinating plot twists - Just when I think I have figured out what is coming next, a new development or character emerges from the shadows to move the narrative in an unanticipated direction.

Production values – I can’t help myself; I love the split screen that allows/forces us to watch up to four plot elements evolving simultaneously.

Timeliness - We all think about the threat of terror on our doorsteps, and the show shamelessly manipulates those fears to draw us into the story.

"In your face" attitude – The writers and producers of this series are not afraid to be “politically incorrect” and actually depict a Muslim family living in LA as sleeper terrorists. There have been protests, but the show goes on.

Something tells me I should feel guilty about enjoying a TV show quite this much – especially one that is aired on the much-maligned Fox network!

I’ll continue to think about these things, and would even be willing to discuss them with you. Write a comment here, send me an e-mail, or call me on my phone. Just don’t try calling on Monday at 8:00. I’ll be busy – watching “24”!

Friday, January 07, 2005

Preview of Coming Attractions: "Six Degrees" by Prof. Duncan J. Watts

Thanks to the recommendations of several friends and fellow denizens of this Blogsphere, I have just started reading Six Degrees - The Science of a Connected Age. I can't put it down. Within the next few days, I will offer some extended observations about the emergence of the science of networking and its application to the worlds that I inhabit. But I did not want to wait until I had finished the book before making you aware of this tremendous resource. Duncan J. Watts, a Professor at Columbia University, published this work in 2003. Already, less than 100 pages into this very readable monograph, I have found many insights that help me to understand how networks operate.

Here is a sample from the book that addresses an issue I wrote about in a posting earlier this week - Some Meta-thoughts on Blogging – “A Marketplace Where Many Diverse Ideas Meet for Coffee!”

from "Six Degrees" - p. 67:

. . . this is where people like sociologists come in. Because they have spent their lives studying the social world, they actually know a thing or two about how it works, and their insight is an indispensible element of any useful model.

As obvious as this last point may seem, it is endlessly surprising to most pysicists, who rarely feel the need to consult anyone before appropriating their problem. That will have to change if we want to make any real progress. Academics are a fractious bunch, rarely inclined to step across the boundaries of their disciplines for more than a polite hello. But in the world of networks, sociologists, economists, mathematicians, computer scientists, biologists, engineers, and physicists all have something to offer each other and much to learn."

Amen! I could not agree more. In my experience, things really start to get interesting when individuals from disparate backgrounds, world views and networks begin to interact with one another. This is the principle reason for the existence of this Blog as a catalyst to encourage more such collaboration and cross-fertilization.

Stay tuned for additional response and reactions to the ideas that Dr. Watts lays out in this seminal work.


A Terrific Tool - "The Networking Survival Guide"

During 2004, one of the new networking connections I made that I most appreciate was with Boston-based author and networking guru, Diane Darling. Her very readable and eminently practical book, The Networking Survival Guide: Get the Success You Want by Tapping into the People You Know, provides a step-by-step overview of how to develop an effective networking frame of mind and set of networking tools and practices. The book contains insights helpful to neophyte networkers and to confident veterans alike. Diane also heads up a consulting practice, Effective Networking (, geared towards helping individuals and organizations better to understand the power of connectivity.

"Effective Networking, Inc. works with people to ensure they establish optimal affiliations to maximize their potential achievement and reach their personal or professional goals."

See below for a preview of Diane's book and consulting practice. She comes with my strong recommendation.


The Networking Survival Guide

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Held Hostage in Albania

As a result of the new communication link that this Blog provides, I recently reconnected with Frank Koye, a 1982 graduate of Annapolis. In a response to one of my Blog postings, Frank described himself in the following way:

I am an Annapolis man who has contributed to society as an Eagle Scout providing leadership in Scout camps in Spain, Italy, Germany and the USA, driving submarines for global thermal nuclear war, supervising nuclear power plants for the Navy, designing and manufacturing missiles + rockets, taught grad school and successfully started businesses in banking, manufacturing and real estate in the Balkans, conducted intelligence operations, done anti-terrorism with the SEALs, and father of 4 children. Currently working as a contractor for a federal agency in DC and serving on the board for NDIA Special Ops & Low Intensity Conflict Division. My wife is an international human rights lawyer whom I met while serving as military liaison to Albania. After being wed in a brief civil ceremony I managed to get myself taken hostage, something a few other friends have managed as well.

Needless to say, I was intrigued by the fleeting reference to Frank having been held hostage in Albania. I wrote back and asked him for details. With Frank's permission, I share with you his story.

I had actually received the Pentagon briefing on terrorism after I had had my encounter – and the most striking point of the briefing was their attempt to prepare you for your feelings when you are released, and others remain behind in the hands of the kidnappers…something I experienced. My thoughts at the moment were I didn’t have time for such an interruption, wondering what was going on (as people were making threats in a low tone in a foreign language), watching the reaction of those around me – crying shaking uncontrollably, and feeling disassociated from it all. I was actually in the midst of reviewing a multimillion dollar real estate purchase.

I became a hostage along with a French citizen, and two Albanian citizens in one of the best hotels in town, sitting in an office attached to the hotel. I sat with my back to the door during the negotiation, as the women who served as council for our venture capital group were seated first, and I had the last seat entering, which ended me up with my back towards the entrance to the office.

The disorientation because foreign language, being overseas in a different scenario and setting where it is difficult to know what to expect, and it was a new experience with shock and surprise. Naturally, I was annoyed, felt like leaving, but was advised against it. I patiently waited through negotiations, while activating a tiny tape recorder – so that in the event I ended up with a bullet through the head there might be some evidence to know what had transpired that day. You see I wasn’t frightened in any manner, no time for that. It wasn’t until I was released and looking over my shoulder that reality began to set in.

The situation unfolded quickly and then hours passed, and eventually later that day I was released, at the negotiation of one of the hostages, who was discussing ransom payments. The conditions of release were that all means of transportation for leaving the country had stopped operating, and the kidnappers could find me again easily. The women were released, and we spoke afterwards about what to do. We felt strange, almost guilty about being released, and anxious about the fate of our colleague.

We telephoned the appropriate embassies, but nothing was to be done. The police were not involved at the request of our colleague, who successfully arranged for payment privately. To our good fortune, we were not kept hostage all day, but we were leaving with a feeling of doom and threat – looking over our shoulders. I returned to my villa which I was sharing with a Portuguese special weapons assault team police officer, and promptly borrowed his semi-automatic firearm.

The careless regard of others about YOUR security afterwards was eye-opening, as people leave locked doors open while cleaning or leaving doors ajar. The awareness that embassy protection is to protect diplomats assigned to the embassy, and you are solo is certainly a light that went on.

Resolution – our French colleague arranged resolution through private payment later that day, and the ordeal was linked to his business affairs unrelated to our dealings. So I found myself in the wrong place at the wrong time. However, it was a valuable lesson as later that year I would find myself under surveillance during a period of assassination and attack threats by the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, while supporting the Embassy, NATO and US Forces in country. The lesson of my earlier experience gave me the ability to have heightened awareness in such situations. Later that year when I realized my home and my movements were under the attention of “foreigners” in country and in the neighborhood, my wife and I quietly made our way to Athens and eventually
found our way to safety finding safe haven in Germany with a friend, a West Point grad who had recently retired from a career in Special Operations.

Some Meta-Thoughts on Blogging - Part Deux

In response to yesterday's posting, my friend, David Cutler, made me aware of the following article on Blogging in the current issue of Fortune.

FYI - David has a new Blog of his own. Feel free to pay him a visit:

Technology - Why There's No Escaping the Blog - FORTUNE

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

TALENT ALERT – Looking for Commercial Banking Professionals

From time to time, I will ask the readers of my Blog to provide me with additional sets of eyes and ears in looking for specific skill sets on behalf of client companies.

One of my clients – a progressive commercial bank with a strong presence on both Coasts – has asked for my help in finding top talent. We are looking for individuals with 5-10+ years of experience in commercial banking to fill a variety of roles. Cultural fit is important. This bank’s staff operates with a spirit of collegial teamwork and a fanatical devotion to customer service. Most openings at present are in the Boston area. If you know of qualified and impressive candidates in Boston or those who would be willing to relocate to Boston, please let me know and I’ll be happy to share specific position requirements.


Some Meta-thoughts on Blogging – “A Marketplace Where Many Diverse Ideas Meet for Coffee!”

I was dragged kicking and screaming into the world of Blogging – reluctantly dipping my toe in the water exactly a month ago with my first posting. Much has happened in the past 30 days since my initial foray into Blogdom. I had been aware of Blogs for a couple of years – even reading with regularity the Blogs of Seth Godin, Dave Teten, et al. But I resisted a number of suggestions that I create one of my own. It took the gentle, but insistent, urging of several people whose opinions I respect for me finally to reconsider my decision and to make the commitment to carve out the time to give Blogging a try.

As I undertook the experiment, I had no idea what to expect, and myriad questions and doubts jousted with one another in my mind:

"Who would read the thing? Where would I find the time? Would people feel like I was spamming them? Would I have enough substance of interest to share with readers on an almost daily basis?"

I began to feel comfortable with the idea of creating a Blog when a clear purpose emerged. Over the years, consistent feedback from clients, candidates, colleagues and compadres has convinced me that there is unique value in the fact that my unusually diverse and disparate set of interests, experiences and social networks position me at the intersection of many worlds that do not normally communicate with one another. As the common link (Missing Link?!) among these overlapping networks, I am often in a position to serve as a communication interface across traditional barriers to enable individuals from different worlds to share their thoughts me with and with one another.

I knew I was on the right track when one of my readers, a gentleman from North Carolina, wrote the following message:

“I enjoy reading your blog - a marketplace where many diverse ideas meet for coffee!”

What a great phrase and what an apt description of what goes on within the ether world that the readers of this Blog and I inhabit together! In the coming days, I anticipate postings that will deal with issues such as leadership and creativity in the arts, the challenges and opportunities that women face as business leaders, the story of one of the Blog readers who was held hostage in Albania, The New England Patriots attempt to hang onto the Pete Roselle Trophy, book reports, and my reflection on breaking news and emerging trends.

I am sensing that my taking the step of putting myself “out there” in writing these postings on a regular basis is serving as a catalyst for others to be willing to share their own thoughts, concerns and stories. Yesterday, a friend in California wrote:

“My New Year's resolution is to write a novelette by the end of the year. Your inspiration spreads wider than you know...”

How gratifying and encouraging to know that the simple act of writing and sharing my writing with others is encouraging a friend in his own creativity!

On the technical side of Blogging, I am still a neophyte. I am aware that it is possible to use tools like RSS to make sure you are alerted whenever there is a new posting to any Blog that you choose to monitor, but I have not yet taken the time to understand the mechanics of how this all works. I will do so in the next few weeks and will share that knowledge as a posting for those of you who are as technically unsophisticated as I am.

I welcome your comments, feedback, ideas and suggestions. I will be happy to publish thoughts you may wish to share with me and with my readers - to the degree that the subject matter is in keeping with the spirit of this Blog. How would I define that spirit? One of my readers put it well when he wrote to me yesterday:

“. . . your very presence and campaign to promote the appreciation of Renaissance men [and women] in business inspired me . . . [and] reassured me that I’m not the only oddball at HBS [Harvard Business School]!


Thanks for reading and responding.


Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Dialogue with The Apprentice: Kelly Perdew Shares His Thoughts on Leadership

Networking is indeed a marvelous thing!

On December 22, I posted an article on this Blog mentioning the fact that Apprentice winner, Kelly Perdew, was a member of the West Point Class of 1989. I also quoted from his Website. Shortly after posting this article, I became aware that Kelly Perdew and I were both members of the LinkedIn Network, separated by one common link. So, using that common link, I sent Kelly an e-mail within the LinkedIn Network. Within a few days, I received word that Kelly had accepted my contact within the Network and had invited me to e-mail him directly. Given the extraordinary demands on his time, I was pleasantly surprised that he had taken the time to respond to me so quickly.

Given the fact that many of the postings on this Blog have focused on issues of leadership, I thought I would ask Kelly if he would be willing to join in the dialogue begun here a few weeks ago. With Kelly’s permission, I share with you below some of our recent e-mail conversation.

* * * * *



Over the New Year's holiday I was reflecting on my new Blog, which has focused this past month on issues of leadership. I was wondering if you would be willing to take a couple of minutes out of your very busy schedule to share a few thoughts or bullet points that I could share with my Blog readers (many of whom are senior executives) on how your USMA education and training prepared you for the leadership challenges of The Apprentice experience.

Thanks, and best wishes.


* * * * *


Hello Al:

I'm excited to share with you the ways in which West Point and my time in the Army helped prepare me for business as well as the challenges associated with The Apprentice. I've actually been somewhat surprised by the focus on my military background by the general public/media. I thought it was well-understood and accepted that the military is a phenomenal training ground for business leaders!

At a macro level there are many fundamentals that are taught and practiced in the military that make a person well-suited for business leadership:

1. Integrity. This one is pretty obvious - lives are at stake in the military and any indiscretion can cause someone to pay the ultimate price. The honor code at West Point - "A cadet will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those who do" - is easily translatable into the military and into business. It is black and white. Practicing it day in and day out makes it second nature for military personnel.

2. Teamwork. With almost no exceptions, every unit in the military is made up of teams that work together to execute their missions. Over the last few years, the team approach to solving problems and managing businesses has become a standard for management training. For US soldiers it is a natural way to operate.

3. Duty Concept. As a leader, you owe it to your team to give 100% effort all of the time. And your team owes it to you. The best commercial slogan describing the duty concept was coined by a shoe manufacturer: "Just do it." It is pretty simple and embodies much of what makes soldiers great businesspeople. You just do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done. You shouldn't have to be told to do something and this attitude is second nature to service men and women.

4. Creativity in a contained environment. Contrary to how we've been depicted in many Hollywood films, the US soldier is very creative. In fact, the US military is one of the most difficult forces to fight against because our doctrine calls for commanders to create their own solutions to problems. A commanding officer will give his or her unit very specific orders about WHAT needs to be accomplished in the mission, but not necessarily HOW to accomplish it. The "how" is left up to the subordinate commanders and their units. This open system breeds creativity which is highly applicable to any business environment.

5. Structured Operations. Structured planning for operations is a critical success factor for military activities as well as business activities. The breakdown of operating responsibilities into different units, chains of command, interdependencies of operating units, constrained resource allocation, and clear/concise written communications contribute to the success of both military and business operations.

6. Accountability. Take responsibility for your actions – whatever they are.

7. Understanding the enemy. A critical component of any successful military or business operation is a deep and constant understanding of your enemy/competition. How they fight, what their resources are, what they do in certain terrain, response protocols, weapon systems, etc... All have direct business parallels.

At a micro level there are thousands of translatable skills that most businesses would love for their leaders to possess:

1. Attention to detail. A must in the military and in business.

2. Time management. So much to do and so little time!

3. Ability to prioritize. A critical skill for any leader.

4. Fast decision-making. Being able to make a decision with 70% of the information.

5. Ability to lead and to be led. Taking orders is as important a skill as giving them.

6. Excellent verbal and written communication. Expert communicators in front of audiences of 1 to 1,000.

I put each of these to good use on the various tasks during the course of The Apprentice. There are many more military-honed skills that have business applications, but I wanted to focus on a few and let you know why I feel they are compelling. More of my thoughts on leadership, strategy, and other business concepts can be found in the forums on my website at


Kelly Perdew (USMA ’89)

* * * * *

I am deeply grateful to Kelly for his generosity in sharing his time and his thoughts. I encourage you to check out his Website (see URL above) and to subscribe to his monthly newsletter.

As always, your comments are welcome.

Have a great day!


Monday, January 03, 2005

Leadership Development and the 8 Principles of TopGun Communications LLC

Networking is a wonderful thing! On a recent train ride from Grand Central Station to Westport, CT, my good friend, Sean Cross of Harper Collins Publishing, noticed a fellow passenger wearing a jacket emblazoned with the phrase “TopGun.” As would be characteristic of many of us, Sean’s first thoughts turned to the movie, starring Tom Cruise, that brought into popular parlance the U.S. Navy’s legendary training school for elite fighter pilots. So, Sean engaged the jacket’s owner in conversation.

It turns out that Tom Glass is not himself a former TopGun pilot, but the Managing Director of a corporate training and performance enhancement firm called “Top Gun Communications, LLC.” He develops and coordinates the training events that bring the leadership insights of several former TopGun instructor pilots to corporate clients. The cadre of TopGun Instructors is enhanced with additional talent from a variety of business fields. The programs are designed to teach senior executives, sales teams, marketing teams and product development teams to apply the principles honed by the Navy at TopGun to the unique challenges of their particular business environment.

It did not take Sean long to realize that there may be some synergies between the kind of training that TopGun Communications offers its corporate clients, and the kinds of leadership talent I specialize in finding for my client companies - Renaissance Souls and military leaders who have performed at the highest levels. Sean was kind enough to suggest and then to facilitate a meeting among the three of us. Tom, Sean and I met last Wednesday evening in Westport.

Tom Glass is an engaging retired Wall Street Journal executive who seems even more productive and peripatetic in his “retirement” than he must have been during his very successful run of leading many of the WSJ’s training and marketing initiatives over the course of a long and illustrious career. In addition to helping to build the organization of TopGun Communications, he is developing his own skills as a builder of traditional New England free form stonewalls, and as a chef trained by the Culinary Institute of America. Talk about being a Renaissance Man!

Tom was kind enough to share with me and with Sean the eight principles – culled from Navy TopGun experience – that make up the backbone of the corporate training and performance enhancement curriculum offered by TopGun Communications. With Tom’s permission, I share them with you for several reasons:

1) The principles are sound and proven and immediately applicable to the challenges that many of us face as business leaders.

2) I want to make you aware of TopGun Communications as a resource and as potential tool that you and your company may choose to use in preparing leaders in your firm to be even more productive in 2005 than they have already been until now.

Eight Key Elements for Organizations to Change, Adapt and
Form a Culture of Success

1) Gathering the Best and the Brightest – In any organization, the potential for change, for growth and ultimately for success rests in its people. The goal is to make good people better.

2) Committing to a Core Belief – It is mandatory to focus the energy of your best people. The leadership group (your best people) must agree on what defines success, then agree and commit to your company’s goals.

3) Unwavering Professionalism – Committing to the core belief and then working harder and smarter than you have ever worked before is a start. Your people’s professionalism will establish your brand and will not only motivate your best and brightest, but also attract more people wanting to be part of something special.

4) Training – We stress the concept of reaching beyond the ordinary. No one comes to work hoping to be mediocre – but many lack the skill set required to succeed. Training and the dedication to apply what you learn to reach the next level become part of the culture.

5) Relentless Preparation – Being prepared is just the beginning. Understanding what works and why it works enables you to be a leader.

6) Briefing and Debriefing – Briefing is a skill designed to help pre-plan for great performances. Debriefing is a skill refined by the Navy, to review events, reinforce positives and professionally analyze mistakes and turn them into positives.

7) Standardization – Clear and consistent standards form an envelope of success. Identifying which processes need to be standardized, and which do not, forms your springboard for constant improvement.

8) Creativity – We push the creative envelope. Our programs and classes are designed to think beyond the norm.

* * * * *

My first reaction in hearing this principles was to exclaim: “This is why the New England Patriots have won two of the last three Super Bowls, and may be poised to win a third! These are the principles that Kraft, Belichek et al. have applied and raised to an art form!”

My second thought was: “And this is what the Red Sox organization is trying to emulate under the leadership of Henry, Lucchino and Epstein.”

If you feel that your company could benefit from exposing a team of leaders to training based on these principles, led by men who have applied the principles under fire and in combat, I would be happy to put you in contact with Tom Glass and TopGun Communications.

I close with this quotation from the movie “Top Gun”:

Viper: In case some of you are wondering who the best is they are up here on this plaque.
[turns to Maverick]
Viper: Do you think your name will be on that plaque?
Maverick: Yes sir.
Viper: That's pretty arrogant considering the company here, don't you think?
Maverick: Yes sir.
Viper: I like that in a pilot.