Sunday, March 30, 2008

Dr. Randy Pausch – Dying with Dignity and Delight

My friend, Tom Glass, has a real knack for discovering inspiring stories and making his friends aware of them. He may have outdone himself this time. In the midst of my burning the midnight oil working on some time-critical searches for clients, I noticed that Tom had sent out an e-mail with a link to a video. Something told me to stop what I was doing take a break and watch the video. I would ask you to do the same. You will not be sorry.

This introduction, culled from an article I found on line, paints the picture of the video of Dr. Randy Pausch delivering his final lecture to his students at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

By jobythebay, published Sep 23, 2007

Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch's Last Lecture

A Dying Professor Gives the Lecture of His Life

I was watching the news on television last night and heard the newscaster saying that we would be watching a professor's last lecture.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007 a computer science professor named Randy Pausch, Ph.D, gave a lecture. Dr. Pausch is regarded as an expert teacher of video games and virtual reality technology. He helped develop the software used at Carnegie Mellon, a well-know Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania University, called Alice. It allows people to create 3-D animations. This is being used by students around the world. The lecture was titled, "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams."

Oprah heard about the lecture and asked Dr. Pausch to reprise the lecture live for her audience. The following link will take you to that broadcast:

As I watched, the first questions I asked myself were: “When was this show taped? How is he doing now? Is he still alive?”

I found the answers in Dr. Pausch’s Blog, which was updated today.

Randy Pausch Blog update page:

There is no need to gild the lily; Dr. Pausch has said all that needs to be said about milking all the joy possible out of every day we are given to spend here on earth. My two questions – to myself and to you – after the tearful inspiration of watching Dr. Pausch put life into perspective – are:

“What will you do today to experience joy for yourself?”

“What will you do today to give joy to others?”

What a gift Dr. Pausch has given to all of us – his extended class of students enrolled in the school of life.

Thank you Tom!



Stop-Loss: A Failed Policy and a Flawed Film

Last evening I went to the multiplex on Boston Common to see the film “Stop-Loss.” It is not a great feat of cinematic artistry, but it is a thought-provoking shot across the bow of the Army’s controversial policy that serves as a de facto “back door draft.” I went to see the film having already been warned of its flaws by Ty Burr, my favorite film critic. In his review that appears in the Boston Globe, his opening remarks are insightful and accurate:

"Stop-Loss" is co-produced by MTV, and the soundtrack consequently works overtime. Heavy metal, alt-pop, southern rock, orchestral swells, wailing Middle Eastern tunes all vie for our attention, but none of this noise drowns out the sound of good intentions twisting themselves into an impotent knot.

The movie's the latest off-Hollywood drama to examine the effects of the Iraq War on the US soldiers fighting it, and like previous films - "In the Valley of Elah," "Home of the Brave," "Lions for Lambs," "Redacted" - it's earnest, outraged, and more than a little confused. Pundits wonder why no one wants to see these movies, and it's true American audiences don't have the stomach for bad news (especially when it's about us), but can't the films themselves be at fault, too?

Seeing this film, with all of its flaws, caused me to think about the issues surrounding the Stop-Loss policy. The comments that follow are admittedly from my limited personal perspective as an outsider. But, I am an outsider with a strong vested interest in understanding all of the ramifications of the Stop-Loss controversy, since I have many close friends who are currently deployed and many more who could be recalled for a second, third or fourth deployment. So, with those caveats laid on the table, let me present the landscape as it looks from my perspective. I offer my thoughts in the hopes that they will generate comments from informed parties to better educate me and the readers of the White Rhino Report.

It appears to me that the Stop-Loss policy, as presently constituted, serves effectively as a “back door draft,” punishing those who have already voluntarily served. The concomitant impact on families of soldiers and on post-military career plans is incalculable. Many brave warriors - who gladly stepped forward to volunteer to fight the war on terror while the dust and debris from the Twin Towers were still settling to earth – too often find themselves disillusioned by the human resources practices of the Army.

There seem to be some built-in inequities in terms of how soldiers are deployed and promoted. Some soldiers are on their third deployment while others who have been in uniform just as long have not yet spent a day in the sand box. One former Army Captain whose opinion I respect, put it to me this way: “It often feels that when you enter a unit, it is like being caught up inside of a tornado. You go round and round and can’t find a way out.” One of the few ways to break out of the “tornado” is to apply for assignments that are not directly combat-related – training or support roles. Soldiers – enlisted and officers alike – who are deployed typically do not have the time, information or resources needed to research all of the available positions for which they might otherwise be qualified to apply, so those positions often go to the soldiers who are already working somewhere other than Iraq or Afghanistan.

Similar dynamics are at work with regard to promotion. The reams of paperwork and support documentation that are needed in order to be considered for promotion are difficult to assemble amidst the pressures of a deployment work schedule. So, against all reason and sense of fairness, promotions have been going inordinately to soldiers with little or no combat experience. The warriors who have put themselves in the most danger are being penalized as a result. It is my understanding that General Petraeus was so disturbed by this built-in inequity, that he recently made a special trip back to the Pentagon to sit in on a promotion board to ensure that those who had served under his command would be given a fair shake at promotions.

One of the disturbing practical consequences of these policies that it is now not unusual for a soldier assigned to a unit that is training to return to Iraq for a second or third deployment may very well be “trained” by someone who has never seen the desert or urban combat in Tikrit or Fallujah. When I asked my friend what kind of morale issues this situation creates, he responded: “We try to be professional, but there is a lot of underlying resentment. It is hard to respect someone who has not put into practice what he is attempting to teach.”

There is clearly a problem here. I am not smart enough or experienced enough to be able to offer suggestions for how to fix the problems, but it is clear to me that the current policies need to be revisited and revised. We are losing far too many of our best officers and enlisted soldiers who are tired of being asked to carry (along with their families) more than their fair share of the burden of fighting this protracted war on terror.

I welcome your thoughts, comments, clarifications, rebuttals and ideas on this issue.


Breaking News – Outstanding Customer Service from CD Baby

I am a passionate believer in the principle of “catching people doing something right and praising them for that positive behavior.” I just received the very pleasant surprise of outstanding customer service as a result of the mundane action of buying a music CD on-line, and I need to make you aware of that experience and share the good news.

Regular readers of The White Rhino Report are aware that early in 2008, I discovered the remarkable music and artistry of Jake Armerding. I own (and am wearing out) his second and third album, but I did not yet own his first album, "Caged Bird." So, I followed the link on his website ( to CD Baby ( I dutifully filled in all the requisite information, as I have done so many times in making on-line purchases, and then moved on with my daily activities. I did not expect to think about the transaction again until the CD arrived in the mail in a few days.

A few moments after completing the transaction, I received an e-mail with a subject line that said: “CD Baby Loves Al”

The content of that e-mail was as follows:

Al -

Thanks for your order with CD Baby!

This is just a happy automated email to let you know a real person
will email you as soon as your package is sent, and you will also
receive a paper receipt with your order in the mail.

Please save this email in case you have any questions about your

** NOTE: if any of the info below looks wrong, please hit REPLY now
to let us know!

Nothing earth-shattering here, but it felt very warm and professional. A few minutes ago I received the promised follow-up e-mail. Here it is. I hope it makes you smile as much as it did me.

Your CD has been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with
sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow.

A team of 50 employees inspected your CD and polished it to make sure
it was in the best possible condition before mailing.

Our packing specialist from Japan lit a candle and a hush fell over
the crowd as he put your CD into the finest gold-lined box that money
can buy.

We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party
marched down the street to the post office where the entire town of
Portland waved
'Bon Voyage!' to your package, on its way to you, in
our private CD Baby jet on this day, Sunday, March 30th.

I hope you had a wonderful time shopping at CD Baby. We sure did.
Your picture is on our wall as
'Customer of the Year.' We're all
exhausted but can't wait for you to come back to CDBABY.COM!!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!


What a delightful way to turn an impersonal and routine transaction into an opportunity to build a long term relationship between customer and vendor. I felt the need to e-mail the company President, Derek Sivers:


I discovered CD Baby through Jake Armerding's website. I was not familiar with you. Your whimsical e-mail made me smile, and it will make me remember CD Baby for future purchases. Well done! You gave me a wonderful customer experience and made a lasting first impression. Someone has been reading Seth Godin's
"Purple Cow" and "Free Prize Inside." I am about to mention you in my Blog:

Al Chase

Such outstanding customer service should be rewarded, so if you need to buy some CD’s, I encourage you to check out (I do not get a cut from any business that I mention in this Blog. I share the information merely as “one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread”!) Better yet, go on Jake Armerding’s website, and order one or more of his albums through CD Baby – and wait patiently for the gold-lined box to arrive in the private jet!



Sunday, March 23, 2008

Follow Up to Business Week Articles – The Crucial Role of Captains in Iraq

In the week since the two Business Week articles were published about transition from military leadership to business school, I have received a fascinating tsunami of correspondence and feedback.

(If you did not see the articles, these links will take you there.

Businessweek article

Business Week On-line Al Chase article

A number of comments were left by readers of Jane Porter’s fine article and readers of the companion piece that I wrote. There was a broad range of opinion – all the way from those who clearly understand the special value proposition of military leaders transitioning to the business world, to those who believe the outmoded “command and control” stereotypes of those who have served in the military, to those who are openly hostile towards those who have chosen to serve our country as warriors. In addition, many fine officers have contacted me to ask if I may be able to help them to think about their own upcoming transition from the military to the world of business. Especially gratifying was the call I received a few days ago from a rapidly growing division of a Fortune 100 company. The essence of the call was this: “Hi. A bunch of us here at the office have been reading your recent Business Week article and talking about it. We have a pressing need to hire another leader on our team, and we are looking for exactly the kind of person you described in your article. Do you think that you can help us?”

I will be meeting with this company's senior leadership team this coming week in Florida to learn more about the specific skills sets and character traits they are looking for as they expand their team to accommodate business growth. I anticipate that this development is the tip of the iceberg as more and more companies come to realize that the men and women who have been leading troops in combat and helping to build a nation out of the chaos of war are more than prepared to help to lead a project team or product development group or sales force.

My friend, Dave Gebben, a Ph. D. student at Michigan State, forwarded me this fine article written by Michael Kamber of the New York Times:

Sovereigns of All They’re Assigned, Captains Have Many Missions to Oversee

Sovereigns of All They’re Assigned

Mr. Kamber provides some fine case studies that buttress the argument I was making in the Business Week article about the level of maturity and responsibility attained at an early age by our young military officers on the ground in Iraq – especially those Captains who are the linchpins of Gen. Petraeus’ strategy:

“Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq, said: ‘It is the captains who turn the ‘big ideas’ and broad guidance issued at high levels into specific actions geared to local circumstances. Captains plan and execute the operations that often prove the most important, at ground level, where gains are truly achieved in this type of endeavor.’”

It is not much of a stretch to envision how these Captains, upon finishing their careers in the military, can take their considerable and finely nuanced experience of turning chaos to order and use those skills as “captains of industry.” I see that transformation happening among many of my candidates, and I anticipate a growing list of client companies asking for help in reaching out to this uniquely qualified pool of future C-level executives.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Nate Fick Weighs in On the 5th Anniversary of the Invasion of Iraq

Over the course of the past three years, Nate Fick has become a good friend. I have followed his progress as he gone from being a combat-tested Marine Corps officer, to a best-selling author, to a graduate student juggling two Harvard Masters degrees. Upon graduation, he will head south to Washington, D.C. to continue his career as a leader. His opinion is often sought on issues related to the war in Iraq, and rightfully so. Nate always brings a reasoned and articulate appraisal of the issue at hand.

And so it is that this week, as the New York Times sought a variety of reflections on the occasion of the 5th anniversary of Iraq, they solicited Nate's thoughts. I am pleased to share the link with you to his recent Op-Ed piece:

Nate Fick New York Times Op-Ed Piece

Nate Fick is the author of "One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer"

Review of "One Bullet Away"


Networking the Harvard University Alumni Community Around Professional Sports

My friend, Daron K. Roberts, is a graduate of Harvard Law School and the Kennedy School of Government. He currently serves as an Assistant Defensive Coach with the Kansas City Chiefs of the NFL. Talk about a Renaissance Man! Having been raised in the heady atmosphere of Texas high school football, Daron was eager to find a non-traditional career path that would parlay his Harvard graduate degrees and passion for football into something special. He was hoping to find - or to create - a position that would allow him to creatively use all of his unique gifts, talents and experiences at the intersection of his passions for football, leadership, teaching and personal development.

Using some wonderful networking connections that- to the eye of this observer - have all the hallmarks of having "God's fingerprints all over them," Daron was invited to join the coaching staff of the Chiefs. In the midst of the busyness of preparing for the upcoming NFL draft, Daron and I have talked about his desire to network together other Harvard alumni who share a passion for sports. In the invitation below, he sounds a clarion call for Crimson alumni with a passion for sports to unite.

Please pass along this article to anyone in your circle of friends who combines a Harvard connection with involvement in professional sports.

See Daron's invitation below:


Harvard Alumni in Professional Sports (HAPS)

The Harvard alumni community lacks an umbrella organization devoted to connecting graduates involved in professional sports.

I am working with the Harvard Alumni Association to create a university-sponsored group for alumni who are both directly and tangentially connected to the sports world (e.g. agents, coaches, transactional lawyers, litigators, front-office personnel, journalists, broadcasters and general enthusiasts). Note: This list is by no means exhaustive.

Please contact me if you have any promising leads. Thanks.

Daron K. Roberts (JD '07& MPP '04)
617.308.6913 (c)
Kansas City Chiefs
Defensive Assistant Coach

Another Chance for Boston to See Jake Amerding - Monday, March 24 at Club Passim in Harvard Square

In the past few months I have come to appreciate the incredible musicianship and artistry of Jake Armerding. Since I first was introduced to him and his music in January, I have had a chance to hear him live a total of four times. It is not nearly enough! And I have spent dozens of glorious hours listening to his CD's - in the car, at home, at my office. His spirit, energy, lyricism and virtuosity shine as a warm sun in the cold, gray New England winter. Some Bostonians get through the gloomy season between the World Series and Opening Day through the use of "Shopping Therapy," "Hot Stove League Therapy," "Spring Training Therapy" or even "Aroma Therapy." I have found "Armerding Therapy" to be just the elixir to fuel me through the bleak passage from the winter solstice to the vernal equinox.

So, I am thrilled that Jake will be headlining again at Club Passim a week from tomorrow. I will be there with a number of my friends and family members. A sellout is expected, so I encourage you to contact Club Passim and reserve your tickets now.

Details in the Facebook invitation linked below:

Jake Armerding Facebook Invitation

For a quick preview of what you will hear at Club Passim, here is my favorite Jake Armerding tune, "The Fleece":

Jake Armerding "The Fleece"



Saturday, March 15, 2008

Expanding on the Business Week Article: "From the Front Lines to the Bottom Line"

When Business Week Magazine asked me to write a companion piece to their article on the transition from the military to business school, they asked if I would tell the stories of several individuals I know who have made that transition. Space considerations allowed them only to include the story of Scott St. Germain, but I wanted to take advantage of this space in The White Rhino Report to share some of the other stories of transition - as a way of encouraging those leaving the military to consider business school as an option - and as a way to encourage employers to consider this pool of candidates as a strategic resource in building the next generation of leaders.

Here is the link the the abbreviated Business Week edition:

Al Chase Business Week Article

The expanded version appears below:

From the Front Lines to the Bottom Line – Transition from Military Leadership to Business Leadership by Way of Business School

Dr. Al Chase, Founder

White Rhino Partners, Executive Search


Business Week Magazine

My life as an executive recruiter changed forever in 2001 when the Chairman of the Board of a start-up software company engaged me to find them a CEO. Many of the finalists for this role turned out to be executives who had cut their leadership teeth in the military, and had then acquired additional tools in earning an MBA from one of the top-tier business schools. I began to realize that our military – while producing outstanding leaders for the battlefield – also serves as an incubator for business leadership. And a business school education provides the additional fine tuning that enables these men and women to make a major contribution in the private sector. The irony is that, I – with no military background of my own – have become an enthusiastic evangelist for the special value proposition that military veterans with MBA’s offer to the business world. As a result, over the past seven years, I have come to know hundreds of women and men who have made a successful transition from the military to the world of business by way of business school.

What makes these military veterans so successful in the business world? In a word: leadership. But, let me break down some of the components of leadership that I see exhibited in these impressive individuals I have come to know, and who have made successful transitions from the military to business school and then to leadership in business. Under the broad banner of leadership I see specific strengths: strategic vision, commitment to the mission, accountability, integrity, flexibility, interpersonal skills, communication skills, and a commitment to equip and empower their teams to achieve excellence. There is not space in this article to flesh out all of these components of leadership, but I am pleased to offer a few vignettes of individuals I know who personify these traits that are becoming highly valued in the business world.

Kate Kohler is a West Point graduate – a whirlwind of energy and activity who competes in triathlons in her spare time. Upon graduating from Harvard Business School, she was recruited to work in Private Wealth Management with Morgan Stanley. How does a young woman with striking brunette hair break into a world mostly inhabited by older men, patricians whose silvery tresses are their badge of honor and their pass key to gaining the trust of wealthy investors? Her time as an officer in a military police unit gave her broad exposure to a variety of high-pressure situations. Her role as a general’s aide taught her to be comfortable in the presence of powerful men with quite a few miles on their odometers and strong opinions about how to drive to the next destination. The folks at Morgan Stanley were wise enough to see that these experiences were perfect preparation for the challenges of Private Wealth Management. Kate sums up succinctly what her Army experience gave her to set her up for success in the business world: “relationships, teams, energy, hard jobs, hard places, sense of purpose.” I have seen Kate in action in the halls of the Harvard Club in Midtown Manhattan, and she is as at home there as is Br’er Rabbit in the Briar Patch!

Wharton was the business school of choice for Mark Thaller when he decided it was time to acquire some more analytical tools. He had left the Navy after serving as an engineer aboard the nuclear attack submarine USS Skate. Mark is one of only six persons ever to have graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with two accredited engineering degrees. His experience as a submariner and as a top student at Wharton propelled him to a career in the private sector that has included stints in the worlds of venture capital, global business development and national security. I was pleased to be part of the process that led to Mr. Thaller joining Lucent Technologies as Director of Homeland Security Solutions. When asked to sum up those intangibles that have been consistent threads in his leadership roles in the military and in the business world, Thaller offered these highlights: “integrity, team work, stamina and experience are paramount values.” This is not a surprising list coming from a businessman who once competed in the original American Gladiators TV show!

Heather March Takle is every inch a Marine. I watched her and listened to her command voice as she led the color guard into the meeting room in Spangler Hall at Harvard Business School to kick off the celebration of the birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps. Those very visible strengths, honed in the “Sand Box” where her USMC unit served, must have convinced the decision makers at The Parthenon Group, a strategic consulting firm, to offer Heather a role as principal in their Boston office. A product of Boston University’s ROTC program, Heather manages to blend seamlessly the strength of a Marine with a calm and patient demeanor that allows her to listen carefully to the needs of her clients and, along with her teammates, to offer them solutions that will lead to greater productivity and profitability.

If I can look at the brief career of Darin Souza as a trip around the base paths of a baseball diamond, then first base would have to be his time spent as a cadet and as a batting standout for the West Point baseball team. Second base would be his time as Executive Officer and Air Operations Officer with the Army’s fabled 82nd Airborne Division. Third base would be the two years he spent in the woods of New Hampshire at Dartmouth’s Tuck Business School acquiring an MBA. And home plate – at least for this stage of his business career – is in the Investment Management Division at Lehman Brothers’ Boston office. As an Army officer, Darin acquired “lots of hands on leadership of people who where younger and much older than me - an environment where I came to appreciate the schooling (USMA/Ranger/Jumpmaster) and unit training (field problems/trips to the Joint Readiness Training Center) that I experienced.” The early maturity that comes from breadth of experience as a junior military officer has allowed Darin to step to the plate with confidence in playing what is often considered an older man’s game.

A good officer needs to be comfortable throwing on some camouflage paint to lead his enlisted troops on a mission to neutralize a group of bad guys hiding out in Fallujah. He needs to be equally comfortable standing before the commanding officer in the Tactical Operations Center - the TOC – to report on the results of that mission. That kind of flexibility is rare in the business world, and it is part of what makes military officers with MBA’s such a prized commodity. Scott St. Germain exemplifies this kind of flexibility. A West Point trained officer in the Army Corps of Engineers, “Saint,” as he is known to most of his friends, rolled up his sleeves and did an MBA summer internship with Gorton’s of Gloucester – the fish stick people. He was eventually recruited by biotech giant, Genentech, to join their front line sales. Early success led to a quick promotion, and then he was invited to come to the West Coast to work at the company’s headquarters. Leadership wanted Scott to help ensure that Genentech would continue to exercise best practices in preventing the development of the gap that often exists in large corporations between the sales team and the marketing team. Scott was comfortable in both worlds, and he has used the communication and diplomacy skills he acquired as an Army officer to help lead the company to even greater success.

I am out of time and space. Over coffee, I would love to tell you about my friend, Brit Smith, who, along with Kate Kohler, led Harvard Business School’s Triathlon Club. An Annapolis grad, Brit works now as a consultant for McKinsey. And John Byington, another USNA and HBS grad whose time as a Navy helicopter pilot was a perfect “pre-flight” preparation for his career at GE Medical Systems IT and then to the purchasing of his own company, Kirk Research/Metis Customer Intelligence, that specializes in “business research and customer intelligence.” And Chris Crane, a Senior Vice President at Bank of America. He has leveraged his experiences from West Point, the Army and Harvard Business School to “manage multi-layered operations in a dynamic, fast-paced environment.”

It is clear from my vantage point as an executive recruiter and as Founder of White Rhino Partners that the most visionary companies are the ones that have seen the unique value of military officers who have taken the initiative to earn their MBA’s. One positive byproduct of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom is that the nation is guaranteed a fresh infusion of battle-tested officers, many of whom will go to business school and take their place as an emerging generation of leaders in the world of commerce. Their time spent on the front lines will ensure that they will be able to help improve their companies’ bottom lines. And the best companies are setting their recruiting sights - and those of the search firms they retain – on finding and hiring these proven veterans as the corporation’s hope for the future and the next generation of leadership.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Business Week and White Rhino Partners: Transition from Military Leadership to Business School

I was pleased to be interviewed by Business Week for the article that appears today about transition from military leadership to business school.

From the Battlefield to Business School

by Jane Porter

Businessweek article

Jane Parter and her editor asked me to write a companion piece to supplement the main article. This companion piece appears as a link in the on-line version of this week's Business Week.

I encourage you to send the links to both of these articles to those in your network who would have an interest in the topic of transition from military leadership to leadership in the business world.

Veterans with the Right Stuff

An executive recruiter describes the "special value proposition" that military officers with MBAs can bring to the table

Business Week On-line Al Chase article



Returning to the Blogosphere - As a Proud Father: Profile of Scott David Chase

My apologies for taking the month of February off from Blogging activity. A number of loyal readers have checked in to make sure I am doing well. It has been a particularly busy few weeks, and I was not able to carve out the time to write. I plan to make up for it in the next few weeks, reviewing many of the books I have read recently, and sharing thoughts on a wide variety of topics.

I am pleased to re-enter the world of Blogging by making you aware of a piece that ran a few weeks ago in the Portsmouth Herald about my son Scott and his burgeoning stand-up comedy career, which is also tied to his efforts as an independent film maker. I am blessed to have four very creative sons - each in his own way a Renaissance Man.

Enjoy this article about my son, Scott.

Portsmouth Herald