Friday, March 25, 2011

Heading Back to Haiti - For the First Time in 30 Years!


In a few hours, I will be leaving for Haiti. I will be traveling with my friend, Tom Nolan of the New York Leadership Center, a Haitian pastor and an American pastor and a businessman from Arkansas. the purpose of our trip - one of many I anticipate making over the next few years - is to make connections between Haitian entrepreneurs and American business men and women who are interested in forging a partnership that will be mutually beneficial and profitable.

I am convinced that for Haiti and its people to be able to truly realize their full potential, sustainable economic development is a key. I am pleased to partner with organizations like the New York Leadership Center, Haiti One and a growing network of churches, faith-based NGOs and Haitian and American businessmen and women.

Please pray for this trip and our partnership initiatives. This is a tumultuous time in Haiti, so please pray for safe travel and smooth logistics as we travel to Haiti and throughout the country.

Some of you may be aware that from 1974-1975, I lived in the mountains of Haiti in the tiny village of Fermathe, working at the hospital at the Baptist Mission. This will be my first opportunity to return to Haiti in almost 30 years. My fluency in Haitian Creole is ready to be tested, and my taste buds are hankering for some wonderful rice and beans and Cabrit Creole!

God bless.

Al

Warriors in Transition: Matt Bader is Heading from the USAF to Portland, Oregon


Periodically in The White Rhino Report, we tell the story of a warrior who has served our nation in the military and is transitioning to a new career in the private sector. Today I am pleased to introduce the readers of the WRP to my good friend, USAF Captain Matt Bader. Matt is a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, where he excelled as a member of the hockey team. He has recently returned from a deployment to Iraq. In the following paragraphs he shares some of experiences he had while serving with Tiger team in central Iraq.

Tiger Team in Iraq:

When I was deployed to Iraq I led a team of people responsible for providing contracting support to bases throughout central Iraq. There was seemingly more work to be done than could ever be accomplished, but you worked 14 hour days and did your best to prioritize the work to ensure the success of the mission. After I had been there a month or so I began to settle in and feel more comfortable in my role. Then I was assigned an additional duty as the lead of the DFAS Tiger Team. DFAS stands for Defense Finance and Accounting Service and they are the agency responsible for disbursing payments to all contractors doing business with DOD. I was charged with reducing the outstanding payments that the government owed contractors for goods, services, and construction that had been completed.

It was an additional duty that nobody wanted. The problems were multifaceted and complex in nature and each week the General in charge of all contracting for Iraq and Afghanistan got reports on the progress so it was very high stakes as well.

My team members were made up of DFAS liaisons, contracting personnel, and me. Most of them were less than thrilled to be given additional duties on top of the seemingly endless workload they already had. Our starting point was more than $2 million in outstanding invoices across Iraq many of which were accruing interest payments and costing the government thousands of dollars. We had conflicting interests amongst the key players and we were facing systemic wartime problems to include government bureaucracy, the fog of war, and the language/cultural barrier of our contractors. The DFAS Tiger Team on the prior rotation had made little to no progress in reducing the outstanding invoices and the lack of progress was becoming a sore spot for leadership. It was definitely an uphill battle.

I must admit that when I first took over I was feeling a little overwhelmed but I did the only thing you can really do in that environment which is put your head down, work hard, and give it your best shot. I knew that fostering a real team environment and creating buy in was the first thing I needed to do to get anywhere. I recognized that the DFAS liaisons were undermanned and often took the majority of the “blame” with regard to the outstanding invoices so I sought to earn their respect by immediately showing them that I cared about making a difference with the DFAS Tiger Team. I empathized with their situation and asked a ton of questions about the process. I think my humility and genuine desire to improve our current state won them over which was huge because they were the primary knowledge holders for the payment process and the inner workings of DFAS. I then sought to establish a common vision that was aligned with the overarching mission in Iraq. I described that it was building the Iraqi economy that was going to get us out of the war. Enhancing opportunities for the Iraqi people is the goal of counterinsurgency and there is no better way to do that then to put the Iraqi citizens to work. With that being said, huge damage can be done to our relations when the work has been performed and we do not hold up our end of the bargain with proper and prompt payment. I made sure that everyone on the team was aware that our team could have a direct impact on preventing extremism and that letting the current state continue could actually be fostering terrorism. It was clear that tying our additional duty to the mission of the war effort was a big turning point for the buy in and camaraderie of the team.

After I got my feet wet and had fostered a unified team environment I got my 8 member team together for a brainstorming session. I facilitated a mini continuous process improvement event for the team. We came up with the challenges we were facing and eventually came up with a set of action items we thought could improve the state of the payment process in Iraq. It was clear that we needed help from outside organizations such as DFAS Rome back in the states who processed all the payments, the Senior Contracting Official for Iraq Col Nolan, and Brigadier General Nichols of CENTCOM Contracting Command. I knew that simply telling higher ranking people and outside organizations we needed help was a recipe for disaster. So we presented our findings in a very strategic manner. We showcased how we brought different stakeholders together and came up with a consensus of the “big rocks” or issues with payment process in Iraq. We then presented what “we,” Regional Contracting Center Central, were already doing to improve the current state. This included new standard work, re-engineered business processes, and visuals to be used as payment processing templates for contractors and customers. It was after our efforts had been showcased that we had a section detailing the help we needed from outside organizations. We tried to portray our findings as “here is what we are doing to help ourselves, but we could really use your help in these areas to take our successes to the next level.”

I presented our findings to my leadership and they in turn passed them onto the SCO-I Col Nolan, and General Nichols. On a visit stateside General Nichols met with the head of DFAS Rome in New York and began forging a new memorandum of agreement between the Command and DFAS.

Within two months the changes our 8 person DFAS Tiger Team had implemented had reduced the outstanding payments by more than 50%. This was without the help of the outside agencies. As I prepared to depart Iraq, Col Nolan emailed me directly for feedback on the memorandum they were drafting to be implemented in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It was an incredibly rewarding experience to take over a program that nobody wanted to be a part of and to build a highly performing team that achieved amazing results. We went from the Regional Contracting Center with the largest outstanding payment issues to the model for entire theatre in less than six months.

+ + + + + + + + + +

Matt will be leaving the Air force in the next few weeks. He and his wife are committed to returning to the Portland, Oregon area. If you know of an employer in that area who could use a leader with the kind of skills that Matt outlines above, his work ethic, leadership abilities and unimpeachable integrity, have them contact me to get in touch with Matt.

Al

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Boston's Colonial Theater Let's Down Its Hair to Welcome Back the Tribal Rock Musical

God bless Diane Paulus and her vision for making live theater fully and deliciously accessible to new waves of audiences! Boston’s most recent evidence of her impact on the world of theater was offered in last night’s Opening Night of “Hair” at the venerable Colonial Theater - in many ways the Hub’s Grande Dame of legitimate theater spaces. The demure old lady was rockin’ last night. The loops, whorls and arches of Paulus’ fingerprints are all over this 2009 Tony winning production of the classic tribal rock musical. This show contains everything I have come to expect from Paulus and her vision and execution: a strong ensemble cast with powerful singing and dancing, a world class creative team crafting choreography, set, costume, lighting and sound design that blend together synergistically to reinforce the central vision for the show.

There are two other elements that are omnipresent in Paulus’ shows: full use of the performance space and joyful audience participation. As she has done at the Loeb and Oberon performance spaces at the A.R.T. where she serves as Artistic Director, Paulus had her cast invading every part of the house – mezzanine boxes, aisles, the band, scaffolding and even several seats in Row M in Center Orchestra! Her approach to staging a show dissolves the mythical “fourth wall.” And in so doing, she also pierces the veil that holds audiences at bay – and often keeps them away from live theater. I watched a multi-generational audience last night enraptured - from Phyre Hawkins’ opening notes to the “Happening” that took place on stage with audience members dancing and singing with the cast after the curtain calls.

Having lived through the ‘60’s and having attended a live performance of the original production of “Hair,” I was not sure what to expect when I returned more than 40 years later. Would it feel like a dusty museum piece, an old chestnut? My apprehensions evaporated quickly from the heat and energy of the cast – a group that clearly enjoy their chosen profession. This show is no creaky antique, but a vibrant celebration of an era and an ethos that informed the life experiences of many of us Baby Boomers. But it also reaches across the decades and generations to speak to the three wars in which our nation is currently engaged. The final haunting image of Claude laid out atop an American flag was both moving and timely.

Let’s consider the cast. They are uniformly excellent. Among those who stood out in last night’s performance was Steel Burkhardt as Berger. Berger is the emotional and energy center of the show, and the actor was more than equal to the task. He also led the charge in terms of playful interaction with audience members, and he had young and old alike eating out of his hand. His strong voice and magnetic stage presence anchor an impressive ensemble. Matt DeAngelis as Woof is not only a member of the Hair tribe, he is a proud member of Red Sox Nation. He hails from Boxford, Massachusetts. His energy and slightly goofy joie de vivre are perfect for this role. Paris Remillard as Clause, Kacie Sheik as Jeanie and Caren Lyn Tacket as Sheila are among the principals who deserve special recognition. Among the tribe members, Marshal Kennedy Carolan’s vocal contribution to “What a Piece of Work is Man," is noteworthy, as is Arbender Robinson’s ability to create a bond with the audience through his infectious smile and enthusiasm. Kaitlin Liyan as Crissy offered a delicately nuanced version of "Frank Mills" that was both sweet and poignant. Also deserving of special mention are Allison Guinn as Mother and Josh Lamon as Dad/Margaret Meade. Lamon’s rendition of “My Conviction” was a show stopper.

I had press credentials to this show, so technically I should have been sitting in the audience dispassionately assessing the pros and cons of this production. I am sorry, but all pretense of objectivity went out the window when I felt myself ineluctably drawn to the stage with other enthusiastic audience members to weave and sing the reprise of “Let the Son Shine In.” And that, at the end of the day, is what this show, its creators and its actors and musicians have accomplished. They shine a light of joy and reflection into the heart of all but the most stodgy of theater goers and remind us that the best of the ‘60’s still reverberates in the new Millennium.

Go see this show and bring along family and friends of all ages. Let the sun shine in!

Enjoy!

Al

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Talent Search - Director of Business Development for Boston area CRO (Contract Research Organization)


A White Rhino Partners client company is searching for a Director of Business Development.

SUMMARY OF ROLE

  • Provide sales and business development leadership to position the company as a leading world class CRO laboratory. We are looking for an aggressive “strategic hunter” with a book of business in the Greater Boston area and Northeast corridor.
  • Directs the Company's overall clinical trials business development with existing and new customers by identifying and analyzing opportunities, developing marketing and capture plans, including strategic teaming relationships, and client proposals.

EDUCATION AND / OR EXPERIENCE:

To perform this job successfully, an individual must have:

  • Masters Degree in Business and/or 5-10 plus years of experience in a senior leadership role in the areas of selling and business development. You will be selling clinical services programs into the clinical trials community.

COMPENSATION

Competitive and flexible, based on experience and track record. There is no cap on bonus, so the upside potential is huge.

Greater Boston area candidates only will be considered

Qualified candidates only, send MS-Word resume and cover letter to:

Dr. Al Chase - achase47@gmail.com or achase@whiterhinopartners.com

In the cover letter, highlight the aspects of your career that directly match specific items in the job description, also indicate your compensation history and expectations.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"The Sins of the Father . . ." Mini-Review of "The Summer Son" by Craig Lancaster


This latest novel by award-winning author,Craig Lancaster, is a deeply moving and beautifully constructed saga of a last ditch attempt by a son to reconcile with his father. Mitch Quillen's life is falling apart at the seams, and he feels inexplicably drawn to respond to his father's enigmatic telephone calls by making a road trip to see father from whom he has been estranged for decades. As Mitch extends his visit to his father - hoping to somehow pierce the veil of silence that his father wears as a suit of armor, he risks losing his job. On the other hand, he also knows that his wife supports this effort to find a connection with his father - and with himself. As the story careens between the present and distant past, the back story emerges of why Mitch's father, Jim, has been so distant and unreachable. The bottom line of this story is the message that as long as there is a thread of life left, then healing, forgiveness and redemption are possible - no matter how dark and painful the past.

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Stunningly Beautiful Tale from a Desolate Land: Review of "Galore" by Michael Crummey


Michael Crummey has penned a novel that combines the best elements of "The Shipping News" and "Moby Dick." In the hands of a lesser writer, the tale told in "Galore" could have easily devolved into something cartoonish and bizarre. But Crummey has cobbled together a Dickensian cast of characters who inhabit two small desolate villages on the remote coast of Newfoundland - far from the "metropolis" of St. John. The action and mythology of the story covers several generations of the denizens of Paradise Deep and The Gut, with men and women and other worldly creatures struggling to scratch out a living from the sea. Throw in biblical elements of a man born from the belly of a beached whale, spectral figures that refuse to rest in peace following their death, tension among Anglicans, Catholics and Methodists, the burgeoning labor movement, World War I - and you have a rollicking tale. The description of the characters, place, smells, tastes, and blood feuds are so vivid that each time I picked up the book I felt myself instantly transported to this far off and alien world.

Even the laconic and taciturn Newfoundlanders speak volumes through their clipped speech, silences, deliberate actions, stubborn inactions, enigmatic looks, and miasmal smells. This is a very sensual story - assaulting all of the senses in a way that allows the reader complete immersion into the lives and ethos of the fictional communities.

This novel is destined to become a classic. I loved it.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Prometheus Rocks Out at the OBERON: Review of the World Premiere of "Prometheus Bound"




The American Repertory Theater’s Artistic Director Diane Paulus has a clear and Promethean vision for using the A.R.T.’s second performance space, The OBERON, to “expand the boundaries of theater by creating whole new relationships between performers and audiences.” Paulus, in seeking to give the gift of a new kind of theatrical fire to mortals, is now presenting the new musical, “Prometheus Bound.” Like the ancient fire-giver, the mythical titan Prometheus, Paulus’ largesse has not been met with universal praise and approbation. Some of the gods of Boston and Cambridge’s traditional theater scene have sought to chain up her new vision and limit her reach. She soldiers on, and last night’s opening of “Prometheus Bound” offers strong evidence that she is on the right track. My enthusiasm for this new work is “unbounded”!


My evening at the OBERON began fortuitously as I sat reading the program notes from the Director, Writer and Composer. The lyrics and book for “Prometheus” have been written by Tony and Grammy award winner, Steven Sater. He is perhaps best known for having written the Broadway smash hit “Spring Awakening.” I was warmed when I read this quotation in his notes: “Twenty-five hundred years after Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound was first performed, it remains astonishing that the play was ever staged at all. For, this towering work is perhaps the most searing indictment of tyranny ever written. And it was written, and staged before the entire body politic of Athens, at the rose-fingered dawn of Western democracy.”


Upon reading these words, with their explicit praise of Aeschylus and an implicit wink and nod to Homer, I knew that Sater had been moved to treat the ancient material with reverence, even while partnering with Diane Paulus and Serj Tankian to wrap the ancient bones in a new and vibrant musical cocoon. Then I looked up from my program and saw that Steven Sater was standing only a few feet in front of me, I was able to thank him for his words.


The lights went down and the OBERON came alive. The space, according to Paulus’ vision, has become almost an additional character for each show that it houses. Its multiple levels of practical space - its balconies, mezzanines, stage and open floor - allow the director and choreographer maximum flexibility to set the fast-moving action amidst an audience that can reach out and touch – and be touched by – the performers. Never was this space more fully or beautifully utilized than in last night’s opening of "Prometheus Bound." Every nook and cranny of the house was occupied by actors and lit up to spectacular effect. The lighting design, by multiple Tony award winner, Kevin Adams, created a visual beauty throughout the show that was mesmerizing. Prometheus, when chained to the central podium, was illuminated from below by a ghostly white light – a wondrous effect.


Serj Tankian was an interesting choice to compose the music for this work. As song writer and lead singer for the group “System of a Down,” his style is far from that of traditional Broadway fare. Yet his long history of social activism and fighting against many forms of tyranny made him a perfect choice to bring musical life to this tale. For me, his musical choices worked well. What struck me most powerfully was the wonderful contrast and juxtaposition between hard-charging, rough rock sounds from the band and lead singers, and the ethereal counterpoint offered by the wing├Ęd trio of the Daughters of the Aether, an air-born Greek chorus, if you will. That combination of dark and light sounds created for me what I must call an “auditory chiaroscuro” effect that was magical.


The cast is marvelous without exception. Vocally, I was most moved by Gavin Creel as Prometheus, Michael Cunio as Oceanus, Uzo Aduba as Io, Gabe Ebert as Hephaistos/Hermes and the three Daughters of the Aether, played by Celina Carvajal, Ashley Flanagan and Jo Lampert.


Is the show perfect? Of course not; what show is? In gauging audience reactions during the party that followed the premiere performance, I listened to a group of actors deconstructing their experience with the play. One of them made the following observation: “As a concert, it worked for me perfectly. As a play, it almost succeeded. I would have appreciated more character development from the actors. They seemed to concentrate more on their singing than on their acting.” I would say that this is a fair criticism, and one that can often be applied to most opera performances. On the other hand, I heard another group of audience members, including a few young actors say: “I am obsessed with this show. I need the cast album NOW!!”


In creating this show, the team has tied the project to a larger vision and mission. They have created The Prometheus Project in collaboration with Amnesty International. During each of the eight weeks that the show will run, a different “prisoner of conscience” will be highlighted. The audience is asked to petition on behalf of this person. Last night, we were told about Jafar Pahahi, a filmmaker imprisoned in Iran for his anti-government filmmaking. In tying artistic expression to political activism, the creative team have ensured that everyone involved with the show – cast, crew and audience – have an opportunity to experience the three legs of the stool that Daniel Pink talks about in his book, “Drive,” as necessary to sustain intrinsic motivation to achieve excellence: “autonomy, mastery and tying your work to a larger purpose.”


I must share one additional memorable moment from my night at the OBERON. During the party, I had an opportunity to talk Serj Tankian and share with him my observations about the “auditory chiaroscuro” effect.


He replied: “It is interesting that you should say that. When I write music, I always try to insert elements in which very loud sections are followed by very quiet or even silent moments.”


I responded: “That must come from very deep within you – from your cultural background. I am aware of your Armenian heritage, and you just described some of the history of the Armenian people – periods of loud screaming followed by periods of enforced silence.”


“Wow, that is deep. Thank you for knowing the history of my people.”


And that is my most important take away from “Prometheus Bound.” In learning and remembering history – actual or mythical - we can be moved to act in changing the present and impacting the future in endeavors like The Prometheus Project.


I encourage you to see this show. Touch the fire. Unloose the chains.


Enjoy!


Al

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The Future Lives Here - An Inspiring Morning in Kendall Square


I have just returned to my office at the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) in Kendall Square after attending an inspiring Annual Meeting of the Kendall Square Association.

KSA website

What a great way to start the day in the world's most innovative neighborhood. We were reminded during the course of the morning's activities that for almost 400 years, Cambridge and Kendall Square have launched products and services that we use each day - frozen orange juice concentrate, instant coffee, the telephone, the Internet, drugs to address a veritable pharmacopeia of illnesses and conditions. Alexander Graham Bell made the world's first phone call from his place in Boston to Dr. Watson's lab in Kendall Square!

CIC Founder and KSA President, Tim Rowe, kicked off the meeting by painting a broad picture of the opportunities and challenges that face businesses and residents of Kendall Square. He presented the morning's keynote speakers.

The juxtaposition of speakers was as brilliant and stunning as was the beautiful setting in MIT's Media Lab building. We heard from a "big pharma" giant, and then from a brilliant entrepreneur just getting started in the bio-tech world. One could not help but see - in listening to and watching both speakers - a vivid "Show and Tell" for audience members. The message I took away with me was: "This is what we aspire to become and this is how we start out living our dream in Kendall Square."

Among those speaking was Henri Termeer, Founder of Genzyme. Mr. Termeer recently announced an agreement to sell his Cambridge company, Genzyme, for $20.1B. This is a major success story for countless people who suffer from rare diseases that have been cured by Genzyme, and also one of the great entrepreneurial and health sciences successes of Cambridge. Mr. Termeer gave this morning's audience a wonderfully candid peek behind the scenes at what happened over the course of many months in the negotiations between Genzyme and Sanofi Aventis. His main point was that virtually every major world player in innovation feels as if they need to establish a presence in Kendall Square.

We then heard from a remarkable young woman, Elisabet de los Pinos. She is a Spanish entrepreneur who moved her company to Kendall Square (to CIC) in order to be in the world's hub of innovation. She was invited last year to the World Economic Forum and was named by Time Magazine as being behind one of the 10 most promising new innovations in our future: nano-encapsulation for drug delivery. In short, what her technology does is to make it possible for us to use cures that were previously invented but could never be used, because while they cured one part of the body, they killed another. By nano-encapsulating and encoding the capsules properly, these drugs can now be delivered specifically to the places in the body they are meant to cure, bypassing those places they would harm. This opens up large new vistas for medical cures to disease.

The KSA Executive Director, Travis McCready, then gave us a challenge in the form of a "State of Kendall Square" address that also balanced nicely between highlighting the good and illuminating the challenges and responsibilities we face in making Kendall Square truly a world class neighborhood in every dimension.

I left the meeting feeling both inspired and proud to call Kendall Square my professional home.

Al