The Art of Persuasion


Business today is largely run by teams and populated by authority-averse baby boomers and Generation Xers. That makes persuasion more important than ever as a managerial tool. But contrary to popular belief, the author asserts, persuasion is not the same as selling an idea or convincing opponents to see things your way. It is instead a process of learning from others and negotiating a shared solution. To that end, persuasion consists of four essential elements: establishing credibility, framing to find common ground, providing vivid evidence, and connecting emotionally. Credibility grows, the author says, out of two sources: expertise and relationships. The former is a function of product or process knowledge and the latter a history of listening to and working in the best interest of others. But even if a persuader’s credibility is high, his position must make sense–even more, it must appeal–to the audience. Therefore, a persuader must frame his position to illuminate its benefits to everyone who will feel its impact. Persuasion then becomes a matter of presenting evidence–but not just ordinary charts and spreadsheets. The author says the most effective persuaders use vivid–even over-the-top–stories, metaphors, and examples to make their positions come alive. Finally, good persuaders have the ability to accurately sense and respond to their audience’s emotional state. Sometimes, that means they have to suppress their own emotions; at other times, they must intensify them. Persuasion can be a force for enormous good in an organization, but people must understand it for what it is: an often painstaking process that requires insight, planning, and compromise.




The Tragedy of the Commons the end of a thoughtful article on the future of nuclear war, Wiesner and York (1) concluded that: “Both sides in the arms race are …confronted by the dilemma of steadily increasing military power and steadily decreasing national security. It is our considered professional judgment that this dilemma has no technical solution. If the great powers continue to look for solutions in the area of science and technology only, the result will be to worsen the situation.”

I would like to focus your attention not on the subject of the article (national security in a nuclear world) but on the kind of conclusion they reached, namely that there is no technical solution to the problem. An implicit and almost universal assumption of discussions published in professional and semipopular scientific journals is that the problem under discussion has a technical solution. A technical solution may be defined as one that requires a change only in the techniques of the natural sciences, demanding little or nothing in the way of change in human values or ideas of morality.  In our day (though not in earlier times) technical solutions are always welcome. Because of previous failures in prophecy, it takes courage to assert that a desired technical solution is not possible. Wiesner and York exhibited this courage; publishing in a science journal, they insisted that the solution to the problem was not to be found in the natural sciences. They cautiously qualified their statement with the phrase, “It is our considered professional judgment… .” Whether they were right or not is not the concern of the present article. Rather, the concern here is with the important concept of a class of human problems which can be called “no technical solution problems,” and, more specifically, with the identification and discussion of one of these.

It is easy to show that the class is not a null class. Recall the game of tick-tack-toe. Consider the problem, “How can I win the game of tick-tack-toe?” It is well known that I cannot, if I assume (in keeping with the conventions of game theory) that my opponent understands the game perfectly. Put another way, there is no “technical solution” to the problem. I can win only by giving a radical meaning to the word “win.” I can hit my opponent over the head, or I can drug him; or I can falsify the records. Every way in which I “win” involves, in some sense, an abandonment of the game, as we intuitively understand it. (I can also, of course, openly abandon the game–refuse to play it. This is what most adults do.)  The class of “No technical solution problems” has members. My thesis is that the “population problem,” as conventionally conceived, is a member of this class. How it is conventionally conceived needs some comment. It is fair to say that most people who anguish over the population problem are trying to find a way to avoid the evils of overpopulation without relinquishing any of the privileges they now enjoy. They think that farming the seas or developing new strains of wheat will solve the problem–technologically. I try to show here that the solution they seek cannot be found. The population problem cannot be solved in a technical way, any more than can the problem of winning the game of tick-tack-toe.

What Shall We Maximize?

Population, as Malthus said, naturally tends to grow “geometrically,” or, as we would now say, exponentially. In a finite world this means that the per capita share of the world’s goods must steadily decrease. Is ours a finite world?

A fair defense can be put forward for the view that the world is infinite; or that we do not know that it is not. But, in terms of the practical problems that we must face in the next few generations with the foreseeable technology, it is clear that we will greatly increase human misery if we do not, during the immediate future, assume that the world available to the terrestrial human population is finite. “Space” is no escape (2).A finite world can support only a finite population; therefore, population growth must eventually equal zero. (The case of perpetual wide fluctuations above and below zero is a trivial variant that need not be discussed.) When this condition is met, what will be the situation of mankind? Specifically, can Bentham’s goal of “the greatest good for the greatest number” be realized? No–for two reasons, each sufficient by itself. The first is a theoretical one. It is not mathematically possible to maximize for two (or more) variables at the same time. This was clearly stated by von Neumann and Morgenstern (3), but the principle is implicit in the theory of partial differential equations, dating back at least to D’Alembert (1717-1783).

The second reason springs directly from biological facts. To live, any organism must have a source of energy (for example, food). This energy is utilized for two purposes: mere maintenance and work. For man, maintenance of life requires about 1600 kilocalories a day (“maintenance calories”). Anything that he does over and above merely staying alive will be defined as work, and is supported by “work calories” which he takes in. Work calories are used not only for what we call work in common speech; they are also required for all forms of enjoyment, from swimming and automobile racing to playing music and writing poetry. If our goal is to maximize population it is obvious what we must do: We must make the work calories per person approach as close to zero as possible. No gourmet meals, no vacations, no sports, no music, no literature, no art. … I think that everyone will grant, without argument or proof, that maximizing population does not maximize goods. Bentham’s goal is impossible.

In reaching this conclusion I have made the usual assumption that it is the acquisition of energy that is the problem. The appearance of atomic energy has led some to question this assumption. However, given an infinite source of energy, population growth still produces an inescapable problem. The problem of the acquisition of energy is replaced by the problem of its dissipation, as J. H. Fremlin has so wittily shown (4). The arithmetic signs in the analysis are, as it were, reversed; but Bentham’s goal is still unobtainable.  The optimum population is, then, less than the maximum. The difficulty of defining the optimum is enormous; so far as I know, no one has seriously tackled this problem. Reaching an acceptable and stable solution will surely require more than one generation of hard analytical work–and much persuasion.  We want the maximum good per person; but what is good? To one person it is wilderness, to another, it is ski lodges for thousands. To one it is estuaries to nourish ducks for hunters to shoot; to another it is factory land. Comparing one good with another is, we usually say, impossible because goods are incommensurable. Incommensurables cannot be compared.  Theoretically this may be true; but in real life incommensurables are commensurable. Only a criterion of judgment and a system of weighting are needed. In nature the criterion is survival. Is it better for a species to be small and hideable, or large and powerful? Natural selection commensurates the incommensurables. The compromise achieved depends on a natural weighting of the values of the variables.

Man must imitate this process. There is no doubt that in fact he already does, but unconsciously. It is when the hidden decisions are made explicit that the arguments begin. The problem for the years ahead is to work out an acceptable theory of weighting. Synergistic effects, nonlinear variation, and difficulties in discounting the future make the intellectual problem difficult, but not (in principle) insoluble.  Has any cultural group solved this practical problem at the present time, even on an intuitive level? One simple fact proves that none has: there is no prosperous population in the world today that has, and has had for some time, a growth rate of zero. Any people that has intuitively identified its optimum point will soon reach it, after which its growth rate becomes and remains zero.  Of course, a positive growth rate might be taken as evidence that a population is below its optimum. However, by any reasonable standards, the most rapidly growing populations on earth today are (in general) the most miserable. This association (which need not be invariable) casts doubt on the optimistic assumption that the positive growth rate of a population is evidence that it has yet to reach its optimum.

We can make little progress in working toward optimum population size until we explicitly exorcize the spirit of Adam Smith in the field of practical demography. In economic affairs, The Wealth of Nations (1776) popularized the “invisible hand,” the idea that an individual who “intends only his own gain,” is, as it were, “led by an invisible hand to promote . . . the public interest” (5). Adam Smith did not assert that this was invariably true, and perhaps neither did any of his followers. But he contributed to a dominant tendency of thought that has ever since interfered with positive action based on rational analysis, namely, the tendency to assume that decisions reached individually will, in fact, be the best decisions for an entire society. If this assumption is correct it justifies the continuance of our present policy of laissez-faire in reproduction. If it is correct we can assume that men will control their individual fecundity so as to produce the optimum population. If the assumption is not correct, we need to reexamine our individual freedoms to see which ones are defensible.

Tragedy of Freedom in a Commons

The rebuttal to the invisible hand in population control is to be found in a scenario first sketched in a little-known pamphlet (6) in 1833 by a mathematical amateur named William Forster Lloyd (1794-1852). We may well call it “the tragedy of the commons,” using the word “tragedy” as the philosopher Whitehead used it (7): “The essence of dramatic tragedy is not unhappiness. It resides in the solemnity of the remorseless working of things.” He then goes on to say, “This inevitableness of destiny can only be illustrated in terms of human life by incidents which in fact involve unhappiness. For it is only by them that the futility of escape can be made evident in the drama.”  The tragedy of the commons develops in this way. Picture a pasture open to all. It is to be expected that each herdsman will try to keep as many cattle as possible on the commons. Such an arrangement may work reasonably satisfactorily for centuries because tribal wars, poaching, and disease keep the numbers of both man and beast well below the carrying capacity of the land. Finally, however, comes the day of reckoning, that is, the day when the long-desired goal of social stability becomes a reality. At this point, the inherent logic of the commons remorselessly generates tragedy.

As a rational being, each herdsman seeks to maximize his gain. Explicitly or implicitly, more or less consciously, he asks, “What is the utility to me of adding one more animal to my herd?” This utility has one negative and one positive component.

1) The positive component is a function of the increment of one animal. Since the herdsman receives all the proceeds from the sale of the additional animal, the positive utility is nearly +1.

2) The negative component is a function of the additional overgrazing created by one more animal. Since, however, the effects of overgrazing are shared by all the herdsmen, the negative utility for any particular decision-making herdsman is only a fraction of –1.

Adding together the component partial utilities, the rational herdsman concludes that the only sensible course for him to pursue is to add another animal to his herd. And another; and another… But this is the conclusion reached by each and every rational herdsman sharing a commons. Therein is the tragedy. Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit–in a world that is limited. Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons. Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all.  Some would say that this is a platitude. Would that it were! In a sense, it was learned thousands of years ago, but natural selection favors the forces of psychological denial (8). The individual benefits as an individual from his ability to deny the truth even though society as a whole, of which he is a part, suffers.

Education can counteract the natural tendency to do the wrong thing, but the inexorable succession of generations requires that the basis for this knowledge be constantly refreshed.  A simple incident that occurred a few years ago in Leominster, Massachusetts, shows how perishable the knowledge is. During the Christmas shopping season the parking meters downtown were covered with plastic bags that bore tags reading: “Do not open until after Christmas. Free parking courtesy of the mayor and city council.” In other words, facing the prospect of an increased demand for already scarce space. the city fathers reinstituted the system of the commons. (Cynically, we suspect that they gained more votes than they lost by this retrogressive act.)

In an approximate way, the logic of the commons has been understood for a long time, perhaps since the discovery of agriculture or the invention of private property in real estate. But it is understood mostly only in special cases which are not sufficiently generalized. Even at this late date, cattlemen leasing national land on the western ranges demonstrate no more than an ambivalent understanding, in constantly pressuring federal authorities to increase the headcount to the point where overgrazing produces erosion and weed-dominance. Likewise, the oceans of the world continue to suffer from the survival of the philosophy of the commons. Maritime nations still respond automatically to the shibboleth of the “freedom of the seas.” Professing to believe in the “inexhaustible resources of the oceans,” they bring species after species of fish and whales closer to extinction (9).

The National Parks present another instance of the working out of the tragedy of the commons. At present, they are open to all, without limit. The parks themselves are limited in extent–there is only one Yosemite Valley–whereas population seems to grow without limit. The values that visitors seek in the parks are steadily eroded. Plainly, we must soon cease to treat the parks as commons or they will be of no value to anyone.  hat shall we do? We have several options. We might sell them off as private property. We might keep them as public property, but allocate the right to enter them. The allocation might be on the basis of wealth, by the use of an auction system. It might be on the basis of merit, as defined by some agreed-upon standards. It might be by lottery. Or it might be on a first-come, first-served basis, administered to long queues. These, I think, are all the reasonable possibilities. They are all objectionable. But we must choose–or acquiesce in the destruction of the commons that we call our National Parks.


In a reverse way, the tragedy of the commons reappears in problems of pollution. Here it is not a question of taking something out of the commons, but of putting something in–sewage, or chemical, radioactive, and heat wastes into water; noxious and dangerous fumes into the air, and distracting and unpleasant advertising signs into the line of sight. The calculations of utility are much the same as before. The rational man finds that his share of the cost of the wastes he discharges into the commons is less than the cost of purifying his wastes before releasing them. Since this is true for everyone, we are locked into a system of “fouling our own nest,” so long as we behave only as independent, rational, free-enterprisers.

The tragedy of the commons as a food basket is averted by private property, or something formally like it. But the air and waters surrounding us cannot readily be fenced, and so the tragedy of the commons as a cesspool must be prevented by different means, by coercive laws or taxing devices that make it cheaper for the polluter to treat his pollutants than to discharge them untreated. We have not progressed as far with the solution of this problem as we have with the first. Indeed, our particular concept of private property, which deters us from exhausting the positive resources of the earth, favors pollution. The owner of a factory on the bank of a stream–whose property extends to the middle of the stream, often has difficulty seeing why it is not his natural right to muddy the waters flowing past his door. The law, always behind the times, requires elaborate stitching and fitting to adapt it to this newly perceived aspect of the commons.

The pollution problem is a consequence of population. It did not much matter how a lonely American frontiersman disposed of his waste. “Flowing water purifies itself every 10 miles,” my grandfather used to say, and the myth was near enough to the truth when he was a boy, for there were not too many people. But as the population became denser, the natural chemical and biological recycling processes became overloaded, calling for a redefinition of property rights.

How To Legislate Temperance?

Analysis of the pollution problem as a function of population density uncovers a not generally recognized principle of morality, namely: the morality of an act is a function of the state of the system at the time it is performed (10). Using the commons as a cesspool does not harm the general public under frontier conditions because there is no public, the same behavior in a metropolis is unbearable. A hundred and fifty years ago a plainsman could kill an American bison, cut out only the tongue for his dinner, and discard the rest of the animal. He was not in any important sense being wasteful. Today, with only a few thousand bison left, we would be appalled at such behavior.

In passing, it is worth noting that the morality of an act cannot be determined from a photograph. One does not know whether a man killing an elephant or setting fire to the grassland is harming others until one knows the total system in which his act appears. “One picture is worth a thousand words,” said an ancient Chinese; but it may take 10,000 words to validate it. It is as tempting to ecologists as it is to reformers, in general, to try to persuade others by way of the photographic shortcut. But the essence of an argument cannot be photographed: it must be presented rationally–in words.

That morality has system-sensitive escaped the attention of most codifiers of ethics in the past. “Thou shalt not . . .” is the form of traditional ethical directives which make no allowance for particular circumstances. The laws of our society follow the pattern of ancient ethics and therefore are poorly suited to governing a complex, crowded, changeable world. Our epicyclic solution is to augment statutory law with administrative law. Since it is practically impossible to spell out all the conditions under which it is safe to burn trash in the backyard or to run an automobile without smog-control, by law we delegate the details to bureaus. The result is administrative law, which is rightly feared for an ancient reason–Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?–“Who shall watch the watchers themselves?” John Adams said that we must have “a government of laws and not men.” Bureau administrators, trying to evaluate the morality of acts in the total system, are singularly liable to corruption, producing a government by men, not laws.

Prohibition is easy to legislate (though not necessarily to enforce); but how do we legislate temperance? Experience indicates that it can be accomplished best through the mediation of administrative law. We limit possibilities unnecessarily if we suppose that the sentiment of Quis custodiet denies us the use of the administrative law. We should rather retain the phrase as a perpetual reminder of fearful dangers we cannot avoid. The great challenge facing us now is to invent the corrective feedbacks that are needed to keep custodians honest. We must find ways to legitimate the needed authority of both the custodians and the corrective feedbacks.

Freedom To Breed Is Intolerable

The tragedy of the commons is involved in population problems in another way. In a world governed solely by the principle of “dog eat dog”–if indeed there ever was such a world–how many children a family had would not be a matter of public concern. Parents who bred too exuberantly would leave fewer descendants, not more, because they would be unable to care adequately for their children. David Lack and others have found that such a negative feedback demonstrably controls the fecundity of birds (11). But men are not birds, and have not acted like them for millenniums, at least.

If each human family were dependent only on its own resources; if the children of improvident parents starved to death; if, thus, overbreeding brought its own “punishment” to the germ line–then there would be no public interest in controlling the breeding of families. But our society is deeply committed to the welfare state (12), and hence is confronted with another aspect of the tragedy of the commons.

In a welfare state, how shall we deal with the family, the religion, the race, or the class (or indeed any distinguishable and cohesive group) that adopts overbreeding as a policy to secure its own aggrandizement (13)? To couple, the concept of freedom to breed with the belief that everyone born has an equal right to the commons is to lock the world into a tragic course of action.

Unfortunately, this is just the course of action that is being pursued by the United Nations. In late 1967, some 30 nations agreed to the following (14):  The Universal Declaration of Human Rights describes the family as the natural and fundamental unit of society. It follows that any choice and decision with regard to the size of the family must irrevocably rest with the family itself, and cannot be made by anyone else. 

It is painful to have to deny categorically the validity of this right; denying it, one feels as uncomfortable as a resident of Salem, Massachusetts, who denied the reality of witches in the 17th century. At the present time, in liberal quarters, something like a taboo acts to inhibit criticism of the United Nations. There is a feeling that the United Nations is “our last and best hope,” that we shouldn’t find fault with it; we shouldn’t play into the hands of the arch-conservatives. However, let us not forget what Robert Louis Stevenson said: “The truth that is suppressed by friends is the readiest weapon of the enemy.” If we love the truth we must openly deny the validity of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, even though it is promoted by the United Nations. We should also join with Kingsley Davis (15) in attempting to get Planned Parenthood-World Population to see the error of its ways in embracing the same tragic ideal.

Conscience Is Self-Eliminating

It is a mistake to think that we can control the breeding of mankind in the long run by an appeal to conscience. Charles Galton Darwin made this point when he spoke on the centennial of the publication of his grandfather’s great book. The argument is straightforward and Darwinian.

People vary. Confronted with appeals to limit breeding, some people will undoubtedly respond to the plea more than others. Those who have more children will produce a larger fraction of the next generation than those with more susceptible consciences. The difference will be accentuated, generation by generation.

In C. G. Darwin’s words: “It may well be that it would take hundreds of generations for the progenitive instinct to develop in this way, but if it should do so, nature would have taken her revenge, and the variety Homo contracipiens would become extinct and would be replaced by the variety Homo progenitivus” (16).

The argument assumes that conscience or the desire for children (no matter which) is hereditary–but hereditary only in the most general formal sense. The result will be the same whether the attitude is transmitted through germ cells, or exosomatically, to use A. J. Lotka’s term. (If one denies the latter possibility as well as the former, then what’s the point of education?) The argument has here been stated in the context of the population problem, but it applies equally well to any instance in which society appeals to an individual exploiting a commons to restrain himself for the general good–by means of his conscience. To make such an appeal is to set up a selective system that works toward the elimination of conscience from the race.

Pathogenic Effects of Conscience

The long-term disadvantage of an appeal to conscience should be enough to condemn it; but has serious short-term disadvantages as well. If we ask a man who is exploiting a commons to desist “in the name of conscience,” what are we saying to him? What does he hear? –not only at the moment but also in the wee small hours of the night when, half asleep, he remembers not merely the words we used but also the nonverbal communication cues we gave him unawares? Sooner or later, consciously or subconsciously, he senses that he has received two communications, and that they are contradictory: (i) (intended communication) “If you don’t do as we ask, we will openly condemn you for not acting like a responsible citizen”; (ii) (the unintended communication) “If you do behave as we ask, we will secretly condemn you for a simpleton who can be shamed into standing aside while the rest of us exploit the commons.”

Everyman then is caught in what Bateson has called a “double bind.” Bateson and his co-workers have made a plausible case for viewing the double bind as an important causative factor in the genesis of schizophrenia (17). The double bind may not always be so damaging, but it always endangers the mental health of anyone to whom it is applied. “A bad conscience,” said Nietzsche, “is a kind of illness.”

To conjure up a conscience in others is tempting to anyone who wishes to extend his control beyond the legal limits. Leaders at the highest level succumb to this temptation. Has any President during the past generation failed to call on labor unions to moderate voluntarily their demands for higher wages, or to steel companies to honor voluntary guidelines on prices? I can recall none. The rhetoric used on such occasions is designed to produce feelings of guilt in noncooperators.  For centuries it was assumed without proof that guilt was a valuable, perhaps even an indispensable, ingredient of the civilized life. Now, in this post-Freudian world, we doubt it.  Paul Goodman speaks from the modern point of view when he says: “No good has ever come from feeling guilty, neither intelligence, policy, nor compassion. The guilty do not pay attention to the object but only to themselves, and not even to their own interests, which might make sense, but to their anxieties” (18).

One does not have to be a professional psychiatrist to see the consequences of anxiety. We in the Western world are just emerging from a dreadful two-centuries-long Dark Ages of Eros that was sustained partly by prohibition laws, but perhaps more effectively by the anxiety-generating mechanism of education. Alex Comfort has told the story well in The Anxiety Makers (19); it is not a pretty one.  Since proof is difficult, we may even concede that the results of anxiety may sometimes, from certain points of view, be desirable. The larger question we should ask is whether, as a matter of policy, we should ever encourage the use of a technique the tendency (if not the intention) of which is psychologically pathogenic. We hear much talk these days of responsible parenthood; the coupled words are incorporated into the titles of some organizations devoted to birth control. Some people have proposed massive propaganda campaigns to instill responsibility into the nation’s (or the world’s) breeders. But what is the meaning of the word responsibility in this context? Is it not merely a synonym for the word conscience? When we use the word responsibility in the absence of substantial sanctions are we not trying to browbeat a free man in a commons into acting against his own interest? Responsibility is a verbal counterfeit for a substantial quid pro quo. It is an attempt to get something for nothing.

If the word responsibility is to be used at all, I suggest that it be in the sense Charles Frankel uses it (20). “Responsibility,” says this philosopher, “is the product of definite social arrangements.” Notice that Frankel calls for social arrangements–not propaganda.

Mutual Coercion Mutually Agreed upon

The social arrangements that produce responsibility are arrangements that create coercion, of some sort. Consider bank-robbing. The man who takes money from a bank acts as if the bank were a commons. How do we prevent such action? Certainly not by trying to control his behavior solely by a verbal appeal to his sense of responsibility. Rather than rely on propaganda we follow Frankel’s lead and insist that a bank is not a commons; we seek the definite social arrangements that will keep it from becoming a commons. That we thereby infringe on the freedom of would-be robbers we neither deny nor regret.

The morality of bank-robbing is particularly easy to understand because we accept complete prohibition of this activity. We are willing to say “Thou shalt not rob banks,” without providing for exceptions. But temperance also can be created by coercion. Taxing is a good coercive device. To keep downtown shoppers temperate in their use of parking space we introduce parking meters for short periods, and traffic fines for longer ones. We need not actually forbid a citizen to park as long as he wants to; we need merely make it increasingly expensive for him to do so. Not prohibition, but carefully biased options are what we offer him. A Madison Avenue man might call this persuasion; I prefer the greater candor of the word coercion.

Coercion is a dirty word to most liberals now, but it need not forever be so. As with the four-letter words, its dirtiness can be cleansed away by exposure to the light, by saying it over and over without apology or embarrassment. To many, the word coercion implies arbitrary decisions of distant and irresponsible bureaucrats; but this is not a necessary part of its meaning. The only kind of coercion I recommend is mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon by the majority of the people affected.

To say that we mutually agree to coercion is not to say that we are required to enjoy it, or even to pretend we enjoy it. Who enjoys taxes? We all grumble about them. But we accept compulsory taxes because we recognize that voluntary taxes would favor the conscienceless. We institute and (grumblingly) support taxes and other coercive devices to escape the horror of the commons.  An alternative to the commons need not be perfectly just to be preferable. With real estate and other material goods, the alternative we have chosen is the institution of private property coupled with legal inheritance. Is this system perfectly just? As a genetically trained biologist I deny that it is. It seems to me that, if there are to be differences in individual inheritance, legal possession should be perfectly correlated with biological inheritance–that those who are biologically more fit to be the custodians of property and power should legally inherit more. But genetic recombination continually makes a mockery of the doctrine of “like father, like son” implicit in our laws of legal inheritance. An idiot can inherit millions, and a trust fund can keep his estate intact. We must admit that our legal system of private property plus inheritance is unjust–but we put up with it because we are not convinced, at the moment, that anyone has invented a better system. The alternative of the commons is too horrifying to contemplate. Injustice is preferable to total ruin.

It is one of the peculiarities of the warfare between reform and the status quo that it is thoughtlessly governed by a double standard. Whenever a reform measure is proposed it is often defeated when its opponents triumphantly discover a flaw in it. As Kingsley Davis has pointed out (21), worshippers of the status quo sometimes imply that no reform is possible without unanimous agreement, an implication contrary to historical fact. As nearly as I can make out, automatic rejection of proposed reforms is based on one of two unconscious assumptions: (i) that the status quo is perfect; or (ii) that the choice we face is between reform and no action; if the proposed reform is imperfect, we presumably should take no action at all, while we wait for a perfect proposal.  But we can never do anything. That which we have done for thousands of years is also action. It also produces evils. Once we are aware that the status quo is action, we can then compare its discoverable advantages and disadvantages with the predicted advantages and disadvantages of the proposed reform, discounting as best we can for our lack of experience. On the basis of such a comparison, we can make a rational decision which will not involve the unworkable assumption that only perfect systems are tolerable.

Recognition of Necessity

Perhaps the simplest summary of this analysis of man’s population problems is this: the commons, if justifiable at all, is justifiable only under conditions of low-population density. As the human population has increased, the commons has had to be abandoned in one aspect after another.

First, we abandoned the commons in food gathering, enclosing farmland and restricting pastures and hunting and fishing areas. These restrictions are still not complete throughout the world.

Somewhat later we saw that the commons as a place for waste disposal would also have to be abandoned. Restrictions on the disposal of domestic sewage are widely accepted in the Western world; we are still struggling to close the commons to pollution by automobiles, factories, insecticide sprayers, fertilizing operations, and atomic energy installations.

In a still more embryonic state is our recognition of the evils of the commons in matters of pleasure. There is almost no restriction on the propagation of sound waves in the public medium. The shopping public is assaulted with mindless music, without its consent. Our government is paying out billions of dollars to create supersonic transport which will disturb 50,000 people for every one person who is whisked from coast to coast 3 hours faster. Advertisers muddy the airwaves of radio and television and pollute the view of travelers. We are a long way from outlawing the commons in matters of pleasure. Is this because our Puritan inheritance makes us view pleasure as something of a sin, and pain (that is, the pollution of advertising) as the sign of virtue?

Every new enclosure of the commons involves the infringement of somebody’s personal liberty. Infringements made in the distant past are accepted because no contemporary complains of a loss. It is the newly proposed infringements that we vigorously oppose; cries of “rights” and “freedom” fill the air. But what does “freedom” mean? When men mutually agreed to pass laws against robbing, mankind became more free, not less so. Individuals locked into the logic of the commons are free only to bring on universal ruin; once they see the necessity of mutual coercion, they become free to pursue other goals. I believe it was Hegel who said, “Freedom is the recognition of necessity.”

The most important aspect of necessity that we must now recognize, is the necessity of abandoning the commons in breeding. No technical solution can rescue us from the misery of overpopulation. Freedom to breed will bring ruin to all. At the moment, to avoid hard decisions many of us are tempted to propagandize for conscience and responsible parenthood. The temptation must be resisted because an appeal to independently acting consciences selects for the disappearance of all conscience in the long run and an increase in anxiety in the short.

The only way we can preserve and nurture other and more precious freedoms is by relinquishing the freedom to breed, and that very soon. “Freedom is the recognition of necessity”–and it is the role of education to reveal to all the necessity of abandoning the freedom to breed. Only so, can we put an end to this aspect of the tragedy of the commons.

Posted at: of the commons by Garrett Hardin

SalesForce Call Center has been speculation for many years about Salesforce introducing its own call center. The argument is that Salesforce drove the conversion of CRM to a cloud-delivered service and, now that call centers have also crossed the cloud chasm, it’s a logical expansion path for Salesforce.  But there’s more here than just seeing two pieces of enterprise IT that have both “SaaS-ified”. After all, many other IT functions have followed that same path. There’s a special relationship between Call center and CRM. The former relies heavily on the latter and the two are getting deeper intertwined. In fact, some people have come to view the call center as simply one of many “front-ends” to CRM. CRM is eating the call center. (Hmmm, sounds like a good blog post title… )

The little-noticed announcement of “Lightning Voice” from Salesforce earlier this month gives another clue towards their strategy. More importantly, it reminds us that Salesforce already has many fingers in the call center pie.

Lightning Voice is CRM-Triggered Outbound Dialing

According to Salesforce Lightning Voice “will empower reps to connect with prospects faster with click-to-call, auto-logging of calls, and call forwarding to take calls from anywhere.”  Sound familiar? It’s basically the pitch that is the core of many “sales enablement” companies like Inside Sales, Sales Loft, Velocify and Frontspin. Most of these products are tightly integrated with Salesforce since that’s what their customers use for CRM. So Lightning Voice is not just another competitor, it’s a competitor with a big advantage. (Also worth noting that Salesforce is a major investor in InsideSales.)

There is definitely a danger of stepping on partnership toes. In fact, that’s the dominant thought in two pieces covering Lightning by Lauren Horwitz of TechTarget.

1. In Salesforce Lightning platform plans, availability revealed, the subhead is “…it may encroach on Salesforce’s partner ecosystem.”

2. And in Salesforce Lightning upgrade may create winners and losers, Lauren writes:

Recent upgrades to Salesforce Lightning may benefit customers who can now build new apps — but how will it affect partners who have apps that tackle the same problems?  I think Salesforce’s maneuvering around the different pieces of the call center puzzle is not accidental at all.

But No Inbound: Is it a Third Rail or Phase 2?

Note what was not in the announcement: inbound. Handling inbound calls is still the crown jewel of the call center vendors. Outbound has long been seen as a low-value feature that lots of players could peel away from the core call center offering. Inbound is what drives the sale of multi-million dollar call center systems.

Salesforce and the Call Center

Perhaps Salesforce is stopping short of offering inbound voice features out of deference to the many call center partners it has. Companies like InContact, LiveOps and Transera have invested heavily in Salesforce integration. It’s a partnership that works well: Agents sit in front of Salesforce-based consoles with the “screen-pops” driven by the inbound calls. Both the call center vendor and Salesforce get to sell a seat license per agent.  Also on that list is TalkDesk, the superstar newcomer that has conquered the low-end of the market with a largely self-serve model (“Create a Call Center in 5 Minutes”). Salesforce was a major participant in TalkDesk’s recent $21M round of funding.  Another reason to avoid inbound is that it is more demanding to deliver. Inbound is mission critical for most companies. If your call center can’t accept calls, you could be losing sales or even customers every minute. If you can’t make outbound calls, consequences are less dire.

What’s Under the Hood?

As reported by Re/code’s Arik Hesseldahl, Lightning Voice is powered by Twilio. Guess who is a major investor in Twilio? Yep, Salesforce. And guess what powers Talkdesk? Twilio.  What to make of all this? Perhaps Salesforce is watching TalkDesk to see if a Twilio-powered call center can really scale up. If it does, Lightning Voice could expand into inbound functionality and – boom – every call center vendor is under major threat: Avaya, Cisco, Genesys, Aspect, Five9, InContact, Interactive Intelligence. (Their combined call center revenues add up to around $4B annually.)  When companies deploy a new call center, a big part of the process is CTI integration – getting the call center software and CRM software to work together so that the agent’s get the right info. For many VARs, this is what pays the bills. As Paul Fischer points out this could all get streamlined with Lightning Voice. So there’s another constituency that is threatened.

The Power of a Platform

Companies like TalkDesk and NewVoiceMedia have built call center businesses on top of Twilio, which has allowed them to grow very quickly. They bypassed the years and millions of dollars that the previous generation of companies had to invest in building all the core technology of a call center. But that’s a double-edged sword. If they can do it, so can others. And no one is better positioned to do that than Salesforce.  The big takeaway here is the power of a platform and API for voice. No matter what happens, Twilio is the big winner. This is why Cisco bought Tropo (formerly part of Voxeo), and it’s why Avaya is placing such a big emphasis on their new Engagement Development Platform (EDP).


Posted at by SHAI


Oklahoma City National Memorial

ron palinkas ron palinkas ron palinkasThe Oklahoma City bombing was a domestic terrorist truck bombing on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the United States on April 19, 1995. Perpetrated by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, the bombing killed 168 people, injured more than 680 others, and destroyed one-third of the building. The blast destroyed or damaged 324 other buildings within a 16-block radius, shattered glass in 258 nearby buildings, and destroyed or burned 86 cars, causing an estimated $652 million worth of damage. Extensive rescue efforts were undertaken by local, state, federal, and worldwide agencies in the wake of the bombing, and substantial donations were received from across the country. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) activated eleven of its Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces, consisting of 665 rescue workers who assisted in rescue and recovery operations. The Oklahoma City bombing was the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil until the September 11 attacks six years later, and it still remains the deadliest incident of domestic terrorism in United States history.

ron palinkas ron palinkasWithin 90 minutes of the explosion, McVeigh was stopped by Oklahoma Highway Patrolman Charlie Hanger for driving without a license plate and arrested for illegal weapons possession. Forensic evidence quickly linked McVeigh and Nichols to the attack; Nichols was arrested, and within days, both were charged. Michael and Lori Fortier were later identified as accomplices. McVeigh, a veteran of the Gulf War and a U.S. militia movement sympathizer, had detonated a Ryder rental truck full of explosives parked in front of the building. His co-conspirator, Nichols, had assisted with the bomb’s preparation. Motivated by his dislike for the U.S. federal government and angry about its handling of the Ruby Ridge incident in 1992 and the Waco siege in 1993, McVeigh timed his attack to coincide with the second anniversary of the deadly fire that ended the siege at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas.

The official investigation, known as “OKBOMB”, saw FBI agents conduct 28,000 interviews, amass 3.5 short tons (3,200 kg) of evidence, and collect nearly one billion pieces of information. The bombers were tried and convicted in 1997. McVeigh was executed by lethal injection on June 11, 2001, and Nichols was sentenced to life in prison in 2004. Michael and Lori Fortier testified against McVeigh and Nichols; Michael was sentenced to 12 years in prison for failing to warn the United States government, and Lori received immunity from prosecution in exchange for her testimony.

ron palinkas ron palinkasAs a result of the bombing, the U.S. Congress passed the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which tightened the standards for habeas corpus in the United States, as well as legislation designed to increase the protection around federal buildings to deter future terrorist attacks. On April 19, 2000, the Oklahoma City National Memorial was dedicated on the site of the Murrah Federal Building, commemorating the victims of the bombing. Annual remembrance services are held at the same time of day as the explosion occurred.

Manage Like A Pirate

Be a pirate manager ron palinkas ron palinkas

As a little boy, I loved pirates. We often lived near the ocean and I had a number of pirate books, which I still have, that sparked my imagination. I was smitten by Disney’s Peter Pan and enjoyed recently the pure entertainment of the Pirates of the Caribbean series. But, honestly, I never thought I could learn a lesson or two about leadership and management from these lawless reprobates.

17th Century Sea Bandits. Peter Leeson in his wonderful paper An-arrgh-chy: The Law and Economics of Pirate Organization teach us how 17th-century pirates, or sea bandits as they were called in the day, managed their ships. It helps to remember that the only way we communicated and traded with the rest of the world in those days was by ship. Most of the ships on the seas were merchant, explorer, naval, pirate, or privateer ships. And with the exception of some explorer ships, only the pirate ship was managed in a cooperative way that benefited the whole crew. Most merchant ships were ruled by captains, whose primary job was to maximize the profit for the absentee ship owners, like some businesses today. These captains were usually incented to maximize profit and, therefore, sometimes abused and cheated their crews.

Pirate Ship Industry. The golden age of piracy started in the late 1600’s and peaked between 1716 and 1722 when pirates really ruled the seas and maritime Admiralty Laws rarely controlled them. Leeson reports that 60 percent of the pirates were born in either England or America and 20 percent in the West Indies. Some pirates came from jobs on merchant ships where they had been abused by their captains.   The actual number of pirates in the industry is hard to measure, but some “expeditions” had as many as 2,000 pirates, so they were a force to be reckoned with. The average ship crew size was between 80 and 120 and Blackbeard’s crew on Queen Anne’s Revenge had 300. Pirates like Bartholomew had a squadron of 4 ships with 500 men. Arguably the largest pirate organization was Captain Morgan, who commanded 37 ships and 2,000 men at his peak. He terrorized the Spanish Main, which was all the land surrounding the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. Recently, five of Captain Morgan’s ships were discovered on a reef off the coast of Panama.  Against these kinds of ships and hoodlums, I can’t imagine how a merchant ship with only about 13-17 crew members or a small Royal Navy ship with a crew of 150 had much chance.

The Pirate Management Structure – Quartermasters and Captains. Had you asked me before I read Leeson’s article how I thought pirate ships were organized, I would have thought they were led by tough, mean captains who drove their crews hard with an autocratic and cruel hand. While I’m sure that did happen, we now know those captains didn’t last long – their crews captured and sometimes killed them. At the very least the captain was beaten and set adrift with his supporters in a small boat, often never seen again.  Since pirates captured their ships, they owned them. There were no absentee-owners to satisfy. They were, as one historian described them, a “sea-going stock company.” And captains had to align their leadership with the crew’s goals, or they would be replaced. What evolved in successful pirate enterprises was a management structure with two leaders – the captain and the quartermaster, both elected by the crews

The Quartermaster. Quartermasters were the leaders the Pirates “trusted” most. This was the position that was really in charge whenever the ships weren’t in battle. Quartermasters fairly allocated provisions, selected (no room for all the loot) and distributed the loot, settled/adjudicated crew member disputes, and administered punishments. According to written records noted in Leeson’s article, “the Captain can undertake nothing which the Quarter-Master does not approve…he speaks for, and looks after the Interest of the Crew.

The Captain. Captains were responsible for planning and executing attacks on merchant ships and other battles. They were usually paid more than the crew, but often slept in the same areas as the crew and had the same provisions assigned to them.

The Constitution or Articles of Agreement. To control quartermasters, captains, and all crew behavior, pirates often had constitutions or “articles of agreement”. In addition to behavioral restrictions (no fighting, women, or gambling on board the ship) these agreements also described how booty would be shared and reinforced the pirate’s mantra of “no prey, no pay.”

Booty Splits. All captured booty was collected by the quartermaster and no crew members could keep anything for themselves or they faced brutal punishments. Injured crew members received generous payments before any booty was split, this was the workers’ compensation of the pirate era. A few key skill positions – advance scouts, carpenters, surgeons, captains, quartermasters – received payments and shares greater than the other crew members. Otherwise, all the booty was split evenly as prescribed in the Articles of Agreement.

How much did a pirate make? In one 1696 example, Henry Every’s pirates captured a fleet carrying a value of 600,000 pounds sterling in precious metals. Each pirate on this crew collected a share of 1,000 pounds, equivalent to more than 40 years of earnings for a merchant seaman who earned on average 12 pounds sterling per year. So, if you can live with the brutality of being a pirate – you had to rob, murder, and torture innocent sailors – as well as face certain hanging if caught, then a pirate’s life was definitely lucrative.

The Leadership and Management Lessons. I don’t mean to put pirates up on a pedestal, they were (and are) bad guys. However, I did take away three leadership/management lessons from reading this piece that provides the building blocks for any successful organization.

  1. Pirates understood they needed men with different talents to fulfill two, significant leadership roles – the captain and the quartermaster. One role was needed to make money and the other to manage the business. They knew the captain would be doing what Hayagreeva Rao refers to as “star tasks” and the quartermaster would be doing “guardian tasks.” Star tasks include strategic work like target identification, commanding during battle, and negotiating agreements with other pirates to form alliances or fix jurisdictions. Guardian tasks are more operational and include allocating arms, scheduling work routines, managing internal conflicts and administering discipline, distributing loot, and taking care of the injured.
  2. The pirates knew they needed a control system to assure success and protect themselves from themselves. Perhaps there can be honor among thieves if they agree to a code of operation.
  3. Common mission and goals will hold a group together as long as the system that supports them are fair.

This shows us how almost any group can build a successful organization if they figure out how to position these three building blocks. While it is sad today to see terrorists trying to build this same kind of organizations, it is encouraging to see that when all civilized nations work together we can splinter and collapse them – just like nations did to the pirates in the 18th century.


http://managementtechniquesfrom17th century pirates by Steve Wood (Steve Wood)

Staff Sergeant Clinton L. Romesha

On October 3, 2009, according to a report published by U.S. Army historian Richard S. Lowry, Taliban fighters launched a coordinated attack on the outpost from three sides at about 06:00,[3] capturing its ammunition depot.[5] Some 300 fighters participated in the attack armed with a recoilless rifle, rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, machine guns, and small arms, badly outnumbering the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) presence of about 85 U.S. Army, Afghan National Army and Latvian Army soldiers, and the 35 Afghan soldiers who abandoned their positions.[8] It would later be known as the Battle of Kamdesh.[6]

During the first three hours of the fight, the U.S. troops remained under intense mortar and small arms fire, before the Taliban fighters breached the compound and set fire to it. Romesha moved under heavy fire to reconnoiter the area and seek reinforcements from a nearby barracks, helping the ISAF forces to regroup and fight despite being targeted by a Taliban sniper.[8] Romesha led the firefight to reclaim the depot, organizing a five-man team to counterattack while still under fire. He then neutralized one of the Taliban fighters’ machine gun teams. While engaging a second, he took cover behind a generator which was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade,[6] and Romesha was wounded in the neck, shoulder, and arms by shrapnel.[9] Despite being wounded, Romesha directed air support that killed an estimated 30 Taliban and then took out several more Taliban positions himself. He provided suppressive fire to allow three other wounded American soldiers to reach an aid station and then recovered several American casualties while still under fire. Romesha’s efforts allowed the troop to regroup and fight off a force superior in numbers.[6] The fight lasted 12 hours, and eight American soldiers were killed,[5] making the engagement one of the costliest for ISAF forces during the war.[8] Nine soldiers were decorated with Silver Star Medals for the fight.[8] Several days later, the ISAF forces withdrew from the post.[10]

Citation:  Staff Sergeant Clinton L. Romesha distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a Section Leader with Bravo Troop, 3d Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, during combat operations against an armed enemy at Combat Outpost Keating, Kamdesh District, Nuristan Province, Afghanistan on October 3, 2009. On that morning, Staff Sergeant Romesha and his comrades awakened to an attack by an estimated 300 enemy fighters occupying the high ground on all four sides of the complex, employing concentrated fire from recoilless rifles, rocket propelled grenades, anti-aircraft machine guns, mortars and small arms fire. Staff Sergeant Romesha moved uncovered under intense enemy fire to conduct a reconnaissance of the battlefield and seek reinforcements from the barracks before returning to action with the support of an assistant gunner. Staff Sergeant Romesha took out an enemy machine gun team and, while engaging a second, the generator he was using for cover was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade, inflicting him with shrapnel wounds. Undeterred by his injuries, Staff Sergeant Romesha continued to fight and upon the arrival of another soldier to aid him and the assistant gunner, he again rushed through the exposed avenue to assemble additional soldiers. Staff Sergeant Romesha then mobilized a five-man team and returned to the fight equipped with a sniper rifle. With complete disregard for his own safety, Staff Sergeant Romesha continually exposed himself to heavy enemy fire, as he moved confidently about the battlefield engaging and destroying multiple enemy targets, including three Taliban fighters who had breached the combat outpost’s perimeter. While orchestrating a successful plan to secure and reinforce key points of the battlefield, Staff Sergeant Romesha maintained radio communication with the tactical operations center. As the enemy forces attacked with even greater ferocity, unleashing a barrage of rocket-propelled grenades and recoilless rifle rounds, Staff Sergeant Romesha identified the point of attack and directed air support to destroy over 30 enemy fighters. After receiving reports that seriously injured Soldiers were at a distant battle position, Staff Sergeant Romesha and his team provided covering fire to allow the injured Soldiers to safely reach the aid station. Upon receipt of orders to proceed to the next objective, his team pushed forward 100 meters under overwhelming enemy fire to recover and prevent the enemy fighters from taking the bodies of their fallen comrades. Staff Sergeant Romesha’s heroic actions throughout the day-long battle were critical in suppressing an enemy that had far greater numbers. His extraordinary efforts gave Bravo Troop the opportunity to regroup, reorganize and prepare for the counterattack that allowed the Troop to account for its personnel and secure Combat Outpost Keating. Staff Sergeant Romesha’s discipline and extraordinary heroism above and beyond the call of duty reflect great credit upon himself, Bravo Troop, 3d Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division and the United States Army.[22]

Bristol, TN and The Baldridge Award

Bristol Tennessee Essential Services is an electricity and fiber services utility company that serves 33,000 customers with only 68 employees. It offers the fastest internet available in the United States at 10 Gigabits per second, has implemented efficiencies that saved its customers approximately $70 million over the last 40 years, and has customer satisfaction levels approaching 100 percent on many products and performance measures.


  • Reliability is a key performance measure and a key success factor for BTES. With new technologies and innovations, BTES continues to decrease outage minutes with a strenuous goal of fewer than 60 minutes per customer per year, which it has exceeded for the past three years. This benchmark far outperforms the industry, regional, and best-in-class averages (all 90-100 minutes). With the use of its innovative Automated Switching System, BTES saved its customers an additional 46 minutes per customer of outage time in 2016.
  • Results for the Average Service Availability Index (ASAI), a key measure of BTES’s preparedness, have outperformed all utility, region, and class comparisons, achieving a rate of 99.99 percent from 2014 through 2016.
  • BTES has continuously saved money for its customers, enabling them to keep approximately $70 million in their pockets over the last 40 years. The organization considers this measure a key financial success factor.
  • The company’s employee retention rate has increased to 100 percent, while the industry benchmark is 91 percent and the national industry average is 82 percent.

Operational Excellence

  • Service reliability, as measured by reducing electrical outages and by the national System Average Interruption Duration Index (SAIDI)—or the total number of minutes in which a customer’s service is interrupted divided by the total number of customers served by the utility company over the same period of time—has continuously improved and has outperformed the annual goal of less than 60 minutes, far outperforming industry, regional, and best-in-class averages (all 90–100 minutes).
  • BTES has not had a lost workday in over a year, and over the last 35 years, only two safety-related incidents have resulted in lost work days for the company.
  • BTES works to prevent outages through several preventative actions, and a database with causes of outages is maintained and discussed by employees at daily and weekly outage meetings. The company’s results for the Average Service Availability Index (ASAI), a key measure of BTES’s preparedness, have outperformed all utility, region, and class comparisons, achieving a rate of 99.99 percent from 2014 through 2016.
  • BTES’s operating and maintenance expenses have consistently remained below those of other area power companies and other comparable sources. During the timeframe of 2012–2016, BTES operating and maintenance expenses per customer were favorably lower than other Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) local power companies and all municipal average comparisons.

Customer Satisfaction and Engagement

  • Due to efficiencies such as integration of the fiber optic system, energy-efficient home improvement loans, training at in-house seminars and trade shows, energy-efficient lighting and equipment, and continuous cost evaluation and control, BTES has saved money for its customers, enabling them to keep approximately $70 million in their pockets over the last 40 years. BTES considers its ability “to maintain the amount of money in customers’ pockets” to be a key financial success factor.
  • To measure customer satisfaction, BTES uses the Customer Average Interruption Duration Index (CAIDI) data maintained by the American Public Power Association. From 2013 through 2016, BTES’s results for this index exceeded all utility, region, and class comparisons. Customer satisfaction levels with all BTES product lines (especially Internet, television, and electricity products) as well as customer service, the help desk, average outage time per customer, Internet performance, and cable television have been sustained over many years, with many levels approaching 100 percent and exceeding competitor, industry benchmarks, and best-in-class comparison levels.
  • All customer feedback, both positive and negative, is tracked and reviewed weekly by the company, with all senior leaders involved, during the formal Continuous Improvement Team meeting. The feedback is analyzed for potential gaps, trends, and improvement opportunities. Improvement opportunities are identified, root causes are determined, and actions are taken to address customer concerns.

A Valued Workforce

  • Employee engagement is measured through performance appraisals, retention, and attendance. The percentage of employees with perfect attendance is about 75 percent, far exceeding the industry average of just under 20 percent. Employee retention has increased to 100 percent, while the industry benchmark is 91 percent and the national industry average is 82 percent.
  • Striving to provide the “best place to work” in the region, BTES demonstrates a commitment to building an effective workforce environment and to engaging and empowering the workforce. For example, BTES provides on-site exercise equipment for employees and retirees, access to information on healthy lifestyles and well-being, flu shots, and educational and advancement opportunities. BTES’s commercial-grade kitchen, which is brought online during extended area power outages and inclement weather, enables its support staff and leadership to produce meals for crews who are engaged in restoring power, further reducing the outage time experienced by customers.
  • BTES uses its SMART (System Management and Resource Training) system, an online training portal, to communicate process standards, standard operating procedures, and process changes and improvements. Employees are expected to complete all assigned modules every quarter, and 100 percent of BTES’s workforce annually participates in workforce development opportunities.

Leadership Fostering a Culture for Success

  • BTES’s family-oriented management team has shared accountability and is consistently focused on the organization’s vision “to be the best electric, Internet, telephone, and cable television provider.” Senior leaders operate with a high level of mutual trust and collectively hold each other accountable for achieving strategic objectives, action plans, and high performance in the organization’s key success factors of safety, reliability, and finance.
  • BTES has built a culture of continuous improvement, which is fully deployed throughout the organization and is effective at identifying and rapidly improving performance. For example, the CAP-DO process (Check, Act, Plan, Do) encourages employees and teams to rapidly improve processes. Through the use of its Improvement Initiative Process (IIP), BTES treats all customer- and employee-related inputs as either an “OFI” (opportunity for improvement) or a “positive,” which provides consistency and rigor in data gathering from all departments and processes throughout the organization.

Superior Financial and Marketplace Results

  • In its service area, BTES holds market shares of 100 percent for electrical services, 75 percent for Internet services, 60 percent for telephone services, and 70 percent for cable services. Those percentages for fiber-related services (Internet, telephone, and cable) have increased relative to the company’s competition.
  • Bad debts have consistently remained under 0.1 percent for BTES, far outperforming the regional average of 0.17 percent.
  • BTES has steadily increased its annual revenue to approximately $112 million and has consistently produced a positive net income for more than 40 years


The Service Industry Meets Six Sigma

ron palinkas lean six sigma
Once used only to improve manufacturing processes, Six Sigma is stepping out. Now companies are using it for everything from reengineering environmental health services to making accounts receivable more efficient. But it doesn’t work for all businesses. Here are four things to consider before unleashing Six Sigma throughout your organization.

But Six Sigma is not just for nuts and bolts anymore. Companies are using it to shape up such nonmanufacturing processes as accounts receivable, sales, and R&D. Dow Chemical, for example, estimates that the application of Six Sigma to environmental health, and safety services have saved the company $130 million in the past two years; other initiatives are under way for corporate R&D, finance, information systems, legal, marketing, public affairs, and human resources processes. Not surprisingly, financial institutions, consumer products companies, and health care firms are all jumping on the Six Sigma bandwagon.Six Sigma was originally developed at Motorola in the 1980s for production processes because of the high volume and the high degree of standardization that define such activities. Its goal is to eliminate waste by achieving near-perfect results (Six Sigma-level quality means no more than 3.4 defects per million). General Electric, AlliedSignal, and other well-known manufacturers credit Six Sigma with billions of dollars in savings.

“But every customer is different,” some bankers, lawyers, and doctors may quickly counter, warning that standardizing processes will result in inferior service.

Their concerns have some merit. Six Sigma won’t work for every service process, and adjustments may be required for it to suit even those processes for which it does apply. Nevertheless, many of the lessons learned from the production lines are relevant to service processes. What’s more, you’d be surprised by how many highly personalized services have standardized component processes—for example, filling out forms or obtaining follow-up information that, when streamlined, can improve the level of service that the customer experiences.

Financial institutions, consumer products companies, and health care firms are all jumping on the Six Sigma bandwagon.
— Jim Biolos

Besides, Six Sigma’s off-the-shop-floor successes are too significant to ignore. The issue is no longer whether Six Sigma should be considered; it’s when and how. Below, some advice about how to adapt Six Sigma methods to service processes.

1. Determine which parts of your service processes are the best candidates.Look at each process that goes into the service you provide and identify it as either highly customized, mass-customized, or standardized.

Highly customized processes, such as complex IT systems implementation, have a high variability of tasks and are used in many different situations. The cost of applying Six Sigma to such processes often exceeds the benefits.

Mass-customized processes are good candidates for Six Sigma campaigns if the volume of activity is high enough or if greater efficiency will result in significant cost savings, as is often the case with, say, media buys.

Standardized services, such as credit card account services or fast-food service, can yield substantial benefits from a Six Sigma campaign. Within a company, accounts payable or payroll and benefits processing services are often the most likely candidates.

Within any given industry sector, highly customized, mass-customized, and standardized processes can exist, each category presenting a different opportunity for applying Six Sigma.

Just look at Web site development. Highly customized Web site developers are likely to achieve benefits from Six Sigma in project administration: client set-up, billing and collection, and, perhaps, in project status reporting. Mass-customized Web developers can apply Six Sigma to hone their core service. Standardized services have the greatest Six Sigma potential because they use software or Web sites to take clients through the entire process. A human gets involved only to answer a question.

2. Define what you mean by a service defect and how you intend to measure it. Keep in mind the advice of the late quality guru W. Edwards Deming, whose management theories are the foundation of Six Sigma: People don’t cause defects, systems do. In other words, employees typically try to do things the right way, but their actions are strongly influenced by the way the system is set up. So a defect is more likely a sign that the system needs reworking than it is an indication that an individual needs reprimanding.

That said, defining a service defect—where there are no products to return, nothing to inspect, and highly variable processes—is one of the most challenging aspects of applying Six Sigma to service-delivery systems. Until you reach agreement on what constitutes a service defect, says Edward Baker, former director of quality at Ford Motor Company and author of Scoring a Whole in One, your Six Sigma effort will likely disappoint.

It is application of the technique that matters.
— Edward Baker,
author of Scoring a Hole in One

When former General Electric Chairman Jack Welch complained that his frontline managers had “their face towards the CEO and their ass towards the customers,” he was emphasizing the core value of Six Sigma: The customer defines quality. Granted employees define quality at each point in the process, but it is the customer who remains the final arbiter of the results. Accordingly, most Six Sigma programs for services define a defect as a flaw in a process that results in a lower level of customer satisfaction or a lost customer. In short, a service defect means your processes are not delivering on your promise to customers.

When Citibank launched its Six Sigma program for banking services in 1996, it defined a defect as any customer rating below the two highest responses on a satisfaction survey. Based on that definition and survey feedback from customers, Citibank identified seven service process defects in its account opening process, its customer statement process, and five other processes.

Three measures stand out for service businesses, primarily because they are easily quantified:

  • Service defections (that is, lost customers). Harvard Business School professor W. Earl Sasser, Jr., and Bain & Company director Frederick F. Reichheld’s seminal article, “Zero Defections: Quality Comes to Services” (Harvard Business Review, September-October 1990), showed how defects in service quality lead to lost customers. Simply meeting customer expectations was not enough, the authors concluded—customers who aren’t completely satisfied are likely to switch to another service provider. Of course, not all lost customers are the result of a service defect, but this measure serves as a good proxy for defects.
  • Customer satisfaction ratings. In another article, “Putting the Service-Profit Chain to Work” (Harvard Business Review, March-April 1994), Sasser and his coauthors pioneered the notion that customer satisfaction drives loyalty and long-term profitability. When you can articulate and measure how your customers define value—and build your internal processes around delivering that value—the result is often greater customer loyalty and longer-term company profitability. In addition to counting how many customers you lose, you should also measure where your service fails to meet or exceed customer expectations.
  • Service turnaround times. Citibank identified a global standard of service for its account opening process. Most banks opened new customer accounts within three days of receiving the customer application. Analyzing its own processes, Citibank found it took, on average, six days to open a new customer account.

Measuring defects requires skilled researchers and service representatives who can pose the right questions and glean meaningful responses from customers. It’s easy to tabulate customers’ “very satisfied” and “satisfied” responses on a survey form, but it’s much more difficult to get a feel for the highly variable standards they use or to fully understand the cause of their dissatisfaction. So building a certain amount of flexibility into the measurement systems makes sense, as GE learned when it used Six Sigma to streamline its corporate legal services.

How precisely can you measure the cost of the time a GE line executive spends with company attorneys on the preparation of a lawsuit? How well can you calculate what it should have been? Because of the difficulty of quantifying expected results and actual outcomes, GE realized that it couldn’t rely solely on hard numbers to evaluate its Six Sigma program’s success.

3. Probe relentlessly for root causes. Once you’ve identified and measured specific service defects, the one question you must keep asking over and over is “Why is that?” This question embodies the search for the underlying reasons for customer dissatisfaction and/or defection. Typically, there isn’t one single reason; in fact, you’ll often find a half-dozen or more root causes that all contribute to the service defect. Once you’ve identified the chief contributors, you can build systems that better serve your customers.

When an insurance company realized that its commission checks to agents were frequently inaccurate, it drilled down further to uncover several root causes of the defect. Among them: complex commission rules, a check-processing staff that wasn’t knowledgeable about them, and confusing procedures for processing checks. Once these root causes had been laid bare, it was easy for the insurer to streamline rules and procedures and improve the training of its check-processing staff.

4. Remember, this is a long-term commitment. Although GE, Motorola, and others boast of training 100,000 employees in Six Sigma, Baker advises managers “not to use as their measure of success how many people have been trained or the levels of belts that have been achieved. It is the application of the techniques that matter.” That application often takes a while to bear fruit, and you can never put the initiative on autopilot. Subir Chowdhury, executive vice president of the American Supplier Institute (Livonia, Michigan, and author of Design for Six Sigma, has found that many Six Sigma efforts fail because the leadership fails to ensure that everybody “gets it” and that the initiative remains a top priority. A successful Six Sigma effort requires relentless communication and reinforcement—well beyond what most leaders assume is enough. Here are a few pointers to help ensure success over the long haul:

  • Scope your projects well. Don’t take on too much at once. Start with processes that are self-contained within a unit or processes that do not rely on a change in another process.
  • Monitor your organizational culture. If your Six Sigma initiative is to maintain its momentum, you have to do a certain amount of “cultural planning,” says George Eckes, a Colorado-based Six Sigma consultant and author of Making Six Sigma Last. Develop specific cultural objectives for your Six Sigma initiative—for example, ensure that management decisions are based on fact instead of anecdote. And it goes without saying that your incentive program has to be aligned with your Six Sigma objectives. “If the system of promotion and compensation encourages individual performance over collaborative work, then any knowledge gained from Six Sigma training will not reap many benefits for the firm,” says Baker.


Jim Biolos is president of Launch Publishing in Riverdale, N.Y.

“Six Sigma Meets the Service Economy,” Harvard Management Update, Vol. 7, No. 11, November 2002

Six Sigma programs have traditionally been prescriptions for quality improvement in manufacturing industries. But today service firms—and service functions within almost every sector—are also using Six Sigma methods to boost performance.

Veteran Deals for Veteran’s Day

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Normally I would try and post my own list, but I found an article that was so exhaustive and complete, I decided to just post the link.  The list includes free meals, free services, and discounts for veterans on Veteran’s Day (Saturday, November 11.)  Try and take advantage of one of these, if only to remember your service to our country as well as your brothers and sisters.


The Four Agreements

Specifically, I want to write a book by Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, a Toltec Wisdom Book. A very long title for a very short book (138 5″x7″ pages)! Despite the claim that the ideas in this book represent insights possessed by the Toltecs in what is now Mexico a thousand years ago, most of these ideas are highly similar to concepts used by modern humanistic psychologists, transactional analysts, and cognitive-behavioral psychologists. For example, Ruiz says that all children are born perfectly loving, playful, and genuine. However, parents teach their children what Carl Rogers called conditions of worth–standards of behavior the children must follow to receive love and avoid criticism. Eventually, these standards become internalized into what Eric Berne called a life script–an unconscious set of instructions for living life. According to Ruiz, most of these unconscious beliefs are perfectly arbitrary or downright false. Many of them are irrational and unnecessarily limiting. The key to freedom–pace cognitive therapists such as Albert Ellis and Aaron Beck–is to become aware of our irrational and limiting thoughts so that we can replace them with healthy thoughts. In short, this book could be a primer for cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Ruiz says that children do not know any better than to agree with the adult realities into which they are indoctrinated. Children do not argue with the meanings of words or grammar as they are learning the language. If my parents tell me I am smart and handsome, I believe them. If they tell me I am stupid and ugly, I believe them. Children have no choice but to agree. They are like Plato’s prisoners in the cave, shackled and forced into believing that shadows of artificial objects are real. But as we mature, we can become warriors, breaking free from the shackles of agreements with our implanted, false ideas. We can accept healthier agreements. Ruiz presents four such healthier agreements in his book. Below is a Reader’s Digest version; I have written more extensively on the agreements elsewhere.

1. Be impeccable with your word. In a sense, social constructivists are correct about words creating reality. We act on what we tell ourselves is real. Albert Ellis encouraged us to screen our self-talk for negative, irrational chatter. So, what kinds of words to you use when you describe reality? Do you lie and say hurtful and poisonous things about yourself and others? Not healthy! To be impeccable with your word is to be truthful and to say things that have a positive influence on yourself and others.

2. Don’t take anything personally. The first agreement suggests that we avoid treating others hurtfully. The second agreement provides us with a way of dealing with potentially hurtful treatment from others. Because each person sees the world in a unique way, the way that others treat us says as much about them as it does about us. To not take anything personally is to acknowledge the unique identities of other people. We respect their subjective realities, realizing that their views do not necessarily describe us accurately.

3. Don’t make assumptions. Assuming that you know what other people are thinking or feeling about you is a limiting thought that Aaron Beck called Mind Reading. Obviously, none of us can read minds. When we try to engage in mind reading we will often be wrong, leading to undesirable consequences. The antidote to mind reading is to ask for evidence before concluding what people are thinking.

Do these four agreements actually derive from ancient Toltec wisdom? I will bet that many hard-nosed skeptics would have serious doubts about that. I am a skeptic myself. But to my fellow skeptics, I might mention that Ruiz’s next book, The Fifth Agreement, suggests the following agreement: “Be skeptical but learn to listen.”


Posted by: John A. Johnson Ph.D., Bio