Overlord – 73 Years and Counting For the Greatest Project Success of All Time!

d-day

You walk into your boss’s office and you find out the requirements for a new project:

  1. You have to form the most powerful armada in the world to travel across a very rough water channel
  2. You must carry troops in this armada to battle the foremost military power in the world
  3. Before the armada launches, you must unleash hundreds of paratroopers into enemy territory to capture bridges in order for the seaborne troops to cross
  4. You do not have cell phones, computers, or any other technology other than very primitive walkie-talkies (line-of-site)
  5. You have to get this done in 6 months
  6. You have to get international support and concurrence and
  7. You have to defeat the enemy or possibly lose your way of life

So, there are the requirements and you are panicking since this has never been done before…or has it?

A little more than 73 years ago that project became a reality as the forces of the Allied Commands fighting the Nazi Forces of Germany landed on Normandy Beach in France to take back territories illegally and brutally obtained by the Forces of Germany and Italy.  The fighting began early in the morning and continued until that night.  The early morning started with paratroopers dropping behind enemy lines in order to take towns and bridges essential for the movement of troops from the several landing sites.  I remember my dad talking about his good friend — we called him “Uncle Petey” although he was not a blood relative — being one of those paratroopers.  Uncle Petey never talked about that day during our social gatherings, but I remember seeing a photograph of him with my father in his Army uniform with his parachutist badge gleaming.  It was not until after I entered the military that I realized that he had one ribbon on his uniform — the Purple Heart, indicating he was wounded in combat.  He was with the 82nd Airborne, but you would never have known it since he never talked about it.  It is the ones that never talk about their role in World War II that seem to have some of the biggest roles in that war.

Today you are the project manager and have at your disposal international communications that you can carry in your hand; computer systems that are much more powerful than the computer that broke the German Enigma Code in World War II.  You can communicate instantaneously with several people at once and can travel by plane anywhere in the world should the project need hands-on management.  You are more powerful than General Eisenhower was in World War II.  What General Eisenhower had that you do not is a “focus on purpose.”  Troops that were carried on board those ships or in those planes had their orders and their purpose.  They knew that if they failed, the shape and content of the world would be different.   Many of them were under 20 years old and this was the first time they had seen Europe, and many of them would make their last stands here, thousands of miles away from home.  They had each other and that, according to many accounts, helped them through the worst of this situation.

As we go about our lives, please take a moment to remember those that fought on that day in June.  Research the Operation Overlord project and see the many complications that could (and did) exist.  D-Day should not just be another day, but a day as thoughtful and purposeful as Memorial Day.  Every year I think of Uncle Petey and thank him for being there for us when we needed him.  It is these unsung heroes that made the success of Operation Overlord, and it will be the unsung heroes on your project team that will do the same.  Give them purpose, as Elie Weisel (http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1986/wiesel-bio.html) said, and the rest will take care of itself.

Rest in Peace, thy Warriors for Peace.

I apologize for being one day late on this — the impact of the operation is still the greatest ever!

Learn, Offer, Value, Educate (LOVE)

Celebrating Memorial Day? Hardly.

Picture1Celebrating Memorial Day is not the right term to use for such a hallowed holiday.  Being  a veteran during the Cold War, I did not see battle, never drew a weapon to either defend or to defeat, and rarely saw death.  However, there are three times in my career when I became inextricably linked to death of a fellow service member.

The first time was when I first came in the Air Force and they were looking for volunteers as pall bearers for an Air Force officer who had died recently in military jet mishap.  They wanted officers and I put up my hand since I had never really been a part of anything like that in my past.

The day was bright in Southwest Texas and it was hot.  We were in our “Class A’s” with white ascots and silver helmets, our black spit shined boots had white “ladder laced” laces.  We all had white gloves, which would make it difficult to hang on to the casket pall, but none of us were complaining.  The bus ride to the church was very quiet and after the bus stopped we immediately exited and lined up to do our duty.  The captain in charge of the detail gave very specific but simple instructions before we departed the bus.  First, we were not to smile nor make any attempt at levity, this man had died doing his duty and it was up to us to do ours with honor, respect, and dignity.  Second, he had picked out the flag detail who would fold the flag and no one was to interfere with that.  Third, we were at attention at all times and looked straight ahead, even when carrying the casket.  If someone fell, they were to not hang on to the casket, but release it, get up and keep marching again with dignity.

After we escorted the casket to the hearse, we then continued on the bus ride to the cemetery.  We exited the bus again and took our places at the rear of the hearse to accept the remains.  I never realized how heavy a casket was until that moment.  We were on uneven ground and were allowed to use both hands, which we all did.  We carried the remains toward the burial plot and I suddenly realized that there was no ground underneath my one foot.  I started to go forward, but for some reason (to this day I really believe it was the hand of the dead airman) I immediately caught myself and continued on the way to the grave site.  The ceremony went without a hitch, although I have to admit that it took everything I had not to start crying as the flag was passed to the widow.  The hero’s children were asking their mother when daddy would be coming to see this and that made it even harder, but all of us treated the occasion with honor, dignity, and respect.  The fly over for the ceremony took place (although I heard it but did not see it) and we marched back to the bus and headed home, again very silent.  That was 40 years ago and I still remember it as it was yesterday.

The second time that I came face-to-face with death of a fellow service member was when I was appointed a Summary Court Officer for an airman was killed in an accident.  It was my job to identify the body at the site of the accident, escort it to the mortuary and ensure it was treated with respect (this was in a foreign country and they may not understand the importance of this procedure), prepare the effects of the airman and ship them to the family.   I basically was this airman and ensuring that his personal effects were shipped home.  The duty lasted approximately 3 months and again it was almost 40 years ago.  The airman had a child who would be over 40 now.  Some things you just cannot forget.

The final time that I would encounter death was toward the end of my career when I was selected for death notification.  This was about 1 hour away from my home and I was briefed that the individual died on duty as a result of an accident.  I would not have a pastor or priest or any religious representative, but was to go alone to the home and notify the widow.  I was told that I would be the first to notify her.  I drove along very windy country roads until I found the town and the address.  I checked my uniform one more time, took a few deep breaths, and made my way to the front door.  I saw the widow sitting there with her face in her hands, giving me realization that I might not be the first person to notify her of the death.  She made her way to the front door and opened it.  I stepped in, took off my cover, and said the words I had been practicing since I started the drive. (All names are fictitious)

“Mrs Smith, I regret to inform you that your husband, Sgt Smith, was killed while doing his duty in Europe.  On behalf of myself and the United States Air Force, you have our sympathies.”

I then found out the unthinkable.  She had already been called by relatives who had already been notified that her husband had died.  She was almost inconsolable.   I sat with her for about an hour until I felt she was calm enough to make a phone call to have someone sit with her, which she did.  The whole situation took about 3 hours, but it seemed shorter than that.   I just wanted her to know that she would have others that cared about her and her husband.  I left and went home and hugged my wife and kissed my children.

Celebrate Memorial Day?  Not likely.  The closest word that describes what we do on Memorial Day is commemorating it.  We must remember the hundreds of thousands that have died to make this country free.  We must remember that each one had families, futures, and friends that will no longer know the very essence of that person.  A phrase on a headstone of a young soldier that died near Monte Cassino, Italy says it best:

“Those that live in the hearts of the ones they love, will never die.”

A thoughtful Memorial Day to all.

Learn, Offer, Value, Educate (LOVE)

75 Years After The Greatest Military Project Ever!

doolittle

The Doolittle Raid in my opinion is one of the most daring raids in military history.  The fact that bombers are launched from a ship meant to carry and launch fighters just a fraction of the weight of a B-25 is something that has marveled me since I first started learning about flight.

It has been 75 years to the day (this was written on 18 April) that the mission launched.  The project planning that went into this one mission incorporated all the positives about project management, and leadership.

First, the requirement for the mission was probably pretty plain.  According to one site on the subject, the mission was to “attack a number of [Japanese] cities.”  I am assuming this meant that there was a list of targets for the mission.  (http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/doolittle.htm)

From there, the type of aircraft was chosen for its range, size, and ability to withstand anti-aircraft, along with long range navigation and fuel consumption.  The B-25 was the perfect choice at the time, but launching it would require training, which was done with hand-picked pilots and crews.  The time table was set, the planes were procured, the crews were picked, and the targets were chosen.  The one area that was left was getting the planes on the carrier (the Hornet was chosen for the task), and the mission was underway.

The secrecy of the mission must have been difficult, since the mission planners had to ensure that the planes were not on the deck when the carrier departed from port, along with ensuring that the pilots and crews were sequestered.  Fortunately, unlike today, there were no cell phones, or cell phone cameras to document a secret mission.  (And the crews, again I am assuming, were probably sequestered with no communication available to them.)

So, let’s review.

  1. A mission to bomb Japan, basically one of the strongest military forces (if not THE most formidable naval force in the area) was implemented
  2. The mission would take a land-based bomber and launch it off a deck of a Navy Carrier, less than half the length of the normal take off runway for the bomber
  3. The bombers would have a full fuel and armament load and, although they have two engines, still have a challenge getting off the deck
  4. The bombers would have to take off, fly low to avoid Japanese detection, then bomb their targets and get to airfields in China (our friend at the time)

And a few things did go wrong.  The Carrier had to sink a Japanese ship and, fearing the ship reported the sighting, had to launch 150 miles further than anticipated.  Many of the planes crashed for lack of fuel, but targets were bombed.  Most of the crews made it back, including Doolittle’s crew.

The one thing that I need to mention is that Doolittle led the raid.  Here was the project manager taking the lead on his project.  He was not just the planner, he was the doer.  He went in and conducted the bombing raid with his crew.  I cannot overemphasize how important this was in the minds of the other crews.  In order to ensure that he was committed to the mission, Doolittle took an active role in the training and implementation of the mission.  It wasn’t called the Doolittle Raid for nothing!

So, the next time that someone gives you a project, and you think you have it tough, just think that 75 years ago, without computers, cell phones, all the software applications that we have today, and with propeller driven aircraft flying low over water and realizing that there is not enough fuel to make it to friendly territory.

And then go plan your project.  The one thing that you can do that would reflect on Doolittle would be to lead your team; feel their pain when things do not go well, as well as their euphoria when things DO go well.  Your leadership will help your team reach their target and recover successfully.

Thank God for the Doolittle Raiders; may the fallen rest in peace.

Learn, Offer, Value, Educate (L.O.V.E.)

http://www.grectech.com

 

What If We Taught People to Drive Like We Teach People to Use A Computer?

drivers computers1I want you to teach a person to drive a car using the following outline:

  1. Teach them where the accelerator is and how to use that
  2. Teach them where the brake is and how to use that
  3. Teach them where the mirrors are and how to use them
  4. Teach them how to turn on the car, how to turn off the car
  5. How to fill the car with gas and where to put it
  6. Where the light switch is and how to turn it on and off
  7. Where the radio switch is and how to operate that
  8. How to read the speedometer

I am sure that I skipped some steps, but you get the drift.  What you want to teach the potential driver is the “buttonology” of the car.  You fail to tell them about the dangers of driving, the rules of the road, how to be courteous and otherwise how to have consideration for others.  What is the probability this “driver” will have an accident the first day they are driving?  I am a statistician and I would take odds on this one!

Let’s segue to computers.  That’s right, computers!

How do we teach computers today? We teach buttonology, how to associate functions with pressing of the buttons.  Want email?  Do this combination of buttons.  Get an app, or get on the internet?  Push this series of buttons.

There are no classes on the rules of the road, the ethics of using a computer or the dangers associated with using a computer.  If that were compared to diving a car, basically what you are saying is that we should all go out to our car and cut the brake lines and then drive the car.  We may make it to our location, but chances are we will crash and burn.  The same is said for operating a computer without the guidance necessary in the area of cybersecurity.

Cybersecurity.  The very name raises images of dark figures hiding in the shadows, plotting the overthrow of a computer network.  Yes, the black hatted individual that spends their days planning to attack a network for a variety of reasons, whether they be money, fame, or maybe rationalization that the attack will right a wrong.  Ah, cybersecurity.  It is meant for people who are the target of the attacker, not for normal people like you and me.

Hmmm.  Then maybe none of us need driver training but the people who operate commercial vehicles, or maybe we can all get pilots’ licenses, after all only commercial airline pilots are meant to REALLY learn about flying a plane!

Maybe this is a little bit hyperbole, but I have talked to a number of people who believe that computer training is one thing, cybersecurity is another.  Ladies and gentlemen,  that is like saying that there are five unrelated fingers on your hand!  Every finger works as part of the whole hand.  The same can be said about computer training and cybersecurity training.  Did you know that your brand new computer comes configured so that ANYONE can have access to that computer from the internet?   A simple configuration change can eliminate that threat.  Did you know that you can be tracked through your cell phone; or that people can access your microphone and video camera from your phone?  Many people realize they can, but fail to correct that situation.  Do you have a passcode on your phone?  Do you have a privacy screen on your phone?  All of this is part of keeping yourself safe while using a device you know the location of buttons.  Without good cybersecurity education, you are putting yourself at risk every time you get online.

The sad part of this whole situation is that our children are using devices at very young ages and do not understand the consequences of their use.  Would you put them in a car without education and let them drive to the store?  Of course not!  Why are continuing to let our children learn functions without learning consideration of their actions?

I teach senior citizens cybersecurity and I wanted to get the word out so I contacted a local paper.  The editor responded that it sounded okay, but they just did an article on seniors learning computers and that it might take a while before something else was done on this subject.

Can you now see what I am discussing here in this article?  If we fail to protect ourselves, we are just placing more people “on the road” without seat-belts and brakes!  Worse than that, we are giving people the ability to get scammed because they “trust” the network they are on at any time.  We do not implement protections and thereby put our loved ones in harm’s way.  We do it inadvertently, but we do it nonetheless.

How can we start to turn around this spiraling of our computer users?  First, look toward the basic cybersecurity courses (there are plenty that are free on www.cybrary.it as well as other sites).  Yes, there are classes in hacking, but there are plenty that show defensive measures to keep yourself safe while using your computer, cell phone, or other technology.  If we fail to keep pace with safety and security, we are contributing to the increasing cyber crime.  After all, what better way to encourage cyber criminals than to place someone on the computer network that does not understand the protections necessary to be secure and safe.  If that is case, take your teenager and give them the car before they get their license and let them drive it wherever they want.

If that be the case, one more fact before I let you go on with your internet surfing.  There are approximately 3.6 BILLION internet users according to http://www.internetlivestats.com/internet-users/ and there are “only” approximately 1 BILLION cars on the road according to http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/08/23/car-population_n_934291.html.  From these numbers, which of the elements – computers or cars – present the most threat?  If I were a criminal, would I want to steal a car or steal a computer network (without you knowing)?  You decide.

That last part made your anxious – admit it.  Let’s all start to educate our users better and keep cyber crime at bay.  Otherwise, you need to get off the grid, because it is about to get ugly (or uglier)!

 

Learn, Offer, Value, Educate (LOVE)

“Silver Hats” founder

Getting to the Heart of the Matter – Data (Part 1)

heart-disease

February is heart (disease) awareness month and it is important that we realize that there are TONS of data that exist where we can find out about heart disease and the consequences that it has on our lives and the lives of others.  The Center for Disease Control (CDC) (www.cdc.gov) has data on how many deaths result from heart related illness (the total has not changed all that much from year to year, approximately 610,000 deaths per year according to https://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fs_heart_disease.htm).  The amount of deaths from heart disease is more than those from suicides, unintentional accidents, influenza, diabetes, and chronic lower respiratory diseases (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr60/nvsr60_06.pdf).  What this means is that heart disease is something that not only needs attention, but is in some ways preventable.  According to the CDC website, almost 50% of Americans have AT LEAST ONE of THREE risk factors that are associated with heart disease.  These three are elevated blood pressure, elevated LDL cholesterol, or smoking (https://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fs_heart_disease.htm).  This is not only troubling, but I felt necessary of further “data diving” to see the association between heart disease and areas where I personally have knowledge, like diabetes or high blood pressure.

The CDC has so much data on the subject that I started at this site to look for some data and found a survey called the Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) (https://www.cdc.gov/brfss/).  This data is available to anyone and has a great amount of data that is available for download, or for data analysis using CDC web-based analysis tools.  I  went to the “Surveys and Documents” link and found “BRFSS Prevalence and Trends Data” which gave the user the ability to put in risk factors and find the data according to US State, gender, and a number of other characteristics.  This is much better than downloading the data and having to do the analysis yourself, and also gives you an idea of the areas of the country where people are at more risk of heart disease than others.  It is a great resource for those that want to look at the numbers behind the heart disease issue. If nothing else, it presents an interesting look at how the country’s regions have populations that are more at risk of some diseases and not at risk for others.

I also looked at the BRFSS Web Enabled Analysis Tool (WEAT) that allows you to look at the data from a cross-tabulation point of view.  Here you can place characteristics in a number of ways to compare several factors against the disease.  The tool is very easy to use and contains so many factors that it is hard to determine which ones to choose.  However, for the budding data analyst, this is a great way to learn about data analysis and the multi-factor approach to the analysis.  A screen shot of the WEAT page is below (https://nccd.cdc.gov/s_broker/WEATSQL.exe/weat/index.hsql).

 

weat-page

You can see the “Cross Tabulation” link where you can click and set the numerous factors that can be associated with any of the various factors that the survey contain.  Please do not get overwhelmed!  There is so much data here that I used this for a project that I was required to do for one of my graduate classes in statistics from Penn State.  The data were provided, already collected, and catalogued.  All I had to do was do the various tests on this data.  It amazes me that more people do not know about this data treasure trove.  I realize that this is a phone-based survey, but from what I can tell it is one of the most extensive and intensive surveys in order to get a read on different maladies that pertain to the United States and give data analysts those tools.

Although this article was about gathering and understanding data pertaining to heart disease, the data takes you far beyond just that one malady.  But by understanding some of the factors that heart disease entails, the knowledge will undoubtedly help you to understand heart disease as composed of factors, rather than just something that happens as a result of “genetics” as proposed by some.

Enjoy the CDC site and the various ways of using data to clarify a disease that will be with us for a lifetime (hopefully a LONG lifetime).  To control it, we MUST understand it.

Learn, Offer, Value, Educate (LOVE)

President comparing someone to Hitler?! Is this REALLY Presidential? It’s been said before! By a President!

presidential-speechI, as many others watched the recent presidential news conference, was somewhat surprised at some of the language that the President  used in his monologue.  I, at times, could not believe the tone and type of language that he used, but after some research looked for some Presidential language that could be better.  However, I found the following quotes from a past US President.  Can you identify who said this quote…

“He is a Hitler at heart, a demagogue in action and a traitor in fact.  In 1942 he should have been hanged for treason.  In Germany under Hitler, his deal, in Italy under the great castor oil giver, or in Russia now he would have been eliminated.”(1)

…or this one?

“The White House is open to anybody with legitimate business, but not to that son of a bitch.”(2)

Or the fact that, at one point, this US President was just $10 away from being a member of the Ku Klux Klan?!

“At one point, …he enjoyed meeting with the white-sheeted brotherhood of the local Ku Klux Klan.  Coveting its electoral support, he was ready to join it, even depositing his ten-dollar initiation fee.  They demanded, however, that he support no Catholics in patronage positions.  He drew away — and demanded his ten dollars back.” (3)

He changed his mind, letting his better inclinations overcome his political inclinations. Whew!

It is also interesting that people thought of this President as “unfit, unwise, or just plain out of his depth…”(4)

I point these very real historical events and words to reveal that there are presidents that have spoken their opinions, had brushes with the side of society that we would rather not discuss or acknowledge, and yet have been considered some of the best presidents in our country’s history.  In fact, the US President that said (and did) the above is considered by the American Political Science Association’s Presidents & Executive Politics section as being one of the top 10 US Presidents! (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2015/02/16/new-ranking-of-u-s-presidents-puts-lincoln-1-obama-18-kennedy-judged-most-over-rated/?utm_term=.acae4803997f)

The US President that did and said the above?  Harry Truman!  That’s right, the man who ordered the bombing of the Empire of Japan and ended WWII in the Pacific.  A diehard Democrat, he at one point would not ride the Dumbo Ride in Disneyland because he did not want to be seen riding an Elephant, the symbol of the Grand Old Party (GOP)!(http://disneyparks.wikia.com/wiki/Dumbo_the_Flying_Elephant_(Disneyland_Park)

What does this mean?  It means that history judges differently than the present.  The idea that a person makes statements (or actions) that are unbelievably harsh, or uncompromising, does not mean that person is a bad President, just someone who fails to consider what they said (or did) when they said (or did) it.  I am not saying the current President is right when he said the things in that news conference.  I just urge people to check history and see the  relationship to others in that same office.  It will at least put historical context to the overall discussion.

It is very difficult being in a leadership position, especially THIS leadership position.  You are in the “fishbowl” at all times with people watching your every move.  Speaking your mind is not taken the same by everyone (or anyone for that matter).  However, the data does not match great Presidents with their speaking ability.  It matches it with their actions in office.  This is going to be an interesting 4 years.  I do not envy ANYONE in that elected position.  You lose in the present, but may win in the future.

(1)Kenneth Weisbrode, The Year of Indecision, 1946, Viking Publishers, 2016, page 145 (Truman was referring to Joe L. Lewis, Union Leader).

(2)Ibid., page 146.

(3)David Pietrusza, Harry Truman’s Improbable Victory and the Year That Transformed America, Union Square Publisher, NY, 2011, page 5.

(4)Weisbrode, page 149.

Learn, Offer, Value, Educate (LOVE)

 

 

Lies, Danged Lies, and…Percentages?!

percentagesAs a person focused on the “truth to data” realm, I find it somewhat frustrating (sometimes amusing, but often frustrating) that there are writers that feel that throwing in a statistic (small “s”) in their articles somehow bring to bear the force of data to make their point.  Such was an article in the Baltimore Sun on 12 February 2017 that started with “An overwhelming 97 percent of scientists agree that climate change is real and that human activity is responsible” (“Fake news may be vulnerable to ‘vaccination'” by Sean Greene).  The irony is that the article was about “fake news.”  Although the writing was excellent, Mr. Greene missed the point entirely with his first sentence.  There are so many questions I have concerning where he got he 97% figure.

  1.  How many is 97%?
  2.  How many are the 3% that are remaining?
  3.  What research is associated with the 97%?  When was their most current research concerning climate change published?

These are just three of the questions that I asked myself while I tracked down the study generally mentioned by Mr. Greene in his article (he cited the study as being from the Pew Research Center report).  I found a study on the Pew Research Center website (http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/10/04/public-views-on-climate-change-and-climate-scientists/) and looked through the article, trying to find the 97% figure mentioned in the quote above anywhere in the article.  I was unsuccessful in finding this figure.  I did find a quote that said “a Pew Research Center survey of members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) found 93% of members with a Ph.D. in Earth sciences (and 87% of all members) say the Earth is warming mostly because of human behavior.”  Again, how many is 93%?  Well I looked at the membership of the AAAS and found that they have no membership figures on their outward facing site, so I had to look at Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Association_for_the_Advancement_of_Science) and found that they have 120,000 members.  What this means is that 8400 members (7%) of the AAAS do not agree with the 111,600 members that say that warming is the result of human behavior.  This is something to consider in the long run, especially since 8400 is not a small number of scientists.  The hilarious (read frustrating) part of the entire newspaper article was that the quote at the beginning of the article was used during a survey conducted to show that people are easily manipulated through something as innocuous as  a pie chart with the above quote.  Why sure people are manipulated through pie charts!  They are also manipulated by percentages given in various articles.  (For instance, I read recently that software attacks of cell phones of a particular brand increased 163% in one month!  Would you buy that brand of cell phone?!)

I think that we ALL need to be careful of where we use data and then try to rationalize that use with a reference that can be “pre-bunked” (using a term from Mr. Greene’s article).  I actually agree with many of the suppositions that Mr. Greene wrote in his article, I just think that using data without the raw numbers is the same as saying that 100% of the writers of this blog do not agree with using percentages without backing it up with raw numbers.  Does that make you want to get more numbers to understand the percentages?  Would you like a pie chart?  I thought not.

Learn, Offer, Value, Educate (LOVE)