Thursday, December 26, 2013

The New Year

Once again it’s time for my New Year’s predictions and also time to look back on how this year’s forecast played out.

2013 Predictions (published 12/26/12)

Prediction Number 1:
Green Bay (of course) and Denver meet up in the Super Bowl. But The Pack goes back to Green Bay without the trophy. Denver wins and the game will be a classic.
(Closer to home…Karma kicks Jerry Jones in the ‘nads and the Cowboys lose to the Redskins this Sunday, missing the playoffs yet again.)

Result: Well, Denver should have made it, but shoulda, woulda, coulda doesn’t count. So I blew this one. (I did get the Cowboys right and, of course, they will lose the final game again this year to miss the playoffs as usual. Go Iggles.) Grade D

Prediction Number 2:
We postpone going over the fiscal cliff by passing a very weak compromise with some tax increases on the wealthiest Americans, caps on future spending and a “commitment” to really address the problem this year.

Result: Pretty much nailed this one. Grade A

Prediction Number 3:
We do NOT address our fiscal problems this year, but continue to dance along the edge of the cliff.

Result: Another Grade A

Prediction Number 4:
Israel opens up a 55 gallon drum of whip ass on Hamas. Iran makes the mistake of getting directly involved and things go very badly for them as well. The impact on the global economy is severe, but short-lived. Assad finds a way to stay in power another year in Syria.

Result: Missed most of this with the exception of Assad still hanging on. Grade C.

Prediction Number 5:
The U.S. Economy drifts along with moderate growth. Unemployment finally dips below 7%.

Result: Prediction on the US Economy was about right. Just missed on the unemployment rate as we came in at 7% in December, but not below it. Grade B

Prediction Number 6:
Attempts to ban the manufacture, sale and ownership of assault weapons will fail again. Additional background checks and restrictions are put in place. More mass shootings will occur.

Result: Mostly accurate, although there have been no significant changes to background checks or restrictions. Grade B+

Prediction Number 7:
Tiger Woods will not win a major.

Result: TW did not win a major. Grade A

Prediction Number 8:
Nick Saban will return to the NFL

Result: Saban is still at Alabama. Grade F

Prediction Number 9:
A major railroad will purchase a large truckload carrier.

Result: Did not happen. Grade F

Prediction Number 10:
50% of my predictions will be accurate.

Result: Five A and B’s which on my grading curve, makes this one an A.


And now for those 2014 predictions.

Prediction Number 1:
This one is a layup…Tiger Woods does not win a major.

Prediction Number 2:
Denver and Seattle meet in the Super Bowl. Weather plays a major factor in the game in favor of Seattle, but Peyton Manning throws a game-winning touchdown pass in the final seconds.

Prediction Number 3:
The Administration will keep moving the goalposts on Obamacare and the costs of the program will become unsustainable. Our healthcare system will get a lot worse, so you better take care of yourself.

Prediction Number 4:
We’ll make significant progress on immigration reform. It’s a mid-term election year and this is an issue that politicians from both sides can get behind. And with an improving economy the business community needs workers.

Prediction Number 5:
The unemployment rate drops below 6.5%. The economy is improving and long-term unemployment benefits are drying up. GDP growth will be in the 2.5-2.7% range in 2014.

Prediction Number 6:
Anyone born after 1980 will cease using the words “twerking” or “swagger”.

Prediction Number 7:
Matthew McConaughey will win the Oscar for Best Actor for his role in Dallas Buyers Club.

Prediction Number 8:
St. Louis Cardinals win the World Series.

Prediction Number 9:
Another year will pass with no significant movement toward addressing our federal deficit problem. The stock market will peak in Q3 and begin a downward slide into 2015.

Prediction Number 10:
Hope I’m wrong, but something really bad is going to happen during the Winter Olympics.

“Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all. For man does not know his time. Like fish that are taken in an evil net, and like birds that are caught in a snare, so the children of man are snared at an evil time, when it suddenly falls upon them.” Ecclesiastes 9: 11-12

Monday, December 23, 2013


This Christmas season may turn out to be a big setback for cyber-shopping. If you bought gifts on-line this year it is very likely that they will arrive late. And when the gift does arrive, don’t be surprised if it’s not exactly what you ordered. I don’t know what the actual service performance will turn out to be, but from what I’m hearing (and I talk to a lot of folks), it sounds like a third of all orders are late by at least two days or more. Furthermore, a lot of what has been shipped is the wrong stuff (size, color, model, quantity, etc.).

Weather is getting a lot of the blame and that’s probably a legitimate excuse. But I think we are also feeling the effects of a new and emerging logistics network that is still trying to figure out how to serve the e-commerce market. Increased demand + seasonal surge + weather + extended supply chains + marginal workforce + competitive cost pressure = late deliveries and bad orders.

Even when it is only two days late and the right product, it still feels sketchy. I’ll give you an example. We decided to buy an elliptical for Christmas. Its shipment from the east coast was managed by a leading 3PL and the white-glove home delivery/assembly contracted to a name-brand provider of such services. I had a tracking number and the order was set for delivery on the 17th. Then it got pushed back to the 18th. On the 18th we were called and told that it would be the 19th. When it showed up on the 19th, it was in the back of an unmarked pick-up truck. The driver and his helper were dressed, how should I put this…they were dressed very casually. But I could see that my elliptical was in the big box in the back of their little pick-up, plus they had the right paperwork.

As it turned out, the guys did a good job of putting the contraption together and seemed like decent fellows. They confirmed that they were independent contractors working for “the company”. And the company was a North Texas warehousing/delivery service that served as an agent for the “name-brand provider” who had been set-up by the “leading 3PL”. I realize that I live out in the frickin’ toolies; but when relatively expensive, white-glove service is provided by two homies in their unmarked pick-up truck, it just doesn’t feel right. Put a magnetic sign on the door. Give them a cap with a company logo. Make ‘em pull up their pants.

But hey, this order was only two days late and so far the product works great. Not the same can be said for several of the gifts my wife purchased. At least two of those that did arrive are just flat the wrong items. Four gifts are late and two will not arrive until well-after Christmas. Everything was purchased in plenty of time and the orders were pretty simple. But somewhere out there I just know there are over-worked, under-paid, un-motivated, poorly trained seasonal workers fumbling around to fill orders; while a thousand miles away a group equally over-worked, but well-paid, highly motivated executives try to figure out how to cut another penny per package out of their costs.

Contrary to the Nativity Scenes we often see, the Wisemen were not at the manger in Bethlehem with the newborn baby Jesus. Most scholars agree that it was much later, perhaps two years later, before they found Jesus and delivered their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Who knows? Maybe faster and cheaper are not always better.

Best Wishes for a Merry Christmas. (And next year, let's all just go to the store and buy our gifts the old-fashioned way.)

Saturday, December 21, 2013

If It Walks Like a Duck and Quacks Like a Duck…

Of course I couldn’t stay away from the Duck Dynasty controversy. For the record, I’ve only watched the show a couple of times. Not a bad show. I actually like the people. Picture them without the ZZ-Top look and it’s pretty much the family and neighbors I grew up around. I’ve heard Phil Robertson’s testimony about his wild days and how he came to faith in Jesus Christ. I respect and envy the grip he’s got on his faith. He must be the “good soil”. (see Parable of the Sower and the Seed, Matt 13:1-23). I, on the other hand, have tended to dwell among the thorns most of my life. But, that’s another story. Let’s just say that I am still a work in progress.

As you have no doubt heard by now, Brother Phil stepped in it while being interviewed for an article in GQ magazine. (His first mistake was agreeing to an interview with GQ magazine. Phil, what were you thinking?) He made some pretty graphic comments about homosexuality and then called it sin. He also called out some other sinful behavior including heterosexual fornication. Then later in the article he took a trip down memory lane recalling the good old days when he worked in the fields with his black neighbors. And from his perspective, back then they were pretty much living the dream and had no complaints about life in Louisiana before they were corrupted by government handouts.

It would take a lot of time and exegetical discussion to touch all of the sexual bases covered in the Bible. Suffice it to say that I am a bit more open-minded than Mr. Duck Daddy, but adultery is still a sin according to the Bible and illicit sexual behavior (hetero, homo or solo) tends to cause all sorts of emotional, psychological and physical problems. Since God made us he sort of knew what we could handle in this area and gives us fair warning. Not being preachy, just sayin’.

The fact is that Jesus had a lot more to say about material wealth and riches than he did about sex. So, in my opinion, my fundamentalist brothers and sisters would do well to give at least equal time to this issue. Nevertheless, it’s a free country and Phil Robertson certainly has the right to say what he thinks about homosexual behavior. That goes the same for his recollections of how life was for his black neighbors back in the 50’s and 60s’. He’s wrong, but he has the right to be wrong.

However, everything comes at a price. There is a price to be paid for stating your opinion. The bigger the issue, the bigger the price. The network that airs Duck Dynasty, A&E, is owned by ABC. ABC is going to pay a price for Phil Robertson’s comments and for their response. One way or the other it’s going to be expensive. And they have the right to choose what price they will pay. If they let him slide, they get blasted by “the left”. If they suspend him, which they did, they get blasted from “the right” and they are. They have to weigh their options and figure out how to control the damage. At the end of the day, a lot will depend on how much crow Daddy Duck is willing to eat and my guess is, not much. Ducks don’t eat crow.

So what’s to be learned here? Fundamentalist, evangelical Christians will say that it’s just another example of the liberal media’s secular humanistic bias blocking free speech when they don’t like the message. Those outraged by Phil Robertson’s comments will say that freedom of speech does not give someone the right to say things that contribute to the hatred and intolerance of others. Frankly, to some degree both sides are right. What is undeniable is that some things are better left unsaid. And the bigger ones stage, the more one needs to consider heeding that advice.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Amazing Forgiveness

"Courageous people do not fear forgiving, for the sake of peace." - Nelson Mandela

Philip Yancey in Rumours of Another World shares a story of the remarkable. The story of an atrocity that happened during the days of apartheid in South Africa and the reconciliation that followed in a court room many years later.

A policeman named Van de Broek recounted an incident when he and other officers shot an eighteen-year-old boy and burned the body, turning it on the fire like a piece of barbecue meat in order to destroy the evidence. Eight years later Van de Broek returned to the same house and seized the boy's father. The wife was forced to watch as policemen bound her husband on a woodpile, poured gasoline over his body, and ignited it.

The courtroom grew hushed as the elderly woman who had lost first her son and then her husband was given a chance to respond. "What do you want from Mr. Van de Broek?" the judge asked. She said she wanted Van de Broek to go to the place where they burned her husband's body and gather up the dust so she could give him a decent burial. His head down, the policeman nodded agreement.

Then she added a further request, "Mr. Van de Broek took all my family away from me, and I still have a lot of love to give. Twice a month, I would like for him to come to the ghetto and spend a day with me so I can be a mother to him. And I would like Mr. Van de Broek to know that he is forgiven by God, and that I forgive him too. I would like to embrace him so he can know my forgiveness is real."

Spontaneously, some in the courtroom began singing "Amazing Grace" as the elderly woman made her way to the witness stand, but Van de Broek did not hear the hymn. He had fainted, overwhelmed.

Monday, December 9, 2013

I'll Know What I Want When I See It (Part V)

‘If you think hiring professionals is expensive, try hiring amateurs.’ – Larry Bossidy

We now come to the final installment of this series and look at the impact of “thin-slicing”, intuition, gut-instinct, bias and first impressions on hiring decisions. In Part II of the series, I told of how orchestral musician candidates now audition behind a screen in order to minimize bias. It was noted that when it’s all about one thing, in this case the music, it makes sense to structure the audition (or interview) in such a way as to eliminate the impact of “non-music” related factors such as the candidate’s gender.

But the reality is that for most employers it’s about more than just “one thing”. It’s not just “the music”. For example, our firm recruits executive, managerial and sales professionals. A major key to success in these types of roles is how well the candidate “relates”. Most would agree that the ability to establish, develop and manage relationships is an absolute necessity if one is to succeed in an executive, managerial or sales position. Headhunters understand this. Employers understand this. And candidates understand this.

So if we cannot put blinders on when it comes to interviewing and evaluating candidates for these types of roles, how do we minimize the potentially negative consequences of things like “thin-slicing” or first impressions. As mentioned previously in this series, employers would do well to know what they really want in a candidate. A meaningful job description that speaks to experience requirements, skills and accomplishments is a great first step. Secondly, interviews should include considerable discussion about these subjects. It doesn’t do much good to have a great job description if you’re not going to use it. And, lastly, verify the candidates experience, skills and accomplishments. Again, it doesn’t do much good if you have a great job description, cover all the bases in the interview and then just take the candidate’s word for it when it comes to their experience, skills and accomplishments.

This really brings us to the biggest problem I see with employers when it comes to “thin-slicing” or first impressions or bias or whatever you choose to call it. The fact that sometimes an employer decides not to hire a highly qualified candidate “just because” is certainly frustrating for the recruiter and for the candidate. And maybe there was bias involved or a bad first impression. It is what it is. But the bigger problem for employers and candidates and, ultimately for the recruiter; is when the employer ends up hiring the candidate primarily based on those first, thinly sliced impressions. Missing out on the right candidate for the wrong reasons is a mistake, but it may not cause much pain. Hiring the wrong candidate for the wrong reasons is a bigger mistake and is always painful, for everyone. There’s nothing wrong with hiring someone you like as long as they can do the job. In fact, life is too short to work with people you don’t like. So “liking” is a good thing. But hiring someone you like who cannot do the job, never turns out well.

So Mr. Employer, I do not expect you to hire a qualified candidate whom you do not wish to hire “just because”. I can accept that outcome; even though you’ve just thin-sliced yourself out of a good employee, the candidate out of a job and me out of a fee. But, Mr. Employer I do expect you to hire a candidate who can do the job. Don’t let your personal biases lead you to hire someone based on looks, or where they went to school, or where they’ve worked, or if they grew up on a farm, or their hobbies, etc. etc.; IF they are not actually qualified to do the job. It is the quickest, most direct route to building a totally dysfunctional organization. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at Washington.