The Rich and the Poor

We used a guide in Rome Italy when we visited there.  An American, our guide lived in Rome for 16 years, learned the lay of the land, and turned his love for the city into a job – Tour Guide.

As we were doing the tourists thing, since he lived in both countries long enough to understand the significant differences, I asked what those differences might be?  He instantly responded, In the USA the government is rich and the people poor… in Italy the government is poor and the people are rich”.

Today, April 17th the US Supreme Court will consider whether states can collect out-of-state sales tax for online purchases.  Currently, 45 states rely on sales tax as a revenue source, few are able to collect.

Governments are losing big bucks ….   How much?  Estimates range from $8 Billion to $13 Billion annually.  I know we want to give our governments more money as they manage it so responsibly!

I suspect the Supreme Court will rule in favor of the governments…. So I suspect we will continue to prove our Tour Guide’s statement accurate… in the USA, governments have more and the people less.

Here is the link to the entire NPR article….NPR news article, April 17, 2018

Was there not an event in Boston “a few years ago” over taxes and representation….?

This whole thing brings me back to the most overused, most inaccurate opening phase often cited by our elected “representatives” when they are addressing an issue…   “In the best interests of my constituents….”

***** S&E *****


Log no. 887   “Frank’s Fish Pond”

So Cooter and I decided that Frank (Cooter’s neighbor) should get an April Fools letter from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services about his front yard fish pond.

Frank designed and installed the fish pond. It is beside his front walkway, just adjacent to the steps, in clear view of anyone using the front porch entrance.Charlie tuna

Frank used a variety of stuff– plastic liner, rocks, flat stones, shims, plants, a pump, tubing, and dirt.  The rocks surrounding the pond, build up to maybe 2 feet above the pond surface to the rock waterfall.  Of course the water cascades down across the tiered rocks and into the pond. The pump is an above ground pump that moves the pond water to the falls.

Frank’s wife hates the pond as the installation, workmanship, appearance, décor value, and fit with the landscaping is awful.  If Frank’s wife swore she would call it a front yard cluster *&#%$. Briefly, the waterfall does not work.  The liner sticks out of the dirt, is clearly visible. The rocks are filled with weeds, badly stacked, uneven, unlinked, and unmatched. You can see the pump and hose going to the falls and the plants just can’t provide enough balance to make it all right. Ugly.

And it is important to know that Frank loathes the government — local, state, and federal, it’s an all-inclusive loathing.

So Cooter and I sent a letter to Frank, from the government, about his fish pond.  His wife told us not to do it as it might be stressful.  We mailed it in another city to further disguise its origin. The letter featured the department’s logo on the letter head and envelope, cut and pasted from the state’s website.  Upon receipt, Frank put it aside for a day seeing the government logo.  When he did open it, we heard from his wife that, we had achieved the desired impact.  He was, seething and pissed, was going to write them a letter, then call, until his wife told him, days later, it was an April 1st hoax. The letter follows:

(Appropriate state address, state logo and Frank’s address)

Dear Pond Owner,

One of our agents, as part of her routine waterfront inspections, noticed the fish pond installation in your front yard.  Upon closer inspection she reported that it was less than what the agency describes as safely inhabitable, the pond species appeared to be diseased, and the water quality far from acceptable.

The state has standards for pond quality for commercial and residential installations and owners and operators are required to maintain pond displays and installations in such condition that they meet or exceed state standards.  Your pond clearly falls far short of the standards.

You should be advise that there are penalties for not meeting pond standards, however the law provides that you be given a reasonable period to comply.

We will maintain a file in this office and expect to hear from you within thirty (30) days that your pond has been brought up to standard.  You will find the standards listed on our website, (web address).

Please contact us to advise that you have corrected these substandard conditions, or, if you have any questions.  You can contact the agency through our website (second web address).

Thomas J. Scales

Director, WWS Enforcement

(City, State)

We found out months later that Frank read the letter to his family at the Thanksgiving Dinner table, just after dessert.

***** S&E *****

Talent Management – Pay for Performance (P4P) (Performance Management Process)

It is good to strike a balance when discussing compensation.  It is not the only motivator.  Spend a little time on the web searching “what motivates employees”. Substantial, professional studies and documentation support the fact that compensation is just one factor.  Other factors, for example, include job challenges, promotional opportunities, skilled leaders and managers, recognition, communications, and career development and skills training.  That does not diminish the importance that P4P plays in engagement, motivation and retention of talent.

Above all else, the company might have a world-class performance management system in place, but the system is only as effective as the leaders and managers who implement it.  A highly respected executive I worked for had a favorite phrase she applied when we had issues with turnover and poor managers, “Join a company…quit a boss”.

What makes performance reviews an effective tool for evaluating performance and establishing a base for compensation:

  • Leadership commitment to the process
  • A well-defined, well-communicated process (see example graphic below)
  • Supervisors/leaders who are skilled in managing the process
  • Ongoing recognition for good work – P4P is not a once a year exercise
  • Brief discussions were needed improvement is observed
  • Pay increases that are commensurate with performance
  • Needed improvement is funneled into training and development (T&D) planning
  • Appropriate action taken, with due process, for non-performers
  • The employee has to own it; the manager administers and manages the process

P4P ver 5

Managers who do not set objectives…!  The employee has the option and needs to generate a set of objectives for the year, publish quarterly updates related to associated progress, and keep the immediate manager updated on progress.

Also see this blogs January 4, 2018 posting for background on compensation structure.

It is important to conduct training and development discussions separate from performance reviews although the later can be a basis for T&D discussions, planning, and action.

***** S&E *****

Trump Appoints Ronny Jackson

I agree with the veterans groups as well as the legislators who question Trump’s appointment of Dr. Ronny Jackson.  He has little background in leading and managing large complex organizations.  He served his country admirably as a Navy Rear Admiral in war zones in medical capacities, in military medical facilities

According to a national news source:

 “Jackson was deployed to Iraq after he joined the 2nd Marines in 2005, according to his Navy biography. He served as the emergency medicine physician in charge of resuscitative medicine for a forward deployed Surgical Shock Trauma Platoon.

While still in Iraq, Jackson was tapped as a White House physician in 2006. He has overseen the physicians for Camp David presidential retreats, led the White House Medical Unit and directed the executive health care for the Cabinet and senior staff members, according to his biography. He’s been a White House physician since Bush”

None of his experience would indicate he has the skills, knowledge, and certainly not the credentials to LEAD and MANAGE the VA – 360,000, correct 360,000 employees who serve 9 million, yes 9 M veterans.  Similar size companies would be UPS 399K employees, Home Depot 340K employees, Toyota, 364K employees and Berkshire Hathaway, 367K employees.

The VA will require the skills of a highly experienced leader and manager, not necessarily a doctor, not necessarily a veteran, but experience that would indicate he/she can run an organization of that size.  Who might that be?  Pick a CEO of one of the Fortune 500 companies.  What about medical knowledge?  Skilled CEO’s careful pick direct reports who have the knowledge to run the “technical” side of the business … in this case, razor-sharp doctors with leadership skills, corporate style Chief Financial Officers, Information Technology executives, executives of medical equipment and engineering companies, and the like.

Certainly there are docs out there who have the experience to run the VA!  CEO’s of the Cleveland Clinic and the Mayo Clinic would be examples.  Many hospital administrators are not doctors, but great leaders and managers, and successfully manage large medical organizations.

I hope for the sake of the vets that Dr. Jackson has the wherewithal to lead and manage the VA.   Odds are we are heading for another VA disaster.

As a side note, Trump does not have a great track record of picking outstanding leaders.  And, he has dismissed good leaders who don’t agree with him (Rex Tillerson). The thing is, poor leaders usually can’t pick great leaders!