Jan 21

Applying Military Leadership Principles

 

Colonel Hal Moore

Colonel Hal Moore

  • Planning vs execution
    1. Good planning is important. Flexibility in execution is more important.
    2. No one is remembered for his or her plan. They are remembered for how they executed it or how they adapted the plan.
    3. Focus on the mission.
    4. Everyone should know the mission and exactly how they are going to achieve it. In other words, don’t invent deliverables as you go along without discussing them with your team and explaining exactly what is required and why.
  • Leadership vs. Management
    1. Should speak for itself but it doesn’t – Lead don’t manage. Respect should be shown at all times to your staff. Be flexible but if someone is really not making the grade and you’ve tried everything to help them, cut them loose and move on. As many have said. “Hire good people, Tell them exactly what needs to be done, get out of their way”
    2. Lead: Make sure your “men” are looked after first. Are they pushing hours? Bring in Pizza. Make sure they get their rest. Praise in public, chastise in private and always give them a “golden bridge” when there’s a problem.
    3. Don’t micro manage. It talks about your own insecurity not about your people’s ability.
    4. People are different and are motivated differently.
    5. Remove obstacles to mission progress. Don’t allow your people to get bogged down in non value-add tasks.
  • A war is won a battle at a time.
    1. Complexity is made simple by breaking it down into smaller parts.
    2. Work on each part and conquer it.
    3. Other “non-planned” battles will come along which will need to be fought.
  • Set the example. We had a drill instructor that we actually slipped sleeping pills at our end of basic training party and he was on the parade ground at 5am. The moral of the story is get up and show up no matter what. Don’t be the last to arrive and the first to leave.
  • Mentor and share knowledge. If you have experience in the job, pass it on in a way that makes your subordinates want to seek your advice and counsel.
  • Do not be afraid to admit that your subordinates know more than you or are smarter than you. Every successful junior officer relies on his more experienced NCOs to guide and advise him. Take their advice. If you think it’s not correct, validate it with other NCOs before running to your senior officers.
  • Ask people to do things don’t command them. Those who have not been in the military often misunderstand this. It’s not like the movies where everything is an order. Start by saying “What I’d like you to do is…” .
  • Don’t panic when the SHTF. Your people will look to you to keep a very cool and level head. Now you can order people around, as they’ll draw comfort from that. They will immediately relax as they tell themselves “OK, it must be alright , the Captain’s not even breaking a sweat and he’s issuing a stream of orders. He’s got it under control”.
  • Take responsibility (Ownership). If you have a problem with your team, it’s your problem. If they mess up, you are accountable. Take responsibility for their mistakes and you’ll gain their respect and the respect of your bosses. By the same token, don’t take credit for their actions. Single them out with commendations. Get leaders under you to take ownership for everything. This has the effect of stopping the blame culture. If someone refuses (after being mentored) to take ownership and is always pointing fingers at someone or something to blame for poor performance, get rid of him, no matter how “indispensable” he is.Even the lowest level employee should take ownership.
  • Encourage personal initiative. As junior officers and cadets we were heavily encouraged to “use your initiative”. Effective military teams don’t have a single guy shouting the odds. They have a single guy that may have the start of the plan or various options. Creative thinking is shared amongst teams and the lowest ranking guy is expected to have input.
  • Believe in the mission. If you don’t believe in it none of your subordinates will and it will be very unlikely to work. If you don’t believe in it, talk to your superior, so that he or she can explain it to you. You need to know why, before one of your team asks you why.
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Apr 23

Hunting is Conservation

 

In modern western culture it is often said that the two subjects that illicit the most passionate responses are animal abuse and child abuse. This is ingrained from childhood. Cruelty is never accepted under any circumstances. The suffering of any animal, still makes me feel terrible. At a young age, in my teens, I was often asked to put an animal out of its misery. I remember a sick Peregrine Falcon, whose owner asked me to administer a coup de grace, watching me as I shot it. It was not a pleasant experience. I had hunted before then but this was heart breaking. I could not see an animal suffer. I still cannot. The same debate, interestingly, is circulating in human life now about whether it is ultimately more passionate to allow a person in great suffering to die.

 

I grew up in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) where wildlife was abundant, but where strict rules were in place about hunting seasons and poaching. Wildlife management was (and still is) of a very high standard. Elephants were a success story, or a failure depending on your viewpoint. Because of the outstanding stewardship of wildlife in Zimbabwe, elephants in the Hwange Nature Reserve now number in excess of 35 000. This far exceeds the carrying capacity of the land and the Elephants have a habit of stripping the vegetation in the area, which takes up to 25 years to fully recover. Elephants can consume 200kg of vegetation a day.

 

So we have multiple problems, and I use elephants as an example and the more astute will say that this is unfair, but I will also explore smaller beasts. The problems are that the elephants are “strip mining” the reserve and making life much harder for the other species of flora and fauna. Elephant-human conflicts are also becoming more frequent and there is understandable resentment from neighbouring villagers. Soon there will be no vegetation left and there will be daily conflicts as crops are raided. Crop raiding also breaks down fences, which can allow buffalo to mix with domestic cattle and spread Foot and Mouth disease. Elephants will become aggressive and people will die. The elephants themselves will probably starve to death or be killed for villagers competing for their very life. I can assure you that this will not be a “humane” death either way. There is a solution that is in place already but is socially unacceptable in some circles.

 

We also have multiple alternate solutions. The first is to use contraception. According to the WWF and SANParks, veterinarians in the Kruger national park in South Africa have tried this, but it is very expensive and only has the effect of stabilizing the population. Relocation is the obvious answer but to relocate each animal costs in the region of 12 000 US dollars. It has also been tried but it is only marginally successful and in the Kruger some elephants made their way back from Mozambique!

 

Lets leave the Elephant problem for now and move further north. In Germany the population of Wild Boar (Sus Scrofa) has exploded in recent years due in part to the milder climate. It is now not uncommon to see Wild Boar in suburban Berlin going through rubbish bins. Incidents of boar injuring German citizens are on the increase. In Berlin and in Darmstad there have been reports of attacks. The solution to the boar problem is predation. The grey wolf was the main predator and this is no longer the case for obvious reasons. Due to the excellent Jaeger and Jagdschein program in Germany, this is being dealt with effeciently with increasing hunting quotas. In the US state of Texas, the Wild Hog has grown into a major crop and even suburban issue and although numbers are being hunted every year there is a growing concern that this is not having enough of an impact. Innovative schemes are now being setup to hunt the hogs and use the meat for feeding the homeless. The whitetail (Odocoileus virginianus) population in some US states has increased from 500 000 in the early 1900s to nearly 15 million now. Similarly the African Blesbok (Damaliscus pygargus phillipsi) went from near extinction to an estimate of 240 000 to 300 000 and growing.

Why have the deer and buck species above been so successful? Firstly the populations have been managed. Hunting seasons and regulations were introduced. There is now careful management of these populations by both government and private land owners to stabilise the population to just below the carrying capacity of the land. The incentive and the management technique is hunting. This is not “Cruel” as the PETA organisation (branded as domestic terrorists by the USDA) would have you believe. Ethical hunting ensures minimal and often no suffering for the animal. Compare this to the oddly socially acceptable practice of slaughtering farm animals.

Where deer hunting has been banned in the US it has been a disaster – refer to the Kaibab Plateau in Arizona.

Starving Deer

Starving Deer

Back to our elephants.

In Kenya, allegedly in an attempt to cut down on poaching, all hunting (except wingshooting) was banned in 1977. This has resulted in a 60 – 70% DECLINE in wildlife. Elephants went from 150 000 to around 6 000 in twenty years. The reasons behind this is that the Professional Hunters who took their wealthy clients out, policed the area very effectivly. They also employed many of the local people who also, in turn, policed the area, since it was in their own best interests to do so. The other reason is that now wildlife belongs to the state and us such it holds no value to the average Kenyan. This opens up a whole different discussion outside the scope of this article, but for more on this topic Google Mike Norton-Griffiths for some interesting insight into fundraising for animal rights organisations and Eco-Economics in general.

So to return to my original question and to answer it for myself. Trophy hunting keeps animal populations in check in a humane and ethical way. In no country in Africa can you trophy hunt without a Professional Hunter guiding your every move to ensure the ethical hunting of trophy animals. Trophy hunting cuts down on poaching as we have seen in Kenya. Trophy hunting ensures the continued existence of the trophy animals and contributes billions to the host country’s economy.

Meat hunting in a regulated, ethical way keeps the populations vibrant and growing, as we have seen in South Africa and the US.

So in conclusion, hunting is THE most effective wildlife management tool available to the conservationist. True conservationists, those who aren’t ignorant armchair conservationists or others with more sordid agendas, recognise this fact and have since the Aldo Leopolds and Theodore Roosevelts of the world were around.

 

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Apr 08

Quality Lost

Just as the true test of a man’s character is how he behaves when alone, the true testament to quality is when a craftsman builds an item, and let’s say a watch here, and pays attention to the quality of his craftsmanship on parts that will never be seen by anyone else but another watchmaker. Software development is a craft, let no-one tell you otherwise.
In this world of “production line” software development we are losing the internal quality (and external but that is for another article) of our software. Why does this matter? Purely from an aesthetic perspective, it matters, even if you cannot see it. It matters that care and pride has been used to craft a product that will last as long as you need it to. We used to have full payroll systems that ran in 1 Kilobyte. I joke not. These were crafted with a tremendous amount of pride and care to get them to be fully functional but to fit into a confined space. Reminds you of a watchmaker again!

Lets leave the aesthetics for a while and concentrate on the functional. Rushed programming or indisciplined programming leads to a product that is less robust (a polite way of saying more bugs). When a practitioner thinks he or she is rated on production quantity and not quality, the craftsmanship has gone.

Interestingly, this “less robust” software usually ends up costing the producer a lot more than software that is crafted with quality built in.

Look at Apple for a moment. They don’t lead technical innovation (perhaps sometimes) but they are the most successful computer hardware company in the world. They were not the first with an MP3 player, they were not the first with a smart phone and they were not the first with SSDs in high specced machines.

Why are they so successful? Quality. As I type this on my Macbook Pro I can “feel” the quality of the product. Care and thought has gone into every aspect of their design. They do not simply take a mouse and replicate it. They build a solid aluminium and glass mouse, built to last and also built to perform in a different but intuitive way.

Every Apple product has a “Quality” feel about it. Even when you tear it down you can still see the “hidden” parts have the same quality.

That’s what people want. People want quality products and they are prepared to pay a premium to get them. The same goes for Software Quality. Invest in craftsmen and you will get a quality product. You don’t have to be first to market, you just have to be “best” to market to succeed.

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Mar 10

Oscar Pistorius Trial

Well it’s back in the news again – the modern day version of the OJ Simpson Trial.

I realise that defence attorneys have a job to do. When the facts seem to be cut-and-dried like they are in this case, their job seems to sow as much confusion as possible.

To my simple mind it’s very black and white. Oscar Pistorius is guilty. Now all the judge in this case needs to ascertain is “of what”. He killed Reeva Steenkamp. No question, no doubt.

If he was shooting in self-defence as his defence claims, he is guilty of extreme recklessness. This is why we preach (gun safety is almost a religion to some of us) “Be sure of your target AND what is beyond it”.

Pistorius did not even have a clue who was behind that door (again only if we believe his story). It could have been the neighbours pet cat! – We’ve been woken up in the middle of the night with a strange cat in the study eating our cat’s food!

So let’s get off the subject of when the security guards were phoned by who and look at the plain old simple facts.

1. OP shot and killed Reeva Steenkamp (fact – not disputed)
2. If we believe his story – firstly I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you – but secondly he is a dangerous maniac with little or no regard for the safety of others – I think they call that a sociopath in Psychological terms – and he MUST be removed from society.
3. If we don’t believe his story – he is a dangerous maniac who kills unarmed women because of an argument when they are cowering and crying in the bathroom behind a locked door. Thats a Psychopath (pretty much the same thing) and he MUST be removed from society.

Even if he denies the other events where he has fired pistols in public he should not be allowed to walk the streets based on the logic above. Let’s face it though – why would his ex-girlfriend and other friends deliberately lie about this – they have nothing to gain and a lot to lose. My opinion – it’s my opinion and last time I looked we still had freedom to express our opinions – is that this man is a narcissistic misogynistic sociopath who has brought the reputation of law abiding, safety conscious gun-owners into question. Hanging would be too good for him.

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Nov 09

Neighbourhood Watch Patrollers and Firearms

After the tragic shooting in Florida of Trayvon Martin it’s important to reiterate what the “Rules of Engagement” are for Neighbourhood Watch volunteers. Neighborhood-Watch

Many organisations, locally in Durban, South Africa and throughout the world, prefer it if you patrol unarmed. As a firearm owner you have a greater responsibility to avoid conflict, so it would seem to make sense – at least on the surface – to go unarmed. This is an all or nothing approach which realistically does nothing to accurately address the situation. 

If you carry a firearm on a daily basis, there is no reason why you shouldn’t carry it when doing neighbourhood watch patrols. If you have a self-defence firearm in South Africa and it lives in a safe, then get some training or keep it at a gun shop – it’s not doing you any good.

If you do carry it – you are now carrying a greater burden of responsibility. Mr. Zimmerman (in the Florida shooting) did not exercise this responsibility sufficiently and should never have pursued Trayvon Martin – who incidentally was no “child” as portrayed in the media, but was a large strapping young man. He should have held back and waited for the Police to do their job.

So as a timely reminder to my colleagues who discretely carry, whether it is here or in the USA, (I’m guessing nobody does in the UK or Australia) I’d like to lay out some rules you should follow.

1. You are not the Police – only a sworn LEO may use his firearm to affect arrests. I realise that your training may be worlds apart (I mean better) than your average Law Enforcement Officer, but you are not a policeman so it doesn’t matter.

2. You act as “Eyes and Ears” only – if you inject yourself into a situation and have to end up using your firearm, you will probably be prosecuted.

3. If a situation develops you must try to  de-escalate and leave to a safe distance. Only if you are prevented from leaving and you quite literally have your back against a wall are you permitted to use your firearm – only if your life is in danger and remember it is the court you must convince.

4. You may not draw your firearm unless you feel that it is the only option left. Drawing to “scare” someone is termed brandishing and is prosecutable.

5. Don’t use reloads. This opens up a can of worms where prosecutors will say you had malicious intent when you loaded nasty looking bullets. Try to use “standard” JHP factory rounds.

6. Get training – if you think you are well trained you probably need more training. As they say at Magpul Dynamics – Amateurs train until they get it right, Professionals train until they get it wrong. If you think “cup and saucer” is an acceptable grip or that you must cock your auto pistol by pulling back the slide between your thumb and finger, then you desperately need training.

7. If you have to use force to apprehend someone, remember that you are a normal citizen and that you must use the minimum force. So have an alternative (Pepper spray or baton) to use before deadly force.

Stick to these basics – add more if you like – and your firearm will hopefully never be used outside of training. Keeping yourself safe to go home to your family is your first responsibility.

 

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Sep 05

Future Look–Data, Mobile, Cloud

cloud

If someone came up to me today to ask what the “next” big things were for 2014, I’d have to go with my top 3. Data is Big Data, Analytics, Data as an Asset and of course Data Quality.

Cloud is becoming more pervasive without most people realising it. SAP can now run on a mobile device using SaaS. I can proudly say we broke ground on that when I worked at SAP Research with the Overture project. Yes we have iCloud and SkyDrive (Apple and Microsoft copyrighted) but we also have Google Apps in the cloud. Google Apps allows small businesses to do more than just co-ordinate calendars but offers a suite of useful cloud based applications. Pure cloud based apps will become the best way to run your business. Why? Since the apps are Best Practice (i.e. most common business process) they save you from re-inventing the wheel. They will also give you a large degree of interoperability with your business partners (Suppliers, customers, banks etc.) since you’ll be using similar standard software and similar business practices. Non-Cloud or on-premise should be reserved for your differentiation factors. For example – if you are a Logistics company and the way you keep ahead of the crowd is that you have a state-of-the-art routing system, it doesn’t make sense to use a cloud app.

Mobile is becoming even more interesting. Wearable tech is becoming big and will continue to grow into 2014. Google Glass could be worth $3.3 billion by 2017 says one blogger. The wearable tech revolution has been boosted with the Samsung Galaxy Gear, which was launched yesterday with tech commentators saying that it’s too little too soon. I don’t expect the iWatch to be launched on the 10th – but I do think we’ll see it in 2014.  The  Pebble is already out and it’s looking very good. The interesting thing was that this was crowd funded. It’s kick-started the smart watch industry but unless they up their game and quickly they will be left behind by the heavyweights. As you know if you read my blogs, I’m a bit of a mechanical watch nut, so I doesn’t blow my hair back, but you can expect early adoption rates being very high. Interestingly I predict a slightly flatter hype cycle than usual as a lot of negativity will come early on – much as it was with the iPad.

I haven’t been too interested in Microsoft buying Nokia phones. Mediocrity + Mediocrity doesn’t equal anything but more Mediocrity.

Once again it looks like 2014 is going to be an exciting Tech year. Stay tuned for Apple’s announcements on the 10th September though. We could get a flavour of Apple’s direction after Jobs.

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Mar 07

Hunting Ethics and Fair Chase

With a lot of focus on the gun control debate these days, hunters could be forgiven for not realising that hunting itself is – and probably always will be – under attack from anti-hunting groups. It is a constant surprise, therefore, to find hunters not behaving in an ethical way. The general public will very quickly turn into the anti-hunting general public and we will lose the privilege of hunting in South Africa. Botswana is to ban hunting from 2014, Kenya has been hunter free since 1977 (to the animals detriment, but that is for another discussion). Zambia has also recently banned sport hunting.

Is hunting in South Africa a privilege that could be lost? Well hunting brings in billions of Rand in foreign currency every year, but that does not guarantee it’s future. What could damage the future of hunting in this country quicker than any detractor is the damage to the reputation of hunting.

This is easy to do. There are many ways to damage the reputation of hunting and there seem to be many unethical hunters who are oblivious to the fact that they are slowly but certainly destroying it.

Not too long ago a series of posts were made to a popular forum where people were openly admitting that they have hunted from vehicles. Unless you have a serious physical disability, there should never be an excuse for this abhorrent practice. This is killing and has nothing to do with hunting.

Just in case you are one of these deluded individuals let me carefully explain what the rules of fair chase are:

Here are some of the basic rules of ethics that fair chase hunters live by:

  • When hunting, obey all laws and regulations.
  • When away from home, respect the land and customs of the locals.
  • Adapt and follow a specific personal code that will bring out favorable abilities and sensibilities as a hunter.
  • Never draw out the death of prey. Try to attain the best shot to make the kill as quick and precise as possible.
  • Keep the personal code in mind and let it dictate behavior. It is the responsibility of the hunter not to dishonor the hunter, the hunted or the envir­onm­ent [source: Hunt Fair Chase].

The ethical approach also states that a hunter may not take an animal if:

  • The hunter herded or spotted the animal from air and then quickly landed to pursue.
  • It was herded or chased by a motorized vehicle.
  • Electronic communication devices are being used.
  • It is confined by artificial barriers or transplanted for commercial shooting.
  • It is trapped or drugged.
  • It’s swimming, trapped in snow or helpless in any nature.
  • The hunter is using another hunter’s license.
  • Laws or regulations are being broken [source: Hunt Fair Chase].

A few others you can add to your personal code. If you are a consistent and accurate shot at 200m but not beyond, then you should limit yourself to 200m no matter what your rifle is capable of. I use the following rule. If you can get closer, get closer – even if it means there is a risk the animal may bolt. If you can get steadier, get steadier – by using sticks or natural features.

Have respect for the animal, both before and after death. Do not sit on it or pose is in an unnatural way. Many hunting cultures have an elaborate ritual for honoring the animal. As a person of Scottish descent -I say the Gralloch prayer. The German Jager will place grass in the mouth of the animal. The point is one of respect for an animal and the life it has given so that you can stock your freezer.

If we ignore these basic principles we will soon found ourselves without the noble sport of hunting.

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Feb 27

The next Java – Scala

Martin Odersky developed the early Scala (stands for Scalable Language) in 2003. It’s taken a while to gain critical mass – but now that it has, I find it very exciting. In a nutshell this is taking Java back to it’s roots, trying to rid Java of the complexities it has gathered along the way (Has it been 16 years already!).

So what’s so exciting about Scala (pronounced Scar-la not scay-la)?

First of all – and being an object fan I love this – EVERYTHING is an object. Yes even primitive data types are now objects. So you can type the following in Scala and it will work:

println(1.toString())

The integer is converted to an object in the bytecode! Cool.

Secondly – it generates Java Bytecode, which means it runs on any JVM.

Number Three – No Static methods, they are replaced by Singleton classes which are really easy to instantiate using the object statement.

Number Four – XML is a breeze with Scala, it makes it really really easy to read and drill down into XML streams

I’ll do a more in depth blog on it once I’ve had a chance to code up some examples. Check out http://www.scala-lang.org in the meanwhile to get to grips with it.

 

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Feb 25

Custodes Strong Encryption Technology

Something that has been brewing for a while is the Custodes (Yes thats another non-SAP project of mine) Encryption Technology. I’m of the opinion that it’s unbreakable. So I’m issuing a challenge to all the crypto-heads out there. I’ll even tell you that it is a rapidly changing OTP with shortcut libraries. If you can de-crypt it you can have 100% share in the company – you will own Custodes! Good luck – you’ll need it.  Sorry you only have until the 25th March 2013.

computer5

OK so here you go:

%AECHWALZCCL%2B"}:?3:27?9573:6A:X5(>

Have fun – but don’t get too obsessed with it. Like I said – it’s unbreakable and no – it’s not nonsense, it’s a valid message.

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Feb 21

Oscar Pistorius is Guilty, but of what?

That’s right. Oscar Pistorius is guilty of killing Reeva Steenkamp. There can be no dispute on this point. He fired at her and killed her. Whether it was an “accident” (There are no accidents when shooting someone, only negligence) or whether this was a jealous rage – well that’s for the courts to decide.

Frankly – and if he passed his firearm competency he would be aware of this – shooting when you have no idea what the target is or where it might be, is criminal. Literally criminal, not figuratively. In my not-so humble opinion people should be jailed for this.

The law states CLEARLY that you may only fire your weapon to protect your life or the life of someone you are protecting and there must be an attack IN PROGRESS where you fear that you may be killed. There is something called the “reasonable man” test. Would a reasonable man shoot through a closed and locked door in order to protect himself?

Obviously none of those conditions were satisfied in the shooting so I believe (my opinion only – I’m not a lawyer) the very lowest charge – by his own admission – should be culpable homicide. He needs to go to prison and hopefully this will send a message to equally cavalier gun owners that we don’t need them in our community. We need safe, mature and responsible gun owners not idiots like Pistorius. And I’m probably being kind here. Let’s hope he is just an idiot and not a calculating cold blooded murderer.

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