A Time For Every Purpose

Perfect day on the deck at The Standard. Sunny and hot. And a good cigar and a nice crisp rosé. So all is right with the world. That’s how this long ramble started. But then the words and thoughts kept coming.

I just saw a couple of secret service geeks go inside with some crusty dude. Apparently, he is the ambassador to Ireland. There’s a big black SUV sitting on the street with a driver in body armor in the driver seat. I’ve decided not to photograph him. Best to lie low in these circumstances. Who would want to kill the ambassador to Ireland? Wonder if he is a Biden appointee or a holdover from DJT? Be worth looking  up to see if I should like him or not.

In our governmental system, which is pretty embarrassing for a whole host of reasons, one of the more shameful aspects is that ambassadorships are very often offered to completely unqualified personnel who happen to make a big financial donation to the president’s election campaign. Anyway, Said was excited to have a high level politician eating in his restaurant.

I had a good start on my big paper that I hoped to publish in Medium. But work is keeping me too busy to finish. It’s not a manifesto exactly; but some detailed thoughts on what it means to live in this country with our systemic racism and history of brutality and very little acknowledgement of the same or interest in correcting our deviant behavior at home or abroad. I’m thinking about applying for political asylum in Canada. I am so diametrically opposed to the direction and stance of our government that I can no longer live here in good conscious. Don’t know if it will work but I am thinking about it. Poor white privileged dude.

The rest of this week will fly by. I have a few hundred things to tidy up before I head off to Utah on Friday. Shane and I are set for 4 days of mountain biking in Southern Utah—near St. George. We are staying in yurts. Biking in majestic country during the day, and drinking and cigars around the fire at night. But I’ll get er’ done and be ready as can be on Friday. I have a good team so can parcel out the work for a week without overly burdening any one person.

Brittany and I are going to try to slip in a quick trip to Akumal in June. I haven’t been for a few years so will be great to see the old place and lament my very poor decision to sell my little slice of paradise.

One of the servers tonight asked me if I felt safe traveling. I said ‘girl, I’m not just vaxxed. But I am double-vaxxed. And fucking ready to roll’. This was someone who doesn’t trust the 99% of the medical community who recommends getting vaccinated. She already had COVID once so figures she is good to go. Besides, her friends on Facebook told her the vaccinations are unsafe.

So she’s making decisions on best possible advice.

After the Standard, I was too relaxed to cook. Besides, I don’t want leftovers in the refrigerator since I’m leaving end of week. So when I got home, I switched bikes. How many lucky bastards rode a beautiful Triumph around town and then hopped on a Beemer for round 2?

I needed to get the German machine out and also, it has the rear pannier, and I needed the carrying capacity for dinner. The Triumph, literally, has no storage at all. Carry it on my back or on my head. And I’m not an African woman.

On the way back, I did as Tom Waits suggests and took the long way home. When I go through the more affluent neighborhoods on a nice evening, I can see the grill smoke coming up from the back yard or deck. But I rarely see anyone. They are hidden away behind fences and shrubs. When I go through the poorer neighborhoods, there are lawn chairs and tables set up in the driveways and front yards. And loads of people out having fun. Grilling. Drinking. Laughing. Kids playing. At a stop light, a family asked me if I wanted to join them. It’s that sort of atmosphere.

It reminds me of Namibia. When I take people to visit, and we have dinner at the home of one of my rich friends, and we leave the house, you will not see a soul outside. Just barred windows and big fences and gates and security signs. And I will ask my guests ‘want to go to a bar here, or go to the township’? So we go to the township. And there are people. Grilling outside. Laughing. Drinking. Listening to music. Kids playing. Having fun. So we hang there. Always.

Work is officially cramping my style. I’m carrying a couple of slackers on the team that are starting to get annoying. But so it goes. We do what we do to serve the man. Mostly our team is strong; but a couple of dipshits.

I was talking to a recruiter friend of mine the other day. I know a lot of them and now that I am looking for my next gig we are talking more. I’m trying to focus on the health sector because they don’t fight rates as much as the other industries. Health care and banks have all the money in the world.

There is a brutal truth in our industry that is maddening. As companies have tried to cut costs, they keep turning the screws on pay rates. 20 years ago my bill rate was 40% more than it is now. That is not unique to my industry of course, this is happening everywhere. Downward pressure on rates and salaries has increased even as productivity and corporate profits have soared. And of course, cost of living has increased as well.

Most large companies are paying at least one layer, but sometimes 2 or even 3 layers of people to run their recruitment. So they pay an internal recruiter who hires a recruiting company and sometimes there is even another layer in there—a company hired to help manage expenses. So in the end, they are paying 25% – 60% more for the talent and screwing the workers in the meantime. That extra money is taken out of the pockets of the workers to pay a middleman whose costs are disproportionate to the value they add.

To be clear, my frustration is with the system. Not the individuals. I developed some good friendships with recruiters I’ve partnered with over the years. Some have made far more money off of me than I’ve made off of them. But we partner in the belief that we will all benefit over time. The main people I work with now is a lady in Atlanta and a lady in DC and a guy in New York.

But I do get hit up a few times a week by others out fishing. Many of the recruiters I talk to have only a rudimentary understanding of what it takes to run a large complex program. Just what they have read on paper. They don’t understand the intricacies and nuance of communication and stakeholder management, and organizational structures and how all the moving parts for a $25M+ program need to come together.

I had my client here bring in a lady that I knew was great and I needed her to fill a need here. Because the company only uses staffing agencies, they did not contract with her directly. So no recruitment costs because I knew who I wanted. But the staffing agency tacked $25/hour on for a 1099 employee. So over the course of the 18 month project the staffing company got paid $78,000 and had virtually no expenses. They simply send an invoice once a month, collect a check and then pay the contractor. That is money that should have gone to the talent who is actually doing the work. But that is not how this industry has evolved.

Even in the case where staffing agencies have to cast a net and vet resources, the cost is still massively disproportionate relative to the actual work. Especially with all the new technologies that make the job so much easier. At the most simplistic level it is introducing resource A to hiring manager B. And for that they make $40K – $100K per year per resource.

The statistics for ERP implementation programs are terrible. The failure rate, depending on how failure is defined, is somewhere between 50% – 70%. And the problem 100% of the time is not getting the right team in place. But the companies simply repeat the same mistake over and over again. Take the lowest bidder who looks decent on paper.

Think about Cleveland Clinic gig. They hired a lightweight to run the program who then put in place a Program Manager who was way out of his league. Neither of them had done anything remotely close to what they were being asked to do. And the next level up; the sponsors. They were arrogant and commanding even though none of them had any real experience either. So, fast forward 3 years and you have a program that is on trajectory to spend over $200M against an original budget of $105M. They could have made it with the $105 if they had not been so fucking stupid and arrogant. They spent millions on staffing companies that could have been better directed to paying more to the people that actually were doing the work.

My project before that. Same deal. $85M program that wound up over-spending by at least $30M and taking a year longer than planned. At Cardinal Health, same thing. They massively overpaid for the integration work for the J&J and Medtronic acquisitions. They recently sold the J&J division for ½ of what they paid for it 4 years ago.

And through all this, the companies think they are saving money by busting the balls of the people they need to lead them through. The recruiters and people they hire to ‘help’ them build out the teams do not try to educate their client or help them understand why taking the long view is the more cost effective and efficient route to success. The long view is hire the right people and get them in the right places and pay them appropriately. The position descriptions come out reading like they are looking for Jesus but they are paying like its Judas—after the betrayal. Then they all get pissed off when the sucker they find to do the job fucks it up and it costs them 25% – 40% more.

The recruitment professionals the company hired who are meant to be looking out for the interest of their client are just scrambling in a mad rush to get a resume that has the right key words at the lowest price point. Total yes sir mentality without any critical analysis. More times than not, the people who they get at those rates wind up costing them much more. But the cycle continues.

Too much money goes to people who don’t really know how to do the work we do. They only know how to talk about what skills and traits are required.

Obviously this is something that has struck a chord with me. It’s about respect. It’s about equitable distribution of the financial resources to reward those doing the most work. Like the recruiting company in my example from my current gig. They collected $78,000 for doing work that probably cost them around $2,000 over 15 months (just generating a single invoice each month and then paying the consultant). And that money came out of the pocket of the lady on the ground doing the work. Or, more correctly, had I been allowed to bring her on directly, she would have gladly split that cost with the company and it would have been a win-win.

Interestingly, a few years ago in Chicago, I talked a company in to not using their recruiting company but instead let me and their internal program manager hire the functional and technical resources. I did it selfishly because I was a consultant and would have otherwise been cut out of the hiring loop. But in addition to having more control and getting the people we wanted and needed, we figured we saved the company around $400,000 in recruiter fees over the course of an 18-month project timeline.

The big 4 consulting firms tend to sell in at C-Suite and they are able to hold the line on their rates, but of course most of that money is not passed down to their consultants either. The lower tier of staffing agencies are mostly slave to the less imaginative mid-level managers who think they are doing their job by squeezing people for every penny—not understanding they are going to get what they pay for.

It’s hard to complain when I know my salary is still high compared to many (not that hard apparently–as I sit here complaining). But this is at the heart of capitalism. It’s just rarely practiced in the pure form that is required for it work properly. Too much politics and egos in the middle.

Anyway. Enough whining. I have money enough to buy decent cigars and wine and overpriced meals and the occasional trip overseas to have fun with friends. So fuck those peckerwoods. I’ll take the money when I can get it and take the lower rates when I am boxed in. I have self-respect but also like to eat and drink.

I was watching Snowden on Netflix.

As the story goes, Snowden is at the CIA academy somewhere around 2005 or thereabouts. In his training, they cite the horrific acts of 9/11 that resulted in nearly 3,000 deaths. That is our benchmark rationale for spending $600B each year and mobilizing thousands of resources all over the world. In every movie, it is the trauma of the 3,000 deaths of 9/11 that frames the story of fear.

But. Since 9/11, somewhere around 109,000,000 million children under the age of 5 have died of hunger or hunger related diseases. That’s 15,000 a day. Every day. 5 times a 9/11 every day now for 20 years. And we spend a fraction of our financial and other resources on trying to curb hunger related deaths. We make a choice, as a country and as enabled by our politicians, to not meaningfully intervene in this terrible cycle of death.

So it seems our top priority is the saving of American lives. The lives of children are determined by arbitrary borders. And we accept this. We say ‘it’s always been this way’.

So it would seem. But…we also see that around 750,000 people have died from gun violence in the US since 9/11 (~37,000 each year). So, then we observe that saving American lives is also not our top priority. Otherwise we would simply eliminate guns from our society. But we do not. We say ‘it’s always been this way’.

In fact. It seems we are hooked on fear. We gladly spend that $600B each year on the phantom threat of terrorism which has claimed about 4,000 lives in the US in the last 200 years. But we stand by while gun violence kills 37,000 people every year. And, if we expand our love for human life beyond the borders of the United States, we could find amazing ways to spend all that money to save the lives of children. But we do not do that. We continue to drink from the stream of fear. To believe that we must have these massive spy and protection agencies with tens of thousands of employees watching with their binoculars for those terrorists who are coming after us—while our own sisters and brothers are gunned down in the street. Very often by the very people we pay to protect us. And overseas, while our drones drop bombs and our soldiers intimidate and sow fear and resentment, the children die at the rate of 15,000 every day.

Even if we accept that we do not care enough about children from other, poorer countries to assist, imagine all the good that could be done with $600B a year to provide nourishment assistance to the needy in this country. Or early childhood education to those who need it. Or prenatal care to those who do not have access or good health care. Imagine if we used that money to hire smarter and more thoughtful police and then taught them to engage positively in their communities rather than rule through intimidation and fear. Imagine if we taught them as other countries do successfully every day, to use methods other than guns to subdue when it becomes necessary. Imagine if we could wean ourselves from this vile rhetoric that a police life matters more than a civilian life—and therefore police have carte blanch to take any violent action they choose if they feel threatened.

Imagine that then.

Each day the news keeps coming. More black people shot and it is caught on video. Yesterday a cop violently threw to the ground a small black 15-year old girl because she was filming an arrest. A totally legal act. Yet this cop is still working. The violence with which he attacked her is extremely unsettling. The cops are supposed to be the trained professionals. Imagine if I snapped like that and threw a colleague to the ground in a business meeting because I lost my cool. I wonder if I would get put on paid administrative leave for two months while an internal investigation was conducted and eventually I would quietly go back to work.

We have no Mandela or MLK or Gandhi to unite and lead us. This is what we really need. A true revolutionary leader styled in the old tradition of true sacrifice and leadership. So until that person emerges, it seems our best recourse is to film every police encounter. We must ensure they feel the weight of responsibility. That the evidence of their actions is so blatant and powerful that their time-honored tradition of lying and sticking together falls to the side.

And those good cops, the ones who engage purposefully and respectfully and do their jobs with civility, and there are many, they will feel the reward of being caught on film doing the right thing. And this also has value.

This blog is most often meant to be light and fun. But the reality of the world we live in is also important to note. Fun awaits. Always. And it’s no sin to be glad we’re alive. But we must also acknowledge that there are so many who are so less fortunate. And we owe them our time. Our thoughts. Our love. Our hope. Our support in whatever form we are able to offer it.

No other news of note.

Humbly submitted.

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