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31  Craig's Blog / ITSM/ITIL Ramblings / Who Wants a Voice? on: March 01, 2011, 09:30:22 am
     TheITSkeptic and I had another interesting interaction last night – into this morning – that I wanted to talk about a bit…

     Those of you who follow his work are likely aware of his campaign to “Free ITIL” by urging the OGC to release it under the Open Government Licensing Office (here’s why).

     It started with a tweet from TheITSkeptic:
Quote
Someone has to govern the #ITIL brand to keep all users honest. But they should be free to use it honestly. http://ht.ly/457ai

     I applaud TheITSkeptic for his efforts, and I think his cause is a noble one. If you agree with him, I whole-heartedly encourage you to sign his petition.

     The reason you do not see my name listed on it, however, is that I am not convinced that it is necessary. In my response to him I called into question his first assumption, that ITIL needs to be a governed, protected “brand”.
     In the course of my relatively lengthy twitter discussion with him, which included Gregory Tucker (whom I get the impression agrees with TheITSkeptic’s cause) I said:
Quote
…If the crown wants to keep ITIL, let her. Let #ITSM evolve naturally, w/out gatekeepers, owned by no Body. #OpenIT

     A bit more back and forth essentially revolved around me saying that there should be an open, accessible knowledge base for ITSM professionals to use that will reflect and guide the evolving body of knowledge (much like I urged for back in November, with my post Where is the "Forum" in IT Service Management Forum?) and him responding that people have tried and failed, so it’s obviously not going to happen.

     I refuse to accept this defeatist approach. The fact that nobody has yet accomplished this is not, in any way, an indication that it cannot, or will not, be accomplished.

     Regardless of whether or not ITIL is freed from the shackles of strict copyright protection, this is necessary. I know other ITSM professionals are aching for it – and whatever organization is willing and able to take up this gauntlet will be a hero in their eyes, and in mine. As I tweeted just the other day:
Quote
In the ever-changing frontier of #ITSM, are you following ITIL or are you #Leading #ITIL? The books can't keep pace - you NEED to!

     We, the community of ITSM practitioners, need to lead ITIL. We need to set the example, come up with the new innovations and improve the approaches that will be the material for the next ITIL refresh. ITIL needs to follow us!
     The only way to do that is to come together and communicate openly, effectively and efficiently.
     We need an easy to use, easy to search, comprehensive, attractive, effective forum.
     I aim to find someone with the capabilities, resources, reach & influence to pull this off, and I am to convince them to provide it for us.

     One of the last tweets to me from TheITSkeptic this morning said:
Quote
I very much look forward to being proved wrong…

     So do I, Rob.
     Who’s with me?
32  Craig's Blog / ITSM/ITIL Ramblings / Re: New Resume Format? Feedback, Please. on: February 27, 2011, 04:00:52 pm
 I have been wanting to reformat my resume for a while now, and have been unable to decide upon a format. I suppose this one is a bit of a cross between a functional resume and a CV.

While by transition into ITSM is not quite a career change, what I have done in the past several years with Citi powerfully overshadows the technicall jobs I had earlier in my career. As such, something based on a functional resume format seemed appropriate.

I'd appreciate some feedback the approach - as it is somewhat unconventional (which seems fitting, as I am somewhat unconventional). If you were hiring for an open senior ITSM position, and this landed on your desk (somewhat cleaner looking in MS Word) what would your reaction be?
33  Craig's Blog / ITSM/ITIL Ramblings / New Resume Format? Feedback, Please. on: February 27, 2011, 03:43:13 pm
Craig Wilkey
99 Palsa Avenue Elmwood Park, NJ 07407
emailcwilkey-jobs@yahoo.com <Phone Number>

Career Summary:

When I began working in Information Technology over thirteen years ago, I had no way of knowing my path would lead me to the position of Vice President of Incident Management for one of the largest financial institutions in the world. My past ten years with Citi have been truly formative years for my career. I have worked hard to transform myself from a Senior Systems Engineer into a highly skilled Information Service Management professional, performing a pivotal role in forging the direction of Citi’s global IT Service Management strategy.

I started with Citi in April 2001 as a Microsoft solutions integrator with a project to bring the processing of an acquired card services vendor in-house. My technical experience was fairly wide (in most of my previous jobs I was a part of a small technical team or the only technical person) and dated back to 1996. My consistently exemplary performance and clearly demonstrated leadership ability afforded me the opportunity to begin redefining my career path. I was offered a supervisory position in a project to build and run a Distributed Systems Event Monitoring department. I was a key architect of that initiative and was later asked to help build and run a Major Incident Response Team and define the Incident Management processes & policies. My team’s scope of responsibilities includes all Major Incidents in the Western Hemisphere, with a key focus on – and ownership of – those incidents assigned to a CTI (Citi Technology Infrastructure) manager.

In the first year, my team’s efforts were instrumental in reducing the Meantime To Restore Service for Major Incidents by more than 20% in North America and more than 26% in Latin America. In addition, our strong relationship with North America CTI Problem Management significantly impacted the 44% reduction in the number of Major Incidents in 2009 as compared to 2008.

My first introduction to the Information Technology Infrastructure Library was in August 2008, when I attend a v3 Foundation class. The concepts of ITIL very much intrigued and excited me. I recall describing it to the instructor as “addressing everything I had been complaining about in IT for the past 12 years.” I asked to participate in the T3 (Train The Trainer) program Citi was developing, so I could be involved in the implementation of ITSM throughout Citi and teach the Foundation course internally. Since that time I have acquired certifications for ‘Operational Support and Analysis,’ ‘Continual Service Improvement,’ ‘Service Offerings and Agreements,’ ‘Planning, Protection and Optimization,’ ‘Service Strategy’ and ultimately earned my ITIL Expert Certification.
As a member of several ITSM Steering Committees, I help forge Citi’s global Incident and Problem Management policies, procedures and processes, in addition to providing guidance for Citi’s overall global ITSM strategy. As a certified ITIL Expert and ITIL instructor, I participate in strategy setting for the internal ITIL education initiative as well as teach ITIL classes.

My ultimate goal is to follow my passion to a Director of Knowledge Management position in a forward-thinking, service oriented organization.


Service Management Philosophy:

Scope of Knowledge Management
Knowledge Management has a cyclical, synergistic relationship with the other ITSM processes and that relationship must have clear central leadership.

The maturity of Knowledge Management is constrained by the maturity of the rest of the processes – in that without having a comprehensive view of the processes that create the data, the capability to transform that data into reliable information will necessarily be limited.

At the same time, the maturity of the rest of the processes will be limited the maturity of Knowledge Management.

One of the greatest values of Knowledge Management is that Knowledge Management maturation (relative to the rest of your processes) will arm you with the tools to further the evolution of your other processes.

Maturity in Knowledge Management is the bedrock of ITSM, and as such, the integrity of your information matrix must be centrally managed at the strategic level.
(more on the scope of Knowledge Management...)

The Information Services Perspective
In many organizations the SKMS (or whatever pre-cursor they currently have implemented) is leveraged as a passive tool to generate process & service metrics. Whether it’s being used reactively (incident impacts, change analyses, etc) or proactively (demand metrics, problem trending, etc.) if the purpose of your Knowledge Management Process is limited to fueling CSI activities, you are limiting your organization to a cost center – an Information Technology Service provider that is a prime candidate for outsourcing. At best, if you are using the SKMS effectively, you are reducing cost and managing your infrastructure more efficiently.

IT manages technology infrastructure – IS manages business information.

IT needs to start utilizing the Knowledge Management Process to augment strategic business decisions. Rather than simply looking at what we do and finding ways to do it more effectively and efficiently; we need to be able to compare the business direction to the state of the industry to offer new and innovative services where those paths intersect. To be viewed as a strategic business enabler, we need to forge new paths and influence those intersections. To be seen as an Information Services division, we need to start acting like one and actively manage business information and knowledge.
(more on the IT vs. IS perspective...)

Social Media in the Enterprise
How much talent, wisdom, innovation and brilliance is rotting away in the dark recesses of your organization – frustrated and impotent without a voice?
How many middle managers lack the vision and/or capability to empower those down-trodden voices?
How many of those voices have been stagnating or even entirely stamped out through years of neglect?
How many brilliant minds have you lost over the years to competitors, other fields or disgruntled apathy?
How much raw potential goes to waste?

Imagine for a moment, if you had a tool that could tap into the minds of all those employees with real value to offer the organization.
Imagine if you had a tool that could seek out bits and pieces of expertise on an extraordinarily wide spectrum of knowledge and experience and focus those bits and pieces onto a single challenge all at once.
Imagine you had the capability of being aware of all the esoteric knowledge sitting within the minds of the most passionate individuals in your organization and being able to apply it.

Imagine employing a technique that would allow the talent to float to the top of your organization and be recognized for their merit and capabilities – as opposed to empowering fools with a title who got where they are because of how well they play the game of greasy politics or through the Peter Principle.
(more on Social Media in the Workplace…)


More of my philosophy and approach to IT Service Management are available to view on my ITSM/ITIL Blog at: http://craig.pennylabor.com/index.php?board=1.0


Work Experience:


Citigroup
Vice President – Incident Management

April 2001 - Present
Weehawken, New Jersey

CareerEngine Inc
Senior Systems Engineer

August 2000 - April 2001
New York City, New York

North Carolina Department of Insurance
Senior Systems Administrator

September 1998 - August 2000
Raleigh, North Carolina

Kelley Drye & Warren LLP
Network Administrator & Systems Integrator

January 1998 - May 1998
New York City, New York

Credit Agricole
Help Desk Levels I and II

May 1997 - January 1998
New York City, New York

ENTEX Information Services
Computer Inventory Technician

February 1997 - May 1997
Simon & Schuster sites throughout New York and New Jersey
34  Craig's Blog / ITSM/ITIL Ramblings / You're Welcome for Pink Elephant's "Practitioner Radio" on: February 24, 2011, 08:17:54 am
     Back on August 11, 2010, I tweeted:
Quote
@ServiceSphere Very impressed with the 8/9 podcast! You had sponsor on & it didn't sound like a @Hornbill_ITSM commercial. Pink could learn.

     Well, I don’t know if Pink Elephant was listening, if my little tip of the karmic cycle kicked off an auspicious series of events or if I’m a Firestarter – but I do think it’s plainly evident that Practitioner Radio with Chris Dancy and Troy DuMoulin of Pink Elephant is all thanks to me!

     You’re all welcome.

     I drove to Florida for my “Managing Across the Lifecycle” class last year. For those 21 (or so) hours straight, I not only drove the car, I also drove my wife absolutely insane listening to numerous ITSM Podcasts, including the “ITIL Foundation Podcast” from The Art of Service (which I highly recommend). Among them was a seemingly endless supply of old PinkCasts. I have to say, some of them were pretty damned good – most of them, however…

     This morning I listened to Practitioner Radio Episode 5 – Release and Deployment.

     I spent hundreds of hours in formal ITIL training on my path to ITIL Expert. I spent those 21 hours (or so) listening to ITSM podcasts on that drive, and I listen to ITSM podcasts during my commute (as often as I can find them) – all in all, several hundred hours of podcasts since I discovered ITSM podcasts the day before that drive to Florida. I’m a practitioner. I teach ITIL Foundation. I am very much involved in learning as much as I can about ITSM and doing my small part in pushing the edge of the discipline. Still, with all that pursuit, it wasn’t until I spent less than 30 minutes listening to Chris and Troy talking, on my way to work this morning, that the relationship between Release, Change and Deployment finally really gelled for me. I finally got it.

     Hats off to you, guys! Excellent, Excellent show – I will keep listening.

     And just think… it’s all thanks to me!
35  Craig's Blog / ITSM/ITIL Ramblings / Why Diets Fail - an ITSM Perspective on: February 23, 2011, 07:42:59 am
Why Diets Implementations Fail – an ITSM Perspective

     Figuring out why diets ITSM implementations fail is not rocket computer science. We’ve all seen it happen a thousand times. Many of us already know why they fail – we know what we’re doing wrong, yet we still fall into those same, all too familiar, dieting implementation traps over and over again.

     The simple answer is because many do exactly that – they “go on a diet implement an ITSM Program”, as opposed to permanently changing their eating operational habits as one intrinsic aspect of a greater, holistic approach to comprehensive change to their lifestyle culture, approach and perspective on personal organizational health & fitness.
     Don’t DO a diet ITSM – change your perspective on what healthy living effective operation is and that new outlook will alter the lifestyle operational decisions you make.

     What’s the motivation… Why do it? What’s the goal? What’s the purpose, really??
     Do you want to lose gain two sizes maturity points before the next class reunion CMMI assessment comes back around so your old flame auditor will regret dumping trashing you during the big dance the last audit review? Do you want to lose some of that flab failure stigma and look better at the beach for your review before swimsuit appraisal season arrives?
     Or…
     Do you want to live have a healthier life organization? Do you want your body organization to be more flexible, agile and in better condition overall? Do you want to maintain a healthy aspect?

     When attempting to gain an understanding of what your goals should be, it is critical to consider some common pitfalls on the path…
     One of the most common causes of failure is over-correction. People looking for drastic changes in a short period of time will sometimes try crash diets “quick wins”. They will take drastic measures that lead to a reduction in health effectiveness, energy productivity and overall fitness – ultimately limiting their ability to respond to, and cope with, challenges that arise in other areas of their life functional responsibilities. Often times, these people initiatives will garner some limited success – but that success rarely stands the test of time. Over-arching efforts that extend these people your resources right to the edge of their capacity (and, far too often, beyond that edge) are simply not sustainable. The backlash from the inevitable failure to maintain such an effort will usually end up leaving the dieter organization in worse shape than before.
     Myopia often stems directly from over-correction, but that is hardly the only cause. Focusing too intently on short-term goals will almost always lead to long-term disaster. Lifestyle Cultural change is a long, arduous process made up of many short-term goals that all support each other in constructive cycles progressing together as a machine. You are trying to break old habits, form healthier ones, educate yourself your organization, challenge your its limits, change your its entire perspective and outlook… While decreasing your overall weight MTRS by five percent could be a reason to be proud of your performance – sometimes a five percent increase could be too. It’s crucial to maintain a clear view of your overall strategy and not only how all the disparate parts add up to a whole, but what influences each of those parts can exert on one another and on the whole.
     Closely related to myopia is tunnel-vision. Single minded pursuit of a specific, narrowly set goal not only necessitates a lack of crucial focus on other aspects of a dieter’s health & life an organization’s efficiency & effectiveness, it tends to lead to dieters practitioners neglecting and disregarding other contributing factors to their success or failure. A serious drawback to the “dieter” ”implementer” perspective is the potential to focus too much time and energy on the diet framework, itself. Focusing in on the rules, tenets and laws of this or that diet framework does not lead to lasting change. Lasting change comes only from changed perspective.

     After all this, you should have a fairly clear understanding of what you want to achieve. So, how do you get there?

     Knowledge is a critical enabler for success.
     First you start with the basics. A general understanding of physiology process design is important. Don’t be taken in by popular misconceptions, fad movements or silver bullets. Understand how bodies best practices to process simple & complex carbohydrates RFC’s, fats incidents, cholesterols problems, whole grains service requests, etc. Understand the dynamics of muscle growth capacity management, fuel consumption demand management and recovery continuity management. You don’t need to be a professional dietician process engineer and personal trainer ITIL Expert – just understand the core concepts of how it all works together as a system.
     With that basic knowledge in your arsenal, you can then start looking more objectively at all the information – and, more importantly, misinformation – that’s out there. How are the different diets frameworks and exercise programs standards structured – and how could they potentially influence one another? For example, how would this low carbohydrate diet ITSM process framework work in conjunction with that exercise plan international standard, which focuses heavily on free weights IT Governance? Do not limit yourself to an “off the shelf” solution! Very rarely (if ever) will a single, pre-packaged diet framework or program standard suit your individual organizational needs – research as many of them as you can, consider all that you know and build your own hybrid strategy. This leads me to the most crucial – and unfortunately most often overlooked – aspect of knowledge: Self knowledge…
     Not everyone’s body organization will react in the same way to different nutrients strategies, vitamins practices and stresses. One size does not fit all! Different metabolic adaption rates, different genetics historical biases, different weight retention political dynamics… different everything! Some people process sugars change very differently from others. Know your individual organization’s preferences, tendencies and emotional reactions as well. For example: I hate broccoli. I’m lactose intolerant. Having a bit of sweetness – like a small piece of dark chocolate – helps to put a “cap” on a meal for me and tends to do much more good than strict abstention does (is that too much information?). This isn’t to say that you should never try to change yourself your culture or grow as a person an organization – by all means, that’s what this is all about – but without an in-depth understanding of yourself your organization, your its tendencies and your its current limitations, you simply cannot do that effectively.

     Only once all this is considered, can you start building a Plan. What is the scope of your plan? Do you want to start small and build on that? Can you your organization afford to? Do you want to jump in head-first and completely uproot your lifestyle processes? Can you your organization handle that? Do you want to start by just cutting out the soda & junk food implementing Incident, Problem & Change Management reform and see how your body organization reacts to that change before moving forward? That could be a great learning exercise.
     After you have built your plan, it’s now time to Do what you set out to do. Put it into action. All the planning in the world will get you nowhere without starting somewhere.
     All along the way, you need to Check your progress. Not only do you need to see how well your plan is working, but as you progress, you your organization will change – physically structurally, mentally operationally and emotionally culturally. Self knowledge must be continually challenged, revised and enhanced as these changes take place.
     Is your plan working? More importantly, why or why not? You need to continually look at ways you may be able augment and improve your plan. Gather new knowledge, adjust your perspective and Act accordingly.

     Throughout all of this, it is crucial to keep a constant eye toward the original goal – and perhaps even entirely redefine it as you progress.

     The dieter implementer will always fail, because a diet framework is what you use – not what you do. The only path to successful, lasting change is one of changing perspective through a comprehensive approach of honest self-reflection and thorough learning – driven by a desire to be healthier more effective & efficient through smart, permanent changes in lifestyle culture.
36  Craig's Blog / ITSM/ITIL Ramblings / Re: ROI for ITSM - Only Gods Need Apply on: January 28, 2011, 06:06:10 am
I'll ask the same thing I asked on the LinkedIn discussion...
What is a good approach to take with the business when they expect ROI to qualify the ITSM expediture?
37  Craig's Blog / General Ramblings / We Need a new Party on: January 26, 2011, 04:10:06 pm
I don't vote party lines because I refuse to relinquish my right, and greatest gift, of autonomous critical thought to a bunch of nit-witted, manipulative jackasses. I don’t plan on discussing particulars about any individual politician here, because it’s not about them, but just as a point of reference, I voted for Obama in '08 because some of the issues he stumped most heavily on agreed with some of the ideals I hold as most important. I don't plan on voting for him in '12, because he turned tail on those very same issues.

When I look at the defining party manifestos for the two major US political parties, however, I lean heavily toward what the Republican Party is supposed to support: A small federal republic, serving as the umbrella under which the largely independent, representative democracies of the states stand united in their core ideals of human rights and individual liberty – which carries with it the heavy yoke of personal responsibility. The key defining difference between the parties, as I see it, is the size and scope of the federal government. I appreciate that the Republican manifesto stresses the importance of local politics and the idea that the role of the federal government should be little more than administrators and arbiters serving the state's representatives. Individual liberty is the mainstay of any democratic system. The further you get from the individual, the further you get from free agency, the further you get from self determination. The government’s role is to protect the individual from those who aim to cause injury to them, to pool common resources in order to provide common resources to benefit the people who provided those resources and to execute basic public administration services. In the Republican ideal, the people have little direct power over the Executive Branch, because the Executive Branch has very little direct power over the people. The citizens elect the state representatives who serve them and the state representatives elect the executives who serve them (and by extension, the will of the people). The office of the President should have a fraction of the power it has now. The President is, essentially, the Commander in Chief of the military, a diplomatic figurehead for international relations, the head of the Executive Branch and the face of the federal government to the citizens. His or her job is to provide leadership through inspiration and influence.

It bothered me a great deal during Obama's run when so many people used "Community Organizer" as an epithet. As I see it, "Community Organizer" is a great description of the President's job.

That said, I don’t think there has been a “Republican” in the office of the President since Ike Eisenhower. Don’t give me the tired, old “No True Scotsman” argument. The simple fact of the matter is both parties have traded in their public administration philosophies in exchange for social “wedge issues” that are wielded as divisive weapons against the people they are supposed to be serving.

Any two-party government has some inherent disabilities rooted so deeply into its core that it is impossible to pull the weeds without uprooting the entire system.

Us vs. Them mentality… The low road is the easy road, and we have ample evidence that it’s the path most travelled by politicians. (Yes, I do make a very clear distinction between “politicians” and “public servants”) If you want people on your side, the easiest way to do that is not to prove your integrity, character and virtue it’s to attack the others’. Thus, wedge issues are borne. Make an enemy of your opponent, and by extension, of your opponent’s supporters. Start a social war. You may be scum, but at least you’re not one of THEM!

Win or Lose… The point of a democratic system is to benefit the most, while being a detriment to the least. The way to do that is compromise with compassion and integrity. With a winner-takes-all design, that simply does not happen. When you have two parties, both generally split in power (with a slight teeter-totter of majority over the years) you will have generally half the people getting what they want and the other half getting the shaft. With a minimum of three parties, cooperation is necessary, which means throat cutting hurts, rather than helps, your political agenda. The more parties you have, the more cooperation is necessary – of course with too many, then cooperation is also hindered, but this is just intended to be an overview.

Cookie Cutters… There is no conceivable way for two parties to fully and truly represent the masses on a multitude of issues with any real level of depth and faithfulness. This will inevitably result in people being forced between the lesser of two evils and far often results in justification and apologetics to defend such forced debasement of integrity – which, of course, lends more power to the oppressive two-party cabal.

This just barely scratches the surface of the problems inherent in a two-party system, but I’m writing a Blog post, not a book and I’m trying to inspire hope, not despair.

Yes, you can be a black, lesbian, pro-choice, atheist, single mother and STILL be a Republican – politically.

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” ~ H. L. Mencken

“There is no greater transgression than to remove agency; to restrict personal liberty; to foist your own values upon others and force them to comply.” ~ Craig Wilkey

I think the only way to have an equitable system is to wrest the restrained liberty of the individuals of this nation from the two-party cabal that has had this country securely in its talons for the entirety of the lives of everyone that is reading this now.
I also believe we have the capacity to get that movement off the ground in one simple action. If someone were to start a fiscally conservative, socially liberal political party at the local and congressional level, I feel quite certain that it would give the big two a run for their money within a decade.

No more ridiculously inflated federal budgets

Return toward state’s rights (with a vigilant eye toward human rights)
     Aside from automatic assault weapons, designed with no purpose other than urban mass slaughter, wholly hand gun control over to the states. Carrying a gun in the wilds of Wyoming and carrying a gun in the wilds of New York City are two vastly different matters, and the people who live there should be able to decide what is acceptable to them.

Return to personal liberty
     Love whom you want to love, marry whom you want to marry, screw whom you want to screw – provided it is consenting adults, of course.
     Do what you want to do, provided it causes no harm to others.

Election reform to return the power to the people
     Only individual human beings can contribute to political races (no money from “Political Action Committees”, so-called “Lobbyists”, companies, a candidate’s own private funds, political parties or any other institutions). You can only contribute to a race you are eligible to cast a vote in. Individuals’ contributions are capped at one month’s federal minimum wage salary (federal hourly minimum wage X 160) per contributor, per candidate, per race. If you don’t have individual supporters behind you, you simply don’t have funds to run a campaign.

Tax Reform
     Flat tax system for individuals and companies.

Entrepreneurship Enablement
     Adam Smith was brilliant, but is now little more than a quaint historical anecdote about how things worked before multi-national conglomerates and gargantuan for-profit corporations turned the option of a level playing field an all but impossible ideal, therefore Capitalism is no longer a self-regulating, competitive market dynamic, but a race to dominate the hegemonic discourse for obscene profits and market shares that are detrimental to the populace and society in general. The point of free market economics is that if you offer a superior product or service and/or a lower price, your will gain market share and the market becomes a mirror of an idealized democratic system. Do well, or be run out of business by those who do. When a large, well-funded corporation can operate a retail outlet at a loss for months – or even years – on end in order to run a smaller retail store out of business it works directly against the very ideals of a self-regulating market. The best way to strengthen our society is to enable individuals to support it. In addition, how many times have your grandmother and stock broker stressed the importance of diversification? Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Allowing corporate conglomerates to monopolize market shares puts us all at a great risk. We faced this with the “too big to fail” banking fiasco. No entity should be so big that its failure puts an entire market segment (or the entire economy) in imminent danger of failure. Any retail outlet that can be run by individuals or small, privately owned companies should not be allowed to be owned by corporations. Let’s return to the days when we shopped in stores owned by members of our own communities – when you spent money in your town it benefitted your town, rather than being siphoned out of your town.

Basic Human Health
     The entire healthcare system, end to end, should be a not-for-profit, non-government industry.

All in all, what I think we need to do is recall that this is supposed to be a government for, of and by the people. The greater measure of autonomy individuals have, the better off we will all be. Seek common ground through real cooperation on those issues significant enough to affect all, and on all other issues, mind your own damned business.

We need to build a system based on integrity and compassion – not one fueled by fear and insecurity.


I can go on (and have gone on) for hours on this, but, as I said earlier, this is a Blog post, not a book, so I have to end it somewhere. My hope is that you will get engaged in this discussion and we can more deeply explore the topics that most interest you.
38  Craig's Blog / ITSM/ITIL Ramblings / I want it to just work! on: January 26, 2011, 08:51:15 am
     I hate computers.
     What a card-carrying Luddite is doing working in IT for one of the world’s largest banks is a topic that I may, one day, feel ambitious enough (and find time enough) to address on a Blog post – but not this day.

     I’ve always been a tinkerer. As a little kid, I used to take apart TV’s and use the high voltage flyback transformers to create what I would call “static lasers” that would cut through paper and my bug prisoners with an arc of high voltage static electricity.
     My first computer was a 386 with a 40MB MFM hard drive that I built from scrap parts piled in the back of my computer school’s lab. It ran windows 3.11. This was 1996. I upgraded to 3.12 and eventually, when I got a HUGE 120MB IDE hard drive from a trashed laptop, I even ran Windows 95 on it. I couldn’t afford a mouse, so I learned Windows without a mouse.
     And I LOVED it!
     There was a point, way back when, that I had a dedicated “computer room” in my house. Six desktops and three laptops, running different Windows OS’s and different configurations, all networked together with numerous devices – a Mac laptop and even a Sharp Tri-Pad running Windows CE. (For those who don’t know, the TriPad was the coolest little flip-open, touch screen tablet with a built-in keyboard, long before the iPad made tablets cool. Check it out. I still have mine.) I had a web server, a SQL server and an Exchange server in my “computer room”.

     I’m still very much a tinkerer, but now my computers are no longer part of my toy collection. I have a laptop that work gave me, which I use to work… for the most part. I have a desktop hooked up to my TV, which I use to manage and consume media. I have an iPad – largely because all the good stuff is blocked at the work firewalls. All my other hardware has either been long-abandoned or is stashed away in a box somewhere and I never touch it – except to move it from house to house.

     My computers are not hobbyist machines, anymore – they’re appliances. They are required for work, they are helpful with communication and they make watching movies easier. Today, the phrase, “I love computers!” sounds as odd to me as, “I love DVD players!” or “I love toasters!”

     It was a relatively slow transition, but eventually I grew tired of worrying about OS versions, software versions, malware, licenses, hardware failures, compatibility… I grew tired of the constant hunt for the faster, better, newer… I grew tired of researching the specs, stats and benchmarks of a hundred peripherals to subdue that monster, lurking in the shadows, whispering to me that this other one is faster, more reliable or cheaper. I grew tired of hours on end of searching for the broken needle in the haystack registry. I grew tired of rebuilding OS’s on slowing machines. I grew tired of playing the part of a pawn in trillion-dollar game of planned obsolescence.

     Like any other appliance, I want my computers to just work.

     I eagerly look forward to the day when computers come with elegant, simple, intuitive, license-free, lightweight operating systems embedded in easily replaceable, user flashable chipsets. My TV’s OS is part and parcel with the TV. I turn it on and it works. I want the same for my computers.
     My media computer, for example, will be a small box I plug into my TV. When I order it, it will give me the option to get a DVD or Blu-ray drive (or both) installed in one of the simple-to-use slide-in drive bays. On the back will be a power cord and various I/O ports (much like the back of my TV). The remote will be a slim, functional, wireless keyboard with some sort of pointing device. I can use that remote to download verified apps that sit on top of (isolated from) the OS – such as web browsers, online banking tools, iTunes, video games – and not have to worry about what version of OS or what version of other software packages I currently run. When there is an update available to one of my apps or my OS, I will get a little notification, and will be able to click it to update, if I so choose. I will be able to buy third party peripherals – like a Kinect – that I can plug in (or connect wirelessly) and they will just work. I want to be able to plug this computer in, download what apps I want and use it for ten years or more without having to perform any maintenance on it.
     In short, I want my computers to be at least as simple to use and stable as my TV, as easy to update as my iProducts and versatile.


     “Like any other appliance, I want my computers to just work.”
     This is the perspective that you need to keep in mind when planning an ITSM strategy, because this is the perspective that will drive the business decision-makers to make the decision to look elsewhere for services that “just work”.

     In my view, the ideal IT department is the one that doesn’t exist – from the business point of view, that is. When the proper ITSM perspective is embedded within your culture, and the knowledge workers start seeing themselves as Information Service Providers, they will start to act like Information Service Providers – as opposed to Infrastructure Technology Providers.

     When a mechanic tries to sell you services do you expect him to talk about the technique he uses to tap screw holes? Do you want him to talk about the brand of degreaser he uses to clean his tools? Will he sell you on his service by showing you how fast his impact wrench spins?
     He shouldn’t expect you to tell him that you need him to set your points at .017” and he shouldn’t ask you if he should use his Equus 3551 or his Equus 3568 timing light.

     The business simply wants to be provided with services that help them serve the customers well and they want it to just work.

     If the business wants to offer the customers the opportunity to trade stocks with their cell phones and you try to sell them networking, storage, deployment, administration, development, testing, capacity planning, backup, incident management and problem management… if you start talking operating systems, infrastructure, hardware, infrastructure… if you start talking model names, numbers and specs that they don’t understand or care to understand… then a vendor comes along and tries to sell them a simple, intuitive, robust, reliable cell phone trading proxy service package that just works, I suggest you update your résumé.
39  Craig's Blog / ITSM/ITIL Ramblings / Turning my Résumé on its Head on: January 11, 2011, 04:48:25 am
     A while back, Gregory Tucker posted on his Blog about how he wants to Ditch his Résumé. I loved this because I have always hated the résumé. It offers so little information about a person; all it really serves to do is sift out many people who, while absolutely capable for a job, do not add up on paper.
     On paper, I have been under qualified for nearly every job I have ever taken. In practice, I have excelled at every job I have ever had. This discordance can be easily reconciled by looking at my first real job in IT. The day after finishing my pretty worthless ten months at an equally worthless computer school I took a job as a “PC Inventory Technician”. Essentially, my job was to walk from PC to PC and boot up from a utility diskette. Once that phase was done, I showed a bit of promise and initiative, so was allowed to stick around to do some real work with data reconciliation. During this time, I came across a job listing for Helpdesk Levels I & II, with some light SA work. The night before the interview I read a Windows NT Networking for Dummies book and got the job. I was finishing the book in the reception area, waiting to be called in for the interview. By the end of my relatively short tenure there, I was building servers.
     I got the job, not because of my hands-on experience (which was next to none) but because of what I knew – which I learned the night before. I did well at the job, not because of what was on my résumé (which was next to nothing) but because of my ability to learn & adapt and my tenacity.
     People often don’t believe me when I say it, but I do not lie on my résumé, and have never lied during a job interview. This is because I approach interviews the same way I approach dating: I am not trying to win or impress you – I’m trying to ascertain whether or not we might work well together. If I lie, I may get the pretty girl to make all my friends envious, but if we’re not right for each other, neither of us will be happy. Job interviews are much more about me interviewing the company, rather than them interviewing me. To make sure I keep that proper perspective, I always approach the interview process (both jobs and dates) as if I already have an offer, and am trying to decide whether or not I will accept it. I am always honest on dates and interviews, because I want to be happy with my life choices, not impressive to others.

     I have been in the IT industry for about fifteen years, and have been fairly successful. I have no college degree, I didn’t get my first certification until ITIL v3, about two years ago, and have been a jack of all trades, master of none throughout my career. My résumé will show you that I installed, configured and maintained several different flavors of firewall throughout the years, which is absolutely true, but you’d be a damned fool if you hired me as a network security admin. I have also been a SQL Admin, Webmaster, Developer… the list goes on.
     Sure, some will point to the fact that my wide experience in the industry is what makes me a quality IT Process Manager, but does saying that really require a full page of crap that nobody reads?

     In the ITSM industry, there can hardly be said to be a traditional path to follow for a successful career. It’s nothing like other professional counterparts… If I don’t have a degree in medicine, I really should not be a doctor. If I am not well trained in evidentiary rules, I have no business in the legal profession. If I don’t have a degree in computer science... well, who really gives a damn?
     There are some who think a generic professional certification/qualification scheme for ITSM is a step in the right direction – I couldn’t disagree more.
     What it takes to be a good ITSM manager is a broad, general knowledge of IT coupled with a sharp, innovative mind, the ability to lead & influence others, a strong work ethic and wisdom. What traditional résumé format truly demonstrates that – aside from making simple, unqualified statement such as, “I have a sharp, innovative mind”?
     Yes, it is important to have ITSM experience – I am not calling that into question. Quite a bit more significant, in my opinion, is what you have gained from that experience. What have you learned? What can you offer? What ITSM philosophies do you follow? What innovative approaches to ITSM do you take? I know far too many people who have been Systems Administrators for years who I wouldn’t consider for an instant when trying to fill an SA position. Experience is important, capability is crucial.

     I scrapped traditional résumés in favor of a more “conversational” style many years ago. I have no bulleted lists of qualifications. I have no summary of skills. Each of the positions I have held is described in full paragraph format, as if I were sitting in front of an interviewer, attempting to respond to the query, “So, tell me about this job.”
     Gregory has inspired me to take this concept a bit further toward the abstract.

     In my feedback to Gregory about his idea, I went on about how what the résumé really lacks is information, and that’s pathetic for those in the Information Industry.
     Those of you who know me through Twitter or my Blog are likely aware that I am attempting to lead my career down the path toward Knowledge Management. The goal of Knowledge Management is to allow the user to quickly find usable, appropriate, valuable information. I want my résumé to reflect that.

     I’m not exactly certain yet how I’ll do that, but I want someone to be able to open my résumé and, in less than ten minutes, know everything they want and need to know about me. I once tweeted
Quote

While it would be quite time-consuming for someone to read my entire Twitter stream (and likely nobody would bother) pretty much all anyone needs to know about whether or not they should take the time to interview me is there. My ideas, ideals, philosophies, approaches to ITSM and my personality are out on my social stream. If you know me through my Blog, Twitter and LinkedIn and actually read what I have to say, sending you my résumé would be fairly moot.

     My first response to Gregory’s Visual Résumé was that I love turning convention on its head and forcing a paradigm shift. My second thought was, if you truly want to force a paradigm shift, pull out all the stops. Toss not only the traditional résumé format, but the traditional résumé intent as well. I suggested he integrate his social stream in some way to make his résumé a living representative of his career, growth and evolving approach to ITSM.
      How about your résumé delivering knowledge of the person you are, rather than simply delivering data regarding your past experience?

     I’m not certain whether attempting to integrate my social stream into my résumé is the best approach, but I am certain that I am going to ditch my résumé and take an entirely new tack.

     Thanks for the inspiration, Gregory.
40  Craig's Blog / ITSM/ITIL Ramblings / Re: ROI for ITSM - Only Gods Need Apply on: December 16, 2010, 04:21:35 am
I haven't a clue, but a god would know, so I'm not concerned about missing one.
41  Craig's Blog / ITSM/ITIL Ramblings / ROI for ITSM - Only Gods Need Apply on: December 15, 2010, 11:40:07 am
     At times my morning thought processes require some level of suspension of disbelief. This morning I had to pretend that someone was brave enough to give me a CIO position – and I was foolhardy enough to accept it. My day started out with the following thought in the shower:
     “If I were a CIO and heard someone ask what the ROI of the IT Service Management initiative is, that person would be immediately stripped of any leadership responsibilities – if not outright fired.”

     Sure, I’ll admit that this is a bit extreme, but this was just where I started – I can’t be held accountable for what the voices in my head say – only for what I do with their words…

     Putting aside, for the time being, the notion that Customer Satisfaction – not profit margin – should be the bottom line, the fact remains that Return on Investment simply cannot be viewed in a vacuum. The practice of enabling Business Information & Knowledge Management needs to be addressed holistically and treated as the synergistic system that it is.

     Consideration of the value of any project, program or initiative must take into account the impacts it will have across the organization. When you are adopting ITSM, you’re adopting an entirely new perspective for service delivery – a new lens for your organization to view the entirety of your infrastructure & operations through. There is no feasible way to calculate ROI for an objective with such a vast breadth and depth of impact. Those who attach a monetary value to it are deluded or lying.

     In my experience, ROI is largely window-dressing. There is certainly value in it, if it’s applied appropriately and practiced correctly – but more often than not, it simply isn’t.
     ROI is an essential tool for quantification and qualification – it’s a dangerous tool for justification. It’s utilized as a tool to justify decisions that have already been made… It’s utilized as a tool to justify actions that have already been taken… It’s utilized as a tool to ostensibly justify expenditures to regulators & other governance bodies. Using ROI as a justification tool in any sense wastes valuable resources, engenders poor decision making and creates a culture dependent upon ROI – a culture that would ask for the ROI of ITSM (or even require it).

     What do you get in return for successful adoption of an effective, comprehensive IT Service Management perspective in your organization?

Greater agility
Functional efficiency
Improved service reliability
Enhanced business knowledge
Greater control over costs across the business
Increased employee morale and performance
Increased customer satisfaction
The list goes on and on…

     If you can put a dollar amount on that, you’re incredibly foolish, falsely justifying or godlike. Unless you can prove your divinity to me, I don’t want you working for me.
42  Craig's Blog / ITSM/ITIL Ramblings / Welcome Back, Blog on: December 14, 2010, 05:29:22 am
I received a customer satisfaction survey from GoDaddy regarding my latest service call.
It had two Yes/No radio button questions and a box to type in some free-form text for further clarification.
I wanted to share my survey response...


Was the issue you called about resolved on this call? Yes | No
Would you recommend GoDaddy.com to family and friends? Yes | No

I have been displeased with the service GoDaddy offers in general.
I could get used to the difficult to navigate and quirky toolset if the service you offered was satisfactory, but sadly, it’s not.

Numerous times I’ve encountered 500 Internal Server errors when attempting to access my site during the busiest times. It comes and goes – five minutes up, ten down, twenty up...
I started a thread in your support forum, hoping someone would investigate the logs and attempt to ascertain the problem. That was apparently too much to ask. The response was the phone number to call the next time it happens.

At 1:15 AM/ET, on December 9th I received an email stating that my account was moved to a different hosting solution (not will be moving, so I could take some precautions, but “was moved”) and it could take up to 24 hours for the content update to be complete. I replied to the email, shortly before 10 AM, asking about downtime for the site – I knew there was likely to be some downtime, even if it was just for a few minutes to switch the network traffic. In reply I received and auto-response email stating that a support ticket has been opened and someone would be contacting me within 24 hours. What good is someone contacting me within 24 hours, if the change was to be completed in less than 16 hours?

On December 10th, my two forum apps (http://craig.pennylabor.com and http://pennylabor.com/blog) were unavailable – generating a database connection error. This started sometime between 6 and 7 AM – 5+ hours after the change was supposed to have been completed.

When I called your tech support line, I experienced the only bright spot in this whole mess. Andrew, the gentleman who took my call, was a real pleasure to deal with. He assisted me in a highly professional manner and kept me well informed as he investigated the issue. What he informed me of, however, made the situation much worse.

Apparently, when my site was moved to the new hosting environment, someone forgot to move my databases along with it. On top of that, service restoration was going to take anywhere from twenty-four to SEVENTY-TWO hours.

Your Change, Incident AND Problem Management processes all failed me.

The whole experience left me feeling like I simply don’t matter. I would expect to be treated as insignificant if I used one of the large, commercial services that cater to large-scale solutions, which is EXACTLY why I decided to use your services. If you try and market yourself as a hosting solution for small business and personal sites, you had damned well treat each call as if the customer is important, because we are. It is small accounts like mine that form your customer base, and if you don’t begin to understand what customer service is, and learn something about IT Service Management process design, you will lose that base.

This is far from acceptable. Not only will I not recommend GoDaddy to anyone I know, I will actively attempt to dissuade people from using your service.
43  Craig's Blog / ITSM/ITIL Ramblings / Knowledge Management - The IS Perspective on: November 30, 2010, 08:09:03 am
     To view the primary goal & output of Knowledge Management as an updated Service Knowledge Management System is to go against the grain of everything ITIL stands for...

     This perspective is Tools & Technology centric as opposed to being Service & Process centric. It’s a cultural problem… It’s a self-image problem. We need to stop calling ourselves “Information Technology” and get away from viewing ourselves as technology managers – we should be known as “Information Services”, since managing information should be our focus. ITIL should have been called Information Services Management Library.

     A process is a clearly defined flow of work that exists to provide a specific outcome. A tool is a machine that assists us in achieving our intended outcomes by making that work easier to perform.
     The Knowledge Management process exists to provide knowledge. The SKMS is simply a tool that enables the process by assisting us to transform the endless sea of data we generate into useful information and ultimately knowledge. The SKMS doesn’t provide knowledge – we do. The SKMS generates outputs (based on how we design and configure the tool) that enhance the knowledge we provide.
     Seeing the SKMS as the goal of Knowledge Management is a bit like seeing the CMDB/CMS as the goal of Service and Asset Configuration Management. You don’t… Do you? Hopefully it’s obvious that the goal of the SACM process is to maintain the integrity of information regarding configuration items & their relationships and allow that information to be leveraged in multiple ways to enhance the value we help provide to the customer. The CMS is a tool that enables the outcome of the process.

     This tool-centric view entrenches IT’s position as a cost center – an Information Technology service provider, and nothing more. The Knowledge Management process can be the fulcrum that allows the transformation of IT to IS – a profit center and strategic business enabler.
     How do you know whether your IT organization is evolving to be a profit center? It really is a question of culture. What kind of knowledge does your organization glean from your SKMS tool? (or what do you hope to do with it, as so many organizations seem to believe the SKMS is an impossible ideal) Are you generating IT knowledge alone or business knowledge as well?

     In many organizations the SKMS (or whatever pre-cursor they currently have implemented) is leveraged as a passive tool to generate process & service metrics. Whether it’s being used reactively (incident impacts, change analyses, etc) or proactively (demand metrics, problem trending, etc.) if the purpose of your Knowledge Management Process is limited to fueling CSI activities, you are limiting your organization to a cost center – an Information Technology Service provider that is a prime candidate for outsourcing. At best, if you are using the SKMS effectively, you are reducing cost and managing your infrastructure more efficiently.

     IT manages technology infrastructure – IS manages business information.

     IT needs to start utilizing the Knowledge Management Process to augment strategic business decisions. Rather than simply looking at what we do and finding ways to do it more effectively and efficiently; we need to be able to compare the business direction to the state of the industry to offer new and innovative services where those paths intersect. To be viewed as a strategic business enabler, we need to forge new paths and influence those intersections. To be seen as an Information Services division, we need to start acting like one and actively manage business information and knowledge.
     Rather than simply looking at warranty & performance indicators such as how many errors the end-users encounter, throughput speeds and process gaps to tell us how well we provide services; we need to start looking at how users utilize the services we provide. If someone is using a wrench to bang a nail into a board, provide them a hammer.
     What is the social pulse on our current offerings?
     Which of our services are most popular and why? For the services that are less popular, what are the more popular alternatives doing differently?
     What are the leading best practices and emerging trends in: provisioning; user interfaces; information integration; search strategies; data visualization?
     How many business users have switched from using service A to service B to perform this specific task? How many users have started using third party alternatives? Why?
     Where is the business investing money, time and focus? What can be done to support that direction?

     If IT is waiting for the business to come to them with requests to fix a problem, fill a need or provide guidance then IT is doing something wrong. The CIO shouldn’t be surprised by what the CEO asks for; the CEO should be surprised by what the CIO is offering: “In order to stay competitive in the online marketplace, we need to reduce our time to market in this space. This chart trends the average time-to-market of innovations with the overall market share of the competitors in that space that have the highest growth rates. The better you are at rolling out updates, the greater market share you have. While our internal offerings are meeting expectations and we should not introduce a greater level of risk by speeding up our release process, it would cost us $X and take X months to roll out the Agile methodology in our online development teams.
     “In addition, our research revealed that there is not a single significant player in this emerging market space over here. Market analysis shows that there will be dozens of offerings in that space within a year. With what we offer over here, this infrastructure we already have in place and given the changing direction of the business focus; we are in an ideal position to be able to take advantage of that gap and go public with this service in less than four months. If we strike now, we can take the lead. Here’s an analysis we’ve put together for the board. I already have a team of developers ready to start – just awaiting your blessing.”

     Stop using Knowledge Management as a means to try and justify our existence to the business by proving they’re getting what they pay for. Start using Knowledge Management to fuel business decisions so they can see for themselves that we are an indispensable part of the business.

     Manage Information – use technology as a tool.
44  Craig's Blog / ITSM/ITIL Ramblings / Knowledge Management Podcast? on: November 29, 2010, 05:19:12 am
     So, I spent some time last week searching (and asking about on Twitter) for an iProduct app that will read a PDF to me aloud during my commute. Thing is, I am very much interested in Knowledge Management (which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has read my Blog) and there really is a dearth of information available on the web. I have searched for a podcast on several occasions with no luck, so my thought was to listen to all the KCS documentation during *commute downtime as a start.
    *commute downtime is the delay between releases of the podcasts I listen to regularly: ITSMWP, ITSMWPUK (or ROW), DevOps Café, ITSM Manager, IT Management & Cloud Podcast and Connect, Learn, Grow. You might think that subscribing to 6 podcasts would keep my commute busy enough, but no such luck – get cracking, guys!

     In response to my Twitter request for PDF text-to-speech apps, Chris Dancy suggested I start my own Knowledge Management Podcast.
     My immediate response was that I don’t know enough about Knowledge Management to do a podcast – that’s why I want to FIND a podcast. Then I was struck by a thought…

     I have always wanted to learn to fabricate custom motorcycles and cars. When I move, I have a box labeled “Craig’s Porn” that is filled with hot rod and custom cycle magazines. Unfortunately, I just can’t afford to get started on such a career path this late in life, so I live vicariously through others – I love to watch shows like “Biker Build-Off”, “American Chopper”, “American Hot Rod” and “Overhaulin’”. The problem I had with all of these shows is that they were all about the drama & bullshit.  It was great porn, but I actually learned very little from watching them. I wanted to pitch a show idea to TLC/Discovery. The show would be about me changing careers and learning these things. We would get legends like Chip Foose, Matt Hotch and Jesse James to come on the show and teach me the crafts of metal fabrication, bike design, engine tuning, etc. People who watch the show could learn through watching me learn from the masters. I thought it was brilliant.
     Well, I never got around to making the pitch, but why not apply that same principle to a Knowledge Management Podcast?
     I could learn from the leaders in the industry, make some solid steps toward that transition I mention in my Twitter profile, from VP of Incident Management to Director of Knowledge Management and allow others to learn from my lessons.

     I have a few minor hurdles… Most significantly, I don’t know many in the industry – and even fewer know me. Aside from Suzanne Van Hove, with whom I have only ever shared a short email conversation, I don’t even know anyone who has a career in Knowledge Management at all.

     I was hoping for two things from my limited readership here:

     I’d like to know if you would be interested in listening to such a podcast.
     I’d like to know who I should have on the show, if I were to find the time and actually do it.

     Thanks.
45  Craig's Blog / General Ramblings / Tammy – My Hero on: November 24, 2010, 06:08:50 am
     They’ve always called Tammy handicapped – we called her special.

     It was frustrating at times to have the rules be different for me than they were for her. That’s difficult to come to terms with as a child. If I complained, my father would just say, “Tammy’s special” and that was the end of discussion. She was my father’s angel, and, man did she revel in it! If there was something on your plate she wanted, she’d reach over, grab it with her hand, and slap it onto her plate – all the while glaring at you as she said, “I’m special!” She knew we couldn’t say anything, because my father was at the table.
     She was special, but I didn’t really appreciate just how special until years later. Sure, I loved my sister – I would protect and defend her to the ends of the earth, but that’s just because she was my sister.
     As a kid, I would rail against people, “She’s not handicapped, she’s neurologically impaired!” God help you if you called her retarded. As I got a bit older, I considered the terms more carefully. “Neurologically impaired” really didn’t say much of anything at all. If someone is severely retarded or has a recurring muscle twitch, the person can be referred to as “neurologically impaired.” If someone is handicapped, that implies to me that the person has a cap, or limit, on their handiness – that a person’s ability to function in the social framework we have constructed is more limited than most. That’s Tammy.
     She will sometimes have difficulty grasping some of the more complex theories and concepts we have conjured up – but so do many people I know. She may take a little longer to learn some things than the average person does, but she generally learns it better than most. Tammy’s handicap is not one of mental capacity as much as it is social.

     Quite simply, she was, and still is, incapable of lying. It just isn’t in her nature.

     When we were children, it was convenient. We didn’t have much money, but once in a while we would get the special treat of going out to dinner. My mother would let Tammy in on the surprise and tell her to keep it secret from the rest of us. She would come running in, singing, “I have a secret. I have a secret – and I can’t tell you…” It usually wasn’t terribly difficult to figure out her secret.
     “Are we going to Grandma’s house?”
     “NooOoo.”
     “Are we going to the park?”
     “NoOOoo.”
     “Are we going out to dinner?”
     “I can’t tell you.”
     “Are we going to Kentucky Fried Chicken?”
     “NoOoOo.”
     “Are we going to Burger King?”
     “NoooOO.”
     “Are we going to McDonald’s?”
     “I can’t tell you.”
     Eventually, Tammy stopped telling us she had a secret, and instead would just skip around quietly, looking like the cat who swallowed the canary.

     We teach our children that lying is wrong. We tell them that liars never get ahead. In the world we have created, however, lying is encouraged and even rewarded. In fact, being honest can make living in our world significantly more difficult. Whether we lie to save money on taxes, or to spare someone else’s feelings from the truth (or more honestly, spare ourselves from having to face the uncomfortable situation of being frank about something difficult). We water down, soften or massage the truth in business dealings every day – sugar coating the truth has even become the “politically correct” thing to do. In many contexts, honesty is considered to be downright rude. We tell someone how beautiful her hairstyle is, how much we like his latest book, how adorable the new baby is… We live duplicitous lives in many aspects – from where we shop to what lying politicians get our votes. We assuage our guilt by blathering on about the complexities of the world and the difficulty of maintaining integrity in today’s world and so on – we lie to ourselves. When our children realize the truth of the world around them and the truth about us, what conclusions should they come to?

     For Tammy, it’s quite simple – lying is wrong. Do the right thing, even if it’s hard to do. Don’t do the wrong thing, even if it hurts.
     What’s the difference between right and wrong? Equally simple: how much your actions hurt others.

     You don’t break promises. You do this by not making promises you can’t keep.

     Tammy watched my father drink most of the people he loved out of his life – including her. Drinking alcohol is wrong, because it can hurt the people you love. Because of this, Tammy does not drink. Not a drop. Not ever. She doesn’t judge those who do, either. She’s been to the bar with me – she had a soda. She even bought me Homer Simpson bottle openers for my birthday this year. It would be wrong for her to try and force my life decisions upon me. Besides, I’m not an alcoholic, so my drinking is not hurting those around me. She finally ejected my father from her life, not because of the alcohol, but because of the never-ending string of disappointments he left in his wake. He hurt her too many times and she grew tired of giving him more opportunities to do it again. My father’s drinking drove him to continually break his promises to the one person who was most precious to him in the world. If that's what alcohol can do to a person, Tammy is unwilling to take that risk.

     She found a twenty dollar bill on the floor in the supermarket, so she handed it in at the customer service desk. My mother told her that the person behind the desk will probably keep it herself. “Maybe, but it’s not mine, so I can’t keep it.” If Tammy worked at the service desk and someone turned in money they found, she would keep it safe, just in case the person who lost it came asking. If she lost money in the store, she would go to the service desk, hoping someone found it. Because of this, she had no option at all, other than to turn that money in at the service desk and hope for the best.

     Tammy is handicapped because her ability to succeed and prosper in the social structure we have built is limited. She will likely never be a successful businessperson, salesperson or politician. She wears her emotions on her sleeve, never lies and never pretends to be something she’s not.
     I am unbelievably blessed to have Tammy as a sister, and it makes me happy every time I think about it. Her handicap doesn’t sadden me – what saddens me is that more people aren’t like Tammy. Honesty shouldn’t be the handicap, lying should.
     I look up to my big sister and strive daily to be more like her. She’s one of my greatest heroes. I base my measure of success not on how much money I earn or what position I hold, rather on how proud Tammy can be of my actions.
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