A Citizen’s Role in Politics

The world of politics has been a touchy subject for years.  Everyone has their own opinion on policies and laws that will continue to make this country great!  It is part of our duty as citizens to express our opinions and even act on those opinions as we see fit.  While the most basic action comes in the form of voting, the citizenry is responsible for making an informed decisions on which leaders we elect and which propositions we pass.

This informed decision needs to be based on research, debate, and internal contemplation.  However, the media is usually pretty quick to provide opinions for us that aren’t always in line with reality.  Recently, while having dinner with a friend, I uttered the words “Obama is a socialist,” which then triggered a far greater discussion on exactly what this meant and what actions by Obama support this.  I have to admit that at this time I couldn’t speak to any specific actions.  In fact, I was guilty of regurgitating a line from the media without doing my homework.  This shocked me.

Normally, I am a very well spoken individual who seldom says anything that isn’t founded in concrete.  While I admitted that I was at a loss and we moved on, that voice inside me (the responsible citizen voice) wanted to know if Obama is really a socialist.

The answer is no.  Socialism centers around an economy owned by the state and or geared toward a common ownership.  Of Obama’s policies that I am familiar with, none of them fit into this category.  In fact, after researching this issue, I discovered that Obama is a well respect “centered” politician who has acted for the good of the country, moving between democratic and republican ideals to move this country forward.

What started to truly stir my passion for understanding the situation of our government was a text I received from the same friend containing a link to a rather interesting article.  The commentary article by Spiegel Online titled, “America Has Already Lost Tuesday’s Election, Destroyed by Total Capitalism,” is a rather passionate, European view of what the America has become.

After reading the article, I took a step back.  While I agree that America is controlled more by total capitalist, part of me wanted to believe that even total capitalists wouldn’t act in a way that would jeopardize the future of America.  Then I realized that capitalism is far more about profit than long-term sustainability.

Taking a look at Apple, for instance, who has banked billions and billions of dollars while the American education system experiences a financial crisis is perhaps proof that there could be something to this viewpoint.

In addition, during Hurricane Sandy, hospitals were evacuated because their backup generators failed, yet a few blocks away, buildings beloning to major financial institutions were bright with light and had plenty of power to spare.  The contrast of this image made me slightly angry.

The third piece of information that this citizen gained in recent weeks, is a book by Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein called “Its Worse Than It Looks.”  I came to find out about this book while driving on the freeway listening to NPR.  What really caught my attention was when the author equated House Republicans to American terrorists.  WHAT!

It seems the Republican party has done more damage to America’s future in the past few years than in the entire history of this country.  The Fiscal Cliff is a product Republican’s willingness to put their party over the good of the country, leveraging filibusters, and refusing to negotiate with the White House.   I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, let alone what I was reading after purchasing the book.

To make sure this wasn’t a Democrat’s way of condemning the Republicans, I did some research of my own and found that the circumstances listed in the book are true.  In fact, I found a fascinating website called “Republicans for Obama” that agrees with a fundamental shift in Republican policy.  Instead of voting for the good of the country, Republicans are now voting to destroy the White House and the President of the United States.

These bits of information have awaken my role of citizen in politics.   While I intend to vote for Democrats going forward to give them back the majority, I will also spread the word regarding the new American terrorists sitting in the House.

What does citizenship have to do with Data, Creativity, Patterns, and Inspiration?  Everything.  Citizens must collect data, understand patterns in politics, and find the inspiration to act creatively to form the future that believe in.

I am sure this post will alienate employers/recruiters (probably won’t be working with Apple anytime soon) and create some controversy within my family.  But, it is my role as Citizen of the United States to research, understand and speak for what I believe in.

What Makes a KPI Special

A key performance indicator (KPI) is a vital tool for an organization seeking grow smart profits, expand customer loyalty, and build a scalable workforce.  While many companies stick a chronological set of numbers on a chart to project it on a wall in front of stakeholders, the reality is what they are seeing may not be a true KPI.   Its just a number unless its special.

To be special, the number needs to have most of the following characteristics in common:

  1. Represents a hierarchy either by time, or by dimension
    1.  Example: Sales broken by Year, Quarter, Month, Week or even day, then sliced by Sales Region
  2. Directly actionable with each stakeholder holding a piece of the action.
    1. Example: Sales are down 15% from goal, Sales Managers, Marketing Coordinators, etc can all speak to how their actions influenced the number
  3. Has  common definition across departments throughout the company
    1. Example: A sale is an action by a user from a variety of channels and promotions that resulted in payment and excludes affiliates for instance.  This definition is signed off by Marketing, Customer Service, Sales, and Product.
  4. Does not include hidden meaning and/or does not hide a trend
    1. Example: A number compared year over year, month over month completely ignores a trend that can be alarming.  While sales could be up year over year, this metric could hide a sudden drop in sales from the beginning of the year.
  5. When displayed with other metrics on a dashboard, the number represents a part of the story and does not represent a conflict to other metrics.
    1. Example: A number is where a chart shows Sales sky-rocketing, but another chart shows New Revenue way down, and yet another charts show Average Deal Size (ADS) flat.  The three charts give conflicting information, so one or more can’t be a true KPI for this business.  In fact, in this case, Sales is the corrupted KPI as it does not conform to a standardized definition.
  6. Supporting data is transparent
    1. Example: Analysts should be able to review aggregate data that rolls up to the KPI for audit reasons.  It provides transparency and allows for drill down capabilities. Often the Analysts receive direct support from a data team are sourced from data sources throughout the business.
  7. The number evolves with the business
    1. Example: A number is just a number unless it can change readily with the business. A team supports the KPI, new data is added when created, and definitions evolve as the understanding of the business evolves.
  8. A goal can easily be set and tracked from the number
    1. Example: If the number is fully understood, a goal can be set and tracked against.  If you can’t answer, “Where do we need to be by the end of the Year?”, then its a number, not a KPI.

Throughout my career, I’ve seen numbers and I’ve seen KPI’s.  The most successful companies I worked with not only have a data team to support their KPIs, but they engage in regular discussions of the KPIs at all levels of the business.  Successful, scalable, and profitable businesses are the ones using special numbers at their core.

When was the last time you saw a number masquerading as a KPI?