Monday, October 29, 2007

Emmaus - first impressions

If you want to know that God loves you, there could be no better way I know of than to participate in a Walk to Emmaus.

I'm sure I'll have more thoughts on this. It takes me a long time to 'process' my thoughts.

Thank you D&L for introducing us to Emmaus. Thank you V&A for encouraging me and supporting me to get there. Thank you C&K and D&T for being there also. Thank you BJ for sharing the weekend with me.

God loves you all, and so do I!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Great friends

I spent the weekend with our great friends, C&K. J had to work, and couldn't make it (we all missed you).

I am extremely blessed to have friends like C&K. They are true servant leaders, and excellent role models.

I would say that C and I are great friends, not because of any great action I've taken, but because C is such a good-finder. Somehow, he sees something good in every one, including me.

Thank you C&K, for being such good friends to J and I!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Happy Birthday to KB!!

I know, I know, that's not her initials.

It's a nickname.

She'll be home soon, and I can celebrate and let her know how much I love and appreciate her!

Current assignment

One of our first impressions when moving to Michigan was "these people sure are friendly". It was very different from the 'cocoonishness' that Canadians were falling prey to. I know my pre-conceived notions of Americans were blown away; pride is not arrogance. Where Canadians are apathetic, Americans are proud of their country. It's still one of the only places in the world where people are dying (literally) to get in.
The first year in MI was a whirlwind of changes. I worked out of 4 offices over that first year, landing at the last one and staying there for a long time (right until today, in fact).

I settled back in to Notes development.

Geeky stuff I've enjoyed; recommending a replica server based on the users' IP address (very important for mobile users), document authorizations by clicking a mailto: link in email, using a 'design elements' view to move only updated database elements, using Notes Nomad and passthru for 'anywhere' Notes access.

I spend more and more of my time interacting using the computer. I hardly have need for a phone anymore. I'm really at the point where I could do my job from any location. I wonder when I should have my boss read this :-)

Two years ago, we decided it was time to put the family back in Canada. My status in the U.S. never became anything permanent, the kids were unable to work at any 'real' job, etc. I've been doing the cross-border commute. It's not actually as bad as everyone thinks, it's just funny to ask the U.S. government for permission to go to work every morning. Just like every other group of Americans, they're mostly very friendly people at the border. They have a very important, stressful job to do, and they do it well.

Our time in MI was a wonderful experience, and we wouldn't have wanted it to turn out any other way. It led to us meeting C&K, but that's a story for later.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Third time's the charm? (job three)

The power of the network kicked in again. When I made myself available for new employment, and contacted a good friend about it, her efforts lined me up with two interviews. I say interview, but really - based on a good recommendation, I wasn't really 'interviewed'. I found myself in the rare situation of having two offers and deciding which one to take. When a good person recommends you, all you have to do for the interview is show up (and not goof up).
I was called the Continuous Improvement Coordinator. The improvement aspect was wonderful, it was only change that people resisted (sorry, couldn't resist that). The company had wanted someone who would come in and kick some butt, and they found out that wasn't me. You know you're being watched over when the company has good enough reason to let you go, but they find a place for you instead. I was re-assigned to the IT department, and oversaw the procurement and implementation of a quality management package. We decided on a package built on Lotus Notes. It was my first exposure to Notes.
We went from running internal-only email (cc:Mail), to piloting Notes mail and adding 6 'shared' internet mail addresses, to rolling out internet email access. EMail (before the advent of spam - sorry, couldn't resist that either) was the 'must have' application.
Our computers suddenly became indispensable. We used 'out of the box' thinking to implement backup strategies for our Domino server, and incorporated part number updates from our ERP system to support Notes applications.
The internet became a powerful tool for searching, including job searches. I discovered a job at a Christian non-profit organization in Michigan and, on a whim, applied to it. I was surprised when they responded positively. My wife and I went for the interview, and they made a job offer that I accepted (sort of). You may be remembering an earlier post that stated my first job was the last time I got a job based on an interview with a stranger. Well, it's still true. I accepted the job. I went to the border to apply for a work permit. I was refused.
I had no experience or expertise in obtaining a work permit, and neither did the organization. The job offer died on the vine. We had thrown our hearts into Michigan, we thought God wanted us there, and the whole thing fizzled. The ordeal had lasted nearly four months.
I shut off all notifications for jobs in the U.S., and I told myself I was going to be happy where I was for a while.
While all of this was going on, I had been unavailable for a lead role in an Easter musical at church. I became available, took the part, had a blast, and really stepped out of my comfort zone.
A month after Easter, I got a call from a former co-worker who was now working in Michigan. Less than four months after that call, we were 'out of Dodge' and moved in to our house in MI. When God clears the way, things move fast.
I learned that I could want something to happen real bad, and I could try very hard to make it happen, but God would still implement His better plan.

Give someone their life back

That's the beauty of giving blood
(Canadian Blood Services)

I'm scheduled to go tonight.

You should go too.

It's actually one of the easiest things I can do to try to make a difference in this world.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Job two

My wife agreed to move with me again, only a few months after the last move, and with our first child in tow.

I remember being very excited about being part of a new startup. I had the freedom to work, from the quality side, in the complete manufacturing process. I loved taking new people on a plant tour when they started, and being able to describe the individual production steps and quality issues throughout the complete production process.

I showed a knack for dealing with computers, and when the computer support person in the main office went on maternity leave, I filled in. I picked up a project for purchasing and tool crib inventory while I was at it, and stuck with that for the duration. It was coded in (raise your hands if you've ever heard of this); Advanced Revelation. [wow - side note; I just went to their web site and it's done in Domino - cool coincidence]
The consultant helping me with the implementation said one day that he could create an email function in AR, he just didn't have a client willing to pay for it. Well, if it could be done, then .... I was going to try. A while later, we had a rudimentary email application. I loved being able to go to someone's desk, make the changes they requested, and leave their desk knowing that I had helped to make them more productive.

I learned that I enjoyed making someone else's day easier and more productive, more than I enjoyed making my own day easier.

I stopped being involved in the manufacturing side of the business, and had many days go by where I didn't even touch or see the product we made. I remember walking in to the office and asking the receptionist; "we make wheels here, right?". The information age was starting for me.

The town we were living in was wonderful, my commute was only 3 km (many days I even walked to work, left a car at the plant, and drove home for lunch with my wife). I enjoyed my work, and ... I got the feeling that I needed to move on before I started 'settling' and getting too comfortable. We had been there for seven years, and I felt that if I stayed any longer, I would start making excuses about why I could never leave. In hindsight, it was a very good move; the company was sold a few years later and every one of the remaining original employees was invited to find other employment. Hearing that news, it felt like I had dodged another bullet.

Resume part two, the first 'real' job

Assuming that post-university employment qualifies as a real job, I'll talk about my first one.

I suppose I made my career-defining decision based on who was willing to hire me. I packed up my wife, and moved her for the second time. This is where I realized that my education was really just beginning. I learned the details about Quality Management. It all seems so long ago, but there was a day when I understood what SPC, TQE, Q1, TFE, etc. stood for, what they meant, and why they were important. It's not that they're no longer important, it's just that I haven't practiced any of it for so long.

Computers were becoming a big part of working life, but I started out not having a computer assigned to me and the computers we used were not connected to each other. Communication was still paper memos and telephone calls. It feels very strange to look back this far; we didn't even have voice mail, let alone email.

My first job out of university, and it was actually the last time I was employed by someone who didn't know me before the first interview.

I didn't stay very long at the first company. My boss had moved on to a better opportunity, and I asked him if there would be a place for me there as well. I was happy when he said yes, and it was difficult to wait for 5 months until the project was far along enough for there to be a place for me.

I learned the power of a personal network, and what 'character reference' really meant. I'll always appreciate the people I worked with on that first job. Getting back to SPC and statistics, etc. - I learned that it takes measurement to be able to improve.

Moving on from there was a good move; the plant closed a few years later.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Resumé - part one, RVG's education

To say I want to be unconventional would be understating my goals here. See an earlier post quoting Enlightened Leadership. The resumé model is broken, and needs updating (a total demolition and re-building).

My formal, in-class, "recognized by a piece of paper" education started in the fall of '79 (yes - I know - that's a long, long time ago) and "ended" in '86. So, 1986 would be about the time that my real education began. I'll cover that in subsequent posts.

Now, if you'll allow me, I'll go one step back. I finished high school (Grade 12) in three years. I had a scheduling conflict one semester, and the options I took led to discovering that I could (potentially) get high school done a year early. Grade 13 was a real eye-opener for me, and that grade ended up taking a year and a half to get done satisfactorily. I learned that I wasn't the "hot shot" that I thought I was.

On to university. I took the humbling process that began in grade 13 and continued it. I really had no idea how I was ever going to graduate, and even started investigating alternatives. I found two guys to work with, and that made all the difference. My "graduating" was really a team effort. I learned that I worked better as part of a team, and that the results of team effort was greater than either of the team members could have accomplished on their own. I also learned to keep going. I had two strikes against me, and couldn't afford a third (I would have been invited to find a learning institution more suited to my abilities, if you get my drift). The stress of this was always there. I even had a dream after graduation that I hadn't really gotten it done.

The biggest lesson I learned though was; how to learn.

I had started my lifelong learning journey. Gandhi was definitely right when he said; "Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever."

What's the value of it all?
Piece of paper: worthless.
The doors the paper opens: valuable.
Learning to learn: priceless.

If I was hiring me

I've had a mental goal for a few years to live what I would call a "no resumé" life. I haven't found a satisfying way to put together a meaningful resumé, so I really wanted to "pass" on the whole thing.

Recently it struck me - what would I want to know about a person who I was hiring? Fundamentally, it came down to wanting to know how that person thought, and why they thought that way. What are their core values? What are their goals? How do they think about other people, and about themselves?

Then, suddenly, I realized that one of my purposes in this blog is to let others know how I think - about me, and about others. To reveal my core values.

I think, in a small way, this blog is also my resumé.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Virtual collaboration

I read this article a while back. It talked about overcoming some of the limitations of telecommuting.

I know that the bulk of my day is spent interacting physically within the confines of my cubicle. Less and less of that happens over the phone, and more and more of it via instant messaging, remote access to other computers and email.

I get up to get coffee. I get up to do what happens after drinking coffee.

Most days, my physical commute to work isn't really that bad. But, now that I'm over it, let's talk about yesterday. I had a meeting starting 30 minutes after my scheduled start time, and I had construction and traffic issues. I really don't know my way around Detroit except for the two or three routes I normally take. Neither of those routes were looking very appealling, so I took a fourth, uncharted route. Turned out to be one of my many poor decisions regarding directions. I ended up being late for the meeting, and thinking more about the benefits of bringing a virtual me to the office rather than the physical me.

I'm ready for telecommuting. I'm just waiting for my management team to catch up. :-)

I've got more to say on this topic. Much more, actually.

Stay tuned.

Cares and Worries

Isaiah 37:14-17 (NIV)
Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD. And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD : "O LORD Almighty, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; listen to all the words Sennacherib has sent to insult the living God.

1 Peter 5:7 (KJV)
Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

Hezekiah took the evidence of his troubles, the thing he was worried about, and laid it out before God. He praised God and trusted Him to take care of the situation.

It would be wise for me to do likewise.

God bless you today, and may He grant you His peace.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


Enlightened Leadership was published in 1991. In it they quote Jack Welch; "we need a fundamental revolution in our approach ... to work itself". The book goes on a few pages later to state; "we will have to undergo a total demolition of American style of management".


Did I miss the revolution? Did we really not need it?

I'd say we're way overdue.

Let me re-emphasize the quotes; fundamental revolution, total demolition.

fundamental: the very nature of something
revolution: drastic and far-reaching change
total: entire, everything
demolition: destruction

So, didn't Welch say we need to make far-reaching changes to how we view the very nature of work? Didn't the book go on to say we need to completely destroy (leaving no remnants) the way we manage?

I wonder if they could have stated it any clearer, or more sternly.

If we really did completely destroy how we view work, and how we manage people - what should the new result look like?

What's the model for North American competitive advantage look like?

I certainly don't have that answer, but - the beginning of the correct answers is the correct questions.

Monday, October 1, 2007


I'm reading a new book, Success with People by Cavett Robert.

This quote ties in so closely with a recent conversation that I just had to post it here;
on page 64 - "To meet with any measure of success in this life, we must have the gift of dissatisfaction. We must want circumstances to be better than they are now. If we are completely satisfied with our present state of life, and with everything that surrounds us, the pilgrimage has ended for us and we have already settled in our little city of compromise. We are then bogged down in the quicksands of complacency, lost in the sterile valley of inertia, and frozen in the ices of status quo. It is only through divine discontent that we keep moving forward."

So that's what's wrong with me! I'm discontent! I hope it's my "holy discontent".

My son and I attended a Leadership Summit a while back at NorthRidge Church. It was a simulcast from Willow Creek. Bill Hybels spoke about "holy discontent" and he referenced Popeye; "That's alls I can stands, and I can't stands no more." He meant; "what is it that you see happening in this world that tears at you?" More importantly, what are you going to do about it?

It reminds me of the Scott Krippayne song, "What Breaks Your Heart"
Want to get to know You better
I want to understand what matters to You
I want to know what moves You deeply
I want to see the world the way You do

What breaks Your heart
What makes You cry
What would I see
If I looked through Your eyes
I want to grow closer and closer to You
'Til what breaks Your heart
Will break mine too

Don't want to be numb to injustice
Don't want to get used to the evil I see
Don't want to grow cold to those who wander
Or forget about those who don't believe

That's what I want!