12/14/19

Team Performance — The Multiplier Effect

The board of directors and the investors in a company rarely get an opportunity to see a team function as a system, as a whole. They may become familiar with certain subsets of the team when they are in contact with the leadership and the management, but they rarely see the entire team working together and rarely without the team knowing they are watching.

When I work with a CEO, I sometimes get a chance to be a voyeur and watch the team functioning without the team being aware of my presence. This opportunity provides a keen and unique insight.

Today, I had such an opportunity. In this instance, I came away bowled over by the quality of the performance.

Here is what I observed:

 1. As a complete process, the team operated at a high level of performance. They were demonstrably better than peer organizations.

 2. The team was visibly interdependent and worked with each other. Clearly, this was neither novel nor unique to this day.

 3. Looking at the individual team members, I would not have thought them remarkable, but as I watched them several things jumped out:

 a. The team, at the individual level, was sympatico and had a native desire to work together.

 b. Whoever had hired this team had done a fabulous job. I spent some time watching individual team members and across the board they were performers.

 c. The team work was neither forced nor snarky. It was genuine and natural.

So, I spoke to the manager of the unit and we had a very nice chat. I quizzed him as to his hiring practices.

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12/13/19

Delta Airlines Amex Credit Card

Since 2010, Delta Airlines and American Express have had a co-branded credit card arrangement. Not such a big deal, say you?

You would be wrong, dear reader. It is a huge deal.

 1. In 2018, eight percent — 8% — of all Amex traffic was on this card.

 2. The Delta Skymiles/Amex card came out of the gate hot making more than $1.4B in gross revenue for Delta in 2010.

 3. In 2018, that revenue number is $4B.

 4. That percentage of Delta’s profits is more than 35%!

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12/13/19

United Kingdom Election Implications

In a hotly contested, early-called election, the United Kingdom has given the Conservative Party of Boris Johnson a resounding victory providing him with a comfortable majority in their Parliament (House of Commons).

Prime Minister Johnson had taken a huge gamble calling for elections two years early as the country was bogged down in a vicious fight to follow the will of the people as demonstrated in the 2016 Brexit vote to part company with European Union. [The Brits were members of the European Union though they kept the British Pound Sterling as their currency, refusing to embrace the Euro.]

This election dissolves any idea of a Brexit do-over vote. It is now settled science that the UK is leaving the European Union.

The major opposition party, Labour, headed by Jeremy Corbyn, was handed a bruising defeat ending with 203 seats to the Conservative’s 364 (there are a total of 650 seats with 649 seats decided, one remaining to be finalized). It takes 326 seats in Parliament to govern.

Corbyn took things poorly, resigning in the wake of the keel hauling. A perfectly eloquent man, Corbyn said, “Ouch!”

The Scottish National Party took 48 seats (which will spark discussion of Scotland slipping away from the United Kingdom) and the Liberal Democrats took 11.

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12/11/19

Carter Page Got Screwed By The FBI

I like to follow the political events in Washington DC. As a macochist, I’ve also read the Department of Justice Inspector General’s 1,000,000 page report on the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978) investigation.

I watched the testimony of the Department of Justice’s Inspector General Horowitz. Glutton. For. Punishment.

In case you have been out of the country, a gentleman named Carter Page was the subject of four FISA warrants. A FISA warrant is the product of a secret process wherein the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation apply for the right to investigate an individual when that individual is either a foreign agent or under the influence of a foreign power. You cannot investigate an American citizen unless and only if that person is a foreign agent or under the control of a foreign power.

In this instance, the actual FISA warrant applications said that Carter Page was a Russian agent.

Carter Page is a distinguished Naval Academy graduate — graduated at the top 10% of his class, Trident Scholar — who served honorably as a Navy officer. Page has a Masters in National Security Studies from Georgetown, an MBA from New York University, and a Doctorate from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

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12/8/19

RIP Colonel Donald K Jamison

I was blessed to have a wonderful father who shaped me and made me into a young man, but he then sent me to Virginia Military Institute to finish off the job.

I was lucky. I was studying civil engineering and my faculty advisor was Colonel Donald K Jamison.

Colonel Jamison was a civil engineering professor for 40 years, the Department Head for much of that time, the tennis coach, and a mentor (faculty advisor) to a series of very lucky cadets.

He was a friendly face, a port in a storm, but a man who treated you like a man.

We used to get our grades six times per semester during our Rat year. The first time I got a grade in calculus, I got an F.

I had to report to Colonel Jamison to review my grades. All of my grades were good, except for calculus. I just didn’t get calculus. I was trying, but it just wasn’t sinking into my head.

“You’re going home and you’ll never be a civil engineer, won’t get an Army commission if you fail Rat calculus.”

Those were the words he delivered to me. He didn’t raise his voice, didn’t scold me. He just laid out what was going to happen.

The draft was on in those days and it meant something else — being drafted when my student status was removed.

I got some help in calculus — assisted by my first class dyke (mentor) who got someone to work with me — and I figured it out in a week. I finished the semester with an A. Once I figured it out, it was easy.

I ended that year #1 in the class academically, which was one Hell of a surprise to me.

“I knew you’d figure it out,” Colonel Jamison said, when I brought him my final grades (which was at the beginning of my second year).

Colonel Jamison inspired confidence in a wiseass 18-year-old who needed that kind of inspiration. After that, I knew what I was capable of and performed at that level.

I got a job in the Fluid Mechanics Lab grading papers and assisting cadets–arranged by Colonel Jamison. That meant I could study in the quiet lab. Colonel Jamison came around at least once a week to check on me. I studied in the same place for four years. He checked up on me for four years.

About fifteen years ago, I wrote Colonel Jamison a letter thanking him for the interest he had taken in me. He remembered every element of my cadetship including an odd discussion as to whether I should jump from the fourth stoop into the laundry truck that was located in the archway four floors below.

Only VMI guys will understand this: I suggested that I would be “out of the Ratline” if I did that. He would say, “Technically, you will be out of the Ratline, but you will have to come talk to me.”

Thank you, Colonel Donald K Jamison for all you did for me. Thank you, VMI, for having attracted such rare men of talent, character, and commitment. This is the secret sauce of VMI.

There are few institutions left in America that teach, develop character. VMI continues to be one of them.

Godspeed, Colonel Jamison. Thank you.