The Rez: Part 4

The $65,000 question concerning PineRidge Reservation is what needs to be done? The spiritual, economic, social, and environmental issues are so huge, and for 150 years the problems have not changed. Is dissolving the Rez and letting the Lakota fend for themselves a solution? Or do we increase aid to the Rez so they can provide larger levels of entitlements? How much aid is really given to PineRidge?

I am going to find out how much money goes into the Rez. I know it must be a large amount if $80 million is leaving the Rez. So, at least for now, I don’t think the biggest issue is financial, but I do think distribution of resources is a huge factor. As I stated earlier the Lakota that hang around the fort seem to get more resources that others.

I did find out just before we left South Dakota that blankets were delivered to the CAP office in Allen, and from what I was told there are many items donated for distribution to the people. The distribution is accomplished by the tribe, not the BIA. So there does seem to be the distribution of goods that does occur on the Rez. However, the level of need suggests the distribution process is inefficient.

I don’t think eliminating the Rez right now is the solution. I think giving the Lakota a 10 year date where the entitlements are over is a solution to both of the above issues. Then just as large firms did in China, businesses can partner with the communities, the Oglala Lakota College, high schools and even elementary schools and train the adults and students on how to work. Business can communicate what skills are needed to work a job to the schools, and then the schools can educate the children and transform the communities in PineRidge, Manderson, Kyle, and Allen. The Lakotas need to change their view on commerce.

The Lakota leadership needs to get its people to see that working a job today is no different than hunting buffalo in the 1860’s. The mental model that the Lakota currently has needs to change from one of desiring entitlements to a warrior mentality. A person who works a job is a warrior fighting to provide for their family.

As a Christian I ultimately believe the solution is found in Christ, but the religious colonization that occurred in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s did much damage to the cause of Christ. Therefore, teaching them how to fish, rather than just give them a fish, is critical to the reception of the message of Christ.

There are multiple problems and which require multiple solutions. Ultimately it is the person of Jesus Christ who can redeem the past and restore the years that the canker worm has eaten.

And that is my thought for the day!

The Rez: Part 2

I am sitting here thinking about what to write about today concerning the PineRidge Reservation. Today we went to Melanie’s house for lunch. She works at KILI radio, the voice of the Lakota. We were going to have a BBQ, but the rain had something to say about that. We had hamburgers and talked. It was a wonderful time and she was a very gracious host.

After a while Melanie asked if we had ever viewed the documentary discussing how KILI radio was started. The story the DVD portrayed was fascinating. There were personal stories such as a woman with the last name Two-Bulls. There was footage of the Wounded Knee occupation in the early 70‘s. Also, included were several interviews with John Trudell, who was a part of the protest. The first interview was in the 70’s when he was at Wounded Knee surrounded by the FBI, and the second was more recent as an older man looking back.

Today’s discussion with Melanie and DVD documentary demonstrated to me the severity of issues on the Rez. The lack of trust that the Lakota have for the United States government is intense. On the other hand, many US citizens distrust the government. But the issue I found most interesting was the Lakota-on-Lakota lack of trust. The phrase I kept hearing was hanging around the fort. It refers to those Indians that hung out near the place where government handouts were distributed to get the best. They wanted to get their’s before others did. However, it is the tribal leaders that are now handing out the provisions.

There do seem to be a few carpetbaggers here. There are those individuals who are taking advantage of the situation. They provide various services for the Lakota but charge an incredible amount of money and then do substandard work. There are so many issues it is hard to say what needs to happen first.

The fact is there is a huge class of cultures. The white culture that is threaded throughout the Rez is in constant conflict with the Lakota culture. For these two races to come together it will take dialogue, and by dialogue I mean new definitions, new levels of communication, and change on both sides. It will take the best managers and management techniques to improve this situation.

The fact is, the relationship between the US and the Lakota is like labor and management in a volatile dispute over a contract. If management lies and tries to take advantage of labor, productivity goes down the tubes. If labor thinks they are entitled to a certain level of benefits, etc. then the negotiation process breaks down. In either case it has negative consequences. The relationship suffers.

The mental models of the past need to be broken down by new visions of what can be. The Managers of the United States need to bargain in good faith. The Leadership of the Lakota labor force need to come to the table and negotiate a better life for their membership.

Maybe we should put the tribal leadership and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) leadership into a hotel and not pay them of let them come out of the hotel until they create solutions. That is unless a new Lakota society could be born, which is what my next blog will discuss.

And that is my thought for the day!

The Rez: Part 1!

Sorry for not writing for a while. I am in South Dakota visiting the PineRidge Reservation. This particular reservation is the poorest in the United States. In fact, Allen, where we are staying is the poorest city in the United States. The wonderful people who live her are Lakota Indians, one of the seven tribes that were called Sioux. I am currently reading a bit about Sitting Bull who was one of the most famous chiefs in the history of the Lakota.

The situation is an ultimate example of poor management. To give you an example of this poor management I’ll share with you a conversation that I and a friend had with Mark St. Pierre who is the head of the Wounded Knee Community Development organization just outside of Manderson, South Dakota. Ed Breeden and I sat down with him not knowing what to expect.

Mark has written a book entitled, Madonna Swan: A Lakota Woman’s Story. He has been working with the Lakota for 40 years trying to develop economic opportunities for people on the Rez. Mark is four days younger than me but has an incredible amount of energy, even though the leadership situation here continues to fight against progressive change.

He, and several others, have developed a plan to provide the Lakota people with jobs, income, and economic opportunity. However, the bureaucracy United States government and PineRidge Tribal Leaders limit the ability of Mark of others like him to improve the life of the Lakota.

An example of this is the limited funds available for indigenous improvement, while there are thousands of indigenous people within the authority of the United States. In other words, The Lakota are just one people out of many who are competing for these limited funds.

Another example is the cutting of funds for public radio. I did not like this before, but I like it even less. I and my students had the opportunity yesterday to work at KILI radio, the voice of the Lakota. KILI is a voice of hope within a dreary world. Yet, because of the public radio funding cuts KILI may shut its doors. Melanie who runs KILI does an excellent job with several full time, underpaid, employees and many volunteers.

The problems here are immense. Unemployment is somewhere around 80%. Alcoholism, drug abuse, and rape are ubiquitous. Money that does come in, ends up moving out in Rapid City and Chadron, Nebraska because the people cannot buy underwear on the Rez.  In fact, I was told that the amount leaving the Rez is approximately $80 million dollars.

I asked Leon Mathews, a pastor in PineRidge in the coffee shop where I met him about the corruption in Tribal leadership, and he told me there was no more than in US government. I had to give him that one. But the fact is those that are in power have more opportunity than those that are not in power.

The Rez is a classic example of insanity. Doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results. I am here with four students from Warner Pacific where I teach, and we are learning so much. We are going to help two small businesses get started. We will be helping Michael Patton and Shelly Bentley sell shirts, beads, and quilts. At least this is a start. But the fact of the matter is that US Indian policy has been horrible since the 1800’s.

One of the families that attends the church we are staying at asked us to come to their house and look at their roof. It was leaking around the chimney. We climbed up on the roof and was amazed at the horrible repair work that had been done previously. Ed, who I mentioned before, and Matice, one of the students that travelled here with me, had to pull out the old shingles and replace them with new ones. Pete who is Lakota and lives at the house was helping on the roof. But the horrible job done previously illustrates the prejudice and lack of work ethic so evident here on the Rez.

The business of running a nation should not neglect any of its citizens. The Lakota who live here are citizens of the United States. They are people who are hurting, and have been hurting for a long time. If we are truly going to be managers we need to come together and figure out how to deal with the economic and social issues here on the Rez. I think I am coming back next year too. We need to keep trying.

And that is my thought for the day!

Boeing Versus Airbus: Episode 1,000,000

The World Trade Organization has just overturned a July ruling that stated European governments had given EADS unlawful subsidies that helped Airbus steal market share from the Boeing Company. The original number was $20 Billion, but that has been reduced to $18 Billion. The European Economic Community now has six months to create new policies to ensure this does not happen again.

Boeing has also been convicted of receiving subsidies from the US government. That ruling is under review at this time. The question on the books now is what does this all mean. Now that it is a given that Europeans have paid Airbus subsidies, does Boeing push for repayment? If that happens then does Airbus push for Boeing to pay it the amount in subsidies Boeing received? Europe must comply and we will see how they intend to fall in line.

With all of this said, and now that both companies have been exposed for their attempts to get an advantage over the other, maybe we can finally get down to business. Boeing has been whining for years about the unfair subsidies that Airbus had received. In fact, the attitude at Boeing evolved from disbelief, Airbus will never be able to sell their product and then deliver them, to rage when they were able to sell their family of airplanes and deliver at lower prices than they could.

A Boeing executive told me a few years ago that it was now time to stop whining about subsidial advantage, and recognize that Airbus is a formidable competitor. Maybe now they can get beyond the whining and get down to business and compete. I cannot believe that Jim McNerney is sitting at a bar somewhere having a beer and crying about the glory days when they beat the daylights out of McDonnell-Douglas. Nope, Boeing is a better company than that, and I hope they prove it.

And that is my thought for the day!

Social Business in Practice

Mohammed Yunus has written several books on the relationship of free enterprise and the elimination of poverty. His work in Bangladesh has been the subject of discussion for years. He has developed a very interesting definition of social business which I’d like to explore this morning.

Yunus, in his book Creating a World without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism, defines social business as a profit making endeavor that is considered a non-loss and non-dividend business. The profit “rather than being passed on to investors, . . . is reinvested in the business. Ultimately, it is passed on to the target group of beneficiaries in such forms as lower prices, better service, and greater accessibility.” One could ask the question other than Yunus who is actually practicing this?

Panera Bread is a $1.5 billion corporation that provides a healthy product with great service. It is a company that does things well, but wants to do good things. Therefore, in Clayton, MO Panera has converted one of its restaurant from a for profit endeavor to a “non-profit pay-what-you-want restaurant with the idea of helping to feed the needy and raising money for charitable work.”

People that go into that restaurant decide how much they want to pay for a sandwich, and then any profit left goes to help train at-risk youth. This is social business at work. Panera actually has several of these restaurants throughout the United States. Besides the Clayton establishment, there is one in Dearborn, Michigan and another in Portland, Oregon. Panera plans to add another every three months.

Panera has statistics that give an indication of how people handle this pay-what-you want opportunity. Approximately 60% leave the recommended amount, while 20% leave more, and 20% leave less. I think I am going to take my wife to Panera for lunch tomorrow.

Free enterprise can make a difference. All of us will work at a job, and make a paycheck. However, how we view that process determines whether we are in it for ourselves or for a higher cause. I’ll end with a little analogy to describe what I mean.

Three bricklayers were interviewed by a reporter and asked what they were doing. The first bricklayer answered that he was making a living laying bricks. The second bricklayer answered by stating he was attempting to be the best bricklayer ever. The third bricklayer answered the same question with the statement, “I’m building a cathedral.”

All of us will work, but why we work will make all the difference in the world.

And that is my thought for the day!

Management Lessons From Tiger Woods and Strauss-Khan

Yesterday a very powerful man was arrested at JFK. This is nothing new, powerful men throughout history have done despicable things. Each time something like this happens you wonder why? I remember years ago being in a bowling league for a company I worked at. A woman who worked with me was in the league too. However, I used to see her husband at an establishment I would visit from time to time. He was there trying to seduce one of the servers. I used to wonder why this guy would put his family in peril for a few moments of pleasure. I never had the guts to tell this woman what was going on, but it was exposed and she was very hurt.
Although this husband was not a world leader, or a golf professional, he made choices that had an immense effect on others, just like Tiger and Strauss-Khan. What exactly are the managerial lessons one can learn from both of the above events?

The first lesson involves the power of a solid thought life. Paul in 2 Corinthians 10:5, tells us to take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ. This verse tells me of the importance of disciplined thinking. As a Christian we work to ensure our thoughts are in line with the eternal truth of God’s word, but from a secular perspective we could say that one’s thoughts should be line with Kantian categorical imperatives. When a man decides to commit adultery with many partners, or sexually assaults a woman in a hotel, the battle of the mind has been lost somewhere down the line. It is not a loss that occurs overnight, it is one that is lost over a long period of compromised thinking.

In the case of Tiger Woods, power and fame took a toll on his thought life, and with Strauss-Khan, the lack of accountability led to the negative spiral of behavior. Although Strauss-Khan is innocent until proven guilty, the situation does look bleak. The first lesson that a manager can learn is to have a disciplined thought life.

The second lesson managers can learn from this event involves the choice of who we have in our lives that give us advice. Tiger Woods decided to hang out with Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan. Both of those individuals were great basketball players, but they were also known for their partying. These friendships led Tiger down a path that was not very positive.

With Strauss-Khan there were several events that seem to be problematic. Married three times, known as the great seducer, a possible quid pro quo event with a lower level employee, etc. Who did this person have around him to hold him accountable, or question his actions? The lesson that managers can learn from this event is make sure you have people around you that are honest and will tell you the truth.

The last lesson involves the cause and effect relationship of decisions. Tiger Woods may or may not win another tournament, but the fact is he will never be a dominant as he once was. His life has changed forever. Strauss-Khan, if he did what he is accused of, will never be President of France, and may end up in an American jail. I would be willing to bet that his life will never be the same. The lesson for managers? Decisions have consequences.

And that is my thought for the day!

How Stupid Are Our Politicians?

The ongoing discussion about the debt ceiling is getting quite interesting. The first critical date for decision was listed as May 17th, which is fast approaching. Now the date has moved to August 2nd. Geithner has stated that if we don’t raise the Federal debt ceiling by August 2nd we will not be able to pay our bills. However, some are saying that our demise is being greatly exaggerated.  But we are talking about $14.294 TRILLION of debt. To make the statement that all we need to do is shift some funds around and we will be fine is a huge understatement.

I think our politicians need to call 1-800- helpme, to deal with our debt problems and help us to get on a stronger path. In our panic, the following are some steps our politicians wanted to take. All of the following involve selling off government assets to help pay down our debt, but the fact is we have more money going out than coming in which means we have not dealt with the problem. We would be giving up assets to improve an unmaintainable lifestyle. Come one gang get some help.

The first thing they wanted to do was sell off $375 billion of our gold. Although we are on what is called a fiat system, our gold reserve still helps us to maintain financial stability. The selling off of our gold reserve would devastate what little confidence there is in our current financial state.

The second thing they thought about doing was having a fire sale on the governments current level of TARP investments, which amounts to $142 billion. The financial institutions that are represented in these investments would also be hurt by selling these off. Also, the investors in these companies would lose stock value as their stock plummeted.

The last Beverly Hillbilly attempt they thought about taking was selling off the student loans currently held by the government. This equates to about $400 billion. The government would probably have to sell these at a loss which is illegal.

The total amount that could have been raised is $917 BILLION, while our debt is $14.294 TRILLION. That would be like me selling some stock worth $3000 to help deal with $30,000 in credit card debt, while I am still charging more than I can pay for. This does not make sense.

When are we going to get smart and rework the system? We need to lower government spending and raise government income. It is just that simple. And, to put it in management vernacular, it is our elected officials fiduciary responsibility to do so. When will our politicians stop being so stupid and do something?

And that is my thought for the day!