Real Financial Reporting

Financial Reporting by public companies has significantly improved since Dodd-Frank. Since then there have been many attempts to roll back those reporting requirements because large corporate businesses don’t want too much sunlight on their internal practices.

Investors need to be able to get the whole picture to make sure they invest in those businesses that match not just their financial ambitions, but their moral, ethical, religious, political, and demographic preferences.

Future financial reporting requirements should include:

  • Financial Settlements made
    • Not the details but
    • The amounts
    • The reasons (sexual harassment, discrimination, wrongful termination, fraud, tax evasion, etc.)
  • Employee demographics
    • For the demographic vectors, Men, Women, African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Members of the LGBTQ Community, Disabled, Veteran, ex-Offender
    • The number in the category
    • The highest-paid employee earns (all forms of remuneration) per hour
    • The lowest-paid employee earns per hour
    • The average pay per hour
    • The number on the Board
    • The number in the workforce
    • The number provided with healthcare
    • The number provided with pensions
  • Political contributions
    • To which named elected officials
    • To which named political parties
    • To which named political organizations
    • To which named political advocates
  • Ethical contributions
    • To which charitable organizations
  • Environmental footprint
    • The carbon footprint for the whole organization on per employee basis
    • Consumption of natural resources that the company pays for (in dollars)
    • Consumption of natural resources that the company does not pay for (specifics)

And of course, false reporting will result in fines and imprisonment for CEO and CFO.


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Double standards

Amidst the controversy surrounding the US Open Tennis Tournament and the double-standards in the treatment of men and women players, I feel that one thing has been left out.

Is it ever OK to scream at the umpire or referee?

I was once at a kids football (“soccer”) game when I heard a coach berating a young referee about a call midway through the match. The referee penalized the coach’s player for pulling on the shirt of an opponent and impeding his progress towards the goal. “Nobody enforces that rule anymore” the coach bellowed. Clearly, the coach knew a rule had been broken.

With great presence of mind and maturity ahead of her years, the young ref replied to the coach, “Which rules do you want me to use today and which shall I leave out?”

And this is the issue. Referees and umpires are highly trained and receive detailed feedback from their fellow officials during and after the game, from managers and mentors, and from coaches and players. The feedback improves their performance and gets them to the next level of responsibility so they can work games of the highest standard. They are trained in all the rules of their particular sport and they are trained to apply the rules consistently and fairly.

“The trouble with you refs is that you don’t care who wins!” – comment from a spectator

Referees and umpires do make mistake. The introduction of digital technology to improve the accuracy of calls and to be able to replay at a slow speed have improved the quality of officiating immensely. Nonetheless, errors do occur.

What should a player’s response be when these errors occur? Should it be to harass the official and insult their integrity? Or should the player ask, politely for an explanation of the call and if there is any way to appeal the decision?

I once gave a goal against Stanford in a championship field hockey game. The center back came to me and said, “Kevin, no, she kicked it in.” She was calm, she was sure and she was right. After conferring with my colleague, who had a better view of it, we overturned the decision. Watching the game-tape later proved we had made the right call in the end. Moreover, the player had made the right approach and neither player nor umpire ego got bruised.

What is wrong, what is not acceptable, is that coaches, managers, and players, at the highest standard, think it is OK to scream at the officials. They know that the rules specifically prohibit this kind of abuse yet they continue to do it. Clearly, these people are not going to police themselves. So, in one sense, the officials are to blame for allowing this to get out of hand.

Ask yourself in what other walks of life do you feel empowered to castigate, ridicule and insult the people you interact with? When your package is delivered next door do you rage at the FedEx driver? When the store is out of your favorite ice cream, do you harangue the checkout clerk? When your kid comes home with a “C” do you scream to the teacher about their lack of intelligence and integrity?

The Double-Trouble Standards in sports

Serena is right about one thing, her punishment was harsher than that of McEnroe, Nastase, Connors, Becker or Agassi for worse abuses. That’s not ok.

Let the umpires and referees do their job. Applaud them for taking a firm stance, and for punishing bad behavior by every player.

It’s OK to be passionate and root for your team. But next time you’re watching a game and you don’t care who wins, root for the referees. You’ll be surprised how rarely they make a bad call.


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My favo(u)rite conference of the year

24464682339_760c914f24_bEach year I get to travel to the UK and attend the Defence (with a “c”) Information conference, DI’18, organized jointly by the Cranfield University Defence Academy and TeamDefence. This conference brings together MoD (Ministry of Defence), Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine civil servants and uniformed IT (ICT in UK parlance) personnel and tech industry thought leaders. The mission of the conference is to look at MoD technology strategy and direction and to see where commercially available solutions can augment MoD efforts.

It is my favorite conference because when a speaker talks about a task being “mission critical” the stakes are clearly different and measured in lives and liberty rather than pounds and pence.

The conference is organized under the Chatham House Rules which enables participants to share what they learned and allows for free discussion of the ideas presented so long as the authors of those ideas are not revealed. This means speakers are free to speak their minds and be transparently clear on their challenges, objectives, and needs.

The MoD is “a much beloved but crusty old uncle.”

Each year I learn something new about the British approach to the “defence of the realm” and I am inspired by the clarity, pragmatism, and determination that gets things done. Like any branch of UK government, the MoD is a centuries-old bureaucracy that has to account for every pound of tax-payer revenue they spend.

As was widely reported in the British press, “last year the MoD spent more on computers than ammunition” and as one speaker noted, “It is clear where the next war is being fought.”

Excellence is collaboration, impact, innovation, potential, and implementation

This year I had the distinct honor to be asked to lead the judging panel for the DI Excellence awards. These awards recognize innovators in the MoD, the uniformed services and, commercial enterprises, who come together to address specific technology needs.

Often these innovations take existing MoD infrastructure and exploit it in new, and more accessible ways, frequently they adapt commercial technologies for the rigors of the battlespace, and always they present solutions that adapt to the complex landscape of MoD regulations and traditions.

This year there were 8 entries from a total of 48 collaborators. The organizations involved included the Royal Engineers, the Royal Navy, some of the largest aerospace contractors to a startup (named after a class of sailing boat because the founder likes to race small yachts).

One team developed an additive manufacturing, or 3D-printing system, to make replacement parts in places where spares cannot be easily delivered like aboard a naval vessel or in an active battlespace.

Another group looked at minimizing the damage caused by a cyber-theft attack by encrypting each data element in a data-store with a different key forcing the bad-guys to have to brute-force decrypt millions of times anything they stole.

Not all ideas took on the offensive and defensive needs of the military. One submission took the tens of binders, thousands of pages and millions of words that describe just one of the business processes used thousands of times a day by civilians and uniformed personnel, ashore and asea, and made it instantly accessible, searchable and useable thus saving endless hours and bringing much-needed standardization and conformity.

And in this complex world of alliances and treaties, controls and licenses, the import, export, and use of classified hardware must be tightly managed. Keeping track of who has what and how they may use it is a massive, and naturally secretive, process, largely done on paper or in spreadsheets. A mistake in this process may result in an inadvertent supply of sensitive technology to potentially hostile groups. Clearly a situation in need of technology to control.

A most interesting nomination found a way to bring brilliant new entrepreneurs and innovators together to tackle impenetrable and intractable MoD challenges. Not only that but incubate those new companies and help them navigate their way through the MoD procurement and investment processes.

Team Defence is really Family Defence

One thing I found to be common amongst all the excellent nominees was a sense of pride and purposefulness. Many of the commercial partners in these teams were former uniformed members of the UK military. Their paycheck now comes from a company but they are still working their original service mission with the resources and commitment to deliver upon it.

It is a credit to the MoD, the armed forces, Cranfield University, TeamDefence and the hundreds of participants in DI’18 that this open exchange of ideas and a free flow of information is possible. It enables extraordinary solutions to unimaginable problems that save lives, ensures liberty, projects influence, and defends the nation.

Thank you. See you next year.

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This is going to be a short, blunt post. Toilets are for pooping and peeing and not for Facebooking and emailing. The (bizarre) custom in the USA of having lavatory doors that have a 1/4″ gap all around means that one can easily see if a stall is occupied. It also means one can see the occupant thumbing away on their device (do not get me started on those that mix their business with doing their business and make throne-calls – I flush regularly when I hear them next to me). In the building where I work there are two cubicles for a male population of about 50. Often both are busy and I have found myself waiting several minutes to be finally seated. I am no expert on pooping but a couple of minutes usually gets my job done. Now sitters spend more time swiping their likes than wiping their butts. If we are going to make laws about who goes in which bathroom I’d vote for those who are not pee-mailing or poop-posting. #StopPeeMailing

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To err is human …


… but to really screw things up, bring in the consultants.

Intense, tight deadline projects often mean bringing in an army of consultants. Now we have extra labor to carry out tasks, with their ready-made playbook for a project like ours the promise is to get the job done quickly without disrupting productivity of our existing team.

Has that ever been the reality?

And exactly who are these consultants?

One or two will be seasoned veterans on their nth assignment like this and they already know the answer. They are efficient and concise and you should trust them to get their stuff done. They can do your job so let them and you can lead the changes that will make the new stuff successful.

Several will be on their third or fourth assignment but this will be their first time at something like this. These are competent but need to be steered by you to the data and processes but after that, you can bet they will get there. But remember, you’re paying them to get trained so they can do a better job for next the assignment. Work them hard, treat them like your own people, demand a lot from them and hold them to account.

Then there are the scores of newly hatched MBAs who have completed the 16-week induction class in Des Moines, who can quote the playbook and have it, in PDF format on their phones, who will follow the process to the letter, to the template, to the schedule and who struggle when reality is the very opposite of the blind case study in the Iowan classroom they left a week ago. They seem harmless: but they drain one’s life force with their Business School BS, their checklists, and matrices, and their incessant restating of what one just said that is almost exactly perpendicular to what is meant. Don’t accept them: insist on experienced consultants no matter how inexpensive they seem.

Your own people know what is needed. Trust them to make decisions in the best interest of the business. Make sure they understand the need to deliver the business-as-usual priorities and to get the new project done too. Most leaders and many teams thrive on this kind of pressure and they’ll respect you more when you trust them to get the job done. Supplement the team with competent consultants but make sure they work for you because, if you don’t, pretty soon you’ll work for them.

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