Sunday, April 27, 2014

What's your BHAG?

 This week, members of the NYDLA gathered on The Intrepid SEA, AIR,SPACE Museum to hear what is on the horizon for space exploration. 

Panelists included NASA astronaut Mike Massimino, a veteran of multiple space shuttle missions, including upgrade and repair missions for the Hubble Space Telescope; Bobak Ferdowsi, a NASA engineer, widely known as “Mohawk Guy” while working on the Engineering Operations Team on the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity Project; and Will Pomerantz, VP Special Projects for Virgin Galactic, who is focused on extending Virgin Galactic’s effort beyond space tourism. The event was moderated by Ira Flatow, author, journalist and host of Public Radio International's popular Science Friday series.

The and the are dedidated to “all things distance learning.” As anyone who knows me can attest, my battle cry is “Everything is Distance Learning!

There is no better example of remote work and/or distance learning than NASA. I grew up in the 60’s and every kid wanted to grow up to be an Astronaut. Only those with “the right stuff” would earn the privilege to fly into space. What I remember was President Kennedy’s famous speech about landing a man on the moon, and returning him safely to earth. And, that we, as a nation, would do this before the end of the decade.  

A Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) is a strategic business statement similar to a vision statement which is created to focus an organization on a single medium-long term organization-wide goal which is audacious, likely to be externally questionable, but not internally regarded as impossible.

The term 'Big Hairy Audacious Goal' was proposed by James Collins and Jerry Porras in their 1994 book entitled Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. A BHAG encourages companies to define visionary goals that are more strategic and emotionally compelling. Many businesses set goals that describe what they hope to accomplish over the coming days, months or years. These goals help align employees of the business to work together more effectively.

In contrast, a BHAG (pronounced BEE-hag) as "an audacious 10-to-30-year goal to progress towards an envisioned future." Key word: audacious.

"A true BHAG is clear and compelling, serves as a unifying focal point of effort, and acts as a clear catalyst for team spirit. It has a clear finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved the goal; people like to shoot for finish lines."

When President Kennedy gave his speech, he laid down the mother of all BHAGs. The technology to take men to the moon and return them safely to earth did not exist; not even close. We did not have big enough rockets to lift such a payload. We did not have the radios, the computers, we did not have the software. We did not have the science.

And yet, as a nation, with all of us working as a unified team, we did it. The USA won the Space Race. BHAG - done!

I just Googled the definition of Intrepid and it said: characterized by resolute fearlessness, fortitude, and endurance such as an intrepid explorer. Synonyms of Intrepid are: bold, courageous, dauntless, doughty, fearless, gallant,greathearted, gutsy, gutty, heroic.

I find it no coincidence that this event was hosted on The Intrepid. Every BHAG is a result of the masterful use of both technology and talent. Passionate people, driven to succeed, and committed to using all tools and technologies at their disposal. And, if the technology does not exist - go and invent it. BHAGs don't take no for an answer.

I think that I found my own personal BHAG, but we shall save that for my next blog. 

What's yours?
Notable Examples of BHAGs Over the Years:
  • AIESEC: Engage and develop every young person in the world.
  • Amazon: Every book, ever printed, in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds.
  • Blackpool FC: Reach English Premier League.
  • Disney: Be the best company in the world for all fields of family entertainment.
  • Ford: Democratize the automobile.
  • Google: Organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.
  • Hewlett-Packard: Be one of the best managed corporations in the world.
  • Hong Kong Broadband Network: Be the largest IP provider in Hong Kong by 2016.
  • IBM: Commit to a $5 billion gamble on the 360
  • JFK's Moon Challenge: This nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.
  • Microsoft: A computer on every desk and in every home.
  • Motorola: Sell 100,000 TVs at $179.95
  • Nokia Siemens Networks: Connect 5 billion people by 2015.
  • Philip Morris: Become the front-runner in the tobacco industry
  • SolarAid: To eradicate the kerosene lamp from Africa by 2020
  • Sony: Embody changing the image of Japanese products as being of poor quality; create a pocket transistor radio.

Meet the Panel:

Ira Flatow is the host of Science Friday® on PRI, Public Radio International. He anchors the show each Friday, bringing radio and Internet listeners worldwide an informative discussion on science, technology, health, space and the environment.

Science Friday is heard by 2 million people each week, on the radio and podcasts, and via iTunes, Android apps.

Ira is president of Science Friday, Inc. and founder and president of Science Friday Initiative, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit company dedicated to creating audio, video and Internet projects that make science a topic of discussion around the dinner table, Twitter or Facebook.

Ira has shared his enthusiasm with public radio and TV fans for more than 35 years. He recently co-starred on the CBS hit series The Big Bang Theory.

His most recent book is entitled Present At The Future.

His numerous TV credits include six years as host and writer for the Emmy-award-winning Newton's Apple on PBS and science reporter for CBS This Morning. He wrote, produced and hosted Transistorized!, an hour-long PBS documentary. He is also host of the four-part PBS series Big Ideas. A winner of numerous awards, his most recent the Isaac Asimov Award.

Bobak Ferdowsi is a member of the Engineering Operations Team on the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity Project at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as well as Mission Planner on the Europa Clipper study.  

His prior positions have included Mission Planner and Integrated Launch and Cruise Verification and Validation Engineer on Mars Science Laboratory, as well as Science Planner on the Cassini mission. In addition he served as Flight Director during MSL operations.

Bobak earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics in 2001 from the University of Washington and subsequently his Master of Science in the same area from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Bobak has always wanted to work on missions to Mars. He plays shortstop in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory softball league and usually rides his bike to work.

Will Pomerantz is the Vice President for Special Projects at Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic. In that role, Will helps extend Virgin Galactic’s efforts beyond space tourism, developing efforts such as the LauncherOne orbital launch vehicle for small satellites as well as suborbital research campaigns on board SpaceShipTwo.

Will also serves as a Trustee and the Chair of the Board of Advisers for the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS), the world's largest student space organization. He is a graduate of Harvard University, the NASA Academy, and the International Space University. Prior to joining Virgin Galactic, he worked at the XPRIZE Foundation, where he served as the primary author and manager of the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE and the $2 million Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander XCHALLENGE. Additionally, Will has worked at Brown University, the Futron Corporation, and the United Nations, and he was the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Space, an early social network for space professionals.

Mike Massimino - NASA Astronaut.  A veteran of two space flights, (STS-109 in March 2002 and STS-125 in May 2009) he has logged a total of 571 hours and 47 min in space, and a cumulative total of 30 hours and 4 min of spacewalking.

PERSONAL DATA: Born in New York in 1962. His hometown is Franklin Square, New York. Married. Two children. Mike enjoys baseball, family activities, camping, and coaching kids sports.


H. Frank Carey High School, Franklin Square, New York, 1980
B.S. Industrial Engineering, Columbia University, 1984
M.S. Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1988
M.S. Technology and Policy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1988
Degree of Mechanical Engineer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1990
Ph.D. Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1992

ORGANIZATIONS: MIT Alumni Association; Columbia University Alumni Association.

SPECIAL HONORS: American Astronautical Societys 2009 Flight Achievement Award; NASA Space Flight Medals; Order of Sons of Italy in America 2005 Guglielmo Marconi Award; Aviation Week & Space Technology 2002 Laurel Award; Sergei P. Korolev Diploma.

EXPERIENCE: Upon completing his B.S. degree from Columbia University, Mike worked for IBM as a systems engineer in New York City from 1984 until 1986. In 1986 he entered graduate school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he conducted research on human operator control of space robotics systems in the MIT Mechanical Engineering Departments Human-Machine Systems Laboratory. His work resulted in the awarding of two patents. While a student at MIT he worked during the Summer of 1987 as a general engineer at NASA Headquarters in the Office of Aeronautics and Space Technology, during the summers of 1988 and 1989 as a research fellow in the Man-Systems Integration Branch at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, and during the summer of 1990 as a visiting research engineer at the German Aerospace Research Establishment (DLR) in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. After graduating from MIT in 1992, Mike worked at McDonnell Douglas Aerospace in Houston, Texas as a research engineer where he developed laptop computer displays to assist operators of the Space Shuttle remote manipulator system. These displays included the Manipulator Position Display, which was evaluated on STS-69. From 1992 to 1995 he was also an adjunct assistant professor in the Mechanical Engineering & Material Sciences Department at Rice University, where he taught feedback control of mechanical systems. In September 1995, Mike joined the faculty of the Georgia Institute of Technology as an assistant professor in the School of Industrial and Systems Engineering. At Georgia Tech he taught human-machine systems engineering classes and conducted research on human-machine interfaces for space and aircraft systems in the Center for Human-Machine Systems Research. He is currently an adjunct professor at Rice University and at Georgia Tech. He has published papers in technical journals and in the proceedings of technical conferences.

NASA EXPERIENCE: Selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in May 1996, Mike reported to the Johnson Space Center in August 1996. He completed two years of initial training and evaluation and is qualified for flight assignment as a mission specialist. Prior to his first space flight assignment, Mike served in the Astronaut Office Robotics Branch, and in the Astronaut Office Extravehicular Activity (EVA or spacewalking) Branch. In 2002, following his first spaceflight, Mike served as a CAPCOM (spacecraft communicator) in Mission Control and as the Astronaut Office Technical Liaison to the Johnson Space Center EVA Program Office.

A veteran of two spaceflights, (STS-109 in March 2002 and STS-125 in May 2009) Massimino has logged a total of 571 hours and 47 minutes in space, and a cumulative total of 30 hours and 4 minutes of spacewalking in four spacewalks.

In addition to various technical tasks, Massimino also serves as Chief of the Astronaut Appearances Office.

SPACE FLIGHT EXPERIENCE: STS-109 Columbia (March 1-12, 2002). STS-109 was the fourth Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission. The crew of STS-109 successfully upgraded the Hubble Space Telescope leaving it with a new power unit, a new camera (the Advanced Camera for Surveys), and new solar arrays. STS-109 set a record for spacewalk time with 35 hours and 55 minutes during 5 spacewalks. Massimino performed 2 spacewalks totaling 14 hours and 46 minutes. STS-109 orbited the Earth 165 times, and covered 4.5 million statute miles in over 262 hours and 10 minutes.

STS-125 Atlantis (May 11-24, 2009) was the fifth and final Hubble servicing mission. The 19 year old telescope spent six days in the Shuttles cargo bay undergoing an overhaul conducted by four spacewalkers over five daily spacewalks, with the assistance of crewmates inside the Atlantis. The space walkers overcame frozen bolts, stripped screws, and stuck handrails. STS-125 set a new record for spacewalking with 36 hours and 56 minutes during five spacewalks. Massimino performed 2 spacewalks totaling 15 hours and 58 minutes. The refurbished Hubble Telescope now has four new or rejuvenated scientific instruments, new batteries, new gyroscopes, and a new computer. The STS-125 mission traveled 5,276,000 miles in 197 Earth orbits and was accomplished in 309 hours, 37 minutes and 9 seconds.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Stupid is as Stupid Does

 Forrest Gump's "Stupid is as Stupid Does" is a variant of an old adage, "Handsome is as handsome does." This saying appears in J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" and in Herman Melville's "Billy Budd," and can be traced as far back as the 14th Century.

"Handsome is as handsome does" basically means that true handsomeness has to do with a person's behavior, not just a handsome face. The saying is also phrased in the forms "Pretty is as pretty does" and "Beauty is as beauty does."

Forrest's version of the saying means that stupidity is not just a surface thing derived from a person's appearance. Stupidity is a matter of deeds, not looks. Like the other versions, it comes down to this: judge people by what they do, not by how they appear.

Ah yes: judge people by what they do. The results.

Much to the Internet’s disappointment, France did not in fact make it illegal to send work e-mails after 6 — despite many reports au contraire. (The reports stemmed from an agreement made between labor unions and a federation of engineering and consulting companies, affecting 250,000 people and involving no official laws.) Perhaps the online frenzy around the news, however, and our widespread willingness to believe it, suggests a more important truth about e-mail, connectedness and productivity: France didn’t ban off-hours e-mails but many think it should have done so.

I say: "Stupid is as stupid does" because it is NOT about technology. Nope. Not not not about email, or texting, or the Internet. It is all about being an adult. It is about producing results. Work is not a place to go, it is something that you do. And it is NOT about where you are when you are producing the results.

Proverb: Praise makes good people better and bad people worse.

Praise, money, technology: any of these things will make good people better and bad people worse.

Would you tell a farmer to rest more, sleep later, or take more vacations? Would you tell a doctor to study less, or to spend less time at the hospital? Or tell a scientist to do less research, attend fewer seminars with colleagues, or to spend less time in the laboratory?

It is NOT about technology or work overload. It is, however about stupidity. Because technology, just like any other tool is designed to help you to produce - get this - results!  It is all about the results, not the time of day, or the day of the week, or the volume of phone calls, texts or emails that you send or receive in a day. Quantity without the Quality is Dumb.

Results. Production. Value. More is not better - better is better.

I carry a cell phone, but I rarely answer it. I don’t feel that my accepting unscheduled calls is very productive. I also don’t think it is polite to answer a phone if I am in a meeting, or if I am with someone. And, if I am walking my dog in the dog park, I might be huffing and puffing into the phone and then sounding too excited about the topic.

Think Quality, not Quantity. Think Results. Think Value, not Volume.

The automobile was invented to help us get from Point A to Point B faster. But not too fast - too fast and you might never arrive at Point B. If you drive too fast you might arrive in the morgue. And don’t get me started about texting and driving. Really? We are still debating this?

Do you think fast food is the same as a home cooked meal? Do you think that walking with Fido in the dog park is the same as walking the streets of New York City? Do you think reading a book in a cabin, on a lake, on a cool summer evening is the same as reading a book on a train, or bus or plane? Of course you don’t. You would never confuse these experiences. Then why do it with “work” related matters?

If your brain says that you should answer work email at 8pm while watching TV, then by all means do it. If your brain says that you should put up your “away message” at 6pm and tell the world you will see them in the morning, do it. If you want to have it known that you will sleep with your SmartPhone so that you can be called at 3am to discuss next year’s widget budget, that is completely up to you. Are you a child, or are you an adult?

Above is our “contact us” page from our website. emails go to an entire team of people, as does But emails to forwards to - everyone in the company. If a client really needs to use such "all hands on deck" emails, then we are going to be there for them, period. To date, our 911 email has been used twice. And never outside of normal business hours. I have learned that no one wants to call us at 2am no more than we want to be called at 2am. We are here for them if they need us. And we expect everyone to be “adults” about it. 

Adults don’t abuse privileges. Children do it all the time.


Thomas A. Capone
973-616-2600 x111

     "Serving 46% of the $1.3T Education Market"

Urgent?  <<< this will track me down!

Above is my normal email signature. forwards to me (naturally) but it also goes to three of my Administrative Assistants. I have other emails that I use for private matters. Now, see that “AwayFind” link? It’s Magic. This technology allows me to NOT check emails. I can NOT check emails, and still know I am reachable if it is really important. Ah yes, technology to allow me to have MORE free time, not less. And guess what, most people just send regular emails and I check them when I have the time. Just like my dog Colin, I prefer to not be on a leash, electronic or otherwise.

It’s not about the technology folks. It’s about being adults while working. Adults producing good and valuable work. Adults producing RESULTS. 

See to learn more about working in a liberating ROWE - and working like an adult.

King James Bible: When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.