Walmart Store Closures, plumbing and a burst of conspiracy theories

April 26, 2015

Operation-Jade-Helm-is-real-USThe temporary closure of five Walmart Stores in the United States broke as a business story recently. It has developed into a full-blown conspiracy theory linked to secret military operations, and foreign invasion plans across the whole of Texas

[Author’s Note by TR: At times, a news story such as this one takes such a bizarre turn that I feel the need to assure readers that I have not fabricated any of the material reported]

The Walmart Stores closures

Walmart faces employee anger [March 2015] as five stores are peremptorily closed for several months.  This led to its involvement of a series of bizarre conspiracy theories.

The move is officially explained as a necessary one to deal effectively with serious ‘plumbing problems’. In total, Walmart laid off over two thousand workers.  A Fortune article [April 4th, 2015] summarized the industrial relations dispute:

Wal-Mart workers are fighting back against the retailer’s decision last week to close five stores in four states for what the company says are plumbing repairs. Last week, the retail giant, which employs 1.3 million workers in the United States, temporarily closed five stores—two in Texas and one each in California, Florida, and Oklahoma—for six months of plumbing repairs.

The closures gave workers just a few hours of notice that they were losing their jobs. The company provided two months of paid leave for both full-time and part-time workers. Employees could try to transfer to a different Walmart location during that time. Full-time workers who fail to find another Walmart job are eligible for severance starting June 19, but part-time workers aren’t entitled to that benefit. END

Workers at the company’s Pico Rivera, Calif. store who are associated with OUR Walmart, a group that advocates for better pay, say the closings are “retaliatory” in nature. They filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board on Monday, claiming that the termination of more than 500 employees constituted an unfair labor practice.

Background

Walmart CEO Doug McMillon was appointed in 2014 and has focused his plans on improved customer service. Over 500,000 workers received a minimum wage rise in February coupled with support for the company’s drive towards improved customer service. Although efforts are being taken to minimize redundancies, efficiency measures are intended to eliminate a layer of management

 Jade Helm 15 and conspiracy theories

The conspiracy theories prior to the Walmart involvement appear to have arisen from a large-scale military training operation scheduled for this summer, and code named Jade Helm 15. This was picked up by journalist Dylan Baddour. Writing in the Houston Chronicle [March 25th, 2015] Baddour’s headline was “Covert warfare coming to Texas sparks some fears of federal takeover” Baddour was broadly critical of the conspiracy, drawing attention to the long-time interest (obsession?) of another Texas-based TV and radio commentator Alex Jones, who has been warning the citizens of Austin of a government takeover for over a decade.

Baddour noted:

Plans for a 17-city Army Special Operations exercise in Texas stirred some ultra-right-wing fears of a government takeover in the Lone Star State, but local law enforcement say they’ve long been aware of the drill. Army Special Operation Command spokesman Mark Lastoria said soldiers would practice “emerging concepts in special operations warfare” .

Operation Jade Helm will bring a coalition of forces, including the Green Berets, SEALS, and special operations commands from the Air Force and Marines to Texas for two months of “realistic military training” in a simulated “hostile” territory between July and September this summer.

Among the planned exercises, soldiers will try to operate undetected amongst civilian populations in some towns and cities where residents will be advised to report any suspicious activity they notice as a means of testing the military’s effectiveness, said county law enforcement officials who had been briefed by the Army.

Baddour went on to explain the conspiracy theory reported under the headline Austin-based TV and radio commentator Alex Jones, who has been warning of a government takeover for decades, and reported the operation under the headline “feds preparing to invade Texas” after obtaining an unclassified Army document:

“We’ve got huge news ladies and gentlemen,” said Jones on his Sunday TV show. “They’re having Delta Force, Navy SEALS with the Army trained to basically take over.”

His biggest concern was Texas’ designation as a “hostile” territory on a map included in the Army document. “Texas is listed as a hostile sector, and of course, we are,” he said. “We’re here defending the republic.”

A swarm of followers picked up Jones’ reports of the impending invasion, but the exercise had actually been reported months before by local newspapers

Walmart’s involvement in the conspiracy
The Walmart closures started to be ‘explained’ as part of the conspiracy .  The stores were appropriated and converted into underground bunkers.  The mass plumbing claimed by the firm was no more than a mask behind which were to be found sinister  military activities.
On this, the theorists split into those suspecting the operation was a simulation of an invasion by an alien power, and those believing that a real and present Invasion has begun.
 No big deal

An initial search took me to parts of the web I rarely visit.  Then I found a balanced account in The Washington Post. What seems to have set off the conspiracy theorists is the designation by the military during the Jade Helm 2015 operation of large parts of Texas as foreign-held territory.  At some point, reported facts became part of wilder assumptions.

 Interesting.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Twitter Manifesto

April 23, 2015

ManifestoGood morning and welcome to the launch of the Twitter Manifesto. I speak on behalf of our great spiritual leader Stephen who is fasting for forty days as a gesture of his humility

He has trusted groundlings such as myself to capture his will (if not his incomparable wit) in presenting our Manifesto to the world.

Today is a further step forward to millions of tweeters who until now have no representation in any Parliament outside the twittersphere. Our pledge is to work towards a referendum for an independent Twittersphere.

The digital click

We seek a poll  based on a simple digital yes or no click, on the question:

Should The Twittersphere be granted complete political and economic independence from any outside influences?

Our Manifesto outlines the overwhelming case for a yes vote, and the steps we, The Twitter Nationalist Party, intend to take, to secure such an outcome

Our triumphal journey

First, I would like to indicate the enormous strides taken by twitter as the dominant global communication movement over the last ten years. Since our inception in 2006 by founding fathers Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, Biz Stone and Noah Glass we have gained worldwide popularity.

The ecstatic formation

The conception took in a pronged day of ecstatic frenzy held by board members of the podcasting company Odeo. Within months, the enlightened ones had formed Obvious Corporation and acquired Odeo, together with its assets.

By 2012 our 100 million users were posting 340 million tweets every day. EVERY DAY. Now, at the start of 2015, we are proud to report that number has grown to an incredible 500 million users, over half of whom are dedicated and serial tweeters.

From Larry to Twitter Bird

In that year, we unveiled the replacement to the beloved Larry the Bird with an updated icon we have called “Twitter Bird” .

Our triumph over naysayers

In 2014 we triumphed over a cynical world of naysayers who doubted that we had a business model, and launched our glorious Initial Public offering.

Over a tumultuous decade, we  have overcome many setbacks. Vicious and spiteful individuals attempted to abuse our high moral intentions with outbursts of malicious trolling.

Our achievements

Twitter has been used to organize protests, sometimes referred to as “Twitter Revolutions”, which include the Egyptian revolution, (2011) The Arab Spring, (2009–2010) and other outburst of e-activism. Twitter has proved itself as an effective emergency communication system for breaking news. For example, The Boston Police tweeted news of the arrest of the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing suspect through our services.

Today, Twitter is used in scientific studies to track epidemics and acts to signal natural disasters such as bush fires.

Truly, Twitter is the global political movement of the future, and I commend it to all for your support in achieving our noble goals.

And now for your questions

Thank you. And now for your questions, (in no more than 140 characters, please).


Nicola Sturgeon named as the most dangerous woman in Britain

April 21, 2015

The leader of the Scottish National Party (SDP) has become the most targeted politician in the General Election Campaign. She must be doing something rightNest of vipers

The Guardian captured the awakening mood in the mainline UK political parties to the danger coming from Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership of the SNP:

According to Boris Johnson she’s King Herod. She’s Lady Macbeth. She’s Attila the Hun.

Piers Morgan in the Mail is more circumspect. For him, Sturgeon is merely “the most dangerous woman in Britain”. This, says Sturgeon, is “possibly one of the nicest things the Mail has ever said about me”.

The newspapers that carried these gentlemanly hysterics, agree that Sturgeon is a kidnapper, warning the UK on their pages that she is holding the country “to ransom”. The Times eschews such hyperbole, suggesting only that she is only going to hold the UK’s defence to ransom.

Gosh. Even if the SNP takes every seat in Scotland – and that’s not beyond the bounds of possibility – it will still only have one in every 13 Commons votes. If Westminster really is this vulnerable, then, really, it’s brought its troubles on itself.

The Evidence from the Manifesto launch

Your editor settled down to review the launch of the SNP manifesto [20th April 2015]. As there would be many reports of the manifesto, I decided to concentrate on the style of the new political star of the Election Campaign. What follows is my unexpurgated notes, (minor corrections for clarity only).

Style.  

Strong, clear, uncluttered content.  Unusually easy to understand.   Compared with other high profile figures in the GE, least evasive. Not shackled by the need to stay on message.

Dilemmas

Like all public speakers, had to speak both to supporters, and a wider constituency at the same time.   How to please the former yet deal with different possibly conflicting views of the important ‘distal’ audience?

Not either or, but both and

As I have argued elsewhere, effective dealing with dilemmas is often a matter of seeing through a block imposed by either or thinking.  Sturgeon demonstrated to process frequently, both in her prepared address, and in the subsequent Q & A.

The launch of the manifesto is taking place before an audience of her supporters, plus a regiment of journalists.  The supporters are there to provide the evidence of their own unconditional commitment to leader and what she had to say about the manifesto.  The journalists want good ‘exclusive’ copy, revealing something suited to their own ends about the leader and her party.

As indicated above, the SNP has been increasingly been presented by opponents including most of the press, as a fifth column, intent on winning seats to gain power in Westminster by propping up a minority Labour government and dishing the Tories. This in turn is intended to achieve another Referendum for Scottish Independence, and to a break-up of the United Kingdom.

It would have been a popular move to say to the faithful, ‘you bet your last bawbee  I’m goin’ta stuff it to ’em.’ (‘Hell, yes’ as Ed Miliband put it).  She also needed to reassure those who were paying attention to Boris and The voters that her opponents wanted to scare off enough to turn away from the SNP needed to hear quite the opposite message.  ‘We won’t cause any trouble and only vote on Scottish matters.

There are various ways of dealing with the dilemma.  Nicola Sturgeon neatly put emphasis on rendering unto Caesar the things that are Ceasar’s and unto the Scotland their entitlement.  The effect was to suggest a win-win process helping Scotland and the entire UK towards a socially acceptable and prosperous future.

 More Yes Anding

A second example of Yes And framing came at the start of the Q & A.

Sturgeon introduced the session by saying in effect: These journalists have their job to do. (Pause, as if to calm an easy-to-arouse border terrier sniffing out an intruder). They should not be badly mauled if you don’t like the questions…  Then a neat punch-line.  Of course, feel free to applaud my answers as loudly as you like. (They did).

The Q&A went well.  The press vipers were pretty much defanged.

Beyond the style

I refocused on the substance behind a pretty impressive presentation style.  Overall, it seemed to occupy the policy space Labour would like to have found itself in, but had chosen to retreat from.

 Her answers for the most part remained clear and convincing. Her dealing with the costing of her fiscal measures was perhaps less sure-footed.

Her emphasis on opposing and even ending austerity was obviously hugely popular for her supporters.

For all the clear victory in this battle, leaving the enemy in some disarray, the war is far from over.


Taking Tough Decisions: A creative problem-solving approach

April 15, 2015

Tudor Rickards and Rebecca Baron

Louis van GaalTaking Tough Decisions: A creative problem-solving approach was prepared as an experiential  workshop conducted within the Fifth National Medical Leadership conference 17th April 2015 at the Macron Stadium, Bolton

The workshop format offered participants an opportunity to examine and to share tough decisions and reflect on how to deal with them. The ‘split half’ design meant that we presented twice, each to half the delegates, and simultaneously with a presentation on  the increasingly well-known approach on Managing your Chimp .

Our own contribution drew on the experiential learning approach developed at The Manchester Business School, and particularly in workshops around the world for executive MBA courses since 2007.  A key aspect is encouragement for the process of creating and reflecting on  ‘living cases’ from current leadership events from various sources, including sports management, business, and everyday social situations.

Further details can be found in a recent post

This post provides pre-workshop material primarily for participants, and will be concluded after the event.

Key aspects

As we designed the workshop, we wanted to find a way of combining the MBS approach with the anticipated wide range of issues relevant to participants. We settled for a format which invited discussion around:

Conceptual map making

Leader as management of dialog and management of meaning

Dialog and dilemmas [when you engage with others who have different ‘mind maps’]

Engagement through creating and exploring ‘living cases’

Skills for dealing with tough decisions creatively [yes and…; insights through lateral thinking approaches, perception is a map not the territory]

Supporting visuals

Our supporting visuals can be seen here as Taking tough decisions

To be concluded


Oludotun Adebayo, Radio Five’s Night Rider, comes into the light

April 13, 2015

Dotun AdabayeThe distinguished journalist and political activist Oludotun Adebayo has his faithful night-time radio listeners. He is now gaining a wider daytime audience

I am a part-time insomniac, working with a zero sleep-hours contract. My normal remedy is to turn the pesky brain-signals into a blog post. My alternative approach is to listen to the relaxing items on the BBC Five’s Up All Night radio programme master-minded by the amiable Oludotun (Dotun) Adebayo.

Background

Dotun Grew up in Tottenham, and won a scholarship to read Scandinavian literature at Stockholm. He founded The X Press publishing house and has been working for the BBC since 1993. He was awarded an MBE for services to the arts in 2009, and is married to pop singer Carroll Thompson

He has been presenter of Up All Night since Nov 2001.  His books include the cult classics Sperm Bandits (2002) and Can I Have My Balls Back Please (2003)

The Young Entrepreneur

He gives an indication of his background as a young boy whose family moved from Lagos to England [in an article he wrote for The Voice a few years ago] :

I was sent to work at a store at the age of 12 to help with the family finances. I didn’t fool my work colleagues at the time, but I would have sworn an affidavit there and then that I was the requisite age of 16, so proud was I of being able to help my folks out at a time of crisis.

In such circumstances, the superiority of that African heritage understanding of family and duty, and the respect you have to show your parents, shines through. Add to that the improvisation of the poor to make ends meet, and I suppose any child would have gone to court to swear an affidavit that all known birth records were lost in a fire in Lagos, Nigeria.

I would have said: ‘I, Oludotun Adebayo, swear that I was born four years earlier than I actually was, and the fact that I look like I’m not old enough to be a teenager is neither here nor there. And neither is the fact I, unlike any other 16-year-old, haven’t got a clue what you’re talking about when you ask me about my O’ levels.’

Now the Night Rider of Radio 5 has been given an afternoon slot. Will he yield to the temptation to head for the Marmite fame of a celebrity broadcaster?

Acknowledgement

To Conor for researching into Adabayo’s biography.


The Incomparable Richie Benaud (1930-2015)

April 10, 2015

Baggy green capAfter a successful career as a cricketer, Richie Benaud gave pleasure to countless fans around the world for his affectionate and unique broadcasting style.

As he matured, his walnut-brown crumbled face to camera resembled an extension of the baggy-green cap as a symbol of Australian  cricket.

Towards the end of his life, he endured accidents and bad health stoically.

Obituaries this week made comparisons with other cricketers and commentators.  

He is ranked with his compatriot Bradman for influencing the success of Australian cricket. Similarities have been notedwith Mike Brearley for his  astute  captaincy, with John Arlott as a warm and empathic commentator, and with   Geoff Boycott, (without the spiky narcissism) as a reader of the game.

Comparisons may help a little in  our understanding of his achievements and facets of his personality.  They can do little more.  Richie Benaud the man remains incomparable.


The power of Yes And thinking

April 8, 2015

NHS Health Check

Susan Moger and Tudor Rickards

The power of Yes And thinking is explored within a workshop on Taking Tough Decisions: A creative problem-solving approach. as part of the Fifth National Medical Leadership conference 17th April 2015 at the Macron Stadium, Bolton

This post is based on an earlier document which we used regularly with MBA students at Manchester Business School over a period of years. We have retained it in its original form, and appended references to subsequent work.

We believe that the climate for creative ideas can often be negative. As a shorthand, we talk about a YES BUT climate in which people are prone to respond to any new idea with a ‘Yes But’.  This negative mind-set is based on unconsciously held beliefs and we can weaken these by becoming conscious, to the extent of becoming self-conscious of ‘Yes Butting’. In this way we begin to reduce the damage caused by excessive Yes Butting by substituting ‘Yes and’.

Yes but’ implies ‘There is something wrong with this idea. I want nothing further to do with this bad idea’.

In contrast, ‘Yes And’ implies ‘There is something that can be improved about this idea. I am willing to work at it to improve it as best I can’.

To take a simple example:

‘I have just thought of the idea of flypaper to go in cars to stop insects distracting you when you are driving’.

‘Yes But … wherever you put it someone would get stuck sooner or later’.

‘Yes And … if you could design it so that passengers never get stuck it would be even better. How about an insecticide block or the paper inside a mesh with fly attractant. Or how about combining it with the air freshener?

Note: In follow-up studies of participants on our courses, more find they have applied ‘Yes And’ to benefit than any other technique.

Since we wrote the manual [sometime in the 1990s] we have continued to find Yes And a powerful means of overcoming negativity, promoting creativity, addressing tough leadership dilemmas, and resolving communication difficulties. It engages with issues of positive psychology, discursive communications theory.and conflict resolution approaches.

Updating

We acknowledge encouragement from Dr Rebecca Baron for reviving this note  as a contribution to The National Leadership Conference, and Shropshire NHS for the creative image urging Health Checks..

The overall Yes And approach was published as The Power of the And in The Handbook for creative team leaders . We further revised it in The Routledge Companion To Creativity,  and in Dilemmas of Leadership


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