You may not have heard, but nationwide, regional branches of the Red Cross blood banks are in the midst of an unprecedented crisis. It amounts to an extreme drought in our blood supply that has forced a quarter of American hospitals to postpone or even cancel nonemergency operations -- including heart bypass procedures -- due to lack of blood. Part of the problem, it seems, is perhaps overstringent screening measures for blood safety that include many overseas travel restrictions levied on would-be blood donors. Those measures, we're told, are being reviewed and revisited. Still, only 5 percent of eligible donors currently give blood, according to the Red Cross. In many of its facilities, the Red Cross has only half a day's supply of blood rather than the three to five day reserve needed to prepare for emergencies. Jennifer Garfinkel, a spokesperson for the American Association of Blood Banks, said that, in disaster situations, "It's the blood on the shelves that saves lives. It has already been processed, tested, given the green light to be transfused." Without that reserve supply, as a nation we're simply unprepared for mass disasters.
If you are at all uneasy about the direction in which Russia is now heading, this OpEd by John Vinocur that explores Russian obstructionism in helping to curb Iran's nuclear program will only reinforce those concerns....
Monday, September 10, 2007
WASHINGTON: Suppose the Russians, as Iran's monopoly supplier of nuclear wherewithal, decided they could live with a few atomic weapons in the hands of the mullahs.
Suppose the Russians, flush with money and superpower fantasies, believed that weakening and humiliating the United States was well worth the instability that might come with Moscow's refusal to help block Iran's drive toward nuclear arms.
Where's the downside? From Vladimir Putin's point of view, it's win-win.
With Russia's obstructive tactics encouraging Iran to plunge ahead, he may figure the Americans will eventually strike Iranian nuclear installations. The Yanks would harvest opprobrium in much of the world.
Still, if their strike does eradicate the Iranian nuclear program, that's fine, too. Russia's oil and gas prices are sure to shoot up. Russia becomes Iran's key reconstruction contractor, and sets out a rare claim to international righteousness.
What's irrational about the above scenario? Or its counterpart, which is that Russian now calculates the United States in the end will sit on its hands concerning Iran?
Nothing. Multiple versions of them get discussed within the Bush Administration, all stamped, Non Whacko.
It's exemplary of the misery of the American situation.
On one hand, the Administration sticks to the notion - recall, please, George W. Bush's magnanimous first-term reading of Putin's soul in his KGB eyes - that somehow, someday, but in the nick of time, the Russians are going to come around to joining an international effort to halt Iran's nuclear drive.
On the other hand, important areas of the administration are offering a hardened assessment of what Russia ultimately wants.
After a couple of years of talking about how Putin's richer Russia (reasonably) craved respect, a senior administration policymaker, in a private conversation, now asserts the "overwhelming evidence" is a Russia that seeks to weaken the United States. Wherever possible internationally, he says, Moscow will work to stop America from achieving success.
The hitch is that concerning Iran, these two administration notions, expecting good from Russia while regarding it as a gathering, noxious force, are contradictory to the point of incompatibility.
The summer showed just how much.
In June, the Americans said they expected a United Nations Security Council resolution in July that would add a new round of modest sanctions to those already in effect against Iran. It never happened. The Russians, with Chinese assistance, sidetracked the measure.
Reality now says the United Nations is not going to be the place where Iran's nuclear dreams die.
Almost in the same stride, the Russians in July used the threat of a Security Council veto to dismantle an American-backed motion on Kosovo's independence.
The combined effect is not only an American defeat. It's a demonstration that, unlike in the Cold War, there are no clear limits on how far this Russia feels it can push this America.
Forget the grandiloquence of Moscow's planting flags in the Arctic and re-establishing world-wide strategic bomber patrols.
But as the United States flails in Iraq, and faces a financial crisis that may affect command-economies and authoritarian regimes less than democracies, why shouldn't Russia see the Iran issue as a strategic hole for achieving a new global status?
After all, Jacques Chirac, whose vision of a multipolar world consigning America to the role of everyone's opponent gets applause in Moscow, argued in his last months as French president that a few Iranian nukes shouldn't cause much lost sleep for anyone sharing his take on a remade global hierarchy.
Chirac didn't say it, but he could have rationalized that a limited number of atomic weapons at Iran's disposal would be a reasonable price to pay for disabling an American world order that he, like Putin, reviles.
It's a reflection of America's current incapacities that Nicolas Sarkozy, who might have interesting notions of Putin's calculations from Élysée Palace files, two weeks ago detailed the Iran situation in a tougher and more concise way than Washington.
Sarkozy knows that some Westerners who have talked directly to Putin have been told that Russia does not want a nuclear-armed Iran. He also knows the deceit of Russia's official position that it has no evidence indicating Iran's nuclear activities are anything but peaceful.
Draw this conclusion: If Sarkozy has been informed that Putin will act to halt Iran's drive short of a bomb, then he would not be calling the prospect of Iranian atomic bomb capability the world's biggest menace.
There are, on good evidence, officials within the Bush administration frustrated by its own bollixed approach - hoping that the Russians will turn responsible after their "elections" next year while acknowledging Moscow is now in full confrontational mode. Assume they could only leap to praise Sarkozy for saying in a speech a couple of weeks ago what Bush would not:
If sanctions fail, the alternatives are an Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran. As for Russia, Sarko described its behavior as marked by a "certain brutality."
The sanctions Sarkozy is talking about are hard, new measures outside the United Nations that would probably involve an ad hoc group including the United States, Britain, France and Japan at its core.
This approach specifically means forgetting about the Security Council, and giving up on Russia, barring sudden and unlikely cooperation. The sanctions have to be so penalizing, obviously disadvantaging Western banks and industry, to become truly dissuasive. This requires real resolve.
It also requires the underpinning of a tacit yet palpable threat: if these measures don't work, there's real unpleasantness to come. With a phrase, Sarkozy marked out the Iranian choice with a sharper edge than the Americans have.
That's a significant advance.
But unless Bush first gets publicly tougher on Russia as Iran's protector and international obstructionist, the mullahs may take America's insistence on skirting this reality as the surest sign they can get that they're home free.
"Developing Excellent communication skills is absolutely essential to effective leadership. The leader must be able to share knowledge and ideas to transmit a sense of urgency and enthusiasm to others. If a leader can't get a message across clearly and motivate others to act on it, then having a message doesn't even matter."
- Gilbert Amelio, President and CEO of National Semiconductor Corp.
The success of your marriage, job, and personal relationships depends greatly on your ability to communicate. People will not follow you if they do not know what you want or where you are going. Consequently, you can be a more effective communicator if you follow four basic truths.
1. Simplify Your Message - Communication is not just what you say. It is also how you say it. Contrary to what some educators teach, the key to effective communication is simplicity. Forget about impressing people with big words or complex sentences. If you want to connect with people, keep it simple.
2. See the Person - Effective Communicators focus on the people with whom they are communicating. They know it is impossible to effectively communicate to an audience without knowing something about them. As you communicate with people, whether individuals or groups, ask yourself these questions: Who is my audience? What are their questions? What needs to be accomplished? And how much time to I have? If you want to become a better communicator, become audience oriented. People believe in great communicators because great communicators believe in people.
3. Show the Truth - Credibility precedes great communication. There are two ways to convey credibility to your audience. First, believe in what you say. Ordinary people become extraordinary communicators when they are fired up with conviction. Field Marshal Ferdinand Foch observed, "The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire" Second, live what you say. There is no greater credibility than conviction in action.
4. Seek a Response - As you communicate, never forget that the goal of all communication is action. If you dump a bunch of information on people, you are not communicating. Every time you speak to people, give them something to feel, something to remember, and something to do. If you are successful in doing that, your ability to lead others will go to a new level.
To improve your communication, do the following:
- Be Clear as a Bell - Examine a letter, memo, or other item you've recently written. Are your sentences short and direct, or do they meander? Will your readers be able to grasp the words you've chosen, or will they have to scramble for a dictionary? Have you used the fewest words possible? To a communicator, your best friends are simplicity and clarity. Write your next piece of communication keeping both in mind.
- Refocus your Attention - During the coming week, pay attention to your focus when you communicate. Is it on you, your material, or your audience? If it is not on people, you need to change it. Think about their needs, questions, and desires. Meet people where they are, and you will be a better communicator.
- Live your Message - Are their any discrepancies between what you communicate and what you do? Talk to a few trustworthy people and ask them whether you are living your message. Your spouse, a mentor, or a close friend may be able to see things that you are blind to. Receive their comments without defensiveness. Then purpose to make changes in your life to be more consistent.
On April 7, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln made a burdensome decision, and he need to communicate it to his general in the field. On it rested all his hopes and the entire weight of his leadership as president. Using all his considerable skill as a communicator, he wrote the following message:
Lieut. Gen. Grant, Gen. Sheridan says, "If the thing is pressed, I think that Lee will surrender." Let the thing be pressed.
The president didn't allow the importance of a piece of communication to complicate its simplicity. Neither should we.
(From The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader by John Maxwell)
People do not follow uncommitted leaders. Commitment can be displayed in a full range of matters to include the work hours you choose to maintain, how you work to improve your abilities, or what you do for your fellow workers at personal sacrifice. - Stephen Gregg, Chairman and CEO of Ethix Corp.
The world has never seen a great leader who lacked commitment. Ed McElroy of USAir spoke of its importance: "Commitment gives us new power. No matter what comes to us - sickness, poverty, or disaster - we never turn our eyes from our goal."
What is commitment? To each person, it means something different:
- To the boxer, it is getting off the mat one time more than you've been knocked down.
- To the marathoner, it is running another ten miles when your strength is gone.
- To the soldier, it is going over the hill, not knowing what is waiting on the other side.
- To the missionary, it is saying good-bye to your own comfort to make life better for others
- To the leader, it is all that and more because everyone you lead is depending on you.
If you want to be an effective leader, you have to be committed. True commitment inspires and attracts people. It shows them that you have conviction. They will believe in you only if you believe in your cause. As the Law of Buy-In states, people buy into the leader, then the vision.
What is the true nature of commitment?
- Commitment Starts in the Heart - Some people want everything to be perfect before they are wiling to commit themselves to anything, but commitment always precedes achievement. NBA legend Michael Jordan explains that "heart is what separates the good from the great." If you want to make a difference in other people's lives as a leader, look into your heart to see if you are really committed.
- Commitment Is Tested by Action - It is one thing to talk about commitment. It is another to do something about it. The only real measure of commitment is action. Arthur Gordon acknowledged, "Nothing is easier than saying words. Nothing is harder than living them day after day." How are you doing when it comes to following through on your commitments?
- Commitment Opens the Door to Achievement - As a leader, you will face plenty of obstacles and opposition - if you do not already. And there will be times when commitment is the only thing that carries you forward. David McNally commented, "Commitment is the enemy of resistance, for it is the serious promise to press on, to get up, no matter how many times you are knocked down." If you want to get anywhere worthwhile, you must be committed.
To improve your commitment, do the following:
- Measure It - Sometimes we think we are committed to something yet our actions indicate otherwise.
- Know what is worth dying for - One of the questions every leader must ask himself is, What am I willing to die for? If it came down to it, what in life would you not be able to stop doing, no matter what the consequences were? See if your actions match your ideals.
- Use the Edison Method - If taking the first step toward commitment is a problem, try doing what Thomas Edison did. When he had a good idea for an invention, he would call a press conference to announce it. Then he would go into his lab and invent it. Make your plans public, and you might be more committed to following through with them.
(From The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader by John Maxwell)
In a Christianity Today Leadership Journal interview with Rick Warren, he made some observations about renewal and change that apply to any organization (and really individual change as well). He has found that we go through five renewals and typically in the following order:
1. Personal Renewal. This gets at a renewal of the heart—knowing yourself and getting your values, priorities and purpose straight. The first step of any leader is to first get themselves right. Of course, this is a lifelong cyclical process. You never get it right and move on. It should happen concurrently with everything else you do in your life.
2. Relational Renewal. Warren says, “It’s loving your neighbor as yourself.” A leader can’t lead unless they has a solid, honest relationship with their people. Getting your attitude right about other people—how you value and respect others—is foundational to effectively leading others. It comes out in many ways and will affect how people react to your message.
3. Purpose Renewal. What am I supposed to be doing? Where are we going? We are not here just for ourselves. “We have work to do.”
4. Structural Renewal. Warren says, “You can’t put new wine in old wine skins. I once asked Peter Drucker, who was my mentor for over 20 years, ‘How often do you have to change the structure in a rapidly growing organization?’ He said about every 40 percent growth. (Now, since that time, I’ve heard him use two other numbers, so I think he was just making it up.) But the point is that structural renewal happens pretty often.” To sustain change you need to structure everything you do so as to guide your behavior to be in alignment with your values, attitudes about other people, and you purpose; why you do what you do.
5. Cultural Renewal. The first four renewals eventually become the catalyst to make the change or renewal part of our thinking and thus our behavior. We become what we say we are.
What skills do you need to have for the next five years? Here's an insightful article from techrepublic.com's Debra Littlejohn Shinder. Techrepublic is a great webzine with a wealth of information...certainly worth a bookmark!
If you want a job where you can train in a particular skill set and then never have to learn anything new, IT isn't the field for you. But if you like to be constantly learning new things and developing new skills, you're in the right business. In the late 80s, NetWare and IPX/SPX administration were the skills to have. Today, it's all about TCP/IP and the Internet.
Let's take a look at some of the skills you should be thinking about developing to keep on top of things in the tech world in the next five years.
1. Voice over IP
Many companies and consumers are already using VoIP for telephone services due to cost and convenience factors. According to a SearchVoIP.com article in June 2007, sales of pure IP PBX systems for the first quarter of 2007 increased 76% over the first quarter of the previous year.
More and more companies are expected to go to VoIP, to either supplement or replace their traditional phone lines. And because VoIP runs on the TCP/IP network, IT administrators will in many cases be expected to take responsibility for VoIP implementation and ongoing administration.
2. Unified communications
Along with the growing popularity of VoIP, the concept of unified communications-the convergence of different communications technologies, such as e-mail, voicemail, text messaging, and fax-looks to be the wave of the future. Users will expect to have access to all their communications from a single interface, such as their Inbox, and from a variety of devices: PCs, laptops, smart phones/PDAs, traditional phones, etc.
Convergence makes networks more complex, and IT administrators will need to develop skills for managing converged networks to compete in tomorrow's job market.
3. Hybrid networks
The day of the all-Windows or all-UNIX network is already past, and networks are likely to grow more, rather than less hybridized in the future. As new versions of Linux, such as Ubuntu, become friendlier for end users, we're likely to see some organizations deploying it on the desktop for certain users. However, it's likely that other users will continue to use Windows because of application requirements and/or personal preferences, and there may very well be Macintosh users in the mix as well, especially in graphics environments.
IT pros will no longer be able to get by with expertise in only one platform; you'll need to be able to support and troubleshoot different operating systems.
4. Wireless technology
Wireless networking is still in its infancy in the enterprise. Companies are (often grudgingly) establishing wireless LANs for the use of employees and visitors because it's the most convenient way for portable computers to connect to the network, but many organizations are still wary of wireless (rightly so), particularly its security implications.
But wireless isn't going away, and the future promises faster and more secure wireless technologies. You'll need to know about 802.11n, a new standard now in development and estimated to be released in late 2008, which will provide for a typical throughput of 74 Mbps with a theoretical maximum data rate of 248 Mbps and a longer range than current 802.11a/b/g standards (about 70 meters, or approximately 230 feet).
5. Remote user support
The trend is toward more employees working off-site: executives taking their laptops on the road, telecommuters working from home at least a few days per week, personnel in the field connecting back to the LAN, and so forth. The IT staff will need to be able to support these remote users while maintaining the security of the internal network.
It will be important to learn skills relating to different VPN technologies (including SSL VPN) and technologies for health monitoring and quarantining of remote clients to prevent those that don't meet minimal criteria (antivirus installed and updated, firewall enabled, etc.) from connecting to the LAN and putting the rest of the network at risk.
6. Mobile user support
Cell phones, Blackberries, and other ultra-portable devices are becoming ubiquitous and will likely grow more sophisticated in the future. Employees will expect to get their corporate e-mail on their phones and in some cases (such as Windows Mobile devices), to use terminal services client software to connect these small devices to the company LAN.
IT staff members will need to develop a plethora of skills to support mobile users, including expertise in configuration of mail servers and knowledge of security implications of the devices.
7. Software as a service
Web 2.0, the next generation of the Internet, is all about SaaS, or Software as a Service. SaaS involves delivering applications over the Web, rather than installing those applications on individual users' machines. Some IT pundits have warned that SaaS will do away with IT administrators' jobs entirely, but the more likely scenario is that the job description will change to one with less focus on deployment and maintenance of applications and more emphasis on broader-based planning, convergence, etc.
If SaaS takes off, the job market may also shift so that more jobs are concentrated in the application provider sector rather than in companies' in-house IT departments. In that situation, IT pros who have the skills relating to service provision and multi-tenant architecture will have a head start when it comes to getting and staying
Virtualization has been around for a while, but now, with Microsoft heavily investing in the technology with its Windows hypervisor (Viridian), which will run on Windows Server 2008, VMWare offering VMWare Server for free, and Red Hat and SuSE planning to include Xen hypervisor technology in the next versions of their server products, we can expect the concept of virtual machines to go to a whole new level in the next few years.
Managing a VM-based network environment is a skill that will be not just handy, but essential, as more and more companies look to virtualization to consolidate servers and save on hardware costs.
Widespread adoption of the next generation of the Internet Protocol (IPv6) hasn't come about as quickly as originally predicted, in large part because technologies such as NAT prevented the depletion of available IP addresses from happening as soon as anticipated.
However, with the number of hosts on the Internet growing steadily, the larger address space will eventually be critical to further expansion. IPv6 also offers better security with IPsec, a part of the basic protocol suite. Perhaps the inevitability of the transition is best indicated by the fact that Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, Mac OS X 10.3, and the latest versions of other operating systems have IPv6 enabled by default.
With an entirely different address notation, called CIDR, and addresses written in hexadecimal instead of the familiar four octets of decimal numbers used by IPv4, there will be a learning curve for IT administrators. The time to tune up your IPv6 skills is now, before the transition becomes mandatory.
Smart IT pros have been developing their security skills for the last several years, but the future will bring new security challenges and new security mechanisms. Technologies such as VoIP and mobile computing bring new security issues and challenges. Authentication methods are evolving from a password-based model to multifactor models, and biometrics are likely to become more important in the future.
As threats become more sophisticated, shifting from teenage hackers defacing Web sites "just for fun" to well financed corporate espionage agents and cyberterrorists bent on bringing down the country's vital infrastructure by attacking the networks that run it, security skills must keep up.
In addition to proactive measures, IT pros will need to know more about computer forensics and be able to track what is happening and has happened on their networks.
Debra Littlejohn Shinder is a technology consultant, trainer and writer who has authored a number of books on computer operating systems, networking, and security. These include Scene of the Cybercrime: Computer Forensics Handbook, published by Syngress, and Computer Networking Essentials, published by Cisco Press. She is co-author, with her husband, Dr. Thomas Shinder, of
Troubleshooting Windows 2000 TCP/IP, the best-selling Configuring ISA Server 2000, and ISA Server and Beyond.