Elevator Checks on Hold

Over the next month, this blog will cover certain building-related issues in order to facilitate a research project by MPA students at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.  The ER focus of the blog remains, only the flavor will change a bit.  And so–Chicago has some mighty tall buildings, and NASCAR-speed elevators taking folks to the top. Many have been awaiting their annual inspections for years.  Elevate carefully, my friends.

Supreme Embarrassment

Not long ago I told readers about the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice convicted for misusing staff for political activities.  So last year!  This newest Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice in the negative news spotlight is one Seamus McCaffrey, embroiled in a scandal involving sexually explicit materials sent around from official government email addresses.  The judge, whose trajectory towards the Supreme Court–an elected position in Pennsylvania–was boosted by a high profile stint as the on-site judge dealing summarily with rowdyism at Philadelphia Eagles football games, now rides off into the sunset.

Rational Management–Dream On!

Way more often than we know, because organizations cover it up if they can, destructive behavior lays an organization low.  A frequent cause is executive struggle, which sometimes are family feuds.  Less frequently, a destructive contagion afflicts the workforce, which takes actions that threaten the very existence of their employer.  The Market Basket story has all of the above.  The metaphor I’m fond of is executives grimly battling to their mutually assured destruction, wrecking all around them in the process, while the rest of the organization is forced to take sides and/or is so transfixed by the spectacle that nothing gets done till its over, with the enterprise a casualty.  That’s the case here. None of this makes sense unless you understand that, once unleashed, primal emotion trumps the economic rationality championed by business texts and analyzed endlessly in management journals.

Snake-bit by Software–DOA (706)

The headline award goes to the blog post linked here: How to lose 172K a second for 45 minutes. That’s nearly a half billion dollars of venom. The company was DOA in under an hour.  Cause of death: long dormant programming code deep within the high-speed electronic trading system rose up and sunk its fangs into the firm’s jugular.  How? In just one of eight servers, a systems upgrade produced a coding glitch that inadvertently activated the long-forgotten trading-bot, whose corresponding cross-checks and controls no longer existed.  So, on the day of it’s debut, 12% of the system started executing trades without being restrained by how many securities the firm actually had to trade or could buy.  Then staff, trying to isolate the problem, turned off other servers, which routed more and more electronic trade orders to the renegade server operating without limits.  A “normal” accident, as unstoppable as it was statistically predictable, in the ever more complex and super-velocity world of electronic trading.

Privatized Lockups Duck Costly Cases

This story is mostly about racial disparity but a subtext is about private operators of contracted out prisons finding ways to leave more costly prisoners in the public system.  This phenomenon also arises in charter schools, many of which manage to have a “special education” population far below the public schools from which they are drawing students.  Competitive models for public services are one thing, but comparing public vs. contractor performance is a dishonest exercise if the game is rigged so that the privateers skim the cream.

Seattle FBI chief abruptly retires (706)

Seattle FBI chief abruptly retires | Local News | The Seattle Times.

Not sure where this story is headed but Ms. Laughlin seemed to have a tumultuous reign at the Seattle office.  A fuller story will likely emergeand students may want to compare some of Ms. Laughlin’s experiences to John O’Neill’s–the “Man Who Knew”–whose story on Frontline we all will be viewing for the “Structure” class.  Note also, as one 706 student reminded us in class a few weeks ago, the strong egos apparently at play in both cases.

Clear Degree Pathways–Outrage!

What Non-Profit Universities Can Learn from the For-Profits | Inside Higher Ed.  Lessons like clearer paths to degrees, career-linked degrees and scaling up courses with technology, none of which engenders much enthusiasm among the professorate holding sway at most universities.  Where I teach, City University of New York, a “Pathways” proposal (see clearer paths to degrees above) was recently scaled back after years of faculty rage, protests and a lawsuit or two.

Chaos Good! (706)

Readers: Some posts will now have (706) attached. (706) posts may highlight “healthy” organizational behaviors/arrangements, as opposed to the “ER admits” dominating this site.  This story, on managing “organized chaos,” is about healthy organizational living.  FYI: 706 is the number of a graduate course I teach, which, not surprisingly, is called Bureaupathology.  Dr. O.