What is lost?

I work at PeopleSoft which was just acquired in a hostile takeover by Oracle. I have many emotions about the acquisition and it’s impact on me and many of my good friends. I am going to start blogging publicly about these experiences and this is my first entry. There will be more to follow.

Monday (the day that the acquisitionwas announced) was not September 11th – no one died, there was no videotape of the event, and the nation is not in mourning. But as I watched, with stunned amazement, the events that unfolded, I began to reflect on what is really lost.

There is a similarity between the two events: The shared nature of their impact. It is one thing to lose your job, or for a good friend to lose their job. It is another to have potentially hundreds of friends lose their jobs, or at least lose their company. The difference is not just a matter of magnitude, it is one of substance. Unlike being laid off, or taking a new job, this is a shared experience – one that all of us are experiencing together. Although we each have different reactions to the event, we are sharing the process of change.

This shared experience contains a huge opportunity for each of us. It is an opportunity to reflect upon what we really cherished about the company we called PeopleSoft. PeopleSoft has some great products – I work with them every day and I know the value they bring to customers. PeopleSoft also has some great customers and partners – I spoke to several of them yesterday. And, of course, we have some great people. But, for me, none of those things are what is lost in this acquisition. What we have lost is the sense of community, shared values and shared purpose that we had in PeopleSoft.

So where do we go from here? Of course, the answer is up to each of us individually, but I hope that we each plan to spread the Core Values that this company has espoused for the last 17 years and bring them to wherever we may land. So much is lost, but by knowing what exactly we have lost, we can search for, or create, it elsewhere.

Perhaps now is the time to consider how we each can embody the core values at this moment: People, Customers, Integrity, Quality, Innovation, Fun and Profitability. How can your actions bring each of these of these to light in this very dark time? It has been said that crisis does not build character, it reveals it. What do these difficult times reveal in your character? I believe for many of us this will be a turning point we reflect back on for years to come.

On a practical note, I do want to keep in touch with my many friends at PeopleSoft. I am not leaving the company at this point, but I suspect many of my coworkers are considering your options. There are several ways for to keep in touch with your your coworkers no matter where they land:

  • Post your thoughts on “Power to the People” a site developed by a few PeoplePeople for us to talk about our experiences.
  • LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a “Social Networking” site for professionals. It is a way for you to keep in touch with your professional network and to find new opportunities. Got to http://www.linkedin.com and sign up – you can search for me and link to me and others.
  • The PeopleSoft Alumni Network. This site was started by Steve Tennant (a PeopleSoft Alumni) and it is a gathering place for folks who have worked at PeopleSoft in the past. They only take on people who no longer work at PeopleSoft (so if you end up working for Oracle you are out of luck). You can visit the site at http://www.psftalumni.net/

On Value and Values

I am reading an amazing book right now – On Value and Values by Douglas K. Smith. It is the most lucid book on business that I have read since “Good to Great“. In fact, it is a great companion to “Good to Great” because it shows how that book falls short (although it never addresses Collins work directly).

The challenge with “On Value and Values” is that it does not lend itself well to sound bites and simple synopsis. There was an article in Fast Company that first got me interested in the book – it provides an adequate overview of the main thesis of the book, but you really need to read it. The fascinating thing about the book is that I find myself disagreeing with Smith at the start of several of the chapters and then seeing the power of his arguments by the end of the chapter. Smith like to break down our traditional beliefs about our world and then rebuild them with a more modern framework. It is a challenging book that really makes me question much of my work and life goals.

One of his central arguments is that modern corporations have chosen to focus on one single measure for success, known as “value”. Value is really the equivalent of money (or the ratio of money for material goods) and until recently “value” was just one measure of success among many other “values”. He tracks where this change came from and how we can start to instill values back into our lives – not by turning back the clock, but by accepting our current situation and looking forward.

It is on this point of “value” (particularly shareholder value) that he challenges the ideas in “Good to Great”. Collins admits at the beginning of his book that the only objective measure of “Great” companies in his book is stock price (“shareholder value”) over a 15 year period. Although this may be true, it relegates “Good to Great” as a treatise on how to fine tune value often to the exclusion (or at least benign neglect) of other values. Collins does address these issues in his last chapter, but for the most part our corporations (and we as individuals) do not address them.

“On Value and Values” is a challenging book. It asks corporate employees to carefully consider the many impact of their actions. It asks individuals who wish to turn back the clock on our purpose based society to consider accepting our new world. It is a welcome addition to my library.


A great article on how we need to teach our children to create. I really like this quote drawn from the article:

Joan Almon, coordinator of the U.S. Alliance for Childhood, says she understands what an important role imagination can play — even in a government bureaucracy. “As Albert Einstein once said: ‘You can’t solve a problem with the same thinking that created the problem,”’ she said.

“Unfortunately, what we are doing today in education is de-emphasizing imagination. We are relying more and more on standardized tests, and we are emphasizing creativity less and less.”

The World is a Mirror

“What you believe creates your reality”. This is one of the tenants that I try to live by. You can change reality by changing your beliefs. And I don’t mean this in a trivial sense (“smile and world smiles with you”) but in the most fundamental and real sense. The problem is that most people (and me specifically) find it is virtually impossible to change what they believe is real. There few people who have accomplished this – they are our spiritual leaders, good and bad. They are the people who have outwardly changed our

It is just a monumental task to change your beliefs, even in the smallest way. That is why the Buddhist principle of re-incarnation is so appealing to me – it means I may get more than one lifetime to change my beliefs (which takes off some of the pressure :-). This is another reason why I think our media blackout is a positive way to change the world – it can help in bringing my focus back to the only thing I can really change – myself.

This is why I often view the world as a mirror – a vehicle to better understand yourself and your intentions. If you see something in the world that upsets you – whether it is George W. Bush, Bill Clinton or some guy at the Supermarket – you have to make a simple choice: Do I spend my time trying to change the thing I am upset about, or do I change my beliefs about it? I believe the latter choice is much more powerful (and difficult). I think the first step is to understand why you are upset, to understand what is underlying that feeling of anger, sadness, jealousy, etc… that upsets you. Most often these emotions come up because of something we see reflecting ourselves. When someone lies to you, do you get upset because of what they did, or because of how it reminds you of untruths you have told? Taking responsibility for our own actions is the first step in changing your beliefs.

The fact is that it is very difficult to change your beliefs. It is downright impossible to change anyone else’s. So why spend your time trying the impossible when you have your work cut out for you with just changing your beliefs? I am not saying that you have to sit around meditating all day to do good in the world (although that might be a good place to start), but until you understand your emotions and the intentions behind them, you CANNOT do good in the world. If your intentions are to dominate others, then it does not matter how righteous your cause (Save the Whales! Free Tibet! Impeach Clinton! Impeach Bush!) the results will be domination of others. It is impossible to judge the intentions of others (we can only guess, and once again it is a distraction from what matters).

Wildlife at the Sohigians

I mentioned a few days ago that we just got some ducks at our place in Washougal. We actually have a fair bit of wildlife on our property. Here are some pics of the animals we know about:

Two bunny rabbits (the other one hides most of the time):

Nine red hens (all good layers – drop by if you need some eggs):

Six Ducklings (incredibly cute):

Deer (several can be seen on any given day):

Our cat, unfortunately, has completely given up on us (probably due to all of the above). We have not seen it in over three weeks, but we have not given up hope. Might just be on a nice vacation for a bit.

Actually I forgot to get shots of the two parakeets. Oh well, you get the idea.

Hitler and the Buddha

Was having a discussion with my Mom a few nights ago and came to a interesting conclusion: Buddha and Hitler goals in life were identical on one level. How is this possible? Because I believe their souls were after exactly the same thing – to have their soul’s purpose align exactly with the universe’s purpose. The only difference was their approach to this goal.

Hitler (and many political/religious leaders before and since) took the approach of trying to change the world to fit his view of how it should be. If he could have managed to change it then his soul would be in alignment with the world. Of course, this approach causes nothing but anger and strife because it is a fight that is impossible to win. The world will not change to meet your desires.

The Buddha (and many spiritual leaders before and since) took the approach of trying to change himself to match his view of how the world is. This is still a monumental task, but one that might be achieved in a few lifetimes. This approach can deliver love and trust because the Buddha was willing to accept all things around him, rather than fight those things in an effort to change them to his world view. You can change your desires to meet the world.

I can’t say for sure that my Mother agreed with my conclusion, but as always, she was willing to listen.


Last week my wife Meta headed down to the feed store in Camas (a few miles from where we live) and picked up some ducks. They are Muscovy ducks – very cute when they are small and apparently they are pretty bright when the get mature. Also they are egg layers and really good meat ducks (served in the fines restaurants around the world). Not sure if the kids are going to go for eating them though…

Gmail account

Rich Manalang mentioned Google’s new Gmail service in a recent post. I went ahead and got an account because of the large storage capabilities. I had a specific need – I am working on revamping my Son’s school’s website and wanted an email address where parents could send photos of the kids. It is a better choice than my personal email because I can set it up as a “group” email and give out the userid and password to the various people working on the website.

Technology and Personal Responsibility

One of the things that really rings true for me in Talbott’s “The Future Does Not Compute” is the theme of personal responsibility. It is very tempting in my interactions to blame others for my problems and to judge others for their shortcomings. But I strongly believe that you can change the world by changing your intentions and taking responsibility for your choices. And I believe this will be even truer in terms of choices regarding technology. As technology makes it possible to influence the entire world with a single email you will need to consider the choices you make even more seriously.

The challenge is that technology left to itself encourages taking even less responsibility for our choices. Technology does not contain any inherent values and if we take technology as our guide we are also eschewing our values. For example – when you receive an email at work, how much time do you take to consider the actual person who sent the email? Do you think about their human spirit, their values, their emotions? In most cases I don’t have the time or inclination to do so and I suspect most others are in the same situation.

I have a theory that when Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence get to the point where we can project an image of ourselves that completely mimics our physical incarnation (perhaps in all five senses) we will find encounters with these incarnations still fall short of the real thing. There will always be something missing – always something about face to face that is more intimate, more human. It may take getting our technology to that point for us to realize that it is not better communication technology that we need, but better communication period. Technology that “facilitates” communication can actually lead us away from that as it tends to drive towards fact oriented conversations that are disconnected from the human spirit. I realize this is not always the case, but in general it is something that I feel I must fight in my technology mediated conversations.