Monday, May 26, 2014

Annual Memorial Day Post 2014: When the Truth is the Casualty, it Hurts Everyone

This is a day to remember our veterans and fallen heroes. The one I mourn the most for is a warrior we often forget, not just in the military or in IT but in all life. This warrior's name is Truth.

The truth is a simple but beautiful thing, if you allow yourself to accept it. It is the understanding of something with complete clarity, totally free of bias. It's something that is not subject to argument, it does not take sides, it brings us answers and as the old adage says, it sets us free.

Such a wonderful thing should be revered, even cherished. We humans instead fear the truth. We bury it under our weighty bureaucracies of politics and pettiness. We worry about the burden of individual accountability it brings and we spent more energy deflecting the truth than it would take to accept blame and issue a reparation for a mistake. We've turned lying into an art, an art that in some professions is lucrative.

There's an affliction of lying that's pervasive in human culture. It's probably older than prostitution, but I often use that convenient scapegoat of the Vietnam Conflict as a recognizable symbol to describe it. It was common in Vietnam for American "leaders" to only want to pass good news up the chain rather than the truth. No one wanted to lose a job, so they kept telling their bosses, "Everything is good." Tangible things like body counts became the superficial manifestations of managerial dog treats.

Does that sound familiar? If you work in any modern company, it probably does. In Vietnam, the cost of such institutionalized lying was a meager sixty thousand American and countless more Vietnamese lives. In Corporate America, the cost is a numbing level of inefficiency. I see it in every company I've ever worked for or dealt with. It's not that companies can't be profitable even with the inefficiency. Many are. They have to be to survive. But they could be so much better. Responding sensibly to the truth would improve many lives and jobs.

It appears however that we will be unable to overcome our fear of the truth. Our politicians continue to come across like a bumbling litany of clowns and in our companies I rarely see "leadership" serious about identifying real opportunities to improve and engage trans-formative measures. Serving clients and workers becomes less important than protecting management. What a shame. This is how we use the freedom our veterans died for?

I can understand why people fear the truth. Another old adage says, "The truth hurts." But it hurts because it scrubs away the fester left by lies. We can give lip service to our fallen troops until the end of time, but when do we make moves to be better than we are, to make a society that would truly honor them?

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