Protecting Our Planet

Through the history of the Earth, our environment has been an excellent place for promoting life and has fostered a thriving plethora of animal and plant life for billions of years. Of course during much of the life of our planet humans were not in existence.

In a modern society such as ours, we tend to forget the environmental progress we have made through the ages and the fact that pollution is not a new problem. In some respects in some quarters of our planet, environmental quality levels have actually improved enormously. London, for example, in the 19th century and in the first half of the 20th century was so heavily polluted from essentially uncontrolled burning that horrible smog episodes with catastrophic consequences were commonplace. Nonetheless, today London’s air quality has dramatically improved.

On the other hand, China’s atmosphere today in many parts of the country averages three times or more of the level of particulate matter deemed safe by the World Health Organization and furthermore more than 40% of China’s rivers are so contaminated that they can only be used for industrial processes.

The problem of environmental protection of our planet as pointed out by the noted former Prime Minister of Norway Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland in her report “Our Common Future” to the United Nations delivered 32 years ago was that “A world in which poverty and inequity are endemic will always be prone to ecological and other crises…Sustainable development requires that societies meet human needs both by increasing productive potential and by ensuring equitable opportunities for all.” This statement is as current today as it was three decades ago.

 Environmental degradation results from inefficiency on our use of resources as humans move on the road to development and further as many societies live beyond their means. In 1969, fifty years ago, when we were first able to see the beauty of our planet from the tranquility and the vastness of outer space, we truly can say that the movements to protect our planet began in earnest. A few years later, the UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm properly stated humanity’s responsibility for the protection of our planet by declaring that “A point has been reached in history when we must shape our actions throughout the world with a more prudent care for their environmental consequences. Through ignorance or indifference we can do massive and irreversible harm to the earthly environment on which our life and wellbeing depend. Conversely, through fuller knowledge and wiser action we can achieve for ourselves and our posterity a better life in an environment more in keeping with human needs and hopes.”

The environmental movement has been shaped and re-shaped for the past 50+ years sometimes positively and others negatively yet, in many respects, people in the world perceive environmental issues from opposite poles. Many in the developed world view environmental protection as an absolute emergency. They perceive the planet will be destroyed by us humans unless we change our evil and destructive ways. They feel many technologies such as nuclear energy, coal burning or heavy industrial processes must be banned as they deem these technologies unsuitable for the health of our planet.

At the same time, others in business in the developed world, as well as much of the developing countries, view economic growth as the driving tool that can continue humanity on a progressive path despite some adverse environmental consequences as a byproduct. Clearly, this creates conflicting viewpoints that must be addressed if we are to avoid a stalemate.

In addition, environmental issues are now heavily politicized and have become overtly simplified and in some cases distorted depending on specific points of view. Science at both extremes has become in many instances charlatanism. Clearly, we need common sense and an approach that brings people together rather than keeping them freezing in poles apart.

This article and a few to follow are based on my book with Dr. Tapan Munroe titled “Planet in Conflict”. While in the book as well as in this article we did not intend to provide a conclusive treatise on the solution of environmental issues connected with the use of resources such as water and energy. However, in researching and writing about these subjects it is clear that some simple adjustments to environmental protection can pay huge dividends.

The key is first to recognize that environmental protection is inextricably linked to solving the world’s poverty and social inequity problems. Without addressing these, we will not achieve the needed level of environmental care in our planet.

Secondly, we must agree that ultimately to protect our environment we must aim to achieve sustainable development which requires “meeting the economic needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

Thirdly, we must recognize that to protect our planet we must deal with a complex web of environmental issues such as climate change, resource depletion, depletion of fish stocks, desertification, demographic stress, water pollution, safe management of toxic wastes, soil losses, atmospheric pollution, protection of biodiversity and many more. All of these issues affect the direction and speed of economic development. All of these issues must be addressed in a balanced, timely, and cost-efficient way avoiding adverse unintended consequences. We need to take these steps boldly yet gradually in a manner that we save the planet without destroying the economy of the nations in the planet.

Fourth, we must accept that by taking immutable positions such as “Say No to Development”, “Stop Coal Power”, “Not in my Backyard”, etc., we wind up forcing others to take positions that are actually more detrimental to the environment. For example, for many years siting a coal-fired power plant inside California has been essentially impossible. Such a situation in turn has created the development of a plethora of coal-fired plants in adjacent or nearby states for the purpose of selling a great deal of power to California. While that looks attractive, it fosters a great deal of inefficiency given that a vast amount of the energy produced is then lost in transmission requiring the plants to produce much more energy than it would be necessary if the plants were closer to the energy consumers in California. A much better approach would be to recognize that economic development needs to be tied to environmental protection in a sustainable way. Therefore, we need energy production and industrialization that gradually but continually aim to improve the environment through many small changes that in an aggregate form can lead to the needed protection of our planet.

We must recognize that humanity is in conflict and polarization of points of views will lead nowhere. If the naysayers succeed, economic progress stops causing further poverty. If growth is uncontrolled, we will leave an unacceptable environmental and resource depletion legacy to our children and for generations to come.

 I prefer to be an optimist recognizing the goodness of the human heart. I believe that by solving through innovative, gradual, and continuous ways the environmental concerns of our planet we can create economic prosperity and environmental well-being. The two extremes can meet at the center and the planet does not need to house the conflicts of opposing poles but instead can benefit from enlightened progress. This is the heart of what I call “Decisional Gradualism” or simply put an approach that involves taking lots of smaller steps and balancing the provision of a good quality of life to humanity while preserving the environment.

For more on our book “Planet in Conflict” by Drs. Raul A. Deju and Tapan Munroe purchase the book in Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers. Here is what a best-selling author is saying about the book

“Transformative breakthroughs are typically interdisciplinary in nature. Deju and Munroe build on this principle beautifully on their book Planet in Conflict”. 

-Bill Wiersma author of the acclaimed books “The Power of Professionalism” and “The Power of Identity”.

America Needs a Rational Energy Policy

and yes let’s stick with the Paris Accord but just modify it a bit!

A rational approach to US Energy Policy (excluding the Nuclear Weapons Sector) should be to focus our energy policy toward three major goals: (A) energy self-sufficiency, (B) energy security and (C) addressing global warming’s heavy connection to energy production in the emerging nations. As you will see in this paper, these three goals are totally interconnected and the solutions proposed in this paper should be attractive across party lines. Further, these solutions help “Make America Great Again” while at the same time benefitting our exports and showing that we are a true global leader.

            Between Canada, the US and Mexico we can ensure energy self-sufficiency for North America for a very long time. We should continue to explore and enhance our shale reserves and oil reserves promoting the buildout of an infrastructure that can safely and efficiently ensure the transportation of raw products, processing of fuels, and transportation of the resulting fuels to all users.

            Further, we must (1) focus our efforts on the right technologies with the most-success potential; (2) use oil exports and energy technology exports (including nuclear power plants) to enhance our total exports improving our trade balance as well as helping to address global warming; (3) refocus our participation in the Paris Accord but stay within the Accord to address true ways to reduce Global Warming by specifically working with China, India, and other emerging nations to more rapidly transition their dirty power grids to a clean power generating sector; (4) improve the security and effectiveness of our national electric grid; and (5) implement a national plan that rebuilds the future of a viable nuclear power industry by supporting new build, closing the loop on a solution to the nuclear waste disposal issue and facilitating within the coming generation completion of corrective actions to deal with all past contamination issues at the National Laboratories (Hanford, Savannah River, Oak Ridge, etc.).

            Each of these points is further discussed below. Fortunately, there is a remarkable synergy between the need for US energy self-sufficiency, security and the issue of global warming. If we address energy security and availability we also address climate change. The key is a recommended number of approaches, all of which should be attractive across party lines.

  1. Technologies that appear to have the most success potential in order to ensure energy self-sufficiency and energy security

            From an energy technology standpoint the United States should focus on six specific areas of technology: (a) Energy productivity including both conservation and efficiency. Energy conservation is profitable and clean; it is a win-win. We need to have organized programs that make it possible to invest in energy conservation; (b) Hybrid auto technology and continuous electric car battery improvements to bring battery prices down; (c) Shale gas (for automobile use, coal replacement, and in synfuels); (d) Synfuel development (gas to liquid and coal to liquid); (e) Shale oil development; and (f) development of more compact nuclear energy plants including bringing closure on the nuclear waste long term storage issues.

            An additional number of technologies with breakout potential should also receive some consideration including photovoltaics, wind, and the development of an improved grid to deliver wind power.

  1. Facilitate Oil and Gas Exports and Nuclear Plant Buildout to in Parallel Increase a Positive Energy Trade Balance and Address Global Warming

            Oil and gas abundance in the US coupled with our long term reserves can represent an ever increasing export opportunity for us domestically. Equally, there are enormous reserves of natural gas from shale in many of the emerging nations, and these can replace future growth of dirtier alternatives. Natural gas has ½ the greenhouse emissions of coal, and 1/400th of the resulting air pollution. In shale oil, the private US sector and the current US administration are already setting a great example for the developing world. We need to magnify our thrust by creating opportunities for the developing world to use our technology and know-how. Our private sector facilitated by the government can create boundless opportunities in this area. In addition to our oil and gas sector, our nuclear plant design/construct technology can also serve as a major export opportunity.

            These exports can help the developing world principally India and China to curb their current and future carbon dioxide emissions while helping vast regions of these countries to address endemic poverty concerns. In the next ten years, the global warming problem can only be solved by reducing ever-increasing coal consumption in the emerging nations. Large scale conversion to natural gas and nuclear in the emerging nations both help our exports and truly addresses global warming. Already, China alone emits twice the greenhouse gases emitted by the United States and its emissions are expected to grow along with its economy.

  1. Refocus but Stay within the Paris Accord

            The Paris Accord needs some significant refocusing. We need to accept that Global Warming is indeed the case. A majority of weather stations across the world show increases in temperature over the past many decades. So far the temperature increase is very small (about 1 degree F), yet it is real and there is no denying it. Now let’s move on. The tie between global warming and other weather related events such as an increase in the number and frequency of hurricanes is indeed quite tenuous and most scientists will agree that the correlations are not supportable as yet. Further research and analyses are warranted and we need to be patient. Nonetheless, continuing to emit carbon dioxide uncontrollably into the atmosphere is in no one’s interest. The US and Europe in fact have in the past 40 years made enormous reductions in carbon dioxide emissions reducing them by over 50%. This experience can be transferred to the emerging world.

            By 2020, US emissions of carbon dioxide will total about 4-5 billion tons while all emerging economies will represent about 30 billion tons. Clearly, any decrease in carbon dioxide emissions in the US going forward has an important yet miniscule impact. The real decreases must happen in the emerging world. Further, the projections are that between 2020 and 2030 the emerging economies will increase their carbon dioxide emissions by an additional 25 billion tons or about five to six times current US emissions. Clearly, unless we now address the emerging world’s rapid increase in consumption of dirty fuels and instead help create a private sector driven opportunity supported by governments in the developed world to move the emerging world to shale oil, gas and nuclear power we have no hope of taming carbon dioxide emissions any time soon. The global developed nations can help facilitate this transition and indeed turn it into an export opportunity for both the US and Europe. The scare effect and the fear mongering currently connected with global warming needs to be turned into a positive major global opportunity to finance and build the power of the future in the emerging world. And, by the way, this will also do more than anything else to eliminate the current endemic poverty in many emerging nations.

  1. Improve the security and effectiveness of our national electric grid

            A crucial infrastructure project involves creating a national effort at the federal level to improve the effectiveness and security of the national electric grid. We should approach this as a national infrastructure project to be completed within the next decade or two with the target to secure the system from malicious attacks, make the system more accessible to ties with major solar and wind production centers as well as to reduce the very large energy losses that the current system suffers from.

  1. Implement a national plan that revitalizes the American nuclear industry by letting the private sector focus on technology improvements and by closing the loop on a solution to the nuclear waste issue. As part of this process the US government must facilitate within the coming generation to fully close the loop on all past contamination issues at the National Laboratories (Hanford, Savannah River, Oak Ridge, etc.)

            The long term security of nuclear waste is not an insurmountable problem, yet it is fear by the populace that has created an intractable problem. In about 1,500 years, the radioactivity of all existing nuclear waste when compared to the radioactivity when the uranium was mined and taken from the ground is only about 2 times the original level and not hundreds of thousands fold as some claim. We know how to build safe nuclear storage for 1,000 to 2,000 years. Effectively, this eliminates most of the hazard from the waste. We need to move from the concept of nuclear waste disposal to safe long-term nuclear waste storage. Other countries are doing so today. Further, the capacity of a facility to do the storage for the US is not so large as to be infeasible.

            We need to show our citizens that the nuclear waste problem can be handled to allow a nuclear economy to be viable. This will go a long way to bringing back the nuclear power option in America. The federal government needs to tap the innovative power of industry by allowing support for private sector involvement in addressing both the solution of the nuclear waste problem and the expansion of advanced nuclear power technology.

             Further, we need to streamline the national plan to clean up the national laboratories from past contamination. This needs to be done in a rational timetable and should not take 100 plus years to complete. It is utter fear not facts that has completely put the brakes on an industry that can be a major contributor to both energy security and clean energy in the US.


Concluding Comment

            I believe that a national energy policy driven by these principles and with continuing support of research and development of promising opportunities will provide great dividends to the US. It can certainly insure our continuing lowest cost of energy, guaranteeing energy independence for our nation and turning a negative trade balance in energy trading into a positive energy trade balance.

            Further, it guarantees the needed improvements for the security and effectiveness of our national electric grid and addresses national security regarding availability of needed fuel supply. Finally, it refocuses the global warming solution where it needs to be, that is, in the emerging world. The US and Europe can change the negative narrative by turning it into a positive world effort to help deploy cleaner power options in the emerging world. All of these solutions require a cohesive and credible communications effort bringing together government, industry, and the scientific community. These recommendations “Make America Great Again” while showing our commitment to share in the process of solving “Intractable Global Issues”.

Yes, Tomorrow is Likely Better than Today

When you read today’s news you get mired down in a sea of negativity and  and that is why today if you ask someone if our future is bright they are likely to say “no”. Well let’s look at some facts:

  1. In the early 1800’s 95% of the world population was below the poverty line while today that number is 25% and by the way as recently as 50 years ago it was 60%;
  2. In 1950 nearly 45% of the world’s population was undernourished and by 2015 that number has dropped to 10%;
  3. In 1700 the life expectancy in the world was 29 years. When Social Security was created in the mid 1930’s the average life expectancy in the world was mid 40’s, and now it is in the 70’s;
  4. The percent of the world’s population with access to good water 35 years ago was merely 50% and thanks to new infrastructure projects that number today surpasses 90%;
  5. 100 years ago women’s right to vote was infant, today over 186 nations give women citizens the right to vote. Not yet 100% of the world but a major step forward; and
  6. If we use 1970 as a benchmark year ( the year EPA was created) for pollutant emissions in the world, western nations have reduced total emissions as a percent of 1970 to 80% and by 2015 the number is down to 35%.

These are just some statistics that clearly show that the world is a better place today than it was in the past despite negative news. Yes humanity has made more progress in the past 50 years than in the rest of recorded history (about 10,000 years). Don’t lose hope but let’s continue to forge ahead. My expectation is that the next 20 years will make the progress in the past 50 seem puny. Go Millennials! Let’s continue to make the world a better place for all- despite what we may read.

Tim Cook’s Comments to MIT’s 2017 Grads

Tim Cook, truly one that fits the mold of “He has Mojo” truly gave great advice to the class of 2017 at MIT. In his address he said “The Internet has enabled so much and empowered so many. But it can be a place where the basic rules of decency are suspended and pettiness and negativity thrive… Don’t listen to the trolls, and for God’s sake don’t be one, … measure your impact on humanity not in likes, but in the lives you touch. Not in popularity, but in the people you serve.”

I could not have said it better. Values do matter. Spread the word.



The We Got Mojo authors are having a get together next May to celebrate the world by doing good. We have singled out six charities that some of us lead and many support to help make these charities better able to serve their constituents. The charities range from a group helping those engulfed by sex slavery to addiction prevention and recovery and include helping African women learn to read and write, helping disabled veterans, and helping and mentoring kids of service personnel killed in action.

Guess what, you can do the same. We don’t need to wait for help from governments, we can provide help to the needy ourselves. You will be happier when you help someone reach a new milestone. Remember, the happiest people don’t have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything they have! Get your mojo going and help someone.

Better Schools and Sensible Immigration are Keys to America’s Future

American economic and social policies can rebuild our country much the same way Silicon Valley continues to rebuild itself as a magnet for innovation, and economic growth. America’s freedom attracts the best of the best in the entire world. Yes, I am an immigrant. I have lived here for over 56 years and I have lived and continue to live the American dream (read my book We Got Mojo!).

While I agree with creating an economic and regulatory climate that fosters growth and innovation, new manufacturing, and great prosperity, there are two absolutely necessary anchors to our future success. First, our schools need to graduate out of high schools, tech schools and colleges highly relevant, excellent quality graduates to fill the jobs of today and the future. Mediocrity cannot be tolerated. I urge educators to re-examine the purpose of education in a growing economic environment. Our graduates should not be mired in dead-end careers with huge educational loans to repay to boot. Our high schools and colleges need to become more relevant and do so quickly. This is a challenge that will be easier said than done but it is indeed crucial. Parents, teachers, their unions, government and alternative schools need to work together rather than fight. My message to parents is to fight for the best education for your kids as ultimately this is the most important contribution you can make to them . Second best is not good enough today. Teachers unions, my message to you is let’s be part of the solution in a new world and with new ideas. Past approaches will not likely work now or in the future.

Second, we need an intelligent merit based immigration policy. We need to bring the best of the best in the world to fill the positions that American businesses cannot fill with American labor alone. Let’s turn America again into a true magnet of talent by developing an intelligent and efficient immigration policy that attracts the best in the world especially when such talent is not readily available within our own shores. Let’s verify that our immigrants have good intentions but let’s not take forever to process them.

Finally, let’s settle the pathway for those immigrants who are here and came in illegally but their only sin was wanting a better life for their families. Let’s create a dignified solution for those immigrants who have worked diligently and committed no crimes in their life in America. I am not suggesting immediate citizenship but instead a clear merit-based process that may take several years but if they follow it they can be assured that they can become permanent residents.

Efficient intelligent immigration policies, educational realignments in our schools to produce better, more relevant graduates and economically supportive business policies coupled with better border security and a pathway for immigrants living here without any crime albeit not having legal entry papers will bring dignity and growth to America again. We can all get behind that as it represents the true American spirit.






Bringing Civility to Our Political Discourse

by Dr. Raul A. Deju

Immigrant, Educator, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, Author, Husband, Father, American

San Francisco, CA  February 2017 

            2017 could go in the history books as the year with the most hatred and vitriol in recent American politics. As I look at America today, everyday life begins when the President tweets some relatively venomous words which are in turn responded by the Senate Minority leader or another leading Democrat with equal or more venomous language. Watching the language of our leaders from both parties, some of my friends seem to be unable to accept a President for whom they did not vote while others in parallel have developed great hate for the minority party. Families and friendships are being torn apart and as a Centrist I have friends in both camps who are finding it difficult to talk to each other. Both sides need to get a life and learn to talk and compromise. Without civil dialogue we will mire ourselves in a state of no progress.
            I am then reminded of my life. I came here from Cuba alone as an early teen without my parents or any immediate family. Yes, I am an immigrant and I was accepted in this country (not all immigrants are criminals- in fact America’s success depends a great deal on the success of many immigrants). I worked hard, studied hard and by my 24th year on this earth I had received a Ph. D., had a job, and had published my first book. I have spent my life working, growing businesses, writing 7 books and contributing to the fabric of our America. This country and its people became family to me and I started amassing what is now a very long list of very diverse friends. What I have loved in America for over half a century is our civility, the freedom we all enjoy and the framework available to Americans born here and those of us who emigrated here where if you work hard you can succeed. The Office of the President as an elected official regardless of its occupant has been a sense of pride to me through my entire life.
            Fast forward to today. We are awakened with tweets from the President many times in a less presidential tone than we are used to, although oftentimes we can agree with the substance of the tweets, their tone detracts from our support. Then, we are bombarded by equally or more demeaning comments from the Democratic opposition and delay tactics that only waste tax-paying dollars as they don’t change the outcome of any actions. As the battle of words heats up, the work that we as taxpayers need done by our leaders continues to float in the ether of Washington. What has happened to civility! The election is over. Let’s learn to get along. Let’s both sides learn compromise.
            In the course of my life as an American, I have accepted many Presidents for whom I had not voted for. In fact I worked as an Advisor to both a Republican and a Democratic administration with pleasure, pride and civility. I have always felt that the Office of the President is above many of its occupants and deserves my utmost support. In America, differently than in Cuba where I was born, we have checks and balances to protect us from abuses but it is our civic responsibility to work for the common good that separates us from many countries in the world.
            As a few weeks have passed since the beginning of this new Administration we all need to rally together and mark our disagreements by the principles of civility, respecting each other and avoiding nonsensical, defamatory comments of each other focusing on turning our land into a more fertile ground for the success of all instead of looking every day at a ring of the World Wrestling Federation.
            I offer a simple suggestion. Life is about compromise. Mutually satisfactory agreements and treaties are better in the long-run than one-sided deals. Maybe we can all commit to taking a week where both sides stop the demeaning language and the press commits to reporting the news as Walter Cronkite once did with as little bias or sensationalism as possible. If we try such a truce for a week and get back to the business of the nation I think we can begin to get over the rancorous state that has resulted from the recent Presidential election. Once we get over a week, maybe we can do it again and start a new chapter where we all work for a common good without noise. We don’t have to agree with each other on everything, we just need to deal with each other with class, civility, empathy and compromise.
            Let’s get our civility back and focus on being the shining beacon that the world always emulates. Let’s support our nation regardless of party affiliation. I am an optimist. After all, I am an American. Can we start now?

We Got Mojo! by Raul Deju and 35 of his BFF- now released and with 38 5 stars in Amazon. Addto your collection

Early reviews:

We all want to be successful, so what better way to advance that ambition than by reading the intimate stories of those who have persevered and frequently had to overcome imposing challenges to achieve personal and professional success and happiness. I have had Raul Deju as a significant author for my business journal and can assure you that his We Got Mojo! book will inspire and guide you on your own success journey.

James Kristie, Editor, Directors & Boards

Megatrends in Health Care 2017 Part II

In December of last year I discussed some of the Megatrends in the Health field and the opportunities these Megatrends represent for entrepreneurs. While our current health care system is loaded with conflicts and problems these also lead to huge opportunities. The Affordable Care Act was a daring step but it turned out to be not affordable and structurally not sustainable. Government and corporations need to rapidly change this unsustainable process while continuing to ensure basic affordable health care availability to everyone . As government embarks on changes to the current system there are lots of opportunities for entrepreneurs. Soon we will hopefully begin to see some of these changes and entrepreneurs can look for great opportunities. In December 2016,  I discussed opportunities to reduce admin costs, improve drug delivery, increase the affordability of life extension, execute reforms needed to reduce the cost of  malpractice litigation, take advantage of innovation and increase informatics.

In this blog, I want to focus on only one topic, the opportunity for greater entrepreneurship by unleashing the forces of competition. One clear characteristic of the health field in America today is the overwhelming amount of mandated regulations that create excessive burdens and bring up costs. Since deregulation of the airlines in 1978 nearly 40 years ago prices of tickets have averaged a whooping 40% reduction in costs. In  2016 constant dollars as an example back in 1955 (63 years ago!) a Los Angeles to Kansas City non-stop flight would cost you $575 and take you 5 plus hours. Today, that same route can be completed in less than 3 hours in a less noisy aircraft with a greater degree of safety and for an average $183 and you get frequent flyer points on top. What if we could deregulate the health care industry like we did the airline industry and bring prices down 40% (The example above brought a plane ticket down 68%). Affordability would go through the roof! Also access to health care would increase. Nonetheless in the area of healthcare, “access to everyone is essential” and government would have to make sure that the really sick and poor have access to medical care but overall in a downward price move, overall national cost of health care would go down and access should increase.

Deregulation is not without losers. In the airline industry TWA, Eastern and other airlines failed but the consumer won and new airlines such as Southwest emerged. Equally some health insurers and providers will fail in health care deregulation but with American entrepreneurship and ingenuity and open competition, the health consumers will win in the long run.

Let’s continue to watch what our legislators concoct!





5 Ways Uber, Virgin, Schwab Crush Goals and Disrupt Competitors Alike- Guest Blog

By Mark C. Thompson- Executive Coach, New York Times Bestselling author, contributing author We Got Mojo!, Leadership Advisor to the World Bank, featured in Forbes, INC., and other publications. 

“Everybody loves the idea of ‘disruption’ as long as it happens to other people,” Salesforce founder Marc Benioff mused after a Virgin Disruptors seminar in San Francisco. “You need to get to the future first, ahead of your customers, and be ready to greet them when they arrive.” Sir Richard Branson, the tie-cutting, disruptive founder of the Virgin Group, was sitting within earshot: “Yeah, if your strategy is to change the world,” he said, “you’d better start by looking yourself in the mirror” to ask a simple question:

“Does your current annual plan actually ignite any excitement?” Will your team really want to make it happen with urgency? If you’re not absolutely certain, then rally your troops around five OKR’s — Objectives & Key Results — that make growth plans stick at high-performance companies like Virgin, SalesForce, Kleiner Perkins, BetterWorks, and Google. These five will predict whether your plans are doomed for defeat or poised for progress in the new year: Staffing, Capacity, Alignment, Authority and Accountability.

  1. Staffing Strategy— Do you have the right people on the team, and are you teaching them to lie to you? Alan Mulally, the CEO who lead Boeing and Ford through legendary turnarounds, argues that the belief that “your people should just bring solutions, not problems,” is a myth worth killing. Ford appeared doomed for bankruptcy when Mulally arrived for his first staff meeting, but his team spent two hours sharing dashboards which showed green across the board. “I’m not a car guy,” Mulally sighed, looking mystified. “But I don’t understand how all that good news is possible when we’re losing billions of dollars!” He told them to come back with the brutal truth. It took awhile, but finally one executive summoned the courage to reveal a few red signals, asking for help from the entire team to find solutions. His peers held their breath, expecting the grim reaper to open some trap door under his feet.

Instead, Mulally gave him a standing ovation. That same guy, Mark Fields, not only received the full support of the management team to turn those stoplights into green, but Chairman Bill Ford and the board of Ford Motor Company gladly accepted Mulally’s recommendation to make Fields their next CEO.

You shouldn’t shoot the messenger, but too many bosses do exactly that. Worst yet, the rest of the executive team is allowed to pile on when you finally do admit you’re in trouble. When people are afraid, they hide reality until it implodes. Tremendous effort is poured into managing a secret rather than finding a solution. Rather than obsess over disrupting competitors, perhaps it’s time you ‘disrupted’ the fear of failure for ‘disruptive’ ideas at your company, says Whitney Johnson, author of Disrupt Yourself. Make sure your management systems celebrate (rather than punish) those who clarify problems and challenge business as usual. Don’t wait for the C-Suite to do this for you—start by role modeling that behavior as a leader of your team at every level in the organization. It’s disastrous to make plans and set goals without a staffing strategy that makes it safe to work as a team through difficult times. As you hire new people, be on the lookout for recruiting a deeper bench of experienced talent who love to learn rather than hold court—auto-didactic executives who have the confidence and hunger to lead and improve at the same time.

  1. Strategic Capacity—The battle is lost or won before the players get on the field. What strategy, resources and skills are necessary for your teams to lead the business transformation that you’ve outlined in your annual plan? In other words, you’ve set the table and bought the ingredients, but do they know how to cook? Leaders often engage in “wishful thinking that people can easily take the leap of faith” to execute your plan without actively “preparing them to win,” Bill Gates told me when I first met him at the World Economic Forum in Davos. We were serving on a panel focused on strategic planning, and he gave us a stern reminder that the “people expected to do the work are rarely in the room” where those great plans were conceived, mandated and “passed down like tablets from above.” If there’s any major changes in process involved in this new plan, how will you reward your staff at every level to embrace change, or have they just been asked to tolerate the changes you’ve made rather than own them? “You can’t ‘manage’ change if your team doesn’t understand how you’re supporting them” through the transformation. It may be obvious to you, but not to them. You’ve got to show them, Gates said, “don’t just think they heard you because you told them.”
  2. Alignment—Do we have a process to reward and recognize people for working together across silos to make things happen for customers? Do we have the measures in place to make that obvious? You can’t manage what you don’t measure, but we often don’t realize that leaders have contradictory rules in place that make it difficult or invisible when our team goes out of their way to collaborate, says Harvard’s Dr. Carol Kauffman, founder and executive director of the Institute of Coaching. We team taught an advanced coaching workshop during her annual summit with McLean Hospital, a Harvard Medical School affiliate, where we heard overwhelming evidence from behavioralists like Dr. Susan David about how “alignment on a shared vision and ownership across teams” are the two lynchpins to high performance. What that requires is a behavior David calls Emotional Agility. She suggest that next time you find your team falling out of alignment “in a moment of stress or dealing with real complexity, ask yourself: I might be ‘right’ but is my response serving me? My team? My organization? What is my objective here? What am I truly trying to do? What action here is most aligned with my values?” Think about what team behaviors you want repeated: create a structure for that and shine a light in public about those values. Celebrate those teams and individuals who demonstrate them.
  3. Authority: “It’s obviously better to manage white water than to suffer log jams,” Travis Kalanick mused during my first visit to Uber. The disruptive founder of a company that’s synonymous with disruption loves white water, because to him that means “you’re paddling hard” through difficult currents, but at least you’re “splashing downstream with urgency.” But logjams around decision making are more typical; they signal that your plans are stuck because everyone is tolerating lack of clarity around authority. It’s much easier to give people responsibility and think that we’re holding them appropriately accountable than to figure out what level of authority they should have to deliver the outcomes you’re seeking. The point here is to agree explicitly about who can make which decisions. What makes this especially difficult is that you must be willing to tolerate and support other people making choices to move ahead even when you know they are not likely to be the same choices or maybe even the ‘best’ steps you’d take. There is often a mismatch between the responsibility that’s assigned and the authority necessary to move projects forward. Be realistic about workflow so that you intentionally accelerate progress.
  4. Accountability— What makes the planning process miserable are those endless days in the weeds fighting over the wrong issues or enemies, and in the end, it’s still not clear who’s responsible for what outcomes. Admit it, you’ve probably dreaded planning, and studies show that frustration springs from too many unspoken expectations by you and your boss, along with a general lack of pre-agreed definitions of success. LinkedIn leadership development expert Prakash Venkataraman believes the core to accountability revolves around clear ownership “focusing on what you can control to create the best possible outcome.” Ownership and accountability determine the “willingness to be held responsible for an outcome” even though we can’t control perfection.

I hated the planning cycle until I was lucky to work directly for a dozen years alongside founder Charles ‘Chuck’ Schwab,  the financial services industry disruptor. He insisted that no great plans or projects proceed without four checkpoints:

  1. Identify owners for what creates growth and quality of our services.
  2. Create clarity about how every new hire will have impact on your top priorities.
  3. Establish rewards and consequences for the individual, team and organization that make it self-evident how you’re doing. It’s not the boss’ role to hold you accountable—that’s your job—your leaders are there to bust barriers and help you win.
  4. Nail the right measures to keep things on track. Whenever the planning process started to drift at Schwab, he tasked the leadership team with shifting our external focus from obsessing over competitors, for example, (a natural tendency), when we should instead be fussing over our customers. When the internal conversations devolved into conflicts over power, control or defending turf, Schwab tasked us to remind the team who pays the bills. “Our job is to create breakout customer experiences — every year it’s about making things better and simpler in measurable ways,” Schwab said. At this point, Chuck would slap the table and smile as we lurched in our seats. Then he’d point to the plans that we had all signed up for. “I’m proud that you’re all willing to be accountable for that. You own what matters most!”

            The most common confusion about accountability is the difference between blame and responsibility. In studies about people who achieved extraordinary success long term despite seemingly impossible circumstances, “the most important factor was not whose ‘fault’ caused the horrible situation,” said serial entrepreneur and Cuban refugee, Dr. Raul Deju, founder of the Institute of Entrepreneurial Leadership at John F. Kennedy University, where over $2 billion in revenue has been generated by dozens of scrappy startups born there. “What matters is that you take responsibility for what you can own — that might be your willingness to serve others, to learn new skills, or the attitude you show up with and an ambition to take action.”

            Deju and 35 other entrepreneurs have captured case histories of remarkable “ownership of adversity and personal transformation” in a recently released book, We Got Mojo (available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other resellers; check it out at These are personal stories about business leaders who you would never have expected to spring out of the genocide of Cambodian killing fields, the Cuban Revolution, or brutal life in the rural mountain villages of Perú. “Nothing could stop any of us in our aim to lead a wildly successful life until we abandoned the right we had to be victims.” Deju said. “Sulking and blame never fixes anything — it’s all about Mojo, the powerful realization and joy of knowing that it’s a choice to decide how to hold yourself accountable every day.”

To create greater transparency and accountability around goals, serial entrepreneur Kris Duggan, founder of Badgeville, along with legendary venture capitalist John Doerr, the first chairman of Kleiner Perkins, joined forces to created a startup called BetterWorks. “OKR’s should be at the top of every CEO’s 2017 wishlist,” Duggan insists. “When you have tools in place to measure goals with complete company-wide transparency, you get both operational excellence and more engaged, motivated employees if you’re willing to make a few changes to your performance management process.” Duggan and Doerr recommend a fresh start in 2017 by “replacing heavyweight, annual performance reviews with lightweight, frequent feedback.”

After three decades coaching extraordinary entrepreneurs, I’ve seen far too many CEO’s struggle with a leadership team whose annual plans drift dangerously without accountability. To help bring more structure to that process, last year Don Sull of MIT and I decided to become strategic advisors at BetterWorks because the key to execution on the annual plan is obvious: “Sally on your team shouldn’t be editing her Instagram photos at work — nor should she ever doubt her role as an individual contributor connecting to the company’s success,” Duggan said. “Setting transparent OKRs and communicating them to the entire company helps keep employees, like Sally, focused on what really matters.”

Duggan and Doerr’s upcoming book, Measure What Matters, is packed with evidence on over 200,000 goals achieved with transparency at more than 25% of the Fortune 500. On April 20, I’ll be hosting dozens of conversations about OKR’s with these and other thought leaders at the 2017 BetterWorks GoalSummit at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco.