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Confiding can dispel
debilitating fear

'Even a thought, even a possibility can shatter us and transform us." -- Friedrich Nietzsche

In the earlier articles in this series, we have spoken of organizations as experiencing major changes or transformations. While convenient and typical, such depersonalizing terminology masks a very important truth. Organizations, at their core, are human beings. Consequently, not until a critical mass of people individually experience a transformation will an observer notice that an organizational transformation has taken place. And the people leading this critical mass must be the organization's senior-most leaders.

So, in this final article in the series, our focus shifts to the dynamics of major personal transformations and changes. The similarities noted will not, to re-emphasize, be accidental. They are a function of an organization's essential human nature. I will use myself as an example.

Some 15 years ago, I decided it was high time I learned how to swim so I could enjoy Hawaii's aquatic riches. It took enormous energy to overcome my resistance, my fear of looking stupid and my embarrassment at being almost 50 years old and unable to swim. But I pushed myself to wander down to the YMCA. I sat down with Henry Kamaka, a Hawaiian swimming legend in his own right, to figure out which would be the best class for me.

Much to my surprise, and chagrin, Henry also informed me he was not going to teach me how to swim. His primary job was to convince me (which he did) that, unless I chose to do so, I could not drown!

Floods of ego-related lessons are reflected thus far in this story for those who would be the leaders of organizations in the throes of a transformational process -- the most central of which is that fear is our greatest enemy. In an organization such fear causes a "hardening of the arteries." People stop communicating openly and honestly. They begin to hold their breath. Confidence wanes. And the only way to regain confidence is to notice that it begins with the word "confide." Fear can only be dissipated by being spoken of and empathized with, not stuffed.

After successfully graduating, Henry invited me to take a lesson in lifesaving. I said "Sure!" Seconds after I put my hand under Henry's "drowning chin," Henry had both of us under the water.

As a consultant hoping to facilitate a transformation, the lesson was painfully clear: Until the key members of an organization -- beginning with its leaders -- surrender to the fact that they need help, the best that you can do is stay close by, continue to offer your assistance and maintain faith that all will be OK. The hard part is to resist the temptation to be a "savior" before they are ready to be saved.

As you review all the points above, you will, no doubt, be quite aware that successfully leading transformations has little, if anything, to do with the "hard stuff" -- budgets, pert charts, compute data and the like. Quite the contrary! It is the "soft stuff" -- humility, empathy, openness, faith and the like -- that will determine the success of a transformation.

Why? Because organizations, at their core, are human beings.

All transformations begin with the power of one.

Irwin Rubin is a Honolulu-based author and president of Temenos Inc., which specializes in executive leadership development. His column appears twice a month in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Send questions and column suggestions to, or visit


PLAs have U.S. Supreme
Court’s favor in decision

In response to Robert Hugh Joslin's article (Sunday, March 28), it is obvious that he does not understand what PLAs are all about. Anyone who is not familiar with the issues involved will take his comments seriously despite the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously decided that public-sector owners have the same right as private-sector employers to establish the labor relations policies for the construction of their own projects.

Across the nation, the Associated Builders and Contractors and the Associated General Contractors of America are attacking PLAs indiscriminately, on behalf of their open shop members, in spite of the clear legal precedents supporting the use of PLAs. Their tactics have been litigation and misinformation.

The $2.2 billion worth of military projects that are coming on line in Hawaii require we gear up to meet the demand for skilled craft-workers. It is not an easy task. Hawaii Revised Statutes Chapter 448E requires plumbers to have at-least five years of full-time or its equivalent but not less than 10,000 hours as a journeyman's helper to be eligible for the journeyman plumber examination. This is not only time consuming, but costly. Under the leadership of Herbert S.K. Kaopua, Sr., business manager and financial secretary of the Plumbers & Fitters Union Local 675, our apprenticeship-training program was recognized as one of the top three in the nation. This program truly benefits Hawaii, as 90 percent of our members were born and raised here. We spend about $1 million a year on our training program and feel confident our apprentices will be well trained for any job they're asked to do.

In other regions, attacks on PLAs as "union only" agreements have been rejected by New York decisions that found PLAs do not limit bidding to union contractors and do not require "union only" labor.

PLAs provide an economical, efficient way for public owners to ensure that their projects are built with a steady supply of skilled, productive craft-workers, and with labor harmony. PLAs provide the public owner with a construction management tool long used by private corporations, a tool that has been unanimously endorsed by the U.S. Supreme Court as advancing the purposes of federal labor law, and similarly endorsed as consistent with state procurement law policies requiring the selection of the most qualified contractors at the lowest price.

The Associated General Contractors and its members, who have long worked with unions, know that PLAs do, in fact, offer enormous advantages to public works projects. Many choose to ignore the unanimous Supreme Court decision in the Building & Construction Trades Council, Etc., v. Associated Builders & Contractors of Mass./R.I., 113 S. Ct. 1190 (1993) -- the "Boston Harbor" case -- which held that allowing states and their agencies, when acting as property owners, to use the same labor policies on their projects as do private owners promotes legislative goals consistent with the public interest promoted by competitive bidding statutes.

All the arguments that Joslin used in defending his position against the use of PLAs are the same arguments that were used before the Supreme Court, which unanimously ruled in favor of a public sector's right to use a PLA. As recently as 2002, the case of ABC of Rhode Island Inc. v. Dept. of Administration, 787 A.2d 1179, clearly illustrates how Joslin's comments are misleading. Furthermore, he offers no facts or examples of how PLAs are troublesome and how they monopolize construction projects. In the case mentioned above, an independent, nonpolitical study group found in favor of using a PLA for the construction of a $50 million Kent County Courthouse: "The committee was unable to determine a single instance in which these PLA projects were not completed in a timely manner or within budget."

In this same case, the committee's opinion paper concluded: "One of the major benefits of PLAs in Rhode Island has been the remarkable degree of labor harmony. Most project evaluations indicated that there were no labor problems. When there was one, it was promptly resolved without resorting to any form of work disruption."

As public-sector owners, such as the military here in Hawaii, choose to consider the use of a PLA, the Supreme Court was adamantly clear that if a worker or a contractor chooses not to be a part of a PLA, that is not a result of coercion or dictation by a union or the PLA; it is a matter of an individual contractor's own choice. In the Boston Harbor case, the Supreme Court answered that complaint this way: "Confronted with such a purchaser [who chooses only contractors who are willing to use pre-hire agreements], those contractors who do not normally enter such agreements are faced with a choice. They may alter their usual mode of operation to secure the business opportunity at hand, or seek business from purchasers whose perceived needs do not include a project labor agreement."

In short, the Supreme Court has refused to condemn PLAs simply because they present some contractors with choices they would prefer not to make.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in the Phoenix Engineering case rejected a claim that a PLA for work for the Department of Energy violated Federal Competition in Contracting Requirements. The U.S. District Court opinion in the same case held that "there is no inalienable right to work as a nonunion contractor on publicly funded projects."

The fact that Flour Hawaii LLC has agreed to sign the "Aloha Stabilization Agreement" indicates an understanding of what PLAs are all about. PLAs have shown and will continue to show that they are the best way for the taxpayer to get the best bang for his buck.

Vernon K. Taa is legislative liaison for the Plumbers & Fitters Union Local 675.


Form a strategy
to back up your data

It's the first question you are asked any time your PC or server has crashed: Do you have a backup? It seems like such a simple question, but I've found that a lot of people, end-users and IT professionals alike, don't know how to perform a reliable backup. In fact, it's not so much the technical aspects of performing a backup that people don't understand, it's the strategy behind the backup where a lot of people fall short.

When developing a backup strategy, there are some simple questions to ask. What needs to be backed up? When and how often? Where should the backup tapes (or other media) be stored? How do you test the backup process? The old joke in our industry is that backups always work, it's the restores that are the problem.

In this column we'll discuss such strategies, and in future columns we'll look at the capabilities of specific products.

First, what needs to be backed up? For home or small businesses without a networked file server, start by making sure you save all your files in a single folder or directory. For Windows users the My Documents folder is expressly intended for this purpose. Keeping all your data in a single folder makes it much easier to back up. For larger businesses, follow this same principle, but you might need more than one directory. Make sure your users know where to store their documents!

Now that all of your data is in one location, you need to determine if you need to back up more than just your data. For home or small-business users, it might be enough to just back up the data. This means that if your PC crashes for some reason, you will need to reinstall the operating system and all the programs that you use. If you use only a small number of programs, this might be a viable option.

Most PCs nowadays ship with a "restore" CD that will put your PC back exactly the way it was when you bought it. Run the CD, restore your data, and you should be good to go. You will need to reinstall any applications or updates that you made after you bought the PC, and this is really the kicker. If you are the type to install a lot of applications, then you will benefit from backing up your entire PC, as opposed to just the data.

For large businesses this strategy of restoring the PC back to its "original" state is often used. As long as your end-users are educated to store their data on the server, restoring a PC to its original state can save your technicians a lot of time that would otherwise be spent troubleshooting problems that they've never seen before.

Why not back up the whole PC? First of all, for most people, data is less than a gigabyte, while the entire PC (including operating system and programs) is at least several gigs' worth. Your data can easily be copied to a one or two CDs or a single DVD, and most PCs nowadays come with either a CD or DVD burner. Backing up the whole PC could require multiple DVDs or even a tape drive, and is a time-consuming process.

If you decide to back up the entire PC, you might consider doing so on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis. Just don't forget to do it when the time comes!

Of course, for servers, you don't have a choice. For all but the smallest servers, you have to ensure that the entire server, operating system, applications and data are backed up. You will probably need a tape drive to back up servers and large PCs, since the tapes can hold 200 GB of data or more, while CDs are limited to about 700 megabytes and DVDs about 5 GB.

How often should you run your backups? For low to medium home users backing up data only, you might consider backing up on a weekly basis. If your files are updated and changed constantly, then your backups should be run daily.

For businesses a popular method to ensure regular backups and minimize the need for media is often referred to as "Grandfather, Father, Son." This method uses three sets of reusable media (usually tapes) for daily, weekly and monthly backup sets.

The first set, "Son," consists of your daily backups. Four tapes are used as daily backups for Monday through Thursday. These tapes will be used to perform daily backups, can be reused weekly and contain only data that has changed since the last backup.

A second set of media, called "Father," is used to perform full backups on Fridays. This media will be used on the first through fifth Friday of the month and can be reused monthly during its respective week.

The final set of media, called "Grandfather," is used to perform full backups on the last business day of each month.

This rotation scheme will back up data on a daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly basis. We recommend storing at least the Grandfather set of tapes off site and not reused. Of course, you can tailor this method to better suit your business needs.

Where do you store your CDs, DVDs or tapes? For large or small businesses, you should have some sort of off-site storage, even if it's Aunty's house in Wahiawa. At a minimum this will save your data in case of fire, flood or other catastrophes. Better yet, small fireproof cabinets or safes are relatively inexpensive. For the more prudent, a safe-deposit box at a bank is also an option.

Remember that this part of your strategy should be tempered by reality. A longtime colleague of mine used to work for a major oil company, and part of their backup strategy was to ship the backup tapes to an old salt mine in Utah, where they were stored in case of nuclear war. He pretty much ignored this aspect of his job, reasoning that if there were a nuclear war, he wouldn't be around to care if the systems were up and running.

How do you test your backups? For home users, simply copy your data directory (My Documents) to another location on your hard disk, and try and restore from your backup. If the backup fails, then you always have that copy. For businesses, ideally you would have another server configured identically to the server you are backing up and could use that server to test the backups. Certainly, this is not always possible, so you might consider testing your backup strategy before you actually start using your server for critical business purposes.

John Agsalud is president of ISDI Technologies Inc., a Honolulu-based IT consultancy specializing in software development, systems integration and outsourcing. He can be reached at or by calling 944-8742.

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