Roland Dürre
Wednesday July 26th, 2017

Shouldn’t Business Serve Humans?!

In Unterhaching, we have a great soccer club, a number of IT enterprises such as the InterFace AG and even world-famous companies. One of them is Wrigley.

Let me relate to you what I learned over the last few weeks. I did not make any attempts at verifying the story, but it is quite possible that things I heard in the form of reports or gossip around here are the truth.

I am sure the degree to which Unterhaching has become considerably more famous even beyond Germany is due to the Spielvereinigung Unterhaching.

Besides soccer, we also have volleyball, gymnastics and several other successful athletic areas in Unterhaching – as well as several more interesting enterprises and a wonderful outdoor swimming pool and much more.

The Unterhaching Civic Office is certainly glad that the famous Wrigley enterprise has its European headquarters here. And perhaps in the future, you will have to say “had”.

The big concerns want power. To this end, they like to swallow up other concerns.

It is quite possible that, with its profit of 35 billion US dollars in 2016, Mars falls a little behind Nestlé (turnover in 2015 was 88.8 billion). That is just more motivation for Mars to catch up with the big rival.

Currently, they are preparing for the merging of the animal hospital chain VCA Inc. (Veterinary Centres of America). Mars wants to spend 9.1 billion US dollars, including the debt. It is supposed to further strengthen the business area “animal health”. To me, it looks more like mania and misdirected late capitalism. I can imagine only too well (or rather, too badly) what the leading US food giant wants to achieve by the merging.

Food producer invests in animal hospital. Shame to him who evil thinks.

Wrigley was swallowed by Mars as early as 2008. Initially the European headquarters remained in Unterhaching. Another important Mars location is obviously in Viersen near Düsseldorf.

Now, Mars wants to centralize a few of its activities in London. One of the consequences will be that people now living in Unterhaching or Viersen will have to move to London. This might hurt some residents of Unterhaching, for others it will be an exciting challenge.

But then, this is what you get in a global world and economy. After all, most of the people seem to like it, since they support it – at least with their consumption habits.
But that is not what this article is about. What gives me pause is the reason they give for moving to London.

Big concerns assume that, in the future, the central key towards success in our competitive world will be the quality of marketing.

To the concern, that seems useful, and even necessary, because it assumes that, in the market for PROVISIONS, only an enterprise that has the best MARKETING can establish itself and perhaps even add to its turnover. And among the top managers, they assume that the most efficient and effective marketing firms basically sit in London. Consequently, they seek close proximity to them – and go to Great Britain. Regardless of the Brexit and such. In my opinion, the Brexit is more an operetta than anything else.

PROVISIONS concerns are, first and foremost, after turnover and results (profit). And, in the eyes of the concerns, MARKETING is the determining factor in this field. Everything else, like the quality of food and the consequences for your health, only plays a minor role.

Business should serve the people, not vice versa!

For the concerns, only one thing is important: the people must buy the cheaply produced mass food at a price that is as high as possible. To make it attractive for the masses, it is made “convenient” and optically seducing. Enriched with aromatic ingredients, “the taste of the world“ is generated and realized. “Cheap” is more important than quality, optical appeal and wrapping is more important than the content, uniformity beats diversity, mass has priority over class, storage life beats freshness, logistic feasibility has priority over taste. …

Thus, there is a strong LOBBY that forbids the legislators in Europe and Germany, for instance, the clear marking of a product if it contains substances that may be detrimental for your health.

And what do the people do? Nothing. They believe what marketing says and buy like lemmings all the products by Mars, Nestle and co. Unfortunately, this is also true for Unterhaching.

(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Thursday September 8th, 2016

HELLO WORLD – An Open Letter – #PEACE

Symbol of westeuropean peace movement

Symbol of west european peace movement.

A short time ago, I had a great conversation with someone I hold in very high esteem and learned to love. I want to recruit him for our project PEACE. A day after our conversation, I sent him a letter – here is what I wrote.

My dear friend!

Now that one night has passed since we met, I would like to thank you again for yesterday’s conversation.

You asked the right and important questions. That is of high value. Because you will only find solutions if you have asked the right questions.
Here is my attempt at giving a short answer to your wise questions about the project PEACE (why and how):

For me, PEACE is the general metaphor for the opposite of what, in my opinion, is wrong in our society.
All over the world (with very few, rather dubious exceptions), an economic system that manipulates people is pre-dominant. It puts “shareholder value” and the increase of wealth for the acting agents over all else in unprecedented consistency. War, too, serves as a means to this end.

This system could not care less about the well-being, the physical and emotional health of the humans and also about our planet. I can prove this for many sectors, also due to the special insights I have gained through my network.

Among my sources – just to give an example – are discussions with managing directors of a very relevant pharmaceutical concern I cooperate with in a research project. And if I then take a look at the current evaluation of the newest pharmaceutical projects (one out of 23 is labelled green, few orange and more than half of them are labelled red), I know exactly why that is so (see yesterday’s SZ).

Unfortunately, this is true for many (perhaps even all) sectors, be it healthcare in general, food, energy, finances (banks and insurances), raw materials, merchandize, cars, communication, technology … Of course, it goes without saying that the weapons industry is also among them.

And (unfortunately) this is no conspiracy theory but can be proved by facts.

The EU, too, unfortunately, is (now?) a very undemocratic organization. It is dominated by the concern interests and, when all is said and done, you can even say that they were the ones who founded it. Just like the EURO is not a political product but one that was demanded by “business”. Yesterday, an EuGH decision, again, proved this (see yesterday’s ZEIT).

However, I do not wish to start a discussion about all these wrongs. I would rather talk about terms such as reform, revolution, change, modification, innovation, evolution, transformation. Those are also the terms my presentations are based on, no matter if they are about digitalization, leadership or entrepreneurship.

These are all difficult terms: in my book innovation means “creative destruction”. Reform is violence-free change. Everyone calls for reforms – yet nobody wants change. And change always means violence.

For the project PEACE, I use the term: transformation. Perhaps it is my goal to create a communicative concept to counterbalance the “non-peaceful” concepts. And I definitely do not want it on a religious level. In other words, I am not a missionary.

Instead, I want to give emotional and rational incentives for thinking. My intention is to inspire people. I would like to plant the idea of contemplation and activity. I am thinking of a snowball system that allows people to find autonomy without dogmata and drugs – that would be nice.

I kindly ask your forgiveness for my heart brimming over and consequently my goals being rather high. It is partly because – at least that is how I perceive it – I already managed to do quite surprising things in my life. Things I myself would never have believed possible.

On the other hand, I see myself as a rather humble person who can also live quite well with small success. After all, first and foremost, the journey is the reward!

But: not noticing and doing nothing is out of the question.

In my role as a mentor, I only support people in “homeopathic” doses. And I am happy whenever I can make others a little happier and more successful. And then I am very content and happy myself. The same is true for “my start-ups”..

My main personal goal is to live in gratitude.

Many heartfelt greetings and let us remain in contact!

(Translated by EG)


The First Time I Experienced True “Project Management”.

During the Berlin PM Camp, I told the stories of four projects from my vintage timethat were very important for me. And I also announced that I was going to write about all of them in the IF blog.

Project # 3

So here comes my story of the third project:

Fernschreiber (Siemens T100) - eingeführt im Jahre 1958 - moderner Nachfolger des T50

Fernschreiber (Teletype Machine (Siemens T100 – 1958), the modern successor of T50

After my change of positions inside Siemens away from UB D WS DF 131, I shared the technological responsibility for a relevant and absolutely innovative huge project called DISPOL with a new colleague working with whom soon became my true pleasure.

Siemens had won the bid for replacing the telex network of the Bavarian Police Force by a trans-data network based on modern circuit switching. At the same time, the card index boxes were to be replaced by a database in a central host (mainframe – it was a BS 1000 system). Also, modern display units were to substitute the old teletype machines.

That was roughly between 1979 and 1981. I was still a regular Siemens employee, but I had just fled the “bureaucracy” that had started at the development department of Transdata/PDN, looking to have better luck with sales at UB D V S 3. That was short for “department data processing, sales and special projects 3“.

See also my article on Vintage Projekt #2.

My move from the laboratory to the special projects necessitated that I now had to leave the private environment I had learned to love so much and found so nice at the Ortenburgstrasse (near Siemens Hofmannstrasse) and go to Neuperlach. And it did not take long for me to understand why the new building near the Neuperlach S-Bahn station was spitefully called “data sibirsk” or “Lego City” by many people.

For me, it was even worse: I had to move into a cold skyscraper surrounded by a fenced area that reminded me of barracks. Concrete and cold high-tech were the dominant features. And I also felt billeted. The only thing that looked halfway human in the entire areas was a fruit vendor who offered his goods on a stall inside the compound.

From day one, I felt uncomfortable in the concrete bunker that only looked colourful from the outside but was rather grey inside. Mind you, this was regardless of the fact that you actually could still open the windows and that there were quite a lot of green areas inside the fenced region. Yet, even the green was domesticated in a very prosaic way – it did not look as nice as you would, for instance, imagine it on castle grounds. Instead, it was techno-utilitarian.

But I was lucky. After all, I belonged to “special projects” – and they did not happen in the office. They happened outside, in the world. And since I was quasi equipped with privileged information, I felt like I was my own master and a little king.

Consequently, I preferred to mostly be where the customer resided (Bavarian State Office of Criminal Investigation in the Maillinger Straße) and to hardly ever be available in Neuperlach, except when it was absolutely unavoidable. To me, the rooms at the police station, regardless of all the very strict security regulations looked a lot more human than the new Siemens AG high-tech venue.

My flight from the “laboratory” that had fallen victim to bureaucracy had been a success and now I was allowed to experience real life. And the project DISPOL was a great thing. A total innovation. Together with the excellent partners of the Bavarian Police, we were a wonderful team. We cooperated with a maximum of efficiency and at eye-level. But I have to say that the project was already well under way at the time I became part of it.

And there were a number of birth defects – in all imaginable dimensions of the project. Consequently, the first thing to do was overcome a series of hurdles. We had a totally stupid design which had already been partly implemented (they wanted to realize a fixed system, which was totally against the dynamic connection technology), there were diverse architectonic mistakes with both the hardware and the software that had to be corrected quickly (systems with no local storage for quick reload, inadequate testing environment,…), the total absence of a component that had been promised (one example is the telex port which was quite good at doing the protocols of the postal service, but not for the police, who were “electronically” different) and many other “normal” challenges you meet when you are doing something for the first time.…

And there was also a requirement in the contract that was rather hard to meet. Because the new product DISPOL was supposed to replace a teletype machine network. And these kinds of teletype machines had (at least in Bavaria) an availability of a hundred per cent over years, if not decades. In other words: they NEVER broke down.

And, of course, that is what the customer expected of the new solution, as well. Justly?! Since, (at the time), Siemens was, of course, not stupid, they had negotiated in the contract that the system at least did not have to be a hundred per cent available. Once in a while, it was allowed to break down. Perhaps they had a hunch that electronic data processing had its limits. But then, it said “once in a while”!

Consequently, it had been written in the contract that the product was only considered functioning if the system ran a certain amount of time (I think it was two weeks) without interruption and that the “down-time” during this time had to be only very few hours (I seem to remember it was only one).

The only problem was that re-starting our computers also took a little more than one hour. Which meant that even if one single system shut down, the two weeks started anew and thus all attempts at delivering the product were in vain after a few days, or at the least a few days before the deadline…
(Note: we solved even this problem. If you are interested, I will gladly tell you how).

Basically, there was always a shut-down, because we had a number of sporadic and hard-to-reproduce errors, one of which would always occur shortly before those four weeks were over. Well, we just had to isolate them individually. But then, isolating errors takes time. Because you have to implement traps that catch the error and make it reproducible. And due to the contract, we did not have this sort of time.

Here is a note that might be interesting:
The test was designed in such a way that the normal police procedures ran twice during the acceptance phase. The real run with the real data continued with the old technology of the well-functioning telex network. But then, the original data (punch strips) ran on the new system 1:1 after a little time had elapsed. For testing. To keep up appearances, critical data were made anonymous and less drastic, but this was not always possible. And (of course), nothing happened. We all knew that those were highly sensitive data and that we had a lot of responsibility. Today, the gentlemen of data security would probably make a huge ado about it.

But back to the topic: 
The stability problem of the system only arose during the end phase of the project (which had already gone on for quite a long time). Due to the aforementioned factors, there had been some problems earlier, as well.

Consequently, our management panicked. That was also the reason why they had made me join the project. Then they understood that there was a lot left to do and we got additional resources: consultants and young persons who had been sitting around somewhere in the concern and had not known what to do with their time. And:
A project manager was installed!

Let me first tell you about my experiences with the consultants and young persons, later about the project manager.

The Consultants

There were several of them. They were supposed to help us, but that was not really what they usually did. I particularly remember two colleagues from the PSE (that is the Austrian Siemens daughter for software development). One of them was from Vienna and the other from Graz. They both held doctorial titles, one of them in psychology, the other in physics.

They were both really nice persons. They were both not happy to be far from home. The one missed beautiful Vienna, the other Graz. To me, they both seemed extremely intelligent, if not ingenious. Both had first names beginning with an M. and both had not much knowledge about the system, and even less an idea what a good code should look like.

Yet I never told them, because I really rather liked them. Consequently, we let them play along, which they both did quite well. Except that they never really made their way to the middle of the project. One of the reasons was that, in this project, they were like mercenaries, “away on a construction job”. Which actually does nothing to increase your motivation and readiness to make a huge effort. Consequently, their added value was not really relevant.

The young people

I remember a young lady and a young gentleman who were added to the group. Both of them were terribly young (early twenties, at the time, I was not yet 30). They both had trained in the IT sector somewhere at Siemens.

They were both highly motivated, listened carefully, did what they were told and thus they quickly understood the technology and their task. I assume that they were also quite cheap – especially compared to the two consultants with their doctorial titles – and they contributed enormously towards the project success. Incidentally, they both went on to become a success story. But not at Siemens.

Now the only thing remaining to talk about is

The Project Manager

The project manager was an earnest person who always wore ties and struck me as extremely nervous from day one. Said nervousness was easy to understand for me: after all, he was supposed to solve a problem he knew basically nothing about. He sat in our room a lot of the time writing reports. The rest of the time, he had meetings in Neuperlach. His role was something like being a translator between the worlds of management and the project that consisted of technology. Since he did not know the language of technology, he never understood the project. I assumed that he did not know the language of management, either. After all, during my time at the laboratory as a supplier for a huge project, I had learned some of it. He was a lonesome wanderer between two worlds.

Our project manager had a strange voice and consequently, he was soon stuck with a nickname (Schnarrie). The idea had come from our two ladies (W. and C.), who did a good job with the coordination and customer service. Perhaps because they were angry about their roles having been cut down.

For us, Schnarrie had a double positive effect. Firstly, we no longer needed to tell management why we did what we did – which had cost Hans and me, and sometimes also our two ladies, quite some time and nerves. And he also had a budget! Which was something totally new for us. Consequently, we managed to celebrate several “victory parties” on the Siemens budget when we had found a sporadic bug or some such.…

So much about this. Incidentally, the project DISPOL was a huge success and ran for decades to the greatest satisfaction of the Bavarian Police Force. And in its wake, it brought quite a few good customers to Siemens AG, as well.

(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Thursday October 15th, 2015

New Concerns is What the World Needs.

When I wrote this heading, I thought of the wonderful song by Ina Deter. It fits quite well, because, after all, most of the concern heads, especially in Germany, are (still) men. So here is her song:

I dedicate this article to my friend Hans Bonfigt. His last article as a guest author brought an immense number of new IF Blog readers in its wake. This is how it happened: Hans has a “historic enemy“, Felix von Leitner. Even in the good old usenet times, they often “crossed swords”. Felix writes the much-read and set a link from there to the guest article by Hans in the IF Blog. And then the show started: more than 20,000 readers clicked on this article within a few days. And many other articles, too, benefited hugely from the effect.

Back to Hans. Sometimes he has a tendency towards brutal language. Once in a while, it will deflect you from his basically good ideas. If he does not like an enterprise, he affronts it. Some consider this defamation. That is not nice. I, too, believe that his absolutely valid ideas would perhaps be better accepted if his condemnations were not so all-inclusive.

I respect this. Because, in his harsh way, he is probably correct. Basically, most of what he writes is actually quite harmless if compared with the naked truth.

Just take a close look at the concerns that dominate the world. In Germany, you usually have enterprises with a good reputation, a precious brand, lots of prestige and history. They have a well-trained work force, lots of knowledge, good sales channels and a high degree of publicity. Through their processes and build-up, they seem to be equipped to cope with all kinds of potential mishaps. Mostly, the employees – due to well-worked-out wage agreements – earn more than persons working in the social sector or freelance. Due to an excessive job protection legislation, their jobs are also a lot more secure than those of the rest of the working population in this country.

However, if you look behind the glittering façade, you will see that the patina crumbles. More often than not, their classic business models fail and classic turnover areas are endangered. Far too often, they employ persons who are paid far too well and are no longer needed in the scenarios of the future. Inherited liability weighs heavy on them and the market changes to their disadvantage. New competition threatens them.

There are huge inner weaknesses hidden from the outward appearance. Much that glitters is not gold at all. It is truly fear-inspiring. If I then continue by analysing the behaviour-controlling values of business that controls the world, it makes me dizzy. I am talking world-wide, for all concerns in all sectors.

Because we have desolate conditions in the global economy. Strangely, we tolerate them. There is not the slightest bit left of the common-good economy idea – as for instance laid down in the Bavarian Constitution. Nobody accepts the duty given to the industrialists with the right – which I personally consider of high value – to do business.

The good reputation of an enterprise, too, has become means to an end. If you have it, it is easier to make a profit. Ethics is wrapped into CSR – Corporate Social Responsibilty and used only to camouflage reality. Because all concerns and enterprises in business follow three unwritten laws:

The three commandments of current capitalism:

First Commandment

Do not develop products for what humans and the market needs. Instead, control the market in such a way that it will buy those products that give you the highest profit! In order to achieve this, manipulate the people permanently through a collective brain-washing, also called “marketing”.

Second Commandment
Set the rules and regulations for your business dealings in such a way that they will exclusively be beneficial for you! In order to do this, use the superweapon “lobbyism”! It must be your highest priority to control politicians through your lobbyists in such a way that all legislation is to your benefit!

Third Commandment

It must be the absolute goal of all your entrepreneurial activities to maximise the profits and the shareholder value! Profit thus gained must be privatised as fast as possible, losses have to be socialized immediately!

These commandments of modern capitalism have priority over all else, be it employees, customers, suppliers or other stakeholders. World-wide and without exception. Because in Asia, China, India, Japan, Korea, South-America, the USA or wherever, the one and only important factor is: profit.

In Europe, the situation is no better. Just look at the former EG or the Comecon countries. I cannot imagine that it is different in Switzerland. Nor do the Scandinavian concerns give reason for hope: just look at the stories around, for instance, IKEA.

To sum it up, you can say that, for all concerns and many more business enterprises, gaining and maximizing profit and consolidating your position on the market always has absolute priority. This is how the concern business has come to a point where all that matters is survival. The preservation and constant strengthening of the own system have become the exclusive goals as determined by the system itself. And the end justifies the means. In theory, such systems are called “de-personalized”. And making self-preservation your exclusive goal makes you inhuman and is the first step towards a fascist system.

An enterprise should aim at: supplying the people in the country with goods that promote their well-being. This is opposed to the current direction of business. The needs of the people are no longer served. Instead, the goals are formed along the lines of business. Of course, if you do this, there is no room left for a “common—good economy” as the Bavarian Constitution demands it. For me, this borders on “criminal behaviour“.

Now I will take a close look at all sectors. I wonder if I will find one that is not criminal?

It cannot be the food industry (why do you no longer call it victuals or nutrition industry?). In this sector, even the smallest customers are manipulated towards eating unhealthy through lies. One (not only food) scandal follows on the heels of the last, fraud and blackmail are common practice. Lower quality and extortion are accepted for economic reasons, the same is true for environmental destruction, not only in the Third World countries. In this respect, I only mention particularly dire cases like the seeds situation as a side-line.

Nor is it necessary for me to write about those industries that supply humanity with raw materials. We all know what traces those robber barons have left on our planet. The same is true for their sub-division, the oil and petro industry. Allegedly, enterprises such as Gasprom even have their own para-military organisations, which is equipped like a private army with heavy weapons. Why? Well, it is clear, isn’t it? If necessary, they can use force to give weight to their interests.

But the EVU’s do not fare any better, either. Neither does the chemical or pharmaceutic industry. You read all the time that medicine is licenced after the best of tests have been executed (exceptional healing capacity, negligible side-effects) and thus is now on the market. And after many users – often children and teenagers – consumed the medicine for a long time, you suddenly hear that the positive effect was ZERO and the side-effects were considerable. But that is nothing. You continue with “business as usual”.

Trade, too, probably has no clean slate. What harsh measures do the discounters use both against their competition and their suppliers! And the customers, too, are constantly cheated. They dominate the field with a long-term, ruinous cut-throat competition. The only thing left in the end will be the ruins of many no longer needed chain stores and a destroyed infra structure.

I will not even mention the traffic enterprises and finance services, the speculation, world and gambling companies, the media enterprises, the weapons industry, the logistics sector, let alone the luxury food industry.

My own sector, the IT industry, too, is not one I trust. For instance, I can well imagine that many producers are quite happy about all those virusses and spams appearing. And about the eavesdropping and much more. I assume that only a small part of the hardware and software systems actually are still made for processing and communicating data.

No. Most of the server and storage systems are probably sold for spam and virus defence, as well as for eavesdropping and such. It would be quite easy to de-activate the spam flood in emails with a suitable protocol (even the old telefax machines had a code provider) – but nobody wants it. Probably because it would be a shame to let all this nice business go.

Here is something else I notice:

No matter how high a profit. The higher the better. Even if it looks rather amoral.

I once read that, at Reemtsma (sector: luxury food industry – tobacco) the EBIT of a good year can well be as much as half of the entire turnover. Let us assume that, in this sector, the turnover is only one twentieth of the capital. Then the capital return rate is 1,000%. Well, there were times when 4% were considered a reasonable turnover return rate (in the 1950ies at VW – those were also the times when you still could get a low one-digit interest on your conventional bank account). If you take 200 as the factor turnover/capital, you get a turnover rate of 10,000%. Well, not everybody can achieve this!

And what do I read on the Reemtsma Website as a reprimand?

Illegal cigarette trade is among the most lucrative crimes…
I wonder why!

Today, there is no upper limit to what marketing may cost. And manipulation need stop nowhere at all.

The only thing that matters is that it does what it is supposed to do. Especially in the sector of “digital marketing”, you hear of enormous progress. The most modern scientific results in neurology and psychology are utilized. Thus, the cost of marketing and sales grow all the time. In some enterprises, they are already as high as half the turnover. In other words: the customer who buys the product pays half of what he pays for measures executed in order to make him buy the product.
Is that OK?

This is even true for enterprises, for example, in the pharmacy sector. One would assume that, basically, medicine does not need advertising. After all, it is badly needed, isn’t it? But nothing could be further from the truth – here, too, the advertising costs is easily 40% of the total turnover and more. And for enterprises promoting internet “services” such as for instance booking hotel rooms, the per cent ratio of marketing might well be more than half of the total cost.
Even politics manipulate us through marketing. Not just when it comes to lobbyism. Normally, the party that has most of the money at their disposal will eventually become the reigning government. Because they can employ the better marketing companies and campaign better. In almost all cases, there is a correlation between the number of votes and the money used in the electoral campaign. But where do they get the money? Of course, from the institutions that have a) money and b) important interests. So who are we talking? Well, those enterprises that would wish to make the rules for their business the rules of our society. I see a huge threat to our democracy! In fact, thinking of the elections for the next president of the USA – who call themselves “God’s own country” – gives me pause.

This is why I cannot really do anything other than say Hans Bonfigt is somehow right when he says things rather bluntly.

(Translated by EG)

Der Stammbaum des menschlichen Wissens zu Beginn von Band 1 der Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, 28 Bände, vollendet im Jahr 1772

On this picture, you see the genealogical tree of human knowledge at the beginning of volume 1 of the Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers. There are 28 volume, and they were finished in 1772.

A short time ago, at a garden party, I meet an old colleague of mine whom I had not seen in many years. He used to study mathematics and informatics at TUM. I think his focus was on informatics. After he had finished his studies, he worked for a huge electronics concern – just like I did. Except that he stayed there for all his work-life – which is not what I did, because I went my own way after a little more than four years (luckily).

We had not met in many years, which means there was plenty for us to talk about over one or several glasses of good beer. He, in particular, told me a lot about his life. For instance what he is doing today and how exactly life was in those days.

He also told me that, after having retired, he made a mental balance sheet of his life. And in retrospective, he let all the direct bosses he had had during his work-life parade before his inner eyes. And he wrote their names down very diligently, in the correct sequence.

And lo and behold: there was none he could not easily remember. In all the years of his work-life, he had had 26 (twenty-six) bosses, all of whom had personally looked out for and supervised him.

And since he was at it anyway, he drew a matrix. On the left column, he wrote the names of his former bosses and as a header of the columns, he wrote all the personal qualities that he considers requirements for good leadership.

And then he filled the lines for each one of the bosses with grades, from 1 to 6 (very good to non-satisfactory). Just as they do it at school. And then he calculated the average grade per line (of bosses).

And what do you think was the result? Only two (!) of his twenty-six former bosses actually were graded better than inadequate on average. He also told me the names of the only two bosses he had had who were actually fit to be leaders. I knew both of them and totally agreed with him, because, over the years, I really came to truly appreciate them, too.

But the calculated result on the whole really gave me pause. Personally, I had never thought it was all that bad. If only two out of twenty-six bosses over an entire work-life have the necessary qualities, then what sort of enterprise is this? One would wonder if an enterprise where less than 10 % meet the basic requirements for leadership is not perhaps on the downward spiral already?

This might explain a lot. Can such an enterprise be successful at all?

Incidentally, as I see him, my friend is a very objective and fair thinker. He is active in many areas and everything but a grumbler or the like – basically, he is a really cool guy. Which is why I think one should take seriously what he told me.

I am also familiar with the entrepreneurial surroundings he had spent the major part of his life in. And I must admit that, in my personal opinion, it was probably not the best possible surrounding. That, too, could be an explanation for the poor grades.

Then I tried to apply the model created by my friend to my own horizon of experience. And I realized that, where my personal experiences are concerned, at least every third boss had been basically ok. That would at least be nine out of twenty-seven. But then, you cannot call this a really good result either, can you?

A few days later, this story still had not left me alone. And I asked myself: “Why did he stay with this enterprise for such a long time?” After all, my memory had him down for a colleague who was both technologically and otherwise competent.

I think the answer is because these enterprises are some kind of golden cage (see also my article “Golden Wired Fence” / “Goldener Stacheldraht“). During the first ten years, you could not give notice if you were a “responsible person”, because you would lose all the company retirement money. Then you were a little more at liberty, but the job protection gave you the next “golden chain”. It made the move to another enterprise, or even the decision to become self-employed, an adventure the start of which would have meant you have to relinquish a whole lot of security. And then you had to be very courageous if you actually took such a huge step.

(Translated by EG)

The illustration of this article was taken from Wikipedia, see the term “hierarchy” (Hierarchie).

Roland Dürre
Monday August 10th, 2015

Complexity & Cat Food.

Between September, 10th, and September, 12th, I will be in Berlin. Why? Because there is another PM Camp! This is already the third of them. The Berlin PM Camp is about Complexity. To be more precise: this year we ask the question: “Complexity – should we reduce it or increase it?”

Here is my contribution to the Blog Parade of the Berlin 2015 PM Camp – and it is especially for Heiko!

20150810_150437_resizedCats are well off.

They need not work and can do what they want all day long. Consequently, they stroll all over the place or sit at their favourite spot enjoying the sun while looking around. Once in a while, they play “bad cat” with a mouse or a bird. As soon as they start purring, there will always be someone to stroke them. They get their food in the morning and in the evening. Without having to do anything for it.

The “cat mother”, too, has a better life than formerly. Because today, the cat food comes in sacks or cans. Once in a month, you buy a sack or a crate full of cans. That is it. Or if you want to be very modern, you buy baggies, as you see on the left picture. That is the typical contemporary cat food. Even if nobody actually knows what is inside. To make up for it, they are a little more expensive. But then, our cat is worth this extra money, isn’t it?

Let us analyse what “people” did for the cat in order to make it possible for cat-mom to just take the bag and thus make her beloved cat happy.

Let us start with the wrapping.

It is made of extremely thin sheeting, as produced, for instance, with the technology provided by Brückner of Siegsdorf. It is quite impressive to see how these kinds of sheeting are pressed into huge machines to become extremely thin – and then how, during the production phase, both the machine and the product become broader and broader. And how much effort and, above all, brains, the quality control and control mechanisms in general require.

To make this sheeting capable of becoming a container for the food, you need several steps for metallically steaming and further layering and treating it. You need enormous and very special engineering competence in order to do this. Subsequently, the sheeting is printed in many colours. That, too, is a special technology. Incidentally, the image processing for the pictures is done with graphics software. But then, gluing or welding the sheeting together so that you get a water-proof bag is the next sensational thing. Like much of the filling process, it often looks rather unbelievable.

Now let us look at the content.

The world of chemistry makes it possible: it makes both humans and animals believe that something precious is inside. The stuff has a surprising consistency, a very special smell and it even retains its shape for a time. Well, this is all science. It also has a surprising best-before date and a setup of many ingredients will guarantee that the cat, regardless of all this, will not immediately become sick but instead look healthy at least from the outside. It is a miracle – also only possible due to enormous scientific efforts.

This is how they do the mixing, brewing and filling at automated animal food stations. In fact, the entire process is computer-controlled, always with the same quality and with no variations. As an input, the containers with the raw material will be brought to the plant. The output is standardized cartons. And still, mostly our German middle classes are parties in charge, because our “hidden champions” have exactly the right know- how. They build the best machines in the world for exactly these kinds of processes.

Marketing and logistics

The entire affair can only be sold if a world-wide marketing machine is activated. You will see the happy cats enjoying this food on the internet, on TV, in colourful magazines. It is a truly fabulous manipulation, a mixture of emotional images and digital marketing. We understand the message – the right brand will make the cat, and consequently the human, happy.

The logistics are not bad, either. Because, naturally, the modern cat mother will buy the heavy sacks with the dry food and the cartons with the many colourful bags online. With a single click. Because only old-fashioned and mostly elderly persons who still drive their cars will carry the heavy sacks home from the “Fressnapf” in their SUVs, the trunk of which will, however, open and close after just a slight foot gesture, seemingly by itself.

Consequently, Amazon will do its job. They drive the products to their delivery centres with their heavy trucks that dutifully pay their polls in one of the best poll systems of the world. And if the customer orders in the evening, then DHL or the like will deliver on the next day and the cat will have her breakfast on time. How easy to live in the world has become…

And basically, it is all for nothing.

In fact, the cat would very much prefer eating cooked heart or lungs from the butcher. But then, a cat life, too, is not perfect, is it? And we all have to subjugate ourselves under the modern world – humans as well as animals.

(Translated by EG)

Now don’t say the bag with the wet cat food is not a complex product…

Werner Lorbeer
Saturday August 1st, 2015

Energy Transition is Germany’s Hobbyhorse

FAZ Kohle beliebt_2015-08-01_0001Well, I admit the headline is a little polemic. I also admit that it is high time for us to “start”. In my definition, however, it involves more than just enjoying windmills and photovoltaic modules or swarm power stations.

Taking your pencil and doing the calculations with the unobtrusive FAZ article of July, 30th, will show you that the renewable energy production in Germany amounts to less, 00002 % (2 times 10 to the power of -5 per cent) of the world-wide coal-based energy consumption.

Compared to the global energy level, our energy transition is a technological children’s playground, some kind of lucrative hobbyhorse the progress of which is far too slow and that is far too expensive for broader use.

India, China, Africa, America, Australia will not forgo their rights to use coal. It depends fundamentally on implementing processes of civilization and technology in order to separate the standard of living from the carbon dioxide output. What we need globally is an economical, cost-efficient solution. Because the very bad news was written in the same FAZ issue:

FAZ Weltbevölkerung_2015-08-01_0002The world population continues to grow – and faster than we had anticipated.

Personal Opinion:
Once again, it will pay to think about the relation between investments and carbon-dioxide reduction. There is no doubt that there are better processes with respect to the carbon dioxide efficiency quotient than the ways favoured by us through the EEG. Just remember the filters for dust, NOx, SOx and also CO2? Quick, efficient, cheap! Or the possible green-linking of CO2 through suitable agricultural and forestry-related measures – which would at the same time be beneficial for Africa and South America.

Personally, I would rather pay an EEG extra fee that finally ends the abuse of our atmosphere as the rubbish heap of human civilization and that is internationally available as a development aid than continue to feed German wind and solar barons.

(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Thursday June 18th, 2015

Heroes, Gladiators and Consumers.

220px-Weltmeister_autograph_1954On one of the early PM Camps in Dornbirn, Eberhard Huber initiated a really great session about “cultural onions”. I wrote about it.

The “cultural onion” describes of such social systems as, for instance, the Federal Republic of Germany in the form of a model. For instance, the peel of the “onion” are its symbols, rituals, basic beliefs, certainties, values, … And, in particular, the “heroes” of a system also play a role.
This session motivated me to look for a “German” hero. I was thinking of the great classics of literature (Goethe, Schiller, … ), modern authors (Brecht, Grass …) and philosophers (Kant, Nietzsche …). Also, I wondered if politicians (Erhard, Brandt …), people who resisted (Scholl, Staufenberg), composers (Bach, Beethoven …) and musicians (Lindenberg, Nina) and many more might be candidates for the role of my personal hero.

None of them was good enough to meet my requirements for a “German Hero”. Since I am a passionate soccer player, I continued my search there. However, Beckenbauer, Haller and Uwe Seeler (although he came pretty close), too, fell short.

And then I had an idea:
The soccer world champion team of 1954 – the heroes of Bern – they meet the bill! This is the team I consider just about good enough to be my “German Heroes”

But then, this was 61 years ago. We now live in the 21st century. A short time ago, I watched the Champions League Final Match   Juventus against Barcelona 2015 in Berlin on TV. And again, I was surprised to see how excessively all the stars of today are tattooed. I also wondered why they all had such strange hairstyles.

And then it immediately dawned on me:
The soccer players of today are the gladiators of our times. The tattoos and dyed red-Indian and other hairstyles are part of their war outfit. They serve the clubs and, behind those, the concerns. That is who they fight for and that is who pays them for it. Along with extensive marketing, this is how the consumers are kept dependent and motivated to buy more and more. Said consumers will cheer “their” gladiators and obediently buy the products advertised by those gentlemen.

Thus, the contests of our gladiators are the biggest spectacles of our times. If the “right team” wins, the people will go crazy, if they lose, the fans (the consumer population) are sad and wish to die, burning their banners.

Soccer players are the modern mercenaries in our times. They “play” for those who pay best. But above all, they fight for mass consumption. This is no longer about panem et circenses in order to distract and entertain the people, as was customary in ancient Rome. Instead, this is all about turnover and profit, e.g. about “the money” of the masses.

As I see it, this development is an indicator of the decadence of our times. Decadence which, in prospering social systems, can be observed as the preliminary stage of the end shortly before the downfall.

However, we know that innovation is creative destruction and I already look forward to what will come next. And we relish the morbid joy witnessing the downfall of all those who are responsible for this development.. Except that this concerns all of us!

There is also a kind of exploitation and insurance organization for the gladiators. It is called FIFA and earns a lot of money with the new games.

Roland Dürre
Saturday May 16th, 2015

Zero Interest Until 2025

EuroJust now, I again read:

“Quite a few analysts predict that the zero interest – due to the financial politics of our currency bands – will continue until at least 2025.”

Which means that paradise on earth lies before all investors.

Here is what I have to say about it:

  • Talking about zero interest is just a lie:
    Because the only persons who benefit from it are the few who are rich enough to further increase their money by speculating in relatively secure products. And
  • It has always been true that:
    Being indebted will make you rich, saving money will destroy richness. And unfortunately, the poor ones are those who save money while the rich ones (can afford to) be indebted..

Well, this is my spontaneous short economics theory in two sentences/paragraphs!


Roland Dürre
Sunday May 3rd, 2015

Numbers & Taxes & Calculations.

On April, 23rd, 2015, the Federal Ministry of Finances (Bundesfinanzministerium) published information on its website about the entire tax revenue (total tax revenue of the country and states without those of the communities per month) having increased by 4.7 % over the same month of last year in March 2015 to now 57.970 billion Euros. Wow. Doesn’t that sound nice! After a balanced federal budget. Because the economy booms. Consequently, we have a high turnover and increased tax revenue. What a brave new world.

However, it is not as easy as it sounds. There is one adjective missing: “nominally”. Because this would clarify that the number is not such a great number, after all.

Here are a few ideas of mine.

In “West Germany”, the retirement money will be increased by 2.1 per cent in 2015, in “East Germany” by 2.5 per cent. The Federal Government decided late in April that this is going to happen on July, 1st, 2015.

The annual increase of retirement money basically takes the development of the total income into account, separately for western and eastern counties. Let me cite

The data relevant for the increase in retirement money have been processed in the spring of 2015. Now we can give the precise number for the retirement money increase. Due to a statistical once-only effect, however, the retirement money increase of 2015 will be one per cent lower than without this effect. We are talking EU regulations requiring a revision of the workforce statistics. For instance, certain groups of low-income employees have to be included in the statistics, which has a negative influence on the central incomes the retirement money increase rate is based on.

Now that, too, is a topic – just because of a new EU regulation, the retirees get less than they would actually be entitled to. But this is not what this article is about. I conclude that the extra tax revenues result from higher incomes (around 3%) and the additional cold progression.

I also read:

Consequently, the increase in retirement money in 2015 is higher than has been predicted by the German Retirement Money Insurance Association. Neither is there an inflation influence, since the last inflation rate was minus 0.1 per cent.

This is also something that makes me thoughtful. Does that mean that the poor predictions actually make the incorrect increase more legitimate? And how is it possible that persons who have to rely on their retirement money are worse and worse off, regardless of life getting cheaper and cheaper and retirement money increasing? No. In fact, it is not correct. In my own environment, I regularly perceive considerable price increases. For good food on the market, at the (real) bakery and butchery, having to pay craftsmen and doctors, for public transportation, for everyday products such as good bikes. Or for real estate and rent. Everything gets more expensive. Beer, ice-cream and pizza. The increase is actually surprisingly high. And with those (not just) felt inflation rates, those 4.7 % more tax revenues are basically no longer such a great thing.

Only junk gets less expensive. But then, every child knows that cheap junk will eventually cost you more. And fuel (temporarily) got cheaper. But then, who needs fuel if they have no money, anyway? Only the well-to-do (I count myself among them) burn a few hundred litres of fuel each month with their luxury limousines (which is not something I do). The savings might then be spent on a luxury item. For instance a beautiful scarf – which today might well be 370.- Euros at Loden-Frey. I saw it last week. And since even the cheap scarves were all around 200,- Euros, as well, I exited the shop empty-handed. Because the prices for luxurious items actually explode – as a side-effect of which again more tax revenues are earned by the Federal Office. Except that if more luxurious items are sold, this is not an indicator that people in the country are generally better off.

For instance the increase in tax revenues for added value tax and other taxes such as real estate transfer tax benefit from an actually happening inflation, even if it is not statistically visible. The shopping cart developed for statistical reasons is a lie.

Regardless, one should rejoice at hearing that the revenues have increased. Except that you should not forget the opposite side: the money spent. And that basically increases to a far higher extent than the aforementioned 4.7 per cent. Just think of the major components of the Federal Budget such as Social Welfare, for instance pensions for former public servants. Or the almost normal cost increases when it comes to public infra-structure projects. For instance when we consider the construction (Bau) of the Ismaning motorway junction (see also my IF Blog article).

And after reading an article on this where a District Administrator said that “a general increase by 15 per cent for these kinds of projects is rather normal”, I think this is realistic.

Consequently, I am afraid the story they tell us about the balanced federal budget, too, is just a lie. Because we are lucky to have these low interest rates. You know, matters might change quite quickly. No reserves are kept for actually threatening losses. Everybody seems to accept securities that lie in the future for loans, knowing full well that there will be a time when you have to pay them back. It will probably happen quite soon that massive cost increases can only be met by strict economizing, which many parties concerned will have to pay for. Those proudly proclaimed 4.7 per cent will not be any help and presumably the low-wage earners will again be the ones who have to pay the price. Their savings are already being downgraded by the zero-interest policy, anyway.

But let me return to taxes and added value tax. Why don’t you try a hilarious experiment and ask (not just) young persons in this country how high the added value tax rate is? You will be surprised to hear the answers. “I have no idea” is among the harmless ones. Here are the currently important numbers on taxes (from Wikipedia): 
Since January, 1st, 2007, the normal rate is 19 per cent and the reduced rate of 7 per cent has been active since July, 1st, 1983.[2]

And if you wish to be even more surprised, then ask all those people – after having informed them about the correct rate – how much of the 370 Euros you would have to pay for the scarf are added value tax. Many will not know. Consequently, you will get quite humorous replies, but not very often the right answer (that you have to divide the 370 Euros by 119 and then multiply the result with 19). And then people look at their mini calculators and see the result with an air of amazement.

Incidentally, I am quite surprised that they did not make 20% the normal added value rate. The calculation would be so easy: you take 1/6 of the total price and add 1/5 to the net price. But then, who knows the difference between “net”, “gross” and “tax weight” today? And who knows in-hundred, of-hundred, or on-hundred calculation?

To make up for the one extra per cent, one might have lowered the income tax a little. Or at least, they might have coordinated the progression intervals with the inflation rate.

And if you want to further annoy your partner, you can ask him about duty on spirits, duty on energy, real estate transfer tax, coffee tax, tobacco tax, (… Branntweinsteuer, Energiesteuer, Grunderwerbssteuer, Kaffeesteuer, Tabaksteuer …) …

(Translated by EG)