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A View from The Prairie, 2021

January 2021

Scarcity or Hope of Plenty?

In 1776, we wrote that all people were endowed by their Creator with some inalienable rights including the "pursuit of happiness". That is not a right to happiness, just the pursuit of happiness. This statement is a philosophy of plenty - affirming the hope of the future. Others operated on a philosophy of scarcity. In the same way, some companies operate with a philosophy of scarcity and some companies offer the hope of plenty. A philosophy hoping for plenty assumes that


Winning and Losing

All coaches lose sometime. To be a "winning coach" is to win the important games. A coach can win more games than lose but still wind up being a "losing coach" because he lost the important games. In business, we often lose more than we win. However, do we win at the important times or do we lose at those times? Which score card are we using?


February 2021

Free Market Failure

Many economic theories assume that people are rational actors and that a free market will properly price everything. The problem is that the free market does not properly price extreme events nor does it properly price damage to the common good or long-term risks. A different assumption is that people are emotional and that markets are actually chaotic.

Without some external agency forcing companies to pay, it is always more profitable in the short run to ignore the risks of



"Maximize the return to the shareholders!" has been the mantra of a number of companies. Under it, they have laid off workers and sent the work overseas, cut benefits, and more. But is this the only way to operate? An alternative view is the "Stakeholder rights" view which says that customers, employees, and the wider community all have a stake in how the company is run. This debate has implications for many of the social media companies such as Facebook.


March 2021

Complex Systems - Sudden Consequences

So many people try to "get away with" small infractions, small breaking of the rules, and slacking off on safety. Most times, they manage to not have major ramifications. However, micro failures and micro slacking sometimes lead to rare and deadly macro failures. This is a normal part of complex systems: a rare, sudden chaotic change to the system with major consequences. As humans, we push the limits - not having consequences most of the time, but sometimes, we have major consequences.


What if I'm wrong?

A wealthy person approached a university wanting to sponsor research that would prove his belief. Many people want to say that science proves one belief or another. But science doesn't work that way. The scientific method is a technique for proving beliefs to be false, not true. The power and weakness of science is that all beliefs are open to being proven false.


April 2021

Diversity - Why? / How?

Why are groups pushing diversity initiatives? The value of diversity really depends on your viewpoint and what you see as our purpose. Those who see themselves as carrying civilization to the masses have no use for diversity. Those who see themselves as participating in a dynamic population see diversity as a real plus. Out in west Texas, people have scraped out a living struggling against a harsh climate, low rainfall, and weather that can be extreme. But they have also dealt with Apache raids across the border.


What kind of decision is this?

One leader claims that there are two types of decisions we can make: reversable and irreversible. These need different handling. The important thing is not to confuse them. We can spend too much time on one and not enough on the other. The real challenge is when we have to decide between competing values.


May 2021

Resilient Business

A lot of literature and computer games give us a simpler view on life. We don't want to face all the challenges of life. But challenges happen. Customers will push for more actions, demand different services, and put pressures on the structures we have built. We cannot predict disruptive market changes, cyber-attacks, or natural disasters. What we can do is to strive for "resilience".


Denying Reality

Recently, pictures of burned-out cars and cars with plastic bags of gasoline in their trunks appeared on social media. People put gasoline in the back seat, and lit a cigarette. That is a real denial of reality and we are suffering through a pandemic of denying reality in many forms. Often, people deny facts because they want the world to be like it "should be". Seeing reality can be an opportunity. When people in responsible positions deny reality, the rest of us suffer.


June 2021

Who Can We Trust for the Truth?

Lately, there have been numerous arguments between people - sometimes in the checkout lanes. All sorts of claims have been made. Right now, our society is struggling with how to identify the truth. Today, nearly anyone can post a story on the internet and have it spread around the world in a flash. How can we know which claims are true or if any of them are true? As business people, we know that we are at a disadvantage if we believe something that is not true. Those that find the truth first can make more money. We need to know who to trust to tell us truth.


Building a Trust Organization

How strong is your team? Do people trust each other enough to bring mistakes, failures, and missed goals to the team or are all those hidden away and people are fired when the failures are found out? When team members are reprimanded and fired for missing goals, team trust is destroyed. Team trust is becoming a strong competitive advantage. Rebuilding the team after everyone has been remote requires more work.


July 2021

Leadership Matters

Any competent manager is able to organize the team to give profits and get sufficient rewards for doing that. But management is not leadership and strong company profits can be the sign of good luck instead of good leadership. Good leadership pulls people together from both inside and outside the organization for a common purpose and towards the greater good. It is easy to think we are leading when things are going well. Easy victories can hide any incompetence.


Unlearning What We Know

There is a video of a woman throwing a major fit at an airport after missing a flight and the gate agent would not call the plane back. This woman "knew" how things should be. Now, she has to unlearn what she knew. In business, often we jump into a situation "knowing" the answer only to be proven wrong


August 2021

Trust but Verify

That was Ronald Reagan's slogan when dealing with people who used propaganda. We all may need to follow that slogan in today's world. In business, we need to trust but verify what others tell us. With remote workers, managers need new tools and skills to manage the work and employees.

The news that we most like hearing is the news we need to distrust and verify the most.


People Expendable or Job Expendable?

Many a manager considers the remote workers to be expendable. Yet, after experiencing working from home, up to a third of workers today want to continue working from home and will even take a pay cut to be able to do so. Many people think that the job is expendable. The right people are never "expendable".


September 2021

New Vision of Business

Do you have a vision for your business? In many cases, we find that making the vision happen is a lot harder than we thought. Often, we have to do personal growth as well as change how the business is operating in order to make the vision happen. Often, we have to repeatedly take actions in order to bring a new vision to a business. The vision has to identify what makes us different. Copycat companies never thrive.


Learner or Knower

Are you a "know it all" in your company? Does everyone come to you for the answers? Or are you the one always asking questions? Learners are always asking questions and always willing to listen to learn and are willing to change their behavior based on what they learn. When we think we already know, we are not open to learning anew.


October 2021

Luck and Chance

We live complex lives in which both luck and chance happen. Good luck and bad luck happen without warning. Facebook was down for six hours. Viruses are spreading around the globe. How we react to the unplanned, unanticipated, and unwanted events can either help us move forward in hope or send us into a spiral towards bitterness and failure. We can plan for mistakes and failures, or take them as personal attacks.


Banks Destroying Loyalty

Do you have a cash back card? Have you received the offers of cards that give 5% cash back? After the success of the Discover card with its cash back, banks have been trying to use higher and higher amounts of cash back to pull in customers. The result is that the banks are destroying the very concept of customer loyalty for the merchant. Merchants are starting to apply surcharges and ask for forms of payment other than cards.


November 2021

Self Due Diligence

We often hear about a company doing due diligence on an acquisition target. Yet, doing "due diligence" on ourselves might be a good practice. When we reevaluate our own businesses, we can ask the hard questions of "is this the business I want to be in?" and "is this business operating according to the values I believe in?" This kind of "audit" is far more valuable than any financial audit. When we do our own due diligence, we dive into the operations, the people, and evaluate everything including the impact we have had on the outside community. We also ask about the risks and potential problem points. We dig in to find where the problems might arise and work to mitigate the effects.


Bring Clarity.

There are CEO's who say anything. Some post confusing "tweets", statements that offend others, and insane recommendations. The famous quote of "let them eat cake" is an example of a leader totally out of touch. A leader who lives by the tweet isn't bringing clarity. Far too often, people jump in with unthought out statements and only confuse matters further. In order to bring clarity, often we need to remain in the question until the very moment that the clarity helps the most. It is far better to wait to speak in order to bring clarity to the situation. Clarity is not about giving orders.


December 2021

Unlearning is hard

Unlearning is hard. We live in a complex world that is rapidly changing. Because of those changes, our efforts fail which can be a sign that we need to unlearn something. In order to succeed, companies are unlearning what they knew before and rapidly learning something new. This unlearning is stressful and can be too much for many people. America has always changed rapidly. The Rip Van Winkle story illustrates


Data Driven Progress

When we have made the decision to change, we have to define how to measure that change. Many people make business decisions based on feel or even less substantial reasons. Many attempts to change a business organization have been based on key personnel experiences instead of hard data. Wanting to change but not measuring the change is a way to flounder and never achieve the change we want. Many companies hire for expertise and hope the hire will work out.


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