Monthly Archives: August 2009

Latest Internet Stats

From the August 31 edition of Internet World Stats News comes the following:

The new total for the world population is estimated at 6,767,805,208 persons for mid-year 2009. This represents an increase of 91,684,920 persons, a 1.4% population increase since one-year ago.

On the other hand, our mid-year 2009 estimate for world Internet users is 1,668,870,408. Internet penetration is 24.7%. This means that approximately one out of every four persons in the world uses the Internet. The new user distribution by geographic regions can be observed in the world stats table.


The two main reasons strategic plans fail

I did an Internet search for “why strategic plans fail,” and was presented with one post that purported to contain the top five reasons and one post that contained 37 reasons.  The latter was a blogger who said that he was asking his clients to give him more reasons so that he could have 50 reasons.  Perhaps I’m oversimplifying this subject, but I am of the opinion that there are two main reasons why strategic plans fail.  This assumes that the plan is sound in the first place. The first reason is that no one is responsible for achieving the goals and the second reason is that there is no accountability.  If I had to add a third reason, it would be that the environment has changed.

Speaking of strategic planning, I’ll be conducting a workshop presented by the Stennis Institute of Government on “How to facilitate a strategic planning retreat” on Thursday, September 3, in Jackson.  More information about that at the Stennis Institute Web site training page.

Which is the greater cause of death? Homicide or suicide?

The National Vital Statistics Report – Deaths: Final Data to 2006, which was published in April 2009 by the Center for Disease Control, has some fascinating data about death in the United States.  For example, suicide ranked # 11 while homicide ranked # 15 on the Leading Causes of Death list.  And Mississippi has the highest age-adjusted death rate in the country.  And does education matter?  Well consider that the death rate for those with no high school diploma was 2.6 times higher than those with some college or a college degree.  Here’s more:

The 15 leading causes of death in 2006 were:
Diseases of heart (heart disease)
Malignant neoplasms (cancer)
Cerebrovascular diseases (stroke)
Chronic lower respiratory diseases
Accidents (unintentional injuries)
Diabetes mellitus (diabetes)
Alzheimer’s disease
Influenza and pneumonia
Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome and nephrosis (kidney disease)
Intentional self-harm (suicide)
Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis
Essential hypertension and hypertensive renal disease (hypertension)
Parkinson’s disease
Assault (homicide)

The state with the highest age-adjusted death rate in 2006 was Mississippi (961.2 per 100,000 U.S. standard population), with a rate 23.8 percent above the national average. The state with the lowest age-adjusted death rate was Hawaii (629.6 per 100,000 standard population), with a rate 18.9 percent below the national average.

For the total population, and for males and females separately, mortality is inversely associated with educational attainment; that is, the average risk of death decreases markedly with increasing educational attainment. The age-adjusted death rate for those with less than a high school diploma or equivalent was 528.8 per 100,000 U.S. standard population—  13.8 percent higher than the rate of 464.8 for those with a high school diploma or equivalent and 2.6 times the rate of 200.0 for those with some college or collegiate degree.

Open your meeting with a two-minute story

Stories are powerful when used correctly in meetings.  Not just any story though.  Stories should have certain characteriestics.  Professor Stew Friedman of Wharton’s Leadership Program says that the use of stories can provide valuable leadership lessons and opportunities.  Here’s his advice:

A good leadership story has the power to engage hearts and minds. It has these six crucial elements:

  1. Draws on your real past and lessons you’ve learned from it.
  2. Resonates emotionally with your audience because it’s relevant to them.
  3. Inspires your audience because it’s fueled by your passion.
  4. Shows the struggle between your goal and the obstacles you faced in pursuing it.
  5. Illustrates with a vivid example.
  6. Teaches an important lesson.

The future of Clarksdale – and rural Mississippi

A meeting was held in Clarksdale last week to discuss the future of the community after a local company closed its doors and left 76 workers without jobs.  The Clarksdale Press Register article provides a good summary of the meeting and the various perspectives of the public officials and community leaders.  Opinions ranged from looking on the bright side for what we had to blaming the media.  Pete Johnson, former co-chair of the Delta Regional Authority had this observation:

“For us to sit here and think we are not on the road to extinction we are kidding ourselves,” said Johnson after discussing the dramatic population declines in Clarksdale and other rural cities. “We are looking at a 40 year trend in rural America and it seems nothing is going to change that trend. Why do we sit here and think we can hope for an automobile plant or hope for these other things. Hope isn’t going to feed this gentleman’s family that just got laid off.”

The data support Johnson’s comments.   Eleven counties in the Magnolia state touch the Mississippi River; nine of them lost population between 2000 and 2008, Tunica and DeSoto being the exceptions.  During that same period 39 counties lost population.  Three of those are on the Gulf Coast and lost population due to Hurricane Camille.  The population of Mississippi, like that of most states, tends to be clustered in a few counties.  In Mississippi’s case, 42.5% of the population live in the 10 most populous counties.

Understanding this data is one of the keys for rural Mississippi’s economic development strategies.

IRS on YouTube!

Here’s the latest IRS press release:

The Internal Revenue Service today announced the availability of video and audio products to help taxpayers take full advantage of the 2009 tax provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The IRS has launched a YouTube video site and an iTunes podcast site to better serve taxpayers. People can visit the video site at to view information about the Recovery, tax tips and how-to videos. These videos will be in English, Spanish, American Sign Language and other languages. The YouTube focus will be on the provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Videos will highlight the $8,000 first-time homebuyer’s credit for those who purchase a house this year, the sales or excise tax deduction on new car purchases and the expanded credits for education and energy conservation. The IRS YouTube channel will debut with seven Recovery videos in English and ASL and eight in Spanish. Also, included will be a video on using the IRS Withholding Calculator. Many workers received the Making Work Pay tax credit in April through their tax withholding at work. However, people who have more than one job or working spouses should especially check their withholding to ensure neither too much nor too little is being withheld. People can use the calculator to help determine if they should make adjustments. People can visit the audio site at iTunes to listen to IRS podcasts about ARRA tax credits. People without an iTunes account can hear those same podcasts, in English and Spanish, on’s Multimedia Center.

Deliberate Practice

Yesterday someone told me that I seemed so natural and at ease speaking before a group that it must come naturally.  Ha!  Early in my career I was so afraid of public speaking that I took a speech course at a local community college to force myself to talk in front of a group. And then I practiced, practiced, practiced before giving a speech.  Some would call it deliberative practice, the idea that experts in many fields of endeavor, especially sports, concentrate relentlessly on technique as opposed to outcome, set specific goals and get feedback and use it.  A-Rod, Tiger Woods, Michael Jordon and Jay Leno come to mind.
Jay Leno?
Yes, Jay Leno.  An article in today’s Wall Street Journal says that in preparation for his upcoming primetime show Leno –
He arrives at NBC Burbank studios at 8 a.m., an hour before anyone else. He spends his days involved in details like designing the seating layout for the new studio. To tune his act, he has done almost weekly stand-up performances at the Mirage Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas and the Comedy and Magic Club in Hermosa Beach, Calif., as well as free shows in Detroit and Wilmington, Ohio, that attracted as many as 20,000 people each. It is all part of his plan to woo as many constituents as he can —audiences, network executives and local NBC affiliates. He runs four miles a day and has lost 12 pounds in the past couple of months.

Sounds like deliberate practice to me.  Good luck, Jay.  I’ll be watching on Sepember 14 on NBC.

Best and Worst College Degrees by Earnings Potential

With colleges starting back this month it is useful to look at the earning potential of various degrees. According to a recent survey, below are the Top Ten and Bottom Ten degrees.  If you don’t see your degree listed, you can check out the complete survey results at

Top Ten



Aerospace Engineering



Chemical Engineering



Computer Engineering



Electrical Engineering









Mechanical Engineering



Computer Science



Industrial Engineering



Environmental Engineering



Bottom Ten






Fine Arts



Hospitality and Tourism


















Elementary Education



Social Work



The Importance of Details

One recent morning I received an e-mail inviting me to attend an event that was to occur in a couple of days.  The invitation was from a community leader who had formed a monthly discussion group regarding an issue that was important to the community.  Indeed, this person is what I would call a great community builder.  I had been to the discussion group a year earlier and found it well-intended, but lacking very much honesty among the discussants, myself included.  I decided to give it – and me – another chance even if I had to squeeze it in around other appointments.

Now to make my reservation.  I was already feeling better for making the decision to attend.  The e-mail message instructed me call a certain person at a certain number.  I called and asked to speak to the designated person.  A rather gruff voice said, “She’s not here.  Would you like her voicemail?” I replied in the affirmative and was connected to the voicemail of a man who was obviously not the right person.  I hung up and called back.  It was instant replay.  By now I was frustrated.  So much so that I decided that if the group did not have its act together any more than that I would not attend.

Then I started thinking.  Was this my excuse for not attending an event that I “should” attend, or did I have a responsibility to overlook the poor execution of details by the organizer?  I wondered how many others had called and decided not to attend the event because of the telephone snafu.  After I made my decision, I reflected on how important it is to pay attention to the DETAILS when putting on an event.

What’s in a name?

What’s in a name?
A lot if your town’s name is Sturgis.
(photo courtesy Steve Corbitt)
During the weekend of August 15-16, 2009 thousands of motorcyclists (bikers) descended on towns named Sturgis.  The Grandaddy of course is Sturgis, South Dakota where bikers congragate for a full week of activities.  Statistics are not in yet for this year, but in 2008 there 400,000 in attendance, 66 marriage licenses issued, $10.45 million in taxable sales, $418,932 South Dakota sales taxes collected, $217,213 Sturgis city sales taxes collected and 543 tons of garbage hauled.  The event has grown so big that other towns in the U.S. named Sturgis have been having there own biker festivals during the same weekend. More…
In Sturgis, Mississippi over 850 bikers pre-registered for the event, and many more showed up without being pre-registered.  Sturgis Mayor Walter Turner said the event is great for the city and the bikers and families are welcome. In advance of the even city crews performed such tasks as tree trimming, grass mowing, making sidewalk repairs, spraying for mosquitos and working to control fire ants.