Making monuments…​

Occasionally you open your mouth and say something that should be patently ridiculous to every person in the room. The mere suggestion should be met with mocking, rolled eyes, and sighs of disbelief. Mostly you do it when you’re a little bored or just want to see what kind of rise you can get out of someone. You’d never in a million years think anyone would take any of it as an actual suggestion.

Then, of course, you are brought crashing back to the real world with a comment about “how relevant” your suggestion is.

No. Please, just no. These words were not meant to be taken seriously. They were meant as biting critique of our penchant for creating monuments out of things that should be sandcastles. I’m not sure I remember what #winning looks like, but I’m reasonably certain we’re doing it wrong.

Hot sweaty death by PowerPoint…

I’ve never really understood the need of management to convey information by jamming as many people as possible into a room and then throwing PowerPoint charts at them until they want to gouge out their own eyes. These events are even more near and dear to my heart when the information could have been just as easily sent to me by email so I could read it at a convenient time rather than rejiggering my calendar to free up three hours in the middle of the week – a task I accomplished by cancelling my one actual productive meeting this week.

As a rule, 120 slides constitute just a few too many in any presentation. That’s doubly true when 31 of those slides fall into the “org chart/wire diagram” category. 1) Nobody in the room can read the eight point font used to squeeze that graphic onto the slide and 2) After ten or twelve wire diagrams, they all look exactly the same. That’s just an observation from a guy sitting in the back rows, so take it for what it’s worth.

When I’m proclaimed King of the Bureaucrats, my first edict from on high will be a proclamation that no briefing will use more than five slides. Ever. If you can’t distill the essence of what you’re trying to convey into five or fewer slides or (gasp) talk about your idea without the visual aids, there’s a pretty good chance I’ll think you don’t know what you’re talking about and will be sorely tempted to send you to sleep with the fishes. Since I’m somewhere just above the janitorial staff on one of those 31 org charts we saw, I suppose everyone is safe for the time being.

But you’ve all been warned. Oh yes, you’ve all been warned.

Editorial Note: This part of a continuing series of posts previously available on a now defunct website. They are appearing on http://www.jeffreytharp.com for the first time. This post has been time stamped to correspond to its original publication date.

Suggestion box…

Every organization that pretends to focus on customer service has a suggestion box, or comment cards, or some kind of web survey for the good intentioned or flustered to “make their voice heard” by management. That’s all well and good, because usually at the bottom of the suggestion box is a black hole that devours any kudo or complaint before it has a chance to ever again see the light of day. Sadly, sometimes a well intentioned someone will mistakenly take one of these pearls of wisdom to heart and launch an all-out blitz to review an unsolicited recommendation.

Now usually I can avoid these academic exercises, but recently I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and got tagged with giving one the once over. The truth is, what’s being suggested might actually be a good idea, but I’ll never know because the form was written in a language caught somewhere between incomprehensible gibberish and techno-babble. Instead of writing this off as the rambling of a well-intentioned crank, I’ve got to try to track this whackjob down and pick his brain before we send along a formal thanks, but no thanks letter.

Meh, that’s time well spent.

Editorial Note: This part of a continuing series of posts previously available on a now defunct website. They are appearing on http://www.jeffreytharp.com for the first time. This post has been time stamped to correspond to its original publication date