Using a Stacked Deck…

a.k.a. Corporate America

Spend a significant part of your life in Corporate America and you’ll feel like you’ve had an all-expense paid trip to Bedlam (the British psychiatric hospital once know for brutal treatment of the mentally ill). Hour upon hour in large companies are wasted in meetings, listening to pointless presentations to demonstrate that some executive is committing attempted leadership.

Right Said Fred!

Want to accomplish a business goal? Get ready to sit and listen to a room full of people rehash pointless information that really doesn’t get much done. A friend posted this quote on her Facebook page from comedian Fred Allen: “A committee is a group of people who individually can do nothing but together can decide that nothing can be done.” One – nothing could be more true. Two – you younger readers need to look up Allen on YouTube. Acerbic, but very funny.

Bane of the Business Existence

Before I was asked to leave my previous position at a Fortune 500 company, I got the meeting experience on a too-regular basis. Small meetings, department meetings, group meetings, cross-departmental meetings, one-on-one meetings. Sound. Fury. Signifying nothing. One of the things that had become particularly popular with big-wigs was having a PowerPoint demonstration to have a visual counterpoint to everything that came out of your mouth. And of course, instead of just calling it a PowerPoint presentation, they had seized on the business jargon of the day and would only refer to a presentation as a “deck,” as in deck of cards, representing the different slides of the PowerPoint. After all, why be clear and straightforward when you can be obtuse?

Droooooooooooooooooone

A quick way to bore people to the point of narcolepsy is to make them sit through a meeting dealing with something that could be handled much more simply with a face-to-face assignment to complete a particular task. Of course, that means the executive in question would actually be forced to lower themselves to talking to a peon-level employee, taking the chance of having to answer questions and perhaps even have to try and make sense of their decisions. So much better for the ego in question to talk at a group of employees, particularly while showing them slides that basically repeat every line of what they’re saying.

What's going on here?

There’s a piece in the New York Times on Thursday that brought this all to mind. Seems that the kudzu that is PowerPoint has spread from overuse in the business world to the U.S. military. One platoon leader is quoted in the piece as saying he spent most of his time creating PowerPoint presentations. A Marine general says “PowerPoint makes us stupid.” Finally, some real military intelligence!

If any of the executives at my former job read this, I may be ending any chance (however slim) I had of being re-employed there. Fortunately, going back is not high on my list of things to do. I am convinced that while the Microsoft people have a handy business tool that helps people showcase ideas, it has become a crutch for weak-minded and unimaginative managers to obfuscate a process to a point where their bosses don’t have a clue as to what’s really going on (connections to Wall Street anyone?).

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Bulls-eyeing womp rats

Who's Looking Out for Us?

I have to say, it doesn’t look like the Tennessee gubernatorial race is creating a lot of heat around this part of the state yet. As long as District Attorney General Bill Gibbons was in the race, I think there was hope of some local interest. It was too bad Gibbons dropped out of the race, although I don’t know that it was a complete surprise. He didn’t do that well when he ran for Memphis mayor in ’87, so why would he be able to raise the kind of money he’d need to mount a statewide campaign?

Since Gibbons and State Senator Jim Kyle dropping out, there’s no one from this corner of the state left in the race, and that could have some impact on how much attention we pay to it around here. That means the people left in the race are going to have to toss some cash to the local TV stations to introduce themselves to the voting public and gain some of that precious name recognition that’s so important in politics.

I suppose Mike McWherter, son of former Governor Ned McWherter, sort of counts as a candidate from West Tennessee, but I don’t think he’s nearly as well-known as his dad. Ned Ray seemed like a real force of nature.  I’ve met a few governors in my day (including Mr. Clinton of Arkansas), and Gov. McWherter seemed, well, gubernatorial.

Who's Got the Edge?

I think the Republican candidates may have the edge this time around. The three major Republicans poll in front of the younger McWherter. All of them are running TV spots in Memphis, which has got to make the stations happy (the only thing nearly as good as car dealer money to TV folks is political money). The mayor of Knoxville, Bill Haslam, has the advantage of family money, or at least he promotes himself as a part of building the Pilot gas station business. His spots tout how he’s built up Knoxville’s rainy day fund while making painful budget cuts. Of course, if you have enough money to put it in the bank, do you have to make “painful” cuts?

State Senator Ron Ramsey‘s spots take an anti-Washington tone. It seems that Tennessee’s major money troubles aren’t necessarily the fault of the national government. As the leading legislator of the majority party, don’t you think it would be better to have a list of accomplishments on fixing our own problems, instead of threatening to kick all those elitists out of the state with his fancy boots?

My favorite GOP candidate is 3rd District Congressman Zach Wamp, for obvious reasons. Here’s a guy who actually signed the Contract with America when he was first elected to the House. Wait, here’s a better indication of the kind of guy Zach is. When he was elected in 1994, he promised to only serve six terms in the House and to never take money from political action committees (you have to know where this is going). He’s currently in his eighth term (says that promise was a “mistake”). And he has accepted PAC money.

Gotta Do It!

According to the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office, there are 15 other candidates for governor on November’s ballot. Take the time to listen to any or all of them to hear whether any of them have anything specific to say on fixing Tennessee’s problems… or whether their focus is knocking the other guys or pandering to the angry electorate by running against the majority in Washington. Guys remember this – we aren’t all Tea Partiers!

A Bit on the Cruel Side

“April is the cruellest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain…”

Kyra & her beau

You may know the opening line of T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land.” This particular April hasn’t been altogether bad for me. My older brother and many friends of mine celebrate their birthdays in April, which is a good thing. I found out that an anchor I used to write for got engaged. It was one of those “cute” engagements, he took her golfing, which she loves, then he took a knee and proposed at the 18th green. Great story. It’s spring, so the weather has gotten a lot nicer – even with the heavy coating of tree pollen blanketing the region.

Still, there are reminders that there is cruelty out there. Deadly tornadoes sweep through the South. Coal mine disaster in West Virginia. Earthquake in China. North Korea torpedoes a South Korean naval vessel. Senate Republicans stymie financial reform for Wall Street (gotta keep the contributors happy).

I called my Mom on Easter Sunday. Not because it was Easter, but because it was her 57th wedding anniversary. I don’t talk to her nearly enough, but I always feel a bit conflicted about calling her in April. My father passed away four years ago. It was four days after their anniversary that year. They had retired to Ocala, Florida after spending their lives in Ohio. She decided to stay in Florida, even though the rest of the family’s up in Ohio. The weather’s better and they had made a lot of friends. That’s good, ’cause she never learned how to drive, and she’s got a great bunch of people who are happy to carry her from place to place. Still, even though she’s busy and happy, I know she misses Dad. I need to call her more often.

On the DL

I started out Tuesday on a good note, not only getting out to do two miles before work, but I was also able to give a passerby directions. We were at Front and Linden and he was supposed to be on Summer near I-40. The map feature on the iPhone is pretty handy.

After that, the day went downhill quickly. I recently produced a commercial for GERD. That’s gastroesophageal reflux disease. So I knew the intense pressure building in my back wasn’t a good thing. It’s happened a couple of times before, and my doctor has suggested that I keep some antacids handy. That didn’t solve the problem. Neither did the Prilosec. I got to work, but only lasted an hour before leaving nearly doubled over. The pain faded after an hour, but roared back and lasted until after 6. I’m hoping for a better Wednesday.

(Oh, by the way, after mentioning that only one person had subscribed to get email updates of when the blog updates, the total is…. still one.)

Keeping Up

I know that I’m not cranking these out as often as I once did. It’s not that the ideas aren’t there, it’s just trying to make the time to sit down and do it. Of course, the other thing is that it makes it tougher for people interesting in reading the thing. I guess some people see the updates on my Facebook page or on my Twitter page. As far as Twitter goes, that’s about all I use it for anymore.

And Improved!

So, one of the things I thought I would do is try a fresh, new look. The folks at WordPress have come up with a new theme, “Twenty Ten.” Is a bit cleaner, with a slightly bigger font than my old theme, “Ocean Mist.” Dramatic new look, same old content. Will you look at me more if I’m artificially better looking? I feel like Pam Anderson all of a sudden. Okay, maybe not.

I know it can be a hassle to check a blog every day to see if there are any updates. I used to go through that with a lot of other folks, waiting for Joe Larkins to break down and write something when he was blogging regularly. One of the nice things about Word Press is that they actually make it easy for people to keep track of the blogs you’re interested in reading. I found that you can add a little subscription box to the top of the blog page that lets people plug in their email address so they can get updates when there’s a new blog. In fact, I added it to my page a couple of months ago, thinking that the regular readers would sign up. It’s in a little box in the upper right that reads like this:

Tired of checking everyday to see if I’ve written something new? Click to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email!

Okay, the only thing about this is that you can let yourself in for some disappointment when you do something like that. I decided to see how many of my faithful readers had taken advantage of the feature. I guess it’s fairly easy to click through from Facebook or just to bookmark the blog itself. Often, the fine folks at the Main Street Journal are kind enough to include me in their listing of local blogs. It’s also an excellent compendium of local news. Check it out, it’ll save you from jumping from site to site on your own.

Up to Date

Anyway, it seems that one person has taken advantage of the subscription feature. One. But, like I mentioned, maybe everybody else is getting the blog somewhere else. Of course, if I don’t think that way, I’d be mighty depressed. Since I’m not really writing that often, it shouldn’t be that much of an issue. I’m pretty happy that anyone reads these things at all.

Now, don’t go and subscribe to the blog if you haven’t been a regular reader. If you’ve been finding it some other way, please keep on doing that. And as always, comments, criticisms and even complaints are welcome. Complaints are more welcome if they’re about somebody else.

Recycling

This is not my Earth Day blog. I’m cool with recycling and saving energy. I don’t actually do much recycling – it’s not available in my part of town, and I’m too lazy to cart my paper, plastic and glass to a separate facility – even if I knew where one was. Kudos to one of the guys at work. He hauls off bags full of soda cans and water bottles from the office every week.

No, I’ve got a bone to pick with CBS News Sunday Morning. I’ve been watching since the show went on the air in 1979. Big Kuralt fan. Osgood is fine too. I’m better with the bow ties than the poems, but to each their own. As far as the theme, “Abblasen,” by Gottfried Reiche, I think I’m a bigger fan of the original version they used, as played by Don Smithers, versus the later versions by Doc Severinsen and Wynton Marsalis.

There are a couple of touches in the regular format of the program that bother me a little. One is the habit of reusing pieces that ran on the previous week’s CBS Evening News. Sometimes, it seems like they’ve at least gone to the trouble of adding some additional material to the re-runs. However, there are pieces that are identical. It’s kind of a drag to watch the news during the week, then having to fast-forward through something I’ve already seen the following Sunday. Hey CBS, I can go to the website to watch a piece for a second time.

Sunday's with Martha

Of course, this points back to the issue of why they’re doing this in the first place. Sure, maybe it’s a great piece that they’d like to get to the very different demographic that watches on Sunday. It may also come down to how many people they have available to work on Sunday Morning-specific pieces. It often seems as if the Sunday show has become a sort of dumping ground for older CBS News Correspondents, like Martha Teichner, Rita Braver or Terence Smith. Seems like the executive producer of the Evening News (Rick Kaplan, who was running CNN when I started working there) has brought his own youth movement to that program, as if younger and less-experienced is what people want with their news. Rick – Katie’s still in third place – how’s that working out?

How's Luka?

I’m also wondering who had the idea of profiling faded pop music stars. They did a Linda Ronstadt profile a couple of years ago, which made sense. After all, at one point she was the biggest name in popular music. Yesterday, I got to find out where Suzanne Vega’s been since “Luka” fell off the charts in 1987. The week before was Vic Damone. The show used to have both a classical music correspondent and a jazz and modern music correspondent. You don’t get very much of that anymore.

Anyway, CBS News announced dozens of layoffs earlier this year, just like ABC News. These types of moves often lead to executives announcing cost-saving moves, such as combining news gathering units, shuttering news bureaus and sending out one-man bands. It’s going to be tough for reporters to get that walking 2-shot with the person they’re interviewing if they have to shoot the story at the same time. Cutting costs can also mean more dependence on freelancers. A lot of times, news organizations end up using the same people over and over again, since those people are more familiar with the way those organizations work. Some are probably former full-time employees. Kinda seems like a way for these companies to get full-time work without bothering with paying benefits.

Either way Charles, I’ll see you next Sunday Morning.