What color is your belt?

Letters, we get letters here at NN.C:

I thought I would share a tale of corporate horror with you.  On Saturday, I hosted an open house to attract pipe-fitters to this factory. I had a quota of 25 hires in one day. Steep, but I thought I could do it.  A lot of planning and very very long hours went into this event.  Our Chief Pipe-Fitting Officer asked if he could say a few words, and silly me, thinking it would be a little welcoming/come work here/we love you speech gave the OK. As if I had any choice.

Ten a.m., the doors open, pipe-fitters come in, have brunch, get schmoozed, get steered to the correct managers to interview, get toured around the pretty parts of the factory, it’s all great. Noon, the CP-FO starts his speech.  It’s a f*cking PowerPoint presentation with lots of statistics. It goes on for 40 minutes in monotone.  Then he introduces a Six Sigma black belt who works with the pipe-fitting department.  He goes on for an hour explaining what Six Sigma black belts do for you, me and the world, as well as the history of Six Sigma black beltedness.

Pipe-fitters are leaving through side doors… Pipe-fitters are asking me if they have to stay…..people are walking out of interviews…..

I’m judged by how successful the open house was in attracting pipe-fitters.  I’ve been rendered powerless by two curses of our decade: the Six Sigma black belt and PowerPoint presentation.

Some details have been changed; the experience remains nearly universal. Six Sigma — it’s like Scientology for business people. No one can fully explain it, but it involves thetans and e-meters and being the best black belt you can be and maybe some burnt offerings to an effigy of Jack Welch, at the end of which you are capable of 40-minute PowerPoint presentations and all the rest of it. Being a conscientious objector to corporate America these days, I am largely spared this torture. I guess what’s why you guys get health insurance, though.

The combined sleep deprivations of the week tend to catch up with me by Friday, and I’m dead on my feet. I’m exercising the perogative of every lazy bum and going back to bed for another 90 minutes. By the way, the weather yesterday was every bit as awful as the radar image promised, although we were spared tornados. I had to be down at Wayne State in early evening, and traveled there and back in torrential rains. The freeway was flooded and treacherous, which had the usual Detroit effect, in that it slowed traffic not a whit. At one point I was passed — and this while clipping along at 65 — by a bus. On the way home I hit some debris scattered across the eastbound lanes, something that appeared to be a dozen or so sodden telephone books. Just another day in heaven.

In the meantime, enjoy some bloggage:

Jon Carroll is his old witty self on the problems of being dead when you’re not, identity theft from beyond the grave and, of course, bureaucracy:

A while ago I wrote a column about a man trying to convince the Department of Motor Vehicles that he was not deceased. He stood before the clerk with two pieces of ID and said, in essence, “Behold, for I am a man born of woman, and I live.” He had his daughter with him, and she also had two pieces of ID. (Apparently the daughter was important because she was officially alive and was therefore a qualified witness.)

And the clerk said, again in essence, “That is all very well and good, sir, but our records indicate that you are deceased.” The clerk thought the line on her computer screen should be given equal weight with the solid, well-identified human in front of her.

Finally she said: “This is the kind of thing they handle in Sacramento.” That’s among the 50 worst sentences you can hear, right behind “I’m afraid the tests are inconclusive.”

Once upon a time you stood atop a building while prowling searchlights tried to find you, and you shouted, “Come and get me, copper!” Nowadays you go to your MySpace page and post a semiliterate taunt: “2 fast for the feds to cocky for the cops!” Bonus amusement factor: the cops, being perhaps somewhat less cocky, caught the dumbass within 24 hours.

Back later, perhaps. Please, don’t call me.

Posted at 8:41 am in Popculch, Same ol' same ol' |

14 responses to “What color is your belt?”

  1. Marcia said on March 2, 2007 at 8:48 am

    Mt. Carmel here in Columbus is big into that Six Sigma crap. I’m not sure what happened to just going to work and doing your job.

    Burnt effigy of Jack Welch. Funny.

    When you wake up, come by my place and see what else is happening in the Columbus corporate healthcare world.

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  2. LA mary said on March 2, 2007 at 11:48 am

    What happens when the six sigma fad disappears? I think it’s on the wane now. What do all these people who know the right way to do things do?

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  3. Danny said on March 2, 2007 at 12:18 pm

    Don’t worry, there is always some new management-quality cult on the horizon. There will always be a place for vestigial corporate types.

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  4. nancy said on March 2, 2007 at 12:32 pm

    Danny’s right — there’s always something new on the horizon.

    I remember when we had diversity training at the newspaper. It was done by some independent contractor (probably the company was trying to get off cheap), and it was just embarrassing. He showed us a short film from the ’60s, with no dialogue, showing a black child outside a fenced-off playground looking in. We played some stupid word game (NEVER play word games with journalists) and then the tried-and-true favorite, the Poker Chip Exercise.

    This is the one where they break you up in groups, then pass out unequal packages of poker chips. You’re supposed to do something with them, I forget, but about halfway through the discussion they change the rules and say the group with the single gold poker chip is now free to make, or change, any rules they want. My group had the gold poker chip, so we immediately did what we were expected to do: Declared ourselves a master race and confiscated all the other chips, or something like that.

    The moderator looked pissed.

    This cartoonish d-training was scrapped for a much better, but still pretty stupid, version. In that one, we watched a short video where a crew is dispersing from the morning meeting, and one guy proclaims, too loudly, “Why do I always get stuck with the nigger work?” He’s overheard, OMG, by a black colleague. Then they stopped the tape and we had to discuss why the black colleague might have been offended by overhearing that.

    Probably a Six Sigma black belt came up with that one.

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  5. LA mary said on March 2, 2007 at 12:58 pm

    Some genius at one of our sister facilities came up with the idea of appointing the most prejudiced manager to head the diversity committee. My last conversation with her was at an event where she told me she didn’t want any more “bing bong people,” her term for Filipinos.

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  6. Bob said on March 2, 2007 at 5:26 pm

    My experience working for Generous Electric, Lincoln Life and IBM for a total of almost 40 years qualifies me to impart a bit of wisdom here.

    Management doesn’t come up with new cult practices every few years; they just recycle two or three of them. After one has been dormant long enough that they figure it has been forgotten because of attrition and apathy, they resurrect it, slap a new acronym on it, and give it another go-around. There’s nothing new, just the same old crap with a different name.

    You should only need to know two things to get through life with a reasonable degree of contentment: If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well; and, treat other people the way you’d like to be treated. Unfortunately, there’s a third that’s especially relevant in the corporate world: Watch Your Back!

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  7. LA mary said on March 2, 2007 at 5:47 pm

    I would add: save your emails. After you’ve proved yourself innocent, competent, honest, whatever with saved emails a few times, word gets out that you save them, and people don’t mess with you.

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  8. Joe Kobiela said on March 2, 2007 at 6:28 pm

    We had diversity training.
    I told the person running it that I did not think I needed this training, I was asked why?
    I replied,
    because I hate all of you equally.
    and do not get me started on that stupid six sigma.
    Meetings white boardsect and nothing ever got done.

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  9. brian stouder said on March 2, 2007 at 9:59 pm

    (NEVER play word games with journalists)

    If we played Scrabble, I would prevail!

    As for “diversity training”, I just recently read Bound for Canaan (about the underground railroad) which is a great narrative, and which cannot help but make a person wonder at how rock-bottom terrible things were here in the United States including in the north, and especially in places all across Ohio and Indiana and Michigan where the URR ‘routes’ ran; when slave-catchers operated with impunity, and residents were not only prohibited by Federal law from assisting ‘fugitives’ in any way, but also legally compelled to assist slave-catchers or face fines and imprisonment.

    The other day I was talking to a customer calling from Gary Indiana, and she made a few off-handed racist remarks. I remember feeling my face flush a bit – and as I moved toward closing the conversation the thought occurred to me to challenge her a little….but of course I didn’t.

    For all she knew, I myself could have been black; in any case – it is not my role to be a moral hero (or moral nanny!) – except with my young folks.

    Still – after the call – thinking back on it gave me pause

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  10. Danny said on March 3, 2007 at 9:39 am

    Bob, you are correct. It is the same warmed-over, recycled crap with new buzz words.

    But Homer Simpson says: “Let me tell you the three phrases that will get you through life:
    Number 1: Cover for me!
    Number 2:Yes sir, boss!
    Number 3: It was like that when I got here.”

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  11. Danny said on March 3, 2007 at 9:56 am

    One other Simpson quote:

    “You don’t like your job, you don’t strike. You go in every day and do it really half-assed. That’s the American way.”

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  12. Danny said on March 3, 2007 at 10:05 am

    Nancy, news alert since you run WordPress.


    “The recent 2.1.1 release of the popular blog software WordPress was compromised by a cracker who made it easier for to execute code remotely. This is interesting because the official release was quietly and subtly compromised, and has been in the wild for a few days now. There’s no word on if any affected sites have been compromised, but anyone running WordPress is urged to upgrade to 2.1.2 immediately, and admins can check their logs for access to ‘theme.php’ or ‘feed.php’, and query strings with ‘ix=’ or ‘iz=’ in them.”

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  13. nancy said on March 3, 2007 at 12:28 pm

    Thanks, Danny. We’re on it, but I appreciate the heads-up.

    Love that Homer Simpson. “Dare I kill my boss? Dare I live the American dream?”

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  14. Jennifer said on March 4, 2007 at 11:03 am

    I saw your contribution to Julia Keller’s Chicago Trib piece this morning. For some reason it was odd seeing a name on paper that I am used to seeing on the computer screen.

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