Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Like most other people in the world (for example, my mate Gareth)
certain things in life really get so far up my nose, I can feel their boots on my chin. And for the longest time, one of those things has been empty minded business speak. You know the stuff I'm talking about. It is supposed to motivate you, but really it just illustrates how someone else just doesn't understand the problem. And usually, they don't understand the problem they're actually facing.
For example, here. All this stuff about "Wow, isn't this guy great, look at him practice, look at him go!" (for those of you who can't see or access the link, it is pit crew for NASCAR practicing putting on wheel nuts. Or maybe taking them off.) First off, this is actually pretty demeaning to the chap in the photo. Think about it. This photo was pretty much chosen because whoever decided to circulate it around as a "get with the plan" motivational thing thinks that wheel nuts are basically so simple that a trained monkey could do it, and they would never think of practicing it.
To which my response is "Honey, that's why you ain't in the NASCAR pit crew." The point is, that's the guy's job. I'm willing to be that some days he loves it, some days he hates it, and some days are in between. Which makes him like any other guy or gal on the job. But because it is his job, he better know what he's doing or he isn't going to be keeping his job. The initial commentary (from a newsletter called Just Sell, so you know the kind of people they're marketing to here) is that "By practicing, I'm sure he tends to perform better."
No kidding. Just as I get better writing skills the more I practice, or learn to speak languages, row better, play better squash, or do any other job, task, memorization, activity or what have you, the more anyone will get better by practicing whatever it is they do. I remember discussing this with one of my rowers that by doing all our practices, that's how they improved, and that applied to anything, even tests. This particular girl tended to panic under exam stress, and said that she didn't think it would help her, so we practiced stuff for her history test (I think it is actually called studying, but don't tell her that!) and lo and behold, she did much better. That's why the slogan is "practice makes perfect".
But no, then it has to go on. Because you never can have enough business double speak.
"What I find really interesting is not the practising in itself, but the sophistication of the rig the mechanic is working on, and the presence of a dedicated observer by his side. Clearly, he and his team are serious about performance improvement.
This picture really speaks to me in my periodic role as a trainer. Challenging exercises and accurate feedback are the keys to performance improvement."
And again, "challenging exercises?" The man is doing his job, and being ready. This is not necessarily a challenging exercise. This is the practice. The NASCAR equivalent of shooting free throw after free throw after free throw so that your game percentage is solid. This is not a challenging exercise. And as for the accurate feedback, it doesn't seem to me that you're even assessing the picture correctly so I hope to high heaven you're not giving me feedback, as accurate may not seem to apply. All in all, this is the kind of thing that Dilbert makes fun of, so I won't have to go too far forward.
But it just goes on and on and on. Take a look at this one: Authentic Facilitation. What the heck is that? Why is it that if you call it Authentic, it seems pretty fake? Here's another classic example from that website, starting off with "putting humanity into branding":
"Most efforts at increasing engagement fail because they repeat the classic marketing error: repeating a one-way conversation. Branding spin erodes trust, disillusions people and leads to apathy."
If all else fails, obfuscate, obfuscate, obfuscate. Although I do have to say, this guy does seem to know how to conduct the one way conversation. If marketing is done well, it is a great thing, But there's so much of it that is just rubbish. People spend money for the services of the above two guys, but I'm glad I'm not.
But my absolute favorite comes here, and is filled with all kinds of little gems like this:
"There are twice as many lawyers as a ratio of non-lawyers today as there were in the 1970's. We are competing for half of the business."
Now, this ain't necessarily so. It is only so if there is the same amount of legal work that there was in the 1970s. Is there? I don't think so. The internet, for example, has created volumes of new legal work that wasn't there in the 1970s. It also makes the assumption that all lawyers are working as lawyers. And any lawyer will also tell you that is false. They may maintain their bar membership, but they work in other industry, write books, or frankly just can't get a job. And of those who are working as lawyers, any number of them aren't competing for your work. For example, I don't compete for conveyancing work as I don't do conveyancing. Criminal lawyers don't compete with me as I don't do criminal work. So this whole assertion only works if there's the same amount of legal work in my particular field of competition and twice as many lawyers in that field as there were in the 1970s. That's an awful lot of qualifiation, isn't it?
But the logic sounds nice, doesn't it? Of course it does. And hey, a stopped clock still tells the right time twice a day. But the rest of the time? Not so much.
Stop the insanity folks. Just go do your jobs, do them well, and get on with it.
Monday, October 02, 2006
It had to happen at some point. You'd think, after 19 years of driving, that I'd be immune or exempt from having to take a driving test, but that would be wholly untrue. I'd let my US license lapse since they have to be renewed every few years as a revenue grabbing exercise by the State, and since I wasn't driving at home (or here, for that matter) it was ok to let it go. Besides, I don't have a home address in the US any more for them to put on the license so it wouldn't be able to happen anyway. But the good news was that if I passed my UK test, that license would be good until I was 65, barring suspensions for speeding, etc, none of which I plan to get.
That was the good news. The bad news is that I'd have to pass the test. And compared with the US, actually compared with any where else in the world, the UK is incredibly difficult. You spend about 40 minutes on the road, just you and the examiner, taking turns, following directions, heading across roundabouts, making sure all your signals, etc are correct. Be sure to check your mirrors every five seconds. I'm not making that up. Go over the speed limit, that's marked. Go more than 4 miles over the speed limit in any area, that's marked as a serious. One serious fault, you're done for. More than 14 minor faults, you're done for. If you do something so badly wrong, it is within the driving examiners powers to order you to pull over and you both walk back to the test centre, which may be a few miles away at that point.
And they're looking to mark you on everything, which is why less than half the people taking their test pass it. Go too fast, you'll get marked. Go too slowly, you'll get marked for being hesitant. Take the test in an automatic, your license won't let you drive a stick, and so on.
The person taking the test will be required to perform two manouvers. The options are reversing around a corner, parallel parking, reverse bay parking, and a turn in the road. You will not get to choose which two - the examiner gets to choose for you. Hitting the curb=serious fault. One in three people will also have to do an emergency stop. It isn't quite so bad as all that, in that the examiner tells you that you're going to do this, and checks to see if there's anything behind you, etc. Then you just drive along waiting for him to go "Stop!" at which point you slam on the brakes. the key seems to be not to panic, and react quickly (don't react quickly enough or hard enough on those brakes, and thank you for playing, we have no parting gifts for you). It is even ok to stall the car, so long as you use correct stalling procedure. But stall away, brake away, and if you for get to do a massive check of every possible blind spot on the car before moving off, that's a serious fault, and thy name is toast.
You can see what I was up against. I even took driving lessons, just to figure out what they wanted of me. The observation things were interesting - I do feel I actually learned something from them and not just how to pass the test.
In the end, I did incredibly well. The average for people who pass is 11 faults. I got five. Which is pretty incredible, really. I thought I'd lost it at one point when driving along a rather busy road with not much place to pull over, all of the sudden there were flashing blue lights and a siren behind me. Not the police - no, that would be too easy. Bomb disposal unit! Why? Why does this sort of thing happen to me? I've never even seen a bomb disposal unit on its way out before, so why now?
It didn't matter. I still passed. Go me! (Do I have a car? No. Do any of my friends have insurance that lets me drive their cars? No. So the point is? Of that I'm not quite sure yet.)