Awkwardness and a fag packet of profundity …

Please forgive me for presenting you with a slightly disturbing image. A bunch of middle class old men, sitting around a table, touching themselves.

“Oh Yes! I’m good. Good boy. There she is. Go sweety. Oh Yes. Yes. That’s it. Right there. Baby. Oh baby. Yes. Me. Love me. Come on. There there. I got it. OOOHHH!”

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Awkward, but a typical extract from the minutes of the gentleman’s club that is the ubiquitous think tank, or as I prefer to call them the Think Wank. Every corner of life has one. A charitable bunch of old duffers, who were once in charge of shit that no longer matters, getting together to explain to the world how incredibly clever they still are. What’s that you say? Is the corner of the world where the old duffers ply their trade, a world of sweetness and light? “No!” Did the old duffers actually succeed with their ideas when they were in positions of power? Pardon! “No?”

Oh dear! What on earth makes the kindly old fucks think that what they know about their world, has any bearing on the world the rest of us now inhabit. That is apart from the shit we inherited from them when they left their leadershippy jobs. Sorry again, I’m being really sweary and unkind but there’s a good reason.
I was recently invited to a meeting of executives from a venerable national institution. £100000000 worth of people sat about doing jack shit for a whole day. I know this, because I also gave away a day of my own life to this dysfunctional swathe of hopelessness. It seems that the Think Wank had highjacked the meeting to tell people about the progress the nation had made on their latest wheeze. To be clear, what that means is, asking the executives to send in information about what they had done, in order to present it back to the executives, to prove that the Think Wank had in fact, a purpose. “What?”

The room was like the first conciliation meeting of the person who shat on the sandwich and the person who had to eat, said sandwich. Awkward. But apparently, the executive team meeting is always the same, no matter what’s on the agenda. Nobody saying what they really think, sitting passively while a corporate line-toeing twonk, bangs on about some subject they don’t really understand or care about. On this particular occasion we had a lanky smiler, talking about innovation. Before the first grin of over-white teeth had faded away, it was clear to everyone that he knew nothing about innovation. Awkward. The other subject was about how splendidly leadershippy the answer to all their problems was. On this occasion ‘fuck me’, seems like a better exclamation than ‘awkward’. There didn’t appear to be any conscious awareness that the two subjects are completely incompatible. Beyond of course, that the former is the only known antidote, to the latter.

A smooth exmilitary type from further west – the sort who’d seen it all before through a haze of exotic tobacco – quietly explained to me that the dopey old farts had created a set of new rules. I can’t be explicit because you’ll easily work out the name of the company and that’s not going to be helpful. I was there to observe proceedings and to give the big boss some “impartial strategic advice”. The Think Wank, consisting of past and present leadershippers, had arranged for some of the executives to present on how the world was now doing just what they said it should. I spoke to one of the fairly pointless army of fluffers (facilitators that had been employed to stand around the edges of the room, looking suitably scared stiff of everyone in it), who explained that most of the room had taken the new rules and sprayed them like a deodorant over the same old shit they’d always done. Don’t believe for one minute that the Think Wank, did not know this.

At one point, one of the upper echelon leadershippers (a rather fearsome lady who I quite liked) asked everyone to stand up. Aargh … tehn … shun. And then – posing questions that didn’t really have any answers about what everyone knew about the new rules – instructed the room to sit back down again in order of most stupid through to most socially inept. Awkward. Don’t be the last one standing that’s not the point of the game. The game was to quietly allow everybody to agree that the Think Wank are useless, without actually saying so.

There was a fabulous interlude when the aspiring future Think Wankers, the B-listers in the room, were empowered to stand up amidst their peers and announce their commitment to the cause with a succession of increasingly sickly pseudo-religious platitudes. They got their name on the minutes. The sick in my mouth, albeit equally meaningful, wasn’t afforded a mention.

One of the fluffers said that most of the problems could be solved if we blew up the room, right there and then. He was willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good of humanity. That same sentiment proved popular amongst almost everyone I spoke to, for the rest of the day. I had some rotten coffee and nice cake and we started again and again. At some un-noteworthy point and just before the last semblance of humanity was about to drain from my soul, I exited. Leaning against the wall outside, I sighed deeply and the security man asked if I was alright. I nodded and then he read my mind. Apparently, a group of normal people gather in a room and piss themselves laughing, watching it all on the security cameras, “better than gogglebox that is” he said.

On the way home amidst some British Rail wine, I concluded that someone should pay and typed up an invoice equivalent to giving away a day of my life. I wrote my feedback on the back of a fag packet and threw it away. The big boss, having seen the utter astonishment on my face and now fiercely gripping a fag packet of profundity, called me the following day and apologised. Awkward!

Uncovering The Secret History Of Myers-Briggs – Digg

http://digg.com/2015/myers-briggs-secret-history

Well worth the long read, even with the absence of a conclusion on either side of the imaginary dichotomy!

PS The results of MBTI can be replicated for free in your kitchen. Grab with your right hand as much custard as you can hold. In your left hand place an old fish. While concentrating on not dropping any custard, rate on a scale from ‘short’ up to ‘loud’, the relative smelliness of the fish. The resulting Custard to Smelly Fish Ratio can reveal amazing things about you. Send your CSFR to me, written on some high denomination currency and I’ll write back with an explanation. Don’t laugh, it’s equally valid as MBTI.

Lucius

Oh bollocks! I love saying that. It’s sort of cathartic. The sharp intake of breath, the autonomic gusto. “Bollox” … in either spelling, is a lovely phrase, especially from women of a certain age. It’s funnier!

On this occasion I came upon a Neanderthal. A semi-magnificent, living and breathing, exemplar of the suite. Love him!

How I managed to hold my breath, I don’t know! But I did. On this occasion, for the benefit of a collection of little people. I found myself in the unenviable role of adjudicator, of well meaning umpire!

Whereas I wanted to say, “bend over little man I’ve a friend who loves you” – not a phrase, as my mother would say, “to be cast windward” amidst 60 kids – especially not from one of the gentle generation – I smiled.

Anyway, a small ignominious little man continued to avail me of his beauteous insights, construed in the lonely depths of his dark miniscule, corner of the world. Perhaps, a less generous observer may have interpreted an insult or two.

I held back, stayed calm, stood still and listened intently as he blathered forth a tirade of incongruities. I simply oused a sense of love albeit, potentially, inauthentic.

I suggested he may have chosen to help, to contribute, rather than just complain. But while inadvertently articulating the depths of the heartfelt ineptitude he excruciatingly felt with his own life, (and the desire to live again through the sporting endeavours of his children), my insight seemed somewhat inappropriate.

I was trying desperately not to remove the last morsel of his delicately balanced ego when … one of the kids said … “Cheer up you old farts, it’s just a game of rugby”.

Bollox! #outofthemouthsofbabes!

seems like a long time ago ….

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Been a while since I was here (original post). My work regularly necessitates the observation of a ‘waterfall’ of interesting clauses – most of which deny me the simple pleasures of unsupervised access to electricity, let alone social media. Let’s say, that there is a style to the affects of my endeavours which while contracted, warrants or at least encourages, an overbearing level of covetness amongst those with chequebooks. I think that they think, they can own my knowledge – at least for a while.

I could not possibly provide the Chequebooks with knowledge. They have to do that themselves. I am however, paid handsomely to point out the knowledge that they already possess and most often, help the little mind-trapped bunnies to accept the absence of knowledge amongst the swathe of jack-shit that they use to make and fake, their decisions.

Fortunately, I have a diminutive and discrete collection of splendidly eclectic, beautiful minds that keep me on the straight and narrow, while emersed in the hell of the signatories own manufacture. “Thank God, for the thinkers” I said, as one of them simultaneously deciphered the problem, saved an extraordinary malaise of wasted time, concluded the work in an instant and in the process saved my arse and my sanity. It is remarkable, how difficult it is, to see clearly in the fog of motivated good intentions. An overly pompous way of saying, “too close to stuff”.

Whether it’s distance, or orientation, or granularity, or excitement, or just an inevitable artefact of the mechanisms chosen or inherited with which to look; metaphorically, too close and you can’t see subconsciously with equal imprecision, to that of the wholely conscious squint of discomfort when you are clearly too far away.

What’s that thing about returning to where you started, only to know the place for the first time? Legend! And of equal prestige to that immortal adage, was a little tweet; twinkling in the peripheral eye of serendipity it announced … “If you’re finding it difficult to explain a method or idea, it’s a sign that you don’t understand the theory that gives the idea its clarity”.

Typical of a truly complex environment, the slightest of deft touches can occasionally draw forth from the cacophony, the sweetest and most delicate whisper of tangible profundity.

What the fuck was I doing, forgetting that? The Chequebooks had pretty much signed away their children’s children in the blind pursuit of a myth, a vision, a nirvana-esque promise of fulfillment that was in essence, little more than a recipe. Beautifully crafted and air-suckingly expensive, but a recipe nonetheless. Now there’s nothing wrong with recipes or tools, or various other mechanics dressed up as best practice. There is a small place in the world where that stodge is bloody useful – every generation does not have to relearn that putting your finger in the electric socket is not conducive to living long and prospering. However, typical of all pseudo-religious dogma the main function of a recipe, is to remove the requirement for experiential depth. Recipes and tools are products of method, which itself is the manifestation of a concept.

There is a tendency to jump to the tool, the answer, without sufficient experimentation with method, in the absence of a purposefully complementary concept. I found the Chequebooks the concept, we changed the method that afternoon, filed the recipe under “lessons learned” and a load of chefs emerged out of the organisational woodwork. I was like Yoda, slowly walking backwards with a dignified bow and a gently reverberating “done here, my work is”.

I knew it all along (was my reinforcing internal narrative) yet the last occasion on which I thought it to myself, said it out loud to others and explicitly acted on it, seems like a long time ago …

image courtesy of:

Sharing video The Cynefin domains, Pt2, Chaos

God, I love this stuff. Cynefin is just brilliant and these sub domain taxonomies are lush. Only one thing Dave’s not thought through properly … the unexpected-unknown response is not dictatorial, this is a classic misinterpretation. The response does require some centralised command, but it’s not to enforce constraints on the situation. Add constraints to a mess and you get a bigger mess. The actual response is a noise reduction strategy ie chop off the foot to save the leg, or my favourite metaphor “eject the warp core”. Many start-ups come from here, which is why they mostly die quickly.

http://vimeo.com/74835531

Speaking Truth to Power – 2500 years of Shooting the Messenger

More eloquent loveliness, with a curmudgeonly splurt from yours truly. Looking forward to the next couple in the series. #sttp (I’m trade-marking that).

What's the PONT

Dilbert by Scott Adams Feb 1990.  Dilbert by Scott Adams Feb 1990.

I was going to start this post with a link to the opening scene from the film Gladiator. You know, the bit where Maximus Decimus Meridius (Russell Crowe) is waiting pensively for a messenger to return from telling the German Barbarians to surrender. All around his Roman Legions prepare for battle (very dramatic). The messenger does return (but not in good shape) and Maximus commands, in a slightly Aussie accent, “at my signal, unleash hell”.

It’s all very gruesome, so I thought I’d share a less frightening Dilbert Cartoon, even if it does involve Tar and Feathers. I’m sure you get the point though, shooting the messenger or doing other unpleasant things to people who bring bad news or speak truth to power, is a commonly understood concept. This is something that’s still quite widely practiced, even if its done metaphorically nowadays.

The best project management cartoon ever. The best…

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