Saturday, June 07, 2008

Somewhere in the second hour of the meeting, you take stock of what has been said so far by the lone speaker. You got actual work to do and it’s getting late.

The very soul of his message, you realize, is this:

We've got to do a good job this year.

Hey, that's an excellent message. We've got to do a good job this year. Words to press to one's bosom. Only--how has it taken more than an hour to convey this bit of intelligence? How does a speaker do that? What groups of words could possibly fill up the space between "We've got to do a good job this year," and the far end of 90 minutes?

These words: Critical, Issue, and Process.

The words critical, issue and process can be put into almost any sentence, and turn an otherwise straightforward message into a vehement lurch toward critical mission objectives. And when you get to these, better settle in for a long drive.

Until you get the food receiving process completed and critical utensil issues resolved you’ll have to order out for dinner. Later you’ll be receiving material as part of the process that is critical to the day-to-day issues of the receiving process.

Going forward, we’ll have to keep an eye on how that issue is processing because it’s a critical issue, and watching it will be part of the process.

Coming up on an hour and a quarter.

The speaker is an unoffensive man, mid-40s, white as a baloney sandwich, somewhat carp-like in the mouth, skilled in the speech of the apparatchik, strapped all over with pagers and beepers and flashers and peepers, eager to meet the objectives outlined in his last performance evaluation. He will touch base with you throughout the year as part of the process that will be critical to dealing with certain issues we faced last year.

Of course, you’ll have to hit the ground running, because the critical time will come just as certain other major issues will need some solution-oriented processes, possibly a team approach, maybe even a team approach strategy.

90 minutes and counting.

You think maybe there should be a way to measure the density of information in any given speech, a number you could put on it—important points per hour or something—and speakers could only speak who could maintain a certain number.

However you measure it, words like critical, process and issue would drive that number down. Also parameter, benchmark, mission, bullet points, heads ups, bangs for your bucks, mindsets, team players, action items, socks knocked off, cutting edges, core competencies, headcounts, all things impactful, scenarios of any kind, all creatures open ended, and red flags of all colors.

Another 15 minutes go by and it looks once more like you’ll have more work tomorrow.

Friday, June 06, 2008

That Brain Dead State of Mind

Here we are again on the Rappahannock, piecing boats together with tape and scissors, waiting for the onslaught of happy, jumpy, NOISY, uncontrollable scout persons to board and go off sailing, which happens in a week. I've been here four days and with 90 degree heat and unceasing hard labor my mind has withdrawn to safety deep within, and is refusing all communication.

Too bad, because either some Times writers have gotten especially brilliant this week, or I am no longer chewing language to digestible bits. I'm thinking now of David Brooks, who always manages to say something entirely new, in a way entirely comprehensible. I hate him. The more so as he's also very funny and, though opposite me politically, the guy I'd most like to hang out with among the whole Times tribe.

Joyce Wadler finds a kind of poignant hilarity in killing garden pests, and a new book is out on Evelyn Nesbit, who's appeared in this space before, most importantly as the former resident of a house we used to live near, and also as something of a fixation of certain architect friends.