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Monday, March 29, 2010

Undercover Boss

I haven’t checked any media websites or blogs. So maybe this has been adequately addressed and covered somewhere. (Actually I did look after I drafted this.)
But does anyone else have any simmering skepticism about the new “reality” show “Undercover Boss”? Parts of it I find encouraging and refreshing. But I can’t get over the lingering unease at the theme that’s permeated every episode so far. That is the notion that employees are almost universally depicted as harder working and more innovative and imaginative than the CEOs believe them to be. This leads the CEOs to love and trust the workers more and to give them various perceived rewards which supposedly represent a ‘Win-Win-Win’ for the company, the employees and the ultimate customers/consumers. What seems missing from all these shows so far is what I believe to be the more rampant fear, stratification, rigidity to founder’s original vision, and mediocrity at all levels of any given organization. What about the examples of employees undermining the company’s goals through sloth, greed, and lack of appropriate oversight? What about supervisors and mid-level managers who are “Yes_Men” unwilling to allow the innovation and imagination because it is “out of the box”?, to use an extremely trite cliché, but one which is apropos.
Admittedly I’ve only watched maybe one entire episode (Churchill Downs), but I’ve seen bits and pieces and the endings of a couple of others. And in every one so far the CEO who went undercover discovers that his workers are better, harder working than he realized. And he proceeds to do what he has unilateral authority to do to improve their work lives. This, in and of itself, is laudable. However, it seems to be pitched as a revelation that is offered up to CEOs of all companies and not for profits. Sounds good. But I don’t see it happening.
For starters, many of the perks, benefits and pay raises that the CEOs lavish on the few lucky guinea pigs who work with them would, if applied across the board to entire companies, eat into the short-term profit/loss posture of the company. One of the reasons the companies were picked, I’m guessing, for being spotlighted on the show is that they are “successful” companies. Among other things, they were profitable companies. I haven’t seen an AIG or Enron or Acorn featured yet.
Secondly, it would be interesting to see a followup program with the front line supervisors and middle managers in some of these companies as to their reaction to the TV treatment of their environment and their application of company policies. They can’t be unanimously happy with how they are portrayed, even indirectly.
Thirdly, I’d like to see a unionized company featured and the program include a little of the give and take of formal labor management processes in the workplace.
Having offered all these caveats and concerns, I generally approve of and endorse the show. I think increases in overall understanding of what I studied in college under the name of “industrial sociology” is a good thing. I just wish the producers wouldn’t leave it at the pabulum level.

Friday, March 26, 2010


Well it only took 14 months from inauguration to final passage of what is now touted as "Health Care reform". And to my mind it represents almost a textbook example of compromise. Want proof? Advocates on both sides hate it. The Republicans are screaming for "repeal" and vowing to defeat at the polls all Democrats as a result of it. Left-wing Democrats, especially pro-choice ones, held their nose and finally accepted that this bill was better than no bill, but not much.

Don't look for a "Second verse, same as the first" any time soon. I got a feeling Obama will tell himself and others that he gave bipartisanship a try but the Republicans don't intend to play fair. Some other template will be sought for the next contentious issue.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

This Week's "On Language"

One of the firm groundings I received from my beloved late parents was the understanding that one of the best forms of humor was the lowly pun. It and other language jokes. They both tended to be more amused by verbal humor than by visual, slapstick attempts at humor. My dad could chuckle for hours at a particularly delicious pun.

That being said, I am reminded this week of one of the earliest verbal jokes that I can recall from my childhood. This week's reminder comes courtesy of the death notices for Fess Parker.
There was a line in the ballad "The Legend of Davy Crockett" that always cracked me up, once I got it. See if you can pick out the gem from this verse:

Born on a mountaintop in Tennessee,
Greenest state in the land of the free.
Lived in the woods where he knew every tree;
Killed him a b'ar when he was only three.
Davy Crockett
King of the wild frontier.
OK, it doesn't take that much to amuse a nine year old kid.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

COMPROMISE _ Continued

I first posted on this back in Nov/Dec. But if I go back and stick this as a mere comment on that thread, it'll be basically buried. So a new post is in order.
Almost three months later, the Democratic Party in Congress is now lumbering toward possibly passing some form of health care reform legislation. And as of today it still remains to be seen if they can keep their eye on the ball long enough to actually get a hit here. After the initial bills passed their respective chambers the ideologues and caucuses on both ends of the spectrum declared that compromise was probably not possible since their pet issue couldn't be sacrificed on the altar of passing any bill.
Now, however, they are talking as if they realize a partial or "bad" bill would indeed be preferable to no bill. And they are seemingly realizing that if the Republicans are going to hide behind the Senate's filibuster cloture rules (which means 60 vote minimum to pass anything) then perhaps the Democrats can use a parliamentary procedure to thwart this, namely "reconciliation". Reconciliation would allow the Senate to vote on the bill on an up or down, simple majority basis instead of the super majority.
But all this has yet to transpire in the coming couple of weeks. So we'll see. If compromise is indeed struck and some bill is passed it will indeed represent one of the first important such events in Congress in several decades.