Monday, December 15, 2008

You Know It's Serious When We Start Laughing

December 15, 2008, 7:10 a.m.

This is Serious

Have you ever noticed how, when things start going sour, there comes a point when they're so bad they start making their way into jokes? I remember as a kid, during World War II, we had paperback books that were collections of military humor.

Well, it's happening now with the global economic depression.

I don't read the comic pages of the newspapers. I have an assistant who does that for me and alerts me when they begin to take on social significance -- as happened this morning [Dec. 15].

"Non Sequitur" under "C.E.O. Math," in a panel the width of the entire strip, has a corporate CEO sitting in his luxurious, spacious office, behind a desk, talking to an assembly line worker, saying "We crunched the numbers over and over on where we could cut back, and it kept coming down to whatever it is you guys do on the assembly line . . .."

"Close to Home" pictures three guys on one of those old hand-powered, open railroad flatbeds, going down the track with the caption, "Ridiculed for arriving in Washington in private jets, the Big Three auto CEOs found a more humble way to travel."

"Working it Out" pictures a teller talking to a customer at "Metro Bank" saying, "'Try not to think of it as a loan, Mr. Purnell. Think of it as your own personal bailout plan.'"

But perhaps one of the best statements about bailouts comes from one of my favorite comics, Wanda Sykes on Jay Leno's "Tonight Show" on NBC, September 23:

And then there's this parable that's been going around the Internet. (I'd be happy to credit the creator but I don't know who it is.) The post-parable commentary came with it, but I've modified it all a bit:

A Modern Parable

A Japanese company (Toyota) and an American company (GM) decided to have a canoe race on the Missouri River. Both teams practiced long and hard to reach their peak performance before the race.

On the big day, the Japanese won by a mile.

The Americans, very discouraged and depressed, decided to investigate the reason for the crushing defeat. A management team made up of senior management was formed to investigate and recommend appropriate action.

Their conclusion was the Japanese had 8 people rowing and 1 person steering, while the American team had 8 people steering and 1 person rowing.

Feeling a deeper study was in order, American management hired a consulting company and paid them a large amount of money for a second opinion.

They advised, of course, that too many people were steering the boat, while not enough people were rowing.

Not sure of how to utilize that information, but wanting to prevent another loss to the Japanese, the rowing team's management structure was totally reorganized to 4 steering supervisors, 3 area steering superintendents and 1 assistant superintendent steering manager.

They also implemented a new performance system that would give the 1 person rowing the boat greater incentive to work harder. It was called the "Rowing Team Quality First Program," with meetings, dinners and free pens for the rower. There was discussion of getting new paddles, canoes and other equipment, extra vacation days for practices and bonuses.

The next year the Japanese won by two miles.

Humiliated, the American management laid off the rower for poor performance, halted development of a new canoe, sold the paddles, and canceled all capital investments for new equipment. The money saved was distributed to the Senior Executives as bonuses and the next year's racing team was out-sourced to India.


The End.


Here's something else to think about: GM has spent the last thirty years moving suppliers and factories out of the US, claiming it can't make money paying American wages.

Toyota has spent the last thirty years building more than a dozen plants inside the U.S. The last quarter's results:

Toyota makes 4 billion in profits while GM is carrying $60 billion in debt and losing 4 billion each quarter.

The GM folks are still scratching their heads.

If this wasn't so true it might be funny.
To paraphrase Adlai Stevenson following his lost presidential election, "When you're too old to cry there's nothing left to do but laugh."

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love you Nick! An old Iowan, now living in Richmond, California