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A fable for today

by Robert Docter – 

Once upon a time in a land far away there lived a young boy full of energy and ideas. He loved his land and revered its history. He knew of its heroes and their brave deeds in confronting the enemies of the past. He had learned of the battles they had fought, the principles on which those battles were waged, and the values that guided the conduct of the wars.

He admired the shiny armor worn by those who rode to battle in those days and learned that a special group of young people had responsibility for polishing the armor—keeping it bright and shiny—shiny and bright.

When he was older he volunteered for the youth brigade his nation sponsored. He explained that he wanted to keep “our armor polished—bright and shiny—shiny and bright.” His assignment was to be the “second polisher” with primary responsibility for shining the screens of all computers in the capitol building. He was to make them all bright and shiny—shiny and bright. Additionally, he received a lengthy orientation advising him how he could move up to first polisher, then chief polisher, then head polisher by never complaining, following the assignment exactly with no new suggestions, always supporting the person above him, and “never making waves.”

For the first few months he worked diligently with his polishing cloth and cream. He went through the same routine daily—moving from floor to floor. He moved from office to office, and when he went into a larger office with different colored furniture, he would often find these offices empty. One day he asked why and learned its occupant “was in a meeting” or “out of town.”

Then one shocking day, the young man made a dreadful discovery. He soon discovered that the more he polished the screens, the duller they appeared. He also noticed that he was beginning to develop a bad rash on his hands.

He notified his “first polisher” immediately—by e-mail. (He had never actually seen this person.) Five days later, he received an e-mail in return directing him to notify the head polisher of his finding. It also said: “If you can’t do the job, we’ll find someone who can.” No mention was made of his hands.

He quickly sent the same message to the head polisher who, the young man assumed, was responsible for polishing people’s bald heads. He got a very lengthy reply from the HP’s executive aide. The e-mail thanked him for his hard work and for the monumental contribution he was making to the nation for his diligence in the performance of his duty—and for the head polisher’s regret that he could provide only a 2% salary increase this year. One line at the bottom of the e-mail confused him. It said: “stop movig in such a ‘rush’ and tings will go beter with your hands. We will create an investigation committee.”

Good—but his hands hurt now. The only other actual person he had ever talked to was the “Facilitation Director.” He didn’t know what that meant—but decided to talk with him anyway. To his joy, he learned he was in.

“What can I facilitate for you, young man—and where is your name tag?” He had carefully filled out the “Need for Facilitation” form, and explained his problem while pinning on his name tag. The “Director” carefully read his name tag—muttered “Polisher” and said: “Well, you shouldn’t even be talking to me. And after what your department has done to me, I wouldn’t help you anyway. I have just missed an important meeting because I couldn’t read my e-mail announcement on my dull, unpolished screen. I thought you were in charge of polishing screens. Stop complaining about things and do your job.”

“That’s what I want to talk about,” the young man said. “I need…”

“Give me your form,” the director ordered. He immediately stamped “Denied” in blue ink—followed by “Absolutely Not” in purple ink, and “NEVER EVER!” in red.

He handed it back and said: “Maybe your department can pay more attention to your work.”

The young man, now somewhat irritated, said: “Thank you. I’ll be by to polish your screen even better tomorrow morning.”

On the way back down to his area, the young man met a lovely lady in the elevator who smiled, looked at his name tag and his hands and quickly solved all his problems. “I think you should see a physician about those hands and I don’t think these newer screens need polishing any more.”

I suppose there are several “morals” to this story:
1. Secondary (informal) communication is often more effective than primary (formal) communication.
2. One rarely communicates feeling in e-mail.
3. Some ways of doing things, essential in the past, might be counter productive in achieving today’s goals.
4. An organization’s principal enemy is often itself.
5. Bureaucratic management is no way to run an army at war.

Jennifer Sweeney: I give God all the glory!

Jennifer Sweeney: I give God all the glory!


From a dreamer of dreams

From a dreamer of dreams

by Sharon Robertson, Lt

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