I apologize in advance if you came here actually expecting information regarding basket weaving. My misleading headline has lead you astray. I sincerely apologize for wasting your time. At least there aren’t 42 self-loading videos on this page. I guess it could have been worse. –Ed
For a fun mental exercise I will often take modern situations and problems and try to extend them, in my own inimitable fashion, to a hypothetical construct in my mind loosely based on my concept and interpretation of an indigenous people’s village.
Does this make good sense? Is it accurate? Does it result in increased understanding of how things work? Is it, in even the slightest way, particularly useful? Perhaps not, but I enjoy it and besides, it’s my brain. That’s the one place on this planet where I get to make the rules. No wonder it’s so crazy in there.
One day there was a visitor to the village who observed two people sitting on the ground and weaving some baskets. It was clear they were not equally skilled at the task.
The visitor noticed that one of the weavers had very sure hands. She worked efficiently and what she produced was a very superior product. The other, however, fumbled and moved slower, and what he produced was not nearly of the same quality. One was suitable for a museum. The other was an insult to the gift shop.
When the work stopped, the tribe approached the weavers and brought them gifts. At the feet of the good worker they placed a single clam. At the feet of the other, however, they placed 1,795* clams.
The visitor was shocked at this turn of events. “Why do you reward their efforts so differently?” he asked.
His guide just shrugged. “That guy is the CEO, so there’s not much we can do. We do not wish to be fired. After all, that’s his favorite phrase.”
What are the duties of a CEO? I got to know one when working at a big company. I’m not talking about the small business owner self-described “CEO” who has four employees. This company had over 1,200.
In my experience, the CEO’s job consisted of things like this:
- Report weekly to ownership regarding financial losses
- Attend meetings, lots and lots of meetings
- Directly supervise department heads
- Review reliability reports
- Stroll through various departments and demonstrate knowledge of employee’s first names
- Serve on various committees
- Earn miles by flying to conferences in faraway cities
- Be the only employee to enjoy a company car
- Operate a wet bar in his office even though alcohol was prohibited on company property
By my estimation the dude basically just filled a chair (the bottom of which was covered in boogers) and went through iterations of the routine outlined above. Perhaps once, every three to six months or so, he would have gather enough information to make an actual decision.
These decisions were exceedingly rare and usually bad. The CEO was overseeing a period of shrinkage in a company with over 80 years of history. Ostensibly he was hired to reverse this trend but that never happened, in spite of the fact that he occasionally made decisions.
With an employee, like a basket weaver, it’s easy to evaluate performance. Did they make some baskets? If so, how many? What was the quality of the things they produced?
For a CEO, though, things are all topsy turvy. The are the highest paid employees whether the company does well or not. If the company is not improving, then on what is that salary based? I liken this to a baseball player given a $750 million contract. It’s game seven, bottom of the ninth with two outs. The player steps up to the plate and watches three strikes go by. Or swings and whiffs at three pitches in a row.
Either way, I think to myself: “Hell, I could have done that. And they could have gotten me for at least half the price.”
What does it say about us humans the way we valuate, compensate and reward the contributions of the individual? Does it make sense? Is it somehow logical? Is it fair? Is it good business? What are the pros and cons?
I guess there’s one thing we can all certainly agree upon: I’m a basket case.