Basket Weaving for Dummies

native-americanI 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 doneΒ 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.

8 responses

  1. I know, right? I work in a hospital and most of the health care workers I know work hard. The hours are long and the tasks often demanding. Even doctors, who are generally well compensated, often seem to be almost on the brink of exhaustion. And then I seen our CEO roaming the halls and I can’t help but wonder what exactly is it that he does all day that honestly justifies his big salary- especially since at every employee forum he talks about our dire financial situation and how none of us will be getting pay raises etc. At the end when he asks if anyone has any questions, I fantasize about standing up and asking him for a day-in-the-life timeline of EXACTLY what he does all day. It may be that I just am unaware of the difficulty of his job. Maybe it’s a lot tougher than it looks.

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    1. Does the CEO have a bell that he rings as he walks, chanting, “Bring out your dead?” Hehe.

      I’m of the opinion that three bona fide CEO decisions every six months is a good deal if they improve things. If they all suck then there’s no doubt the salary is wasted.

      Additionally, if the CEO decisions are no more effective than a monkey randomly pushing buttons then I’d say that’s bananas! πŸ™‚

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      1. Funny you say that because one of his favorite stories to tell is how he went into a little old lady’s room and she started to cry because she thought he was from the funeral home because he always wears a black suit and has a somber undertaker look about him.
        I did think of one thing he actually does do, and that is write really bad Vogon-esque poetry for the monthly hospital “Happenings” newsletter. So we’ve got that going for us.
        Does do. Is that grammatically correct?

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      2. Great story! I shall add Vogon poetry to the job description forthwith! πŸ™‚

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  2. I’m the CEO of my company. It has one employee. This employee is not into basket weaving (but would be outstanding at it if she did) but is really good at being a basket case on occasion. This employee makes less than minimum wage some days, weeks, months, years.

    Being your own boss rules.

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    1. Being your own boss must be one of those exceptions in labor law. You have the right to earn some fraction of minimum wage.

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  3. Snoring Dog Studio | Reply

    Good question. And it just amazes me that we tolerate this – we Americans, who laugh at the royalty in Great Britain, yet here we are with our own royals.

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    1. Royals is a very good word for it.

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