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Friday, May 29, 2020

COVID Observation

COVID Observation

Reading what our leaders in congress and the White House say regarding actions during this pandemic reminds me of my days as a low level manager years ago.
Every year we had to list our plans, which included a mission statement, goals, benchmarks, and reporting.  Running any organization needs planning.  Benchmarks are needed for measuring success, and reporting is needed to confirm progress toward meeting goals.
Every year we spent a week locked up in a conference room arguing over a mission statement with goals, benchmarks and reporting that we would put into our yearly plans.

Plans are great, except when the shit hits the fan, the shit covers the plan.
This Covid thing is the shit hitting the fan.

That’s why when I read a message from my Congressman claiming he is calling for,

 the President to develop a comprehensive, coordinated strategy for testing and contract tracing with clear benchmarks and timetables, and public reporting of key metrics.

I got a flashback.

What my Congressman is calling for sounds great and professional, but it sends me back in time to that conference room spending a week making bull shit sound good for higher management, and creating benchmarks for which we were sure we could claim success.

Were those planning sessions worthless?  Not completely, but kind of yes.
The actual goal was always,

“To process the business efficiently.”
But we had to say that in 900 words or more and make it sound really professional, and then provide plans for how to meet our “mission statement.”

Then we would have a fire we had to put out.
No one ran to the plans to see how we should handle this fire.  All fires are a little different.
My Congressman’s mission statement demand,

call on the President to develop a comprehensive, coordinated strategy for testing and contract tracing with clear benchmarks and timetables, and public reporting of key metrics.

Does sound really professional and important, but What is “comprehensive,” what is “coordinated” and with whom, what are the “clear“ benchmarks and timetables?  Every one of those is a three day discussion with a host of “I told you so’s” just waiting to happen.

No plan will be “Comprehensive” enough.  “Coordinated” with all the right people is not possible. Someone is going to be left out or included unnecessarily.
Is it even possible to have enough “Contact testing?”

What “benchmarks” will not be open to criticism?

“To limit deaths to not more than 30 per 1,000,000 people.”
Well that seems pretty heartless.
How about,

“No one will die from Covid.”

Well there is a benchmark that cannot be reached.

Mission statements are bull shit.  Everyone knows it.

Mike Tyson was right when he famously said, “Everyone has a plan until they get hit in the face!”

Everyone knows what needs to be done during this pandemic.

Provide testing. Protect old and medically vulnerable people. Keep infected people quarantined.  Provide healthcare with the resources they need to safely do their job.  Safely allow people to go back to work and keep the economy from creating more misery than the virus has created. Develop a vaccine!

I remember years ago when at work and the shit suddenly hit the fan, those “Mission Statement” people were the first to claim, “I was concerned!” “didn’t anyone test that?” “What does the plan say?”

And while these ass-holes were busy positioning themselves to claim they were concerned and that benchmarks were not being met, the rest of us put out the fire. 

We worried about “mission statements,” and what could have been done better, when the fire was out.


  1. If you think that’s bad try doing a 5-year plan

  2. I hear you. We spent hours doing the same thing over and over. Often we had the worthless mission statement and the plan of action then they put the entire plan on a shelf without instituting anything and then wait for the next crisis and start all over. We were great at doing the plan, not great at instituting anything. I so agree with you, Joe.

    Have a fabulous day and weekend. 😎

  3. In my last job, it was all about the 'measurable goals and objectives' which just meant we not only had to make stuff up, but then grade ourselves afterwards on the BS.

  4. We had a (rolling) five year plan too. Every year, you add an extra year to your plan based on what you achieved, (or not), last year.

    God bless.

  5. We have to give 3 goals every year. We have to write down how we completed our goals from the previous year. We have to write down what improvement projects our department completed. And this is for an operating room. We do have a mission statement..To heal, To Teach, To Discover. I guess that would be my 3 goals! (oh, and not be upset when we don't get lunch or breaks)

  6. So much time spent working on mission statements that are hard to attain or don't even make sense. Lots of PR these days with clever statements how we are all in this together and the like. For me a bit of propaganda.


  7. In my last job, we had to set five goals for ourselves to meet each year. One of them was actually doing your job, and the other four were bullshit goals so you could say you had five. By October or so, you'd realize that you were in trouble on two or three of your 'goals', and you'd scramble as best you could to meet them before the end of the year. Usually, you'd end up not quite meeting one of them (because you had to spend most of your time, you know, doing your actual job), so you'd get gigged for only meeting four of your five goals, when you did just fine on doing your actual job. But it did give the bosses a stick to beat you with. . .

    My first company hired a consultant to come in and instruct us in great detail on ways to be more productive and increase quality, and all sorts of good stuff. And you know, it really seemed to work! One of the principles was, "Attack the what, not the who". Meaning, solve the problem, don't just beat up on your people, since they're the ones who are going to solve the problem for you. Well, life was good, and people were buying in. Until one day, something got screwed up royally. Two guys got fired, and a third got demoted. So much for 'attack the what, not the who'. The bosses never did realize how their hypocrisy shot morale all to hell, and within three years, the company was history, and we all had to find new jobs. . .

  8. For my entire working life I was always a minion, never a manager. I did get asked several times if I wanted to do manager training, but always refused. She stopped asking when I said I would quit if she asked me one more time. I couldn't write a mission statement if my life depended on it.

  9. Sounds like lots of "busy work" going on and not a lot of real work. I used to hate those wasted hours of brainstorming only to get those, great, great, sounds great comments and then nothing. So happy not to be there anymore.

  10. I worked in the IT field for nearly 30 years; the first 10 of 'em, I was a contractor. Go in, familiarize myself with their operating system, do the programming they needed. THEN I made the mistake of "joining the family" at one megacorp in the mid-90s and omigod the bullshit of stuff like "give 5 examples of how you're practicing our mission statement". I DO NOT miss the corporate world, and what we need now is common sense more than anything.

  11. I remember the time the utility company I worked for decided we were going to win the prestigious Deming Award or bust. Meeting after meeting, page after page, research and discussion and like you said, nothing real accomplished except quite a bit of lost productivity I kind of like Mike's theory.

    1. Forgot to mention we did win it in 1989 as the first non-Japanese winner. Our productivity did not improve and I have yet to find a tasty recipe for an award.

  12. Goals are good, but in life, we seldom reach them. In the end, we are satisfied with half assed results and claim it a success.

  13. By the end of my teaching career, we were spending as much time on documenting how we were going to teach as we were actually teaching. Don't get me started on mission statements!

  14. I’ve worked on those teams on my way up the ladder. I now twitch when I hear the words misson statement.

  15. And so i do not start a housekeeping business where i have to have a team. My mission is to do what i am supposed to do every day, go clean the home or office of whomever has hired me for the day, and do it to their satisfaction. That's clear enough for me, and my measurement of success is did i earn my pay today.