Wednesday, July 05, 2006

A Meditation on Corporate Strategy Development

By Al Swearengen

Greetin's, friend! If you're looking for Ned, he's in Room Four working out a serious case of the writer's block with a ball of dope and the two new girls in from fuckin' Chicago. To judge from the screeching comin' out of there, the fuckin' dam is being breached admirably, and the cocksucker'll be back to his old ways, haranguing the citizenry in the public fuckin' thoroughfare, in a trice.

Before he retired to ease his tribulation and rest his worried mind, he pulled out his magic-lantern contraption and showed me a missive he'd received from something pleased to call itself the fuckin' Lockheed Martin Corporation, which he referred to as "the guns-and-bombs-and-rockets crowd." Cocksuckers were trying to poach his loyalty to his current employers, painting castles in the air, raising hosannahs to the riches and pelf he'd gain by switching fuckin' loyalties. Having once long ago toiled for a Govvie contractor, Ned allowed Lockheed a puking Chinaman's chance of a successful recruitment, laughing till he choked at the thought of once again working in a place where TQM, the last refuge of the charlatan, holds management in thrall.

He called particular attention to the first sentence of the job posting, which he said made him like to eruct boiling bile on the Gem's spotless floor:
Lockheed Martin's vision is to be the world's best systems integrator in aerospace, defense and technology services; to be the company our nation and its allies trust most to integrate their largest, most complex, most important advanced technology systems.
Vision. Lockheed Martin's got a cocksuckin' vision. In my part of space and time, a vision is what you get when you smoke a fuckin' ball of dope and spend a useful day on a mountaintop contemplating your fuckin' man-giblets, but apparently the meaning of the word has mutated a bit since I had it beaten into me at the fuckin' orphanage.

Was there ever a thing so stupefyingly nauseating as a Corporate Vision Statement? Did ever anything reek more of bad faith, of howling fatuity? Was there ever a greater insult to the English fuckin' language?

You're a fuckin' corporation. You make fuckin' money. End of story. How you go about making the fuckin' money, by fair means or foul, by manufacturing (excuse me: "integrating") Weapons (oh, sorry again: "Systems") of Mass Destruction or otherwise grifting the hoopleheads, is between you and your own soul, but to try to convince the Great Unwashed -- and, perhaps more importantly, yourself -- that your motivations are anything but purely fuckin' avaricious is to paint a great cochineal smile on Wu's pig.

That's the great unspoken truth about us, isn't it. We clothe order, routine, law, in the comforting veil of great ideals and beautiful words and Eternal Fuckin' Verities -- but you strip away the fuckin' gilding and gimcrackery and Corporate Vision Statements and you're left with the One True Freedom that is cherished above all others: the freedom of the Few to strip power from the Many. The only question that remains after that is how long the fuckin' Many will stand for it -- and, if experience is any guide, the cocksuckers'll stand it for a very long time indeed.

We mark in passing this day the departure from this life of fuckin' Ken Lay, the George Hearst of his day (you'll want to follow that link if you're interested in my life and times). We note further that Enron's fuckin' Mission Statement read in part, "We treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves. We do not tolerate abusive or disrespectful treatment. Ruthlessness, callousness and arrogance don't belong here."

I rest my fuckin' case.


XTCfan said...

Go, Al, go. It's the Ugly Underneath, innit. Corporate vision statements are almost as bad as politicians talking about "values." The only way that word applies to a politician is when a contributor is considering whether or not they got their money's worth...

E.B. Farnum said...

If you want my opinion, Al, there's a pretty penny to be made off of this Lockheed Corporation. They sound like our kind of people. We should get in while the gettin's salubrious.

David Harmon said...

Oy gevalt! I innocently followed a link from Pharyngula to here... and now I have to wash my dictionary! :-)

Vision statements and such are attempts to finesse a basic problem: No matter what the courts say, a corporation is not really a person. (That "corp equals person" business was something that got started after the Civil War, while the country was still trying to rub the gunpowder out of its eyes....)

A corporation can act like a single organism, but by human standards, that organism is usually batshit insane. Insane, as in "unable to distinguish between right and wrong". Or between up and down, for that matter. The small exception is for small companies, which can sometimes manage tribal behavior. By individual standards, that's only a little insane.

But thanks to those precedents pushed through in the postwar confusion, a corporation has all the legal rights of a "person", which makes it that much harder to smack them around when they start treating the public like toilet paper....

Blowing Shit Up With Gas said...

Ahh TQM... Reminds me of a related concept. We had an ex-P&G exec running the small nonprofit where I worked years ago. He tried to apply Six Sigma to our tiny operation. The goal, basically, was to f*ck up no more than 3.4 out of every million things we did. However, by my calculations, we f*cked up about 40% of the time. I don't think there's a Hellenic term or proverb to describe that. (Although I've always been a big fan of this poster.)

Kevin Wolf said...

I had the misfortune to be part of a "team" in a financial corp charged with concocting a Mission Statement. (Must be capped, ya know.)

Stuck there as I was, I thought I'd at least kill some time as wordsmith and did my best to contribute - in fact, I sorta ran with it.

The resulting behind-my-back derisive emails from other members of the "team" who did not dispute the need for a statement but felt comfortable making sport of my effort cemented my opinion of corporate "culture."

Hence all the scare quotes.

Gray Lensman said...

I worked for a very small Computer Aided Design systems company 'way back when Lockheed was Martin Marietta. We were selling some of the first desktop PC-based CAD systems for them to draw spaceships with. The engineers were great and fun to work with, mostly. The managers jerked us around so much we finally had to resign the account to protect our bottom line and our sanity.

Porlock Junior said...

Pleasant to see a comment from Gray Lensman, who, if I'm not mistaken, is a cow orker from long ago.

I had my own experience with Mission Statements, and don't ask me the difference from a Vision Statement, though I know from experience that some people clearly perceive one. Back when I was involved in getting a company going, if my eyes glazed over on seeing the words "business plan" (this was wrong of me, btw), I'd tend to puke on seeing "mission statement". (This was right of me, of course). It meant a page of horrid goody-goody boilerplate that eliminated all real difference of one company from another.

But eventually, as the company got very far from small, the pressure to have one became irresistible, so I got myself appointed to be in charge of writing one. Rank and seniority have their privileges.

What I wanted was what Robert Townsend talked of in Up the Organization: a sentence that states what business you're really in. He said it had been really useful at Avis. I couldn't do that, so I took the simple statement and embedded it in the smallest amount of verbiage I could. It was pretty much: We make new software that does useful things, and it works. I had to work in "shareholder value", so it went in in respectful wording that pretty well contradicted all the crap that the phrase normally means.

If I'd had nerve, I'd have put in really important things, like dogs at the beer busts. But no. I couldn't go farther than to incorporate (with credit) a piece of Townsend's advice: Never con anybody. Not your customers, not your workers, not your stockholders, not the government, not yourselves, not even your competitors.

Naturally, as the company got even bigger, it got Professional Management, and the unrealistic old founders jumped ship. The old Mission Statement, which incidentally some serious-minded people really hated, couldn't be revoked for political reasons, so it just sort of disappeared.

But it had one real result. An executive later told me that he had been faced with a proposal for a perfectly normal sort of BS action, and had looked at the MS and decided "We don't con anybody. No go." It's nice to think one's career in management had one positive effect.

I still think the things are crap, though.

David Harmon said...

"I don't think there's a Hellenic term or proverb to describe that."

Try Cicero, from the next Empire along:

"Against stupidity, the gods themselves contend in vain."

eRobin said...

"The only question that remains after that is how long the fuckin' Many will stand for it -- and, if experience is any guide, the cocksuckers'll stand it for a very long time indeed."

Well, Al, they've certainly got the guns and ammo to keep it that way should the tide ever turn against them.