Corporate Stupidity


I get a lot of requests, but I must make one thing abundantly clear. I am not allowed to write about my current employer. I want to keep my job which is why I never write about anything concerning my job including the name of the company I work for. This is a violation of confidentiality, and I don't do things like that at least while I am getting paid or could get sued. But I can write about companies I used to work for.

Before I begin with the bloviating, I want to stress what I consider to be the chief aim of a company. The chief end of a company is to make money. PERIOD. I am a capitalist, and I believe in making a profit. Any company that deviates from this purpose will not remain a company. Some left thinking shitheads may decry this as evil, but it is economic reality much the same way that gravity will always have a tether on you. The upside of gravity is that you don't go flying off into space. The downside of gravity is that sometimes you go flying into the concrete below.

The goal of profit is what determines what is smart and stupid in a company. It is smart to make money. It is stupid to not make money. And it is absolutely retarded to lose money. Yet, Corporate America seems adept at performing all three things. I can't count how many strokes of imbecility I have witnessed at companies, and I am amazed that they remain in business. This corporate stupidity has even spawned a comic strip called Dilbert which I think is the funniest thing in the funny papers these days. Scott Adams thinks much the same way I do. He is not a left leaning shithead but a capitalist. Yet, he is supplied with an endless stream of examples of corporate stupidity by readers who email him. This is probably why Dilbert continues where other high quality strips like The Far Side and Calvin and Hobbes folded. Dilbert never runs out of material.

Where does this stupidity come from? Basically, it is an outgrowth of the bureaucracy you see in Washington. For some reason, corporate leaders have borrowed the bureaucratic tendencies of the executive administration within the Beltway and see it as the most effective way to run a centralized organization. The military operates on much the same principle which is why you get a clusterfuck like letting Osama bin Laden get away in Tora Bora because the Pentagon didn't want the CIA and Special Ops getting the credit. And so it goes. . .

The difference between government and business is that government stupidity can continue forever. Business stupidity cannot. When a company loses enough money, it folds and goes out of business. This is why one of the best ways to succeed in business is to capitalize off the mistakes of larger outfits either by starting a competing enterprise or going in and turning around the existing enterprise. Stupidity abounds and so does the opportunity to exploit it. This is why consulting firms make so much money. But I digress. . .

Corporate stupidity is the luxury of profitable companies. When a company makes money, they start getting stupid. It took brains to become successful, but there is a lag time between the fuck up and the results of the fuck up. It is in this lag time that we get utter idiocy. And Machiavellian types who are adept at surfing the seas of backstabbing, credit snatching, and blameshifting become the ones who are best at surviving in this environment. This is how you get a guy like Disney's Michael Eisner who did a few good things at the start and then destroyed what he had built. Eisner is the epitome of corporate stupidity, and he was compensated handsomely for it. He fired guys like Jeffrey Katzenberg who went on to cofound DreamWorks or Michael Ovitz who helped Disney become what it was.

It will become readily apparent to anyone working in the corporate world that many businesses often succeed in spite of not because of their leadership. If you don't believe this, read up on the debacle known as New Coke. It is a testament to the strength of a company that monkeys could run it which is exactly what happens. Unlike Jack Welch's General Electric where executive talent was recruited and rewarded, things such as talent, brains, and initiative are punished in the corporate sector. People who make money for the company are seen as enemies, and they are. They are a threat to the incompetents who have lodged themselves in the upper rungs of the power structure.

At some point in your career, you must decide what kind of person you are going to be. Are you going to be Machiavellian or a moneymaker? Are you going to be a weasel or a tiger? All I can tell you is that in the long run, profit always wins. It is the only thing that wins. It is the sure thing that wins. But you will take your licks on the way, and there is nothing you can do about it. A successful animal often carries with it a host of parasites. That animal would be more robust if free of these pests, but it often survives with them intact.

Here are some examples of corporate stupidity from three places I used to work for. I did not make this shit up.

1. DOMINO'S PIZZA

I used to deliver pizzas in college for a franchise of Domino's. I liked the job, and they liked me. I did a good job. I was reliable and energetic and positive. The owner of the store liked me. But it was a franchise, and our day of reckoning came when a stupid bitch from Quality Control paid us a visit.

I don't know where Domino's got this person, but it was clear to us that she was retarded. Miss Quality Control's job was to make sure our product was up to the standards of the company. This is an understandable aim. You want customers to receive what they expected. This goes to the purpose of the profit. But this was a clueless bitch.

Her method for ensuring quality was to make us remake every pizza we made until she liked the way it looked. I remember making the same pizza three times until it matched her standards. Needless to say, the customer called back and cancelled their order because they got tired of waiting for the pizza. This went on for a couple of days until she left. The franchise survived, but it would not have if she had remained there indefinitely.

I don't know a lot about business, but I do know that a product or a service is a compromise between quality, productivity, and cost. If I want it fast and cheap, I go to McDonald's. If I'm willing to pay and wait a bit, I go to Outback or Longhorn. Domino's is not the Olive Garden. Customers want it fast and cheap which is what we gave them. These people vote with their dollars. If we did a lousy job, we wouldn't stay in business. The ultimate arbiter of what is good or bad in a company is the customer. Too often, what the customer wants and what some corporate weasel wants are often at odds. But, hey, we don't need customers. Fuck 'em.

2. RPS, INC.

This company is now known as FedEx Ground, and I don't know if they follow the same policies now or adopted new shitheaded policies. But this is the story of the crayon.

RPS was a package delivery company that was basically a rip off of UPS. The difference between RPS and UPS is that RPS utilized an automated sortation system for its packages. This thing worked great compared to the manual sortation systems of an older company like UPS which relied on package handlers to hand sort each package to its correct destination.

When you sort packages, you are going to make mistakes even with a state-of-the-art automated sortation system. This is because the automated sortation system works with barcodes that have information on them which was keyed in manually by someone. These people make mistakes which carries down the chain. It happens.

Inside each trailer is a package handler who reads the label of each package before it is loaded onto the trailer. His job is to make sure missorts don't become misloads. He must do this job at the minimum rate of 400 packages per hour. This was the standard.

Naturally, you can load a trailer a lot faster if you don't read those labels or only read some of them. You can catch a slacker by tossing a salt in his chute. A salt was a package that was headed to the wrong destination. If the guy caught it, he was doing his job. If he didn't, he got his ass reamed by yours truly. The quality standard was one misload per 1000 packages. I had days when we had zero misloads for the entire area, and we loaded 10,000 or more for the shift. I must also admit that we had guys who were even better than me on this shit. In fact, they would talk shit to me about it, and I was always mortified by it. Of course, I had the highest productivity which I would rub in on them. But this is when stupidity came into the mix.

RPS became concerned about misloads, so they instituted a program to eliminate misloads. Each package handler was given an industrial crayon and ordered to draw the last digit of the zip code on each package before loading it. Each hub had their own color. Ours was puke green. The purpose of the crayon was to slow down the package handlers because they were working too fast and making mistakes. By using the crayon, a 400+ loader would be reduced to a 200 package per hour slug. I wouldn't care except that the company standard mandated 400 packages per hour. In other words, if you went too slow, you would be fired. But if you didn't slow down and use the crayon, you would be fired for that. It was no-win situation. I even held contests to see if anyone could meet the quality standard while using that crayon. None of them ever did.

Needless to say, the crayon received the same treatment as all other stupid policies enacted by companies or governments. It was ignored, and this was company wide. When getting my ass reamed for not using the crayon, I would grab packages from random and dare my superiors to find a single crayon mark from other hubs in the system. They shut up and left me alone. I was making sense.

Somewhere at RPS, an idiot was put in charge. He drew an exorbitant salary for basically being a fool. The crayon was his idea, and it was ignored. If the policy had been followed, the company would have lost millions of dollars in lost productivity. I know because my boss got fired for this reason. He didn't produce. Meanwhile, I lampooned the company, my superiors, and the entirety of middle management, and they kept me because I did produce. But being young and stupid, I walked off that job in frustration. I had let those bastards grind me down. Never again.

Folks, I can only tell you one thing. It is better to show your ass than not show your ass. You are going to get fired either way, so go ahead and speak your mind. Tell them exactly what you think of the operation. I have never been fired for my candor. In fact, I have been offered promotions because of it. Jack Welch at GE found that candor was integral to running his operation. He encouraged people to speak freely because he realized that candor was communication. Problems got fixed because someone had the balls to say something.

Remember, the goal is to make money. Companies will fire you because of this, but who wants to work for a bunch of losers? Give me a team that says that winning isn't the goal, and I'll show you that they are losers. The goal is to win. This is why you play the game. Likewise, you win in business by making money. At RPS, you didn't make money with a crayon in your hand.

3. TARGET DISTRIBUTION CENTER

This job was bizarro land. I had this job for exactly 89 days because on Day 90 we all became permanent and our benefits kicked in. They shitcanned all of us. This was one of the worst jobs I have ever had.

Basically, Target is a retail establishment with razor thin margins. There is a lot of pressure to make a profit. I should have thrived in an environment like that. Instead, I felt like I had stepped into East Germany. Target had this thing called the Team Target Attitude which was basically a form of brainwashing. You couldn't be candid about anything and that included saying something as innocuous as, "I'm not having a good day today." I am not making this up.

For the first three weeks at Target, we did nothing. We sat in class for training. I have never spent so much time in training in my life for any job. I usually learn by doing which involves WORKING. We didn't work for almost an entire month. Then, they tossed us out there and told we had to meet the productivity standard before 90 days was up. I met my standard. Others didn't. But knowing what I know now, I would have spent the bulk of my shift goofing off. They were going to fire all of us. There was nothing we could do.

It makes no sense to waste all that money training masses of people to do a job when you already know you are going to fire them. Add in the oppressive environment and the ill will they have fostered in the community, I don't see how they pull it off. I have talked with people who worked there, and their experience was the same. After firing people, Target would immediately hire a new batch of recruits and repeat the process.

I was not a fly on the wall, but I already know how this stupidity came about. People still in the 90-day probationary period were not credited on the labor numbers of that company. Nevermind that they are getting paid. For management, this is free money. They get the productivity upside from having extra people on staff without taking a hit on the labor cost side. This is all internal corporate accounting. The bottom line is a loss for the company no matter how you cut it. But within the company, it behooved you to maintain a permanent force of temporary labor. Utter stupidity. Factor in the cost of benefits when the 90 days kicked in, and there you have it.

I probably have this wrong and have overlooked some factors into why Target operates this way. All I know is that you don't make money when you pay people not to work for a month and to underwork for two more months. Somewhere, somebody is working the numbers for the sake of a career but to the detriment of the company. It is what it is.

CONCLUSION
So, what do I have to say about all of this madness? All I can say is that the customer is always right, and if a company and its owners want to run it into the ground, there's nothing you or I can do about it nor should we. Darwin trumps Machiavelli in the long run. It has taken me my entire adult working life to realize this, but I have seen it happen. The corporate weasels will get what is coming to them. This is because you can't lose money and stay in business. Focus on being a good worker and using common sense. If they want to fire you for this, you don't need that company. And speak your mind. There is no protection in silence. Being a good worker demands candor even if the people you work for are too stupid to listen.

This is an endless topic for me. I can go on and on about it. It just amazes me how people get paid to not make money or to lose money for a company. But as a weasel once told me, "Just do your paperwork and make sure it is done. No matter how bad you fuck up, they can't fire you if you do the paperwork and follow the rules." Folks, I swear to you that I did not make that last part up.

Why I Am Not an Objectivist


Ayn Rand wrote two great books--The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. She also spawned a movement known today as Objectivism. I find a lot of value in her writings and in the viewpoints of Objectivists. But I am not an Objectivist. Here's why.

I agree with Ayn Rand when it comes to egoism and capitalism and the need for individual freedom. Unfortunately, Rand took her viewpoints to an extreme that became a distortion and ultimately a caricature of what I consider to be the correct stance to take which I call secular individualism.

Rand was dogmatic. I do not believe in dogma. Much of her speeches and those of her fictional heroes--Howard Roark and John Galt--seem like propaganda patterned on the Bolshevik model. Clearly, she rejected the viewpoints of the commies, but she seems to have borrowed heavily from their style. The result is less than reality. This is fine for a work of fiction, but it is disastrous for a philosophy of life.

I believe in questioning things. I am skeptical, and I encourage others to do the same even if that skepticism is pointed at me. I encourage dissent. Rand did not and neither do her followers. I am willing to take a stand, but I am also willing to admit when I am wrong. My worldview is always a work in progress. For Objectivists, it seems they have all the answers even if it requires pounding a square peg into a round hole.

Another aspect of Rand that I found troubling was her emphasis on pride. I am not big on pride. I don't think you should hate yourself either. I think the best approach is to not take yourself too seriously. I make fun of myself and have a self-deprecating sense of humor. I try to accept myself as I am flaws and all. Rand seems to have been on a quest to make herself and the men she loved into heroic beings. The reality is that they were nobodies. Rand was a good novelist who rested on her laurels and surrounded herself with sycophants who stroked her massive ego. This is where pride gets you.

Finally, I am not a big fan of the Objectivist's love for preemptive war. I realize there are libertarian minded people who have fallen on both sides of this issue, but I think the USA's recent adventure in Iraq should show the folly of going on offense and trying to reshape the world in the name of liberty. Basically, an Objectivist is a libertarian who believes in freedom at the point of a gun. This is why they have found such common cause with the neocons in the GOP. But it isn't freedom if it comes by force.

On a sidepoint, I'd like to comment on the Nathaniel Branden affair. The bottom line is that Rand got her pussy wet for some young stud and got ditched for a younger chick. I have no sympathy for her because she was cheating on her husband and turned him into a cuckold. I don't see anything heroic in any of that. But Rand in her shitheadedness made it like it was the moral thing to do. Stupid.

There is a reason that Objectivism has a cultlike feel about it. It isn't a cult because they stress individualism so much. But like any cult you have your heretics, your dogma, and your schisms. I know I would never have lasted a day in Rand's circle. I would have told that bitch to suck a dick. But I will say that I think she was the smartest woman that ever lived. This isn't saying much since I think there are a whole lot of men that were smarter than her. But she changed my thinking in a profound way, and I think everyone should read her work and understand her.

Will and Creation

I find joy in cleaning things. I am not a neatfreak by any stretch of the imagination. But I love to bring order to a space. Cleaning is creation. It is imposing one's will on the chaos and bringing out order.

All creation is an act and imposition of will. It is what Nietzsche called "the will to power." It is not a tyrannical impulse. It is simply the expression of what one values and desires projected into the the world. It is this will that turns stones into sculpture, paint into portraits, and steel into structures and machines.

I understand these things which is why I love to work and write and do things. I get a rush that I can only describe with the one word that fits--happiness.

You can see this impulse in various projects. I can't look at a building or a bridge without seeing the will behind the project. I look at athletes and runners who will their bodies to do the seemingly impossible. They call it "being in the zone."

This is the essence of happiness. It is the freedom and the ability to create. It is better than any drug you can take. It is the highest high there is. It beats intoxication or love.

I aspire to live in this zone. I just want to create. I want to make things happen. I want to feel the rush that comes from manifesting my will in the world. I wake up everyday glad to be alive. My days are a blur.

My biggest problem in my life is picking a direction to go in. There are so many things to do that I don't know which to do first. So, I need to decide which projects to work on and which ones to postpone. I have many options but little time. But so far, I am pleased with where things are in my life.

Agnostics

I think my most far out opinions are those in the political realm. Being for such things as abolition of the income tax, legalization of drugs and prostitution, etc. should really put me on the lunatic fringe for most folks. But, alas, this is not the case. Instead, I am most noted and reviled for my atheism.

Being an atheist is not a big deal for me. I don't spend a lot of my time thinking about it or advocating it. I don't have a personal problem with people who are spiritual or religious. Often, I find common cause with them such as with a man like Ron Paul who is a theist. I do not agree with his religious views, but I enthusiastically support his candidacy for president. I am also dating a theist, and I really have no keen interest in taking away her superstitions. I consider her beliefs part of her eccentricity, and I am sure she thinks the same of my atheism.

I am an atheist, and I do not apologize for it. I will also never change my mind on this. It is not because I am not open to evidence for God's existence. In fact, I am. But like with the flat earth or unicorns or Santa Claus, there comes a point in time when your viewpoint on a matter is settled. My argument to theists is very simple. Show me the evidence. They never give evidence but blather on and on about personal feelings, experiences, and anecdotes. None of this amounts to anything because I am not able to verify any of these things. If something cannot be independently verified, there's not much you can say about it. It is my personal experience that God is a myth, and there you have it. Theism loses on all fronts. It has no scientific basis and is not worth believing in.

All of this brings us to that strange creature known as the agnostic. An agnostic is one who reserves judgment or posits that the God question cannot be definitively answered either way. Functionally, they are indistinguishable from atheists. Intellectually, agnostics suffer from an inability to commit. In short, they have no balls.

Technically, I am an agnostic. I cannot say with absolute certitude that there is no God. But I also can't say with absolute certitude that there is no Santa Claus or that I even exist. This is because it is impossible to exclude all other possibilities. But such a mindset is utterly ridiculous. Should I cancel my next cruise to Australia because of the faintest remote possibility that these round earthers have it wrong? Should I be afraid of dragons because somewhere they might actually exist? Give me a fucking break.

An agnostic takes the same idiotic stance as I have cited in these examples. The agnostic knows there is no God and lives as if there is no God. So, why do they ride the fence? Why do they put so much stress on being open to the possibility of God's existence?

I can answer this question with one word--APPEASEMENT. The agnostic wants to get along with the theist majority or perhaps one theist that may possess a shapely ass and a nice rack. I don't know specific situations, but I can tell you that the agnostic is an atheist without a spine. The agnostic wants to get along with the religious shitheads, so he stuffs his commitment. He emasculates himself in the hopes that his inability to reproduce will let him off the hook. It is damn nauseating.

I don't see the value in riding the fence. People may be shocked by my atheism, but they respect me for having the nads to take a stand. I am not terribly evangelical with my atheism because I see the whole thing as being absurd. But I do take a position on the question, and I do not shy away from telling others exactly what I think. I do not believe in God. I don't see the need to apologize for this or even to be particularly civil about it. I tell people there is no evidence for God, and I treat their long winded sermons and sentimental feelings and unverifiable anecdotes with the response they deserve--mockery, ridicule, and contempt.

People tell me that I should try not to be so opinionated or be so candid. Fuck that. I've been there and done that, and it made me want to die. I have to be who I am, and if people can't handle this, all I can say is sorry 'bout it. I will respect a person's life, liberty, and property, but I don't have to respect their opinions. They also don't have to respect mine. People learn very quickly they can say just about anything to me, and I encourage them to do just that. I'd rather people tell me what they think than tell me what they think I would like to hear.

In conclusion, I think agnostics need to grow a pair.