Monday, January 27, 2020

Say Nothing - Politician

You can hardly talk about succeeding by saying nothing without bringing in politicians at some stage or the other. Yes, there may be those politicians, mythical beings almost, who say some concrete things and even, horror of horrors, DO some things but they are altogether too rare to warrant talking about.

Start with the election speeches (Where else?). Other than, of course, the usual diatribes about how the opponents are the very personification of the seven deadly sins - greed or sloth or whatever as per choice - the rest of it goes somewhat like this.

When we come to power, we will eliminate poverty, bring down inflation, eliminate unemployment, make India an attractive destination for investments, ensure the security of its citizens, yada, yada, yada.

Land of milk and honey with roads paved with gold to boot. There will be silence about the fact that the Bezoses of the world will say, "I really love the fact that you will keep inflation down and eliminate poverty and all. But it will not be attractive to us if you raise my taxes, put in pesky labor rules, or get in the way of my driving small businesses out"; your citizen, including government servants, will say, "Yeah, Nice! Keep MY taxes down and protect MY jobs and salaries, while you are making India an attractive investment destination or trying to keep down inflation"; your economists will say, "Good, find the money for paying welfare to keep down poverty, while ensuring that the fiscal deficit stays low or else inflation will go through the roof." 

ANY mention of HOW you are going to balance all these things and you are dead. Talk specifics and you will raise a whole storm of protests. "Is THAT what you think is poverty elimination?"; "Your ideas of what makes an attractive investment destination are...huh...quaint"; "These people are clueless about economic realities"...

Essentially, once you talk specifics it is all 'I dont want the milk, cos i am Vegan, that honey is probably sucrose, and if the roads are paved with gold, what's the value of that stupid yellow metal?'

You see, what is merely DESIRABLE in other areas is ESSENTIAL for a politician. To call someone a 'Say Nothing' politician is an redundancy. IF you are a politician, the first qualification is a genius for saying nothing in a lot of words.

That, of course, applies for all that follows. When you do something WHEN in government it is always in the 'larger interests of the Nation.' If you are in opposition, whatever the government did is either 'malafide', 'ill-conceived' or 'faultily executed'. Of course, you say it in a lot more words, without ANY specifics, than I can find...if I could, would I not be in Parliament instead of churning out stupid blog posts?

What? Getting angry with politicians? What's the damn point? I mean, yeah, perhaps you change a few into actually saying something concrete. and what will YOU do? It has always been easy for you to assess who has spoken well rather than who has worked well. For the latter, YOU need to do a lot of work to get the relevant information and assess it. So, the moment one politician changes into saying and doing concrete things, you'll abandon him and elect the next guy who is an entertaining speaker.

And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is IT in a nutshell! It is the 'Say Nothing' brigade that will always rule the world!

Monday, January 20, 2020

Say Nothing - Manager

There is this interesting thing that economists love to say. "You cannot see the wood for the trees." It has a kernel of truth and meaning in it, of course. That, when you make policy for an industry, or for a country, there can be serious problems for ONE company or so. But concentrating on individual cases while making policy can end up harming the entire industry or country. The problem, though, is that it is such a lovely phrase for the hot air merchants - the 'Say Nothing, but say it in a lot of words' brigade, if you will. You see, it conveniently absolves you of the need to even be able to distinguish an oak from a shrub, while speaking wisely of the wood. So, you can spout wisely about the 'wood' with nary an idea of what composes the wood!

Managers just LOVE economics for that reason alone. Especially, the 'Say Nothing' lot. As a student, it is enough that you spout a lot of words while saying nothing. Adults also have the need to make those words sound wise while they are doing so. Ergo, you can do without the knowledge of concepts but cannot do without a stock of wise-sounding phrases and economics is such a storehouse of such wealth.

Now, the management equivalent of the 'wood' is the 'Big Picture'. You want to support the other guy's point of view? "Yes, perhaps on a day-to-day basis there may be some issues but we need to see the big picture here." You want to oppose it? "It may seem efficient to do it this way but we need to see the big picture here." The best thing, of course, is when you do not have to take sides and just say, "Does it work well when we consider the big picture?" THERE you go. The beauty of this thing is that the other guy can only oppose your view by citing specific cases and all THAT, as you well know, can be airily dismissed as the 'small' picture, so to speak. The 'Big Picture' is too big to be seen in toto, except by you, and, so, like the Emperor's New Clothes, it is seen and appreciated by everyone while not even existing!

You think it is difficult in your favorite area of today - the infotech sector and all that it has spawned? How about "Looks fine, but I think there may be scalability issues"? Or, "Will it be robust enough to handle the transaction load?" How can anyone be opposed to scalability and robustness? Just collect a few such phrases and you are all set.

I do not need to belabor the 'Team Player', 'Square peg in a round hole', 'efficient deployment of abilities' or 'right-sizing' and the rest of the wisdom of the HR arena, do I? I have written enough posts on them.

The point, though, in being a 'Say Nothing' manager is that you should play your cards well enough not to be in a position where you are expected to be responsible for DOING something. THEN you can keep sounding wise by saying a lot of wise words without ever saying anything concrete. Getting stuck with the job of actually doing something, though, can be a problem. But THAT is precisely why we have been wise enough to create those positions of 'consultant', 'adviser' and all such - mainly for those who can sound wise even if they have failed to BE wise!

And those who ARE wise and have come into these areas? Trespassers, I tell you, taking the bread from the mouths of honest 'Say Nothing' managers like us!

Monday, January 13, 2020

Say Nothing - Student

By now you know I have been the recipient of a lot of advice that has ruined my life. The one I speak of today, though, was possibly good advice which I misunderstood rather badly and, however did you guess, ruined my life as a consequence.

They told me "When you have nothing to say, say nothing." Maybe, knowing me, they should have told me the thing in full. If they had, I may have fared much better. They SHOULD have told me, "Say nothing, but say it in as many words as possible."

There is this guy I know, whose identity I shall not disclose except to say that when my parents looked into the mirror they saw his parents. HE understood the advice in full and applied it from school.

There was this time when, in a school test there was a 5 mark question asking him to write a few words about human civilization. All of us know that no adult really knows what a civilized human is really, so just imagine asking a school kid to talk about a vaster concept called human civilization. Obviously, he knew nothing but what did he say?

Human civilization is that my teachers teach me well, I study well, I write the exam well but I don't get good marks. So, my father beats me, my mother beats me and the human civilization.

It's quite likely that his teacher was either flattered by the knowledge that he thought he was being taught well; or was so moved by the sorry plight of the poor boy studying well, writing his exam well and still not getting good marks; or was terrified by the idea of giving him bad marks causing his father and mother to beat up the whole human civilization (once they determined what it was and found it, if indeed it existed anywhere). Net result was that he ended up getting 3.5 marks out of 5 for saying nothing relevant in a lot of words. (Teacher, bored with correcting test papers, just giving marks on length of answer? Nah!)

Or, indeed, the time when he was asked to write five sentences about cows in Hindi. (Puhleeze! This was in the seventies, so none of your holy cow reactions are relevant here.) Armed only with the knowledge that a cow was an animal and not a plant, he sallied forth.

Gai ek animal hai; Gai do animal hai; Gai teen animal hai; Gai chaar animal hai; Gai paanch animal hai

Totally impressed by the fact that he knew his numbers from one to five in Hindi, the teacher granted him 4.5 marks out of 5, the half mark possibly deducted for using 'animal'. Teachers, those days! They were very unforgiving of Engdi - the mirror image of Hinglish!

Me - in both cases, I'd have left a blank space in the answer sheet, sticking very closely to my limited understanding of 'Say nothing' , I'd have got bad marks, and my father and mother would have beat me and, possibly, the human civilization as well!