I absolutely adore Thomas Sowell. He has been one of my favorite writers, commentators and quote mavens for a long time, but of all of his quotes that simple quote above nails it. Of course when I first started reading Thomas Sowell and looking forward to his columns I was just a janitor. The only meetings I had was with a few toilets, a break room, several offices and many dirty floors. I never realized how good I had it when the only meetings I had to attend that involved actual human beings were either after one of my kids did something particularly evil at school, or I was getting my evaluation for my 2 to 3% raise every year.
Things change obviously and through blood sweat and tears (or maybe it was more of a crosby stills and nash who knows?) I had managed to crawl my way up the corporate ladder into a position that would be considered "respectable" or at least it provided me with an office that wasn't full of cleaning chemicals and mops.Of course you pay for that office with your sanity, and the average person who sits on their hands and complains about the people in the offices doesn't get a very good view of what real insanity is. By sanity, I mean the stuff that leaks out of your ears while you are being tortured at a thing the management calls "meetings."
The week is a hell of a lot longer depending on how many meetings you have. In my sphere of reality I am guaranteed one meeting a day and more get added depending on the inane nature of what is going on above me. The "daily" meeting is simple enough. I have learned to tolerate it after I started to understand exactly how it operates. The major factions of the facility all get together and try to ferret out the various things that need to be done throughout the plant. Simple enough right? Wrong! There are various people that make up a meeting and they have different descriptions than what their title would imply, or at least they do when the people desperately clinging to what sanity they have left are done with them.
1. You have the "safety" guy. The safety guy is the person who shows up to every meeting like a mother on their first child. They can find the inherent danger in a rubber ball. They will take up a large amount of the meeting debating whether a rubber ball would be safer than a plastic ball, and will demand R&D time to research how easily a wooden ball can be made. As the "sourcing guy" in the place I like to interject that it is a waste of money to research a wooden ball, but am always over-ruled because the safety guy will make it near impossible to get any work done until he is taken seriously, even if nothing he says is serious.
2. You have the "quality" guy. In theory it would be nice to worry about the quality of the products made, but that really isn't the quality guys job. No he shows up to the meeting (usually late) waits for his turn to talk about quality, says that he is all set, and then interrupts every single person after him. None of that really has anything to do with quality either, it usually has to do with what food we will get when this person or that person comes in to check quality.
3. You have the "maintenance" guy. He's usually pretty succinct at explaining what is wrong, what is being fixed and what is on the list of things to be fixed next. He can usually get what he has to bring to the meeting done in about two minutes, which gives everyone else ample time to barrage him with stupid questions about creating things that they saw on an episode of Star Trek that would make their job easier. Once that is finished they again barrage him with a host of things they would like improved because the person running the machine is too lazy to do it. This can take a very long time.
4. Now we are finally on the "shipping" guy. Say what you want about all the guys in here but this is the important one. If products aren't shipping then revenue isn't generating. He never has anything to say, because he has found out (brilliantly) that the less the rest knows the smoother his warehouse is run. That doesn't mean on a particularly slow day in the other departments people don't think up stupid questions for him.
5. Last and certainly least comes the "sourcing" guy. That's me so of course everything said here is brilliant, timely and solves most of the worlds problems unless .... others in attendance are wondering if it is possible to spin straw into gold. Then the meeting can get even longer.