Maxims of the nonsexy kind

Following some random links I came to this document where Betsy Bernard, ex-CEO of ATT, gives us some words of wisdom. She comes up with a set of 7 golden rules all of which are patently obvious. And you kind of wonder how many of these rules she violated to get to the place she is. That’s not the point I am trying to make here. There is one place in the document where she gets into this sanctimonious table-thumping with all the gusto of someone trying to convince oneself of something that is inherently untrue, at least to her. I am not copying and pasting it here (cause I cant–its a pdf file) but the point she is trying to make is that CEOs should not waste company money..should not give themselves arbitrarily high salaries or indulge themselves with $600 wine bottles. Which sounds a bit hollow coming from someone drawing a 2 million dollar salary [peanuts compared to many companies surely but still mind boggling].

For the life of me I do not understand why managers are paid so much….to lord over the many? What contributions does a manager have to the ultimate product except set timelines, deadlines, bark orders, read reports and fly first class? True someone does have to spell out corporate strategy and integrate the product development process at a managerial level and deal with different stakeholders and that is good important work. What I cannot fathom is how that work should be any more important than the engineers and the people who make the product. Why is it that the management needs first class airfare and a 5-star hotel to increase their efficiency and not an engineer? The answer is because THEY CAN. And they make the rules. Thats why they are the bosses.

In case this seems like a naive communist argument let me clarify. I accept the fact that this world will have the privileged and the not-so-privileged. And the fact that there is often no good reason as to why people find themselves in one of these classes. Also if everyone got the same then what would be the incentive to improve? But the flaw in the argument is that over here an engineer can never improve to a $2 million dollar salary no matter how much he improves himself. He will always have to reconcile himself to being “managed” by a MBA type person and have to get poked in the eye eternally by the unrealistic expectations of the MBA mainly because the MBA has no idea of what is realistic and what is not.

But this has gone on for time immemorial and thats not my peeve for today. Its the claptrap these CEOs give at keynotes which raise the fur on my neck. And that people(who should know better) applaud the pithy maxims and grand vision espoused by these wordsmiths. Case in point: the above document. “Never shout at anyone”, “Always be honest”—yes these are things we never knew before and needed a 2 mil/year CEO to tell us. And now that she has lets put it up on our websites, write them down on our cufflinks and forward it to our friends.

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