Thursday, April 2, 2009

And For You Mr. President.....Some Socks

Perhaps I am missing something but shouldn’t gift exchanges between world leaders be a bit more significant than those exchanged at the neighborhood secret Santa party. Meeting the Queen (ok more figurehead than world leader) President Obama handed her a gift that screams the United States of America, he gave her an IPod. Yes an IPod. It was of course preloaded with images of the Queens 2007 visit to the United States. I am sure she thought the magic of that trip was gone forever. Now she can relive that moment over and over again.

As much as I hoped it was a one time snafu, he has shown a lack of etiquette in this area. The Prime Minister of England got CD’s and videos on his visit to Obama’s White House. The Prime Minister delivered to the President a pen holder crafted from the timbers of the 19th century British warship HMS President (whose sister ship, HMS Resolute, provided the wood for the Oval Office's desk) It is an interesting trade isn’t it, a 19th century pen holder vs. Billy Joel’s greatest Hits. (Joel is a guess; my bet would be on ABBA)

This however, is not the most interesting item in this global gift exchange. The Queen presented the President a framed and signed portrait of herself. This is evidently something she has been doing for a long time. Try that at your next secret Santa party, “here is something I knew you would love…a picture of me!” I imagine that this was not planned but rather an accident, a last minute rush to get a gift she forgot she needed to give.

“Pssst, your highness, wake up your highness he’s here”
“Who is here? And why are you whispering you fool”
“The President is here your highness, the President of the United States”
“Oh goodie, I love Ronnie’ yoo hoo Ronnie”
“No your majesty, Obama is here”
“WHAT? OSAMA? Call the police, the army, that bastard won’t get me without a fight...”
“No, no your majesty Barack Obama, The President of the United States”
“Oh blimey, the skinny guy with the ears?”
“Yes. He is downstairs waiting to present you with a gift.”
“A gift? What is it? Oh lord now I have to find something, take that over there and bring it here”
“This? Your highness, it’s a picture of you?
“A bit cheap? Here Ill sign it; let the kid sell it on eBay”
“What did he get me?”
"I believe an IPOD your highness."
"What? A Pond? I already have a Pond”
" Not a bloody pond you daft old..I mean your highness, he is right through these doors.”
"Hellooo Mr President"......

Perhaps that’s not exactly what happened and, it can be argued, the IPod shows off America’s newest cultural phenomenon and up to date modern technology. The Picture? Well it is not nearly as nice as the one with the Queen and President Lincoln together, but the pen from the timbers of a 19th century war ship, now that, is a cool gift.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Engine Running Rough? Open The Trunk.

Imagine this scenario: Your car has been running rough, not as smooth as it once was. You drop it off at garage and figure the experts will take care of it. Later you pick it up and on the way out you notice it is still running the same. You turn around and the experts inform you that it was running rough so they had to change the windshield wipers and replace the break light. A bit silly don't you think? Shouldn't these experts know to look at the engine?

However that is now what is going on at corporate America in companies all across the US. Executives having made bad decisions for years are now forced to take action and they do. They begin laying off folks who have given years to the company. Now the folks who are being laid off had little to do with creating the problem. They are the windshield wipers and break light. They play are part in the overall operation of the car, but simply not the cause of the problem.

In most companies the executives are still there. Sure a mid level manager may get the axe once in a while, usually for show, but the big boys, you know who they are in your company, are still there. It is like laying off a car salesman because he cannot sell a GM product. Is it really his fault? It may save some money in the short term but isn't the problem still there.

When do those at the top begin to pay? When does someone recognize that the engine, the very thing that drives the car, is the problem. When does the owner or CEO look at his team and say simply, "it's us. Not the workers, not the products, but us. The management team has failed the workers. We have let down those who have worked for us. It is our failure and we are sorry".

Of course you will never hear it. Management talks in a language all their own. They speak of shifting market demands, product life cycles, change of focus. They never say the product is not unique, is old, and customers are simply buying something better. No, you will not hear the owners or CEO's discuss business in honest terms. Then they would have to take a hard look at what really is causing the difficulty.

Like a car engine it can be complicated and sometimes difficult to fix. It is much easier changing the wiper and break light. Unfortunately in business, the wiper and break lights often have families.