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Vintage threads from the first ten years

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7/25/2003 2:00 PM
anonymous Fraud!
I don't think James Gale is responsible for these words. I remember seeing them in an email or something similar attributed to a high school senior's college application essay. You should be ashamed of yourself James. At least you should be giving credit where it is due.
7/26/2003 11:14 AM
stephen conner

I thought he had ripped off some of Leonard Cohen's poetry :D
7/26/2003 4:22 PM
James Gale
Mea Culpa
I didn't write those words, I pasted.  
The source was a paraody or an urban myth, but the Author remains unknown to me.  
Self flaggellation (sp) comenceth (sp).  
7/26/2003 4:24 PM
James Gale

Found the rest of it after a lengthy Internet search.  
Honesty is for the Unimaginative  
Another Angle on the Old College Entrance Essay  
by Hugh Gallagher  
The following essay by Hugh Gallagher has been circulated for several years on the Internet, by e-mail, and by word-of-mouth. Where did the essay come from? Well, there are two schools of thought: One, it is an honest-to-goodness college entrance essay written by a prospective New York University student with an irreverent wit; or two, it is an award-winning essay that has been published in Harper's, The New York Times, Boston Globe, and Literary Cavalcade.  
Urban legend? Bold ploy to get into college? Many hours spent on the phone and on the Internet did not reveal its true origin. Whichever theory is true, the fact remains that this essay grabs the attention of its readers and inspires them to share it with friends--an effect that every speaker, writer, teacher, and manager hopes to achieve with his or her own work.  
Congratulations, Mr. Gallagher, for writing something most of us wish we had written and then having the guts to submit it. (We just hope you got in.)
7/26/2003 4:27 PM
James Gale
Kiss and make up?
When We Buy a Pig...and the Tragedy of the No-nonsense Manager  
by Jerry B. Harvey, Ph.D.  
SINCE YOU APPARENTLY ARE interested in the fields of management and organization, I know you must be interested in hearing about my health problems...  
Ignoring for the moment whether the above segue has literary integrity, let me begin by saying if it were not for the grace of God, a synergistic surgical team, and an Arkansas porker named Herman T. Dibbs, I wouldn't be here today. I'm not sure precisely where I would be. I just hope the climate wouldn't be in need of perpetual air conditioning.  
To get to the core of the matter, I have an artificial heart valve. In case you score ESTJ on the "Myers-Briggs Type Indicator," and are detail oriented, it is a porcine mitral valve, No. AT 0899, model 625, size 27.  
That information is both imprinted in my memory and engraved on a laminated card I carry in my wallet. Given my ironclad memory, I am not altogether sure what purpose the laminated version is supposed to fulfill. Maybe if ol' 0899 suddenly blows a fuse and I fall on my face while waiting in line at the deli, a passing cardiac surgeon can find the card and shout, "Does anyone happen to have a spare porcine mitral valve, No. AT 0899, model 625, size 27, with them? I need to drill it into this guy who is lying on the floor by the pickle jar."  
In other words, I have been through open heart surgery. Perhaps you have, too. If so, I don't know about you; but even though I learned a lot from participating in the event, it wouldn't be my first choice for achieving personal growth. I think I might even try sensitivity training first.  
Nevertheless, despite its drawbacks as a developmental activity, I found that having one's heart carved on is not a totally negative experience.  
Here is what it is like from my point of view:  
They provide you with a wardrobe unsuited for those who tend toward bashfulness, load you on a gurney and push you through a set of dented stainless steel doors into a surgical cathedral. (And believe me, that room is not called a surgical cathedral without reason.)  
You immediately are surrounded by a group of masked blue robed monks, who quietly chant rhythmic incantations from Grey's Anatomy. Simultaneously, they insert tubes in nearly every orifice of your body and create several orifices that didn't exist before they commenced their efforts.  
Once they complete their chanting, they knock you cold, take a buzz saw to your chest, and proceed to saw you open from your neck to your navel. They apply a meat cleaver to your heart (having been blissfully unconscious during the procedure, my description may lack medical precision when it comes to a few of the details regarding equipment and procedures), tear out the offending valve with large plumber's pliers, and replace it with a valve made from the irradiated tissue of a pig. They then close the gaping hole in your chest with staples similar to the massive ones Ms. Liebowitz uses to bind our university's lengthy Annual Report. Once they are convinced they have your cover pages bound tightly enough to keep you feeling uncomfortable for a long period of time, they take you to an Intensive Care Unit, where they keep you in a state of semi-consciousness for a couple of days. Then, after they have deprived you of sufficient sleep, they roll you out of the ICU toward a private room so you can begin your next stage of recovery.  
At least, that's what happened to me.  
So there I was, semi-conscious, tubes dangling from every orifice of my body, stapled from my neck to my navel, the proud owner of a new pig's valve, being rolled to the promised land of a private room and a well-earned snooze. As we went through the door, waiting for me was my wife and next to her, a hospital tray containing a full meal. My wife I expected. The meal I did not.  
Although I was more than happy to see Beth, I really got interested in that tray. What in God's name did they think anyone in my pitiful condition would want to eat?  
"Beth," I mumbled semi-coherently, "Take the cover off that plate of food and let's see what's under it."  
She did.  
It was a barbecued pork sandwich.  
A welcome burst of adrenaline poured into my heretofore-somnolent system, and I shifted from a state of borderline consciousness to one of acute mental alertness.  
"Beth," I said, "ring for a nurse."  
She rang, and in came a nurse. Not just a nurse, but an experienced nurse, a nurse who appeared to be nearly old enough to be my mother. Her white uniform was accented by a frilly little lace collar and granny glasses. She had the look of someone who had been around awhile and knew more than a little about hospital life.  
"Sir, may I help you?" she asked.  
"Madame," I replied with more than a tinge of sarcasm, "Do you see any irony whatsoever that I have been 'out stone cold' for two days, have tubes dangling from every orifice of my body, am stapled from my neck to my navel, have a new pig's valve flapping around in my chest, and the first meal you serve me is a barbecued pork sandwich?"  
She cocked her head to the right and looked at me--and looked at me--and looked at me. I nearly could see and hear the gears turning in her head.  
Finally she said, "Sir, last week I attended a  
special program for nurses on the topic of cost containment. Now when we buy a pig, we use the whole damn thing."  
I started laughing so hard that she immediately sent for a resident physician to resedate me, probably out of fear that I would spill the monks' handiwork onto the floor and cancel out part of the overall gains in cost containment that the porcine reclamation project had provided.  
At the moment of her comment, however, my bout with recovery really commenced. She had captured both the seriousness and the absolute absurdity of the total situation and had expressed it in the good-natured, humorous way that Norman Cousins, in his article, "The Laughter Connection," contends heals broken bodies and souls.  
Humor and laughter are indeed healers. But they are more than healers. They are important elements of managerial competence. For example, in The Managerial Grid, Robert Blake and Jane Mouton indicate that the humor of the most effective managers "...fits the situation and gives perspective" and furthermore that such managers "...retain a sense of humor even under pressure."  
Finally, consistent with a recurring theme of virtually all literature of the topic of humor in organizational settings, humor, laughter, and an appreciation of absurdity bring organization members together emotionally. Stated differently, they contribute to organizational health and member competency by preventing anaclitic depression, a form of illness-producing and sometimes life-threatening depression we frequently suffer when we are separated from or abandoned by individuals, organizations, or ideas we rely on for emotional support.  
So my beloved nurse's pithy comment was not, for a variety of personal and organizational reasons, without positive consequence. She had fulfilled her organizational role as a healer, and had done so with extraordinary competency. Would that all of us in managerial or support roles in our organizations be able to do the same.  
The Tragedy of No-nonsense Managers  
My perceptive nurse's sage foray into the healing world of stand-up comedy again came to the forefront of my awareness a short time ago during an airplane flight when I read a magazine article, the title of which I don't remember, about a well known corporate CEO, whose name also eludes me.  
What doesn't elude me, though, is a key element in the author's description of the CEO.  
He was described in glowing terms as a no-nonsense manager. At first, I thought the CEO probably was someone who didn't permit non-sensical organizational procedures, those irrational, energy-sapping, soul-destroying bizarre policies, procedures, and practices that are endemic to what I sometimes refer to as organizational phrog farms. As I continued reading, though, I realized that no-nonsense meant the CEO had an unyielding serious demeanor and that he totally lacked a sense of humor. According to the article's author, the CEO's lack of a sense of humor and his failure to appreciate life's absurdities were positive attributes, ones that all competent managers should express, emulate, or aspire to possess. (I already can see future management development programs designed to teach participants the skills and techniques required to abandon their senses of humor.)  
Since reading the article, I also have noticed in the "help wanted" sections of newspapers a number of advertisements seeking no-nonsense managers. Apparently, people who lack senses of humor are in short supply; and organizations are prepared to pay serious premiums in order to obtain them. As colleague Erik Winslow so aptly described the dilemma, "The shortage of seriousness in management is no laughing matter."  
I was beginning to feel depressed by the problem until I remembered a rather brilliant but eccentric piece written by an obscure educator who said:  
"Have you ever wondered why textbooks aren't funny? Have you ever wondered why the Bible isn't funny? ...Likewise, have you ever known a competent professor, preacher, politician, manager, or student who wasn't funny, who didn't have a sense of humor or an appreciation of the absurd? I haven't. For example, did Jesus ever tell jokes or pass gas in church? (He must have--He ran the money changers out of the temple, didn't He?) When He did, I'll bet the disciples roared and God laughed. I just wonder why His biographers forgot to tell us about it? ... in doing so, they destroyed part of His essence."  
I suspect that's true for no-nonsense managers, too. An essential part of their humanity has been derailed or destroyed. Their spirits have been shrunk and only a portion of otherwise whole people remains. In the language of political correctness, they are "emotionally challenged"; and their competency to manage has been seriously compromised because much of our organizational life involves dealing with the kind of absurdity and nonsense for which the only sane response is laughter.  
Try as I might, though, I can't get angry with no-nonsense managers. The line that separates "them" from me and us is too thin, particularly during troubled times. I only can laugh, and hope that they recover their precious capacity for engaging fully in nonsense before it's palliative power is lost to themselves and their organizations forever.  
As you keep in mind the healing quality of nonsense, I hope you also will consider the possibility that engaging in it is a requirement for coping competently with what Peter Vaill, in his book, Managing as a Performing Art, terms the chaotic world of organizational white water faced by virtually all contemporary managers. Consequently, let's mourn the tragic, limited and limiting life of the no-nonsense manager. At the same time, let's celebrate the life of the manager who participates fully in nonsense, because that manager marches to the energizing beat of a very wise nurse and "uses the whole damn thing."  
Jerry Harvey, a professor of Management Science at The George Washington University, is the author of The Abilene Paradox and Other Meditations on Management, as well as numerous other articles on organizational dynamics. He is currently working on his second book, to be released in 1997.
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