According to Shanahan’s Law, the length of a meeting rises with the square of the number of people present. And, the larger the enterprise, public or private sectors, the less PRODUCTIVE the meetings.
That last part has nothing to do with Shanahan. IT comes from Walther’s Law—that’s ME—and I base it on decades of personal experiences going to meetings… absolutely USELESS meetings. Let me explain.
In a typical, moneymaking, profit-motivated private sector business, the number of “key” people is small. The owners choose them wisely, on the basis of merit and grant them direct and final authority.
Yes, they hold a few meetings throughout the year, but they are short in duration and always pointed.
But, success begets growth, which begets complexity, which begets vested interests, which begets turfdoms, which begets unproductive political chaos, which ultimately begets failure.
By this point, even good projects with tremendous potential are doomed to failure before they get off the ground.
The never-ending cycle begins with a flurry of gratuitous optimism fueled by delusions of competence. Obstructionists start rumors out of gross ignorance and sheer envy.
People repeat the rumors so many times that even contract custodians begin recognizing them as “common” knowledge.
And, as the project’s requirements begin flowing right off practicality’s scale, its death-dirge begins. Senior management succumbs to a primitive political urge to allocate resources on the basis of special interests.
And, the correlation is direct. The larger the enterprise becomes, all the more obvious becomes the fact that process has completely trumped substance.
Our United States Congress now consists of 535 members: 100 Senators plus 435 Representatives. As a group, they couldn’t hit the water if they fell overboard.
The problem for us isn’t that we have a “do nothing” Congress. God, if only this were the case. No, our problem is that we have a Congress that does SOMETHING, even when they have no idea what IT is.
Just as senior management does within the confines of those large corporate bureaucracies, Congress always attempts to tweak “solutions” long before they have even a mediocre understanding of the problems.
They are very efficient in doing it, too. As a body, they’ve learned that the most efficient way to compile inaccurate data into useless “information” that very few people can fully understand and virtually NO ONE wants, is to make stuff up.
And, we keep rewarding them for it by sending the same ones back every election cycle: every two years for representatives and every six years for senators.
We keep doing it in spite of the fact that our collective opinion of Congress, as a body, implies that it has the aggregate IQ of cabbage, only with less personality.
This has to be a function of our misguided, self-imposed civic mandate to make people feel as guilty as possible whenever they don’t vote.
Here’s a hint. Our FIRST civic duty is to make sure that we understand the issues, or seek counsel from those that actually do. THEN, go and vote accordingly. Otherwise, our civic duty is to stay the hell home on Election Day.
I’m currently involved in a federal research project housed in the fine state of Arizona. During my travels, I’ve run into a few folks that society shouldn’t let leave their homes unsupervised, let alone permit them to vote on critical national issues.
For example, during a stop at a well-known hamburger joint, I witnessed the following conversation between a man (Butch) in his mid-thirties, a Mohawk haircut, and wearing a tee shirt that read (on the back), “If you can read this, the bitch fell off,” and his three lunch mates.
First lunch mate: Sorry to hear about your old man.
Second lunch mate: Me, too, man.
Third lunch mate: How’d it happen?
Butch: The doctor said it was a massive
cerebral hemorrhoid. He died FAST!
I almost choked on my hamburger. I thought it was a joke. But, it wasn’t! Butch actually became teary-eyed. “At least he didn’t suffer any.”
Apparently, they didn’t know that, while hemorrhoids often do hemorrhage, it doesn’t take place in the brain. Unless, of course, we’re talking about Dick Chaney, Nancy Pelosi, or Harry Reid.
REGARDLESS, we should NOT permit such people to vote on ANY issue more serious than what to name a White House pet!
On a more comical note, a few days later while going through a small town, about sixteen blocks long but home to seven churches, I saw the following marquee message for one of the churches. It read:
“This morning’s sermon:
Jesus Walks on the Water.
Searching for Jesus.”
I have no idea who came up with that one, but…
Then, on a much more intellectually tragic note, someone recently sent me an urgent chain email concerning the need to ban a chemical compound, “dihydrogen monoxide,” due to its inherent dangers to all of us.
While most of you were probably already aware of this one going around the Internet, I wasn’t, at least not at the time.
Anyway, I was to send it on to my congressional representatives with a note urging them to support the proposed ban in the interest of public safety.
“No one’s this stupid,” I thought to myself. But, a Google search proved the contrary. While it began as a hoax, tens of thousands of people had bought into it, including—but not surprising—a few politicians.
All of them were oblivious to the fact that they wanted a Congressional bill banning WATER (di- meaning two and mono- meaning one… H2O). One kid, in fact, won a science fair by reporting the dangers of this compound. Click here to read about it.
This is undoubtedly a symptom of what happens when myriad people refuse to take science courses because there’s um… you know, “MATH in em.”
Humans are credulous. As such, we feel compelled to believe SOMETHING. If legitimate science is too hard to understand, we’ll buy right into any old scientific-sounding manure as long as it sounds good.
At least in America, it seems that we’re scientifically illiterate. Our world is Newtonian but governed by Einsteinian physics. However, the fact that we’re still hooked on the use of Frankensteinian logic to sort it all out does not seem to faze us at all.
We’d better soon get back to the task of understanding the difference between fact and fiction, between science and pseudoscience, between what counts and what doesn’t.
“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” So said Albert Einstein. And, while the truth of this seems so self evident, I think it’s far more important for us to be able to tell the difference.
“I’m a scientist” is often synonymous with “I’m a mathematician.” But, real scientists know that where mathematics is concerned, it’s more a matter of getting used to things than it is a matter of understanding them.
David Brinkley was born in 1920 and died in 2003. He often said, “The one function that TV news performs very well is that when there is NO news, we give it to you with the same emphasis as if there WERE.”
Political pundits like Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’reilly, Rachael Maddow, Keith Olbermann, Chris Mathews, along with a host of local talk-radio windbags, ALL deliver speculation disguised as news better than Brinkley could ever have imagine.
But, I suppose that delusions of grandeur aren’t necessarily bad. They may be all that’s left for some of us to feel better about ourselves. Besides, we’ve always got psychology to fall back on.
What better way is there to cure our own faults than by blaming everything on our parents’ shortcomings. God bless Jerry Springer, Maury Povich, and Dr. Phil.
Joe Walther is a freelance writer and publisher of The True Facts. You may comment on his column by clicking here.