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October 15, 2007

Corporate America by the Letters


The company has many acronyms. Some of them you will find familiar. If you have a computer problem, you call I.T. If you have a question about your benefit package, you call H.R. Who is the biggest moron in the company? The CEO.


Those are easy.


But why was an employee parking proposal referred to the P.M. committee? What the heck is that? Can you be sure your product passes muster if Q.I.G. hasn’t assessed it? Wasting time? Watch out! Someone might tell L.P.A.!


Then you’ll be in trouble.


I can help you navigate your way through this corporate alphabet chowder. Stay with me.


P.M. is the Participatory Management Committee. It consists of representatives from every department who spend hours developing recommendations on everything from employee parking policy to profit-sharing plans to venues for the company Christmas party. They gather input from their colleagues, debate endlessly and then write long, detailed recommendations to present to the CEO, who thanks them for their efforts and then does whatever he wants.


Q.I.G. is the Quality Initiative Group. They exist because the CEO, the engineers and the line managers apparently don’t think it’s their job to make sure the products are any good, so they appointed a committee to go over both products and processes with a fine tooth comb. They have none of the power you would normally associate with something like quality enforcement (say, if a guy makes a piece of crap, they’d be able to fire him . . . nope, none of that), so they write reports to executive management and put up banners proclaiming “Quality First!”


L.P.A.? That’s the Lean Proficiency Alliance. The CEO read a book saying that Lean manufacturing is the way of the future. Lean means no wasted time, material or movement. Someone was sitting around one day and suddenly it hit him: If we don’t waste stuff, we’ll make more money! He managed to come up with an entire book saying little more than this, and people considered him a genius. So don’t tell me my ship won’t some day come in. It worked for this guy!


But when the CEO told his management team about this stroke of genius, they scoffed.


“People love wasting time and material! It’s why they’re here! And what is ‘wasted movement’ anyway?”


The CEO didn’t know, but it sounded like something he didn’t want. So he got together people from all the departments that didn’t want to have to stop wasting time and material and told them to form an “alliance” that would be dedicated to becoming proficient in Lean manufacturing. (Note to my editors: Please don’t un-capitalize “Lean” or people won’t believe I’m in business. I know it’s not a proper noun. Just go with me on this. It’s business!)


Hence, the L.P.A. They sit around discussing how to stop wasting time.


There are many acronyms. CYA. BRB. SU, D.F.!


So one day, Sultry Susan came to the office. As she took her seat, she noticed that in the nearby cubicle of LeeAnn the Spiderwoman, there was a white board upon which was written IN.


Sultry Susan sought out Lacey.


“Lacey! What is I.N.?” Sultry Susan wants to know.


“What is what?” Lacey replies.


“I.N.! What is I.N.? Is this a new working group handpicked by management? Is it a new quality initiative? I’m not in the loop on this! Why wasn’t I asked to participate? What’s going on, Lacey?”


Lacey takes a breath.


“Sultry Susan, where did you see I.N.?”


“On LeeAnn the Spiderwoman’s white board!” says Sultry Susan, by now in a near panic.


Lacey puts a comforting hand on Sultry Susan’s shoulder.


“I think that means LeeAnn the Spiderwoman is in today.”


Sultry Susan spends a moment in deep thought.


“Wow,” she says. “I would have never figured that one out.”


BRB. Don’t forget to CYA.


© 2007 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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