Thursday, December 5, 2019


I thought it was time for a repost of one of my favorite stories. When I got back from my first deployment I attended the guided missile school in Damneck, VA where the CO had a policy that every person that reported aboard be issued a little paperback copy of a booklet by Elbert Hubbard. It made a very simple point very effectively.
You, reader, put this matter to a test: You are sitting now in your office—six clerks are
within your call. Summon any one and make this request: “Please look in the encyclopedia and make a brief memorandum for me concerning the life of Corregio.”
Will the clerk quietly say, “Yes, sir,” and go do the task? 
On your life, he will not. He will look at you out of a fishy eye, and ask one or more of
the following questions: 
Who was he?
Which encyclopedia?
Where is the encyclopedia?
Was I hired for that?
Don’t you mean Bismarck?
What’s the matter with Charlie doing it?
Is he dead?
Is there any hurry?
Shan’t I bring you the book and let you look it up yourself?
What do you want to know for? 
And I will lay you ten to one that after you have answered the questions, and explained how to find the information, and why you want it, the clerk will go off and get one of the 2 other clerks to help him find Garcia - and then come back and tell you there is no such man. 
Of course I may lose my bet, but according to the Law of Average, I will not.
Now if you are wise you will not bother to explain to your “assistant” that Corregio is
indexed under the C’s, not in the K’s, but you will smile sweetly and say, “Never mind,” and go look it up yourself. And this incapacity for independent action, this moral stupidity, this infirmity of the will, this unwillingness to cheerfully catch hold and lift, are the things that put pure socialism so far into the future. If men will not act for themselves, what will they do when the benefit of their effort is for all? 
A first mate with knotted club seems necessary; and the dread of getting “the bounce”
Saturday night holds many a worker in his place.
Advertise for a stenographer, and nine times out of ten who apply can neither spell nor punctuate - and do not think it necessary to.
Can such a one write a letter to Garcia?

We have recently been hearing much maudlin sympathy expressed for the “down-trodden denizen of the sweat shop” and the “homeless wanderer searching for honest employment,” and with it all often go many hard words for the men in power. 
Nothing is said about the employer who grows old before his time in a vain attempt to
get frowsy ne’er-do-wells to do intelligent work; and his long patient striving with “help” that does nothing but loaf when his back is turned. In every store and factory there is a constant weeding-out process going on. The employer is constantly sending away “help” that have shown their incapacity to further the interests of the business, and others are being taken on. No matter how good times are, this sorting continues, only if times are hard and work is scarce, this sorting is done finer - but out and forever out, the incompetent and unworthy go. 
It is the survival of the fittest. self-interest prompts every employer to keep the best-those who can carry a message to Garcia.
And with that self-interest came pay raises as the usefulness of the employee grew and his or her value increased to the employer. The governments have been doing their damned worst to sever any connection between the labor value cost and the cost of labor.

Nothing about socialism has changed in the 120 years since Hubbard sat down one night and penned this little story. I see that our military intelligence professionals poo-poo the whole notion of a Rowan in the modern digital age and yet what they miss is that it applies equally well today. They imagine that since the digital realm didn't exist in 1899, that it therefore all lies outside the scope of what Hubbard intended when he wrote it. Nothing could be further from the truth.
So you come to the Essential Man Theory of Everything. The weak ones won't. Nothing will motivate them to exert themselves. As with any endeavor, 75% of the organization won't be pro-active unless you light a fire under them. 
You now face the dilemma of most leaders. There's a guy you know. He could do it. He could tear into the guts of the machine and he could give you not just an answer, he could fix it. He's the guy you go to. 
He's a good man to have. You are truly blessed to have such a man who is willing to use the training and knowledge he has to solve your problem. Of course, if you go to him too often? He's going to reconsider the deal unless you sweeten the pot. You've also found yourself in the trap of the essential man. You need to get beyond this one guy.
In an ideal world you work in an environment stuffed with good people like this and never even think about it. I'm here to tell you that the rest of the world isn't like that and too frequently we get the guy who says it's not his problem.

I know which one I'd hire were I in the business of hiring. I'd hire the ones that know how to read, how to do basic math and make change for a $20.00. I'd hire the ones that pulled their pants up and knew what a belt was for and I'd hire the ones with a pleasing voice and personality. I'd hire the ones that didn't come with a sense of personal entitlement the size of the Hindenburg. While I'm willing to take on just about anybody and did, I preferred the ones like the young Andrew Carnegie.


Roy said...

So what happens when it's the organization itself that has gone communist? (It is my contention that the last vestiges of pure communism are found in todays modern corporations.)

Now, I'm not talking about the sole proprietorships consisting of an owner and a few employees. I'm talking about medium to large companies of tens of thousands of employees. In those organizations, you might be a middle manager and indeed have an "essential man" or two who seem to get all the work done. Do you reward them for the extra effort? You might, but most companies don't. Instead, if there is any reward at all, it gets spread around equally to "the team" regardless of who does and does not do the work. After awhile, the good people leave for greener pastures and the rest do just enough to get by. And there you are again, a middle manager looking for a needle in a pile of needles - the essential "good man" - in that stack of resume's.

HMS Defiant said...

I think you have hit the nail on the head. Today the answer would be, don't be middle management. I have a friend in California who works as a consultant getting companies through the ISO 9000 + whatever they're up to these days and getting them into Lean 6 sigma. He is now doing the jobs of his two peers the company laid off thinking that Adam could just pick up their load. He decided to look elsewhere and the company tanked. I knew the feeling. Back when I was CHENG we did rotations over to the Gulf with about 25% of the crew every month departing and for the first 4 months nobody came back to my ship. I was in the 3rd wave and was on leave when I got a call from the ship asking me to come in and help them start the main engines. There was nobody left onboard who knew how to start them but the CO was going to get underway anyway. I didn't much like the guy so I went in and started the mains and then hopped off and went back about my leave.
It was different at SAIC but then they hired for the projects and only kept the ones that worked out OK. There wasn't a lot of turnover, they were very picky.