PowerPoint Purgatory (and Appraisals)

powerpoint

I spend a great deal of my work life creating PowerPoint presentations. In fact PowerPoint is my main tool of communication. We start a project, I draft a timeline in PowerPoint. We finish a project, I summarize the results in PowerPoint.  I have an idea, it goes in PowerPoint. In other words, I live out my days in PowerPoint Purgatory (PPP).

I have determined that to make it out of PPP you must either 1) rise to a higher level of management (the preferable solution) or 2) fail miserably and be forced to go back and join the ranks of the people actually doing the work described in the PowerPoints.

On a rare occasion, I am able to leave PPP for a day to obtain some insight into company operations. Recently I spent a day reviewing residential property appraisals. While this may sound boring, I assure you there was plenty of excitement to be had. In fact, based on this experience, I learned some important points to consider before refinancing my mortgage:

1. If you want to make sure the staff is awake, don’t flush the toilet before the appraiser comes to take pictures. A good toilet picture will have a more lasting effect than coffee.

2. If you have so much junk that the appraiser cannot physically get into your house, you might want to first consider renting a storage locker.

3. If at all possible, remove the bicycle hanging from the basketball hoop. This may not affect the value of the property but will probably confuse the review staff who will have to figure out which way to hold the picture.

4. If you’ve converted your Home Depot garden shed to a kitchen/bedroom/bathroom, you probably won’t get credit for the additional square footage.

Now, I think I’ll go put these tips in PowerPoint.

Corporate Mentoring Series: Conference Call DO’s and DON’Ts

When leading a conference call, it’s important to keep your goals in mind. If you work in Corporate America, then you know that you have two goals and two goals only: to confuse every participant, and to maximize the number of minutes you steal from everyone’s day. To ensure you stay aligned with these goals, here is a handy list of  DOs and DON’Ts that you can refer to during your next conference call.

1. DON’T tell people what the call is about or give them any background information. After all, it’s your job to keep folks on their toes.

2. DO give out an incorrect dial-in number. After 5 minutes of making everyone question their sanity, send around the correct number. To maximize effectiveness of this tactic, start the presentation on time, so that when people finally do dial in, they’ve missed several key points.

3. DON’T tell people which slide you’re on. This makes for good suspense. When someone finally speaks up and asks, make sure to tell them the wrong slide.

4. If you get the sense that the group is following along too well, DO throw in the term  “overcollateralization” a few times to ensure no one has any idea what you are really talking about.

5. DO concede, when challenged by one or more members of your audience, that your slides aren’t as precise as you led people to believe. When you think about it, you do have to agree that the phrase “formal proposal” doesn’t really mean “idea I had while on the toilet this morning.”

6. DO use the word “paradigm.” Since no one has used that word in over 5 years, you’ll reveal yourself as the douchebag you really are.

7. DON’T admit that you too are overcollateralized and have no idea what you are really talking about.

 

 

 

 

Jump Into That New Job With Confidence

Dilbert New Job

Starting a new position can be somewhat nerve-racking. Not having changed jobs in over 7 years, I was somewhat anxious when I started with my new employer recently. Of course I was also really excited, having left my prior employer for an intriguing opportunity (translation: “more money”).

But, even with dreamy thoughts of the new gas-saving, carpool lane-eligible Chevy Volt I was hoping to purchase with my increased salary, as my first day approached, butterflies filled my stomach. Would I be able to win over my colleagues with my brilliance and wit? Would my office have a couch in it? Would I be able to map the new printers to my computer when the IT guy fails to show up after 3 days of nagging? Would the coffee machines be even less hygienic than the grimy coffee pots I was used to?

Well, rest assured, two months down this new road, I am here to tell you that if you too are contemplating making a leap to new employment, there truly is nothing to fear. In fact, you should be confident. You will soon find that, money aside, there really are some great upsides to the new gig and when it comes down to it, the usual stuff you’re used to at the workplace isn’t much different. Here are some concrete examples, to put you at ease:

New Upside: The travel expense and timekeeping systems are easier to use.

Usual Stuff: In theory this is true. In reality, you have no idea, since it takes weeks to actually get access. To avoid wanting to throttle someone in IT at your new company and winding up explaining your violent actions to Human Resources, don’t go on any business trips or get sick for at least a month.

New Upside: The Human Resources Department has a direct support line staffed with helpful, internal employees. 

Usual Stuff: When you finally get access to the timekeeping system, you realize after running a few calculations that your vacation isn’t accruing correctly. The external, non- Human Resources staff who are responsible for fixing the issue, argue with you that the “computer isn’t wrong.”

New Upside: You work with a really friendly group of people who take time out of their day to teach you the ropes.

Usual Stuff: You still have no idea what the statisticians are saying. (Tip: just complain loudly about “data quality” and shout “chi-square” (pronounced: kīskwer) every few minutes, and you’ll make it through the discussion.)

New Upside: You hear about an exciting new project at the company.

Usual Stuff: You find out the project is staffed with consultants who get paid obscene amounts of money to put together colorful presentations with “swim lanes” (complete with “swim sprints”) and made-up words like “ideation.” When you look more closely, you find they were too busy doing important consultant stuff to worry about spell check or slightly racist undertones in their “user profile” slides.

New Upside: You get a huge new office with a couch. Wow, you’re really moving up in the world.

Usual Stuff: Facilities can’t seem to fix the overhead light which makes a constant loud buzzing noise. It looks like there will be no napping on that couch after all. Besides, it’s easier to work from home than sit in traffic for an hour.

New Upside: Working from home means you get to see your kids more often.

Usual Stuff: Your kids find every opportunity to interrupt you. You consider padlocking your office door and investing in a noise cancellation headset.

New Upside: Once you have access to the travel expense system, you travel across the country on exciting business trips.

Usual Stuff: Your last flight home is delayed by two hours, because no one can figure out how to fix the plane’s coffee maker.

 

As you can see, there really is no reason not to take on that new opportunity that recently presented itself. In addition to the many favorable things that await you, you won’t be pushed too far outside your comfort zone, because you will still get to deal with the same crap you’re used to. And if you have an extra bit of luck like me, the germy coffee pots will have been replaced by a Keurig.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11 Signs Your Co-Workers Have Lost Their Minds

coworker crazy

If you work in Corporate America, you have certainly asked yourself “Is it me?” It’s often hard not to wonder if you’re the crazy one or if everyone else is crazy. In all honesty, it seems unlikely that 95% of the people you encounter in the workplace are completely nuts. Therefore, you begin to ask yourself the next question in this journey of self-analysis, which is “Am I being punked?” This is often followed by a quick sweep of your office for hidden cameras and bugs.

While these situations tend to occur in meetings or when reading e-mails, you may find that you are either questioning your sanity or looking around for Ashton Kutcher during any activity at any point between 8am and 5pm. Rest assured that you are neither insane nor the subject of an office prank. Instead, your co-workers have lost their minds. In case you are still not convinced, here are some signs that they, not you, are the ones who are cray cray (as the kids say):

1)  Your colleagues in another time zone force you to attend a meeting at 5 am.  Then, at 4:45 am you receive a notice of cancellation, after you have forced 2 cups of coffee down your throat to ensure you can communicate intelligibly.

2) Your company does not believe it is necessary to spend resources training employees to do their jobs and tries to convince everyone that osmosis can also be telepathic.

3) Department meetings turn into an episode of Ellen, with surprise guests, comedy routines and sometimes dancing.

4) Senior management is confused by what you thought was a simple concept. (If this has happened to you, do NOT let your statistical team anywhere near management or you will end up forfeiting your next 3 free weekends in an attempt to bring your boss’s bosses up to speed on how all of this stuff works.)

5) You are given top secret assignments, but in order to complete the assignments you need the help of the people you are supposed to be spying on.

6) You regularly find a half-eaten donut (with bite marks) in the box on Donut Friday.

7) There’s a “lunch thief” who steals people’s turkey sandwiches.

8) Your company spends thousands of dollars paying consultants to do a project and no one reads the results. When you take a look at their work papers, you realize even the consultants didn’t read the results.

9) The audit team is auditing processes that were discontinued 5 years ago.

10)  They’ve never found an error.

11)   Their breath smells like turkey.

Corporate Mentoring Series: Job Qualifications

job description

You may have noticed that in the corporate world, the required qualifications stated on a job description are not actually the qualifications required for the job. In fact, in many cases, actual capabilities of any kind at all are not even necessary. As long as your resume makes you look like you know what you’re doing and you aren’t drooling during the job interview, your career is secured. To illustrate my point, here are a few actual examples of blockheads that populate the business world.

Consultant: Dictionary.com defines the word consultant as a “person who gives professional or expert advice.” This definition is complete nonsense and proof that this free internet dictionary is of substandard quality (you get what you pay for).

With the exception of my two consultant friends and any of the readers of this blog who happen to be consultants, I have found that consultants are neither professional nor able to give expert advice. They are, however, skilled in assembling pretty spreadsheets and making meaningless recommendations while giving the appearance of being knowledgeable. Don’t be deceived into believing they know anything, just because they use sophisticated terms like “recalibration” and prepare important-sounding documents like “heat maps.”

Before paying their astronomical bill, take a close look at the information actually contained in the spreadsheets they produced for you. I once found this unintelligible (not to mention grammatically challenged) statement in an analysis for which my company paid an obscene amount of money:

The workflow process for the critical staff are in place to provide guidelines on the information collection process.

If anyone reading this is a consultant and knows what this sentence means, please leave the translation in the Comments.

Marketing Specialist: While you might think that one should have an English degree or at the very least have a decent command of Standard English to create marketing materials, this is not the case.

Marketing is a creative pursuit and, consequently, marketing employees take the liberty to apply their artistic tendencies to the English language. In the corporate world, this entails creative use of past and present tenses, colorful spelling and punctuation, and unique phraseology.

For example, I reviewed a draft Happy Holidays card to be sent out in early December to our company’s clients. The card expressed the company’s hope that the card recipient had had a happy holiday season. (Who cares about this year’s holidays? Given the use of the past tense, it’s apparently last year’s holiday season that’s important.) The card then went on to spread the word that “In the spirit of the new starts, we have made donations to a number of local organizations…” The new starts? Even my first grader knows that while Santa is alive and well, there is no such thing as “the new starts.”

Facilities Supervisor: This person is responsible for organizing moves to new buildings but, surprisingly, organizational skills are not truly sought after when hiring this person. Nor is the ability to communicate key pieces of information to affected employees…such as the ones who are being relocated.

When we moved to another office building across town a few years ago, the employees were given the new street address. However, the actual location of our suite somewhere within the 11 story office building was left off the communication. Not a big deal, since there was certainly a company directory in the lobby. There was indeed a company directory, and it contained the name of every company in the building….except ours.

It took about 2 hours to figure out which door was ours and another 2 years before our company was added to the directory (making mail delivery entertaining). In an attempt to help new hires and others find us while we were (literally) off the grid, employees would put hand-written signs on the door. Unfortunately, these signs were promptly removed by the building management company who required professional logos on plaques as opposed to company names written with Sharpies on large post-its.

Before our next corporate move, I will suggest the company hire a consultant to recalibrate our relocation process using a heat map.