Monday, 12 October 2009

Strategic Black Swans of Family Values

Overheard in the caravan:

It’s Sunday and Hay and The Chairman are about to go out for a walk. Cat is in the caravan, having wandered into it earlier.

Hay: “I’m just going to tell Caravan that Cat is in the caravan.”
Chairman: “Why?”
Hay: “In case Cat wants to be let out while we’re out.”
Chairman: “And precisely how is Cat going to let Caravan know that she wants to get out? Mobile phone?”

I was looking at my Linked-In contacts yesterday and noticed one of them had labelled herself as a strategic thinker. I roared with laughter on seeing that her job function was that of an HR Manager. Anyone who has dealings with Human Remains knows that the words ‘HR’ and ‘strategic thinker’ simply cannot appear in the same sentence. HR departments are renowned for being as strategically inclined as Amy Winehouse. HR, by its very nature, is purely reactive in terms of hiring people as and when other departments tell them they need some bodies – not predicting what roles will need to be filled and pipelining them. Unfortunately HR is a necessary evil resulting from bureaucratic intervention in the business process by government busybodies and the EU.

I tried to find some info in strategic HR and came up with this. It’s several pages of management-speak that be coalesced into four words; ‘total and utter bollocks’. See if you can glean anything worthwhile from the mishmash of verbiage.

I’ve been reading The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. A very interesting read about the effects of hard-to-predict events, such as, for example, 9/11. Did you know that there were at least another 1,200 American victims of Osama Bin-Laden’s 9/11 atrocity who have been forgotten and will never have a public memorial? As a consequence of 9/11, thousands of people the world over refused to travel by air, irrationally fearing it was now unsafe. Instead they took to the roads, where the risk of death is many orders of magnitude higher than from flying. It’s been estimated that about an extra 1,200 people were added to the road death toll as a direct consequence of 9/11 – and that’s in America alone.

We have the Caravans and Hay’s sister over for dinner on Saturday evening. Poor old Caravan sounded as if he was on a 15 second obscenity delay as he kept offering contributions to the previous conversation to the one in process.

Hay’s sister was telling us the benefits of being a therapist to mental health patients with insomnia and paranoia – the insomniacs are up all night cooking you cakes and the paranoiacs bring you their own food, being under the delusion that they are trying to poison themselves and thus refusing to eat it themselves.

We were discussing The Boy Cameroon’s plans to campaign for the Prime Ministership on the platform of British family values. We decided that this must surely mean kids moving away from their oppressive families after leaving university and setting up shop and the other end of the country, returning home only to place their parents in care homes for the elderly and selling off the house.

We also discussed the invention or discovery that has contributed most to humanity, settling on the wheel. Unfortunately the chap who invented it never got the recognition he deserved, but given President Obama has received the Nobel Peace Prize for doing bugger all, the inventor should certainly get a posthumous Nobel Prize for Physics.

A man whose contribution to a rape investigation resulted in the rapist being caught has donated his £10,000 reward to the victim. What a marvellous gesture.


  1. Insomniacs and Paranoics: perhaps Hay's sister could get a Nobel Peace Prize for identifying a possible end to world poverty. All it needs is a little coordination, surely?
    As for the guy donating his reward - what a marvellous gesture indeed. The world feels like a better place already.

  2. I agree with you on the waiter donating his reward. Good on yer, son! I also agree with you on Obama. They could at least have waited until he's achieved something - perhaps withdrawn his troops from Iran and Afghanistan? Negotiated a settlement in Israel? ...the opportunities are endless.

  3. Bill, next time, come for a meal round my gaff. we will talk of much lighter things and will tell jokes. And we can discuss my occupation of being a layabout.


  4. Kabbalah: It was a rare gesture. Not sure I'd do it.

    Louise: The whole Nobel thing is a travesty.

    Jenny: Oh, we do tell jokes, but they tend to be more in the realm of word-play.

  5. The 15 second obscenity delay made me laugh. Also, I didn't realize that gifts of food was a perk of working in mental health. Good to know.

  6. nice tidbits! I totally agree on the HR thing being a load of b**!!
    On the other hand, the Black swan calculations are also a load of b***!! Isn't that stretching it too fine?!
    I like the strategy of today's youth even though it could mean that I'm up next!!

  7. Thank goodness HR exists - gives every company a department that everyone can blame! One of the major drawbacks is that "strategic HR management" means that the company would have to know what it's going to be doing over the next few years and, since there are very few private companies that know what they will be doing next week, let alone in a few years' time, there's no point in being strategic - most HR departments are running to keep up with the logistics (both physical and legal) of hiring and firing with little or no notice or chasing up managers who think that HR staff are only there to put a spanner in the works and why can't they have ten Mexican workers, on Mexican pay and with tourist visas, doing the work of twenty French engineers ? If this sounds exaggerated to you, please do my job for a week.

    Love the image of insomniacs and paranoiacs keeping Hay's sister's larder filled with goodies.

    And just to show my higgerance, what's an obscenity delay ?

  8. Bee: You get well fed being a therapist.

    Roshni: It's totally valid. The road accident stats definitely went up following 9/11. The law of unintended consequences.

    Kapgaf: Some companies do know what they are going to do over the next few years, but a strategic contribution to the plan by HR is taking it a bit far, unless of course it means adhering to EU regulations due to the number of employees going above a certain critical number, meaning you have to obey a whole new raft of regulations.

    An obscenity delay is the delay broadcasters put into a transmission so they can bleep out obscenities.