Saturday, May 05, 2012

Hitting the ground running

By Bikram Vohra – Khaleej Times - Friday, May 04, 2012

Many years ago when I was a young and callow journalist intent on saving the world, I was asked at a party what my USP was.

I had no idea what it meant and I swam in scorn for the rest of the evening. Ever since then I have been scared stiff of buzzwords and the more they get flung at me the more I cringe with shame. Say things like ‘paradigm shift’ and ‘seamless integration’ and you can knock me out of the conversation like a pawn on a chessboard. I have no idea what they are yammering about… just not proactive, people. But I think I can multi-task!

The other day I met this whizz-kid and he was holding fort about core competency and I wanted to ask what it meant as opposed to a competency that was on the nutshell or covering, but it was that smarty-pants crowd who sneer all the time so I just stayed quiet.

I cannot use words or phrases like result-oriented (why wouldn’t you be, who do you know who says, well, one thing I am not is result-oriented but give me a promotion anyhow?), thinking outside the box (what’s inside it?), at the end of the day (what about when the boss blows his mind tomorrow morning, so whose day are we talking about, the big honcho or the worker bees?), in the final analysis (was there a semi-final?), win-win situation (unlike a loooo-ser person), best practices (who settles for second-best practices?), low hanging fruit (kill me, someone), value-added proposition (as compared to value-subtracted?), push the envelope (off the table?), not to mention the shiny new one called maximising leverage. What does it mean?

A friend of mine would always talk about his favourite staff as people who hit the ground running. I always had a vision of someone leaping off a moving bus dangerously and risking his life. Where did this phrase come from? Why would I want to hit the ground running, jumping, skidding or any other way? Yet, if someone says this at a conference everyone else looks impressed and the ground-hitter’s chances of getting the pay hike rise.

I went to a meeting the other day and somebody in a black suit and pinstriped tie said, so and so brings a lot of value to the table. I said, what table, I don’t see any value on it, only some biscuits and a cup of tea. Everyone looked me at with sadness, pity for the uninitiated. See, that is the problem, I am fatuous, and being fatuous when buzzwords are raining on you is one way of losing your credibility. People think you are not with it, not on the ball, not the best of the breed, not on the cusp, off the cutting edge, time to farm this guy out, he doesn’t even know how to take it to the next level, let him go before he drops the ball.

It is really great how those who tramp the corridors of power love to use sports analogies. It makes them feel they are athletic in their old age when all they do is sit in front of the TV and haven’t done anything physical for years. Then they hit you with the stuff. Now, that’s a curve ball. He plays with a straight bat. Boss wants to kick off the meeting at 3.30pm. Good man, well done, put yourself in the winner’s circle.

What do you think I am, a horse?

Straight shooter, that’s me, not to forget being a team player and passing the ball. Look, how many free throws do you want, you have already fouled three times? Get your work done fast so you won’t have to make a three pointer at the buzzer… Say what?

We were interviewing once and this board member said, the fellow looks more like a sprinter, you know great for the short haul, we need a marathon man, like for the long haul.

Sure, but what if he hits the ground running?

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