Magazine article Family Therapy Networker

PERSPECTIVES; You Say Potato: And I Say Leave the Downsized Life Behind and Head for Where the Caribou Roam

Magazine article Family Therapy Networker

PERSPECTIVES; You Say Potato: And I Say Leave the Downsized Life Behind and Head for Where the Caribou Roam

Article excerpt

TOMORROW MORNING YOU GO TO WORK AT Amalgamated Potato and find an envelope on your desk with the CEO's name in the upper-left corner, and you sit down and draw a deep breath. After 22 years working your way up through the Skin Division, you are about to become road kill, one more confused raccoon smeared across the corporate highway.

Amalgamated has been downsizing like crazy for two years now. Everyone works 60 hours a week and goes home with a briefcase as big as a garment bag. You have languished at your present salary, in the mid five digits, for quite some time, and the new management team, guys in their mid-30s, who came here from pasta, and are trying to bring pasta-type glamour and growth to the humble potato so that Amalgamated can turn a humongous profit and be sold and make top management dizzyingly rich, is cutting costs by decimating the drones, and now it's your turn to walk the plank.

But you open the envelope, and it isn't your final notice. It is a memo announcing that Amalgamated Potato is about to transform itself through Total Quality Organization, a team-oriented leadership process in which power flows holistically, and you will spend three days next week at a seminar being empowered.

So you report to the seminar center, a big white concrete-origami structure with skylights and indoor trees and maple floors and modular furniture in primary colors, and you sit in a circle of potato employees with loose-leaf notebooks on their laps (Tools for Transformation), listening to a young facilitator named Terri explain how TQO works. She is friendly in a robotic way, as if she had taken one of those personal-development courses where they train you to look the other person in the eye when you speak to him and always say his name.

"Our business isn't potatoes; it's helping people live and work to their full potential," she says. "This is a team process; management does not 'make decisions'; management empowers the team-leadership process."

Oh, you think. / see.

The words holistic, leadership, process, quality and commitment crop up everywhere sentences like "The commitment to quality is a holistic value structure throughout the leadership process that is accessed dynamically through all functions of the organization from the bottom up." Sentences that, the moment you hear them, they're gone, like gas.

It dawns on you that nobody at Amalgamated will ever utter a simple declarative sentence again.

This might be a good time to quit your job and head for Alaska and open a fishing camp, you think. …

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