“The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
– Robert Burns from To a Mouse, On Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough
There is no doubt that even the best-laid plans can go askew. Including those that are well conceived by those who are well intentioned.
Someone is always being hired at the Small Office. Although I can see the benefits of adding new talent with diverse backgrounds and other points of view, my first inclination is to fill openings from within. Our calculating and, at times, contrarian CEO, the Man from Glad, prefers to go outside, caught up in the notion that recycling talent keeps the company where it is while adding talent moves it forward.
Matt is a talented kid who has the skills and the drive to be a good product manager. But he is young and has yet to prove he can successfully pilot a portfolio into fierce economic and competitive headwinds. Although his boss has lobbied for his promotion, our senior management – led by HR’s ominous overlord, the Black Widow – have their doubts. They’ll believe he could do it when he has done it and not likely before.
So we brought in a consultant to put Matt through a series of psychometric tests. These tests were designed to determine Matt’s ability to interpret numerical data, measure his critical and inductive reasoning skills, and evaluate his situational judgment.
It was a gruelling exercise conducted by a hardened and unsympathetic old timer.
“Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in they breastie!”
(Small, crafty, cowering, timid little beast,
Oh what a panic is in your little breast!”)
– Burns, To a Mouse
It was a grueling exercise conducted by a hardened and unsympathetic old timer. A very old timer. His bald head was decorated with age spots. A short, grizzled beard and sunken cheeks gave him the look of a Maine fisherman. His nose jutted out aggressively and his ears drooped. He was stooped, as if his 80 or so years were still carrying the full weight of his four marriages.
As it happened, the old gent took a liking to Matt. He informed Matt that the test results were surprisingly favorable and that he would recommend him for the job. His arthritic hands, shaking from Parkinson’s disease, clung tremulously to the test papers.
Matt went to bed that night, content and convinced that the world would be his very obliging oyster by the morning. The old timer went to bed that night and died.
He never submitted the results to his company or to ours. In fact, the results were not to be found anywhere. It was like it never happened. The Black Widow decided to hold off on the promotion. A month later, an outsider with a diverse background and another point of view got the job. And that was that.
“Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane.”
(Your small house, too, in ruin!
Its feeble walls the winds are scattering!
And nothing now, to build a new one.”)
– Burns, To a Mouse