How can a person with a moral sense and intelligence higher than a turnip’s, or pride anywhere in the positive range, even engage with a meme that being of service is somehow degrading? This is the completely toxic hidalgo mentality that sabotages the societies of extractive wealth, and Latin America generally – that it is somehow admirable, and an object of aspiration to live without creating value (by having others create it for you). I’m in a fairly high-status line of work, and I seem to do nothing but go around being of service to people, helping students and colleagues get smarter and more useful: I roll up my sleeves and mop up ignorance and puddles of sloppy thinking, and I’m really grateful to the people nice enough to notice mine and deal with it. Doctors, lawyers…they’re all servants if they’re good for anything, who spend a lot of time engaged with really yucky stuff cleaning and sanitizing. Indian chiefs too: no modern manager thinks her subordinates are there to serve her; she’s there to be sure they have what they need to create value for others, and so on and on. The really despicable character is the trust-fund parasite and the pointy-haired boss in Dilbert.
[UPDATE: The new boss at Home Depot gets it: they’ve started posting the organizational chart with the customers and line workers at the top and the execs at the bottom again.]
And third: as regards the GM ad, how can grownups high up in a big important company put out a commercial that so completely reverses the fundamental principles of exactly the quality assurance systems they’re trying to boast about??!! The whole idea of modern quality theory is that you can’t fire your way to it, nor scare people into it (Deming’s first principle is “drive out fear”), and that it isn’t attributable to individuals. When a worker ‘makes a mistake’, exactly what you don’t do is fire or shame him: you have a little meeting to discuss what parts of the whole system could be improved to make it less likely to happen the next time! As soon as quality becomes an excuse to unload group responsibility onto a scapegoat, the system starts to fall apart and so do the products.
[I’ve vented here about the failure of the current administration to fire anyone for anything, and I’m not being inconsistent. Mismanaging a whole program, from a position where one has been entrusted with a lot of authority so as to provide more, better service, has nothing to do with making one slip. An executive’s failures are much less often due to a deficiency in the system that surrounds him than those of a guy putting the right front fender on.]