“I am the very model of a modern Major General . . . “

Here is “The PowerPoint rant that got a colonel fired”, which says, in part, that what Gilbert and Sullivan parodied in 1879 holds true today.
It is quite good, and Col. Lawrence Sellin ought to have a great career in writing and/or comedy. What he says of the Army is true of most organizations: endless meetings with no clear purpose other than to give jobs to managers and “consultants.”
It makes me think of so many quotations, like Krusty the Clown’s “aren’t ‘paradigm’ and ‘proactive’ just words that stupid people use to make themselves sound smart?” As Sellin puts it:

For headquarters staff, war consists largely of the endless tinkering with PowerPoint slides to conform with the idiosyncrasies of cognitively challenged generals in order to spoon-feed them information. Even one tiny flaw in a slide can halt a general’s thought processes as abruptly as a computer system’s blue screen of death.

The ability to brief well is, therefore, a critical skill. It is important to note that skill in briefing resides in how you say it. It doesn’t matter so much what you say or even if you are speaking Klingon.

I was once waiting in line at a fast food place and saw some management poster on the wall, to remember the five principles outlined in the acronym (I forget what it was, so we’ll just call it ACRON). The poster then had an acrostic of the acronym: each letter was the beginning of another acronym! So it really wasn’t “five simple principles”: it was more like 25, and they made about as much sense as Barney Fife’s “There are only two rules. Rule Number One: Obey all rules. Rule Number Two: see Rule Number One.” However, that at least made more sense than most of the “motivational” posters and PowerPoints I’ve seen. Usually, they’re too nonsensical to even remember.
PowerPoint is a powerful tool but is too often abused. To truly convey information, it must be detailed in a manner that makes it difficult to read or to add special effects to. Usually, when I’ve attended meetings that had what I found to be an effective PowerPoint, the information was also provided in hand-outs, and the PowerPoint was a guide, not the center of attention. When speakers focus on making fancy PowerPoints, they create the kind of unintelligible flow charts and acronyms I’ve already referred to. It’s like, “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate, and hate leads to the Dark Side.” “But, Master Yoda, in your first appearance, one of your most famous lines was when Luke said, ‘I’m not afraid,’ and you said, ‘You will be.'”
A typical PowerPoint is something like: Charity -> Stewardship -> Compassion -> Love -> Sacrifice -> Charity.
Or, better yet, the “Greatest Presentation I have ever heard” scene from 30 Rock

(With apologies to all who, like me, are literally dumb or partially so),

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2 responses to ““I am the very model of a modern Major General . . . “

  1. But of course that was NOT Yoda’s first appearance chronologically. The Yoda who knew fear, was a Yoda who had seen all his friends killed by the Dark Side. It makes sense if you think in four dimensions

    • Hi, Ted,
      Thanks for the Asperger-y comment (it was very gratifying in that I was just defriended on Facebook by a frequent commenter here merely for acknowledging that autism exists). 🙂
      In any case, while an excellent explanation of the apparent inconsistency, it still validates my point that “sound bites” like that which are usually the basis of PowerPoint-type presentations are nonsense. 🙂

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