Nonsense At Work

photo: Herman Nel (fellow hiker) 1987

Nonsense At Work: Find success by making the nonsense at work work for you

Status: Draft. | Progress: About 60% done. | Availability: Who knows? (The Chief Nonsense Officer makes no promises. Promises lead to nonsense.)

This book is about making the nonsense at work work for you.

What is nonsense? The term ‘nonsense’ describes absurd, ridiculous, foolish or meaningless words, ideas, or conduct. Nonsense is purely subjective: you are likely to see ‘nonsense’ when you disapprove of it. (For example, you might disapprove of the word ‘bull’, although others commonly use it to indicate nonsense.)

The problem with nonsense is that it side-tracks you from your work, tricks you into wrong decisions, and trips you up short of your goals. Nonsense stops you from being successful.

The bad news is that nonsense is always at work. It never stops. The good news is that there is always some sense in nonsense, if you look for it. And if you are willing to look for it, time and again you will find that you can make the nonsense at work – work for you.

Don’t expect this book to help you to spot nonsense. That is simply not possible because what makes sense to me might be complete nonsense to you. Instead, the aim of this book is to help you to understand that ‘nonsense’ is not really nonsense. Nonsense has a purpose. In general terms, nonsense works at getting you to change your ways.

And in general terms, my purpose with this book is to help you to see the sense in nonsense so that the nonsense at work… yes, you get it.


Why does nonsense happen at work?

You might blame it on politics, power, ego, red tape, and so on.  You will be wrong.  Nonsense happens at work because business is simple and because business is boring.

These two reasons actually trigger other nonsense behaviors at work.

There once was a CEO of a well-known manufacturer of ovens, so well-known that it would be a shame to mention the company by name.  One day the CEO sat listening to the discussion about quality problems with their latest model.  Sales people reported about unhappy customers; quality control people defended the production team by quoting statistics.  Finally, the CEO lost patience and asked, “Are you saying that we are selling ovens that don’t work?  Well, get the hell out of here and fix them!”

Indeed, business is that simple.

Attention to detail to spot the expected Herman Nel (fellow hiker) 1987
Attention to detail to spot the expected
photo: Herman Nel (fellow hiker) 1987

I am cynical enough to suspect that the over supply of business schools, the worship of the latest management fad and the rapid adoption of business buzz words all merely serve to give management an aura of complexity.  I think this stems from a subconscious yearning for business to appear complex enough to warrant CEOs earning more than scientists, healthcare professionals, teachers….. in fact, more than anyone else.

Because business is simple, as in straight-forward, business is boring.  And when the going gets boring, the bored crave the unexpected.  Dealing with the unexpected is said to be the most difficult aspect of business life.  My experience has taught me the opposite.  The most difficult thing to manage is the expected.  Let’s face it, business is boring.  It’s the same nonsense over and over, day after day.

It’s like driving the same car on the same road to the same destination at the same time every day.  You must do it.  And if you take your eye off what you’re doing, bad things can happen.

The most successful managers I have worked with were the ones who had the discipline to focus on the same detail, over and over, day after day.

By the way, paying attention to the unexpected is one reason why sales people give more attention to new customers than to their existing ones.  Doing so is not only bad for business, it is also bad manners.