Four buses; many worlds

I had to take four buses to get from my home in Ville St Laurent to McGill University. 25 cents for the whole trip. Payment was made in cash into a simple receptacle, where the driver could see the quarter that you dropped in. The driver would take a look, flip a button, and the quarter would be swallowed up below the receptacle.

The 90 minute voyage started with a short walk to the rue St Louis stop, where I waited for the 116. The bus came once every 20 minutes; there were never many passengers. The driver, in a uniform of the Montreal Transportation Corporation, generally said “bonjour; I always said bonjour. “Two solitudes” meet.

Next to the driver was a sign en francais and English: “Safe Driving Requires Full Attention. Please do not talk to me”. Some drivers & passengers talked; most did not.

The 116 passed Alexis Nihon and weaved its way past Parc Houde (where Fat Guy* cleaned the ice)  and Aubin, until Decarie Boulevard, opposite the Post Office, where I got off and crossed over to wait for the 17, with my crumpled paper transfer in my glove.

Make no mistake, it was often cold. The stop for the 17 (also known as Cartierville) was opposite a Woolworth’s and on the bitterest of days (20 below), I would step inside Woolworth’s, along with other passengers. The ladies of Woolworth’s (in those days, it was ok to say that) had absolutely no problem with that; the adversity of the bitter cold was a common enemy.

For many years, the 17 Cartierville was a street car. The first step up onto the 17 was steep, even for me albeit I have always been very tall. It was especially hard for Lillian, who had had a back operation and was in a cast. We never discussed that, or the fact that she had no mother. Trudy also never had a mother, but she never took the 17. Maxine and Fay also had lost their mother. They were never on line 17 either. Showing my transfer to the driver, I never looked for a seat as it was always standing room only until Garland Terminal; the 17 was packed. French and English speakers; students and lower middle class heading downtown. At Garland, the driver cried out: “terminus, tout le monde descend s’il vous plait”.

Then there was a hot chocolate inside Garland Terminal, and off to the 65. The 65 started at Garland, so I always got a seat. However, it quickly filled up and more often than not; I gave up my seat to a senior citizen, who was probably much younger than I am today. But those were different days.

The 65, also called Cote des Neiges, passed thru Snowdon, turning left on Queen Mary Road and headed downtown. It passed my late grandmother Sadie’s apartment building on Victoria; she has died a few years earlier and my heart was still broken. I often looked her apartment building as the 65 roared by, uphill passing by L’Oratoire St-Joseph/St Joseph Church. Then we passed Pinkerton’s Flower Shop, the graveyard on Mount Royal, and plunged down Cote des Neiges to rue Sherbrooke. There I waited for the 4, also called Sherbrooke, right outside the Medical Arts building where my grandfather Harry had had a gym where he trained boxers, including my Uncle Al.

Sherbrooke at Cote des Neiges was real Montreal: classy, clean, and the wind plus cold smacked me into my then pimpled face. I had real bad acne until I started taking tetracycline during year 2 at McGill. Oh yes, on Sherbrooke was the Academic Bookshop, which had every book under the sun, all in one huge pile, sky high. And the owner, who smoked, did not speak one word of English: just French with a Parisien accent.

It was a short drive to McGill on the 4 and in the summer I walked; as a matter of fact when I wore my Air Canada mechanics coat which Phil (my Dad) got for me from his partner Hank, I also walked to McGill along rue Sherbrooke  in the winter. What a coat!  When I took line 4, it dropped me off at McGill at the Ritz Carlton Stop.

I then threw away my transfer.

4 buses to cross thru three worlds: Ville St Laurent; Montreal; academia.

When I finished McGill at age 19, I took a much longer trip from which I was never to return. 

  • pronounced gee
Share Button

Myths of Centralization and Decentralization

Both centralization and decentralization processes have their myths and misunderstandings.

In this short post, I shall share my experience in facilitating hundreds of such transitions.

  • It is not either or. When you centralize certain components, others must be decentralized. And the opposite. Example: When you decentralize reimbursement policy, it is wise to centalize control. When you centalize travel policy, you need to decentralize discretion-based exceptions.
  • Prolonged centralization does not lead to more control. Eventually, it can lead to lack of control. People will learn the weakness of the centralized system, and eventually beat it. 
  • Decentralization and centralization are not ideologies. They are the pendulum of a clock that over time go back and forth, to compensate for the weakness that each state creates.
  • Centralization and decentralization can co-exist for the same function. You can decentralize Purchasing in some geographies and centralize in others, depending on the amount of corruption.
  • You cannot decentralize something that does not exist and hope that things get better. It is best to decentralize things that work well, and hope that they get better.






Share Button

Micro-aggressions of managers

I will give 5 examples of behaviours which managers exhibit that constitute micro aggressions towards their teams and/or organizations. I define micro-aggression in an organizational context as indirect, subtle and manipulative discrimination against members of a less powerful (groups of) employees.

I will discuss in brief examples of interventions in such situations.

1) Give an identical task to more than once person, each person being unaware of the other’s involvement.

2) Oversimplify the difficultly of tasks and then question why progress is so slow.

3) Set a certain goal to please a client which is totally undoable, and then apply immense pressure to get it done, finally putting the blame on one of the subordinates whose political skills are nil.

4) Evade problems by just another reorganization, postponing the real problems until the reorg stabilizes.

5) Obfuscating of issues with flowery words such as “complex issue” or “challenging few months”, when complex means that the product does not work and challenging means poor cash flow so no bonuses.

Skilled consultants should have several arrows in their quiver in such situations. These arrows include making the subtext explicit, constant questioning, paradoxical intervention and pointing out the secondary benefit to the manager of using such manipulations.

Example: CEO Jim initiated reorganization because of siloism which Jim himself promotes. I asked Jim if he thinks the reorg will include brain transplants to teach his teams how to coordinate among themselves just to spite him.

Example: CEO Howard asked 3 different engineers to re-write the product life cycle. I questioned the CEO why he didn’t just pay $50000 to a consultant, and dictate the process that he wants. 

Example: CEO John appoints Gregory as his CFO. John himself was the CFO and was promoted to CEO; Gregory was his deputy CFO. John constantly tells Gregory that Sales Recognition is very inaccurate and “I had no problem with that when I was CFO”. John fails to point out that Sales were sky high in his time as CFO, but not so as present. I questioned John why he had not maintained the Sales Recognition portfolio for himself, as “you managed to make the best of bad situation so skillfully.”

Example: CEO Yuri told Support Manager Hana that the next few months would be a challenge. (The challenge is that the new product is dead on arrival). I told Yuri that the challenge could be easily rectified if the clients were replaced. And yes, he was very angry.

But then again, if you don’t like the heat in consulting, get out of the kitchen.






Share Button