Tuesday, December 19, 2006


I guess I was wrong about about Warren Buffet

Reading Steve Duin's Tuesday column made me reconsider my opinion of Warren Buffet and his famously profitable MidAmerican subsidiary. Because The Oregonian website tends to remove material more than 90 days old, I'll quote some of the key passages from Duin's column:

A little paranoia is understandable. MidAmerican wasted no time unleashing the famous "Starbucks memo" -- brusquely informing employees to forgo the leisurely morning latte runs -- and there's been a significant purge of corporate staff under the new ownership. Some in the first cut were PacifiCorp's best volunteers.

What I've been told is that middle managers are making it clear there's so much work to be done that employees can't afford to leave their desks, even if it's to serve lunch to a diabetic senior on that infamous "LC" route. What I'm hearing is that MidAmerican celebrates volunteer activities . . . as long as they're done on personal time.

Most people work to live: they intend to work their 40, sometimes as many as 50, hours then go home where their lives are. This is not to say that all of these workers have no interest in doing the best work that they can for their employer: an intelligent and reasonably paid worker will do this, out of personal pride and knowledge that the company has to survive for them to have a job tomorrow. It's just that some of us have other important things to do that benefit society, like contribute to Wikipedia.

An employer needs to remember that people want lives, and that people need incentives to consider their workplace part of their lives, and not only a means to support it. That what they are doing is part of a career, not simply a job anyone can do. Telling employees that "there's so much work to be done that employees can't afford to leave their desks, even if it's to serve lunch to a diabetic senior", MidAmerican is telling its people that their lives start after quitting time -- they are serfs, not professionals.

I'm a little surprised that someone who thinks this message works is also smart enough to be a billionare -- but then I'm not rich, so maybe I'm the one who's not smart.


i wouldn't feel to bad. the causal link between wealth and intelligence is, at the very best, tenuous.
I think that's something Buffet himself once pointed out, when he argued against making the "Paris Hilton tax cut" permanent. Whether my memory is correct about that or not, too many unintelligent people believe both that if a person is smart then that person should be rich, and the converse that rich people are smart.
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