Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Farmyard Fun

So apparently the new business buzzword we get to cringe over for the next year or so is "bucket." Not, unfortunately, as in Hyacinth Bucket ("It's bouquet, dear"), which would be marvelous. No, according to the Wall Street Journal, bucket is the new silo.

The WSJ's Christopher Rhoads first gives several stomach-churning examples of bucket usage (and the Editrix does not mean for pig slop). Here are two:

"During a recent public-television interview, Dow Chemical Co. Chief Executive Andrew Liveris explained that producing ethanol 'doesn't help the conservation efficiency bucket -- it helps the diversity of supply bucket.' Cingular Wireless boasted that its new rate plan in South Florida lets customers 'dig into their big bucket of night and weekend minutes" earlier than before.' "

Then, Rhoads proclaims that:
"Suddenly, the humble bucket has become a trendy fixture of corporate boardrooms and PowerPoint presentations. It is pushing aside other business-speak for describing categories or organizational units, such as silo and basket."
(You can get the whole story here, if you have an online WSJ sub.)

What IS this obsession corporate America has with farmyards? Silos, buckets, baskets, all hallmarks of an agrarian lifestyle lived by absolutely none of the CEOs and upper management types. Maybe some of them grew up on farms (or in the West, ranches), but they sure don't live there today.

The Editrix has have not lived on a farm, either (though her father grew up on one in western Kentucky). She did, though, spend about seven years of her twenties riding horses. She mucked a lot of stalls and fed and groomed a lot of horses to do it, once she left her big law firm gig. She also cleaned a ton of buckets in the summer, when the warm weather and feed-filled horse spit threatened to create science experiments in the horses' water buckets. It was wonderful, backbreaking, honest and maddening all at the same time.

Somehow, the Editrix does not think that those who toss around the term bucket to describe parts of their organization have spent much time with the lowly bucket. Aside from the lack of farm familiarity, she doubts they have lately even used a bucket for domestic purposes. More's the pity. Something more than a nodding acquaintance with hard physical labor might give executives a little more humanity, so that instead of obsessing over their stock portfolios and their gargantuan bonuses, they could, yanno, consider paying their rank and file employees better wages and health care.

Maybe the obsession with farms has to do with the animals, instead. Or, Rhoads offers, another masculine obsession: size. One commodities trader said that he "has heard bucket transformed into an adjective too. When a trader wants to sell a large block of stock, he looks for a buyer interested in 'something bucket-y,' says the trader. 'It means something chunky, with some girth to it.' "

The Editrix thinks that it is their vocabularies that need more girth.