A kind of debate has been crisscrossing in my mind of late and wants out. Oops – here it comes.

Been thinking about all the recriminations of executives much in the news. Executives of companies large and small, of baseness large and small, of bureaucracies large and small, of all sorts of organizations – commercial, political, social and public. Often, executives insist they were unaware of whatever was happening down in the messy underworld of their organization. They never saw the internal memo or e-mail. No one ever told them about trouble anywhere. The lawyers said not to worry.

Just how do, how should, top executives find out what is actually going on in their outfits once these executives no longer are out on the floor? No longer directly involved, no longer hands-on but instead isolated. Isolated every day, only a single other person, one secretary. Back before meetings, conferences, retreats and travel took up all the exec’s time.

What can the executive do to keep up with what is going on in his corporation? It is a given that the executive urgently wants to know. Surely. How, then, can he find out? I propose that the best, if not the only, way to learn what’s going on in (and to) his corporation is to listen to whistle-blowers.

Listen to the complainers, you top guns. They’re your employees (or volunteers, if a social group) who care. They’re not the 8-to-5’ers, not the bored-to-indifference types, not the ones covering up their mistakes or ineffectiveness. They can be ones who see a better way, warn of looming problems, suggest improvements. Consult the whistle-blowers.

But, then, the counterargument. If the executive listens only to the whistle-blowers and compulsive complainers, he runs the identical risk he does listening only to backslappers. Yeah, but that’s an executive’s job. To figure out for himself whom to rely upon, to believe.

But, oh? That’s what some executives are not up to now. What would be gained, then, by consulting whistle-blowers? Is this all hopeless? No matter which course the boss takes, he doesn’t get the information he needs?

It’s why he gets the big bucks. He could cycle his advisers, vice presidents to complaints and suggestions and back. He could hear everybody out.

After an internal debate on this proposition, I get all petered out. No decision. A draw.

Say, you remember the Peter Principle, don’t you?

The Peter Principle, first described in the 1970s, states that an individual rises in an organization until he reaches a position for which he is entirely unqualified. He was great in his previous assignments, say, as a salesperson, but hopeless as chief operating officer. Reaches his level of incompetency and doesn’t know it. And stays there.

Examples abound.

We’re told every day since the Deepwater Horizon oil well explosion that the “best scientific minds and oil executives” are gathered together to come up with some solution or palliative to stop or reduce the oil geyser. I wish they’d include some oil rig workers, some whistle-blowers, some backyard mechanics, some roustabouts in those brainstorming meetings.

Field Notes: The pronghorn are returning to Jackson Hole, following their several traditional trails. Elk puppies are being born. Trees and shrubs are leafing out, grasses and forbs are growing enthusiastically. If you missed not having had a mud season a while back, here’s your second chance. And if you can wait long enough, you’ll soon have hot days to complain about. Springtime in the Rockies.

It will be interesting to try to figure out how nature will manage the fate of bird nestings locally. Birds that would get started in late winter and very early spring days seem to have done satisfactorily (eagles, nutcrackers, ravens), whereas swallows, bluebirds, even Canada geese appear to have been delayed in initiating nesting, by and large.

Meanwhile, bird-watchers are being treated to unusually robust numbers of certain migrants that ordinarily do not pause here or, if they do, in sparse numbers. Longtime locals marvel at having 10, 20, 30 Western tanagers, dozens of black-headed grosbeaks and Bullock’s orioles for up to several weeks at their feeders (Diane Hazen, Kirby Williams, Polly Vaughan, Deb Weursch, Keith Benefiel, others). Now and then, a morning will reveal a hungry mob of, perhaps, chipping sparrows, house wrens or cowbirds having arrived overnight.

Lazuli buntings still coming to feeders (Jane Sewell, Driggs, Idaho; Diane Hazen, Sue Patla). Judy Legg saw 25 white-faced ibis in a flock on May 24. Richard Rice has seen great gray owls and a long-eared; it’s a promising owl year. John Drew saw a merlin on May 30; Fall Creek Road. Susan Patla saw a great egret on Saturday on the National Elk Refuge. Kayla Michaels saw two Western kingbirds; Jackson. Common nighthawk, six-plus eastern kingbird, hundreds of swallows at a hatch of gnats; Susan Patla.

And a Western wood pewee in Grays Lake National Wildlife Refuge (Rod Drewein on Thursday). So, it’s now summer. Remember your sunscreen.

The Wyoming Wetlands Society will be relocating trumpeter swans from its holding pond on Thursday and June 17 to parts of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. The purpose is to expand the opportunities for this recovering species to reoccupy its former range. Call Drew Reed at 307-699-2329.

The Jackson Hole Bird Club will meet at 7:30 p.m. Sunday in Jackon Town Hall. Observations of all wildlife, socializing, brilliant insights, and a talk by Geneva Chong, an ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and Colorado State University, about her current projects.

© Bert Raynes 2010


Bert Raynes writes weekly on whatever suits his fancy with a dash of news on nature and its many ways.

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