ManagementSpeak: You’ve got a bright future at this organization.

Translation: Assuming, of course, that by “great future” you mean every day will be exactly like today.

This week’s contributor has a great future as a translator.

Everything is easy if someone else has to do it.

A story about Jack Benny:

He saw a chimpanzee act and decided he wanted it on his show. Excited, he described the act to his writing team. “Wait!” one of them shouted as Benny turned to leave the room. “What do you want them to do on the show?”

“What do I want them to do?” Benny replied as he started walking out the door. “How should I know?” And just before the door closed behind him his team heard him say, “That’s why I have writers!”

Jack Benny, of course, knew how hard the job of a television comedy writer is, unlike those of us who, to draw a parallel, complain that Dilbert isn’t funny as often as it should be.

There was, for example, a colleague, back when I worked for a large services firm, who, while explaining the sophisticated management consulting services she and her team were going to provide, decided some contrast would help. And so, “The technology is the easy part,” she explained to the CEO.

Of course it is … if, that is, you’re a management consultant in a position to describe it with all the detail a passenger in a Boeing 737 can provide about a crime that took place on the ground below.

Or there was the colleague — a programmer this time — who was quite certain that managing manufacturing was really a very simple proposition. Which was why he saw no reason to ever actually set foot in the factory, even though he supported the company’s manufacturing system.

And there was me, back in the early days of client/server computing, sneering at the unnecessary complexity associated with setting up and provisioning a mainframe computer, when in the world of PCs I just had to insert the Turbo Pascal installation disk, let it whir for a few minutes, and the PC was ready to go. Knowing what I now know about what’s required to set up a modern n-tier environment these days (very little), IBM’s old mainframes, complete with VTAM, CICS, and all the other holiday trimmings, seem like simplicity itself.

We all do this. We criticize the CEOs of struggling businesses for failing to anticipate a marketplace change we ourselves saw with perfect clarity through the magic of 20/20 hindsight. We complain about employees who report to us who fail to get the job done in the time we alloted when we couldn’t even begin to do their jobs ourselves. We ridicule HR, when we aren’t ridiculing Accounting, or Marketing, or, for that matter, members of Congress, the Supreme Court, or the President of the United States, for their ineptitude.

No matter what the issue, we say, “It’s really very simple,” its simplicity correlating perfectly with our lack of detailed knowledge.

This phenomenon seems to be getting worse. There are, I think, two root causes: compensation practices, and 24/7 career demands.

Compensation practices first: Increasingly, actual work that creates real value is considered less valuable than managing that work, which in turn is less valuable than managing those who manage the work, and so on, ad infinitum. The human mind being what it is, those who make the big bucks have to rationalize their compensation to themselves. Why are they worth so much more? Well it’s obvious: The work must be much, much easier than providing oversight to the managers of those who who supervise it.

That leaves the 24/7 career demands — the merging of personal and professional time that has become the default condition for so many of us. It’s a culprit because it has led to the decline of the hobby.

Beyond their obvious value in helping people leave the office at the office, thereby reducing stress, making life more enjoyable, and as a fringe benefit giving everyone who has one an additional topic of conversation, hobbies provide one other benefit: People with hobbies learn that even a seemingly simple field of endeavor contains endless complexity for anyone interested enough to explore it. Whether the field is bridge, chess, cabinet-making, golf, home auto repair, guitar-playing, photography, knitting, or pottery, learn just a bit to get started and you mostly learn how much more you have to learn.

Which, perhaps, back when people had time for hobbies, might have led them to conclude that other fields held just as much unexplored complexity.

Is there a solution? Beats me. Looking for one is something of a hobby of mine. All I can tell you so far is, it’s complicated.