Ballad of a Thin Man

12 04 2009

On the encouragement of another reader, (thanks Lee!) I have taken my inspiration for this post from a hero of mine; Bob Dylan.

In the surrealist song taken from the album “Highway 61 Revisited” “Ballad of a Thin Man, ” he sings;

You walk into the room
With your pencil in your hand
You see somebody naked
And you say, “Who is that man?”
You try so hard
But you don’t understand
Just what you’ll say
When you get home
Because something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones

The meaning behind this whole song is still being debated by Dylan fans many years later. Who is Mr Jones and what is he doing that he doesn’t understand?

Some commentators feel Mr Jones represents a music critic who just didn’t get Dylan, his (new) musical direction or even his songs. Mr Jones appears to be an establishment figure, one of authority or presumed superiority yet he displays his misunderstanding of his situation and the lesser people within it, ultimately being rejected by them, “how does it feel to be such a freak?”

Mr Jones is the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time.

What purpose am I trying to fulfill by posting this? I suppose partly to highlight my own confusion over things management and my place within it as well as addressing some of the confusion surrounding me and my opinions of all this.

You raise up your head
And you ask, “Is this where it is?”
And somebody points to you and says
“It’s his”
And you say, “What’s mine?”
And somebody else says, “Well what is?”
And you say, “Oh my God
Am I here all alone?”
Because something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones

I appreciate that I present a very negative view of management. This comes from my own, ongoing experience and therefore is subject to my own interpretation. As the vast majority of this is negative it should come as no surprise that my representation of the issue is necessarily thus. It is neither a stance of nihilism nor criticism, merely repeated disappointment and undoubtedly confounding mis-interpretation. As a critique however it cannot be denied. Whether it makes sense or not, like Dylan’s sword swallower and his offer to return your borrowed throat, is not actually the issue.

Some have criticised my position suggesting cynicism and “wrongheadedness”. That logically comes from an alternative stance, one with a positive understanding or experience of management that is not mine to share. The two stances cannot be mutually exclusive and so both parties have to accept that this confusion is actually highlighting the problem rather than explaining it.

Medical management must be effective; without it the clinical practice as defined and prescribed by government and society simply would not exist. What is clear however is that the vast majority of clinicians view management as understandable as Mr Jones or his behaviour. Clinicians go to work, perform their duties and leave with very little direct influence or interaction from management other than in a coersive or regulatory sense. This develops the negative viewpoint.

To to deny or allocate blame in this is neither helpful nor appropriate. To chose to develop and progress the relationship clearly is the responsibility of both parties, recognising the divide and working towards reducing it. Surely no organisation can be at its most effective if it is so clearly dysfunctional.

Because something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones

I’m not saying I’m Mr Jones or the commentator, I’m just saying this is actually quite surreal.



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