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Lies And Lays That Fill Our Days

By Art van Bodegraven | 01/10/2016 | 11:07 AM

Tough language, this English. On one sense a lay might be what a minstrel offers to an audience, or a familiar crudity indicating a liaison of unknown depth. "Lay" and "lie" are verb forms that confound even the somewhat literate speakers and writers. "Lie" is also a noun.

To illustrate the challenge, a person lies down, but lays him or her self (or other object) down. So, I lie down for a nap - not frequently enough, btw. However, the children's prayer reads "now I lay me down… ." Or, in the past tense one may speak of "yesterday I laid several feet of pipe".

What Sirius Radio nostalgically calls Classic Vinyl often features grammar-poor and image-rich music of another (and better) age employing confusions of lie and lay. A maturing young Bobby Zimmerman from Duluth, imploring "Lay, lady, lay. Lay across my big brass bed" comes to mind. As does the incomparable Eric Clapton urging Sally to "lay down." In these cases of genius among us, I'll forego the correctness of "lie"–"lay" as a perfect misapplication, a tribute to the power of breaking rules laid down for us by spinster schoolmarms in a dimly lit era. Mustang Sally needs no guidance in lie/lay matters; she calls her own shots, and sets a pace that challenges would-be suitors.

All this mental wandering has been triggered by a serious publication dealing with the mission-critical topic of leadership behaviors. One otherwise on-target and respected professional included learning how to lie better in the laundry list of what leaders need to master. Her use of the word was not related to the lie/lay selection, but to truth in communications (or lack of same). I remain baffled.

Whether we are talking about leaders or sanitary engineers, physicists or mail clerks, lying well is very seldom a prized attribute in the eyes of others. Not even in politics. In supply chain management, in general business, in health care, in lawn-care services, in all aspects of human endeavor and interaction, the lie has NO place. We all MUST be truthful and accountable in everything. Failure in that dimension diminishes the worth and perception of all else we do, and casts doubt on every truth we utter.

The absolute requirement to be truthful in everything, great and small, is a foundation stone in civilized communities. This is non-negotiable.

Reality intrudes, and it is important to recognize those situations that call for a diplomatic couching of truth. And, truths that are told might, for a variety of positive reasons, not tell everything all at once, irrespective of the audience—its need to know, its ability to absorb and act responsibly (and capably), and the timing of when to tell more truths about the issue at hand.

Will people make up their own truths, absent the whole story? Probably. But, we also owe the audience, not the whole story, but the honest presentation that some issues remain to be resolved, that when the time is right, more will be told, that until some point in time, some known truths must remain confidential until they can be dealt with.

Easier said than done, to be sure. But absolute honesty, including taking the hit for a bad decision or muffed call, can build a cadre of extraordinarily loyal colleagues, champions, and followers.

Now, I need to go lay myself down.



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About Art van Bodegraven

Art van Bodegraven

Art van Bodegraven (1939 - 2017) was Managing Principal of the van Bodegraven Associates consultancy and Founding Principal of Discovery Executive Services, which develops and delivers supply chain educational programs. He was formerly Chair of the Supply Chain Group AG, Partner at The Progress Group LLC, Development Executive at CSCMP, Practice Leader with S4 Consulting, and a Managing Director in Coopers & Lybrand's consulting practice. Concentrating in supply chain management and logistics for over 20 years in his 50+ year business career, he has led ground-breaking strategic, operational, and educational projects for leading US and global clients. Art was principal co-author of DC Velocity's Basic Training monthly column for a decade, and was the principal co-author, with Ken Ackerman, of Fundamentals of Supply Chain Management, the definitive primer in the field. His popular blog, The Art of Art, has been a staple of DC Velocity's web site since its inception.


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