Monday, August 8, 2011

All Guns (No Ballast)

I've sometimes heard the term "all sail, no ballast" when applied to a certain type of business executive.  It's the same thing a cowboy means when he says someone is "all hat, no cattle."

Today in Stockholm I was fortunate to visit the Vasa, a Swedish warship that launched in August 1628, sailed about a mile, sunk and lay at the bottom of Stockholm Harbor for over three centuries.  Needless to say, this was not a story of great success.  To the king's credit, however, no heads were lost, and to the Swedes' credit they managed to salvage the vessel in one piece and have turned an embarrassment into a national treasure.

The best theory on the sinking is that there were too many cannons on board for the ballast, meaning the ship was top-heavy and fated to tip over, no matter who sailed it or under what conditions.

"All guns, no ballast," so to speak.  Different from "all sails, no ballast," but the identical result.

I suspect you and I have met a few business executives of both types.