World Bank Gets Kim Makeover

Washington — We’re hearing that World Bank President Jim Yong Kim is shaking things up big time, axing some longtime senior staff members and pushing a thorough overhaul of how the 69-year-old bank operates.

Word is he’s even trying to change the internal evaluation system on bank development projects. Seems the old system mirrored the report cards of those Lake Wobegon students who are all above average.

And he’s had a “Failure Fest,” in which employees gathered in the huge headquarters atrium to focus on projects that didn’t turn out very well — or maybe not at all.

All this, needless to say, has caused much stress, angst and confusion among employees about what’s going on and about their own futures. (It’s much easier to toss senior people than the grossly overpaid mid-level staff, we were told. Still, when longtime vice-presidential-level people are hit, everyone starts to worry.)

So it was welcome news when the staff got a recent internal e-mail declaring Sept. 10 a “Day of Mindfulness Meditation.” It was a full-day program in the atrium to be led by Thich Nhat Hanh, “an internationally acclaimed Zen Buddhist monk, teacher and peace activist.”

It’s part of a bank effort to help staff “manage and balance the stresses of daily life,” the e-mail said. Not a bad idea these days.

Hanh, an 87-year-old Vietnamese Zen master and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, has been invited to address, among others, Google employees and lawmakers in Congress, Britain’s House of Lords and India’s Parliament, the invite said.

An updated e-mail said that “space capacity was filled very quickly” and that “managers are encouraged to allow registered staff to attend for the entire day” to listen to Hanh — who brought along about 20 other brown-robed monks with shaved heads — talk about “mindfulness practices” and “being mindful.”

We’re told about 300 staffers attended. “It was all very Zen,” one source observed.

There was also a “walking meditation,” from the headquarters down to the Constitution Gardens pond a few blocks away. (Never done this, but we’re told you can keep your eyes partially open and you walk very slowly.)

Apparently a police escort hadn’t arrived when the walk started, making for some disturbing, tension-producing honking from drivers as the group walked. (The police escort on the way back allowed for a more peaceful stroll.)

Probably best if folks can chill out amid the changes.