A “Chinese fire drill” is an activity that involves a lot of bustle and chaos but achieves nothing. This term could be considered insulting due to its association of Chinese people with unproductive activity. Is there an alternative term without the racial connotations?
Edit: This was mistakenly flagged as a duplicate of this question, asking about a Japanese proverbial reference to one of Aesop’s fables: “The mountains labored and brought forth a mouse”. The expression refers to “speech acts which promise much but deliver little”.(1) In this case the emphasis is on the chaotic execution of a pointless exercise, not on the difference between promises and results.
The executive fire drill is familiar to most people in the American business world.
As an example, the executive team at one of my clients subscribes to a
variety of market research reports. These monthly and quarterly
reports are really impressive — huge 3-ring binders that contain
sales data that’s been sliced and diced better than a pastrami at a
kosher deli. The problem is that management hasn’t defined standard
metrics, so if they dig long enough, they can find anything they want
in the data. Consequently, every few months there’s a full-scale
executive fire drill when someone on the team finds a bit of data that
seems to indicate they’re losing ground to a competitor. Panicked, the
president will call the exec team, along with several members of
marketing and sales, into the conference room for a 90 minute analysis
and debate about how they should respond.
From the Markovitz Consulting website.