A Hundred Consultants.

November 8, 2005

Work is very, very bad right now. Anyone who’s read my blatherings in a past life will understand that this is nothing new; life is always bad at work, but, struggling though I am to give adequate testament to the badness of it just now; I feel I owe it to the world to try.

We’re merging. This is kind of akin to a Borg assimilation, insofar as I can gather; whereby all our useless appendages will be chopped off and replaced with even more efficient electro-mechanical widgets that can do amazing things and new eyeballs that can see through clothes, even those of fat and ugly people unfortunately.

Actually, that’s not true. The truth is worse. What happens is that we all go into a room where we’re told we’re to have showers, but really…

Actually, that’s not true. The truth is worse. We’re merging with an organisation composed entirely of consultants

Actually, that’s not true. Well it is, but it’s worse even than that, because, the ugly reality is that we’re not simply merging with an organisation composed entirely of consultants, but they are, – would you credit the good lord for permitting such a mortal sin to live and breathe – marketing consultants.

Good heavens above, it doesn’t seem possible does it? There are more than a hundred of them too, so I’m told; which is more than any mere mortal should have to endure outside of eternal purgatory. I shudder at the prospect even as I dress it up with jocularity, because life at work is already made miserable enough by the vast ranks of consultants that I’m forced to endure; indeed, everyone outside of my small department is in fact, a consultant, they just don’t know it (necessarily). How does it actually transpire though that one finds oneself consulting in the first place? Simple, it’s what everyone with a tenuous grasp of their own credibility who would otherwise work in domestic service and/or unskilled construction fields but can’t take the sheer ‘working-ness’ that implies ends up looking into. No skills? There’s always consultancy! No wits! Wanna be a consultant? No Clue?

We have them all, the fat, ugly, stupid and overpaid; indeed, I’ve come to the conclusion that the entire management core of our company is composed entirely of such people-persons, client-facers, communication-enablers and other monikers which imply that droning on at great length about things which you don’t understand to other self-satisfied, ignorant overpaid pricks (or prickesses) is somehow a service that anyone really wants or needs when in fact we all know that you’d be more useful as ballast in a sewage barge.

In the meantime, deafened by the endless drone of job-justifying consultant-speak and feeling a little faint from all the hot air that permeates the atmosphere, we do all the work. That sounded rather flippant, don’t you think? Blase? Off the cuff? Actually, it was entirely serious. We do all the work. Like a flock of vultures though, our myriad consultants circle above waiting for us to drop our guard so they can swoop down and steal the credit for our every production and innovation; usually, we beat them off… (not like that!) and take cover.

This week though it became too wearisome. To fight well, you need to believe that the cause is just, and when you see that the promised reinforcements are a malnourished rabble armed only with clods and cowbells you begin to think of home and harvest; inevitably.

Imagine, an entire hundred or more consultants, and not a skill amongst them. Hell.

Necromancing Gubbins Tweaker

November 7, 2005

Civilization 4Wow, I have no life. If I’m not working all day and half the night, then I’m knocking down walls in a feeble attempt to improve my abode. Fortunately, I have been rescued from such awful monotony by: Civilization 4, which is possibly the greatest game ever conceived by man. Of course, it’s not all good; because it is [undoubtedly] more addictive than a cocktail of internet gambling, heroin, cigarettes and pornography that is injected directly into the brain. Consequently, I really have no life.

In an undoubtedly doomed attempt to render the soma-like qualities of Civ4 ineffectual therefore, I am hoping to resurrect my blogging career now that I have found a suitable and worthy host in the hope that my second greatest addiction will hold some power over it. It’s akin to hiring a vampire to ward off the unwanted attentions of a werewolf; bound to come to no good in the end.

Unless you’re a Mummy or perhaps an evil leprechaun or some other mystical creature unfazed by the making of pacts with the undead. Or a necromancer that can raise an army of zombies to do battle with the vampire. Which might work.

Anyway, I fully intend to compose something meaningful, just as soon as I’m back in the swing of things and I’ve tweaked all the gubbins and built bridges and stuff. Number one bridge-builder and gubbins-tweaker that’s me. 

Driven to Distraction

November 7, 2005

Rust in PeaceSometimes, the study of semantics is a great deal more revealing than it ought to be, other times, it’s at least an interesting exercise, albeit a mildly philosophical one. Consider a bus-driver: if you asked the next bus-driver you meet to give you his job-title, he would answer “I’m a bus driver.? If you asked him to explain the fundamental, underlying purpose of the job, would he answer “to drive buses?? I don’t think so. I’m willing to bet it would have more to do with “ensuring that my passengers are moved between locations safely and on time.? So whilst the core skill the bus driver exercises is one of bus-driving this is simply a means to the end of transporting passengers efficiently.

In truth, his job title ought to be ‘chronologically focussed geographical repositioning enabler’. Okay, so that sounds silly, and if he actually said that, you’d think he was a freak and move swiftly on, but you understand the point.

The technical skills he has access to are merely a translation tool; without it, he couldn’t achieve the objective or raison d’etre of his work, but on its own, without passengers, the skill is almost completely redundant.

Quite often, we find ourselves over-concentrating on what we do in our work, rather than on what we’re trying to achieve. I don’t doubt that when we stop to think about it, we could all quote a huge list of examples of this unfortunate principle in action; and it might be that, in a bizarre form of mass-hallucination, we might even suffer from this aberration at an organisational level. How many of us have become understandably frustrated at the decision by our board to buy in new software or equipment – often at huge expense – that doesn’t actually solve any problems, or the decision to employ a new person in a role that doesn’t actually need filling, for a purpose that nobody actually cares about?

Alternatively, you could find yourself committing the ultimate form of organisational self-delusion: the hara-kiri of muddled-thinking in fact and turn the principles of the problem completely around and find yourselves so completely zoned in on what it is you’re trying to achieve, that you completely lose sight of the tools and skills that you actually need to make it happen. This is my personal bugbear in my working life and it causes me endless and unrelenting stress. Let me illustrate with an example.

Among our many operational divisions we serve many different needs as a corporate entity. We manage events and conferences, we manage corporate hospitality and we manage employee and customer incentive programmes. We do a whole lot of other stuff too, but the point is, we offer all of these services to our clients. When a member of staff leaves any of these departments, a decision is taken to hire new staff and the hunt is on to find a person with skills and experience of conference or event management, of corporate hospitality, or of incentive management.

What you have therefore, is an effort to fill a position based entirely on what the role needs to achieve. At no point does anyone ever ask, “what skills or tools do we need in place to ensure that the objective is achieved most efficiently?? The enabling aspects of the role are simply not considered. Ultimately, we find ourselves employing someone who is probably great at talking to conference delegates and giving them good directions to the buffet table, but ask them to produce a list of delegates travelling from the Republic of China in a spreadsheet, and they’re stuffed.

With conference logistics, the actual being present at the conference and ensuring it all runs smoothly is literally the tip of the iceberg: and the smoothness of operations is almost entirely dependent upon the preparation. Unfortunately, all our event managers are brilliant at the 10% they need when they arrive at the conference, it’s just the other 90% of the time that they struggle. These people are so intent on delivering their passengers on time that they forgot to learn how to drive the bus too.

Of course, as I highlighted back at the start, it’s just as easy to over-focus on the driving, and this is something that features much more negatively amongst the techies. I have lost count of the times that I’ve been told by a fellow techie (usually the resident computer guru in the client’s organisation) that my code isn’t w3c compliant and it won’t display properly on pre 1956 valve compliant mainframes. Never mind that everyone using the system is tied into IE6 on Windows XP because it’s a corporate extranet; this person is so obsessed with driving that he really doesn’t care about where the bus is going or when it will arrive.

Unfortunately, it is my view, that the world of business is changing in a fundamental way that is causing enormous difficulties for individual workers; you suddenly find that you need to be a good driver and be able to deliver your passengers on time. For someone like me, with excellent driving skills, I’ve had to learn an awful lot about passenger management and because it’s often my driving that people rely on to get where we need to go, I’ve been able to learn about how passengers need to be treated almost through an osmotic process. Unfortunately for others, I believe that if you have the passenger management skills, it’s really quite difficult to learn how to drive, and that’s often evidenced by the sheer number of near-misses, minor prangs and the occasional freeway pile-up that we have to deal with in our day to day.

And let’s not even get started on insurance.