The new Advisor to Superboss was a man with a vision. Not only was he reputed to have divine visions, he had ‘a vision’ for our organization too. He admitted he was a man in a hurry, and wanted to make every second count.
Mr A, my boss, was however not impressed. When Mr X, his rival, berated Mr A for wasting time playing Scrabble on the net, and not heeding the advice of the Advisor for making every second count, Mr A shrugged. “All the trouble in the world is created by fanatics and visionaries. One should think, before acting,” he said.
“Think, rather than act, you mean,” said Mr X, and stomped off towards the room of the visionary.
“Boss,” I said cautiously, “I heard the Advisor is working on reorganization and this may also lead to retrenchments.”
Mr A, who had just made ‘SARCASM’ (a seven letter bingo word) on scrabble, looked pleased. “First he will have to play ‘entrenchment’, my boy. Never forget, anyone can act, but few can think. It is time for thought, and we will think,” he said, finishing the game with another bingo, this time with the word, ‘SCHEMER’.
Slowly the vision of the Advisor became known. The organization was to cut flab, invest in new products and reach the public directly rather than through our network of agents. It seemed to me that under the reorganization blueprint, apart from our name, everything was to change.
All this while Mr A thought. Or so I assumed, since he seemed to do little. He gave tacit support to the new ideas floating in the air, and once or twice when consulted by the Superboss on the issue, expressed his approval with a nod of head and a pleasant smile.
I was however far from comfortable. Not only did the ideas seem too ‘revolutionary’, we did not have the manpower to implement them. The phrase ‘using every second’ started looking sinister. Only a few in the charmed inner-circle seemed to know the full details, and for the rest of us, ‘retrenchment’ looked an interesting possibility. In fact, our friends from the HR stopped having lunch with us, and avoided us in the corridors.
Superboss had found ‘the blueprint’ interesting, and believed that it had the potential to raise his career to the upper strata at the ‘country level’. But he was also uneasy at the scale of the proposed changes and had to be doubly sure. And so Mr A being the only upper management guy not to be directly involved with the project so far, was the obvious choice for doing a review. The order for review came in form of directions to Mr A to prepare a financial roadmap for implementation of the reorganization plan.
Working under Mr A during the next few days was a revelation. I was amazed to see how much the man could do when he really wanted to. He was enthusiastic about the project, dismissed my muted apprehensions, and devoted his life in making a perfect document. He became a man of action and made every second of my life count.
Mr A led our team in presenting the financial roadmap. I will recount the scene as an educative instruction to all ye budding managers, how not to get distracted with hostile environment and do your job, faithfully and fearlessly. As far as my memory serves, the meeting began with Mr A starting the power-point slide with a ‘Welcome’ caption and with these introductory words:
“We are ushering in a brave new world. There may be pitfalls, and there may be dangers, but move on, undaunted, we must.”
The opening did not go down too well with either the Superboss, or the Advisor.
“Since we move into uncharted territory, we must prepare carefully. I will briefly touch on the three aspects that will be affected – resources, products and marketing. We are going through a period in our cycle when we are a little low on financial resources, but with adequate savings we will manage. We will begin with temporary cuts in salaries – and since it is the senior management which can bear the cuts – about fifty percent reduction in top management is all that may be required.”
There was a frosty silence in the room. The Advisor almost started to say something, but Mr A continued.
“We will need to sell our Club House, including the swimming pool and the tennis court, as these facilities are, in any case, being used by only few members.”
I am not sure Mr A was aware that these facilities were for the exclusive use of Superboss, or for CEO and the GMs when they visit our city. “Not necessary..” began the Advisor, but Mr A ignored him and continued.
“There will have to layoffs, to make way for new recruitment necessary to develop a new product line. HR will make a plan for that, and ensure that there is no fall in morale in the company. Also, the new recruitment shall have to be top class, and the salaries commitment must be similar to the existing staff.”
The HR manager seemed to pass out. By the look on his face, it was apparent that he did not take any further interest in the proceedings.
“The new product line,” Mr A continued, “will have to be such that it can challenge the existing competition, and also be worthy of our trusted product line that we will have to retire. The new line shall be developed for launch within six months to tap the faltering market demand. For the research team, every minute must count from now on.”
Our technical head got up to pour a glass of water from the dispenser. He shooed away his junior who had sprung up to help him. Mr X suggested that we keep both old and the new products, but was glared at by the Superboss.
“Provision for repositioning the brand image etc will have to made later, and for that most respected Superboss will no doubt talk to the CEO for diversion of funds from other ranges.”
Superboss blanched. CEO hates demands for additional resources, and has been known in the past to throw real fits on the mere mention of word ‘diversion’.
“As for dismantling our agent network as proposed, I submit that while it is a good idea to reach our customers directly, it involves costs that cannot be met from available resources and would have to be left for the next financial. In fact, changes in product line will have to be sold to the agents in the short run, and we will have to undertake a conference, preferably at a suitable location, of our agents. Admin should tie up for the same and project costs.”
“Everything cannot be done at once,” Superboss bellowed. “One has to be realistic. ‘A’, have you taken a look at the proposed product line?”
“Sir, I have. Even at the conceptual stage they are fabulous. Beats the competition by miles. Amazing combination of old and new concepts that will take our company to new heights. The product development team will have to get fresh blood to turn this great vision into reality.”
Mr A concluded after giving details of the figures involved. The presentation was competent and exhaustive, but did not attract applause that it deserved. It was difficult to say whether Superboss was more hostile to Mr A or with the Advisor. The Advisor, a man of vision, felt his visions deserting him, and his feeble attempt at pointing out the need to have courage to go the course did not go down well with the assembly. Only Mr A nodded in wholesome agreement.
The last word at the meeting was from Superboss, who appreciated the blueprint once again, pointing out that slow and steady wins the race, and that we must make haste, but slowly and carefully. He asked everyone to refine the ideas discussed and put up a comprehensive project report.
With the exception of the Advisor, everyone trooped out of the room with a light heart, as if a great weight had lifted, as if the sun had finally come out of the clouds.