“Superboss wants the proposal in fifteen minutes,“ announced Mr A, my boss.
“But that’s impossible. The proposal has not even been made yet,” I said.
“No it is not. He wants it in fifteen minutes from the time he remembers it again. That may be months later, if at all,” replied Mr A calmly, shuffled his papers in a neat stack, settled down before his computer and started a game of Scrabble on the net.
Mr A is perhaps the only person in office who is not overawed by Superboss. The words of the top boss are like water on a duck’s back – they fail to ruffle him in the least. Since there seemed to be no hurry to work on the project, my mind wandered.
“I am not too sure why we, I mean our company, is not adapting to the changing times. I fear that before long we would become redundant. We are losing ground,” I grumbled.
“There are times when not doing anything is the best option. For this company, reinventing itself now would be financially disastrous,” he murmured.
This attitude irritates me no end. “With steadily falling revenues, and a certainty of redundancy in about five years, how can not doing anything be a good idea,” I argued.
“The software developed in the nineties by our engineers is stable and serve the small businesses well. If we are to go in for a new line of products, the company would have to hire a new generation of engineers, spend a fortune on new research and market it in a very competitive field. If the new products succeed, and it is a big if, the new products will give competition to our established programs, undermine them, and hit our bottom-line,” he explained.
It seemed to be a dead end. “So basically we enjoy till the lifetime of the current set of programs and then…”
“They also serve who only stand and wait,” Mr A smiled, quoting Milton. That seemed to the end of the discussion, and I noticed that Mr A had scored a bingo with ‘passive’.
Curiously the same question came up in a meeting called by Superboss later that week.
“CEO has written to all the zones asking us to brainstorm and send proposals for developing a new line of programs in accordance with the needs of our clients,” announced Superboss grimly. It was not clear why he sounded so annoyed. “Any suggestion?” he barked.
As expected no one stuck his head out. Without a volunteer, it was now up to Superboss to select the victim. “What do you say ‘A’?”
“Umm mumble mumble..” Mr A began to give his ‘well considered’ response with a look of an Oracle.
“Louder please, we can’t hear you,” growled Superboss, forcing Mr A to use the English language.
“What I mean is, it is high time we updated our product line. The world is changing fast and we would be left behind if we do not spend on timely research,” said Mr A with conviction.
“We all know that. What do we do about it?” Superboss said with a deliberate, and desperate, slowness.
“We should send a proposal,” replied Mr A promptly. Superboss showed admirable restraint, and, for a change, refused to get provoked.
“Who would make this proposal?” he asked.
“It would have to be a collective effort. The software engineers are in the best position to propose a draft proposal, which can then be vetted by various departments and then maybe a committee can be setup to go through it carefully…” began Mr A, but he was cut short by Superboss.
“The proposal is supposed to be sent within a month,” he pointed out.
Mr A smiled and nodded his head. It was not clear whether he was questioning the practicality of the timeline or whether he was endorsing it to be appropriate.
Again it was time to select a victim, and since Mr A seemed to have annoyed Superboss, it was hardly surprising that he was caught – “You consult the agents and prepare a draft. We meet again in three days to discuss it,” said Superboss and the meeting ended with a collective sigh of relief from the rest of the people assembled in the room.
I had expected Mr A to resent this new job, but I was wrong. Back in his room, Mr A ordered coffee for us and started another game of Scrabble. I feel he is becoming a Scrabble addict – earlier it was Solitaire.
“You would have to consult a number of agents,” I began, trying to know what he would want me to do on this project.
“Don’t worry, we will do it. These agents do not know anything, we will have to make the draft proposal ourselves. I will make the first draft, then you have a look,” he said vaguely.
I did not broach the subject again for the next two days, though I was uncomfortable over the fact that we were not preparing the proposal. On the morning of the meeting on the ‘Proposed Draft on New Product Line’, Mr A handed me a pen drive with the instruction to go through the document that he had made.
The document was full of generalizations and unimpressive, but handing back the pen drive I just said “It seems ok.” That satisfied Mr A, who strode in the meeting hall, full of confidence.
Mr A began to give a gist of his draft proposal, while I distributed the printouts.
“Speaking to a cross section of agents and end users, it was evident that although the current product line, with recent modifications, serve their purpose well, it would not be a bad idea to explore the possibility of adding some new features like linking it with social networking sites. However, another section of opinion feels that it would compromise its sturdiness and security, and would only add to non-serious and frivolous features that are non-core.”
Everyone looked keenly at the document given to them. The expression on their faces showed that no one could make a head or tail of it. Finally it was Superboss who spoke. “The proposal seems ok,” he began doubtfully. “What will be the next step?”
“We send it to the technical department so that they can see the feasibility. We may also ask them to give any additional ideas that they feel could become the industry standard in the next five years,” replied Mr A.
The suggestion was adopted at the end of a brief speech by Superboss. Another three days was given to the engineers to work over it. The head of engineering wing, Techie, looked hassled. It was obvious that he did not know what to do with the document he now had in his hands.
Three days later I realized Techie had found an answer to his problems. For a change, he decided not to flow against the tide, and endorsed the draft proposal, terming it as very good, and added some generalizations of his own. The report was now deemed fit to be sent over to the HQ, with a covering note of Superboss. Three top managers spent the next week carefully drafting that cover note, and the thing was done.
It was about six months later, when we had completely forgotten the proposal, that a letter of appreciation by the CEO was received by Superboss. Tthe letter said that our proposal was the best submitted by any zonal office, and that a crack team of consultants, hired by the HQ, was working on it to give it a final shape. CEO expected the report of the consultants to be submitted any day now.
A beaming Superboss congratulated everybody for the hard work they had put in and Mr A praised the vision of Superboss, on which, he said, the report was based. The future having been taken care of, we all felt reassured that the company was in good hands, and that we too had made our contribution.