Our meeting was a disaster. There was no consensus on even the need to save the company, let alone the way it was to be done.
Mr A, my boss, sat through the meeting, silent, like the man who has accidently walked into a divorce proceeding, but knows not how to extricate himself from the mess without seeming to be rude.
That Mr A was among the oldest employee of the company in our branch did not instill in him any feeling of loyalty that was so manifest in rest of the agitated members. That seemed strange to me, for I believe that his skill-set is not likely to be of any use to any other organization, and that he has a direct stake in the survival of the company.
Later that day in our office, I delicately broached the subject.
“There is a fear that if things continue to slide, it will be curtains for the company. Have you thought of any plan B?’ I asked him, seeing that he was waiting for his opponent to make his move on the online scrabble.
“What for?” he mumbled absently.
“You don’t fear that things will get worse, and we should start brushing up our CVs?” I tried a more direct approach.
“You are panicking too soon. That fool doesn’t know what he is talking about,” answered Mr A. I understood he was talking about his arch-rival Mr X, who was the one who had called the meeting today.
“Why, you see a turnaround?” I asked.
“Of course. Its commonsense. In a company of our size, what you do at branch office doesn’t matter, but what is done at the HQ is important.”
“And…what is being done at the HQ?”
“Nothing, so far as I can see. But that will change with the requirement of the times. Pressure to stay afloat will force them to act.”
“But that can also mean shutting down braches like ours.”
“Of course it can. That could be one of the options. Changes in technology could be another. In fact there are at least half a dozen possibilities of what could happen.”
“None of which we control,” I said, agitated.
“Don’t try to be a control-freak. There are thousands of things in life you don’t control. If you start worrying about all of it, when will you live?” he said, smiling at last.
That bugged me, for it was too condescending, but I let the matter rest.
A few days later, I found Mr A in an agitated state. It was early Monday morning, a time when we generally go for a cup of tea at the canteen, and I asked boss if we should go.
“No, you go ahead. I have something urgent to finish,” he said without looking up from the screen.
“What is it? May I do something?” I asked, surprised.
“Oh nothing. Superboss asked me to make a plan to submit to the HQ to turnaround the dropping sales. He feels that our branch is at stake and that we should take the matter seriously. I totally agree. All the buggers here are living in fools’ paradise, thinking they can keep on living like they did and others will think for them,” he said accusingly.
The change of tack was too quick for me, and I let it sink for a while. Taking a deep breath, I asked, “So what does Superboss want?”
“A proper plan for restructuring, and a new business model that is specific for our branch, but, if possible, something that can be integrated into a model for the whole company. In any case, we must do something to guard our interest,” he explained reasonably.
“What was the provocation today for Superboss?” I asked, for I knew therein lay the solution to this mystery.
“I think he got a letter from the CEO, who refers to a prospect of closing down some branches, and has asked for suggestions to avert such a possibility,” Mr A said.
If our branch were to close down, Superboss may or may not be taken to the HQ. Clearly his job was on the line. So things had come to such a pass.
“What’s the plan you have in mind?” I asked Mr A.
“Changing product line, upgrading technology and aggressively hiring new agents. It is a no-brainer. Shift in technology keeps on happening, and you must incrementally update yourself. If you don’t, you will have crisis at hand, when you will have to do it. We have left things to drift for too long.”
“But the other day you were not so worried. You said that…” I began, but was interrupted.
“I know what I said. And I know what I am saying now,” he said heating up. “Instead of talking shop, that bugger should come up with practical proposals,” he said implying that I was siding up with Mr X.
“Mr X has no plans,” I said to placate him. “But should the HQ not think of solutions. The crisis has been created because they did not act for so long,” I reminded him.
“No. That is where you are wrong. The crisis is because the branches did not give the right picture to the HQ. Did not project their requirements. HQ is not where action is, branches are. We should wake up now, or it will be too late. You call for tea here, we will have to work hard to get this document done today. Maybe we will be sent to the HQ for making a presentation next week….”
Our office was filled with a degree of urgency not seen before. At least not in the last few years. Within a week, the whole branch was buzzing with frenzied activity.
For making an office work, nothing like putting the job of the top man at stake, I thought happily. I wish I could engineer that more often.