Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Of Mondays...

It’s yet another pleasant and sparkling Monday morning. The wife had an early start with a project meeting at 8 am, and reminded you of all the things that should have been done on Sunday as she left. You can’t find the spiderman costume for your 6 year old ( though the intellectual age seems to be approaching 26) son’s fancy dress costume competition.

The boss called for a budget meeting at 9:30 am. Your team member has just sent you a BBM that he is unwell, which means that he is sozzled and won’t even pretend to come into work. This would also mean that the powerpoint presentation would now need to be completed on your drive into work, which you would have normally palmed off to the hapless but now inebriated subordinate. The statistical correlation between him having a fatality in the family or becoming the first victim of an outbreak of the bubonic plague ceases to amaze you.

The sales numbers came in on Sunday evening, and you are now desperately trying to concoct a correlation between the Greek debt crisis and the decline in ice cream sales in Uttaranchal.

The HR head has scheduled a meeting with your team at 11 am, to take feedback on your managerial skills. And this, after a Friday, when you cursed their ancestors and immediate loved ones on an hourly basis.

The finance head wants understand how a dinner with the distributor at a Michelin star udipi restaurant titled Night Lovers could be counted as a promotional expenditure.

The new legal head has realized that he has insufficient lines to fill up his year end appraisal and has decided to review all your existing contracts over a working lunch.

And, then of course, the wife wants you to pick up her maternal grandfathers’ third cousins’ second husband’s ex wife’s fifth niece from the airport at 4 p.m. That’s a breeze.

And your mother has just sent you a text message enquiring on the rapidly receding and greying hairline she has just witnessed on the MMS message sent to her by her grand son. Your dad has just called you at 8:14 am dishing out an intriguing sermon on the need for work life balance and the significance of keeping a rein on one’s material desires.

You reach out into your jacket pocket, your fingers search for the blood pressure tablets prescribed by your alcoholic doctor, but your sagging eyes veer towards the dark walnut veneer liquor cabinet as the fine Mexican tequila, gifted to you by your Lamborghini wielding ‘Valley’ returned Internet options laden classmate, tempts you with its sensuous curves.
And then...in a rather Arthur C Clark’esque way...it all comes to a freezing halt. The BB stops buzzing, the bell doesn’t ring, the child doesn’t scream, the wife doesn’t wail, the boss doesn’t brawl, the team’s not throwing tantrums, the laptop doesn’t need charging, the budgets don’t need to be hacked and the bills don’t need to be paid. It just stands still.

You’re taken back to a time when you were playing on a beach in your shorts and were gleaming with your purchase of an ice gola with your last ‘char anna’. The times when not having money was an adventure, watching the sunrise didn’t send shivers down your spines, a train journey didn’t tell you that you haven’t arrived in life and a courtesy call on a friend didn’t imply that you needed a favour at work!

Think about it. You walk into an office party, you’re beaming, the cheeks are blossoming (both pairs) and your boss gives you a weird look. How can you even make an attempt at looking so happy? They would quite quickly refer the company guidelines on acceptable and permissible behaviour. Surely, the employee must be on substance abuse! That would be extremely unacceptable behaviour. OMG...stress free!
Think about it!

Now...you would  be wondering..should you have rather spent the last few minutes catching up on the sales performance in Uttaranchal? Or should you have perhaps been replying to an email before your boss, just to make the right impact. Or....even better....should you have been making one heck of a strategy presentation for the next year, hoping to become a executive associate senior deputee vice president!
How often in life do we kind of let go? When was the last time you stood in the balcony on a Monday morning with a cup of coffee and watched the sun rise, without thinking about the morning review meeting? When was the last time you did something for the first time?

Now...of course the EMI payments have struck your emotional chord and your rationale is telling you that can’t lose sight of the ball nor your position in the corporate rat race!

Hell...that would be sacrilege.

Should you take that minute and button up your son’s costume or reply to your boss’ early morning query? Should you add fancy images to your presentation or buy a bouquet for your wife? Should you accept the cocktail invitation with the CEO or take the family out for pizza? Should you loiter around in office till late night, lest the office sees you leaving ‘early’ or listen to Miles Davis? Should you spend hours on analyzing the other department’s performance to give you enough ammunition in the board room, or put in those finishing touches to that painting that had been started three years earlier?

Now...get back to your BB and don’t forget to pop in those pills either!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Chatting Redefined!

"You leaving already?"...a silly voice screams from the rear as I head towards the door. "Its only 6:45 dude, what's up? You on a half day? What's the hurry?..Lets catch up for a while?...." There's an excruciating pause for several moments. Was I to post a loud "what's your problem dude response" to this obviously frustrated individual with an absolutely degenerated sense of self, priorities, planning and time?...Or should I have just clobbered him with my outdated laptop ( I needed a replacement anyways)?

I ventured forth into the classical third route with politically correct suave and dignity..and responded in a sombre tone.."Well actually I am headed to meet a potential client for your wife, any idea how the market closed for the day?"

There appears to be a perceptive correlation between the quantum of time elapsed at work and the quality of output in several office environments....E=mc2 ("Efficiency = Minutes at work*Chatting Time * Chatting Time). The more you chat...the more you network, the more you network...the more people you meet, the more people you meet...the more gossip you come across, the more gossip you hear...the more gossip you are compelled to create, the more gossip you create...the more you chat...You get the drift right! Work can really be demanding these days...

In fact we just concluded a project plan design where all milestones have a chat time component, with scheduled chat over-runs and buffers for chat briefings, scoping and even stress testing. Its extremely important to even undertake velocity and stress testing for chat sessions. These could be vital to the outcome, or at least the perceived outcome of the project.

Chatting has manifested and evolved into three categories.

The first is the conference room chat, a light sophisticated blend of hushed and muted exchanges balanced with a mix of sophisticated nods and absorbing glances. These are typically conducted in sets of exchanges with three persons at various co-ordinates of the conference table. In fact vaastu consultants have suggested that one avoid engaging in extended offline discussions at conference tables with persons oriented towards the South East.

The second is the cross cubicle chat, a not so muted exchange, held in seated and standing positions with a mix of crescendoes and diminuendoes interspersed with reverberations of targets, achievements and goals on a firm bedrock of office romance and other intricate cultural affairs. This category has seen the greatest evolution with the chat in person mode being consistently reinforced and intertwined with the sessions on chat messenger, SMS and email of course.

The third is the corner room cabin crew chat, the most refined of them all. Held with a certain air of posterity, reinforced with white boards, printouts and briefing documents strewn in elegantly erratic patterns across the room. This is not for the light hearted novice. This is the virtual pinacle of chatdom. Established on multi layered, deep rooted foundations, requires a pulse and flair for the global stock markets, property valuations and golf swing techniques. These sessions would most definitely infringe on time slots for performance reviews, find priority over team reviews and even dinner with the in-laws....

In fact as a great man once said...."Too much agreement kills the chat!"

Friday, September 26, 2008

You've got mail......

There is something about the phenomenon of email, that triggers a heady cocktail of emotions in the corporate world. This oxygen of corporate life has provided a medium to keep abreast, seek approvals, set time-lines, shift responsibility, question assumptions, gather feedback and cover ones moves from all possible stakeholders at all times!

With over 40% of corporate life spent in downloading, reading, drafting, retrieving emails, the email revolution has pretty much redefined corporate life as we know it today. I quite envy our forefathers that welcomed each new day with the sound of chirping birds and the fresh rays of the breaking sun breaking through the bedroom drapes. The chirps have now been substituted by its electronic avatar, as the first email has lit the screen on the spanking new mobile device that has proclaimed the climb gradually towards the corner office.

It appears that the boss is taking an early morning flight and has decided to refresh the task list for the day along with a minor change in the quarterly projections and also suggested a new revenue line to be incorporated in the upcoming budget planning cycle. This new device was incredible and helped me realize an all new inherent craving for caffeine shots prior to dawn.

I am not a morning person, and for some strange reason prefer the rustic rendition of “We have all the time in the world” by Louis Armstrong over formated text and attachments to captivate my senses in these early hours.The trudge to the kitchen is accompanied by the scrolling down action of my left thumb, which is rather proud of its newly acquired status and role in my professional success. The IT chaps have decided to flood the mail box with 23 emails proclaiming that there had been a shutdown of services between for 3 minutes at 2:12 a.m.,and they did regret the inconvenience. Also came across another email suggesting optimal usage of email services .....

As I poured the coffee into my Rolling Stones mug, received an update that the flight had been delayed by 17 minutes and that my appraisal document was not in the new format that had been rolled out by HR the earlier evening, wherein version 1.2.7 had been replaced by the all new 1.3.2 received from the global centre of excellence management.

The drive into office was a nightmare with intensive seismic activity triggered by the other departments in response to the emails received earlier in the morning. The car flirted with the security barricade as I knelt over to press the send button, not a wise driving practice but a critical manouvere ensuring that the response was the first to reach the group. The email had captured that vital first spot, the honours had been claimed, the upper hand had been obtained. This was going to be a great day.

The daily ritual of booting the laptop has lost its charm. One would look forward to seeing the flurry of emails being downloaded as they unfolded new opportunities, twists and events that had emerged since the previous evening. As I scan my portable email device, I also await the email service on the laptop to dish out some new surprises. It has just dawned upon me that I needed two corporate email accounts to drive my adrenaline and quest for information. The email was driving my basic but crude male urges for intrigue, suspense and conflict. It hurtled onto to me a series of communications and challenges in varying momentum and intensity, testing and honing my warrior instincts.

The bugdet meeting was due in an hour, and I shot out a query enquiring the new cost of capital. Promptly received responses from a chap in Lima and another from Tokyo, the former indicating that it would be 72 basis points over the current years, and the latter apologizing for his ignorance, but suggested that I contact the CFO in Seoul, who had been politely marked in the communication. It was always stimulating and constructive to connect with peers across the globe, but realized that I had pressed reply on an incorrect email and hence marked the query to a set of kind gentlemen on a different continent, quite unrelated to my business.

I’ve evolved a social connectivity theory in which it has been scientifically proven that if you were to send an email on a random subject to an even more random choice of personnel on your global mailing list, you would receive a response from 8 out of 10 recipients, with most presenting their point of view on an aspect to which they have no connect whatsoever!

I chose to ignore the strange course of events when the CFO from Seoul responds politely wondering why we had not completed our budgets yet, with a cc marked to some weird sounding name. This was getting weird, I proceeded to scan his details discovering that he was quite high on the food chain, and decided to politely clarify the confusion. A polite draft having been marked to all concerned and confident that no more distractions would intrude on the crucial budget preparation, the chap with the weird name sends me a cryptic email enquiring on my coordinates and the expected time lines for budget closure.

I had no time for this, I pursued with frustration and suggested that he mind his own business in his own country or at least his own continent. The office was soon resonating with high decibel activity of keyboards and verbal volleys. Over the course of the following hours and the resultant electronic onslaught, the chap with the weird name emerged as the divine soul who indeed ruled over the global budgets.

As the day excruciatingly steered its way to dusk, it left in its path a trail of emails, video conferences and deadlines that would make Katrina feel like a gentle breeze.

As I massaged my fingers, I cast my gaze in admiration at my companion and partner in battle, my virtuous keyboard, and introspected on the successful storm that I had assisted the company in overcoming.This had been a truly fulfilling day! The budget could wait another day...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Of Metals and Medals.....

The Indian shooters, boxers and wrestlers have done the nation proud with their exploits at the recently concluded Olympics. The melee of accolades and criticism that followed in the media circus was delightful in its raw energy and passion.

The coaches attributed the noble conquests to the great Indian spirit, paneer parothas for breakfast and biryani for dinner, interlaced with buttermilk and pan of course. The administrators quickly pressed the government for subsidised rates on paneer and other dairy products in the golden akhada belts across Punjab and Haryana, which is currently under review of the home and finance ministries.

Of course India would have scored a higher tally if the akhadas had received the imports of genetically modified red soil from Uzbekistan in time. The CBI has also commenced an enquiry on a tip off received from Interpol, that there was a conspiracy hatched by the Uzbek officials in tampering with the red soil, to undermine the efficiency of the Indian wrestlers.

In light of the startling success, the sports administrators, under the aegis of the Planning commission, have constituted a committee that would draft the blueprint for defining five year plans for sports development in India. The blueprint would attempt in defining the success metrics and the norms for defining talent, ensuring a socially beneficial approach to all sections of society. The blueprint is targeted to be submitted for review to the Sports and Human Resources ministries in Geneva in 2010. The first five year plan is targeted to be ready for review by early 2012, but there is also an attempt to synchronize the same with the planning commissions plan cycles. A sub commitee comprising of three chief justices and Ms. Mayawati has been constituted to submit the synchroniztion plan by 2011.

In the meanwhile the Indian Olympic association in conjunction with the ministry of defense is proposing that the Param Veer Chakra be bestowed upon Mr.Bindra for valour and determination displayed in the arena of shooting. The armed forces are in deliberation, as there is no precedence for the said honour being awarded outside the perview of armed conflict by a civilian. Mr. Bindra has currently ceased all communication with the fourth estate as a photo deal with Hello magazine is currently undergoing finalisation for the much awaited event in which he would be gifted a gun by Angelina Jolie. It has also been rumoured that the actress has indicated her willingness to adopt Mr. Bindra's baby / babies as and when they may be born. The ministry of family planning is currently examining the nuances in the context of international policy and believes that a case may be lodged against Mr. Bindra if he were to proceed with the export of his progeny in the event of their conception, development or delivery. In the meanwhile Mr. Bindra and his organs have been provided "Z" grade security by the Punjab government.

The Indian boxing federation has proposed the formation of a SSZ (special sporting zone) along the lines of SEZs, wherein import of coaching equipment and coaches would be exempt from conventional duties and tariffs. The customs authorities have enquired on the nature of products that would require exemption and if at any point of time the list would go beyond boxing gloves and referee whistles. It has also been proposed that any gold or silver that is imported on account of the international medals and trophies that may be won by the athletes trained in these zones be exempt from the existing tariff structure.

The formation of a national 20-20 boxing league is being contemplated, wherein there would be 20 rounds of 20 seconds each, to promote the sport. The matter has been referred to the International Boxing Council, which in turn has referred the same to the ICC in view of their recent experience in this dimension. Mr. Malya has already come forth and expressed his keenness in sponsoring the alcohol and beer requirements of the boxing teams during the course of the tournament as and when it commences.

In the meanwhile, the prime minister has issued an official communique applauding the achievement of our athletes, and has granted a cash prize of Rs. 50,000 to every medal winner. The PMOs office has sought an attestation from the Chinese authorities, the Beijing Olympics committe and the IOC on the certificates issued to verify their genuiness and also a no objection certificate from the local Tehsils office in conjunction with the respective State government. The athletes would also require to execute a bond ensuring that the amount with interest is returned to the government in the eventuality of any of these atheletes being suspected or prosecuted of drug abuse, and the said money also be deposited with the government if they were to travel outside the country to represent their country. The matter is currently under review and final ratification is currently being sought from the Cabinet and the president.

In the meanwhile, the national airline carrier has refused to release the athletes baggage till their dues have been paid and the medals are currently under seal in a bonded warehouse. The athletes had not declared that they were importing the precious metals and are currently out on bail!

Heres to the Olympic flame!

(The above wordle image is accessible here)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Of Elbows and Turf...

What is it about airline travel, that tends to bring out the human craving of conquest and warfare to the fore!

The dash to the airline check in counter often resembles the charge of the light brigade, with the soldiers out here being well heeled ladies and gentlemen in bespoke attire. The blue school pedigree and millions invested in finishing schools gives way to the last mile dash reminiscent of the runners in the "Chariots of Fire", only this time around the prize is a seat that has already been pre- allotted.

I've been told that the dash to get into the aircraft is to ensure that the check in baggage receives its due space in the over head storage and the suit closet finds sufficient space for your jacket to reside in. Well does that still justify running over polished shoes at 6 am in the morning...perhaps not.

Now that you've successfully manouvered the early morning smiles of the air-hostesses and narrow aisle to your pre-allotted seat, you await in peril those anxious moments, wondering who your neighbours would be for the next couple of hours. Would it be a blossoming damsel who shall instigate extramarital thoughts or an ex, who you wished had migrated to another planet, or even worse, a chap with bad breath and arm pits that have never been initiated into the fascinating world of deodrants.

Every passing passenger is reviewed politely, exchanging awkward smiles and blank expressionless gazes. Should you smile and exchange a gracious nod, or should you merely dive deep into the newspaper and pretend that you're above it all? After a rollercoaster of emotions, the passenger to your left arrives. Dressed in formal blacks (seems a consultant types), the gentleman has semi-shattered the hopes of an inflight romoantic tryst. The chap takes his seat and immediately thrusts his blackberry, mobile phone, PDA, navigator and ipod from his pockets....leaving you wondering...where's the glucometer? Its at times like these that one often feels relatively less technically endowed ( if you know what I mean?)

Having captured the seat in the centre, the desire for a vacant seat to the right becomes overwhelming, as one could never take the plight of another suit as your other neighbour. The moments pass by excruciatingly, as the rationing of women assume seats at a safe distance away. I have a theory that there is an invisible mysterious formula applied by airlines in which only a fraction of the passengers are allowed to be of the fairer sex. It must be about raising the mystique and randomness of flying.

Lo and behold, an extremely healthy gentleman in his late forties appears on the scene and crashes into the next seat. The trauma has commenced....

The inflight announcement welcomes you to their fine hospitality and the gourmet menu handpicked by the finest chefs that can be hired at mimimum wage. The in flight entertainment system is activated and the safety instructions video melodiously unleashes the secrets to survival in case of exigencies. Why do airlines insist on having the most gorgeous creatures explaining the functioning of a life jacket? Do you think we are really focussing on the nuances of blowing into a sheet of inflatable plastic? If they really cared for our lives, they would have had Hannibal Lecter squeaking out instructions from behind his mask.

The flight takes off and the blank exchanges with the neighbours prevail. Who's going to break the silence? Who's going to make the first move? Who's going to commence the shallow interrogation? The consultant type to my right appears extremely uncomfortable with all his devices switched off. Is there something called silicon withdrawal syndrome?

The chap to the right has chosen to dive into the crummy in-flight magazine, and has commenced the battle of the elbow. Yup, that's right, the hallowed cushioned space that separates two seats in the cattle class. That piece of real estate is in greater demand than a penthouse off Central Park in those claustrophobic hours.

I've always been intrigued about the ergonomic rationale and principles adopted in the design of airline seating. Airlines go overboard, proclaiming the additional inches in leg room, but what of those much forgotten unelegant elbows. Why don't we have airlines that just simply have distinct elbow resting spaces for each passenger. Have no consumers in billions of research interactions ever indicated that they crave for a firm and dedicated resting space on which they can claim their solemn right for the period of transit?

The chap to the right has made the first move, wherein he has anchored the elbow in the central spot. Not to the left nor the right, but precisely in the centre. He must be a geometry and physics major. I commence my sideward glances from the corner of my eye. Should I be patient and wait for the opportune moment to seize advantage, or should I adopt my Atilla the Hun strategy and thrust the side of my arm into his in a momentary accidental rush, and then apologise profusely for the intrusion. The frustration of being seated between two male co-passengers has now given way to a new found mission and purpose in life, to claim my right on the arm rest.

I shall not compromise. This shall be a crusade for all those downtrodden and beleagured elbows flying in commercial aircraft across the world. The elbow assumes the rear position that pushes the shoulder to an angle that is not truly sustainable. However a slight but uncomfortable touch is established with the neighbouring arm in the process. These are awkward moments.....

Will he take the hint or will he just ignore...or even more worrying...will he perceive an advance. In this age of metro sexuality, one must proceed with steadfast confident resolution but yet tread carefully. The assumed position is getting increasingly daunting and the plight has found expression in my frown. Does this man have no travel etiquette? Does he not have the other arm rest to leverage and exploit?

The moments extend into minutes and yet the fellow elbow prevails. And then a brainwave. I drop the newspaper towards his feet, and await a gentlemenly gesture in which he shall stoop down and pick up the broadsheet. I prevailed. The central position on the arm rest was surrendered and my elbow claimed the sweet spot. And thus was won the first round!

The battle of the arm rest played out for the rest of the flight, and I believe the final score was thirteen all. Was that a lucky number to conclude on?

The announcement of the flight's descent was a truce knell of sorts. Both arms eased off and found their resting position within the boundaries cast by the arm rests. Was this a temporary bout of courtesy, or was there one more grand and final rush that was being schemed by both warriors?

The seat belt light came on and the passengers commenced buckling up. To my horror I found myself exchanging side glances with my opponent. We were both eyeing the sweet spot again. This was the final draw. Drops of moisture creeped down my palms. What would his strategy be? Would it be uncouth and forceful or suave and smooth? I guessed the latter and adopted the former. In one rapid thrust, I swung my arm in a rapid and smooth movement and hurtled towards the holy ground.

As luck would have it, the flight encountered an air pocket and resounding turbulence. The trajectory of the arm was distracted temporarily and my neighbour prevailed. This just was'nt my day. Rocky wins 14-13.

Here's to the next flight, awaiting in anguish....