Wednesday 6 September 2006

they call me the working man...

It was the official launch of our new IT organisation at work today. I won't talk much about the re-organisation itself because it's pretty tedious, but it is all part of the same far-sighted piece of strategic thinking that saw me moving companies last month.

Naturally, they made a whole big song and dance about it. My whole afternoon today was spent in a big conference theatre being given the whole audio-visual shooting match, followed by team working sessions to define the meaning of words like "accountability" and "consistency", to discuss how we can "raise the bar" and being asked to write down a "personal commitment" to stick on the wall. Once I had done this, I was rewarded by being given a mug, a t-shirt and an alarm clock. I then just had time to get back to my desk, get changed and take part in the rounders match and quiz that were taking place outside.

As you might have imagined, I'm generally pretty cynical about this kind of thing. To be fair though, I suppose it's better that they attempt to get everyone involved in this kind of thing rather than don't bother. Having spent the last few months fighting to make someone care about the things that were important to me, it's hard for me to swallow some of the platitudes that they spout about how they want to make it a "great place to work" and how they really "value our people"... but on the whole it was alright.

.... until I went into the marquee to get some food before the quiz started.

It was quite nice really: there was free beer, wine and soft drinks available, and some reasonably tasty looking baked potatoes and things. I joined the queue:

"Hello sir, would you like a baked potato?"
"Yes please"
"Oooh, yes please"
"And what would you like on that?"

I look around.

"I'd like some chili and some cheese please"
"I'm sorry, you can't have that"
"I'm sorry?"
"You can't have cheese and chili"

There's a pause as I look across at the bowl of chili and the big bucket of grated cheese.

"I can't have cheese and chili?"
"No sir. You can have cheese, or you can have chili"
"But I can't have cheese and chili together?"
"No sir"

Someone walks past me with cheese and chili on their potato.

"Why not?"
"Because it hasn't been costed for you to have both".

I argued the toss for another minute, but she wasn't budging, so I was forced to grab a potato with chili only and head back to the table for the quiz. It tasted like ashes without that cheese.

They spent £50,000 on this launch; they gave me a t-shirt I will never wear; they provided free beer, put up a marquee (and a completely separate smoking tent), laid on a band and handed out champagne as prizes to the winners of the quiz and the rounders tournament. But apparently they didn't think to allow for people having cheese *and* chili on their baked potato.

Ladies and gentlemen, it's that kind of a company.



A question from the quiz: which famous female character, a star of both small & large screen, was played by a male on her debut in 1943?


  1. That's absolutely brilliant!

    My company calls itself a "village" and we are all "teammates." One of our chief executives has titled himself "Yoda." Believe me, I feel your pain!

  2. I was in Bournemouth for a stag do last summer and we were staying in some B&B. They did us breakfast and there were seconds on offer as they had some bacon, sausages etc left-over. No one wanted any except for my mate Ian who said can I have a rasher of bacon and a sausage. The landlady said that he could only have one, and that she'd have to offer it around again and then he could have some. Of course still no one wanted any seconds so only then was he allowed another bit.

    Damn bureaucracy!!

  3. Don't rule the t-shirt out; I keep my corporate ones for painting in. They're very good for ripping up and polishing motorbikes too, apparently.

    'Costed'; I'm all for people making up new words but not when they're that humourless. Having said that, I've even started referring to myself as a resource these days.

  4. Aaah - that brings back such happy memories!

    Think yourself lucky you weren't there the year they marked a similar team-building event by giving very fetching white sweatshirts embroidered with the humourous slogan 'Developers do I.T.'.

    Yes - some people even chose to wear them to work afterwards (and this was in the days of the formal dress code). Nice.

  5. Sounds like utter w*nk to me.

    My Company once held an event when we all had to play percussion instruments together to demonstrate teamwork. The team leader got very aggravated because we were not taking it seriously. I had a pair of very large maraccas (Oooh, Err).

    Is the answer to the quiz question, Old Mother Riley?

  6. Miss Marple would be my guess, but as I'm crapper than a Festival toilet at quizzes, I expect I'm way off.

    Love the anal retentivness.

    I'd put that t-shirt on Ebay for a penny with a scathing writeup, see if anyone bites.

  7. Excellent. Now I'm hungry for a baked potato and all the restaurants and groceries are closed.

  8. Understand your cynical nature towards the re-organization of your company/job.

    Makes me think of one of my favorite statistics that I get to hear to much of in my IT and management classes: only 10% of IT projects are deemed highly successful.

  9. Sounds like a right wank-a-thon...

    How many people were at this do? Wouldn't the £50 be better spent by sending out an email of intent and then giving everyone a bonus instead?

    As for the chilli/cheese thing, surely if they'd 'costed' *shudders as another part of the English language dies* for you to have either then you could have a bit of each even if there wasn't enough for you to have two full portions of both.

  10. there were quite a lot of people, all told. I reckon about £500 a head (maybe less).

    I would have preferred the cash, obviously. Even if it had been a fiver, I would have taken the cash.


  11. (delurks) Lassie ? (relurks)

  12. Hang on, I didn't realise we worked together. Perhaps we should rendezvous for a non-subsidised lunch?

  13. Oh – there’s something else I should mention as well. There’s some cock and bull statistic that has currency here. It’s something along the lines of “every £1 spent in head office is £10 that has to be taken at the tills”. As the IT director pointed out during the session yesterday, this means that the cost of yesterday’s session was the equivalent of a full week of trading at the big store in the Bluewater shopping centre.

    I don’t believe that stat for one minute – but bloody hell. If it was true, how could you possibly justify it?

    Did the share price take a dip yesterday?

    And well done David – it’s Lassie. In fact all of the Lassie’s have been played by male dogs. Apparently they hold onto their lovely glossy coats better.


  14. Reading this you should count yourself lucky that you got a t-shirt and alarm clock out of the deal. The company I work for does not give a dog’s bollock whether its employees are happy or motivated and the best we can look forward to is a snide remark when we do well.

  15. Hmmmm Nice Rush reference dude!

  16. I'm picturing you as Jack Nicholson in "Five Easy Pieces", trying to order a sandwich. If you don't know what I'm talking about, rent it sometime, it's weirdly similar. I guess that it's good to know that companies all over the world buy into that team builiding crap. Oh well, bullshit all around please,.

  17. Particularly interesting is the way large corporations haemorrhage money on pointless corporate idiocy like this, while simultaneously cutting jobs (and thus costs) to preserve their share price. I believe contemporary wage slave argot refers to this as "twatitalism".

  18. I'm firmly of the belief that reorganiations are an admission that they cannot organise anything and get it right - if it was Right First Time, they wouldn't need to restructure

  19. Just another day in the office than eh Dilbert

    Des (Wally - the character..but i can understand the confusion)

  20. I'd have gone for the cheese, if I had to choose.

    Why don't you offer your t-shirt as a prize in a forthcoming swissty contest?

    What the hell is that £1. spent in the head office is £10. on the tills nonsense all about. Can you find out the source of that feeble threat, I'd like to read more.

  21. Start your own business, you know it all.

  22. wow anon, you're only 5 years late on your feedback, but thanks for popping by, eh?