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