As per usual, there's some self-important, over-complicated nonsense going on at work at the moment. I'll try not to bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that expensive consultants and contractors were hired, papers were written, a 'transformation' team was formed and months and months of nonsense have ensued. As is often the way with such things, the key recommendations from the experts are being ignored by the people who insisted on hiring them, and the whole sorry thing is now being rodded from powerpoint into reality without much concern for whether or not it actually works and certainly without listening to the needs of our customers. You know how it is.
I'm unable to keep my mouth shut. I was hired into this job in the first place because of my analytical mind, and I find that I'm inconveniently unable to stop applying it to the fruitless task of trying to find rhyme or reason within these 'transformation' plans. I will be working directly with our customers in the implementation of this plan, so I ask lots and lots of questions because I feel that I need to understand how it works because I will need to use it and to explain how it is supposed to work to others. If it doesn't make any sense to me, or if I think the person trying to explain it to me doesn't understand it either, then I will say as much. I'm acutely aware that this has been career limiting, but I am neither able nor want to stop myself. There are two reasons for this: the first is that I actually want to do a good job. I don't really like being at work, and it's far from being the first priority in my life, but as I'm here, I want to do the very best that I can. The other reason is that I actually find all of this nonsense incredibly entertaining. It never fails to amaze me how much time and effort and money can be poured into producing something that is so clearly a pile of shit. Clever people work on this stuff, and yet for all sorts of reasons, they often seem completely incapable of seeing the bigger picture. It really is like being in a real life Dilbert cartoon. It really cracks me up.
I sat in a meeting yesterday morning where a couple of guys tried to explain to me how to fill in a stakeholder spreadsheet. The idea, apparently, is not to capture who our stakeholders are, but to document who we are talking to on a regular basis, and to create a little pen-portrait of what they are like to work with. How many children have they got? What's their favourite colour? (I exaggerate, but you get the general idea). I told these two guys that I thought that this was a waste of time. We are supposed to be man-marking the key stakeholders in the business, but until we have a definitive list of who these people are and who is lining up against each one, then I thought that this additional information was a nonsense. Besides, it's no substitute for actually talking to people, is it? One of the two guys got upset. I think he was upset because he had agreed to fill this spreadsheet in and also to sell it to me. I was now asking him questions that he hadn't bothered to ask himself, and I suspect that - as well as thinking I was just being a pain in the arse - he felt that I was making him look stupid. They told him to jump and he asked how high. They asked me to jump and I was asking them why.
The other guy remained quiet. After the meeting, he approached me.
"We all agree with you, you know"
"What do you mean?"
"We all think that a lot of this stuff is rubbish"
"Why don't you just put a few names into this spreadsheet though, just to get people off your back?"
"Because I think it's a waste of time and because there are more fundamental things we should be worrying about."
"Yeah, but if you popped a couple of names in, then everyone would leave you alone. It's stupid, I agree."
"So why don't you say anything?"
He didn't say anything, but smiled and the subtext was clear: he doesn't say anything because he knows that I will say it out loud, and he knows that the point will be made but it will be me that gets tarred as the troublemaker. His career is going very nicely. He's a nice enough chap, but he's trying to play a game that I'm not interested in playing. I know that the way I raise things probably gets people's backs up, and I know that if I worked a bit harder at playing the politics and dressing things up a bit, then I'd probably make my own life a bit easier. It's my choice to be like this. My customer feedback is consistently good, but it's my senior colleagues who do my reviews. If I'm a bit nicer to them and play their game a bit more, then I'd probably do a lot better in my reviews and my career might move forwards. Do you know what? I don't think I'm ever going to do it.
Who wants an easy life? Where's the fun in that?
Prince Charles is visiting my office tomorrow. Apparently "It would be really great if you could give our special visitor a warm welcome with a round of applause when you see him approaching your area".
Really? Do you think that's something that the Prince insists on, or it's a corporately organised piece of arsekissing? Is a round of applause a traditional welcome? How long should we applaud for? Should we stop when he's out of sight? Or if he starts talking to us? Do the people showing him around have to applaud for the whole duration of his visit?
I will be in the office tomorrow, but if Charlie wants a round of applause from me, then he's going to have to come over to my desk and ask for one, as I'm certainly not going out looking for him.
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