Media Influencer

helping people break out of pigeonholes since 2003

On committies, agendas and rocks

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In anticipation of a VRM workshop and upon reading this in a mailing list this morning, I give you timelessly revelant Douglas Adams and his take on formal procedures and structures. May his words reach the minds of ‘management consultants’ and ‘marketing people’ of this world. Or better yet, may his words make us follow common sense rather than ‘modern business methods’.

“I bring you news,” he said, “of a discovery that might interest you.”
“Is it on the agenda?” snapped the man whom Ford had interrupted.
Ford smiled a broad country-rock singer smile.
“Now, come on,” he said.
“Well I’m sorry,” said the man huffily, “but speaking as a management
consultant of many years’ standing, I must insist on the importance of
observing the committee structure.”
Ford looked round the crowd.
“He’s mad you know,” he said, “this is a prehistoric planet.”
“Address the chair!” snapped the management consultant.
“There isn’t a chair,” explained Ford, “there’s only a rock.”
The management consultant decided that testiness was what the
situation now called for.
“Well, call it a chair,” he said testily.
“Why not call it a rock?” asked Ford.
“You obviously have no conception,” said the management consultant,
not abandoning testiness in favour of good old fashioned hauteur, “of
modern business methods.”
“And you have no conception of where you are,” said Ford.
A girl with a strident voice leapt to her feet and used it.
“Shut up, you two,” she said, “I want to table a motion.”
“You mean boulder a motion,” tittered a hairdresser.
“Order, order!” yapped the management consultant.
“Alright,” said Ford, “let’s see how you are doing.” He plonked
himself down on the ground to see how long he could keep his temper.
The Captain made a sort of conciliatory harrumphing noise.
“I would like to call to order,” he said pleasantly, “the five hundred
and seventy-third meeting of the colonization committee of
Fintlewoodlewix …”
Ten seconds, thought Ford as he leapt to his feet again.
“This is futile,” he exclaimed, “five hundred and seventy-three
committee meetings and you haven’t even discovered fire yet!”
“If you would care,” said the girl with the strident voice, “to
examine the agenda sheet …”
“Agenda rock,” trilled the hairdresser happily.
“Thank you, I’ve made that point,” muttered Ford.
“… you … will … see …” continued the girl firmly, “that we are
having a report from the hairdressers’ Fire Development Sub-Committee
“Oh … ah -” said the hairdresser with a sheepish look which is
recognized the whole Galaxy over as meaning “Er, will next Tuesday
“Alright,” said Ford, rounding on him, “what have you done? What are
you going to do? What are your thoughts on fire development?”
“Well I don’t know,” said the hairdresser, “All they gave me was a
couple of sticks …”
“So what have you done with them?”
Nervously, the hairdresser fished in his track suit top and handed
over the fruits of his labour to Ford.
Ford held them up for all to see.
“Curling tongs,” he said.
The crowd applauded.
“Never mind,” said Ford, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
The crowd hadn’t the faintest idea what he was talking about, but they
loved it nevertheless. They applauded.
“Well, you’re obviously being totally naive of course,” said the girl,
“When you’ve been in marketing as long as I have you’ll know that
before any new product can be developed it has to be properly
researched. We’ve got to find out what people want from fire, how they
relate to it, what sort of image it has for them.”
The crowd were tense. They were expecting something wonderful from Ford.
“Stick it up your nose,” he said.
“Which is precisely the sort of thing we need to know,” insisted the
girl, “Do people want fire that can be applied nasally?”
“Do you?” Ford asked the crowd.
“Yes!” shouted some.
“No!” shouted others happily.
They didn’t know, they just thought it was great.
“And the wheel,” said the Captain, “What about this wheel thingy? It
sounds a terribly interesting project.”
“Ah,” said the marketing girl, “Well, we’re having a little difficulty there.”
“Difficulty?” exclaimed Ford, “Difficulty? What do you mean,
difficulty? It’s the single simplest machine in the entire Universe!”
The marketing girl soured him with a look.
“Alright, Mr Wiseguy,” she said, “you’re so clever, you tell us what
colour it should be.”
The crowd went wild. One up to the home team, they thought. Ford
shrugged his shoulders and sat down again.
“Almighty Zarquon,” he said, “have none of you done anything?”

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