Sunday, February 4, 2018

Corporate Musings: The Transformation

                        Corporate Musings: The Transformation

We will be changing the way we do business” Messiah said in an e-mail that arrived early one morning. It was amazing how he had personally addressed the mail to me. “Dear Alok…” it began.
For someone like me, the very fact that Messiah had taken the pain and effort to address the mail to a “nobody” in the organization was a reassurance of self-worth. I mean, I know it is all technology. But motivating yourself to stay driven in a tough sales life is also an art.

As I commuted to the office on the Metro later on, I read and reread the mail several times. The Messiah was clearly sharing his vision with me. “We need to stay relevant to the customer in the ever changing and dynamically evolving market scenario”.  
Aye Aye Sir” I felt myself saying. What power in the language! What leadership in thought! I was trying to imagine his baritone and the posh accent with which he would deliver these lines. On top of my agenda that day was to watch Messiah’s speech video on the transformation.

Transformation” the term, in letter and spirit had captured our imagination. Things would never be the same again. Messiah, with his team of blue-eyed executives, had drafted a masterplan that would alter the course of the organization and disrupt the market in the next 5 years. “We are at a pivotal moment in the journey of our organization” one of the lines in his mail said. My chest swelled with pride at being part of something so monumental. It was the fervour of a rookie, employed with a behemoth.

I entered the office to frenzy and excitement on the entire floor. Messiah’s mail seemed to have invigorated a rather run-of-the-mill Wednesday. Customer calls and requests seemed to be put on hold as we discussed Messiah’s plans for the organization.
I knew about this long ago” said Mr. White Beard, scratching his chin. His claim was audacious. But his influence in the organization was tremendous and nobody challenged him. 
Whatever Messiah does, has sound rationale.” chipped in Mr.Sales. His role was to sell and sell he did. His skills at selling were excellent both internally and externally - the reason he had grown so fast. “Remember how he turned the organization around 5 years ago? Man...This man has a magic wand!” he exclaimed. No wonder he was one of Messiah’s clear favourites.
Luck was on his side then” argued Mr. Forever, who seemed to have been in the organization forever.

Rookie One, Rookie Two and I looked on. We were getting our own tidbits for gossip and speculation. Being part of a “transformed” organization would definitely give us some brownie points in the next interview!

The chattering stopped suddenly, with several heads turned towards the aisle. Miss New-to-the-location had just walked in.

Several e-mails on the impending Transformation flew into our mailboxes in the subsequent weeks. While some talked about the reasons for the Transformation, some of them talked about the people driving it. The most popular were the ones that talked about “cost transformation”.  Mr. Management Jargon was extremely excited whenever he saw these terms. “We need to focus on EBITDA. We need to do a profitability analysis at the Group Level. Some restructuring is inevitable” While this drew gasps from the rest of us, he was visibly excited that he was witnessing something that he had read only in his Management course.

From that day on, talks on restructuring dominated the lunch tables, post-lunch strolls and coffee breaks. For Rookie One, Rookie Two and me, girls from neighboring office blocks seemed less interesting, as talks about transformation dominated our post lunch strolls. “Bhai…we need to update our Resume” Rookie One started saying every day. He was constantly on the lookout for new opportunities from the day he joined the organization. But somehow, still wanted to update his Resume. “We are small fish” suggested Rookie Two, thoughtfully. However, I had a hunch he was giving interviews every other day. “Let’s wait and watch” I said dreamily, imagining the transformation catapulting me to a position that was more significant.

One department that had come alive during the entire buzz about Transformation was Marketing. “Organisation 2.0” they called their initiative. Mail IDs that I received no response from, when I mailed them constantly for leads and insights, were bombarding my mailbox with teasers and flyers.  The glass windows of our pantry were covered with posters in a couple of weeks. Each poster focused on different aspects. While one talked about how we would position ourselves as “Future Ready” for our customers, there was another that focused on making the organization “The Best Place to Work”. There were some skeptical glances at the second one, but most of us were hopeful.

To ensure that they did not fall behind, the HR department jumped into the bandwagon too. Appraisal frameworks were revised. HRs sat huddled with line managers in meeting rooms for hours. While some of the discussions seemed one way, there were a few animated ones too. And line managers always came out of those meetings with an air of superiority- obviously derived from the fact that they knew a little more than we did.

Mr. White Beard and Mr. Management Jargon were now constantly busy visualizing new organizational structures. They decided roles and responsibilities for everyone in the organization. We were so convinced by their arguments, that we believed their speculations would be reality sooner than later. I almost ventured to change my mail signature, when Rookie 1 rightly cautioned me saying nothing was official yet.

In between all this, Miss New-to-the-location had stopped coming to office for a couple of weeks now. Yes, a part of the lunch table speculations were reserved for her as well.

Welcome to Organisation 2.0” read Messiah’s mail. I sat upright on my bed, startled. It was the middle of the night. Just past 2 AM. I’ve got a bad habit of waking up in the dead of the night and checking my messages and mails. Well, it proved to be useful now!
Dear Alok, thanks to your efforts in the last few months, we have now completed our journey of transformation. We are now Organisation2.0 - an organization you have built and an organization you’d be proud to work for!”It went on.

Messiah was taking direct cognisance of my efforts in the transformation too! All I had done was taking up online courses for a few propositions we were expected to sell…though I was still clueless about how to make them relevant to my customers.
But even at that time in the night, I was thrilled. We were finally there - the mail said. The journey is complete - the Messiah said. And if Messiah had said it, it had to be true. I couldn’t wait for morning!

I got up early and dressed well. I was part of Organisation 2.0 now. Our values now were Informed, Intelligent and Imaginative. The “I” in all these words stood out in Bold Blue, the vision being each employee would now embody these values and the values thus would reflect in our work. This was one thing that marketing had finally been good at. If someone asked me what was the change in the organization, I’d definitely say I was now (more) Informed, Intelligent and Imaginative about the marketing team in the organization.

The journey to Office that day was a blur of excitement. As soon as I entered the office, Receptionist Ms. False Accent stood up ever so courteously and said “Morning Alok, Welcome to Organisation 2.0”. I smiled the most genuine smile ever to her and entered the work area.

The scene didn’t quite capture my imagination. It seemed business as usual. Everybody would have got the midnight mail. Weren’t they excited about it? We were Organisation 2.0 now! Informed, Intelligent, Imaginative!

Everybody was at their desk. Busy. Poring over mails like they did every day. Mr. Loud Mouth was haggling with a distributor. Mr. Sales was pacifying a customer and assuring that the delivery of goods would happen by end of next week, if not in the beginning. Something was amiss.

Mr. Forever, Mr. White Beard and Mr. Management Jargon, along with a couple of others were having their early morning tea break in the pantry. I was sure they were discussing Organisation 2.0. I made myself a tea too and sat at their table.
It was almost the same exercise…five years ago” Mr. Forever was saying. “We received the “Transformation complete “mail while we were in office…so it was a little more exciting.”
They called it Organisation 1.1 then…”said Mr. White Beard, and everyone burst out, laughing. I smiled, a little clueless. And continued to sip the tea.
We need to have a strong vision and mission statement. Just changing values doesn’t help” Mr. Management Jargon said, all animated. “What about the structure we envisioned, White Beard? Messiah could have implemented that. We are soft at decision making.”
“I still think that’ll happen soon. You can’t overhaul structures overnight right?” Mr. White Beard said. I must say I was amazed at this man’s conviction. Overnight? Messiah had been harping on Transformation for half a year now.

I looked at the glass windows of the pantry. They seemed naked now. All the posters from the marketing campaigns had been removed. Mr. Facilities was rather clinical in the execution of his duties.

I went and sat down at my desk, next to Rookie One and Rookie Two. I looked around for the HR. Hers had been a constant presence in the last six months. She wasn’t there too. She had vacated with all her memorabilia that had adorned her cubicle. I glanced at the monitors of Rookie One and Rookie Two. Both were busy on job portals again. Maybe I needed to take that plunge too! Updating my Resume was at the top of my agenda now.

The system clock indicated a minute to 11. And it was time for the team call with the Boss. I joined the call, full of fervor, hoping he would have some news on the Transformation and how the way we did business would change.
Good morning everyone! And Welcome to Organisation 2.0” he said cheerfully. I was upbeat. “So…let’s start with you Alok. Is mahine me kitna number karoge?”  I was always the last one to update on the call, given I was the junior most in the team. I was taken aback that I was asked to go first. May be this was Transformation! I was almost sweating when I finished my update. Rookie One and Rookie Two were smirking. The pantry group had finally dispersed and people were now busy in their own work. The scene was not different from what it had been months ago.

Suddenly, Miss-New-To-The-Location walked in. I looked around, expecting to see people turn their gaze away from their monitors, in a different direction. Nothing of that sort happened. Rookie Two punched me in the ribs and pointed at an e-mail. It said “Congratulations to Miss New-To-The-Location, who is now Miss Newly Married…” it went on.

Clearly someone else’s life had been Transformed, elsewhere!
                                                                                              -4th February 2018

If there's something constant, it's change. Creatively adapted from different transformation anecdotes I've heard, with liberal doses of imagination. Any resemblance to a real person is purely coincidental.