Business-novel – chapters 04-08
Blog: Tom Graves / Tetradian
Here’s the next instalment on the business-novel I’m working on at present, as per the previous post.
Not much enterprise-architecture in this part of the story – it’s mainly introducing some of the other key characters and context for the story.
(A reminder that this is fiction! – yes, it’s describing contexts and interactions that in some cases may be painfully ‘real’, yet please do note that the usual warning that ‘all characters are fictional and are not intended to represent any real person’, etc, etc?)
As before, I’d really value your help, to make sure that it actually makes sense, and also for critiques on the examples I’m using. Over to you for your comments and suggestions, if you would?
Yeah, that’s my Amber, that’s my girl. She throws open the front door just as I arrive home. “Look, look, I did a drawing of you!” She drags me toward the front room, where there’s her usual scrambled mess of painting-materials all over the dining-table.
“Hold on, Mouse, hold on!”, I laugh. “Give me a moment to get my coat off, okay?” She stands there, pouting, in her pretty pink dress – yeah, she’s still in the pink phase at the moment – but relents for the while, at least long enough to let me get in through the door. As soon as she senses that I have even one tenth of my attention directed her way, the barrage starts again.
“Look, Daddy, that’s you in your office, only it’s a castle, see? And there’s all your other knights in armour, fighting all the nasty enemy-knights outside, with their great big dragons!” Even she has to pause for breath sometimes: I get a moment’s respite. “There they are, all fighting in the market-place outside the castle. See, someone’s knocked over some apples, and there, that’s a market-woman from the mall hitting a dragon over the head with a frying-pan. I’ve got to have that in there, haven’t I, Daddy?”
She’s been learning about the Middle Ages at school, I guess. Good picture for an eight-year-old, though: I’m impressed. I look at it a bit more closely. There are lots of little details I wouldn’t expect: there are archers on the battlements, shooting arrows at the dragons, who all seem to have targets painted on them to make them easier to hit. I can’t help smiling.
“Yeah, nice, really nice. I like the swords, too. But what are those long pointy hats some of the knights are wearing? It doesn’t look like armour?”
“That’s the ladies-in-waiting. They’ll all fight for you too!”
Someone’s got her ideas a bit confused about the Middle Ages: better not tell her that, though. Not that I’d get a chance to get a word in edgeways anyway, I think to myself, with a grin. That’s my girl all right.
“And look here, Daddy, that’s the biggest dragon, and she’s got past all the knights, and she’s got inside the castle, and she’s right next to you!”
Her dragon’s breathing fire at me: for some odd moment I see it as little bits of paper and red-tape. “Help! Help!”, I say, laughing. “What should I do about that?”
“You’ve got to fight the dragon, of course! But you can’t do it all on your own. See, look, there’s the big mountains in the background, with lots of people, all coming to help you! And, look, there’s me, I’m the princess, on my horse, coming to rescue you!”
Again, I can’t help laughing. “Isn’t that the wrong way round? Princesses don’t rescue Daddy-knights from the dragon, do they?”
She pouts, folding her arms firmly in front of herself. “This little princess does!”, she says, with a small stomp of her foot and a very definite ‘Humph!’.
This time, though, it’s Helen who rescues me from our fiery dragon of a daughter. “Hi, hon”, she says, as she comes in through the back door. In her right hand she’s wielding a power-drill, which she puts into a holster on her belt. That old boiler-suit of hers is a mess of rips and tears and streaks of paint, but if anything it makes her look even more beautiful than ever. “The garden-bench is nearly done, but I’d still like to give it a couple more coats of varnish if I can. If your lordship permits, that is?”, she says with a grin, glancing at Amber’s painting. “Been telling you The Story Of Daddy, has she? She’s been making it all up with me all afternoon.”
“You have any ears left?”
“Not much!” She laughs, brightly: ye gods, but I love that woman so… “And now you, young lady”, she says, turning to Amber, “we’re going out soon, and I want you in something more survivable than that dress. Up you go, get changed, okay? Five minutes, no more: you choose, or I’ll choose for you!” Mouse stands there, mouth open, about to object, and obviously about to start talking at me again. “No you don’t”, says Helen, “you can earbash your long-suffering father later, when we’re in the car!” She pulls the drill out of its holster, waves it in the air like a pistol, pulls the trigger to rev it, once, twice. “Giddyup! C’mon! Scoot, girl, scoot!” Amber squeals, giggles, runs out to the stairs.
Then the kiss I’ve been waiting for all day. It was worth waiting for.
“Where are you in that drawing of hers?” I ask. “I couldn’t see you.”
“Nowhere, this time, oddly. It was only a picture of you, she said. She was quite emphatic about that. And of her, of course, a shiny princess on her shiny horse. She says I’m at home, waiting for you, on the other side of the mountain, and I can come and get you when she’s rescued you, but not before then. I feel quite left out, I do – me, jealous of my own daughter!”
We both grin, shaking our heads. That crazy daughter of ours.
“Now, I’ve got to get out of all this stuff”, she says, waving at her ragged boiler-suit, “and I guess you’ll want to change out of your work-things, too, yes? Come on up, I’ll hinder you if you like” – she must have seen the sudden glint in my eye – “but we’ve only five minutes, remember, we said we’d chase our young madam then?”
Definitely infectious, that wicked grin of hers. Only five minutes. Sure. But there’s a lot we can do in just those five minutes…
Yeah, I do love that woman…
That was a great evening out – one of our best for quite a while. Mouse talked almost non-stop, of course, but Helen and I still had space enough for some us-time too. Nice.
While she’s upstairs putting the Mouse to bed, I tidy up a bit down here. I catch another glimpse of Amber’s drawing, and smile: what a great storyteller that girl is!
Then something odd catches my eye. Those targets that the archers are aiming at – they’re not painted on the real dragons, as I’d thought, the ones blowing smoke and fire. They’re painted on fake dragons, made out of bits of wood and paper – just targets for target-practice, it seems. Completely different: kinda hard to describe, I guess, but it’s really clear in the drawing. And whilst the archers are hitting those targets all right – hitting them fine, plenty of arrows sticking out in all directions – they’re not stopping the real dragons at all. Not even hitting them with a single arrow. Not much point, then, and not much help for the castle’s defenders! Weird: I wonder why on earth she drew it that way?
I smile again: fact is that she probably doesn’t know why she did it, either. Yep, that’s one crazy kid we have, all right: gods only know what goes through the mind of little girls!
Yikes! I’ve come in an hour early to get started on the change-plan, only to find I have a Summons from the great Queen of No herself – Margaret Millhouse, our CEO. Wants to know if the plan is ready yet, and if not, why not? To be presented in person, in her offices, in one hour sharp.
Yeah, a lot of emotions – kind of amusing to watch them flit by, if it wasn’t so darn serious and I don’t have time for that kind of luxury anyway. Panic, of course. Shock – I could really feel my eyes fly wide open when I saw that note. Heart thumping. Kind of amazement, I guess – she just doesn’t have a clue how long these things take, thinks it can just be commanded and it’ll happen like magic. And a get-down-to-it determination, because my job’s on the line on this one, almost before I’ve even started this job.
Right: if my job is on the line on this one, I’d better get down to it, right now.
Thank the gods that Pavel is more organised than I am. May-the-gods-bless-his-cotton-little-bicycle-socks, he’s got those question-cards already sorted out on the work-bench, and a bunch of quick-reference books neatly lined up to one side. What’s this one? Key Management Models: The 60+ models every manager needs to know – yep, good summaries, good visuals, can use that. And The Decision Book: Fifty models for strategic thinking – yeah, same again. Enterprise Architecture As Strategy – the IT guys seem to swear by that one, though I’ve heard a couple of people more swear at it instead. And Business Model Generation, of course – for her especially, we’re going to need to strip it down to that level of clarity and simplicity.
Keep it simple, keep it simple, got to keep it simple… Where oh where do I start?
Trepidation. That’s the word. I just hope to the gods that this works, that’s all.
Don’t let the comfortable ante-room fool you, they said: it’s a test. Everything’s a test. Often – usually? – to destruction. Yikes. Yikes indeed.
“Come in!” The voice sounds pleasant enough, but there’s an edge to it in the background somewhere. Well, here goes…
“Good morning, Mr Pellegrini – glad you could come. It’s Marco, isn’t it?” All pleasantries. I smile, and stammer a “Yes”.
“Do feel free to call me Margaret. Don’t worry, I don’t bite”, she says, flashing a smile like a shark’s. “Coffee? Cream? Sugar, yes?”
“Yes, thank you.” I’d been warned to take the coffee, whether I want it or not.
While she fusses with the fancy coffee-pot, I take a moment to look at her. She’s a big woman, but in the sense of muscle, not fat – kind of built like you wouldn’t want to take her on in a boxing-ring, anyway. Like everything else in this room, she’s dressed expensive, but no glitz, nothing gaudy, just all-business and nothing else: it’s easy to see how she’s got here, to this level. And surprisingly, she’s not as tall as I thought she’d be: kind of like I heard about someone else, she has a tall bearing, a tall manner, just kinda tall in everything except height. But also kinda keen on dishing out the tall-orders, too… yikes again…
“You do know what we need from you, don’t you? Results. Predictable, certain results. We need to hit our targets, our earnings-targets, exactly on the money, every quarter, with a year-on-year of last-year plus ten percent or better. That’s what builds shareholder-value. That’s what our shareholders want. And that’s what I want, from you. That’s clear, I think, isn’t it?”
I nod: I’m very careful not to answer.
“I know our market is changing, and I know we need to change a few things here and there. But there’s one thing that can’t change, that mustn’t change, and that’s those quarterly results. That’s clear too, isn’t it? That’s what you’re giving me?”
Again just a nod is the only safe answer.
“Good. Now we still have ten minutes: let’s look at this plan of yours, shall we?”
That smile again. Like a shark.
Okay. I’m still alive.
She’s sending me to see two people: Alicia Berkshaw, head of HR; and some guy I haven’t met before, Kim Lee, our recently-acquired CIO.
Oh, and I still have my job. For now.