Business-novel – chapters 09-12
Blog: Tom Graves / Tetradian
More character-stuff in this extract – in particular, introducing Alicia and Pavel (of whom we’ll see a lot more), and Kim (of whom we won’t – not much, anyway), and a bit more on Helen, the partner of our lead-character and narrator Marco.
(Once again, a reminder that this is fiction! – the usual warning that ‘all characters are fictional and are not intended to represent any real person’, etc, will apply!)
Many thanks to Casimir Artmann, who kindly reminded me that I hadn’t yet posted the overall blurb for the story. To remedy that lack, here it is:
Marco has a new job: Head of Organizational Change. But his bright new plan to bring the company into the future is falling apart – yet he can’t see why. He’s going to need some help to get him to the other side of this…
When that help arrives, it comes from some unexpected places – and some of it will challenge him to the limit. Even if we’re the ones who are creating change, the catch is that change isn’t only for other people: often we’re the ones who need to change the most in order to make it work.
Once more, I’d really value your help in reviewing this, 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?
That’s her first word, almost before I walk in the door. “No. It won’t work.” Her trademark sarcastic smile. “No. What part of the word ‘No’ don’t you understand?”
“What won’t work?”
“Anything. Anything different. Whatever plan you’ve brought here.” She throws her hands up in the air. “Dios! Why do they give me these foolish men to work with?”
I grin: there’s not much else I can do – or say, either. What a character: we’ve known each other a long time now. Alicia Pereira, ‘the Latina fireball’, we used to call her, back at Marcom: married an Anglo guy since then, but it hasn’t slowed her down one bit. She’s one tough cookie, too: fought long and hard to get where she is now, as the head of HR here, and she’s darned well deserved it. But she’s the only woman I know who could wear heels that high and still be viewed by everyone as every inch the hard professional. A lot of respect for her, I always have: but yeah, she’s never easy to work with…
She stops, grins back, a sharp laugh, throws her hands in the air again. “Jesus, Marco, you should know better than that! – letting yourself get roped into trying to change anything? Everyone knows there’s only one way that works in HR: carrot and stick. Offer ’em performance-bonuses if they hit their targets, and hit ’em over the head if they don’t. Then monitor, monitor, monitor; micromanage ’em if we must. That’s it: don’t even bother trying to try anything else.”
Machine-gun rattle of words there: just as with Amber at home, I’ve no chance of getting a word in edgeways when she’s in full flow, so I don’t even try.
“All right, all right. You have a plan”, she says, with just the right edge of sarcasm. “Let’s go down to the cafe and look at your wonderful plan.” She glances at her watch. “No, make that the bar – I’m going to need a martini for this.” A moment’s perfect pause: “You’re paying, of course?”
She whisks her bag off the desk, and sashays out on those lethal heels.
He doesn’t get up from his desk. I’m not sure that he can. He’s huge…
Margaret was big, but she’s not fat. This guy is. Very. ‘The Blob’ might be a more accurate term. Yeah, I know it’s rude, but ye gods, how did he get that way?
He even doesn’t look up as I come into the room, just stares down at his laptop, prods a few keys here and there in staccato fashion. Kim Lee, is his name, and yeah, with that name I’d guess his family came from Korea or somewhere some while back – though with that kind of bulk it says he’s been living here too long for his health. Literally.
And he’s our new CIO. Which means I need to work with him. Be able to work with him. Somehow.
“Hi. I’m Marco. Marco Pellegrini. Margaret sent me over to see you. She says we need to talk.”
Still no response. Perhaps a grunt of acknowledgement, but that’s it.
“Margaret Millhouse”, I repeat. “The CEO. You know – our boss?” My sarcasm is getting the better of me with this guy.
He finally looks up, blearily, as if I’m out of focus because I’m not in the same plane as his screen. Probably true, actually.
“Oh. Hi. Uh-huh. Yeah, I saw the email.” He waves vaguely at a chair close by to his trash-dump of a desk. “Siddown, okay? Gotta finish this. Won’t be a sec.” And straight back to his screen.
Long second. I counted it at above five minutes before he looks up again, leans back in his creaking chair, ruminates for a moment, looks round, sees me sitting there, blinks a couple times, does a kind of slow-motion quick double-take, and finally drags himself back from whatever imaginary world he’s been sitting in for the last while.
“Ah. Yeah. Right. Sorry. Marco, right? What did you want again?”
“Margaret sent me to see you, to talk about the change-plans for the company. We’re going to need to work together on it.” He’s not quick, this guy: the exact opposite of Alicia. If I don’t watch out, she’ll skewer him with her own stiletto-heels if he can’t come up to her kind of speed. This is not going to be fun…
“Uh-huh. Good. So you’ve come to give me better business/IT-alignment, is that it?”
“Well, there’s quite a bit more to it than that…”, I start, but it’s clear he isn’t listening.
“If I was the CEO of this place…”
…which you aren’t, and pray god never will be, I say silently to myself…
“…I’d rebuild this whole company around our IT. IT is the lifeblood of business, you know that? Everything else hangs off of that.” His eyes light up at last, as his voice takes on an almost messianic tone. “If IT isn’t put right at the centre of everything, this business is going nowhere – I’ve been telling them that straight since I first got here!”
I bet you have…
“Cloud, big-data, IoT, BYOD, a proper CMS, upgrade on the ERP, some serious BPR, AI analytics, marketing on SoLoMo with VR/AR, that’s what we need…”
Oh great: we’re into buzzword-bingo now. Better pull this guy back into the real world, real fast.
“Yeah, yes, I know. But we’ve got to cover a broader scope than just the IT, though. Much broader. That’s why we’ll need to work together with Alicia, Alicia Berkshaw. You know her, I presume?”
Odd emotions flitting across his face: I can’t quite read what’s going on there, and I’m not sure I like what little I can seem to read. Yuk. Best ignore it for now, though.
“No. Should I?”
“She’s head of HR.”
“Uh. That explains it. I don’t do people-stuff, that’s Magnus’ job, not mine. I do computers. I keep your lights on and your network humming and your data-servers rolling, and you wouldn’t get far without me. You just remember that, okay?”
Whoa, where did that come from? Not just an oversized ego, there’s some kind of big sore-point there too, I’d guess – I’m going to have to watch out for that. Ouch…
“Of course”, I say, carefully non-committal.
“Bigger than just IT, hey? That means you’re doing enterprise-architecture. If you’re doing that, you’re going to need Ross and Weill. You read it yet?” He waves at a copy of Enterprise Architecture As Strategy – one of the books that Pavel found for me earlier this morning.
“Yeah, I have my own copy upstairs, thanks. Looks useful.”
“More than just useful, it’s pretty much the bible, you know? ‘How to construct a solid foundation for business execution – an IT infrastructure and digitised business processes that automate your company’s core capabilities.’ That’s the right way to do it – put IT at the centre of the operating-model, the centre of everything!”
One-track mind, this guy. Still, it gives me a let-out: the book looks reasonable enough, from the quick glance I had this morning, and if it’s this guy’s bible, he can’t complain if I use stuff from in there in the change-plan. More to the point, it gives me a way to get out of here right now.
“Sure, that’s great advice, thanks a lot. Look, you’re obviously busy at the moment, so I’ll come back later when we’re a bit further on with the plans?”
“Yuh.” And straight away he’s back to his screen.
I escape as quickly as I can, before I blow my stack completely.
“Okay for me to go home now, boss?”
“Gods, is it that late already? Of course, yeah, sure, go. And thanks, you’ve really helped a lot today. Thanks.”
“Sure thing, boss. Seeya!”
Pavel. Pavel Andreyevitch Mikoyan. I’m really lucky to have him as my assistant here: he’s neat, fastidious, tidy in a way that I’m definitely not, and just gets everything done. I really don’t know what I’d do without him, I really don’t.
He’s also an absolute maniac on that mountain-bike of his, it has to be said. But we all have to have a little craziness in us somewhere, surely?
“Hi, hon. Heard you come in.” She looks up from her desk, reaches up for a kiss. “Mm. Nice.”
“How’s it going?”
“The analytics? Oh, it’s fine. It’ll wait.” A brief moment. “Actually, no, I really had better finish this, Brook’ll want to read it over the weekend, before Monday.”
“Oh, right. So you gotta go into the office again?” Brook is her boss, back at MarCom. Analytics can be done pretty much anywhere there’s a good net-connection, so Helen can work from home most of the time. But head-office is four hundred miles away, so it’s a pain in the ass for all of us when she does have to go in for meetings.
“Yes. On the early flight, unfortunately – it’s the only one I can get.”
“Right-oh. I can do the school run, of course.”
“Mouse’ll like that – more time with Daddy! I’m jealous.” She grins. “Would you be a love, go upstairs and check on what she’s doing? She’s in her room, with Amanda.”
“Her new Best Friend?”
“Uh-huh. Don’t mock it, okay?” She grins again. “I know it doesn’t make sense to you big tough boys, but all this relationship-stuff matters to little girls. Even I was one once, you know?”, she says, wistfully, but with that wicked smile of hers that I love so much. “And now this big girl’s got to get back to work”, she says with a sigh, looking back at the mess of spreadsheets and pie-charts across her three-screen display.
I give her shoulder a quick squeeze. “I’ll get you a drink.”
“Yes, do, please. There’s a reasonable Sauvignon cooling in the fridge – a glass of that would be great. Thanks – you’re a life-saver.”
I turn round, to go to the kitchen; she blows me a kiss as she twists her chair back towards her paperwork. Best get that glass for her first; then head upstairs to face whatever doll-driven terrors my mad daughter and friend will inflict on me this time!