It is sometimes cathartic to write out dismal circumstances, and sometimes depressing. Most often it is depressing to considering writing and cathartic to do it. So I muster myself to post this, not yet having accepted the cards I’m dealt this hand.
The circle of life has turned over, like a opossum playing dead, and we are back to initiating another 100% Effort campaign to get back in the good graces of a strategic customer. The same strategic customer as last time. In fact, everything is the same as last time, except that we don’t happen to be using the same buzzwords; there is another act on center stage, and the outcome of my sideshow act has been foreseen with such penetrating insight that my actions can only constitute a charade. That’s showbusiness, but then I would like to consider my own actions amusing. If only I had a pair of magic glasses that could transform vanity to hilarity, I’d be set.
I’ve been told that we have a new account manager on the customer side, one less lenient than the predecessor who prodded us into our last initiative. Reportedly, Acme as a supplier is affecting a whole branch of our customer so that their performance looks shabby to their bosses, and to the extent that this is true it bodes very poorly for us, because there is nothing to excite rough treatment like being the scapegoat for someone’s bosses’ displeasure.
The service level this customer has set is quite a stretch for us to reach. I think we will be able to slide to a passing minimum by repeating our last strategy of do-nothing-but-make-graphs, which graphs will handily show improvements as the more severe of our current maladies cure themselves with time. At a higher level in the company, the main strategy seems to be to bicker with the customer about the accuracy and fairness of their measurements. While it is sometimes necessary to let even your customers know that you aren’t going to be bullied by their charts and figures, it strikes me as a poor way to improve the actual customer relationship. Is the customer ordering product with less than adequate time for us to deliver? Fine; rather than agreeing to deliver the product on their time at their price, and then whining because they did not give us adequate warning on what product they wanted, charge them what it costs us to deliver the product on their time. There are two basic ways we could achieve this, either by using more expensive suppliers and subcontractors or by holding a stockpile of eligible items, and either way is costly to our company. Either that, or actually reform our low-level procurement and production processes so that we can deliver the product faster… oh, sorry, the artificial sweeteners are causing hallucinations again.
As an editorial aside, it appears that a certain sugar substitute used in a certain sugarless gum causes in the author an effect not unlike mild intoxication; an ebullient mood, a certain relaxation of propriety and sobriety. The effect is not proven, having only been manifested once, and quite possibly caused by a strain of ennui more than a piece of gum; but it seemed not prudent to attempt scientific validation on the spot, on the job. Perhaps it is the answer to my prayer for magic glasses.
Since during the last campaign we showed improvement in our performance while engaging in a ineffectual ritual of phone calls and charts, and the performance dropped off again after the campaign concluded, our enterprising management has decided that what we need is a person hired full-time to make phone calls and charts. Statistical anomalies such as fluctuations in performance that occurred during the last campaign, while perfectly congruent with a “let things take their course” that was our local, unofficial, and unpublished (excepting my heretical diatribes) strategy, could be and were attributed to variations in the intensity and scrutiny and focus of those calls and charts. Thus, hiring a hit man to constantly subject the various branches of Acme to scrutiny is expected to result in ever-increasing performance.
As we open this first chapter in the second campaign, the man hired to do this job is new to the company, still learning, I’m sure, where the staples are kept and the manners, rituals, and customs of the native photocopying machines. This provides the perfect opportunity for me to develop my woefully inadequate skills in dissembling, in the hearty spirit of either blinding with brilliance or baffling with bovine excrement. I’m afraid that in my vanity and naivete I have succumbed to the temptations of the former. When he called me by phone and asked how things were conducted last time, I could not muster enough spin on the spot and so told him my honest opinion, already declaimed in these precincts. Of course, when such a sinful policy is admitted out loud, it is tut-tutted, condemned, and solemnly exorcised. What I got for my appeal for real change was a commission to design this round of charts; or more accurately, the expansive spreadsheets that presumably will be fed to the charts. And of course we are all aware of the byproducts of nutritional consumption.
I don’t know if I feel like a traitor, a harlot, or just an average pathetic pitiable fellow, for of course the first thing that’s happened is that I am obliged to fill information into this panoptic spreadsheet of cluelessness. It would be a tedious task for anyone, but since it is designed to make record of all the circumstances delaying the delivery of the products to the customer–all the undesired happenstances that afflict the procurement of raw materials and the production of finished product–it is a task best suited to the planning department, of which I am not a member and never have been. The shipping or customer service department is only responsible for getting the finished product on the way to the customer, which, I will admit, is not always done correctly. But these blemishes in delivery are not mentioned by the customer, since they are hard to notice amidst the puss-oozing sores afflicting other parts of the process.
As much fun as I am having with my vivid language, it really is true that the grossest of our offences are not regular afflictions. The symptoms will clear up, given some moderate treatment and time. Anything to permanently cure the condition will require something more like organ transplant than skin cream. Better, then, to use the cream, and assiduously point out that the customer has pimples too. But, as is usually the case with the fine grades of snake oil, for the treatment to be effected it must be carried out with devotion for months and months, and I have the job of treating the elephant’s acne.
My boss assures me that it will take hardly any of my time if I do it right, but of course, he’s never tried to rub the snake oil on this elephant. It must sting or something, because the beast won’t stand still. It’s a bothersome chore. Perhaps, though, with the right artificially sweetened gum, it could become a comedy.