I tried a new approach at work today. I was supposed to give a status report on the work I’m doing, but I knew I’d get the same question I always get after these talks:
‘Gee, that’s great for our group — but isn’t the group next door planning on doing the same thing soon for the whole company?‘
I’ve tried explaining our reasoning in various ways. I’ve floated scenarios. I’ve drawn diagrams. I once took off my shoes and illustrated points with holey-toed sock puppets. None of it seemed to adequately make my case.
So today, I didn’t give my report. I borrowed a page from Aesop’s book and Plato’s scrolls and instead offered an allegory. It involved a wedding reception.
“I’ve drawn diagrams. I once took off my shoes and illustrated points with holey-toed sock puppets.”
Now, I’m just about the last person you might expect to use nuptial revelry as an instructive example. Somewhere around here, I’ve previously mentioned that the very first wedding I ever attended was my own. It’s true; I made it nearly twenty-six years without witnessing a hitching, until I was blissfully wedlocked myself. I’ve always been somewhat proud of that achievement, if only for its rarity.
(And lest you think I went in completely unprepared, I did make sure to learn the three ‘Groom Essentials’ before going in:
Come to think of it, those are pretty much the rules I have to live by as a husband, too. You’d think I would have seen that coming.)
On the other hand, there was the old colleague of mine who was proud of a rather different achievement — he’d been invited to be in more weddings than there were groomsmen in his. I suppose that’s an admirable goal, too. His feeling was that it showed he had a lot of close friends, and certainly, that’s a good thing.
Of course, I never asked about the details. Maybe he only had one groomsman in his wedding, and it just showed that he has two brothers. Or he has a bunch of rich friends with thirty-seven people in their wedding parties. Maybe he just looks especially good in a tuxedo. Like I said, I didn’t ask.
(This is the same guy whose dream it was to make so much money he could afford to buy an island, and post a guard house with a list of allowed guests at the entry port. Possibly, he had some convoluted logic to reconcile that with his ‘people person’ wedding party achievement, but I wasn’t about to sit through it. With certain people, it’s best to not ask a lot of questions.)
Anyway, back to my meeting. I stood up for my report, and announced that instead of project status, I was going to describe a wedding I recently attended. I told them how I arrived early with some friends at the reception to help set up, and how we found ourselves finished but hungry two full hours before the party.
The host offered us whatever we could find in the icebox, so I headed to the kitchen to make our group some sandwiches. When I got there, I found the food — and also the catering staff, struggling to prepare the reception spread. There were only a dozen or so of them, and with so many people to feed, and so many dishes to prepare for various tastes, they were clearly overwhelmed.
This is where I paused to emphasize my dilemma. I was there to provide for only a few people, which I could easily accomplish with the tools I had. But here were these people, trying to satisfy hundreds with a much larger, more sophisticated — and far longer-term — effort. I could abandon my sandwiches and help them, sure. But how much impact could I make? And what about my hungry friends? How would they manage with no food at all for hours?
My point cleverly underlined, I concluded by describing how I made those sandwiches, took them out to tide folks over, and only then returned to the kitchen to help with the larger effort. Satisfied that the parallels were clearly drawn between the story and our current situation, I smiled and asked if there were any questions about my report.
There were only three:
‘Why did they leave so much time before the reception?‘
‘What kind of sandwiches were they?‘
‘So, the bridesmaids… were they hot?‘
Man, I really thought I had them this time. I guess it’s back to the sock puppets. Dammit.Permalink | 2 Comments