From smack-bang in the middle of the bell curve

Anatomy of a kickoff

In blah, consulting, work on December 5, 2007 at 5:05 pm

Engagement kickoff meeting. We’ll call the key participants Entity A (hint: starts with a P…ends with an artner) and Entity B (hint: John Grisham). There are others involved, and by relative importance, they will be called non-entities.

Why not just refer to them with their names? Three reasons; Client confidentiality, lest the managers of the ‘Unethical use of information for material gain’ department of every competing organization to our client is trawling the internet and other dark places to find information that they can use, two; this is only a representation of a gazillion similar meetings occurring all over the world and three; it would make the story less fun to tell.

Prologue
Entities A and B arrive (within 4-5 minutes of each other, about 10 minutes past scheduled time) with non-entities in tow. It is important here to note that the number of non-entities could vary depending on the scope of the engagement. First few minutes are spent on one or more of the following: traffic (how they started from home/office at daybreak), weather (in proportion to how much rain there has been), work (making sure that no actual details are mentioned). Smiles and nods all around from the non-entities. One of the non-entities (usually the newest) has twiddled with the focus and sundry knobs on the projector to maximize graphic impact. (it’s a mechanism to soothe his frayed nerves not unlike when FBI agents, when in a potentially volatile situation, finger their coat buttons except they’re doing it to gain ready access to the .45 in their hip holster).

The meeting
The assortment of boxes, arrows, pyramids et al start their procession on screen as entity A waxes eloquent. The typical exchange goes along the lines of:

Entity A: I have been involved with 117 similar engagements and I’ll be closely monitoring every stage of the project (I’ll insist that every deliverable is sent to me atleast 2 hours before it is due none of which I’ll see coz my blackberry can not open attachments). Our approach combines the collective wisdom of three generations (of fruit flies) with the essence of all the information there is in the world that will be superimposed with our patented frameworks (that table in the Economist on the page I used to mop up my spilt coffee this morning looked good).
Entity B: Being a very a result-oriented CEO, I’d like to see atleast five generations and that other generation born after specialized in-breeding in the north of the Andes (read about it that morning in a google news sidebar…others read too you smug bastard)
Entity A: Not a problem, Only yesterday, I lunched with the senior scientist who supervised that particular generation (glanced and nodded briefly in a buffet line at a symposium on dog allergies when I bumped into him causing the elbow of his jacket to dip into my paneer makhani).
…67 slides later…
Entity A:…in summary, it would be safe to say that implementing our solution will increase topline by 467% and deliver you to the land of milk, honey and playmates (potentially if all planets line up just right, if elvis comes back and if other less likelier things happen, you might get more than just carpal tunnel from signing our invoices)
Entity B: 467% in topline growth sounds about right but we would also reduce the need for capital expenditure completely while achieving a 97% decrease in operating costs and as a natural extension of that exercise, ensure that someone walks my dogs – twice a day.

Sharp intake of breath from the non-entities but the sound is drowned by that of furious scribbling

Epilogue
Pleasantries exchanged as the group files out of the room…Entity A turns to the biggest non-entity and says with a smile “Don’t worry, I’ll ensure there is no scope creep…you only have to walk his dog once a day..also, don’t bother copying me on the emails henceforth, just contact my secretary to schedule for the final presentation”

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