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Archive for the ‘email’ Category

Anatomy of a meeting

In blah, email, work on April 26, 2010 at 7:42 am

“Why don’t you setup some time to brainstorm this”. The most productivity-destroying words uttered within office spaces. BCP-DR Plans (Business Continuity – Disaster Recovery) that focus on earthquakes, tsunamis and peaceful party protests have nothing on the biggest threat to corporations; The meeting.

Naxals and other so-called freedom-fighters rely on ripping up railway tracks to disrupt normally productive life. In the white-collar world, all it takes is a Microsoft Outlook invite.

You can either be the unwitting inviter or the invitee. If you’re the inviter (or ‘Meeting Organizer’), you have the enviable task of finding simultaneously blank space across all calendars in question. A task that google has developed algorithms to do in their calendar application! (so much for jokes about it being rocket science to set up meetings) The first attempt at a suggested date/time is knocked back with disdain with reasons like “Will be on a flight” or “Will be 3am in the timezone I’ll be in”. Few iterations later they’ll be whittled down to one troublemaker who says “I’ll be in between flights and can do 25 mins provided the improbable happens and flights are delayed”. A date/time is setup.

Come the appointed time and all shuffle into a suitably darkened conference room with the first optimistic slide projected on screen. The participants settle in as the organizer runs through the introductory/background material. Every now and then a low buzz is heard, followed by the owner reaching for his bberry to read critical emails about “scheduled downtime of the company’s email server in Bratislava” or enlargement of certain organs. Every now and then one of the bberry owners picks up their buzzing phone to dive out while mumbling their apologies and whispering into the device that they would be interested to know more about the latest unobtainium credit card that Standard Chartered had to offer.

Meanwhile the meeting meanders. Until coming to rest and asking, “any suggestions?”. Pause. Longer pause. Someone mumbles about wanting to deep-dive into the background material to which the organizer mentions that it’s the same document that was sent to all attendees 3 weeks ago. The smarter ones have already been overtly (not covertly) glancing at their watch as they cite other meetings beginning milliseconds after this one ends. There are closing comments directed at the organizer about “great work”, “we should build on this”. “Why don’t you schedule time next week” as the participants dissipate.

Total man hours spent: 16 hours. (Time spent organizing: 4 hours. Man hours attending: 12 hours)
No. of inputs: Eh?
Dilbert strip forward email about meetings received by the group in the middle of the meeting leading to chuckles: priceless.


IT “Help!”….Desk!

In blah, email, rant, work on April 17, 2010 at 8:16 am

The early part of the week downloaded an interesting email into my official inbox. It was first thing in the morning and I had opened the digital version of the plastic tray with the large “IN” taped on it with scotch tape. The usual 60-odd new emails message appeared as they started downloading. Every professional today probably has their own sophisticated system of email management. There are folders, colours, message alerts, all that serve as your personal secretary, filing information by priority and urgency (not necessarily related). Being a follower of the Pareto school of thought, the foundation of my system is to identify the emails addressed only to me and to not bother about the rest since they can usually be ignored until someone checks. Outlook therefore has express instructions to show the ones sent only to me in blue in the inbox. The rest usually group themselves into three categories.

Independence: Working at a firm that’s makes most of its money from being official pains-in-the-client-ass, namely audit means there are stringent requirements to ensure no vested interests are spawned, even unknowingly. Hence, Independence emails that serve to inform you that so-and-so Ltd. was now a client and that we had 3 days to sever all dealings with them. There have known to be instances where employees have hurtled out of moving automobiles on learning that the carmaker was the latest big win. Die-hard company loyalists are not averse to refusing to compromise their ‘Independence’ by refusing the last and only batch of a life-saving drug made by a company they audit.

Support Functions: The paradoxically named departments (namely Finance, HR and IT). This discussion only considers Finance and IT since HR does exemplary work. The fact that appraisals and wage hike decisions are around the corner has nothing to do with it. For functions that are quietly expected to ‘support’ the rest of the organization go about their business, these guys have a lot to share. And a lot of what they say has the word ‘policy’ in it. The usual clutch of emails from Finance about the deadline for submitting expenses that have not yet incurred or reminders of how they only accepted sworn statements from landlords signed in blood (not necessarily theirs) as proof of tenancy. I’ll come back to IT.

Hail Marys: In large organizations, there are many people. Astute observation. And so these many people are organized into departments, teams, subteams and so on. This means when someone needs something done, they have the enviable task of identifying the right team for it. Since, given the movement of people in and out and the reorganizations and the promptness at which Org charts and contacts are updated, most senior folk resort to the American Football tactic of lobbing their work requests high and far and send it to as many people as they can muster with the idea that the right person would be among the recipients and would promptly proceed to deliver exemplary service. Who am I throttle their optimism.

Coming back to IT. The email, inspite of not being emblazoned with the blue that some others did, including those from clients with subject lines like “WTF?!”, caught my attention. With a gleam in my eye, I opened the email with subject “IT Helpdesk Support Feedback”. Satisfied that it wasn’t a Nigerian scam email, I clicked on the link to open the survey page and went to town. Maybe it was the fact that the name “IT Helpdesk” in their case only makes sense as the name of a B-grade thriller based on a killer desk that goes on the rampage and makes it victims cry “Help”. It certainly not because it takes a median 7 calls to get them to send their swat team to your rescue. Or the fact that their resolution to problems ranging from “how do i find this file I saved?” to “my 5 year old threw it from our 15th storey apartment balcony” is to “format the hard drive”. Or it could even be that when a virus had disabled my anti-virus program, they were unable to uninstall it since they (the IT team) didn’t have the admin password required to uninstall. Or maybe I was just being plain mean.

Universal Trust and Equity Inc.

In blah, email on September 22, 2007 at 10:06 am

Universal Trust and Equity Inc. <>

Dear recipient,
I am Mr. Malabo Phillips, the Accountant General of Universal Trust and Equity Inc. We are into Maritime and General Construction Insurance. I got your email address from the Internet and I am counting on your sincerity and integrity.
Engr. Gerald Hudson was my client and a foreign expatriate working for County Construction Company (C.C.C). He lived in Lagos – Nigeria and worked in Ghana, Cameroon, Togo, Republic of Benin and Nigeria as the West African Regional Head of County Construction Company (C.C.C). He has been my client for nineteen years until his death on 10th September 2006. The following equipment were secretly insured with us at Universal Trust and Equity Inc:- Caravans, Fork-Lift trucks, Back hoes, Breakdown Trucks Excavators, Bulldozers, Tractor – Trailors, Vans, Concrete Mixers, Dump Trucks and Flat Beds. Engr. Gerald Hudson and Engr. Alfredo Moore are signatories for County Construction Company. Engr. Gerald is dead and Engr. Alfredo’s appointment was terminated 6 months ago for extending his vacation without statutory approval. Presently County Construction Company has a total of US$7,500,000.00 to draw from Universal Trust and Equity Inc., after due process and service charge is paid by County Construction Company.
All the necessary documents to process the release of the US$7,500,000.00 is on my table. I will be retiring in December 2007 to relocate and join my family in Zambia. I need a credible business man or woman who will assist me execute this deal successfully and you will be adequately compensated. With my recommendation and partnership with you, the funds
will be transferred to your bank account any where in the world. Treat this message confidentially as I appeal for your maximum cooperation. This business is 100% risk free with your involvement. Please your response will be highly appreciated.
Yours faithfully,
Mr. Malabo Phillips


Dear Malabo

Hope you are keeping well. I do not ordinarily go for get-rich-quick schemes, but the fact that you found my email id on the internet fills me with confidence. It follows from your source that the recipient of an email would be sincere and integral (or better still, a man of integrity).

DEAL:- Please accept my condolences for the death of your long-standing client from the international conglomerate with the modest name of C.C.C. The fact that your client company elevated its engineers to head continental operations shows that meritocracies not only exist, but also flourish. It speaks of his tremendous business acumen to have insured his firms equipment with your firm U.T.E. Here let me congratulate you on choosing a name that would befuddle competitors into thinking that you were in the business of investing into companies than secretly insuring their equipment with their regional heads.

I should now confess that your mention of Engr. Gerald as having being the sole signatory had roused my suspicions about the legitimacy of your deal. It is unfortunate for Engr. Alfredo to have extended his vacation and hence having forfeit, not only his position, but also C.C.C.s claim on the insurance premium paid.

COMMITTMENT:- I can also see the urgency of the matter for you considering a) you are keen to return to your loving family and b) the necessary documents are taking up valuable space on your desk. I consider myself to be a shrewd judge of character and the fact that you are looking for a business person of either sex tells me that you are a fair-minded person with a deep rooted sense of equality. There is hope for this planet yet!

It also bodes well that the funds of CCC can be transferred to any bank in the world (neither of my banks has a branch in Nigeria) and what more assurance can a person get than a “100% risk free with your involvement” from a respected member of the financial services industry.

My bank account details will be sent to your personal mail id only. Please ensure that the details are treated with utmost secrecy. I too shall count on your sincerity and integrity.

yours faithfully,


p.s : please send me the email id of your secretary so as to plan a farewell party for your impending retirement.

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