Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Another Edition of Tales from Management Consulting!

:::cue spooky music and thunder clap:::

I thought I'd pop in with another quick story of stuff that's happened during the course of my project.

We're wrapping up my current engagement, the details of which are not important for the purposes of this story. Suffice it to say, there was a conference call scheduled earlier this week with the CEO of our client and other top executives.

Our project team leaders, partners at our firm, had requested the meeting at the end of one of our steering committee meetings (It's called the steering committee because it's made up of leadership that will periodically guide, or "steer" the ongoing effort. You know, like the captains of a large ocean liner like the Titanic only without the large giant iceberg and thousands of hypothermia-related deaths)

Anyway, because we had attended that steering committee meeting, we (myself and the other associate on the project), were included on the invitation to the CEO conference call that was put together by the executive's assistant.

Good for us, because we wouldn't typically be included on such a high-level and relatively impromptu discussion.

Of course, the client executive team, and our own project leaders, didn't exactly give us permission to attend.

So, our plan was to dial in to the call early, to be there right at the beginning when everyone joins, mute our phone, and simply listen to hear what was going on and what the next steps of the project would be.

Simple, right?

So we dial in to the call, when the conference system announces that we'll now be placed into conference and that there are only three people on the call.

:::Electronic Beeps:::

Client Executive: Hello this is the team at Client X, who else has joined the call?

Consulting Firm Manager: This is X with Y Consulting Firm

Client Executive: Hello...


Client Executive: I thought there was someone else on the call?"

At this point, we're not sure exactly what to do. We've just been made, but dropping off might be too blatant. Also, we had received specific instructions NOT to introduce ourselves because of the whole lack of specific permission thing. If we were Allied spies in Nazi Germany...this is the point where we'd dash off for a high stakes life or death chase through the Alps.

But this isn't a movie, so we just cursed in our conference room.

Suddenly, more beeps came on the line, a few, maybe two, maybe four. People began to announce themselves, and we breathed a sigh of relief.

It won't matter, we thought, we just got lost in the shuffle.

The new attendees introduced themselves over the phone, and then there was another awkward pause...

Client Executive: I thought there was one more person on the call..."

At that point we received an email from our team...

"Just drop off the call, now"

We hung up on the conference, leaving them to guess who dropped off, and leaving us to wonder what might be said

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Fair Use

I've been living in my new Manhattan apartment for a little over three months now, and I'm starting to adjust to the new surroundings.

The doormen finally know who I am, even with all the long work hours and traveling that meant they often weren't sure I even lived in the building.

I'm also getting used to the workout room here. I won't go so far as to call it a gym, because it's literally a studio apartment on the second floor that's been converted. It doesn't have much in the way of equipment, just a large rack of free weights, two treadmills, and two elliptical machines. Certainly adequate, although I miss UChicago's Ratner center (my workout room also doesn't have the first ever awarded Heisman trophy).

Anyway, one of the nicer touches our workout room does have is a big office-cliche style water cooler. A giant jug of refrigerated spring water, complete with the rack of little cone cups that you can't set down on anything so you'd better drink your water all at once.

It's definitely nice to have, although many times I'll go to work out and find it empty. Not only does it leave me a little thirsty, but it also made me wonder, who was drinking all this water?

I've used the facility on all types of days at all different hours, and I very rarely see anyone else there. Moreover, I very rarely see anyone who IS there actually take some water.

So where is it all going? This morning I got a clue as to the answer.

As I was finishing up my workout, the door to the workout room opened (it's locked, and each resident who requests a key can get their own).

I was stretching, so the first thing I noticed were this man's feet. They had shoes on, but they were flashy stylish casual sneakers. They didn't seem to be workout shoes. He was also wearing jeans. Again, not part of your typical workout outfit, and clearly not endorsed as suitable attire by any licensed professional trainer.

He walked into the workout room and turned immediately to his right, focusing his attention on the water cooler, and in a very matter of fact way, placed two large empty plastic bottles on top of the cooler.

He then took the first bottle, placed it under the water cooler spigot, and began to fill it.

I looked on, horrified as he calmly siphoned off water intended for those in a much sweatier and wearier condition.

The bottle filled, and he brought it up to his eye level, where he examined it like a chemist checks a graduated cylinder for precision. Unsatisfied, he filled it up a little more. Once complete, he repeated the process with the remaining empty bottle, as I stood there, waiting for my now meager by comparison cone cup.

He left, now burdened with the extra weight of two full bottles of water, and as I drank my own I felt a bitter taste of complete irrational indignation.
From my perspective, this water belonged to ME...and to every other tenant who needs water after a workout. Now, I haven't seen this gentleman's apartment, so maybe he doesn't have running water, a refrigerator, or a BRITA. Of course, maybe he just doesn't have any decency.

Who steals water from the gym? And what should I do to combat this problem?

Poison the water! That was my first idea. I dismissed it as slightly problematic, after all, where does one even buy poison?

My second idea was just to quit my job and sit in the gym, all day, every day, patiently waiting for this or another similar bottle-filler to come in. I would pretend to be going about my workout, then when they fill their water bottles and turn to leave, I would snatch the bottles and run away, re-distributing the water to thirsty looking people like a modern-day Robin Hood. Only no tights.

There was also brief thought of rational discussion with the water stealer, but that ultimately was also dismissed as impractical. Settling disputes face to face isn't what we're supposed to do, we supposed to just privately complain, that's what the internet is for!

I also gave some thought to whether I might be wrong in this situation. The water is available for residents of the building. And while it may be intended specifically for those who use the workout room, is it right that anyone should be able to use it as they see fit? Perhaps...

Although if that is the case, I've always wanted to wash my car in clean and refrigerated spring water...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

I bet this happens a lot in consulting

In the middle of a midtown Manhattan office, two Associates are working on the same project team

Associate 1: Hey, are you working on the project application map?

Associate 2: Yeah, are you working on the technology process flows?

Associate 1: Yeah...why?

Associate 2: The senior team told me I should use your process flows to create my application map.

Associate 1: Uh, well, the senior team told me I should use YOUR project application map for MY technology process flows.

Associates 1 and 2 (together): Shit

And scene