S peeped into my cabin. He asked “aren’t you joining for the meeting? I had forgotten about it. Together we went to our senior colleague K who made some tart remark about being still around and hence would be joining the meeting.
An outside vendor V was invited to make a presentation on a software relating to our area. He was the owner of the business and had gained a smattering of technical knowledge to survive and grow.
No meeting is complete, unless a few individuals totally unconnected with the subject of the meeting and/or having no knowledge thereof, is present. They serve as a buffer against any informed discussion and swift decision on the matter.
K sensed something amiss after seeing the “unconnected/ignorant” crowd (UI in brief). He suddenly recalled that there were few other colleagues who had knowledge of the subject and should be asked to rush to the meeting dropping all else. My immediate colleague walked in after few minutes wondering what the sudden emergency was. I indicated that he needed mental and physical relaxation from his intense work schedule and hence this sudden call.
K took these brief moments to commence his favorite past time – verbal ambush. As the word indicates, it is practiced on those least expecting it and is designed to surprise, disarm and confuse the other party. The attack starts with a seemingly innocent question asked after ensuring that the other party is completely ignorant of the answer. Once the ignorance level was assured, then the interrogation is commenced (similar to Shri Rakesh Maria of Mumbai Police with Smt. Sheena Bora).
V tried to look suitably attentive and intelligent during the ambush while wondering whether he should go back to doing what he was qualified to do (Civil Engineering). He gave some vague and evasive replies. Some UI felt that their contribution was needed and raised some stupid queries. By this time, it was realized that all were present and the presentation could commence.
V commenced his spiel. He referred to the automation part of the software. One of the UI awoke and asked a question which seemed to indicate that he expected our Senior Executives to slide out of the computer screen consequent to the automation. V expressed regret at the inability of the software to perform such wonders.
V described the features of his package, which seemed very basic. This seemed like a god sent opportunity to ask him about features which obviously were not there. V was asked to answer with “yes” or “no” for facilities which needed far better understanding of the requirements. V looked as though he had swallowed a balloon, stared intently at the laptop and with a seemingly intelligent look and said that customization would be possible.
K had not finished. He conveyed that the software should have (divine) ability to grasp what its diverse customers would need without any human intervention. Another chap asked how the package would help the Big Boss to know that his underlings have performed what they are paid (or underpaid) to do. I was keen to know whether such a software which could confirm performance existed as they could be dangerous. Bosses should always live with a sense of uncertainty and need for his subordinates. Software which could substitute or confirm proper and complete performance should be left to BPOs and IT Sector- which any way recruit Engineers the way grains are collected after harvest – in quintals.
By now, V felt that he should defend himself from overt and covert attack. He dredged up his mental energy and resources. He confidently asserted that all that is sought or needed would be available. He could show a “demo”, but some technical problem he could not link with his HO. The computer would fill up forms and reach it to their destination with little human intervention (other than completing the form, saving it, opening the web site, loading it, pressing the right commands etc.). I got the impression that the package would enable the computer to do all the above tasks at night when we are asleep. As a measure of caution, I desisted from raising this query.
K by now had a doubt whether those present had sufficient appreciation of his profound and infinite knowledge of the subject. So he presented complicated scenarios for automation. V now felt that some degree of honesty is needed. He said that he has a basic package to be used by small time consultants. All improvements would need to be customized to fill specific needs. He confessed that he had some lowly paid fresh /limited experience professionals to help him to develop/ screen the package and he could not show some brilliant lineage to support his package.
Some of the UI asked some intelligent sounding questions to record their presence. Others stared intently at V and the Screen alternately to indicate that they are keenly following the discussions.
The persons who had to actually put it to use remained silent as it seemed not worthwhile to waste their thoughts or breathe.
V by now was thoroughly exhausted and made a quick exit.
The Meeting ended after some sporadic discussion on further efforts in the matter.
Some of us wondered what was achieved. The persons who arranged the meeting had little knowledge of the end result required. The vendor V had the package meant for a very basic use which needed huge efforts to make it relevant for us. The chaps who were vocal at the meeting had no knowledge of how either the package operates or how the end result is achieved. The views of the persons who actually would need some degree of automation to reduce the drudgery were neither asked their views nor did they volunteer it.
The Meeting reinforced my fond view that these are held for mental and physical relaxation and munch some snacks. For any genuine decision, we pray to God, believe in providential intervention, have an Indian outlook that something will happen and if all these fail, work hard for it.
What do you feel?