Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Consultants Are Coming
2500 BC/AD 70s, 80s, 90s …

I start on the third floor and graze on tidbits of new information, picked up from the litter of gossip floating everywhere. I skate quickly around the water cooler circuits before I can be sucked into the discussions. I sample each floor and by the end of the morning I realize that this group of consultants are here to target the top. They are going to attempt to flatten the pyramid.

Yes the consultants are coming – again. We sit in the restaurant taking one of our long lunch breaks to discuss the possible upheavals that are sure to result from this latest interference. The local restaurant owners rub their hands in glee as they see tables full to capacity on what would normally be a quiet Tuesday lunch.

Diane says that these consultants are charged with developing a drastic restructuring plan. “Looks like another cut, slash, eliminate, so keep you heads down and your ears open. “I heard that the Research Department is going to be the primary target this time around.” Sherry tells us. I had heard that rumor too but say nothing - Heather is here to spy and report every word of our speculations back to the boss.

We agree to regroup for lunch tomorrow after gathering information from our contacts and trying to reassure our employees. We hop into my car and I drive us out of the Pots and Pans restaurant parking lot in Fort Saskatchewan and head back to the plant where I park outside the new research center building where we all work in positions that give us access to facts as well as speculation and gossip. Everyone will surf the multitude of whispering cliques gathered in hallways, on stairwells, at water coolers. Little work will be done anywhere today.

I barely finish scanning my messages when two of our research managers, Ian and Roger, stick their heads around my office door and ask if I know what the consultants have in mind. I tell them that I know for sure that they are scheduled to be on site for the next three weeks. First week is set aside for top-level interviews, second week to present their recommendations to the Senior Vice Presidents, and third week for plan implementation.

I advise both of them that even though we haven’t been given the criteria, it is a good idea to get busy listing their employees in order of importance to critical projects – if they don’t have good information at their fingertips, others will make decisions for them. I spend the afternoon updating the list of pros and cons for each of my people. I have no idea how many of my staff I might be ordered to let go. I have no idea if I myself will be on my bosses’ slash and burn list.
After the last consultants came I had to let two people go, but other departments faired worse and lost ten or fifteen. But, as always happens after the restructuring dust settles, the top people are still firmly entrenched so all departments rebuild and nothing really changes, hence the constant stream of consultants.

Once my initial list is prioritized, I visit each of my contacts so see what information they have managed to uncover and what gossip they have heard. We all agree that this group of consultants is here to target the upper levels. They are going to shave a layer from the pyramid, perhaps one level of Vice Presidents or Managers.

Senior Vice Presidents and Senior Managers all have their heads down building strategies to make sure they remain at the top of the reporting structure and their departments are placed to quickly return to the status quo after the consultants’ departure. You have to laugh, there is more energy spent by the senior levels in fortifying their own position than they ever put in to moving the company forward through better management, production or marketing.

Same mix of cream and scum float to the top = same old pyramid.

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