Art imitating life - again?

Can you recognise anyone from this cast of characters in your office?

Can you recognise anyone from this cast of characters in your office?

In wishing you all a peaceful and well-deserved Christmas break, my thoughts turn to the blockbuster films we always see on television over the period. Take Titanic, for instance, which is allegedly based on a true story.

Apparently, research suggests that more people have seen Titanic twice than any other film. Why? Does the ship not sink every time?

I suppose the real intrigue comes in hoping that the ship will miss the iceberg after having seen it. This is particularly relevant to organisations. Many of us can see an iceberg ahead, yet feel unable to turn in time.

If these business/company analogies are true, imagine how our colleagues would react if they were on board the ill-fated ship.

Picture the dark night, the looming danger. See our business leaders as they confront their destinies.

Our chief executive would not really notice, until his personal assistant points out that there is more ice in his whisky than usual. And, of course, just before the ship sinks, he receives his large "golden goodbye" bonus.

Our finance director would make some urgent calls to the City to test investor interest in an attempt, at the very least, to liquidate the company and, at most, to float it.

The human resources director would run around the ship shouting that people were the most important thing on board and now was the perfect time to put all that empowerment training into good practice - those courses that tell us we can do exactly what we are told to do.

The internal auditor would monitor closely what we are all doing wrong in trying to survive. He would not comment or intervene, but would compose notes for a 200-page report entitled "could do better" which we could expect to receive in a month's time.

Our marketing director would spend the time making amendments to the brochure - memo to ad agency, please remove the "un" from "unsinkable". As the ship was sinking, staff would be ordered to sort the deckchairs by colour.

Our management consultant would quickly submit an invoice, pointing out, meanwhile, the key resources we are missing - another ship, more lifeboats etc - and organise a Titanic process re-engineering session in which we all try to cover up the holes in the ship with Post-it notes.

The sales director would immediately start to promote diving holidays, not to mention cutting an excellent deal on the available lifeboats.

And inside IT?

Our IT project manager would quickly consult Prince2 and discover that the iceberg does not show up at all, and therefore must logically not exist.

Our infrastructure support team would rush around the ship shouting random times by which the ship would be "fixed".

Our IT helpdesk would still be disputing whether the SOS really was a priority-one call.

Our telecoms expert would find the last lifeboat available and then announce that it will take a month to launch it because of its advanced technology.

And finally, our wonderful IT director. If he or she had been at the helm of the Titanic, the ship would have missed the iceberg - by two years.

With thanks to Chris Yapp

David Taylor is president of the IT directors association Certus
This was last published in December 2001

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