Thursday, March 12, 2009

Growing the pie.

Everybody took their seats in the conference room. Big decision. Should we use the whiteboard or the flip charts or stay with the Powerpoint? Who would take notes, and on what, and what with? Did someone remember to bring the markers? Hey Dunce, you got the Poland Spring, or do you prefer Perrier? This is some serious shite we gonna discuss.

T-boy stood up and addressed the group: "Today we look at the pie. It is this big." He held out his arms as wide as they'd go. "It is not getting bigger, no no no. So what do we do, to cut a bigger slice of the pie? I tell you what we do -- we sharpen our knives. We have whetstones, yes? So now we must apply the elbow-grease and slicken up the whetstones and sharpen our blades." He enunciated every word like he was castin a spell.

"This pie stays the same for years. This big and no bigger. And what have we done about it. We have let others cut into our slice, that's what we've done. See this?" He flashed a decade's worth of market share numbers up on the screen. "Ten years, every year a slightly smaller slice. This is our responsibility. To reverse the trend."

Big Hat's leg started bouncin up and down, like he was practicin the St. Vitus dance in his chair. Shoot, you could hear the thump-thump-thump across the room. Little beads of sweat shone on his temples. These were his numbers, this was his Powerpoint. And the numbers were bad. He knew they were bad and dint think they were reversible. But he wasn't gonna say that. I mean, Big Hat wasn't dumb and his heart was in the right place.

By now, T-boy had unbuttoned his cuffs and rolled up his sleeves. He was in a lather. "This is what we have to do. Sharpen our knives, so we can cut a bigger slice. Starting right now. Because this pie is the only pie there is, and if we don't start cutting a bigger slice, we have no future. Unless someone here thinks we can grow the pie?"

Half the room was now focused on the involuntary jerking of Big Hat's leg. Everybody thinkin, geez, this bouncin and thumpin could be contagious. Just then, Lucy Doe's left leg started breaking free of its fetters, and randy Randy followed along, with a terrible twitch. The room was startin to get noisy. Somebody whispered to Big Hat, "What you got, ants in your pants?"

A heinous smell came over the transom, like a dead mouse or rotten eggs. Someone must've passed wind. But no one could acknowledge it, or the whole meeting would've fallen apart. We needed to stay on point -- this was big stuff we were discussing. So everybody sat back and gritted their teeth and stared at the screen, pretending there was no smell and no bouncin legs and no noise.

Nothin could stop T-boy now except a Sherman tank. His pale jowls flapped around like an old St. Bernard's. "This is no joke, this pie. You think we can grow it? Or do we get out our knives and cut a bigger slice? This is up to you. Each one of you has a knife. Now you must use it. Sharpen it first, then use it on our competition. Like this." With those words, he lunged at the table and pantomimed a toreador thrusting his sword into a bull. "Like this." Twist twist twist.

Back to the Powerpoint. "Unless you can grow the pie."

Big Hat was limp in his chair, Lucy's eyes receded into her skull, and randy Randy sighed deeply. The smell had almost entirely dissipated, and things were getting back to normal. Dunce even passed around some chocolate chip cookies.

Everyone started agreeing that the pie was ours. "We can do it. We can sharpen those knives." Someone barked out, "I think we can do both. Grow the pie and cut ourselves a bigger slice. Why not?" From around the room a chorus of assenting grunts. "Yeah, sure, can do, why not, sounds good, let's go..." Big Hat stared at the bad numbers but his heart was in the right place. He joined in, "I know we can do it."

T-boy liked it when everybody agreed on a goal. "Good meeting, guys. Now let's get back to our desks and execute." Someone said we should make a poster for the lobby: "Grow the pie and take another slice." But there was no money in the budget for a poster. Randy Randy whispered into Lucy's ear: "How the hell are we supposed to stay motivated without a budget?"

T-boy opened the door and let the air out of the room, the meeting was over. The table was littered with water bottles and scraps of paper, a couple of candy wrappers and a little mound of crumbs. And underneath where Dunce had been sittin, sticky wads of chewing gum. It was okay, the Russian cleaning lady was just gonna have a little extra work later on.

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