Monday, November 12, 2012

Scale Back

Previously: Dog Days

Spring came to the office when the new project was announced last month. It was a piece of good news for a workplace that is on the verge of a slump. With me as the project liaison, I saw everything like it was a god-given break. Assured that I knew the business as it was part of my knowledge, we were certain to break new grounds before the month ends.

Me and the boss sailed our little ship across the sea of hope. For us, it was just a matter of time. The project is bound to expand given its growing market in the United States. But before it could happen, excellence must first come within us. "If we could impress the patrons," I told my team. "Our seats could double before December." 

"You need to see yourselves as leaders from now on, as your responsibilities will grow bigger with new people coming aboard." Everyone felt excited.

So we did our tasks beyond the patrons' expectations. We turned drops of instructions into torrents of output. We stayed late at work. We hastened our breaks. We went to work even when maladies dragged our bodies. Though refinement may not have been our strongest trait, we compensated by learning in the absence of guidance. We created our own process - and stuck to it - even when the stateside ringleaders were sometimes in disarray. 

There were frustrations as well. Subordinates who doubted orders. Faulty workmanship being brought up long after the campaigns were done. Patrons who insisted on accomplishing tasks they themselves don't fully understand. Manuals that had to be dissected as it was written only to be understood by its writers. A half-cook project in limbo. 

There were too many stones scattered along the path that soon after, the team began to stumble; the patrons' displeasure became more expressed (they told us straight that we should improve our quality first before we ever think of hiring more people) and my growing inefficiency became a source of self-doubt that I begin to question my ability to lead. I never had a sound sleep ever since this project put my life in suspended animation.

I never spoke of these troubles, not in the presence of the boss. For I had hoped the veneer of normalcy will get us through, even when the odds are growing against us. 

But my deputy and I knew that time will never be on our side. No matter how many hours we spend refining our work, and no matter what innovations we introduce to keep us needed. As the ones who see where work is truly required, our voices could help aid our patron's quest for perfection. But given the inexperience and the lack of authority to speak, we kept things to ourselves and hoped that our continued presence would slowly steer the project into our shared direction.

"Let's surprise them with things we know until they realize we're too important to be set free." I once told my deputy.

And surprise we did.

From being a copy-and-paste drones, we learned to be beta testers and Internet researchers. We harnessed the power of key words and used them to our advantage. We taught ourselves to navigate the project, and to the patrons' surprise, a task was needed and we have accomplished it without asking how it is done.

But the looming deadlock grew. We felt it every time we waited for our next task to be given a green light. It sent shivers to our bones when an irate patron sends correspondence privately, questioning our direction. We would just laugh at how they overturn old instructions. But deep down, we trembled for it showed how lost our handlers really are.

Until it came to a point they had to scale down our work.

The order was given and I was asked to let go one of my men. Vengeance is sweet when the choice came as to who to be put away.

But when the truth struck where it hurts, and the reality of a celebrated rebound became a subtle, but humiliating retreat, one can't help but ask: was there anything we could have done to keep us from getting to this point?

The narrative would echo throughout the workplace: that the patrons would be too busy to pay attention to our insignificant lives. As the project readies its final ascent into the web, we are left with a crippled but defiant workforce: eager to serve and prove its worth.

Meanwhile, the soul-searching must continue to make sure that this time, those of us remaining shall work as one.



♔ıǝɹɯɐı♔ said...

There is power in unity. Kay niyo yan Mugen. Go go go :)

JM said...

ah work. hope your efforts pay off.

if anything, this shows you're most likely a seasoned writer na..