#FridayFlash: Problems with the T.P.S report

"You wanted to see me, Mr. Ahern?"

"Yes, sit down, Wallace."

"Thank you, sir."

"I'll come right to the point, Wallace. Less than an hour ago, the Regional Director sent your team prospectus to me for my opinion."

"But I only just... I mean, he sent it to you? For your... opinion?"

"Tell me, Wallace, what is this?"

"It's our team prospectus, sir. A near-complete draft, which I fully intended -"

"And what, may I ask, is a 'near-complete' draft? Is it finished or isn't it?"

"Well, sir, the essentials of the plan are in place, but some of the specific details could be tweaked slightly so as to -"


"Um... sir?"

"The final version of the prospectus for your team was due by close of business yesterday."

"Yes sir."

"But you didn't turn this in until this morning at 7:00, correct?"

"Ah... no. No sir. We didn't make yesterday's deadline. I delivered this draft a couple of hours ago, in time for the Regional Director to see it this morning."

"You say 'we'. It was to have been written by your Project Leader, David Jakes, with input from the rest of the team."

"Yes sir. That's how it's supposed to work, sir."

"But in fact, you wrote this, didn't you. Your Project Leader assigned the job to you?"

"Um... he asked me not to say anything about that, sir."

"And did he suggest some form of compensation for you quietly doing his job for him?"

"Sir, I -"

"A bigger office? A raise? A promotion, perhaps? Even though none of that is within his power to grant?"

"Sir, I just wanted to... well..."

"I know, Wallace. You just wanted get ahead by doing the job properly. Tell me, did Mr. Jakes review this document before you submitted it?"

"Yes sir. I sent it to him when I finished it at 4:30 this morning. He said he'd be up waiting for it."

"At 4:30? You mean you pulled an all-nighter to finish this?"

"Mr. Jakes didn't give me the assignment until last Thursday. I've been working night and day for a week to get this done. As it is, I only just missed the deadline."

"Writing these prospectuses typically takes two months. Are you telling me you put this document together in a week?

"Yes sir. I did."

"Did you review it before you sent it to Mr. Jakes?"

"Um... yes. I mean, yes, I did, but I'll admit I may not have had the freshest eyes to read it with. It's a big document and I was a little punchy before I sent it to him."

"And did he review it?"

"He responded by e.mail at 6:45 to say that he'd read it and that it looked fine. He told me he'd be in a little late this morning, so I was to print off a clean copy for the Regional Director. And... that I should sign his name on it."

"Which you did not. The signature line for the Project Leader is left blank."

"Yes sir. I... didn't think I should... I mean, this is a formal prospectus, and I..."

"I see. Wallace, when the Regional Director came in this morning, his secretary handed this to him. As it was separate from the other prospectuses, she thought that it had been set apart for special attention. Here, take it. Bearing in mind that you wrote it and Mr. Jakes approved it, ostensibly after reviewing it, I'd like you to turn to page 87. That's Question 6, Part 4, dealing with human resources and project management. Take a moment and look it over. You don't need to read it aloud, but just re-read it."
4a. Describe the human resources available for the project. [FIX ALL THIS LATER BEFORE GIVE IT TO JAKES]

Human resources: The project consists of six team members: Mr. Cynical Burnout (Project Leader), Mr. Ambitious Unappreciated, Ms. Lazy Dumbass, Mr. Retired-In-Place, Ms. Fresh From University and Dr. Arrogant Primadonna. The project also serves as a vacation youth hostel for a rotating staff of useless interns, including (at the time of writing) Ms. History Major, Ms. English Major and Mr. XBox-360 Major.

4b. Describe the overall management approach.

Management: The project will rely on the 5-S management system: Sit down, Shut up, and Stay on task or I'll kick your aSS. The collaborative nature of this system serves to leverage the skills and abilities of Mr. Unappreciated to cover the deficiencies of the other team members. To facilitate efficient information sharing and increase productivity, staff meetings will be held monthly, semi-monthly or never.

4c. Provide a basis for demonstrating how the project team functions and makes decisions.

Decision making: Decisions will be made in secret by the Project Leader, who will then putatively empower the other members of the team by giving them a chance to express meaningless opinions and get into futile arguments. Courses of action which further the goals of the Project and which foster a spirit of collaborative effort will be mutually decided upon. The Project Leader will then do whatever will best serve his immediate and/or long-term career goals.

4d. Describe the evaluation plan to track outcomes.

Evaluation: The progress of the project will be monitored and evaluated primarily by wiretapping and eavesdropping. This will include IT-based evaluation tools, such as hard-drive mirroring, keystroke snooping and interception of e.mail. Where this is not possible due to electronic countermeasures and/or restraining orders, The Project Leader will use Project funds for bribes and payoffs for informants. These expenditures will be leveraged, as these informants will also serve a strategic role as targeted rumor-mongers. As per standard practice, the annual reports will be prepared by Mr. Unappreciated. The Project Leader will then edit them into the usual tissues of self-aggrandizing lies, relying on misdirection and innuendo to obfuscate the lack of activity from the other members of the team.
"Did you write that, Wallace?"

"Ah, sir, this was, ah, obviously intended as a placeholder text until I could revise it. Which, it would appear, I, ah... failed to do."

"Wallace, I'm not going to ask you if this is an accurate picture of how you see your project functioning. What I am going to do is ask you to come with me."

"Sir? Right now?"

"Yes, Wallace, right now."

"But can't I... I mean, can I have a few minutes to go clear out my desk?"

"Clear out your desk?"

"Yes sir. I mean... aren't you going to...?"

"Fire you for being such a god-damned idiot? No, Wallace. We're going upstairs. After reading your little report, the Regional Director wants to get your frank assessment of your project. We've been trying to get rid of David Jakes for a while; his instructing you to write the report is almost enough by itself, but directing you to sign it for him will tip the balance."

"Sir, I never meant -"

"I know you didn't. Just tell the truth about what happened. A bit of warning though, Wallace. When he hears that you wrote this in a week, I imagine he'll make you the new Project Leader so you can clean house and manage your bunch of misfits while you implement this prospectus."

"I... I..."

"Good luck, Wallace. You're going to need it."

===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.


  1. So true that it has given me a headache.

    ...And made me laugh like a demented fool. Good lord.

    Of course it's well written. I loved it.

    Good luck, Wallace, indeed.

  2. This was just so wonderful! Great dialogue and just damn funny!

    P.S. 'nogiess' is the word verification code I need to type in. It's even funny there! :D

  3. I'll admit, I started off with with a late read of "Just Enough Power" and then scolled up. I saw the formatting demarcating that it was obviously quoted and I thought, "Oh Tony, what am I about to read? Is that really necessary? Really?"

    Then I read it.

    Yep, it's necessary and it is hilarious! Awesome job! Somehow, on some level, yeah i don't think it was "forgotten." :-)

    Well done!

  4. I love this piece Tony and I'm around early enough to get in one of the first few comments.

    The formatting is great, the cynical twist on the writing is perfect, the fact the boss doesn't even BOTHER to take the time to read the whole document but his PA does is spot on, the names for his co-workers... all in all, a rather accurate portrayal of coporate project management. Another reason why I generally like to work alone.

    Feel a bit sorry for your MC though - feel as though perhaps he's bitten off more than he can chew.

  5. Inspiration and perspiration pay-off, in a punchy way. Wish I'd gotten the promotion last time I was so punchy ;)

    As always, original and entertaining.

  6. I've worked with those people! I was laughing the whole way through. Excellent job!

  7. I did see the promotion not firing bit coming way early. Something about the tone of the questioning. So I have to say it wasn't until the report itself that the story really picked up a head of steam, but from there in on you went yard with a home run.

    marc nash

    my security word is 'fines' who'd have guessed?

  8. The dialogue was a bit slow, but I enjoyed reading that bit of report. Reminds me of a few projects I've seen so far...

  9. Ah, the machinations of management so delicately described and delivered. This gave me a good laugh.

  10. Thanks for commenting, everyone!

    Jodi: feel as though perhaps he's bitten off more than he can chew.

    Probably, especially if it's a corporate culture that takes a really long time to get rid of bad apples!

    Marc & Diandra: I think you will not be surprised to hear that I wrote the report part, then constructed the rest of the scene to give me a place to use it. Believe it or not, I already trimmed lots of dialogue before posting, and re-worked the ending. It was originally going to end badly for the MC, but I got a special request for my #FridayFlash by a friend who's going through chemo. I thought a funny promotion-as-mixed-blessing might be more appropriate than backstabbing-betrayal-and-suicide.

  11. Absolutely brilliant, and probably the only honest report that senior management has ever had the opportunity to read!!

    Glad you made it end well for the MC, not least because of all the people who have worked in organizations like this and know exactly what the MC's going through.

    Best wishes to your friend who's having chemo - hope the laughter will prove a great morale-boost. :-)

  12. Having just spent the last week up to my eyeballs in office policy documents, this is just...well it's so damned HILARIOUS because I wish companies were actually ballsy enough to admit to things like this! I loved this, it's very well written and just has that perfect air of verisimilitude. Very jealous of you right now!

  13. Aislinn & Icy: There's a certain class of reader who will really, really, REALLY identify with this report. I'm glad you liked it!


  14. F**king brilliant! And so true...
    Great job with the way you wrote the piece - dialogue, pacing.

  15. This works on so many levels. Great dialogue to push it along, and the placeholder text (the truth) was brilliant. A great read.

  16. So true it's scary. Well written, and quite funny. Well done!

  17. I also kind of expected the ending but it was still a fun read. That's why I never use placeholder text in my reports! It will only end in tears.

  18. This cracked me up, Tony. I almost want to take your project team and play a game of clue(less)

    Dr. Arrogant Primadonn with an unsharpened pencil signed 'Shut up, Stay on Task, or I'll kick your aSS', in the printer room at 4pm.

    Ms. Lazy Dumbass disapproved.

  19. One of my co-workers used to have this job. Now she teaches power-point techniques to monkeys.
    The language was TOO funny. Well done, T-dawg! : D

  20. If only all our frustrations led us to be elevated like this guy. But then we'd probably find the promotion overwhelming and get snarked out by our underlings, who would replace us in turn. It's the wheel of snark.

  21. Very amusing, I like how you put down in words the kind of thoughts that every frustrated worker would like to say once in a while! Certainly won't be risking
    this approach with my own boss anytime soon though!

  22. Heh, this certainly does highlight the dangers of placeholder text.

    OK, so this is one of those "wish fulfillment" stories. I know you all have written them, too...

  23. And this would be why I always change the color of my placeholder text to red. Fabulous story.

  24. Not quite sure if the ending is a blessing or a curse, but I love the 'placeholder' text. Teehee :)


  25. LMAO,Tony - well done! I spent most of my career as a management consultant or project manager in IT. Sad to say, this pattern is very common in organization after organization. Funny that they didn't cover how to succeed in an organization like this in my MBA program ;-)

  26. OMG,OMG! I LOVE this!!! So true, and I must admit this is just my sense of humor about the workplace - I would sooo do this.

    Oh what a dream to be recognized for such good, hard work! Heehee! You have helped millions live out their dream through your story. It is such a waste of talent for so many workplaces to actually be like this. It reminds me of all the 1980s office place movies.

    Very well-written,as always, and so clever I felt a quiver.

  27. Fiction hits hardest when it's truest to life! Thanks for reading, guys, I'm glad it resonated with you.

    No, they don't cover this stuff in business school. Too bad!

  28. I feel sure I've worked for Mr Jakes myself, just title me Mr. Nose-To-The-Grindstone-But-Silently-Plotting. ;)

    Simply brilliant, Tony, I'm still having trouble typing this comment as my sides still ache from laughing.

  29. Not only did you hit the nail on the head, you drove it straight through. I do not miss that crap even for a minute.


  30. Snappy. hilarious and good-natured. Work can do many scary things, but the placeholder text tells the story just right. Wonder if I could do the same thing. Great story Tony!

  31. Work is a place where tempers can rise, even if they don't always flare.

    The fiction part of this is how Mr. Unappreciated got a promotion instead of getting fired!

  32. The HR section is an inspired piece of writing - and gloriously, painfully true to life.

    It's also clear that Wallace identifies with Mr. Underappreciated.

    Wallace's confusion and concern at the position he found himself in are very cleanly drawn.

    Nicely done.

  33. Tony, I'm going to keep this on hand should I ever get tempted by the security of regular income and benefits to re-enter the world of working for someone else. All of that is true for a medical environment as well. :)


  34. You hit it so perfectly. I have a feeling it won't take too long for him to wish he was fired rather than promoted.

    Loved the Office Space reference too.


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