Workplace consultants’ pizza night

My blog began a year ago on Posterous with the workplace consultants’ curry night. How else to celebrate…?

Following the partial success of the curry night, as promised, our workplace consultants organised a pizza night for the team. The project had been stood down again for three months while another decision was made, but everyone agreed on a night out anyway as there was no sign of the end of the project. Or even the middle.

The planning got off to a rocky start as they were not sure whether to call it a #smartpizza, #flexpizza, #pizzashifting or #workplaceconsultantspizzanight and so there were four separate arrangements being made. Fortunately, the junior designer who has three phones and seventeen Twitter accounts soon recognised the confusion and pulled it together – and called it #pizzup. He is only eighteen.

The partner invited ten of us again, first insisting on formal e-mail confirmation that the client was paying. Three of the general contractor team decided the would attend instead of most of the design team, as they were actually doing the design work. The project manager was unable to make it as he had triple booked, still being a little unsure of how to use his diary. That oversight was offset by two cost consultants showing up that no-one knew were actually working on the project, but they maintained they had been all along. We decided to check the access control logs tomorrow just in case they had been in meetings with us, and we hadn’t noticed. Awkward. The structural engineer arrived with his own plate.

The restaurant was very noisy, albeit the acoustic engineer did advise that it was within tolerable levels. At least I think she said that, it might have been hollerable decibels. There were seventy six possible versions of the humble pizza on offer, but the design director insisted we create our own from scratch, because it was all about culture. He had brought along some picture cards of how we envisaged a pizza might look. When we had filtered out the oil tankers, fields of swaying bamboo and smiley people holding hands, we agreed on the view through the end of a kaleidoscope. He passed the final card to a junior on his team to draw into a pizza, but he spent an hour at the salad bar recreating the Shard . We were all getting rather hungry, but were assured that we had to sign off the concept, and not be tempted to rush into the detail.

When the pizza finally arrived, just as the chairs were being lifted onto tables and lights were dimming around us, we were a little uncertain. The kitchen had seemingly confused “one size fits all” with “one size fills all”.

The general contractor guys pointed out that the pizza didn’t seem to look anything like the concept, but no-one else seemed especially bothered by this. The crème freche base (white was essential, we were assured), a sparse landscape, was randomly dotted with radish, beetroot and lime clusters, connected by anchovy slivers. It represented the unpredictable language of social encounter, apparently. It made carving it up difficult, but we were told it was actually counter to the idea – we are all part of a greater unpredictable whole, and can’t just claim a slice for ourselves. But our hesitation around the mystery content of the stuffed crust was cut short by the abrupt closure of the restaurant and the whipping away of our creation – we never actually discovered what the filling was. The design team were a little reluctant to talk about it afterwards.

We left rather hungry. The team proposed a post-pizza evaluation although we were a little reluctant to take part as we hadn’t actually eaten one. This is, apparently, no barrier to an insightful case study and learning experience (promotional drive), and so they have arranged for Toby from PR to call when he remembers.

I’ve put the phone on divert.


Eve of Combustion: a song about blogging

Written for #chru4, performed by @DougShaw1, and music and inspiration by Barry McGuire

The blogosphere, it is exploding
Now we don’t need, html codin’
You make it all up while WordPress is a-loadin’
Convinced yourself, you’re the new Seth Godin
Follow and engage, you gotta be jokin’
And you tell me
Over and over and over again my friend
That you don’t believe
In online conversation

A thousand re-tweets every hour of the day
A million hanging on everything you say
You think you’re a god, givin’ it away
Covering the web in your pheromone spray
You’re a broadcast service in the old fashioned way
And you tell me
Over and over and over again my friend
That bloggin’s just
A one-way gratification

My blood’s so mad, feels like coagulating
It’s not all about your popularity rating
There’ a world of bloggers all agglomerating
Thinking and writing and participating
All without a need for ego self-inflating
And you tell me
Over and over and over again my friend
But I believe in
2-way communication

There’s a million consultants, under-employed
So @FlipChartRick gets really annoyed
There’s a Semco case study, for @Garelaos
And @Kevinjball is lost in the French Rennaisance
@naturalgrump is heading for combustion
& @AlisonChisnell has planned another marathon
@MJCarty’s has awards he likes to pin on
But the top three slots always go to @NeilMorrison
So I tell you
Over and over and over again my friend
That bloggin’ is
the soul of motivation
Oh I tell you
Over and over and over again my friend
That blogging is
A soul emancipation

Part time punks

Many of my posts are the wreckage of a collision of two trains of thought. Some are a little more tangled than others.

On this occasion it was reading the obituary in The Economist of Sydney Wignall – adventurer, spy and rebel with a sense of humour (despite some terrible adversity) – and a post from @FlipChartRick about the God Save the Queen moment (in the Pistols sense) of BrewDog.

In the case of the latter, a short Twitter debate considered whether self-destruction was actually a defining component of punk. The camp was split. My position was that it was – but then other than for the tragic case of the drug-addled, iconic but talentless Sid Vicious, I couldn’t think of any other cases of self-destruction from the genre worthy of a mention. So many of the rebels of the late 70’s are still gigging, rather sad parodies of their former-rebellious selves from the days when music was urgent, energised, and politicised like never before (and not since).

In a former life, I witnessed rock and roll self-destruction under my own roof from extended family members addicted to heroin. I can tell you that – despite the fairytales that arise from the vulnerability of tortured genius – it’s about as horrific a condition as can be witnessed in a person. No surprise then that I am not a fan of self-destruction – but also can’t find a lot of respect for the self-parody epitomised by those dragging an idea on well beyond its time.

Back to Sydney Wignall – a genuine punk. Never satisfied, never still, never defeated in a series of questionable quests – irrepressible, cheeky, disrespectful, and contemptuous. He didn’t have spiky hair and spit, but he did it his way. While the punk rockers who gave us life and purpose as teenagers are still gigging, still singing about smashing it up to Thatcher’s children, the real punks like Wignall are crashing through another crazy project, cocking a snook to authority.

The punk rockers of their day were self-preserving part-timers by comparison. They didn’t self-destruct, they slipped into middle age looking to make a living from what they knew best – understandable. In many respects, as their followers we are their heirs. We tweet and blog our provocations, we challenge established thinking, expose guff wherever it mushrooms, and campaign for a different perspective. Blogs are the fanzines of our time.  But we respect each other, we pay our taxes, bemoan poor etiquette on the tube, and quietly pity self-destruction.

So BrewDog can have its God Save the Queen moment, and we either have, or will, too. That little bit of rebellion will always be in us. As the song below goes……

They play their records very loud
And pogo in the bedroom
In front of the mirror
But only when their mums gone out

The real rebels are out there doing it their way, with no time to blog about it. As Sartre said in Nausea “one has to choose, to live or to tell.”

We are the part-time punks. Great, isn’t it?

If workplace consultants were organising Christmas….

The Christmas project would require a fully expensed visit for the entire team and some of their friends to Greenland, Lapland and anywhere else ending in “land” to see how they organise it (and what they drink)

A conference on the “future of Christmas” would be held, at which someone would present on “Christmas is something you do, not a small island in the Indian Ocean – although it is that too”

The Pre-Post Occupancy Survey revealed that 54% of people were moderately happy with last year’s Christmas present- which doesn’t tell us much but it’s great to have some data, isn’t it?

The term Christmas would be replaced by a project acronym depicting the meaning and spirit of the season – after a night-long pizza-fuelled brainstorming session, the themes identified were – December , (Frank)incense, Wenceslas, Advocat, Lists and I(want an iPad) – or DIWALI

Only seven out of ten people would get presents, to account for some not being around on Christmas Day

Those seven would all get the same present, because one size fits all

The Christmas Tree would be a tulip growing in an egg cup on the outside windowsill – until it died shortly being placed there, which was an installation error and nothing to do with the design

Christmas Dinner would consist of champagne cocktails followed by several turbo shandies and finally a vegan kebab, all sponsored by a major furniture manufacturer

All Christmas decorations would need to be taken down at the end of the working day and the space left exactly as you would wish to find it, to enable you to celebrate Christmas in a way that suits you – even if you wanted to find Christmas decorations

On Boxing Day the scope of Christmas would be extended to include Easter, the fee thereby being increased together with a sundry 10% admin charge on top for specifying the eggs

Oh well – let’s hope HR will be running it next year….


Workplace consultants’ curry night

The workplace consultants invited us for a curry last week to celebrate their appointment on the workplace transformation project.

The partner invited ten of us but only booked for seven. They figured that one or two would be late, a couple would leave early and at any point in time and – given the pub visit first – one or two would be in the lavatory. They thought it best not to take any more space than was required at any time.

We all sat in Reception on sofas. They thought it was a cooler, more sociable place to eat than the tables that were designed for the purpose. We shared the space with those waiting for takeaways who had nothing to do with our party, but we were told it was great to network horizontally. No-one spoke to us though.

We were issued with a very small tray for our drinks and food, which had to be taken with us whenever we moved place or went to the lavatory.

There was no need for menus as the host had pre-ordered, based on benchmarking studies of what other people have in other restaurants, some of which were curry houses. In this way everyone could eat what they needed only when they needed it. They had ordered for seven too, based on anecdotal evidence that people always over-order in the curry house, especially those under thirty because they are always on their handheld devices and so not paying attention.

Four attendees took food home as they said it was more comfortable there.

For those of us that stayed, the dishes were all arranged on the floor in a random fashion. The red napkins were placed between the dishes for accent colour. The guidance was that if we took food and didn’t want it we had to put it back where we found it. No-one was allowed to have their own dish in case they left some, which would, after all, be wasteful. We had to pass our plates around too, and swap seats, which got very confusing. We mostly ended up spending our time transferring food back and forwards between the plates and the dishes until it got cold. I chased the chicken tikka around the group but never actually got to eat any.

The meal petered out a little when one attendee got up and walked through the lamb bhuna.

When the bill arrived, the host had marked it up by 5% of the total, for the costs of organising the evening out plus an extra 10% for the dish arrangement which wasn’t in the original scope but happened anyway.

Splitting the bill wasn’t easy, as four had gone home, and three of the party had logged the time spent by all attendees in the lavatory. They had worked out that as they were present only 60% of the time their share should reflect this. We were assured it was much cheaper than had we all stayed and been able to order our own food, and so we should be very happy about that.

Yesterday we received a Post-Curry Survey which asked us “Didn’t you think the curry night was fantastic?” and instructed us to tick the one box in the response section which said “Oh yes, deffo”. We were asked to approve a write-up in a few journals and to co-present on effective flexible dining management at a conference later in the year, albeit not to say much but just to add some client credibility and increase our profile.

No-one was sure when we would do it again, as no-one knew where they would be at any point in the next few months. But apparently next time we are going for a pizza……