Tuesday, May 22, 2007


One thing I had very much looked forward to for quite some time was a "Sexual Harassment" training that has been planned for quite some time. One would think that this is not something that would come up as an issue in such a small company as ours. But for some reason our beloved management latched onto this and decided that this is highly important, never mind that there are plenty of other things that comes to mind as more important and urgent... We love and trust El Presidente.

After many delays the training will be held tomorrow and unfortunately I due to personal reasons will not be able to be in the office for this... However, my agents will be listening carefully and hopefully there will be some amusing incidents that will be worth mentioning here even if it will be through second-hand sources.
One of the main things we had been looking forward to was to listen to Mr. J have this training for us since his awkwardness could make for some great material. Unfortunately his departure has led to this being outsourced to a professional trainer. For us I guess there's no more jokes about giving someone the Angry Dragon...
One recalls the lyrics of the Sexual Harassment Panda song...
"Who lives in the east 'neath the willow tree
Sexual Harassment Panda!
Who explains sexual harassment to you and me
Sexual Harassment Panda!
Don't say that don't touch there
Don't be nasty says the silly bear"
He's come to tell you what's right and wrong
Sexual Harassment Panda!"

Shock and Awe

There's a lot of stuff going on in my lovely company that can be classified as unusal, crazy or disturbing but rarely do we encounter stupidity in the pure form we encountered today... It was the shock and awe tactics of stupidity, and no surprise, I was shocked and I was awed.

The most recent project I have been working together with Luke, the Boy and Mr. Chin Jr. on has been a complete clownshow with a large number involved parties competing for the role as the lead clown while we have been trying to avoid getting too entangled and as much as possible tried to stay away and watch from the side. Last week we thought we had somehow finished this mess with our honor somewhat intact, granted, some tweaking was done to adapt to the politics of the client but nothing so shameful that it demanded a harakiri session. We looked into the market, did an analysis and provided a decent report for the client which we thought would be the end of it all.

However, now it seems like the project has involved to include a second part where we are going to look more into detail. One of the key findings of this particular market was that getting access to sales channels would be one of the largest hurdles to market entry as well as differentiation of the product. We also recommended the client to develop a product that targeted a certain segment of the market where we saw some potential to grow, and also avoid the heaviest competition. So far so good, today we talked with Mr. Chin about how to proceed over the phone.

Now, for the sake of argument, let's say that this product in question is "potato chips" which is mostly sold by "supermarkets". Now in the phone conference, Mr. Chin very seriously blurts out;
"I think that it might make sense for the client to acquire a supermarket chain to get immediate access to their sales channel, I have heard that there is one that fits the customer segment that we have in mind".

For a brief moment there is just complete silence in the room, we look at each other and just shake our heads and it takes me a couple of seconds to gather myself enough to very mildly ask Mr. Chin;
"Ok, but do you really think that this potato chips manufacturer wants to go into the supermarket business? Isn't supermarkets a little different from what they usually do, and also considering that potato chips is an extremely marginal source of profit for the individual supermarket...?".

A short silence follows whereafter Mr. Chin replies;
"Well, maybe we need to just show them why it's not a good idea to do this".

Again a short silence whereafter I say;
"Really, if they can't understand by themselves why this is a really bad idea I don't think there's any point in explaining it to them... Did the client really say that they thought this would be a viable approach?!"

Again, a longer silence followed by;
"No, not specifically but..."

Thankfully, the topic changed to more meaningful discussions after this and this was not brought up again, but the moment the phone was hung up there was plenty of merriment in the meeting room. Like ambulance drivers and other people in intense professions, humour has become our defense mechanism to survive.

Now, one would think and hope that this would be enough severe stupidity for one day but shortly after this phone conference I had another phone conference with Mr. Chin together with my new team for another project that is just starting up; Meg and Dr. Y. One of the topics we brought up with Mr. Chin was preparations for an interview with a client that we have been planning and we wanted to make sure that he was comfortable with the questions we were going to ask. In the beginning the meeting goes reasonably well, with us outlining our current status in the project and the plans going forward, so far so good. Except for a few comments from Mr. Chin that didn't really make sense and made us do the question mark faces, but didn't seem important for us to really care about. Just when we thought everything was fine and set for the phone interview the following day a question comes up from Mr. Chin;
"So... tomorrow we're going to talk to this guy and ask him questions?"

The whole meeting Mr. Chin had talked and appeared to be listening, but he had never understood one thing about what the meeting was about... Meg and Dr. Y has not yet been as exposed as me to the nature of Mr. Chin so they did not respond with humour but instead with pure disbelief.

Believe me, this is heavy stuff to experience, all in one day...

Since I will be working with them for some time ahead and they might very well appear as supporting characters in my future adventures, here comes brief profiles of Meg and Dr. Y:

Meg is one of those people that almost instantly triggers my inferiority complex in that she's extremely smart, friendly and always nice. She's in a junior position but has relatively long experience in the company and therefore knows a lot of the tricks of the trade. Very "Ivy League" but not snobbish about it. I almost hope to see some really bad side of her since it would be a relief to know that she also got flaws.
Intentional Amusement Level (1-10): 6
Un-intentional Amusement Level (1-10): 1

Dr. Y is a Japanese guy in his mid 30's and in a position just one step below me. He's a Harvard doctor in biology or something similar. He quite recently joined the company and is a really nice guy but has not yet adapted to the work since it's quite different from his earlier area of expertise.
Intentional Amusement Level (1-10): 6
Un-intentional Amusement Level (1-10): 2

Monday, May 21, 2007

Project Management - The importance of mapping Stakeholders

As a part of growing as a company, establishing solid training programmes is a very important cornerstone I've heard. Last week we had a very interesting session which Ms. A led to our amusement, now to be completely fair, she's a pretty nice person and she didn't bring up God once even. However, the training was a mess of constant apologies, messed up materials and excuses for not understanding how our lovely company actually works.

However, one of the big "aha"s I took with me as a key takeaway from that training was a simple tool in mapping stakeholders. This is very important to do so you can make an analysis of the people you are interacting with stand in relation to you and how you can manage them better. In my last project I worked together with Luke, The Boy and Mr. Chin Jnr. and I mapped them out as the image indicates. Now I am eagerly awaiting for the next training that will tell me how to punish them.

Any color you like, as long as it's black

Pretty early on I decided that this blog would not be about my life as much as about the comedy that is going on all around me and my allies in the office and not digress into the details of my personal problems. This was a purely practical decision since I only have so much time each day I can spend on writing posts.

Unfortunately some personal problems that actually are not particularly job related have come up and I haven't been able to write as much as I would've like to write here so I apologize for the lack of updates lately. However, trust me when I say it's not because of a lack of comedy and the material is still coming in faster than I can keep up.
You can look forward to hearing the sordid details of the tragic comedy or comic tragedy of Mr. J and his departure from the company he was part of creating. All in good time.

Gambling with love... and losing...

Now, this is almost a little sad to talk about, but poor Mr. M came back today after his little adventure and the exciting news and outcome of our little bet was... nothing... Nothing happened and apparently everyone was a little too positive in our bets, especially me who thought that things would go far.

I actually felt a little bad for the guy since he seemed so sad today when I asked him, I think he thought he had a good shot at making a real girlfriend. I heard from the Hag today that he didn't want to go to lunch with the rest of the gang since he was afraid that we would give him a hard time about his trip and lack of adventures. Well, I'll try to be nice for a while until he's recovered.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

I'm your C***

Just before leaving today I manage to spark an intense debate. One of the ladies in the office was wearing a t-shirt with something written on it which I had taken interest in the whole day since Japanese t-shirts can often be quite amusing...

So just before leaving I took a good look at it and without thinking I happened to blurt out "Does it say "I'm your c***"?" which is very much what it looked like.

Now, it did not come to any definite conclusion what the t-shirt said, The Boy suggested "I'm your lust" and Mr. K suggested "I'm your Punt", but I'm afraid that the risk of it actually saying "I'm your c***" is big enough to discourage her to ever wear it again...
(as for the the picture illustrating this magnificent post it is a real OTC drug marketed here in Japan, "one c*** a day keep the doctor away" as they should say in their marketing! The fun never ends...)

Gambling with Love...

Things are getting exciting now... Mr. M will soon leave for a short vacation to New York where a girl he has been mentioning a lot in the wonderful "love blog" I talked about in the previous post is waiting for him... Among the faithful readers of his blog, which I am obviously a part of, this has sparked heated interest and speculation. This could be the best shot for him to get something done in a long time. The fact that his mother will also be there with him for a some of the time puts a wet blanket over his opportunities, but she will not be watching over him all the time...

Now The Hag (whom I will introduce at the end of this post) took the great initiative and created a bet around any action possibly occuring in New York for him in which I gladly participated. The categories defined were as folllows:

0 - No action
1 - Holding of hands
2 - Kissing
3 - Oral sex
4 - Full-blown intercourse

Now, being the positive and loving soul that I am actually betted on "4", but it was only me that saw the situation in such positive light. Partially because I think he actually seem to have a decent shot at the big league, but partly wishful thinking since I actually think that getting this out of the way would make him more pleasant to work with and generally be around...

Now, as for the promised introduction, The Hag is a Japanese-American from Hawaii (one could argue that it technically could count as part of Japan) in her early twenties in a junior position and she's a strong supporter for Nintendo products (notably the Wii and the DS).
When she is in a good mood she's a great person to be around, to say that she wears her emotions on her sleeve is to say it lightly. One look at her and you can clearly see what mood she is in. Thankfully she's often in a good mood and it's anyway always nice with someone who doesn't hide the emotions. When something amusing has happened to her and she regales the tale for us in the office the delivery is often more entertaining than the actual storie since it often involves her physically reenacting the amusing event due to her enthusiasm. At one specific time involving a story with a man wearing an apron with balls attached to it or something like that, I've forgotten the actual content. The delivery remains though. Unfortunately the part of the work related to working in the land of harmony gets to her more than most of us.
Intentional Amusement Level (1-10): 7.5
Un-intentional Amusement Level (1-10): 3
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