Wednesday, March 3, 2010

On the bringe of oblivion - Cpt. Awkward saves the day!

Earlier in the week we had a launch preparation meeting for a new pharmaceutical product that is soon to be launch by our little company and which is expected to basically drive our growth in the coming years. Basically all the launch preparations are now falling into place and the meeting was mainly with Captain Awkward and his peons to make sure that things were prepared from the PMS (Post-Marketing Surveillance - basically monitoring usage of the products and following up and reporting on any adverse events) side of things.

As I was walking down the list and checking that things had been prepared properly and reached one particular document that needed to be submitted to the authorities and as I asked Cpt. Awkward, more as a confirmation, "this was submitted before the end of last year, right?". I do not get an immediate answer, instead there's some awkward silence, his peons are starting to nervously glance at him as he opens his mouth, as to talk, closes it again and then finally says "oh, no, we did not submit that, I wasn't sure it was needed so I was going to ask the authorities on how to do that...". One of his peons immediately react and tells him "well, I have done this thing before and we're definitely going to need to submit that, no way we can avoid that". Again some awkward silence and he finally says "oh..." and stares out in the distance in the cramped meeting room.

As I look around the room, I can see how the impact of this is starting to dawn on the sales manager and his face is turning increasingly red. I'm desperately trying to figure out how we can work around this problem while still maintain our tight schedule. His QA peons are starting to sweat and looking nervously at each other, probably thinking that they're going to take the fall for this.

I try to steer the discussion on how we possibly can mitigate this oversight. Ideas are thrown around but after around 20 minutes they're starting to get more and more desperate and unrealistic. Cpt. Awkward mostly stares off in the distance and chips in with some small comments, mostly of the "yes", "no", "maybe" and "I don't know" variety.

Due to the timing and amount of work that needs to be put into this I'm starting to realize that there is no way that we can get away with less than 6 months of delays and lost revenues, but more likely spilling over into a full year and possibly more and considerable amounts of money as I run the calculations.
The atmosphere in the room is getting close to panic, Christian Lady is starting to pray, the Sales Manager is calling his family to tell them he loves them, one QA peon is starting to sharpen the harakiri (seppuku) knife saved for occassions like this and annoying QA assistant peon has reached a cataconic stage rocking back and forth. I am desperate trying to figure out an escape plan on how to quickly get some fake passports and fly to North Korea with Mrs. Sunshine-Salaryman to start a new life.

Just at that stage, the Government Affairs Director, and Cpt. Awkward's immediate superior comes in late to the meeting and looks around, sensing that trouble is abound, asks what the issue is.

I explain the problem and the impact it looks like this will have on our business and how basically we are in deep shit. The Director looks surprised and turns to Cpt. Awkward and says "no, I know that you submitted that because I reviewed it before we handed it in, that was almost six months ago". Again, a few seconds of awkward silence until Cpt. Awkward responds "Oh, yes, that's right, I did submit that last year". An awkward atmosphere falls over the room and the sales manager asks "so... this means that things are fine? We can keep the original launch schedule?!". The Director confidently responds "yes, this shouldn't pose any problem at all for us".

"Why didn't you say this from the beginning?" I ask Cpt. Awkward and receive a shrug and a reply of "I wasn't really sure this was what we were talking about... Sorry about that..." and he goes back staring off in the distance.

As everyone realizes that things are fine, an awkward atmosphere fills the room and the meeting is quickly finished up as people file out. The Director, Cpt. Awkward and his peons remain in the room to discuss how this misunderstanding could happen but Cpt. Awkward is staring out in the distance and humming a tune to himself. Awkward indeed...


William said...

Wow. That's... Awesome. I'm trying to imagine everyone panicking for 30 minutes to an hour about something and -anyone- in the room not having a clue what's really going on, let alone the person who was actually responsible for doing the task.

Amazing. :D

Martin said...

I am stunned. One of the greatest posts so far.

Does Cpt. Awkward have his own action figure?

aimlesswanderer said...

Err, always good to know the management knows what is going on!

RMilner said...

Don't Japanese companies use project planning, risk assessments and To Do lists?

ThePenguin said...

@RMilner: many Japanese companies use sucking through the teeth and pointless rituals in place of actual management.

Mr. Salaryman said...

William - Yeah, I'm pretty used to him and his antics so I shouldn't really be surprised anymore, but I am...

Martin - Well, maybe I should make some? Imagine a pretty short guy, gray suit, mild combover, glasses and a discreet boring tie. You'd buy that?

Aimless - Well, in this particular case, it was actually management (the director) who knew what was going on, nothing is impossible!

Rmilner and Penguin - Yes, but a "to do" list is not much good unless someone actually does the "to do" items... But here the problem was that there was no problem as you probably figured out... But remember that I'm in a subsidiary of a foreign company so I'm not working in a purely Japanese company here.

Junior associate said...

Is he epileptic perhaps?

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