A friend of mine regularly organizes business deals between small and medium-sized companies in odd bits of darkest Asia. Complex jobs are tricky enough in modern cities, where data can be accurately transferred by the Internet.
But trying to organize anything complicated (like a lunch) where things are done using phone messages and bits of paper is a hundred times harder.
"It’s only when people get out of Hong Kong or Singapore that they remember that more than 80 per cent of Asia’s population have no Internet connections," the merger expert, a Scot, moaned.
His worst experience was trying to organize a formal meeting between two antediluvian firms at which information was traditionally passed by shouted phone calls on long-distance crackly land lines.
"Instructions take days to get to people and they get horribly distorted as they’re passed along," he said.
Preparations for important meetings would evolve something like this:
* * *
From: Head Office
To: Vice Presidents
At 10 a.m. on Friday, the new parent company’s president will be meeting the group vice presidents and touring the establishment on its 80th anniversary. Dress casual day is suspended. Please ensure that desks are tidy. Food should be taken in the canteen, not at your desk. This will be followed by cross-party talks in the board room. All employees are expected to attend.
* * *
From: Vice Presidents
To: General Managers
At 10 a.m. on Friday, the parent of the company president will be meeting our group vice presidents and touring our establishment for his 80th birthday. Casual dresses should be worn with suspenders. Please ensure that desks are taken to the canteen. This will be followed by cross-party dancing in the board room. All employees are expected to attend.
* * *
From: General Managers
To: Unit Heads
At 10 on Friday, the company president’s 80-year-old father will be meeting our vice group and trying out our establishment. To mark his birthday, dresses should not be worn. Please clear the main area by removing all desks and storing them in the canteen. This will be followed by a cross-dressing dance party in his bedroom. All employees are expected to attend.
* * *
From: Unit Heads
To: Office Managers
At 10 in the evening tomorrow, the president’s father will turn 80 and will be trying out several vice establishments and then visiting our offices. Dresses should be removed. Please clear the main area for a cross-dressing party. Any employees who are expecting should attend.
* * *
From: Office Managers
To: All Staff
Late tonight, the company president’s 80-year-old dad will be having a wild birthday bash and staff are expected to join in the spirit of the evening. So clear all desks away and get ready to get down and party. You may have thought this was a dull firm but we can assure you this message comes to us directly from our new head office. Party on! Yeah! Woohoo!
* * *
Come to think of it, there’s a lot to be said for the old way of working. It makes life just that little bit more unpredictable.
Much the same can be said for this writer’s website, at www.vittachi.com