Corporate fool - A little Fool
Dreadful old cynic that the Fool is paid to pretend he is, he already had in mind, when Mrs Fool fell pregnant, that at some point he would write a piece that drew satirical and humorous lessons for management consultancy from the experience of having a baby. And now the baby is here, I can see what I thought I meant at the time. Some links are obvious.
It starts in labour: you learn that getting into a project can be a long and difficult process. But we all must try to remember that a slow start should not be confused with a bad start and that heads and minds are pliable, if we allow them to be. And how about response times? Compared to what must have been an instant and natural response to foetal needs in the womb, everything outside must appear horribly delayed for the baby. Just so we need patience and realism in our consultancy: if we stay safe in the perfection of our imaginings, actuality must make our client relationships seem frustrated, clumsy, even lazy. Communication, too, is an obvious parallel-learning the language of cries and grimaces is part of the development of both parties and must be endured.
Other thoughts come to mind: that estimating is often a hopeless task but flexibility never is; that customer satisfaction must often be measured by silence and not praise; that pain is easier to bear if you focus on something else.
But what have I really learned? Respect firstly – for my partner, the hope that I can match her labour with some work which is useful and productive; I have learned to grasp even more fiercely for the intangibles and to express their value in any project. Friends and clients make light-hearted jests about how much the baby is going to cost. These comments interest me. It is undeniable that there is a predictable, measurable and probably very large expense, but there is also a benefit. Perhaps because it is just assumed it can be more easily lost.
Always present now is a feeling that you’ve got to get this particular project right and that it’s going to be down to the team, just the three of us. This feeling is tempered by the regretful speeches of friends and family who claim that they’ve “failed” or, at least, could have done more. And it is threatened by the ugly complacency of an Establishment which is sure it knows best how to do the entire project for you. New passion versus smug experience and already the clouds of half-achievement are gathering. We’ll try to “get it right” in a wider sense than the salvationist delusion offered us at Babies R Us.
And finally I’ve learnt the need for simplicity. Just holding a baby, being presented with a change so deep and new, makes me sometimes want to rush back into the past and at other times sets me worrying about what the future may bring. And that’s the pity, because the best times, the only times, are neither in the past nor the future, but here, now.