MAM

Vision Impossible



By VINAY KANCHAN
I
t was a wretched Saturday morning. Well, to be fair the weather was in top form, but almost the entire agency had been dragged out of their ‘sacred sanctum‘ of a Saturday morning nap to the office conference room at 9am sharp, for a vision workshop.Considering that Saturday was a holiday and what that session further entailed, wretched was a fair adjective in most minds for the morning, except in that of one man.

The President stood to his full, impressive stature and looked around. The conference room was capacious enough to accommodate the thirty odd people that constituted the agency. His face had the triumphant smirk of being oblivious to the feeling of working early morning on a holiday, a smirk quite exclusive to him.

He cleared his throat in a manner to subtly indicate that it was time to wake up. After he was satisfied that enough bleary eyes were looking his way, he began.

"Today we are here to discuss what our vision should be?" he began in his best baritone, "Does anybody know what a vision is?"

"That‘s difficult considering most of the eyes in this room are closed," a wickedly satirical voice whispered in Ram‘s and Tanya‘s ears. That was the old cynical hand, the unfettered bastion of depressed thinking in the agency. Tanya giggled, but Ram tried his best not to acknowledge the jibe, though mentally he kicked himself for passing up on such an opportunity to make Tanya smile.

All the other participants in the room furtively looked away from the President trying to avoid eye contact. Vikas (Ram‘s boss) however thrived on these questions. He looked around the room in an extremely condescending manner, and then paused to muster enough contempt before speaking.

"A vision workshop is a place, where blindingly obvious clichés will emanate from every face," the hushed Chinese accent whispering those wise words in Ram Shankar‘s ears, the express delivery of the tea cup and Chai-La, the mystical Chinese canteen boy had vanished into the early rays of sunshine peeking through the windows.

Having gathered all the necessary ingredients Vikas let fly. "A vision is an inspiring clarion call that an organisation crafts for itself, that not only gives it a larger cause for existence, but also motivates its employees to work towards a greater purpose..."

As usual when Vikas volunteered to trouble the air waves, PP (the creative director of the ridiculously exaggerated moustache fame) was seldom left far behind.

"What rubbish, I think you referred to the wrong textbook."
He said, incisively cutting through all of Vikas‘s carefully crafted remarks, and generally waking up most of the room with his resounding guffaw that followed. The others joined in the mirth, considering that it was at Vikas‘s expense.

"Well PP, he is right that‘s what it is in some respects." Interjected Dharti, the agency‘s curvaceously crafted account planning head, her eyes briefly met Vikas‘s and Ram detected a ‘moment‘ there.

"Today we work as a team guys," boomed the President thumping the table, causing all the tea cups on it severe psychological problems.

Both Vikas and PP clammed up for the moment.

"We need something that will inspire us going forward." Started the President

"Considering that we have been going backward for so long that‘s a start." The soft voice ‘customised for two‘ of the old cynical hand. Tanya giggled again much to Ram‘s chagrin.

"Well what are the numbers involved going forward? What are our top line and bottom line deliverables over the next five years, what are the increases in the sources of revenue that we are seeking?" that was Planimus (the media planning head), obsessed with numbers with a passion that had caused three divorces at last count.

There was a groan from the entire room, none louder than that originating from the President.

"Planimus, a vision ideally has very little to do with numbers. Tom Peters said so."

"Consultants I tell you, all they want are discussions that will be long, inconclusive and subject to ‘feelings and such‘, so that they can churn up colossal bills. That is why we mustn‘t waste too much discussing these things, something which cannot be quantified can never be justified," quipped Planimus and resigned to silent participation for the rest of the session, in a spirit of unresolved mathematical enquiry.

"Had he kept his eye on the right figures, he would have had a better social life," the old cynical hands vicious jibe had Tanya giggling again.

"Let‘s use a technique that I learnt abroad," ventured Dharti, pausing for just the right time on ‘abroad‘, "let‘s throw in some desirable words that we might want to own as a company. And then let‘s try and articulate a vision from thereon."

Since there were no other constructive suggestions the audience was forced to volunteer their inputs, and with the hope of ending the ordeal soonest people began participating lustily.

"Teamwork," began Vikas, to the tune of PP‘s snicker.

"Goal" offered Dharti.

"Empower" added the President.

"Process orientation," offered the IT head.

"World peace," began Tanya and was silenced by the incredulous expressions that she sampled across the table.
"Award winning work," shot PP.

"Now I believe we are getting somewhere," said the President, and with the enthusiasm of a young boy chancing upon his first ‘girlie‘ magazine, he wrote the key words on the board and then kept drawing circles around them, large concentric circles, round and round he drew them with a fury that was quite disconcerting.

"Sir, what are you doing?" asked Vikas, for once of behalf of others as well.

"I once heard somewhere that these words will come full circle and your vision statement will materialise before you, everybody repeat my actions, we need to crack this."

With rather amused expressions everyone else followed suit and for a while silence followed, as people were mesmerised by their own creations, as it is said circles have a nice way of (be) coming round.

"Don‘t get trapped in the geometry of the page, for enlightenment give in to your rage," the whispered conundrum, the express delivery of the tea cup and Chai-La had disintegrated into the angry frown of Planimus who was agitated because his circles were not to scale.

Ram felt a slight undercurrent of anger about missing a nice leisurely holiday morning and the futility of the whole exercise. ‘Weren‘t vision statements lines anyway?‘ he thought to himself and lined up the guilty words in a linear fashion, rather than a circle, and then it dawned.

"We, as an agency believe in the process of greater teamwork which orients us towards our goal of creating award winning work." He had started the statement when murmurs were on in the room, by the time he finished there was dead silence.

The President‘s beam almost blinded Ram.

"That is fantastic, a young employee should be the person creating future vision anyway and it sounds so right. What do you people feel?"

There were grudging looks of admiration across the room. Tanya‘s jaw had dropped beyond the confines of her face. She was looking at Ram with doting eyes.

"Isn‘t that really more like a mission statement?" doubted Vikas

"It‘s a vision statement, if he is happy with it. He has to decide," Concluded the President emphatically, "What do you feel Ram, what would your ideal statement be?"

There was an awed silence in the room.

Ram was toying with the right words in his mind when the old cynical hand whispered in his ear, "completely change it, and show him your thinking capability once and for all. You won‘t get chances like this all the time. The loftier sounding the statement, the higher your career graph will soar."

There was an awed silence in the room.

"I would want to change it going forward," began Ram, as expressions around him deepened with interest. "My version of the vision would be, to create an organisation that ceaselessly adds value to the economy without needing to replenish any of its resources."

The look of awe lingered a bit longer on the faces of the audience. But the President‘s expression changed colour to an agitated purple.

"No. No. No. It does not have the same zip as the previous one. And now that you have told me this one, I somehow feel the previous one lacks something. We will have to reconvene next Saturday morning again, same time. We are back to square one."

There were groans in abundance all across the room, though Ram felt that he distinctly heard the old cynical hands trademark snicker above all that.

"One thing I liked about what you said was people working harder for the organisation; I think we must factor that in somewhere. Ok adios people, try and salvage the weekend." And the President was gone before people could offer any audio bytes in protest.

Ram felt thirty dark looks rest on him as people exited the room. None darker than the one Tanya threw his way. It seemed to eclipse the entire day.

Ram head sank to an all time low on the table, he felt the familiar tea cup nestle in his hand again, and the even more familiar voice in his ear.

"Be particular about whose advice you take, because many a time the person‘s intentions are fake."

With a kindly chuckle, Chai-La disintegrated along the concentric circles on the board, spinning round and round, till Ram felt a sense of nausea creep in, and his eyes gently close.


The writer is Vice President, Rediffusion DY&R. He is also the patron saint of Juhu Beach United, a football club that celebrates the ‘unfit, out of breath media professional of today‘. You can write to him at (vinaykanchan@hotmail.com).


(The views expressed here are those of the author and Indiantelevision.com need not necessarily subscribe to the same)

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