Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Battle of Message Drift

I was at the final Programme Meeting for the organisation the other day. It was, as ever, at Lovely Space in St Pancras. There wasn’t much enthusiasm on show at  breakfast – most of those present knew they were earmarked for redundancy.

The theme of the day was how to best capture the evidence of all the good we have done in order to leave a legacy which makes the case that the good work continues in some new guise in some new, more sympathetic landscape at some point in the future. It is basically the premise of Christian faith and we were being asked to pray, but I was looking at the faces of unbelievers at the breakfast table.

We were asked to moderate some project evaluations and hold up small placards reading either ‘Met’ or ‘Not Met’. I was feeling more Craig Revel-Horwood than Len Goodman and waved ‘Not Met’. We had to handwrite our own ‘Not Met’ signs – as there were none available on the table top. I felt like such a maverick.

We were presented with a changed agenda for the day. The National Director had re-jigged his schedule in order to join us in the afternoon – to avert, I suspected, what I had heard described recently as ‘message drift’. He was planning to float around the tables during the ‘reflection’ session. I could imagine his presence clearly – glasses perched on head, eyes closed for deep reflection before smiled words of encouragement, agreement and marvel at the truly original expressions of programme reflection from toadies hopeful of a glowing reference to accompany their imminent P45. I could imagine it all so clearly I didn’t really see the need to wait for it.

I claimed childcare and wandered around the shops for a couple of hours. I bought a very fetching shirt in MUJI. They appeared to be exclusively playing the Smiths, so I tarried a little – enjoying my brief spell off-radar. The boy on the checkout opined that The Smiths touched people for nostalgic reasons. For true influence, he rated The Fall. He told me that the manager didn’t let him play The Fall. I was unsurprised, but commiserated nonetheless.


  1. Oh God. This is depressingly familiar. I've lost count of the number of jargon-filled crap meetings I've sat through. Where 'black hat thinking' (ffs De Bono - what were you on when you came up with all that? what crime did you imagine we needed to be punished for?) was discouraged and where all had to be 'positive'.

    You write very very well. I've read my way through your blog and am hooked.

  2. Thank you, truly. I get a lot of comments, but they are usually in broken English and trying to sell me trainers. I'll plough on.