The Project Managers Birthday Party

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jethro's picture

It was meant to be a secret, but like all office secrets people knew something was happening. Little clusters of people standing around a desk looking at a screen broke up and walked back to their own desks when someone came near, whispered conversations in the photocopy room and the inevitable smoke break with one of the non smokers saying "I'll come out for some fresh air".

Finally the news was broken. There was a major project being planned. It was going to involve a select bunch of people who were part of the project team and privy to the specific details, but the overall project was at least no longer a secret. An interoffice email went out from the internal communications manager and overnight a bunch of project flyers were put up on walls and doors.

Project Insertion was announced as being underway with orders right from the top that this was to Go Live December 25 in 2 years time. However it was still pretty hush hush, with no one really knowing what was going on. Only a few people had been asked into the initial project planning meetings and when quizzed just said they had been sworn to secrecy, but the details could be found in the company mission statements and internal documents from the last couple of hundred years. See archives if they wanted to try and figure it out.

Given the long time frame to Go Live, most people tended to lose interest after this. No one bothered searching the archives other than a couple of people who got no results from the internal search engine when looking for Project Insertion.

In fact the project seemed to have disappeared off the radar. the wall flyers yellowed, then curled up and the Sellotape lost its stickiness and the cleaners binned them when they fell on the floor.

There was a little flurry of activity one day when it seemed an initial milestone had been reached. The team was locked away in the meeting room for 2 days - with an outside catering firm providing food, and camping on the floor. The IT people said that the external monitoring systems were maximising linkages and all feeds were being piped into the meeting room. It was all very strange. No other project had ever been handled like this before since the company's formation.

Top execs were seen entering the room occasionally where burly security teams guarded the corridor.

And then the information drought broke.

2009-12-13 Narangba Baptist Church 274One of the PR guys who was routinely handling external news and scanning for press reports picked up something from a middle east agency who reported a temple official had been struck dumb 6 months earlier. This wasn't so surprising on its own and seemed entirely unconnected to the project except for one thing. One of the IT guys was saying a special holographic broadcast had been scheduled for his house at the same time, and this was the same week that the Project had kicked off.

Someone with a bent for history got into the company archives and and searched on the location but initially returned no results. But when they widened the search and threw in his relatives, located the cousin of his wife the database returned a bunch of results with her home town tagged as the site of a number of major projects all flagged with a new code: Secret - In Progress. All of these projects had been previously flagged with Inactive and when he widened the result set he saw that they had all been reflagged at the same time - the same week that Project Insertion had been kicked off. Information started to snowball now and before long half the office was involved in surreptitious searches of the database and IT feeds. Still no one really knew what was going on.

3 months later a swarm of senior execs with accompanying security appeared and all headed for the project room. The same IT guy announced that there was a specific feed for that same temple officials house.

Within a couple of days the PR guys had picked up all the news reports from the region and had scanned them for keywords. It suddenly seemed entirely possible that these major projects were connected, as most of the news reporters who interviewed this guy who had been struck dumb as he was suddenly speaking again and giving interviews to the press about his new born son and the words he was using were the same as those in the original project mandates.

At last the team had some idea of what was going on but they were still in the dark as to the details. It made no difference anyway because that very day the CEO walked in and called an immediate stop to office activity and invited everybody into the project meeting room.

Finally the announcement. He announced that the project had to be secret up until now because there were some very sensitive issues involved and even the wrong information being leaked could have caused a problem with the competition. Industrial espionage was always a concern.

"My son, the 2IC, is the Project Manager on this project, and while he managed the initial phases he cannot be here today because this was actually his gig - his baby!" He chuckled and so did the senior execs and the project team people sitting at the table. "In joke" he said. Then one of the project coordinators flashed up on the screen a Gantt chart of the project. The CEO resumed talking. "We are now only 6 months away from Go Live. At that point in time we have the Project Manager being born to a human woman. Currently he is in utero in this lady". An image of the temple officials wife's cousin hit the screen. Little gasps went round the room and were quickly hushed as they realised they weren't supposed to know who she was. The CEO continued. "We have scheduled the event for December 25 with maximum security. One senior Exec will be present on earth to announce the birth to some locals who will make sure he is recognised for who he is. We have timed the release to the passage of a comet through the system that will lead some foreign dignitaries to his location to supply birthday presents - and that will set his family up financially to help them get started, See the bride price didn't get paid to the groom because of the unusual circumstances of the pregnancy.

2009-12-13 Narangba Baptist Church 274The whole reason behind this project is now available in the archives, and I know you have been looking there for clues. Search for for the name Emmanuel and you will find the details.

Now that's it folks, for the next 6 months its business as usual - thanks for your time and I know you will keep this hush hush as required."

After that day life in the office was a little more exciting as even humdrum activities of filing and copying seemed to have more intensity and purpose. Everybody had read the articles about Emmanuel and the 2IC's role in the project and what this project meant for the company. It wasn't until about 1 month from Go Live that something happened to change everything.

One of the office girls was having a birthday and as was the custom the office stopped for morning tea and had a cake and a chat for 15 minutes or so and then everybody sang Happy Birthday and gave her a little cupcake with a candle on it. At the end some bright wag piped up and said "We should have a birthday cake for the Project Manager's Birthday on Go Live day."
There was a moment of surprised silence and then suddenly everyone was talking at once. Ideas bounced around, a committee was formed and tasks were given out. Everybody was sworn to secrecy and whenever an exec came in there was never any hint that anything else was happening. The same IT guy who had been helpful before was now going out with one of the office girls and she twisted his arm (it wasn't hard) to help.

2009-12-13 Narangba Baptist Church 123The called this mini project HB - short for Happy Birthday. No one ever said they were that creative. However the lengths they went to were extraordinary. The search wizard hacked the project files, determined the location for the senior exec proclamation, found who it was and even the specific feed for the holographic broadcast presentation. The IT guy spent time working on how to hack the feed without his senior colleagues knowing and the rest of the team busied themselves with making candles, fancy gowns and costumes and practising their singing. An entire corner of the warehouse was given over to storing the costumes behind a stack of boxes set up by the warehouse guys, and they all practised singing in one of the empty meeting rooms.

Finally the big day arrived. There was no need for additional secrecy as the entire office was galvanised with their official activities. The senior execs and project team were bedded down in the project room at T-12 hours. The IT team were all on standby for the extra work involved, and the ordinary staff had been told they could watch the proceedings from a special monitor setup in the main office.

2009-12-13 Narangba Baptist Church 410As soon as the countdown clock hit zero they all saw the amazing birth of the Project Manager. Almost immediately the main project team kicked into action preparing for the holographic broadcast of the senior exec and his announcement to the local people of the area. This was the time for Project HB. Everybody scurried into their costumes quietly, and headed for the spare meeting room where the IT guy had hooked in the holographic feed hijack cable. He was in there with a multitude of cameras,cables and control boards and looking harried, but reassured everybody that it was all going to plan. A separate countdown clock here was synchronised to the senior execs broadcast schedule. At 1 minute to go everybody stood still in their costumes, all candles lighted (apart from one wag who leaned over and pinched out his neighbours candle and then offered to relight it amid giggles and a few elbows and glares from those at the front) Finally with 5 seconds to go the IT guy counted them down. With a whispered "we are live" the main screen flickered and showed a hillside dotted with campfires. The view was from over the shoulder of the senior exec who had clearly just finished his speech and was entirely unaware of the throng hovering nervously behind him. The office manager up front waved 1,2,3 and then they all launched into song.

The local people were clearly impressed - all rooted to the ground in absolute astonishment before turning as one and bolting for the town as if they had seen a host of angels. For indeed they had - the costumes chosen had carefully mimicked the standard angel field uniform.

The senior Exec had initially spun around in surprise and with anger on his face, but within seconds seeing the joy and delight that the staff had on their faces as they sang Happy Birthday to the Project Manager he cracked into a large grin. Afterward he made a point of coming out into the office, where everybody had changed back into their normal clothes and were acting as if nothing had happened, and thanking them all for their surprise contribution.

All in all that was one Project Go Live that the office never forgot.


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G Atkinson's picture

Wow, I thoroughly enjoyed

Wow, I thoroughly enjoyed that. Well done! Brilliant even. You obviously worked hard on that one. Where did you find the time?


jethro's picture

Thanks Gordon - high praise

Thanks Gordon - high praise indeed! Mostly while driving the ideas came to me and then I just typed it out. simple really!