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Alice in DIGITALand

An ancient classic, slightly refurbished.

ALICE in DIGITALand

"Where am I?" asked Alice, as she peered at the large 7-lettered sign with the standard blue letters.

"You're in Digitaland," replied the security guard. "May I see your badge?"

"I don't have a badge."

"Did you lose it?"

"No," answered Alice in a puzzled tone. "How could I lose something I never had?"

"If it's not lost then you must show it to me."

"I can't. I don't have one."

"Then you'll have to have a temporary."

"A temporary what?" asked Alice, more confused than ever.

"A temporary badge. What's your badge number?" requested the guard.

"I don't have one."

"Of course not, Ken Olsen has 1. Give me your badge number and your cost center"

"I'm so confused. I can't do this. I've already said three times why. Do I have to tell you four?"

"Ah! 3XY, badge number 4. You must be very important to have such a low badge number. I should have immediately recognized how low by your state of extreme confusion. Here's your temporary. Go right on in."

Alice pasted the sticky paper to her dress and headed down the hall. Not ten feet ahead she saw a rather distressed looking rabbit coming toward her. He was dressed in a pair of torn, faded jeans, and a dirty tee shirt.

"What's wrong?" Alice asked.

"I'm late! I'm late!" exclaimed the rabbit as he peered at the PERT chart dangling from his pocket protector.

"Late for what?" asked Alice.

"My date. I'm going to miss my date. I've got a deadline to meet and I'm not going to make it."

"Well, if it's already dead, it probably won't mind. In fact it isn't likely to be going too far in such a state. I'm sure that however long you take will be just fine."

"You obviously don't understand. Everything takes longer than it really does. It doesn't matter what you are doing, only that you meet your date, and that's always impossible."

Alice replied, "Well, if it's impossible, why would anyone expect you to meet it?" almost at once regretting that she had asked. Was this was going to be as confusing as badges?

"It's really very simple. In order to move forward, you need a goal. Any goal will do. It just has to be impossible to do. To motivate the troops, you have to make goals very challenging. It's really only there to get a stake in the ground, you know. After that we march in step until we reach our objective. The date really doesn't mean anything. You simply have to understand that we are going to do the right thing."

"But the if the goal is impossible, and really doesn't mean anything, why are you trying to go there? Wouldn't it be simpler to first figure out what you are really going to do, and then figure out how to get there?"

"You obviously don't understand the process. And, as I said before, I'm late, so there is obviously only one thing to do."

"Hurry up and rush off?" Alice asked, hoping it would sound more like a suggestion than a question.

"No. No. No. A meeting. Let me find the Mad Manager and a number of involved, interested, or warm bodies."

"That will obviously take a lot of time. I don't think you have any to waste.”

"No, it won't. All we have to do is find a conference room. There are lots of them right over here."

"But," started Alice, "those rooms are all full of people. Don't we need an empty conference room?"

"Silly thought. If we want to find the Mad Manager and some meeting attendees, why would we look in an empty conference room? Anyway, it's impossible to ever find an empty conference room."

The rabbit took Alice by the hand, and promptly led her into the largest, fullest conference room. Alice immediately noticed that the wastebasket was quite full of foam cups and overhead projector bulbs. These people had clearly been here for a long time.

At the head of the table sat a man in a rather funny suit and wearing a large hat.

"Why" whispered Alice to the rabbit, "is that man wearing that large hat? Who is he?"

"I'm the Mad Manager," answered the man at the end of the table, obviously overhearing the question, "And I'd be happy to tell you why I'm wearing this Hat, but that topic is not on the agenda."

"Why don't we change the agenda?" asked a person in the corner.

"Is that a topic for another meeting?" replied the Mad Manager.

"Is what a topic for another meeting?" voiced a third. "The reason for the Hat, or why we don't change the agenda?"

"Why don't we take this off-line?" queried another.

"Does everyone agree that these are all topics we should address?" asked the Mad Manager.

"Possibly so," injected the person in the corner. "But could it be that we have a hidden agenda?"

"Oh, no!" the Mad Manager shrieked, dismay distorting his features, "someone has hidden the agenda again! Let me put on my process hat and we'll see if we can work this issue."

With that, he removed the rather amusing top hat and replaced it with a huge green fedora.

"There. Now that my process hat is on, I'd like to address the issue of the hidden agenda. Since we can't have a productive meeting without an agenda, it is up to all of us to look for it."

"But," a voice from the other corner piped in, "who is going to drive this issue?"

"Do we have an action item here?" asked another attendee.

"Does anyone here want to work this?" asked the Mad Manager.

"Who originally brought this up?" asked another.

"I believe that the woman who came in with the rabbit proposed this. Shouldn't she own it?"

"Well then," the Mad Manager declared, pointing to Alice, "I'd say that this is your issue."

"What issue? I don't have any issues," quavered Alice, nervously fingering her temporary badge. "I only posed a simple question!"

"I'm not sure we can accept that," the Mad Manager declared. "We need a date."

"But," Alice began, remembering what the rabbit had told her about dates, "a date is impossible."

From the back of the room another voice asked, "How about a date for a date?"

"The least we can ask is that you give us a date when you will be able to give us the date for the date," posited the person in the corner.

"I'm not sure I can do that," Alice opened, "since I don't know what I'm supposed to give you a date for. I'm having a problem trying to figure out what you want me to do."

"We don't have any problems here, only opportunities!" piped a chorus of voices.

"It's really quite obvious," the Mad Manager declared as he reached behind him for a striped blue and gray beret. "Let me don my Digital hat for a moment," he continued, doffing the fedora and screwing on his latest selection. "You must do the right thing."

"Yes… Yes... " chimed the chorus of attendees. "Do the right… thing...”

"Who’s keeping the minutes?" the Mad Manager asked, pitching the beret and replacing the fedora. "We’ll need a written record of this action item so we can return to it later."

"We obviously can't deal with this issue until we can determine whose meeting this is," someone snipped.

"Should we schedule some time to cover that topic?" another attendee queried.

"Whose going to drive this?" asked another.

Just as the Mad Manager was pulling a rather worn pith helmet out of a battered briefcase, a voice near the door suggested, "Let's take a break and work some of this 1x1 off-line."

Alice, who, luckily, was even closer to the door, was the first one out of it. She dashed down the hall and ran up the first flight of stairs she encountered, relieved to be free of the madness.

When she opened the door, however, the scene that confronted her made her wonder if returning to the meeting wasn't a bad idea. Seated around a large oval table were what appeared to be playing cards, each dressed in a gray or navy blue three-piece suit. Around each neck, such as it was, a rather oddly shaped handle (or was it a noose?) made of silk, or polyester, was draped.

"Off with her head!" shrieked the Queen of Hearts, who was seated at the head of the table. Alice noticed that her tie was silk, and each card seated near her was dressed in a suit and noose combination similar to the Queen's.

"Why ever would you want to remove my head?" Alice inquired querulously. By now she was feeling more than a little confused.

"It's not a modern, iconic, user-friendly, menu-driven, color, PC-compatible user interface," smirked the Queen in a tone at least two notches below condescending.

"It happens to suit me just fine," retorted Alice.

"What are you, an engineer or something?" asked the Seven of Spades.

"No, I'm Alice. Who are you?"

"Marketing," they crooned in perfect fifty-two part harmony.

"And what is that?" asked Alice.

There was a short, silent interlude as each of the cards fidgeted with their ties, checked their watches and scribbled notes on the pads of paper contained in a handsome genuine imitation leather folders embossed with the company logo. Then, one by one, they turned until they all stared at the Queen of Hearts.

The queen cleared her throat, adjusted her tie a second time and stared directly at Alice. "We provide the strategic thinking necessary to grow the business."

"Oh," said Alice, "you figure out what products to build!"

"Heavens, no!" bellowed the Queen, "That's too tactical. We feel it's our job to develop the vision for the long term."

"You develop things," began Alice, "so you build the products?"

Each member of the table made a face reminiscent of a small child tasting spoiled dead roaches for the first time.

"Uggggh, that's even more tactical!" sneered the chorus.

"No! No! No!" shouted the Queen. "You still do not understand! We take the pulse of key market leaders’ demand curves, stupid girl."

"Oh, I see now!" said Alice. "You sell the products."

By now the chorus of cards chanting "Tac-ti-cal! Tac-ti-cal!" was becoming too much.

The Queen was furious and repeated her original greeting. "Off with her head! Off with her head"

"WAIT!" demanded Alice. "I believe I understand. You are all responsible for driving the solution opportunities for the key client supply perceptions through strategic vision management!"

Alice wondered if she should add something about the claws catching and frumious bandersnatches, but thought that she'd best leave it at that before she became ill.

"Yes!" screamed the cards ecstatically. "That's EXACTLY RIGHT!"

"And how do you achieve these lofty and important goals?"

"By calling a BOD," the Queen replied.

"And what, pray tell, might that be?" inquired Alice as she looked for the quickest escape route, hoping that this jabber would keep her head attached long enough to get out.

"A Board of Directors," began the Queen, just as Alice noticed the door to the left of the table. "It's a type of High Level Meeting."

"A meeting?!" wailed Alice. "Not another meeting!" With that, she bolted for the door, all thoughts of her head and its precarious attachment to her body forgotten. Her only hope was that she make it through before the agenda hit the overhead. In a dead run, she raced through the door just as the projector lamp flicked on. The sound of the fan was the last sound to fade as the door closed.

Breathlessly she looked up to see a large open area. Directly in front of her was an enclosed area lined on one side with triple chrome table. A stack of plastic trays was at the foyer.

As she wandered through, an assortment of sandwiches, prepared foods, soft drinks and salad began chanting, "Eat Me! Drink Me! Eat Me!"

"Oh no," answered Alice, "I may know nothing about dates and problems, and meetings and agendas, and marketing and badges, but I do know food. I won’t touch any of you. After the morning I've had I deserve a nice cheese steak (no lettuce)!"

With that, Alice opened the nearest exit door and left. A resounding high pitched whine sang its midday good-byes as Alice returned at last to the Real World.

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