Rational Man Saga 3 – Crunched Numbers

The Orbcrest Award.

Companies that receive the award have achieved the highest levels of quality and performance.  As world-class leaders in their industry, they are looked upon as the example to follow; the goal to strive towards.

This was not one of those companies.

The Rational Man had been hired to promote the idea of implementing quality management.  The employees assigned to his team represented the various extremities of social behavior possible amongst human beings. He directed the bundle of impulses and emotions that were his team to dig up as much statistical information as possible on the Company so a baseline could be set.  For a Company of its size there was a lot of data but little information.

The search soon focused on the person responsible for the quarterly reports. One thing about the Fossil, after thirty years he knew everyone in the Company and led the Rational Man and Weasel Girl to a deep, dark, recess in the building. The cube was old with an actual, solid wood desk and metal framed chair.  Defunct calculators and boxes of spreadsheets were stacked around the cube in a pattern vaguely reminiscent of Stonehenge.

The Troglodyte who inhabited the cube was a tall, pale and nervous man.  He seemed helpful and oddly happy that visitors had arrived in his burrow.

“Yes, I provide the numbers for the quarterly reports.” he stated.

“Great.” the Rational Man was relieved.  “If you could just walk me through what you do here and I will ask a few questions as we go along.”

“Very well.” The Troglodyte began pulling print-outs from the stack of boxes in a well practiced ritual.   “This is the Quarterly Performance Form.” He held it up to the Rational Man. The replication decay from being photocopied so often caused the contents to resemble druidic symbols.  “I take this number from the L1640 and place it on the Form here.  The X7642 provides the number for line 13 on the Form.  The H8744 will provide a value for line 17 on the Form if the value of the total of the U7640 is greater than the M5001…”

“Pardon me,” the Rational Man interrupted, eyeballing the fifty plus blank slots on the Quarterly Performance Form.  “but maybe we should try a different approach.  The value on line 13 on the Form represents what?”

“The total from the X7642.” The Troglodyte answered with absolute certainty.

“And the total from the X7642 is?”

“What is put in Line 13 on the Form.” The Troglodyte was quite pleased with the Rational Man’s interest in his work.

Weasel Girl began humming ‘The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round’ to herself.

“Where do the reports come from?” the Rational Man tried a different line of questioning to pry a useful fact from the Troglodyte.

“The system.” he replied.

“Which system?”

“I don’t know.”  The Troglodyte looked as if he had been told the rising and setting of the sun was an irregular event.

“Which system?” the Rational Man asked the Fossil.

“I don’t know much about it.  Didn’t have time to really get into the technical stuff.”

“The mainframe was set-up almost 25 years ago!” Weasel Girl exclaimed.

“I didn’t think it was a good idea then either.” the Fossil stated.

“What if you wanted to change a report?” the Rational Man cut-off a Luddite rant he could see brewing from the Fossil.

“Change a report?”  The nervousness was suddenly gone from the Troglodyte.  The Rational Man had the distinct impression he committed a form of heresy.  “Why on Earth would I change the reports?”  Yes, the logs were definitely being piled around the stake.

“What if a report didn’t arrive on time?” the Rational Man pursued a different tact.

“Ah.”  The Troglodyte responded in a tone that suggested the stake was being dismantled.  “That’s a different story.  I call this number here.”  He pointed to a yellowed piece of paper taped to his cube wall.  The Rational Man copied the number.  He hoped he would have better luck with the person on the other end.

“Who puts the data in the system that is on your reports?” the Rational Man asked.

“I don’t know.” The line of questioning genuinely puzzled the Troglodyte.  It was like asking why water was wet.

“Don’t you ever have to ask them questions about any of the data?” Weasel Girl asked.

“No.”

“Who do you talk to in the Company!?” Weasel Girl was frustrated and cut to the point.

“Well.  You are the first to visit my office in seven years.”

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