Week 1 – Monday morning

Week 1 – Monday morning

The meeting room was empty when Alice arrived. She checked her watch. Ten o’clock exactly. She checked the meeting invite, although she never got these things wrong. Yes – ten o’clock. She opened her laptop and began to clear some emails while she waited for the others.

First to arrive – at ten past ten – was the Big Boss. His name was Bob but, very occasionally, on certain words, Alice had a very slight stutter. ‘Bob’ was one of those words, with the result that she thought of him as B-Bob. She tried to avoid saying his name as much as possible.

‘Not enough work?’ he asked.


‘You were here on time.’


‘So you mustn’t have enough work to do.’

Before Alice could answer, the others began to drift in. She had met them all during her interviews and they variously nodded, said hi or shook her hand. There was Sammy, the software manager, Harry the hardware manager, Ted the Quality Assurance manager – Ted the Tester. Finally, at 10:25, came, Magnus, the Marketing guy, in charge of Marketing and Patricia Mendez, the Product Manager, who worked for Magnus.

‘Thanks for coming along,’ began B-Bob. ‘I think you’ve all met the latest addition to our team – Alice, our new Program Manager.

‘What’s the difference between a Program Manager and a Project Manager?’ put in Sammy. He was small with a little wispy beard and smoked a lot. B-Bob hesitated and then said, ‘Alice?’

‘Think of a program as being just a big project.’

Sammy acknowledged this silently.

‘So today we’re launching the X Project,’ said B-Bob. ‘This is gonna be our competition killer. We’re gonna take the new hardware which Harry’s team has been developing, package that with a rewritten version of our software, add lots of new features and release it. This is all about increasing shareholder value – and since all of you are shareholders, you know what that means.’

Alice wasn’t a shareholder and wouldn’t be for at least six months until her probation period was up. Then, according to her contract, she was meant to get her first grant of stock options.

B-Bob continued.

‘We want to release this product, have two quarters of massive but predictable revenue, forecast another year’s revenue and then go public sometime during that second year. If we’re successful, we’ll all be driving Ferraris.’

There was cheers around the table.

‘For this reason then, this project has a very aggressive deadline.’

Everyone was suddenly quiet and serious again.

‘We need to get this product to market in six months’ time. What do you think? Can you do it?’

‘The hardware will be ready, no problem,’ said Harry. ‘We’re nearly finished as it is.’

‘We’ll start on the software straight away. We can work on prototypes of Harry’s hardware. We’ll get it done in six months.’

‘Four months,’ said Ted the Tester.

‘Four months?’ said Sammy.

‘We’ll need two months at least to test it,’ said Ted.

‘Oh sure, we can start giving you versions to test at four months. That won’t be a problem.’

‘And we’ll need units for High Tech 2020, the biggest trade show we go to,’ said Magnus.

‘Sure, no problem,’ chorused Harry and Sammy.

‘Is there a document that says what this product is going to look like?’ asked Alice.

‘We all know what needs to be in the product,’ said Magnus. ‘I mean – they know.’

He indicated Harry and Sammy.

‘All of our competitor’s features plus the list of things that our customers have asked for plus the three new killer features that Charlie the Engineer came up with,’ recited Patricia Mendez, the Product Manager.

‘And we don’t need the document you’re talking about because we’re using Agile,’ said Sammy. ‘Agile is a time boxed, iterative approach to software delivery that builds software incrementally from the start of the project, instead of trying to deliver it all at once near the end.’

‘I know what Agile is,’ said Alice.

But if you don’t know exactly what you’re trying to deliver, how can you say it’ll be done in six months?’ she asked.

‘It has to be done in six months,’ said B-Bob.

He looked around the table.

‘Anyone here feel it can’t be done in six months?


‘We’ll be ready.’


‘It’s tight but it can be done.’


‘Provided the guys give me systems to test –‘

‘Alice?’ interrupted B-Bob.

‘The whole thing will have to be estimated properly –‘

‘Great. That’s why we hired you, Alice.’

‘Guys,’ said B-Bob, his voice going quiet. ‘This is it. It’s do or die.’

He made a clenched fist and shook it.

‘What we need now is the will and the spirit to get this done. We’ve risen to greater challenges in the past – like when we were starting up. We need to manage the risk but also grasp this opportunity.’

He stood up, put his hands on the table and looked at each of them in turn.

‘Any questions?’

‘Shouldn’t we say what the next actions are?’ asked Alice.

‘I suggest you take that offline,’ said B-Bob. But – in broad terms you all know what you have to do – right?’

There was a chorus of ‘rights’ from around the table and the meeting broke up.

‘How’d that go?’

The voice belonged to Reg Halvorson, the manager responsible for the IT infrastructure, whose cubicle was two along from the meeting room. Reg worked for Sammy and today was wearing a Moomins T-shirt.

For several moments, Alice was unable to speak. As she tried to put some clichés together about the meeting having been useful, Reg said, ‘That bad, huh?’