March 7, 2008

[Tony, PA]:

“Come on in everybody and let me introduce you.


This is our CEO, chairman and majority shareholder Mark McGuire. I have no doubt that he is familiar to you all.


Mark, this is Andrew Cimpton, CEO of Quiet Brilliance Productions. QBP are doing the work on the Layla repository for us. And this is Geoffrey, the Project Manager, and Janette, who is a Senior Producer.”



“Wonderful to meet you Mr McGuire.”



“Great to see you guys. I hear you are doing wonderful work on the repository. It doesn’t get any better than this, right? Talk about being the only game in town, eh? And Andrew is that, by any chance, a West Country accent? Ooh arr, Jem Laad.”



“Well spotted. I’m originally from Taunton but I’ve lived here twenty years now.”


[McGuire, giving a point to himself]:

“Yeah, thought so. I spent some time in Plymouth. As an exchange student. Loved it.”



“Mark, I’ve said to these good folks that we’ve heard rumours about the repository and we’d like to talk about them.”


[Cimpton, jovially]:

“Indeed. Well, I’d just point out that we are in the very early days of working with the repository and lots of people are working on their own little piece of the pie. I think there’s maybe quite a lot of confusion, the confusion of colleagues discussing work that is similar but, at the same time, set in very different contexts.


If there is anything strange about the stream, be it technical glitches or otherwise, it probably won’t come to light until we are well into the process. At this stage I suggest that any rumours should be treated with a pinch of salt. Briefly, I’m suggesting that we use the agreed milestone management meetings to discuss and raise any issues or risks. We have one scheduled for, let’s see, not this Friday but the one after that and it’s weekly from then on. I’m there as QBP representative and there’s a number of your departmental heads there as well, so there’s a lot of weight in that meeting.”



“A lot of wait there? Oh I see, weight. I see. Let’s just step back for a moment. Out of the process and the daily routine. As you know I’m negotiating with some major organizations with respect to the distribution rights for the repository. I’m fronting it because there’s a sizeable amount of dollars involved, yeah? It’s very important that I disclose to them any information that might be pertinent. That’s why you guys are working so hard, yeah? To grab together some packages that I can use to whet their appetites, but also to establish the credibility of our product.


If it turns out important information was withheld from the negotiation, the due diligence if you like, we’ll have a big problem. Mucho big problem. Understand? Now, for me to action my responsibility, I need full disclosure from you. As far as QBP and money goes, well there’s plenty of work and I have no doubt that whoever ends up distributing or repackaging or whatever will want to have QBP handle the technical work. It’s a gold mine.


However, if I don’t get full disclosure I’ll withhold payment and sue if necessary. Needless to say, at that point the likelihood of QBP on-selling their repository experience to big media diminishes rapidly.


I’ll be honest, I usually use Tom Leiman’s company for this sort of thing. You know them? They are very good, yeah? And I’m pretty sure they can recruit independent contractors and place a huge mark-up on their hourly rate as good as any other company. You see, I’m happy with the process that led to QBP but, Andrew, you know that trust plays a big part in this industry. And if not trust then familiarity. Devil you know and all that.


Now, Andrew, I don’t mean this as a threat. It’s meant to allow you and your organization the freedom to come to me immediately with anything that turns up. Bugger the meetings. They’re fine for coordination of all that nasty logistical stuff but if you know something I might consider relevant for my negotiations, good or bad, at 10am, then I want you telling me about it at 10.01. Okay?”


Cimpton fantasized about further use of his standard stonewalling options. Could he outwit McGuire, could he stand blow-to-blow with him? Hmmmm. He’d like to but the price of failure was too high. He decided, from now on, he would portray himself to McGuire as fulfilling a more technical role. It was humiliating but he could bide his time. He would unleash his business executive grandeur later, when the cards fell his way. Till then, best to pretend he hadn’t even registered the ultimatum as being a sleight on his honesty.


[Cimpton, having reconciled his feelings]:

“That’s absolutely fine Mr McGuire. And I’ll make sure all the team members are aware.”



“Great. So, what can you tell me now?”



“Actually, we have noticed something funny. More peculiar than funny. We haven’t quite got to the bottom of it yet. We didn’t want to escalate it until we had a firm grasp on whether it’s an issue or just us still getting to grips with the complexities of such a big job. Geoffrey, could you tell us about it?”



“Yes, I can do that. However, I only know about it at a summary level. Janette has been doing all the work on this one. She’s in the best position to give us the nitty-gritty.”


[Cimpton, turning to McGuire]:

“Oh, I think a summary is what’s needed. We don’t need to get bogged down in detail just yet. Mr McGuire?”



“I’m happy to get stuck into it. Janette, enlighten me.”



“Sure, Mr McGuire. We first started to notice the problem during quality control. That’s where we make sure that the work done meets our standards. We had people review the description of scenes. A number of reviewers complained about major inaccuracies. Initially, we thought these were cases of incompetence, maybe even fabrication. Anyhow, getting right to it, it appeared that different people were seeing substantially different things.


We were shocked. Some of us were even a bit scared. Especially considering Layla was involved. We decided to take a more analytical approach. We got as many people as possible, one hundred and twenty, to look at a couple of short scenes and sketch what they’d seen. You know, they would write down an outline including any notable or interesting points. Turned out that most people’s accounts matched… 85 – 95%. But, as suspected, some people had accounts which were quite different to the mainstream one. And, sometimes, two or three non-mainstream accounts matched. This is quite telling. At least I think it is because I don’t think there’s any way they could have matched by coincidence.


So, after our test, it seems that while people see different things it’s not arbitrary and it doesn’t change for the same person with a second look, if you see what I mean. There’s a mainstream interpretation, then between two and seven other interpretations. Of course, this is at a broad level. We didn’t really have the time and resources to see if within the mainstream interpretation there were subtle differences.”



“Amazing. Thank you, Janette. That’s what I wanted to hear. Brings up all sorts of possibilities doesn’t it? Maybe it would indeed change for a person if there was a long enough period between viewings. Or because of a significant personal event.”



“Mr McGuire, not to put too fine a point on it, but I think we could straighten it out if we spent some time putting it through filters. Yes, we could try to filter onto a new medium, actually an older analog one like tape. Then dump it back onto a stream and that should remove any inconsistencies. Then you’d be certain of the product that you were selling.”



“Andrew, Andrew, Andrew. This is precisely why you need to inform me of situations. This isn’t a problem; it’s a unique selling point. Hey, it’s the uniquest selling point of all time. We’ve got a supernatural product that engages with each of us individually.


Oh God, the possibilities. Can’t you see it now? After watching a scene you get to tick which interpretation you fit into… or create and name a new interpretation yourself. For that scene, are you in the majority or are you very special? Now, do you want to see the thoughts and lifestyles of people similar to yourself? Here are the products people like you have bought recently. Advertisers will go bananas. Think of the re-run potential. It might actually be different each time. It would be as sticky as nana’s stew.


Janette, I think this has tripled our negotiating power. Andrew, you see what I mean? Just give it to me straight and our working relationship will be fine.”



“That’s certainly a different take than I managed Mr McGuire. It’s a bit like the Bible isn’t it? Different people interpret it in different ways.”



“Exactly. Exactly. Except, in this case, there can’t be any doubt but that this is a miracle, a personal miracle for each of us.


Hold on, it’s more than that though. It helps us see where we fit in the wider picture. Do Chinese see it differently than Americans, blacks than white, men than women, older than younger? And knowing that, how will it inform our decision-making? This is great guys. Not only are we making ten planets worth of cash we’re providing a service to humanity. How exciting.”



“Yeah, but maybe people won’t tick what they really saw but what they would like to be thought of as seeing.”



“Janette, don’t bother over-analyzing. Some people will, some people won’t. It really doesn’t matter. How can you separate the dancer from the dance? And why would you want to when they’re dancing to our tune?


One last item Andrew. Put out a message to all your guys saying that the recent issue is being worked on, is commercial-in-confidence and should, on no account, be discussed outside of work. Send it after 4pm today. That will give me enough time to appraise the key players of the new potential we have unearthed.”



“Mr McGuire, I will certainly do that but I feel it would be like a red rag to a bull. I can’t guarantee no-one will leak it.”



“I know. That’s okay.


And Tony, we need to ensure that our auditing consultants are given full authority and responsibility for all areas of quality assurance. The process must be pristine. It will be under intense scrutiny by people who will not have our best interests at heart. Andrew, I’m sure you support this. Please make certain that your team fully adopts all of their decisions. Thanks for your time guys and … get back to it.”



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