The Incumbent: Chapter 31

Summary:It's an intricate web of murder plots, government conspiracies and rampant tanning. Oh, and the future of the entire nation.

Jones had noticed, and it was driving him mad, but for now he was content to simply find his predecessor's email account and get up to speed on whatever projects had been keeping him busy.

He'd have to work quickly, though. Already, the Raquel Welch virus was deleting content on the hard drive, and starting to work its way across the organisation. Next time anyone turned on their computer, all their files and emails would have vanished, killing off minutes, in some cases hours, of work. And VastTel had a policy of not backing up work, because: a) there was hardly any work to back-up; and b) no one really knew how to do it.

While some of the more recent emails were being eaten away by Raquel Welch, Jones was finding many of the older emails particularly interesting, including a consultancy report from Whitlam, Beevis & Hogsbreath, marked 'Highly Confidential. Not to be read by anyone.' The confidentiality clause had been placed on the report by the consultants themselves, who advised that nobody at VastTel was ready for these sorts of findings, and, consequently, the report should not be read by anyone, even — in fact, particularly — the CEO. It looked like the recommendation had been adopted. The hefty consultancy fee had been paid, and no one had read beyond this front-page suggestion. It was the first time any recommendation from a consultant had been adopted by the phone company.

The consultants advised that the report should not be read by anyone, particularly the CEO. It was the first time any recommendation had been adopted by VastTel.

Jones decided to read more.

'Recommendation one: that you do not read this report. You might find the results disturbing.'

'Recommendation two: that at least three quarters of the VastTel workforce are instantly retrenched. There is no evidence that they provide any benefit to the corporation. It doesn't matter which three quarters you choose.'

'Recommendation three: that the entire executive team is replaced.'

'Recommendation four: if recommendation three is untenable, that the company moves out of telecommunications altogether and focuses on something simpler, like running a florist shop.'

'Recommendation five: that's just one shop. I don't think you could manage the complexity of a chain.'

It was certainly a damning report. From what Jones had already experienced, it didn't come as a total revelation. Nor was it a surprise that no one had read beyond the front page. Even if they'd wanted to, there were so many reports produced each day, each paid for based on their weight. Sometimes they were given a cursory glance, to check that the consultants hadn't tried to pull a fast one by including a lot of blank pages, or including photocopied sections from the phone directory, but none were ever read in full.

Consultants knew this, which is why the author of the Whitlam, Beevis & Hogsbreath report felt able to write in paragraph four, page 48, 'is anyone actually reading this?' before exploring the notion eight pages later that the senior executive team members at VastTel were a 'bunch of c***-sucking wankers'. The final four chapters of the document were lifted ad verbatim from AA Milne's 1928 children's classic, The House at Pooh Corner.

The final four chapters of the document were lifted ad verbatim from AA Milne's 1928 children's classic, 'The House at Pooh Corner'.

It was clear to Jones that there hadn't been any control whatsoever in the organisation. That had to change. And he had the youthful confidence to believe that he was the man (just) who could bring about that change. It would be a difficult task, but he was determined to start right away, at his senior team meeting. Well, almost straight away. The meeting was already getting off to a late start. Natalie wasn't back from her shopping trip. She had visited seven stores trying to find custard creams, which she desperately needed — she was three packets off reaching her annual performance-related pay bonus.

The Incumbent is Phil Dobbie's first novel and these excerpts have been used with his permission. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. To purchase the entire novel in digital format, click here. It is also available in printed format ... for more details click here.

Topics: Telcos


Phil Dobbie has a wealth of radio and business experience. He started his career in commercial radio in the UK and, since coming to Australia in 1991, has held senior marketing and management roles with Telstra, OzEmail, the British Tourist Authority and other telecommunications, media, travel and advertising businesses.

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