I wrote this several years ago; the idea came to me during a particularly uncomfortable meeting with a contractor. I keep changing my mind with regards to the title; sometimes it’s “Six Degrees of Freedom”.
We meet to discuss resources, not people.
Outsourcing, insourcing, TUPEs
And how many FTEs
We need, and how many are superfluous;
We must trim our budgets and our manpower, our undertakings.
But it’s ok; they’re only contractors, and road diggers at that.
We roll with it.
We don’t discuss names but
Each FTE is a person, each team is two,
And a gang is not as it sounds,
A menacing mass of uncomprehending brawn, but
Four living emissaries, who toil to shift the earth and uncover the cables
Whose surge we all live and die by
And as we talk, and look at charts
And calculate how many people to discard,
My eyes swaying, I notice the room divider.
Teak veneer, with a trim at each end to hide the workings
Of the sliding thing which can increase room volume productivity,
Cleave its capacity, double its output.
Efficient divider! We could learn from your mechanism.
I take in this room; the air conditioning set to minimum,
A frigid herald of our decision making.
A false ceiling has a double crisscross trim and
Hangs over us as we crisscross the names on our lists.
The trunking is enclosed in a thick conduit,
The data cables and plugs are docked into
A cunning bay that pops up in our midst.
Startled, we retire it to its depths again
The whiteboard slides slickly on its runner as
We strike off the names from its impassive non-permanence
We make heavy going of this administrative exercise
And shirk our responsibilities
As they heave their muscles with a degree of freedom*.
We yawn and yaw from the task in hand;
While their dirty rough hands are cleaner than ours
Even when we finally pitch the spoil and call for the muck away gang
To clear up today’s handiwork
* The six degrees of freedom are the number of independent parameters that define a mechanical system’s configuration.
Moving up and down (heaving)
Moving left and right (swaying)
Moving back and forwards (surging)
Tilt backwards and forwards (pitching)
Swivel left and right (yawing)
Pivot side to side (rolling)