A Null Existence

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Some time ago, I was assigned the task of responding, in my boss’s stead, to an email that had sat withering in his inbox for weeks. More precisely, the message was a recent one whose sender was following up on something sent weeks earlier, asking for my boss’s attention to the matter at hand. So it was that I was called in to save the day…something, something, fate of the free world. Obviously.

The task turned out to have to do with a concept known as ‘Business Continuity Planning’ (BCP). The basic idea is this: if the building were to be overrun with locusts, or Pokemon Goers, or some other scourge of the earth causing an interruption to business activities, how fucked would the company be? In particular, what is the dollar value of the portion of fuckedness that our department, specifically, would contribute to the overall fuckedness of the company in the event of some kind of shutdown? (Aside: BCP sometimes includes drafting a communication plan to be enacted in the event of such a shutdown and testing the phone/SMS/MySpace tree to be employed at that time. I remember this from earlier in my career, when part of this task involved my boss phoning me after hours to ensure that she had the ability to reach me at home, as I frantically scrambled to put on pants before answering the phone. I’m no expert, but in my estimation, it’s weird as hell to talk to your boss with your genitals exposed.)

Anyway, the task of quantifying the financial impact to the company of a shutdown to our department took the form of a questionnaire, asking things like “quantify the loss of sales that a one-week interruption to your department’s activities would cause”, or “quantify the damage to the company’s reputation/brand…”, etc.

As luck would have it, all I was actually being asked to do was ‘update’ the questionnaire that our department had submitted the previous year, because here in corporate paradise, we only ever do things as efficiently as possible (duh). Now in this case, the word “update” actually meant “review”, and the word “review” turned out to mean “read this 5-page document, do nothing with it, then jump out a window because your life is literally worthless”.

That’s right – question after question, page after page, the quantifiable value of my department’s activities (my pride! my joy! my reason for being!) stared me in the face: zero. And quite rightly, I might add. Fines or penalties incurred? Zero. Losses resulting from delays? Zero. Losses resulting from breach of contract? Zero.

My task was to sign off on a document explicitly stating that my entire department could meet its demise in a freak gasoline-fight accident and the company wouldn’t suffer so much as the equivalent of a spilled glass of kool-aid (still just pennies per existential crisis!).

But of course, I’m just kidding. I wasn’t authorized to sign off on the document myself! (How could you be so gullible? lol) That honor could only belong, by policy, to my boss. So I printed the document and put it on his desk with a sticky note encouraging him to “sign here :)”, because he could rest easy: I had verified – and would stake my professional reputation on the fact – that everything was as it should be.

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