duminică, 13 iunie 2010

Hard brake broke a heart

It is too hot to do anything, even to go to a concert. So, I missed the chances to watch a bored Eric Clapton and Sir Elton John, during one weekend. It was like the promotions offered by Carrefour, in an attempt to sell out stocks before they expire; buy one-get one free…I heard that Eric Clapton didn't offer what he used to be, but Sir John impressed everyone.

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The crisis talks are all over us, from TV news to pub-chats, a normal phenomenon as the financial difficulties hit all of us profoundly. But the good part of each crisis is that they pass as fast as they hit, without giving any lesson to any of us, leaving only memories.

1998 Asian crisis turned into a Russia-led Eastern Europe crisis (There were the same talks about the future of Europe, Japan, banks and financial systems etc etc…And I was happily living in Moscow then)

One year after the crisis, we were supposed to have our first Board meeting, trying to persuade our superiors that we should start the engines for growth and we should increase our risk appetite. We wanted to ask an increased budget for expenses, that we deemed highly necessary for the infrastructure of our company.

Especially on the information technologies side, we were stuck with an old core application, which was impossible to improve, so we needed to purchase and implement a new one, meaning a six zeros investment. Several departments prepared their reports, to justify the need for the new application and we were supposed to sing our song in harmony as a chorus in front of our bosses.

When the business doesn’t move in the desired direction, these meetings resemble excerpts from a Hitchcock movie, everything moving rapidly slow in a loud silence… Everybody suspects the horror waiting on the next page and nobody wants to be the first one looking at it…

One after another we have presented our case, defended it successfully and finally it was up to our Internal Audit Manager to touch the ball to score the goal.

Although a good professional and experienced auditor, she lacked the necessary level of English. Adding the tiredness and the degree of tension, once she recognized the importance of her presentation, she forgot all the rehearsed text of speech and started mumbling a verbal puzzle.

She needed to indicate that the complexity and the slow speed of the system led to manual interventions and inputs for financial reporting, which undermined the reliability of the outcomes (and of the decisions taken based on these outcomes). With continuously increased reporting requests in different formats from upper management, the reliability and historical tracking of the data was crucial for the institution and any human intervention should have been limited to avoid errors.

After 5 minutes of unintended humiliation of English as a foreign language, she paused and said,
 “Our colleagues are forced to provide a lot of hand-jobs to satisfy the managements' needs. At the current level of activity, they have time to do it, but still, we should avoid doing it often, not several times each day.” ... ... ... ... ... ...

A silence of 5 seconds offered sufficient time to everyone for imaginary thinking, cut by a burst of laughter. We obtained the approval…

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This one is a global one, it involves several economies and sectors but at the end it will become a textbook reference and in few years we will restart doing the same mistakes.  

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