Thursday, July 13, 2006

"I am Peter Robertson and I am a workaholic"

The following submission was received by Pro-Veritas from a verified email account used by BBC Monitoring staff.

It started with a bang and ended with a whimper.

On 31 May this year, Peter Robertson, of Private Eye fame and trusted lieutenant of BBC Monitoring Director Christopher Westcott, announced to staff: "This week marks the start of my new role as Head of the Geographic Group, bringing together Magellan, Gagarin and all the international operations into one editorial structure. I feel excited, proud and privileged to be given the opportunity to lead such dedicated and professional people and well aware of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead."

For readers who are not acquainted with the peculiarities of BBC Monitoring, "Gagarin" was the editorial department covering the former Soviet Union, whilst "Magellan" was its equivalent for the rest of the world. Formerly known as Operational Groups A and B, they had acquired their quaint names four years earlier at the behest of none other than the selfsame Mr Robertson.

The triumphal announcement of 31 May was followed by what many staff interpreted as a wake-up call, a warning that they were about to be led by a man of action. "From now on the main Listening Room will be known as the Operations Room to reflect more accurately the variety of activities that take place there and our mission to observe, understand and explain," Mr Robertson told his new subjects in the same email.

As if all this were not enough, he fired what amounted to a warning shot across the bow of all those who had foolishly yearned for a return to some form of cosy stability. “From 5 June, the Operations Meeting held Monday-Friday at 1000 UK time will take place in the Upper West Wing Atrium area." Dynamo Peter has arrived and everyone had better look out!

If anyone had been left in any doubt, their illusions were cruelly, almost violently shattered on 9 June, at the formal inauguration of the top management team. This was basically the same team as the old one but now with a new, snappy name, "Executive Direction", in place of the old, tongue-twisting name, "Direction".

"I am Peter Robertson and I am a workaholic," Mr Robertson announced to a stunned gathering of staff. The silence was deafening as his words echoed from Caversham to the overseas units and back.

Everyone waited in trepidation. What will he do next? The answer finally came on 6 July, a full month after Mr Robertson had burst on to the stage with his admission of workaholism.

"It would be true to say, as some of you have been kind enough to feed back, that I'm not getting around the Operations Room as rapidly as you or I would like," he told staff in an email. And the reason? Mr Robertson wasn’t going to beat about the bush. "Without wallowing in self-pity, I would point out that, in addition to my new responsibilities for eight international offices and 250-plus people, a huge amount of my available time has been take up with job interviews, telling people the results and giving feedback," he explained in the same email.

He omitted to point out that each of the "international offices" is in fact run by a manager and, in the case of the larger offices, a number of middle managers as well, and that the "250-plus people" he referred to are all managed by team leaders. So, his responsibilities may not be as time consuming as he would like to make out.

Dynamo Peter, it would seem, had already ran out of diesel. "Over the next two weeks I ... intend to come to some of your team briefings," he reassured staff but with one big proviso. "I'm afraid it's impossible to make firm promises, and I may not get around to seeing all the teams during this round, but it will happen over time."

It may indeed happen over time. Sometime.


jane said...

Hi and thanks to whoever sent me the link to this blog, which I am reading with great interest. I joined BBCM in 1984, at which time, and ever since, morale was at rock bottom and falling. They don't like the blogsphere though do they? And it strikes me as a tad ironic that BBCM, quintessentially in the field of information, should be trying to shut down (if it is) free debate on a blog. They can't.

Eristalis said...

When I quit BBCM I said to my ultimate boss that the chief effort in that place seemed to be devoted to constructing a huge overweening management structure, and he agreed.
Time and again we saw the ineffectual, the weak, brown-nosing types elevated to form an inert insulating layer between the skilled workers and the proliferating managers. These insulators would wander feebly about, trying to justify their grades, passing on Birt-Speak Impenetralia from above.
It was clear that doing the actual basic work in that place brilliantly was contemptible, and never rewarded. What was esteemed was getting a salary far in excess of any benefits you earned for BBCM, whilst generating obfuscation and gloom amongst the remaining, dwindling key employees.

Anonymous said...

1984 to 2006...22 years... what a terrible place this is