Dale and I were victims of the Global Financial Crisis. The GFC, because we always use abbreviations in IT.
'There are two important Business Process concepts I learnt a uni,' I told Dale. It was mid-morning and we were in the kitchenette. Salary freezing had driven our coffee strolls bankrupt and we now lengthened procrastination by getting coffee at the same time, to maximize the amount we would have to wait for each other to get out of the way in the narrow kitchenette.
'The first is the concept of the critical path. That is, start to finish, the core of the project lifecycle. Every task on the critical path has to be completed in order for the next task to start. You add the expected length of all those tasks together and you get your estimated time for a project.'
Dale was pumping the peculator like he was stroking a small dog, trying to coax coffee from the cylinder without it making any aggressive gurgling sounds that would indicate to those in earshot someone might be finishing the batch... And someone might not be making the next lot.
'Like, imagine making the coffee is your project. The critical path is: get the beans out the cupboard, 30 seconds. Put them in the grinder and grind, three minutse. Add water and wait for percolation, five minutes. Fill up cup, 30 seconds. Drink coffee, five minutes.
'But some task like finding a mug, or putting milk in it, that's not critical. You can do it while the beans are grinding. Or while the machine does the filtering. And it only takes twenty seconds, so you're flexible. You can space out watching the red light flash for a minute or two and then get the mug.'
'Wow,' said Dale, surprised to discover I actually knew how to make coffee. 'I thought the passive-aggressive "are you a coffee parasite" poster was targeted at you.'
'The second thing,' I ignored him 'is the concept of slack. In an organisation every person is like a rope. Depending on the size of the object, the more ropes you have tied to it, the less that need to be taut to drag the object towards you.'
We walked between cubicles to our desks, motoring slowly to not spill brimming mugs.
'However, that's all changed now.'
'It has?' Dale asked?
'Stock markets have crashed, consumer confidence is low, and everyone has less money. Now is not the time to not be on the critical path.'
'Remember the pot-plants?' I said. 'The ones which were next to the pillars on each floor? You know where they are now?'
'Gone' realised Dale.
'Not on the critical path. Do you know who's filtering out CO2 for the reverse cycle airconditioning?'
'No' said Dale.
'You and me. You, me and everyone. Add it to our list of tasks. There's less ropes now, less acceptability for give. You need to be taut.'
'Or else become like the pot plants...'
Dale breathed in deeply.