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Its Five Day Mission…

Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.

That was the original quote from the Star Trek television series from 1966. But what would it be like today? Maybe something like this…

Space: the next place to be exploited commercially. This version of the story is authorised by the public relations department of Starfleet Command, Inc. Our mission statement is to spend up to five days pursuing our corporate objectives: to investigate new revenue streams, to empower potential new stakeholders, to carefully go (following all health and safety guidelines) where no person has wanted to go before.

Star Trek 2012: Episode One…

Kirk: Starfleet. Any word on authorisation to leave port yet? We’ve been waiting four and a half years to leave and the paper work still hasn’t come through!

Starfleet: What? Haven’t you got it yet? Our head office sent it to the PA of the senior vice-president in charge of fleet departures. It should have gone to the departure authorisation committee by now and they would have got the correct permission from the appropriate departments.

Kirk: What about my supplies? I submitted a requisition order and we haven’t heard anything since.

Starfleet: We’re processing it now. We are having problems with the phasers you wanted. Our supplier has outsourced their manufacturing to China and we’re having trouble with quality issues.

Kirk: OK, has my budget been accepted? I cut costs everywhere I could but it still hasn’t been accepted by financial services.

Starfleet: Well you know that since the financial crisis our budget isn’t what it was. The mission has been cut and we had to recalculate all the costs. The accountants are working on it now. We had to double the size of the accounting department!

Finally the mission gets under way. The starboat (a downsized starship) encounters problems fairly quickly however. The engine fails (only one was fitted after budget cuts) and a Klingon fleet is approaching…

Kirk: Bridge to engineering. What’s happened to the engine Scotty?

Engineering: Welcome to the engineering section of the Starboat Incentivize. If there are sparks and flames shooting out of the consoles press 1. If the photon torpedoes are jammed press 2. If you want to reset your password for the holodeck press 3. To talk to an engineering services representative press zero.

Kirk: Oh God. I knew that reorganisation in engineering would cause problems.

He presses zero.

Engineering: All our engineers are busy at the moment helping other callers. Your call is important to us. Please hold and we will answer your call as soon as we can.

Some hideous musac begins. Kirk briefly considers initiating the self-destruct sequence. After five minutes (the objective of the engineering section is to answer 50% of calls within 5 minutes) an Indian voice is heard…

Engineering: Welcome to Engineering. How may we help you?

Kirk: The engine has failed and we are about to be attacked by Klingons.

Engineering: The engines have failed? Are you sure? Have you tried re-booting them?

Kirk: Of course we have. We have to reboot them quite often because the operating system recommended by the the CIO according to best practice is 20 years out of date and unreliable.

Engineering: Could you please reboot them again just to make sure.

Kirk: OK. Nothing happened. And who am I talking to? Are you part of engineering on this boat?

Engineering: I am part of the helpdesk operation that Starfleet outsourced last year. I’m talking to you from Bangalore. Can you tell me what version of the engine are you using? Is it the one authorised by the engineering subcommittee?

Kirk: I don’t know. How can you tell?

Engineering: Have a look in the user manual. Please call us back when you find out what it is. Is there anything else we can help you with today?

Kirk: No, I’ll call you back.

After 30 minutes of trying to find the manual and finally locating the version number Kirk calls the helpdesk again. After the usual button pressing and waiting…

Engineering: Welcome to Engineering. How may we help you?

Kirk: The engine has failed and we are about to be attacked by Klingons. I have the version number of the engine here.

Engineering: The engine has failed? Are you sure? Have you tried re-booting it?

Kirk: Look. This is an emergency. Please put Scotty on the line.

Engineering: Scotty has been promoted to management and doesn’t take calls. Could you please reboot the engine.

Kirk ends the call and his hand moves to the self destruct button again, but then a young engineer on the bridge has an idea…

Young engineer: Captain, I’ve Googled the problem and it seems that the engine is protected by a safety system which shuts it down when it exceeds warp factor 8. I’ve downloaded a patch which bypasses the circuit. Should we install it?

Kirk: Warp factor 8! We never travel slower than that. Is this another one of those safety initiatives I’ve heard vague rumours about?

Young engineer: It’s also to save fuel. Dilithium crystals have reached peak production and the price has gone sky high. Apparently this was documented in section 15, sub-section 7, clause 9 of the operational procedures manual, captain.

Kirk: Damn it! Apply the patch and let’s get this ship… err, I mean boat… out of here!

The patch is applied and the disaster is averted. A few days later the boat returns to the space port. Kirk is being debriefed by his manager…

Manager: I’ve just been reading through your report Kirk. Under the section “value-added mission-critical synergistic proactive benchmarks” you’ve just put a question mark. In fact you also put a question mark next to “best of breed business case for out of the loop paradigm shifts moving forward” along with most of the other questions. What is the reason for this?

Kirk: None of my team could come up with an answer to those sections. There are a few items I need to discuss with you regarding the mission. We had to patch the engine safety over-ride on day 2…

Manager: Yes, that action is being taken very seriously and is being reviewed by the engine maintenance, safety and economy sub-committee now. Do you realise your budget stated you would need 400 dilithium crystals but you used 500?

Kirk: We encountered some Klingons and we were never supplied with the phasers because of a paperwork problem. We had to get out of there fast!

Manager: But you must realise in the current financial climate that we must all play our part in economising. Dilithium crystals are expensive. Do you think that you don’t need to contribute to this effort?

Kirk: But the accounting section of Starfleet has just doubled in size, the managers all got 30% pay rises, and you returned a huge dividend to your shareholders!

Manager: Listen Kirk, I don’t like where this meeting is going. You cannot see the big picture and all of those initiatives were for the greater good of the corporation. If we want good managers we have to pay them well, don’t we? And the shareholders deserve a good return on their investment. You’re starting to sound like a socialist!

Kirk: It’s easy for you to sit in your office criticising me. I’m the one dodging Klingon photon torpedoes!

Manager: We all have hard jobs to do. I think you should leave now and finish that report. And don’t come back until you have the right attitude to be a true member of Starfleet. You obviously have trouble adapting to change.

Kirk leaves and is replaced as captain later by some politically correct Frenchman who follows orders. And so ends this episode of the great mission into the final frontiers of bureaucracy!

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