A part of the company – the business that was the old heartland of the enterprise – was being spun off. The people going with the spin-off fully understood the meaning.
Companies don’t spin off operations or businesses that are highly profitable, with long-term prospects for success, no matter what anyone might say. No, companies spin off businesses that “no longer fit the portfolio, ” won’t produce the desired level of profit, or – best-case scenario – will just chug along at a less-than-desirable return on investment.
It was a wrenching experience. The new company had nine months to prepare – create an organization, find a new name, fight over assets, select management teams, file a raft of legal documents, apply for stock registration, and prepare employees for a new world.
Management was struggling over the best way to launch the company. No one felt like celebrating. The situation felt more like a funeral than a birth.
The poet was asked to figure it out.
And the poet said, “We’re going to have a party.”
“Engineers and research scientists don’t party, ” said the soon-to-be CEO, himself an engineer.
And the poet said, “Trust me, ” displaying a confidence he didn’t have.
The poet did not write a kickoff script, embedded with key messages, vision and mission statement. Instead, the poet wrote a poem, an epic poem, mostly in prose format, an epic poem that celebrated the heroic.
A band was hired, as was an emcee. A plan was designed for a round-the-world “join-up, ” where each location would celebrate the new company for two minutes in their local language (and a potential problem for those parts of the world where it was the middle of the night).
Reviewing the plan, the CEO said, “Engineers don’t party.”
“I think they will, ” the poet replied. “Trust me.” And promptly found a private place to throw up.
Guidelines for all the location parties were developed. Every cake had the same company logo. Every employee would receive a work shirt with the logo – the same shirt, the world over. All the technical arrangements were made to ensure every connection would be connected.
The poet did a final review with the CEO. “I know, ” the poet said. “Engineers don’t party.”
The CEO nodded. “That’s exactly right. This will end badly. But I know what you’re going to say. ‘Trust me.’”
The official spin-off day arrived. The poet arrived very early. The balloon drops were in place (“But if this blows up don’t drop those balloons”). The band arrived. The technicians were in place. The emcee did a few practice runs. Phone and video connections were checked and double-checked. An unexpected crisis with a location in the United Kingdom was fixed. People began arriving. The epic poem was beginning.
The emcee was perfect. The band was perfect. The CEO communicated an enthusiasm and excitement that the poet didn’t think he had in him. The round-the-world join-up went without a hitch, and everyone heard people speaking English, Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, French, Italian, and a dozen others.
Celebration Central at headquarters began to rock. Hundreds of people were dancing around the stage. And the poet was stunned to see the CEO and the COO (another engineer) dancing together on the dais, in full view of the video cameras.
Engineers knew how to party after all. And dance.
The epic poem had begun.