"Your first mistake was asking for input," I explain to the Boss as he scans the huge volume of new email in his Inbox. "You really don't want to do that."
"No," the PFY echoes, "Never do that."
"Never seek user input on a technical document unless what you're asking about is so vague as to be useless," the PFY insists.
"Yeah, I'm not sure I..."
"So say you were going to give all the beancounters a new laptop," the PFY says. "You'd never say 'We're going to roll out new laptops and we're interested in your opinion'. You want to say 'We're thinking about the colour silver' - with no mention of laptops or anything."
"Well because A: we're NOT interested in their opinion but mainly B: before you know it you'll get a bunch of messages with users' thoughts on new laptops - suggesting every alternative from Dvorak keyboards to soothing colours to the possibility of mind control."
"See the thing is they've got nothing useful to contribute and would generally be happy with what they got so long as it was a real upgrade. The problem is that they feel that if they don't contribute now then they won't be consulted the next time something changes in the company that they really care about."
"Like the colour of the tea urns," the PFY chips in.
"Silver," I say. "So if you just do it without telling anyone you can probably do a non-upgrade instead - just something they saw as an upgrade because it looked different."
"Like Vista and Windows 8," the PFY says.
"OR, You could make the upgrade so appalling that when you gave their old crap back to them and they'd think THAT was an upgrade!" I say.
"Like Vista and Windows 8," the PFY repeats.
"So you're suggesting I don't ask for any input?"
"Goodness no! We're a user-facing entity and as such are compelled to consult our people about their thoughts. We want their input! The PFY and I have this as our watchword!"
"You NEVER consult people!"
"Only because no one ever turns up to our meetings!" I say, widening my eyes a bit.
"The meetings you hold in the darkened area at the back of carparking basement?" the Boss asks.
"No, that venue became unavailable," the PFY says. "Now we hold them on a friday afternoon, at the top of external fire escape on the 6th floor. You know, the place with the wobbly handrail? Right above the skip on the building site next door?"
"But no one ever turns up," I sigh. "We TRY and TRY to consult people about what they would like us to do for them. We even put up a suggestions box."
"Ah yes, the box - in the darkened area at the back carparking basement?"
"The place where your 'consultative meetings' used to be held?"
"On the wall beside it, yes."
"The wall with the scars from half a dozen vehicle impacts?"
"It's a tricky corner."
"It's a dead end!"
"Yes, but tricky. You have to do a three-point turn to get out of it – which is surprisingly dangerous for pedestrians!"
"Pedestrians with Opinions you mean?"
"Why else would they be down there?"
"Look, I just need a hand getting through all these responses," the Boss says, wanting to end the discussion.
"OK. So: First CTRL-A, then drag them all into the Deleted Items folder."
"I can't do that!"
"Course you can! You put out a memo saying that you're heartened by the huge number of responses and that many very valid issues have been raised and will need further discussion. So much discussion that you're forming a small development discussion group which will meet each lunchtime until all the issues are sorted out, prioritised and project planned."
"Won't they just come to the meetings and raise the issues there?"
"At a lunchtime? I don't think so."
"But they'll want an update."
"And when they ask you for an update you pass that update request on."
"No one. No one's going to give up lunchtimes indefinitely to join a pointless committee."
"Won't they ask to talk to someone on the committee?"
"Absolutely! At which time you say that proceedings have been delayed because the chair of the committee has sadly had to resign because of home commitments, because the meeting had been dragging on into the evenings. But there's a vacancy and perhaps they would be interested in chairing a meeting!"
"What if they say yes!?"
"You mean what would happen if someone was so needy for attention that they joined a non-existent committee to decide some meaningless technical point?"
"You'd say that the committee actually came to an agreement at its final meeting and thanks everyone for their input. Then you'd roll out whatever you were planning to roll out - they way you planned to roll it out."
"But they'll complain!'
"And the committee would be very interested in hearing their complaints. They should type it up on double spaced A4 paper and file it in the complaints box..."
"...in the darkened area at the back carparking basement?" the Boss asks.
"Or, we can take verbal submissions on a Friday afternoon, external stairwell, 6th floor," the PFY adds.