He got his start laying pipe for the Atlas Water and Sewer company. Eventually, he climbed the ranks, becoming responsible for a staff of 800 and annual revenue exceeding $120 million. His name is Victor Kipling. This is his weekly column.
The photo in the magazine showed a harried executive standing over his pert, proper and suitably concerned secretary. Tie askew and with a frenzied look in his eyes, the text tells us that this man has just learned, once again, that his field office managers had failed to follow instructions, and caused him to miss another deadline. How was he to explain to his boss this all too frequent lapse? Sure, he knew that once again his subordinates would claim that they never received the assignment, or that their response was lost in the mail, or employed a plethora of other excuses; ones that would even make a lazy high school student green with envy.
‘Ah, what to do?’ the ad asked…and then of course answered its own question.’ Yes! The space age solution to guarantee accountability’-at least in the early 1980s-was none other than the then sleekly designed telefacsimile machine, soon to be known simply as ‘the fax’. Once installed, according to the ad, document receipt was not only guaranteed, but that a printed verification would crank out to the sender. No longer would staff be able to hide behind the grey skirts and proverbial inefficiency of the U.S. Post Office.
And so, for a few years, the fax did indeed do its job…and left field staff with a lot less wriggle room than they had previously enjoyed.
But due to the inexorable march of technology, the fax was retired and replaced in turn by the beeper, then the cell phone and finally the infamous blackberry. Yes, the umbilical cord that ties each of us to our offices has been wound more tightly than ever; binding us ever closer to the office and the legion of responsibilities we often want to ignore. Who knows what new techniques are in the offing? Big Brother telescreens in every home? Brain implants? While we don’t know the answer, we do know that they’re working on it; that’s for damned sure.