Timing isn't everything

It's the 1990s, and this American pilot fish is a project manager at a big bank in Saudi Arabia.

"The work area was a huge open-plan office, and getting meeting rooms booked was like striking gold," fish says.

"And meeting discipline was a little slack -- meetings would start extremely late and invariably go on for hours over their allotted time."

On this day, fish has a very important project review scheduled. He has booked the meeting room, but timing is tight; some participants will be flying to Europe soon after the meeting is over, so it's essential to start on time.

Unfortunately, there's a group already in the meeting room -- and as fish's start time approaches, they show no signs of finishing on time. So, with five minutes to go before his meeting, fish goes into the room and asks politely that they wrap up their meeting, because he has the room booked.

The reaction is far from friendly.

Next day, fish is summoned to an urgent meeting with the CIO.

"Do you know who was in that meeting yesterday?" CIO asks.

Fish confesses that he doesn't.

"Well, you'd better make sure you find out before you go barging into any more meetings that are none of your business!" CIO barks. "That was the president of the Saudi Arabian central bank! He has written a formal complaint to the owner of our bank. You even went in before your meeting was due to start!"

Fish is thunderstruck. He knows that the central bank's president is a member of the Saudi royal family -- which means fish could be fired, deported, imprisoned or worse!

Then a Cheshire-cat grin spreads across the CIO's face.

"Just be careful next time," he says.

Reports fish, "That was the last I heard of the incident. I can only guess that my work was well-respected."

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Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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