Southerly by David Haywood

The Screwtape-FRST letters

Dear Mr Screwtape,

Thank you for your expression of interest in the position of Funding Co-ordinator at the Foundation for Research Science & Technology (FRST).

The primary responsibility for this role is the ongoing implementation of our strategy to minimize financial wastage on traditional 'research based' science. This will help to target our limited science funding into areas that can deliver maximum value for the New Zealand taxpayer -- for example, by supporting the production of glossy pamphlets about FRST and/or by hiring additional FRST Funding Co-ordinators.

I note the concerns that you express in terms of your unfamiliarity with science funding in New Zealand, or anywhere else in the "earthly realm". However I don't anticipate that this will be a problem. To be honest, our funding strategy changes so often that a lack of knowledge is actually an advantage. Nor do I think your professed disbelief in science would be a major hurdle to employment with us. Like you, many of my colleagues at FRST would also prefer to put their faith in the "inexorable forces of darkness".

The position would initially involve a six month contract. If this is completed in a mutually satisfactory manner then you will be offered a permanent job. We would also be happy to consider your preferred contract period for "a thousand of your human lifetimes".

I enclose a simple two-page application form, and also a helpful 140-page pamphlet entitled How To Fill In My Simple Two-Page Application Form. Our five volume instruction manual Understanding FRST Pamphlets: A Beginner's Guide will be shipped separately to your address.

Yours sincerely,
Karen Brown
Foundation for Research Science & Technology.

* * *

Dear Mr Screwtape,

Thank you for sending us your application form. I'm impressed! The skills that you have acquired as a Senior Devil in the employ of Satan may well be extremely useful to the funding team at FRST.

Unfortunately, however, I am unable to process your job application until all the questions have been answered in full. This is a departmental policy that helps to make the application process as easy as possible for you.

In particular, it is essential that you fully complete the sections on Page 1 of the application form. This requires a series of short statements explaining how you will approach the challenges of this demanding position.

Section 1.1 is a description of your vision strategy. You should give details of the strategization procedures that you intend to implement in order to achieve seamless multitasking and maximal operationalization of your role.

Section 1.2 is an explanation of your vision statement. This should not, of course, be confused with your vision plan, which outlines the philosophy behind your action strategy. This is completely different altogether. It should discuss the way in which your prioritization scheme will proactively achieve synergization. By 'it', of course, I mean the action strategy; not the vision statement or the vision plan.

Section 1.3 is your action statement (not to be confused with your action strategy). This outlines the philosophy behind your vision plan, and explains how you will implementize your vision to develop synergistic processes that will empower both strategization and proactivization.

Section 1.4 gives details of your action plan (not to be confused with your action strategy or action statement). This should focus on the strategic deliverables from your vision statement (not to be confused with your vision strategy or vision plan), and describe how you will flexibilitize, facilitize, and

synergistically proactivize your role in order to achieve complete actionalization. You should also give full details of how you intend to incentivize your stakeholders (and I mean 'stakeholders' in the sense of people who apply for funding, of course, rather than actual stakeholders) to take ownership (and I mean 'ownership' in the sense of complying with FRST action plans, of course, not actual ownership) of the results-driven priorities in terms of overall action plan actionability.

I note that you have written nothing at all on Page 2. Perhaps you did not notice that the other side of the application form also had text? The questions on this page deal mainly with ontology, and should be relatively straightforward for you to answer.

I hope to hear from you again soon.

Yours affectionately,
Karen Brown
Foundation for Research Science & Technology.

* * *

Dear Mr Screwtape,

Your accusations are ridiculous.

No, I am not trying to "deliberately confuse you" in the hope that you will give up trying to apply for the job. I can assure you that FRST Funding Co-ordinators regularly have to deal with questions about the ontic nature of Dasein. It's probably the first thing you will be asked by one of our stakeholders.

Nor am I simply adding -ization to the end of words to "sound more impressive". Really, Mr Screwtape, such suggestion are beneath you! Tsk, tsk! Are you suggesting that activities such as clerkorization, admistratorization and word-processorization don't exist? Why, I do them all the time when making important funding decisions!

Let's cut to the chase, Mr Screwtape. You are the most promising job candidate we've seen in years. We'd be completely mad to let someone of your calibre slip through our fingers. Just answer a single question on the form -- any question -- and we'll give you the job.

I strongly urge you to continue with the application process, Mr Screwtape.

Yours encouragingly,
Karen Brown
Foundation for Research Science & Technology.

* * *

Dear Mr Screwtape,

I am very sorry that you have decided not to apply for the position at FRST.

I would, however, be extremely interested in your counter-offer of coming to work for Satan.

I have always admired the efficient top-down and client-focussed management structure of Hell. The possibilities for up-leveraging the challenging functional excellence of your organization are obvious, and I feel that my talents will be an ideal strategic fit with your core tactical values.

My application is accompanied by a Gantt chart and critical path network diagram which describes (on an hour-by-hour basis) my corporate vision goals for the first five years of my contract. As you can see, I am confident that I can achieve a paradigm shift in deincentivization of your stakeholders.

I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

At your service,
Karen Brown.