Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How Things Get Done . . .

. . . or at least how things are occasionally done.

These events occurred in the early 1980's, and the main characters were: Bill, a former mentor mentioned previously in this blog; Bryce, once moderately prominent in health care during the Carter administration, and at the time dealt with here a senior vice-president with Blue Cross Association/National Association of Blue Shield Plans (BCA/NABSP), an organization that was half supportive, half management of the individual Blue plans throughout the country; Otis, a director reporting to Bryce; and yours truly.

I was a vice-president at the Chicago Blue plan when I was asked to have lunch with Bryce, whom I knew of but had never met. I accepted, of course, although I had no idea what he might want. He, Otis, and I met at Le Perroquet in downtown Chicago. The amenities lasted through perhaps the first half of the meal, at which point Bryce spoke of what was on his mind.

Prior to moving to Chicago, I had acquired a good reputation in the field of federal procurement, and had provided services to Blue plans involved in such efforts - the Jacksonville, Little Rock, Seattle, Kansas City, and Chicago plans. Several years prior to this lunch Otis had sought my advice when BCA/NABSP decided to set up a department to provide those same services to Blue plans, which advice I gave him only to see it ignored, whether by Otis or his superiors I don't know. I suspect the latter.

The Blue plans weren't very enthusiastic about the new department and continued to use the consulting services of the division I had left in Boston rather than those of BCA/NABSP.

Bryce was looking for a way to enhance the popularity of his group. He was in the process of forming a steering committee comprising executives from some of the individual plans. He invited me to join the committee, which would oversee and advise the department.

I saw immediately what was up. It must be confessed that I was a little rough around the edges and I replied that "If the steering committee is actually going to be involved, actually do something, I'd be happy to be part of it, but if all you want is the use of my name in order to say that I recommend it, I wouldn't be interested."

The rest of the lunch was cordial, we exchanged "Glad to meetcha's," and I never heard any more about it.

Flash forward several years. I had left the Blues, was making six figures working at my first love, mainframe assembler programming, and had found a fascinating industry in which to work: junk mail. No, really.

Out of a clear Blue sky there came a phone call from Bill, my former mentor, still Executive Vice-President at Blue Shield of Massachusetts. He told me that "the Blues" - BCA/NABSP - were going to form a company to deal with federal procurements on behalf of Blue plans and to provide data processing services to plans that won contracts.

He thought *eye* would be perfect in the role of president of that company, reporting to a Board of Directors consisting of Blue plan presidents, and he wanted me to call Bryce, who would either make the decision or influence the decision substantially.


I would have dipped my arm in boiling oil before leaving what I was doing and going back to the Blues, but I couldn't just say that to Bill. He had been a mentor to me and very helpful over the years. I agreed to call Bryce.

I did so, his secretary put him on the line, and the conversation went exactly like this:

Donnie: "Bill has called me regarding the company you are forming to deal with federal procurements and subsequent processing. He wants me to be president of that company. Now I don't want to be president of that company and you don't want me to be president of that company, but we have to do something to keep Bill happy, so how about this: I'll call Bill and tell him that we talked and that if there's any movement in that direction you will call me."

Bryce: "Fine."

Donnie: "Thank you."

And that script was followed. Not long thereafter Bill died of a heart attack - he was only fiftyish - and I don't know to this day whether that company was ever formed.


Oklahoma City Divorce Attorney said...

That sounds like quite a journey. I like it a lot. I particulary like the part where you were earning six figures working at your first love.

BrokenDownProgrammer said...

I confess, I liked it a lot too. Ah ha ha ha ha ha.