Back in 1986 the price of oil collapsed, hitting the E&P (exploration and production) activities of oil companies hard. Major downsizing was the order of the day - the city of Aberdeen nearly went under - and all manner of cost-cutting programmes were instituted.
Shell Expro, the E&P division of Shell UK, had one such scheme, and it bore strong resemblance to the Coalition's current plan for its own Spending Review. In both cases, each department gets told to draw up plans to cut 25% and 40% of its expenditures. Obviously, then as now, the purpose of the 40% requirement is to winkle out any really creative radical ideas. (They all use the same management consultants, you know.)
In Shell's 1986 episode, the staff were told that all the 25% cuts would be implemented, and some of the 40% ideas too. Just to add to the gaiety of the exercise, this planning process was called SEARCH: the S-E stood, naturally enough, for Shell Expro but no-one recalls the rest because, such was the disruption it caused, it immediately and memorably became known as Stop Everything And (w)Reak Complete Havoc.
One old lag of my acquaintance, a manager in his late 50s, had a high-profile role which required him to make a weekly presentation to the Shell Expro board. His department's "25%" plan had him being pensioned off in the first wave and, confident he would soon be waving farewell, his weekly offerings became more and more flippant, nay insubordinate, as SEARCH rumbled on.
Highly entertaining for spectators, but you can guess the rest. When the results were in, the board didn't like any of the suggestions, and did something quite different to make the necessary savings. This did not include making a fairly costly redundancy payment to our flippant friend, who was left looking, err, rather uncomfortable.
Get stuck in, Alexander and Osborne. Remember, no summer hols for you.