Zenobia--a former industry giant that is bedeviled by paralyzing hierarchies, grossly inadequate communications, and distrust--is a broken place, a fortress doomed to collapse upon itself. Enter Moira, who has responded to a help wanted ad and seeks to find a given office, Room 133A. As she moves through the Zenobian maze, Moira makes some surprising discoveries about the power of teamwork, the role of the imagination, and the qualities that define true leaders. Her story is complemented and deepened by the story of a long-time Zenobia employee named Gallagher, the man who issued the help wanted ad and who watches, and comments, as Moira makes her way to the ever-elusive Room 133A. This unusual book will move readers to take a fresh and fearless look at their own organizations and imagine what they could be, always keeping in mind that, as the want ad Moira answers puts it, "creative persistence a prerequisite."
Beth gives an overview of the book:
There was, to begin, no apparent way up. The doors of the elevators had been sealed long ago. The stairs zinged this way and that, crossed over and through, circled back and endlessly in. Some enterprising soul had thrown a ladder up, but it was perched at a delirious angle. Someone had tried to launch a lavender kite, but its tail was a sagged sadly around the balustrade. There were precarious rope bridges tethered across the atrium.. There were tunnels threaded east and also north. There were doors that were locked, there were rooms with no lights, there were windows blackened over, sealed shut. Hardly ever did the old phones ring. At Zenobia there was trouble. “Excuse me,” Moira said, for she was new to this place and she had only just now made her way from her car, across the moat, to the guard at the turnstile. “How do I find Room 133A?” She was wearing red shoes and a neat woolen dress. She was thinking about something her sister once said: No one has ever seen a black hole straight on. The evidence has forever been entirely indirect. Moira always remembered her sister’s best instructions at opportune times, for her sister was an astronomer who knew darkness as well as light. “133A?” repeated the guard, after mulling the question for a surprising stretch. “133A follows 132B and precedes 135C. And just for the record, there’s no 134, nor, to my knowledge, a 135A or B. But that last part is just between you and me,” he said, lowering his voice. “Tell no one that I told you.” Moira pushed her round glasses up the bridge of her nose, flipped back her bangs, and took in the scene—the ropey overpasses and crooked stairs, the forlorn kite tail, the smudge-colored tunnels. There were arrows pointing in a thousand directions, but no way of divining their meaning. For whom had those arrows been hung and painted? Moira wondered. And when? It seemed to her to be some kind of code, the sort of thing a lucky archeologists might find in a prehistoric cave. “But which way,” Moira said, hoping to be clearer this time, “might I go to find Room 133A?” “I’ve told you enough,” the guard said, sulky, as if he’d been asked that question a thousand times before. “Much more than enough, for one day.” Moira glanced at her watch. It was 8:10. The classified ad that had brought her to this place had presented but two key instructions: Find Room 133A. And, Arrive no later than 9:00 AM. That was it—no interview, no references, no vetting her credentials—just a time and a room number. She had recently left a job that had bored her to tears. She had promised herself an adventure. This sounds appealingly odd, she had said to herself. But odd is one thing, somewhat mild. Zenobia, so far, was quite strange. Nevertheless, she boldly entered in—through the turnstile, straight into the atrium. “Thanks for your help,” Moira told the guard, and, reluctantly, he buzzed her in. Taking a left, Moira started walking. This would be, she decided, like finding her way through the night. And she had practice at that, the sort of grit that comes from years of persevering. She had, with glasses on, the keenest pair of eyes. She could see through mess and muddle. She could see what wasn’t there.
Beth Kephart is the author of five memoirs, an autobiography of a river, the corporate fable ZENOBIA: THE CURIOUS BOOK OF BUSINESS (co-authored with Matthew Emmens), and give acclaimed novels for young adults. On October 25, 2011, Egmont USA will publish YOU ARE MY...