M stared out through the triple-glazed, floor-to-ceiling window, his hands clasped behind his back and spine rigidly vertical. A mist drifting along the Embankment was slowly being burned away by the sun. “Economies must be made, Bond.”
“You miss my predecessor, don’t you?”
“I need a drink.”
Bond helped himself to a Heineken. He wasn’t sure whether he needed something to do to deflect the stab of remorse and grief he felt about the incidents at Skyfall.
Maybe what hit hardest was that word ‘economies’.
“We’ve had cutbacks in everything: we are going to have to work smarter. What do you know about social media?”
Bond thought about how much he should admit to about his sexy alter ego on Facebook and Twitter – Jimmy Bondsman. “I am an, err, user…”
“User?” M barked. “I’m sending you to GCHQ with a couple of other double-‘O’s: you’ve got a lot of homework to do.”
“With all due respect, sir, just how do you think social media are going to feature in our operations?”
“Don’t be cheeky, Bond. We’ve thought this through. It’s not just the cutbacks, although that does mean the downgrading of our secret communications network and many of our dedicated channels. Everything is changing: recruitment, management, terms of service, Q Branch, our brief…the lot. I wouldn’t be surprised if, by the end of the decade, we were to resemble a social enterprise.”
Bond collapsed heavily into one of M’s designer armchairs. Christ! Social enterprise, he thought. I’m damned if I know what that means. He made a mental note to call his financial advisor about the size of his pension fund.
M continued: “Take these new issued Sony Xperia T smartphones, for instance. We can’t always guarantee the point-to-point communications we have done in the past: our agents are going to have to use mainstream methods. You might have to resort to Messenger or Twitter for routine alerts. GCHQ have a handle on ciphers and codes.”
Bond raised a weary arm: “I get the social media technology bit, sir. I don’t get the social enterprise stuff.”
M’s body language softened. He sat down opposite Bond. “James,” he murmured softy. “I’m going to call you James from now on. I’m not going to lecture you on change: after all, your recent scores when you came back weren’t up to scratch. We are all having to adapt to a new style of working. I am losing this office”. He drew his hand sensually across the arm of his chair.
“MI6 is modifying its hierarchy. We will concentrate on developing a flatter organisation, project-focussed teams and a more interactive management style. Agents in the field will still have their autonomy but work as a larger team and collaborate through social media. I know I am an outsider from the Foreign Office but I have given them assurances that they will be able to overlook our operations and contribute to intelligence-gathering as well.”
There was a silence. Bond tried to sort out his thoughts. Give the man credit, he admitted. He might be an outsider but he showed pluck during the attack on the Committee Room. I am getting old he thought. Even a single Heineken makes me yawn.
“I am dropping the ‘M’ moniker: I will be known as Gareth. We will be much more open about operational decisions and will involve teams in decision-making. Our enemies are more flexible, spontaneous and using social media themselves. We must collaborate with a much wider audience and win hearts-and-minds online. Secrecy will still be there, of course, and GCHQ will brief you on all that but we must change or someone will change us.”
Mallory reached forward and put his hand on his thigh. It was all Bond could do not to flinch. “Look, James, it’s not just about social media. People no longer enter the Secret Service and stay regardless. Our whole approach to empowering and managing people has to change. We have to treat everyone, from the cleaners upwards, as an intrinsic part of the intelligence team. You will still be at the sharp end but you must get used to collaborating more, even with the other lot and with other Government agencies.”
Bond murmured: “As long as I can stop meeting Q in art galleries?”.
Mallory smiled “The rule book is also changing”. He reached behind him and handed Bond a tablet computer. “It’s all there and sensitive to your hand and retina scan. It’s for our eyes only”.
Bond got up and, as he reached the door, Mallory adopted a more official tone. “And don’t call her Moneypenny. She’s Eve from now on.” Bond slammed the door.