(FORTUNE Magazine) – The horrible incidents herein conveyed occurred on the 17th of the month just past, but only now can I write about them. I find my health very much improved after my gentle stay in the clinic of --------------, and am certain that, through this attempt to relate what has transpired, further surcease of these nightly visitations and terrors will be my reward.

The morning in question dawned bright and early, as so many do when a full complement of senior officers is in town. I had barely finished with my tour of the floor when I received a voice mail informing me that Martin--long may he thrive--wished to announce internally the successful integration of a new corporate entity vestigially related to our operation. I therefore wrote the following communication: To: The Organization From: Martin Re: A Strategic Addition

I want to take this moment to tell you how pleased I am to welcome Sturtevant Byproducts into our technology group, effective immediately. As you all know, we acquired Sturtevant in the second quarter of the year in an attempt to deepen the product pool that feeds our distribution pipeline worldwide. The folks at Sturtevant, under the leadership of Brad Dreedle, have superb expertise in areas to which we are new, and we complement their capabilities admirably. They will continue to be housed in Fond du Lac and will report to Byron Niedermeier and his management team in Horseheads. As we move down the road to the 21st century, we will continue to build upon our core competencies to grow in new, exciting ways. This is but one important step along the path. Please join me in welcoming Brad and his team to the group.

Brilliant? Certainly not. But I got the job done with my usual clarity and flair, and, as always, with no pride of authorship.

Since the document was of such import, it went without saying that it needed to be "cleared" by various individuals, one after the other, before being returned to me for its issuance. This gauntlet, as anyone familiar with organizational life knows, is a document's "loop." I had no idea, as the stubby, inexorable hand of the clock approached ten, that this circle would be different than any other--that it would, in fact, lead to my perdition.

What did make me uneasy was the fact that this communication's release was to be effected no later than 2 p.m. on that very same day, partially because such release was promised in various and sundry documents, but primarily because Morgenstern, our corporate counsel, said so. And an unhappy Morgenstern is a dangerous and frightening thing no colleague would wish to interface with.

Feeling acutely the agony that lay in wait, I took the radical action of canceling lunch with an attractive group of frivolous consultants, which would have wasted away at least 90 minutes and involved at least one clear and persuasive beverage. So as I began the clearance challenge, I was in no mood to receive any...guff.

My first call was to Worthington, our outside counsel in Wilkes-Barre. Worthington is a man somewhat phlegmatic of nature and more than willing to embrace the well of silence that exists between thoughts and words. "Well," said Worthington over the ether between his office and mine. And then he said no more.

"Worthington," quoth I. "Were you saying something?"

"Perhaps not," he said, and once more chewed the time that stood between us like a fine, hard piece of jerky that refused to yield to his efforts. "Although it is possible that the usage of the word 'strategic' at the top should be changed to 'tactical.' "

"I like strategic," said I.

"But it really isn't strategic, per se, but the pursuit of a tactical strategy that will produce not theoretical but actual results."

"Hopefully," I admitted.

"Beyond that, there is this...stuff...about 'superb expertise in areas to which we are new.' "

"Yes. What of it?"

"Well, that's a relatively damaging admission, I think."

"Is this a legal issue, Worthington?" It's possible I was getting testy.

We settled the matter in due time. I changed the top as he requested, removed the word "superb," and faxed the resulting effort off to Toledo posthaste.

My next step was to Morgenstern, who was on a conference call. So I decided to get a cup of coffee and to give the document a tour past Rafferty, Burbage, and Walt, each of whom was on site and available before lunch.

By the time I had returned to my office, I had a call waiting from Jack Torrence in Toledo--that's speed for you!--who felt the basic document was fine, although the word "superb" should be inserted at the location from whence it was previously deleted, and a mention of shareholder benefits should be added near the top. I demurred at reinstating "superb" in that location, though I agreed to add it elsewhere.

By this time, Morgenstern had appeared in my doorway. "It's great," he said. "Now what happens?"

"It has to clear Walt, Burbage, Rafferty, Lester [the counsel to tutti counsels], Zukovski, Reynard, Buffington in Bratislava [where the factories are], Stern, Broz the legbreaker, and of course, Martin."

"It's already after twelve," he said. And I felt the first dry crackle of firewood break within me and light like tinder. Too many in the loop. Too little time.

I looked up from my chair and there was Burbage. "Turkey baguette?" he said.

"I can't, Bob," I barked. "I have to clear this."

He then removed the document from his vest pocket and delivered himself of the opinion that the words "ongoing and ceaseless" (conjuring up an image of excessive effort, in his view) should be excised and replaced by something pertaining to our continuing search for quality with a capital Q, an impossibly Eighties concept, but there you are. Old trends die hard. Before I could answer, however, Walt strode in, and Burbage, not wishing to be snared into a substantive conversation, vaporized.

"The entire notion of competitive advantage needs to be introduced into the core conceptual framework," said Walt, tossing the edited paper on my desk. I noted the addition of some military phraseology--"ongoing battles we face in the international theater" was one--that was quite consistent with our world view. I incorporated it.

The mortar fire was coming in now without surcease. First came Byron Neidermeier himself, who was generally positive but requested very nicely that his division's productivity improvements and commitment to the concept of ownership be included, as part of his effort to keep all employee communications consistent. Then Rafferty checked in, having just received revision 15b, and delivered his view that the entire process was less than productive. "It was fine before," said he. "Now it really stinks." I did not appreciate this countercultural opinion and told him so, to which he offered some terse advice I chose not to take.

Lippanzer in Strategic Planning thought a paragraph congratulating the entire acquisition team would be advisable, which would have required approvals from every individual mentioned. Rapf in Petaluma wanted to discuss the spelling of "complementary," and I got totally confused and gave in. Can you blame me? I had but 30 minutes left to go! Famished, I went to the corporate fridge and ate four sandwiches that had been there since our last budget review. They were tasty, if a little spicy.

I looked at my watch. It was nearly two o'clock! And I didn't have clearance! I reeled back to my desk, filled with rage and old mustard. "You have one new E-mail," said my computer. I clicked into the system and indeed found a message. "Cleared by Ford, Grouper, Smitz, Wiesel, Blatt, Fleck, and the Sturtevant people as written in revision 16a. Make no more changes. Now running past Martin. Will advise."

Although this was thrilling news, I was past excitement. I simply waited by the phone to see if all my hard work, wisdom, and technical acuity would pay off.

That's when Nord called. Nord is Martin's assistant, which is a title that utterly understates his importance. "I don't understand something about this memo," said Nord. My heart froze. "Why does this have to be coming from Martin in the first place? Shouldn't this be coming from Wappinger, Ross, or Neidermeier? They're the line managers on this thing."

"But...but...but," I said. My humors had coagulated in my veins like suet. I could say nothing, but still my lips moved and chattered and some sounds came out. To change the source of the announcement now would entail an entirely different clearance loop! My mind danced and gibbered. It was the end of everything.

My other line lit up. "Will you excuse me for a moment, Nord?" said my lips. He did.

It was Torrence. "Martin cleared it."

"What did he say?" I said.

"Say?" said Torrence. "He said it looked fine."

It looked fine! From the depths to the heights in one heartbeat! I hung up and informed Nord of developments.

"Well. That cuts that," he said, and hung up.

The paper went to the mailroom. Within five minutes it was irretrievable. It was in distribution. It was...what it was. I went to the men's room and inadvertently regarded myself in the mirror. My face was streaked with muddy opinions. My clothing was torn with incisive, sharp critiques. My hair--always an embarrassment for one once so copiously endowed--stuck to my scalp in moist clumps, soaked under the constant rain of intelligent alternatives.

"Woe is me!" I moaned. "I have been crushed under the weight of implacable process!"

Just then Morgenstern entered, with the memo in hand. "You spelled 'complement' wrong in this thing," he said.

"No!" I screamed. Something in my brain went "pop." I started to laugh then and could not stop. They took me away not long after. Now I feel much better. That Thorazine is a wonderful thing. I'm sure I'll be able to get off it soon.

Beyond that, I'm confident that there won't be any lasting effects from my experience, don't you think? Unless you don't. Is there some lesson you feel I should add? I would be happy to listen to any ideas you may have. Unless you would rather not. Let me know. As soon as you can. I'll wait. If that's all right.

By day, Stanley Bing is a real executive at a real Fortune 500 company he'd rather not name.