Re: More Middle Manager insecurity
Personally I don't want to shame my managers with my book collection behind me. All the Gary Larson cartoon books, every Asterix book, Sandman, etc. They just couldn't compete. ;-)
638 posts • joined 8 Jul 2009
Yep, we had a plug with a DO NOT TOUCH sign on it in bright red, bold, underlined, plus the plug switch was taped down with yellow and black electrical tape. We were running 3D renders of a new building overnight (back in the day, when it would take all night). We had a super-urgent request for a drawing that had to be shown to a certain royal personage with an interest in architecture the next day. I started the render and left for the night. The cleaner came in, could't find a spare plug, so just pulled off the tape and plugged the vacuum cleaner in. Next morning panic ensued and the cost of a motorcycle courier to get the drawing to its destination in time for the crucial meeting was considerable. The whereabouts of the cleaner is unknown... ;-)
The number of times I've had to patiently explain to senior management that nothing, repeat nothing, should ever be launched on a Friday. (Usually explaining that they will have to respond if anything goes wrong and/or there'll be a whole weekends worth of irate customers to deal with, works).
A simple tactic is to tell everyone you're going to be out of contact, because you'll be spending most of your holiday exploring deep gorges/rain forests/coral reefs/etc with no reception. Many people will believe you because there is a strange belief that outside Britain and the US, mobile coverage is poor, when the situation is exactly the opposite. Then, when at your destination, turn the phone off and lock it securely in a nice steel hotel safe - just to be sure.
I used to work for a US company that had the worst blame-avoidance culture I've ever met. Anything that went wrong was always someone (or something) else's fault. We had a minor snafu one day and a meeting was held to deflect responsibility. I just opened my mouth and said "Yep, my fault, I screwed up, I'll fix it" Absolute silence, apart from the sound of jaws hitting the table and brains gently frying. :-)
Don't remind me. I've been through quite a few passport photos. The sequence was something like this: Chubby schoolboy (aren't you a bit young to be flying by yourself?); Total stoner (step out of the line please); Carlos the Jackal (the bastard even had the same glasses) and Serbian warlord (not helped by the fact that the background was half red and half blue, looking like I was standing in front of a flag, all I needed was an AK47). Fortunately the latest one looks at least semi-human and I get through at the same rate as most dubious travellers these days.
Ah, yes, I had to maintain our company's computers back in the old smoking days. the tar would happily build up on the cooling fans, mingling with the usual dust and crud to make an effective caulking agent. It was a bit of a competition to see which fan would stop working first. The site of lines of tar running down the inside of the casing really put me off smoking.
Oh there were some classics in the days when many people were meeting computers for the first time. Although I was the IT project manager, people assumed that I would be happy to fix their little problems. My favourite went like this. "My computer isn't working!" "OK, have you switched it on?" "Yes, do you think I'm bloody stupid?" (Biting inside of cheek - hard). "Have you turned the monitor on?" "What's a monitor?" "The big TV thing on your desk." Silence...
Same problem, different (and politer) user. Computer on? Check. Monitor on? Check. Hmm, screen still black and no little light. Is the monitor plugged in? Nope.
When I were a lad, I was doing metalwork at our local technical college. Bizarrely we had to wear boiler suits (sensible) and shirt + ties (gibberingly insane). Watching one of our instructors getting his tie caught in a lathe rather demonstrated the idiocy of that rule. A lucky hit on the emergency stop button prevented a facial puree and a pair of tin snips took care of the tie. Were the rules changed? Of course not, don't be silly.
One company I had the pleasure of working for had a particularly unpleasant sales person who hated the IT Department (someone must have told him he couldn't have a new laptop sometime in the past). He particularly hated one member, who to be fair did have an incredibly loud and annoying laugh. While said sales drone was on holiday, we replaced all his Windows sounds with a recording of the laugh. Being technically completely ignorant, he couldn't find out how to remove it. Since his manager and the CEO were in on the joke he couldn't even get any joy by whining to them. Eventually, he had to abase himself and ask us to fix the "problem". Oddly, he still hated the IT mob after that incident...
Yes, I also worked for an organisation where one of the directors insisted their PA print out all emails so they could read them and then dictated the answers. Fast forward a few years and management changed. This lot would only look at bulleted PowerPoint slides. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.
Back in the day I worked in an old office with another 5 people. The electrical system was almost as venerable. We started out with just two computers, one running the database and my CAD setup. Then desktops became cheap and the other three got one each. When winter came, the old steam heating couldn't provide enough output to keep us warm, so fan heaters were turned on. One heater was fine, two heaters OK, but a third was just too much and there would be screams of frustration as everything went dark and cold. Being a poor charity, it took a couple of years before we could afford to replace the wiring for the whole building. It looked like a scene from a Dickens' novel as we huddled over the keyboards in winter coats, woolly hats and fingerless gloves.
Sometimes you can get away with it. I was the IT analyst on a large eLearning project. As such, I wrote the specs for the project - comprehensive specs, very, very, comprehensive specs. This was in the days when the differences between browsers was a real problem. So, to cut a long story short, a director hands the project build over to an external design company and everything proceeds. Six months later, I'm invited to the unveiling in their building. During the presentation the designers of the quasi-3D environment (it was a trend, even though users hated it) proudly stated that it only worked on IE5 (could have been 5.5). I pointed out that the client only used Netscape and banned IE... The director turned round and snarled "Why wasn't that in the specs?" At this stage I lost my temper and replied "It was, I wrote them, did you read them?" and stormed out before I started using unfortunate language.
Later that day, back at base, I was called into his office. Mentally clearing my desk I was more than a little surprised when he offered me a job in his own department. I politely refused, mostly on the grounds that he hadn't got a clue what he was doing really. After that I always produced a PPT with the mission-critical specs to present to those with short attention spans, as well as the full document.
In one company I worked for, I was on a small panel that evaluated any software we were thinking of buying. The scenario was always the same, the super-confident salesperson would spout about the ease of use, the huge productivity gains to be had and the miraculous ROI. Then the poor bloody techie would attempt to demonstrate the miracle software... To be fair, after much sweating and naked panic, something would usually appear on screen, at least temporarily. It was fun, in a perverse way, to watch the salespersons eyes as the prospect of a juicy commission slinked away.
I once worked for a company that had a total blame culture (one of the reasons why I suspect it failed later).Not realising this when I started, I made an error when configuring the settings on a new LMS. When it was noticed, the cry went up "Whose fault is this!!!" I turned my chair round and said "Whoops, I screwed up." You could have heard a pin drop... They were so shocked that nothing else was said. :-) Mind you, in the same company I did threaten to defenestrate (from the 9th floor) a colleague who tried to pass the blame for a really critical error on to me.
Documentation rocks - particularly when dealing with directors who could be described as "marginally sane". I once specced out a very large elearning project and sent it to said director for sign-off. (This was something like 140 pages long). It duly came back, signed by his own fair hand. This was a multi-partner project, originally planned to work in pseudo-VR and developed by a third-party company. The great day comes for the first live demo and the director goes utterly ballistic - it simply doesn't do what he wanted. He barks at the whole room, "This wasn't in the specification!" Unfortunately I lost my temper a little bit and snapped back. "Yes it was, I wrote it and you signed it off, did you read it?" Silence... a long silence. My career was floating away in front of my eyes. Luckily he was mad, but fair, and back at base apologised for his outburst - he hadn't read it. This was the day I learnt to provide executive summaries of specifications, in PowerPoint, using a lot of very simple pictures and diagrams.
"Haha, suck it up Englanders: you'll be up shit creek, with high unemployment, a fleeing populace and civil unrest like third-world, shit-hole countries under WTO rules like... USA, Australia, Canada, New Zealand."
WTO - ha, ha, ha. More like NAFTA, CETA, ANZCERTA and TPP.
Countries sign trade agreements for a reason.
I used to work for a global company that was trying to specialize in eLearning. Because of the "global" bit we started using conferencing software (Centra for those old enough to remember it). Our CEO found it extremely difficult to use, so during the conferences, I'd go into her office and literally guide her hand and mouse around, pressing on her finger to click. I rather admired her for admitting she was finding it difficult to use and not being afraid that the whole company could see me holding hands with her. ;-) (Reader, I didn't marry her).
Yep, that's rekindled a few grey cells. We thought we were on top of it, repeated warnings sent out, 24pt, bold, underlined, bright red, dire threats and all. Then, one person in PR decided to completely ignore all that... When asked, they said, "Oh, I never read messages from IT, you're always just sending out warnings."
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