Flashback 20 years to when this pilot fish is a program engineering manager for a big government project.
"There was no videoconferencing in those days, so every two weeks I had to fly to Washington, D.C., to attend a project status meeting," says fish. "As is common with government agencies, the project manager to whom I reported was cycled out and a replacement brought in."
The ambitious replacement wants to make a name for himself as quickly as possible. His first target at his first project status meeting: Why is the budget for discrepancy reports (DRs) always running so low, while the budget for requests for change (RFCs) remains full of funds?
Fish explains that some of the field units often want something added or removed. Instead of checking the actual system specifications, they simply submit a DR. The developers are required to immediately evaluate DRs, so they have to spend a considerable amount of time (and money) investigating each "problem" -- which often turns out to follow the system specifications exactly, so what the field personnel want is actually an RFC.
Unfortunately, by then the DR task codes have already been charged, and only the customer can go back and change those.
"The new project manager asked me just how many of these items I was talking about," fish says. "I thought for a moment and replied, 'I'm guessing that two-thirds of the DRs submitted are RFCs.'
"At that point, the project manager launched into an actual rage -- in front of everyone in the status meeting -- about how dare I give him an estimate, how could I even think of bring this up without hard-and-fast numbers, etc."
With veins popping out on his neck and his arms flailing, project manager commands fish to have exact information on this for the next meeting and to never waste his time again by bringing up his "opinions."
Fish spends most of the next two weeks -- with his time coming out of the DR budget -- reviewing five years' worth of mostly-on-paper DRs in an effort to come up with the exact number.
At the following status meeting, the project manager makes sure to point out that fish 'guesstimated' the number of faulty DRs would be two-thirds.
Reports fish, "With a cocky expression and in a condescending tone he turned to me and said, 'So, what is the real number?'
"I fought hard to keep a straight face as I replied, '68.2 percent.'"
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