How to change managers, the government-project way

Flashback to 1992, when this IT pilot fish is fresh out of grad school and working for a government contractor.

"I was working on a contract to design and develop a system engineering tool to help the government system engineers design and develop systems, using computer-aided software engineering tools," says fish.

"Two months into the job, the technical lead did a presentation to the government and our company managers on what we'd done so far."

But partway into the technical presentation, one of the company's managers starts asking questions.

The tech lead answers the first set of questions with a clear, cogent explanation. OK, fish thinks, that makes sense.

Then the same manager stands up and starts asking more questions. Tech lead provides another clear, cogent answer. Fish thinks, isn't this manager supposed to understand this stuff? I've only been here two months and it makes sense to me.

As the questions and answers fly back and forth between the contractor's tech lead and the contractor's manager, their voices are getting sharper -- and they're also moving physically closer and closer.

When they're only inches apart, the manager demands, "Well, what if the engineer does not understand this?"

Tech lead, in obvious frustration, replies: "Then the engineer is stupid."

The room becomes really quiet -- and the presentation is over.

"But apparently someone on the customer side understood what the technical lead was talking about," fish says. "At renewal time for the project work order, the existing work order was dropped. However, a new work order was put through with the same requirements but a new name.

"For several more years, we continued working on the same task -- but every year the task got a new name."

Sharky's had the same name since 1999 -- and I still need true tales of IT life every day. Send yours to me at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll snag a snazzy Shark shirt if I use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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