Ready, fire, aim!

It's a couple decades ago, and this insurance company is still running on a very old mainframe and a collection of homegrown Cobol accounting systems, according to an IT pilot fish on the scene.

"But the VP of IT had ambitions of modernizing," fish says. "So a small team -- well, one programmer -- was writing a new commission system in Visual Basic.

"The VP had other ambitions, too. So he scheduled a weekly series of meetings at which all his department heads would meet to start developing a programming standards manual."

Fish -- who's in charge of maintaining the old Cobol commission systems -- thinks that's a great idea, so he shows up at the first meeting eager to help.

And when he gets a chance to ask how the standards will work, he doesn't hesitate: Will these standards be for Cobol programs, or Basic programs, or both? he asks.

VP: "They're for the Cobol programs. We don't know enough about Basic programming to set standards for that yet."

Fish: OK. So, after we devise the Cobol standards, will we be expected -- and get resources -- to clean up our existing spaghetti code to meet the standards?

VP: "No."

Fish: OK, then...what do the standards apply to?

VP: "Hmm. Um. Well, let me get back to you on that..."

Sighs fish, "I managed to find an excuse not to attend the standards manual project meeting the following week. After that, the weekly meetings were canceled, and the programming standards manual was never mentioned again."

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