Newly minted IT manager pilot fish decides that the way to get a good handle on his company's users and systems is to do a little "management by walking around."

"To that end, I went around to various departments to do a meet-and-greet with random users," says fish. "I started in the Human Resources department and found that a lot of their systems were extremely old, and some barely worked."

Fish talks to the HR director, and she's thrilled when he suggests that they replace her department's PCs. She tells fish that the previous IT manager always nixed her requests for new equipment.

On with the walking tour, and fish notices that most of the PCs in other departments are up to date. Hmm, he thinks, why are the HR machines so old and yet everything else is so new?

In the Engineering department, fish talks with several users, and everything goes smoothly until one individual seems very focused on his work -- and not very communicative.

Still, fish presses on, asking questions about the user's duties. User finally turns to fish and asks, "In your world, the IT world, what would my job title be?"

Well, says fish, you basically take information gathered from others and then input it into a database. But you don't write code or manipulate the data except to print out the results. So in the IT world, I guess you'd be a data entry clerk.

User smiles. "I do much more than input data," he says.

OK, says fish, I guess I need to do a thorough investigation into what a lot of the people in this area do.

User and fish chat a little longer, then they shake hands and fish goes on his way.

As fish is walking back to his office, he gets a call from the HR director. Can fish stop back by her office to deal with some routine paperwork? Sure, says fish.

But when fish arrives, paperwork isn't on the agenda. "Did you tell our GIS guy that he was a data entry clerk?" asks HR Director.

No, says fish, and recaps the conversation.

"Well, you need to go apologize to him," HR director says.

What for? asks baffled fish.

"Because you hurt his feelings!" says HR director. "And while you're at it, go over to customer service and apologize to Betty for not saying 'good morning' to her. You hurt her feelings too. And you really need to watch what you say to the various females on staff here."

What did I say? fish asks slowly.

"You looked at a group of them and said, 'What an ugly, ugly day,'" HR director says.

Says fish, "I replied, 'It's cold and raining. What kind of day would you call it?'

"Then it dawned on me why HR had the worst PCs in the company."

But Sharky has the best true tales of IT life. Send me your story at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll get a stylish Shark shirt if I use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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