Shark Tank: Conflict Management

"Process control and IT do not always get along," says a process-control pilot fish at a highly automated chemical plant. "If the computer goes down, the factory may or may not have an operator in control." So fish is stunned when he walks into the control room to find a tech from IT upgrading the main computer. "No one in the entire plant knew he was coming," fish fumes. "We were lucky only one pump was running." Next day, plant personnel get a new directive: "If any IT people come in without checking in at the plant manager's office, they are to be rendered unconscious and removed from the control room."

What For?

At this data center in the late 1970s, it's the third-shift operator's job to back up the master files every night. So when there's a midday hardware failure and the day operators can't find last night's backup tapes, they go looking for last night's operator. "When called at home, he explained that he had checked the tape-use logs and found that no one had used the backup tapes in over a year," reports a pilot fish on the scene. "So he thought the job was a waste of his time -- and he had not run the backup jobs for several months."


This defense agency wants to issue laptops to users so they can dial in for orders via e-mail. And the security group is worried about using unsecured phone lines. So when users get the laptops, it takes four separate passwords to log on -- and the messages can't be printed out. "Users add their own level of security -- they don't switch the laptops on," says a pilot fish in the know. "Orders are now sent by a means acceptable to the security section: by fax or voice over the very same 'insecure' phone lines."

Um ... Right

Pilot fish has to OK system changes with the help desk -- which doesn't always get it. So when fish asks for triggers on the database tables to be changed, confirmation comes back: "User states that critters on three tables need to be modified."

Square One

User tells support pilot fish she needs a CD. A blank CD or a prerecorded one for testing? fish asks. Blank, user says. CD-R or CD-RW? asks fish, who then has to explain the difference. "After she decided she needed a CD-R, I got one out of the supply cabinet for her," fish says. "She stopped me and said, 'That's not the kind of CD I need. I need a square CD.' I handed her a diskette, and she went away happy."

Sharky's going away, too -- but just for the holidays. Meanwhile, send me your true tale of IT life at, and you'll get a sharp Shark shirt if I use it when I get back. And you can still check out the daily feed, browse the Sharkives and sign up for Shark Tank home delivery at

Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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