In small business, money comes from below. It bubbles up from cash registers; it trickles through the mail slot. Sometime it even washes in on digital rivers – but not in government or major corporations, there it is the other way around.
Forget about sales, taxes or charitable donations. In large organizations, money falls from on high like hail from heaven. It spills from the seams of budget god garments. It clatters from celestial piggy banks and rattles like loose change falling from dresser tops.
The budget gods may be capricious. At times they can be generous. At times they can be not so generous – but whatever their mood - at all times they must be pleased.
In a reversal of roles, in small business, happiness comes from above. When the boss is happy, everyone is happy.
In large organizations, happiness flows in reverse. It rises like vapors in a distilling column, beginning as a sour mash in the ranks but becoming a giddy elixir when it reaches the corner offices of the upper floors.
Why do I mention this?
Well.... someone made a promise that cannot be unmade.
In a rash and whimsical moment while visiting the ante-chambers of the budget gods, this person chiseled a deadline on the granite tablets of “what must be”.
Now it is up to us to must deliver.
To do so, we must slay every sacred cow of quality, architecture and common sense. We must compress the uncompressible and compromise the uncompromisable. The only thing that we cannot do – is cross the dead-line.
It is an old story, as old as human organization itself.
I do not know, though I would venture to guess, it is a story so universal that it played itself out in the panels of the first Dilbert Cartoon.
Again, I do not know though I would venture to guess, that my brother Jim has best deadline story ever told.
Back in the Halcyon Days of mainframe computing, when Minnesota was the Silicon Valley of its day, my brother worked as a software engineer for Control Data.
He built mainframe user-interfaces.
Even from the movies?
If your memory is hazy, think of a single tube mounted on a pedestal in a white on white computer room. Green cryptic letters march in measured lockstep across its face while computer operators earnestly gaze upon it - waiting for the machine to tell them what to do.
It might sound primitive by today’s standards – but in its time – it was a marvel to behold.
And the operating system (OS) that powered it was so huge and complex that, William Norris, the CEO of Control Data, liked to say - if you typed every line of code in their OS on a punch card and stacked those cards flat, one atop the other, the code would taller than a seventy story skyscraper and cost four times as much.
He reminded his employees and the press of this during a kickoff meeting at the Minneapolis Convention Center from the rewrite of his NOS-VE operating system.
At the meeting, he also announced the deadline for release.
Everyone applauded the ambitious deadline; everyone that is but the few people in attendance who would actually do the work.
The kickoff meeting ran two hours over schedule. It was the very first task in the project and the very first task not to be completed on time. Every subsequent task across the broad breadth of the project plan followed the same pattern and at the far end, at the rightmost cell of the PERT Chart, pushed up against the immovable wall of time, was my brother’s team.
They were responsible for writing, integrating and testing the user-interface. They initially given six weeks to complete their task.
Being at the end of the schedule, they lost two hours at the kickoff meeting and each and every subsequent task nicked a little more time from them.
My brother’s six weeks shrank to five, then withered to four, then were squashed to two and at the end, when time could be compressed no more. He had a mere three days.
But being a good trooper, one who knows that happiness flows upwards, he set up a cot into his office, put on a large pot of coffee and began to work.
Not an hour passed before his boss banged on his locked door.
“Go away!” my brother told him.
“Uh, I can’t,” his boss whined. “We need to talk, I scheduled you for a mandatory two day training class. It begins at 10:00 AM. Be there.”
Can you guess the topic of the class?
Quality control: of course.
This week's challenge: write about your Dilbert experiences.
Here is your chance to unload. :)
Post your article to Gather Writing Essentials.
BE SURE TO TAG your submission with MWE. Note: I search for articles using the tag "MWE" If you don't tag it right, I will not find it.
Include "Monday Writing Essential" in your title.
- Try to post by next Monday but don't worry if you don't finish in time. I will be glad to include your post the next week.
It has been our tradition on GWE to list the responses to our weekly challenges. Regretfully, I would forgo that today because I cannot access the comments last week's column to find links to responses and Search is not yet functional.
I will list the responses as soon as I am able.