Friday, August 21, 2009

The Island of Misfit Toys, pt 1

The last consulting firm I worked for, which will remain nameless, was a quite an odd place. It is/was populated by some very intelligent people, many of whom should never ever be put in front of an actual client. Many of whom had never been in front of a client for that matter. I just want to record a few memories about the place.

My favorite memory is when I was asked to create a training guide for an application I knew nothing about and had never used. As a consultant, this isn't really a roadblock. So I wrote a 50 page guide, and printed it out double sided for review from my boss. He and I sat down at a desk, and he put his hand on the document and flicked thru the document like it was a deck of cards. Then he said,"This isn't what I had in mind." Of course, he didn't tell me what he had in mind, he just said to create the training guide.

Fortunately I had some experience working with clients, unlike my boss. So instead of working the whole night, I simply printed the exact same document, only this time single sided. I handed it to him the next day, and he said,"Perfect!" That document went up the chain of command as the final document.

Now, I'd heard jokes about professors grading papers via the stairs - throw all the documents down the stairs and the one that goes the farthest gets an A+, and work backwards up the stairs. When commercial organizations do this, it's a sign that the end isn't far away. That company's stock has lost 85% since this incident. This person is still working for that organization as far as I know.

And I also don't want to imply that I hand in shoddy work - however with poor requirements comes poor deliverables. And generally speaking I cannot read other peoples' minds, so if you don't tell me what you want and say,"I don't know, figure it out..." and I make some assumptions, don't act surprised.

UPDATE: Turns out, perhaps my old boss was just under the sway of a psychological bias about how weight changes our perception of things. I also recently saw a post about how some external hard drive makers put lead weights into their gizmos to make them feel heavier.

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