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Leveraging the bureaucracy against itself

2016-07-21T20:59:44+00:00

So the organization I am currently working for decided that, because the project plan said it was time to go live with the new software in the Production (“real”) environment, they should do that, even though the software wasn’t nearly ready and in fact had failed more than half of its tests.

So they promoted it to the Production environment, where it promptly blew up on a regular basis. Now they have two sets of Help Desk tickets that they are tracking: one set for the problems in the Test environment, and one set for the problems in the Production environment. The two sets of Help Desk tickets are nearly identical, but they are in two different systems (one Help Desk system is used only for test environments, and the other Help Desk system is used only for Production). So now they had to create a big spreadsheet to track the two sets of Help Desk tickets that exist in two different systems.

No other organization in my decades of work on this planet has ever done anything like this. Putting buggy software into the Production environment puts the business at risk. But then, this organization is “too big to fail”, and they create money out of literally nothing. So it really doesn’t matter to them.

Today I learned something that helped explain their apparent stupidity. Help Desk tickets for Production get worked on much more quickly than Help Desk tickets for a Test environment. In fact, because Production is the priority and Test is not, a Help Desk ticket for Test may languish for months before it is resolved. A Help Desk ticket for Production will get escalated so high, though, that it will become an agenda item for the next corporate board meeting, if necessary, to get it resolved.

So the organization is basically using its own bureaucracy as leverage against itself. Because Help Desk tickets for Production get fixed and Help Desk tickets for Test don’t, it makes a perverse kind of sense to put bad software into Production so that it will explode and then get fixed. Never mind that it puts the business at risk and that it angers the users who are supposed to use it. This organization doesn’t care about users. In fact, this software is Robotic software, designed to REPLACE those users. So a few annoyed users, or even hundreds of them, are irrelevant. They’re going to be fired eventually anyway.

I am looking forward to leaving this organization. It is an unhappy place to be.

Vicious weather

2016-07-12T21:28:10+00:00

Apparently this Forward Operating Base where I’m stationed now is subject to violent weather a lot of the time. I enjoy lightning and thunder, but this is a little ridiculous. Thank goodness everything is insulated and grounded.

Life is frenetically busy. I have way too much to do and not nearly enough time to do it in. But it should settle down in a few months.

Still alive, still breathing

2016-07-03T21:31:12+00:00

It hasn’t been easy to breathe this planet’s atmosphere lately, thick with pollens and molds. But I’m managing. I have been extremely busy, plus my new Forward Operating Base lacks communications gear, so I am not able to post very often. But I’m working on it.

It’s shocking how quickly this planetary year is progressing. It’s already half over and it only just began.

Another year half-gone

2016-06-02T22:00:17+00:00

Time on this planet passes quickly, but it does include a free trip around the sun (a sidereal year). A “year” on this planet is only 53% of a Martian year, so the years add up much more quickly. This year, in local time, is already half over, and I have no idea where it has gone. The New Year was only yesterday. It was still April, last night.

Time is slipping away from me, and I’m not sure where it’s going. Things have been quite busy, though. It has been a constant whirlwind of work and home life. The Forward Operating Base is nearly ready for occupation next weekend. Yet it will only operate for a year, before we retreat from it and leave it to be swallowed up by the jungle again. For now, however, darling wife has been making preparations to occupy it and to make it comfortable for us.

In a moment or two, we will be there.  By next week, in subjective time, the local year will already be over. A few days beyond that, subjective time,  we will abandon the FOB that we worked so hard to decorate.

All things pass, as this mission winds onward toward its inevitable conclusion.

Tim Eilers, “White Boys And Heroes vs. This Wreckage”

2016-06-02T21:49:59+00:00

Tim Eilers is a musician who, in addition to making his own original music, has a special knack for reinterpreting and mashing up Gary Numan’s songs. I especially like this mashup, a combination of “This Wreckage I Call Me” (from the 1980 “Telekon” album) and “White Boys & Heroes” (from the 1982 “I, Assassin” album).

The video uses clips from “Kung Fu Hustle” (2004) and “I, Robot” (2004). Notice in the first 30 seconds of the video, as he sits at the counter drinking coffee, there is a picture of William Shatner as Captain Kirk from the original “Star Trek” series (1966-69).

I saw a corpse today

2016-05-11T20:14:36+00:00

My Forward Operating Base is near a university. The university is near a low-income neighborhood, with many homeless and/or jobless people. So seeing unkempt people shuffling around is not uncommon.

On the way home today, I saw an unkempt man in his 30s slumped against a tree by the sidewalk. His head drooped on his chest in a way which seemed to indicate that he was dead. I could see no visible wounds, but drugs are rampant in this area, so presumably he had overdosed on something.

Several policemen and paramedics stood in a loose semi-circle around him, talking with each other, waiting for something, presumably an ambulance to take the corpse away. No one attended the man, or paid him any attention. They had arrived too late to save him from his fate.

I wondered for a moment if I would see anything in the news about him. Probably not. People in this area die every day, unmentioned, unknown, and unmourned by anyone except the few people who knew them.

I wonder what his last thoughts were.

One day at a time

2016-05-10T20:30:41+00:00

My current mission is somewhat frustrating. On the one tentacle, it is very chaotic, and the ever-changing priorities and tasks are confusing and irritating. On the other tentacle, we are all learning together, and feeling our way through an unfamiliar software package, trying to implement it. And the nice thing is, although the uninvolved powers-that-be expect a lot of the project, they expect not very much of individual people. So it’s actually fairly relaxed, in a confusing way.

I am learning a lot about working in a dysfunctional organization. I’ve worked in many such organizations, but I have never been so deeply embedded in one, with an unspecified end date. I could stay on this mission as long as I wanted to, I think. And that makes me shudder, because I don’t want to stay on this mission longer than I have to.

I must stay fixated on my goals:

  • Learn new skills while improving my old ones
  • Earn enough local currency to sustain us, since the Martian embassy expects us to embed ourselves in this primitive society and to participate in it.
  • Fulfill this mission for at least one sidereal year.

Everything else is secondary. Other comrades are unhappy, and may abandon the mission to seek less-dysfunctional places and tasks. Some are extra-dedicated to the mission, because they have different goals for themselves.

I am just along for the ride, as long as the ride continues to satisfy my three goals. After one sidereal year, I will re-evaluate. Meanwhile, I take it one day at a time.

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