“Two great countries, divided by a common language”
Long before the Internet, long before AIDS, a computer company that we shall not name ordered divisions from the United States and Great Britain to work together. The Brits used to bring their guitars to parties, but would not take them out and play until something called a plectrum was found. No, hell if I know. That's when we knew we didn't trust them.
It was so obvious. We'd been developing a programming language. Our English division had been developing an application package that was ideal to be written in it. We were wasting time with memos and phone calls to fit these two pieces together. So let's just move one department to the other's building, 2200 miles away, uh, 3500 kilometres. A few plane flights, personnel lines up some apartments--yes, flats, that's what I mean--and it's a piece of cake. And after this project, we'll have a multinational force uniquely able to solve other problems. More able, in fact, than management is to define them.
Now, who's the home team and who's the visitors? That part only took management six months.
Define the problem
“Don't dip your stinger in the company Honeywell”
The Brits want us to change their tools to simplify their work. We taught them how to use the tools right. They went straight to my boss, "We asked for a screwdriver and he gave us a hammer and said, start pounding." And thanks to these exotic foreigners, we have our first office romance, and between my star programmer and theirs. What are they thinking?
And they all like curry, and my guys have suddenly developed a taste for fast-food hamburgers. Segregated lunch breaks. The personnel rep says a weekend retreat will be good for teamwork. Bring plectra? What's that? A female plectrum?
Define it again
The project is dragging. My tech-writer says we should simply build a product that works exactly like the old model did. I thanked him for his contribution, but a million bucks of market research says our old model is crap and people prefer the competition. Besides, making our customers retrain their employees means big money for our Course-ware Division.
And I don't know who got the idea for nude sunbathing between workshops at the retreat. All it's done is separate us into dressed and naked, and all but two of the former are our guys, and all of the latter are--wa-HEY! Anyway, most of the team spirit we kindled in the first morning of the retreat went out the window when our ponytailed Guest Worker who reeks of tobacco got to the door and said, in that loud voice of his, "I'm choking for a fag!"
No progress in the last two months? Not true! Our two star programmers, who haven't been attending planning meetings, were away building a mock-up of our old product, like the kid proposed. I know this trashes everything the rest of the British side was doing, and they won't take it well if they find out it's mostly done. I'll sell this idea gently, as though it were new--and get my two prodigies to slow down. Maybe we can offer both products.
Didn't take long for the work to slow down! The office romance is over, and one of the college interns is spending half his time liaising between our two superstars so they can avoid talking to each other. And the English intern knows I smoothed it over after he parked in the executive lot for a full week, and thinks I can fix his court date too, like magic. I don't care that you could drink last year; you can't drink here for two more. Just pretend you're in Saudi Arabia.
“Adding manpower to a late project makes it later”
My two wunderkinds say they're six weeks away from completing the product. But Marketing says there's a trade show in three weeks and we have to show it there. The guys say it won't work right. My boss says we can finish on time if we just put twice as many people on the project. He sure knows his arithmetic; did that one in his head. But I can't staff it with any other Brits, even though they came here to do the finished product; they're starting to catch on and are asking why they are here at all. Never mind--cobble something together and pack your bags for San Diego!
We wowed 'em. The demo in the booth didn't work right, but the interns kept customers from trying things we had left out. And a lot of them say they need it in a month. How can they need in a month something they didn't know existed?
No, I didn't send any Brits. They know the product sucks, and it sucked without their help, and most of them are in a mood to tell everyone so.
But our jilted lover has snapped out of it. In San Diego, she got it on with two of our customers, that I know of. And a manager for our big California competitor. He's already made her a job offer that I'll have to match. Busy week.
October 14, we shipped the product. It didn't work right. That's because it's the demo we showed in San Diego; we spent the last month on packaging and certifications. But we're writing a list of errors and everyone will get Version 2 at no extra cost in under a year.
The release party was at the manager's flat; and his flat, 20-proof home brew was flowing. The Brits had their guitars and started calling to have a plectrum. We were pretty drunk, pissed, I mean. We had been pretty drunk for most of the three months that the schedule had slipped, and we weren't looking forward to a night of listening to them sing songs no one has ever heard. Pretty soon we were both drunk and pissed. I remember shouting and shoving, don't know who started it. "If you want a fucking pick, why don't you just say so?" That I remember. There was a fistfight. Two of the senior Brits quit and flew home. Most of our guys put in for transfers.
The software didn't have that many bugs, but Version 2 took two years. We could have done it in 18 months, but Management held the release for the big day we replaced our round logo with the square one. The maintenance programmers kept getting distracted by all the goofy comments they found in the code. Nothing about plectrum, but other stuff they had never heard of. It looks like swears. Some weren't trained to fix bugs that read, "It doesn't work right because we never wrote it."
The manager's still in jail. But my boss, the one with the clip-on tie who proposed the cross-border project, he's now a V.P. Me, I haven't gotten a raise in the whole time, but at least there's the security of knowing people will never stop buying mainframe computers.