Managers in Hot Air Balloons

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Leeland's picture

While slugging through some rather interesting (in a bad way) slob of Spaghetti Code (tm) a management type drifted into my office and asked completely straight faced "Why do you need so much more time to complete the configuration control project?"

After re-orienting my brain from the dizzying code I explained that the code was slapstick at best and practically incomprehensible, and that they had laid off every one of the team that had been working on it before they completed the work.

She then informed me that over a year of FTE (Full Time Equivalent) hours had been spent on the project and when they had been forced to lay off the team there had only been a couple of weeks of remaining effort for delivery. She also said that I had burned all the remaining FTE budget left for this overdue critical project and it was going to be difficult to justify more budget allocations for it. Since I had helped with the application detail design I should be able to wrap it up quicker.

In the end I am left to blame for delivering a project 6 months late and now months over budget. Mind you the original team was laid off 8 months ago 3 weeks before they were originally scheduled to deliver the first release, and I was only given the needed budget to look at it a month ago. Which means that the project was left in a void for nearly 6 months.

This entire exchange reminded my of an old joke that went around the block a few times in the late 1990s generally titled "The Engineer and the Manager" which I dug up from my email archives to share now. (Sometimes keeping all your emails can be entertaining too.) So from an anonymous author sometime in past (I got this as a massive forward March 1998):

The Engineer and the Manager

A man is flying in a hot air balloon and realizes he is lost. He reduces height and spots a man resting in a field down below. He lowers the balloon further and shouts: "Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don't know where I am."

The man below says: "Yes. You are in a hot air balloon, hovering about thirty feet above this field. You are near 47 degrees North latitude, and 122.7 degrees West longitude."

"You must be an engineer," says the balloonist.

"I am," replies the surprised man. "How did you know?"

"Well," says the balloonist, "everything you have told me is likely to be correct, and technically accurate, but I have no idea what to make of the information. Meaning the fact is I am still lost."

The man below says, "Interesting, you're a manager."

In surprise the balloonist replies "I am, but how did you know?"

"Well," says the man, "in spite of having an elevated view of all the surroundings, you don't know where you are, or where you are going. You have made a promise which you have no idea how to keep, and you expect me to solve your problem. The fact is you are in the exact same position you were in before we met, but now it is somehow my fault."

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