I love WTF's. I'm trying to collect the whole set!



  • Okay I'm bored silly today and fed up so I thought I would rant and describe all of my current company WTF's to entertain and shock you guys.  Seriously, some of them may even make Snoofle cry.  I don't need help on anything, in fact today I mailed out 5 resumes and emailed 6 others, and I have a list of about 30 other companies that I'm going to apply to in the next few weeks.  So, problem solved as far as I'm concerned. 

    I do software for a niche market.  Over the last few decades, my company was acquired by a series of larger and larger corporations, ultimately now we're owned by a large defense contractor.  So this is mostly a tale of corporate beaurocracy, with some software development idiocy thrown in.   I have no idea where to start, so these are just random bullets:

      I was hired as a level 3 developer 7 years ago.  I've been getting consistently excellent performance reviews for... well 7 years.  Some of them have earned me slightly higher raises than my coworkers, but it appears that the normal process at this company is that you don't get promotions unless your supervisor requests it.  Most of our supervisors don't.  I have one coworker who was hired as level 1 programmer, and ten years later, after a minor shuffle of supervisors, her new supe discovered that she was STILL level 1.   He happens to be my supe too, and for the last two years he's been trying to get me promoted from level 3 to level 4.  He thought it finally went through this year, but it didn't.  We don't know where it is.... stuck in "stampy-town".   All Hail The Process.

      I've been trying to learn project manager skills, and one of the tasks that our PM's must do is monthly financial monitoring of each project.  No problem, this is standard business.  The WTF is that we have to follow defense contracting policies, so they are extremely strict about the project forecasts.  The PM is required to estimate TO THE HOUR how many labor hours will be spent on each project, each month.  ACCURATELY.   The accountants call you on the carpet if you go either over or under your monthly forecast.  And you are not allowed to move unspent hours to the following month.  All complaints by our low-level managment have been completely ignored, because the Process is clearly more important that silly things like projects being completed on time or under budget. 

    * We do customized software, frequently these are small projects estimated at between 16 and 200 hours.  Our customers frequently use grant money to purchase these enhancements.  For those of you not famililar with grants, they usually come with some sort of deadline, as in "use the money by this date or lose it".   This hasn't stopped The Process from slowing our quoting process down to around three months.  And when a customer gets through that and sends us a purchase order, it generally takes another three months to process it and get the accounting set up before we're allowed to work on it.  Oh, we missed your grant deadline?  So sorry.   We didn't need your revenue anyway, we'll just go sell another jet.

      Since our niche market is grant-based and typically local governments with tight purse-strings, our workload tends to be feast or famine.  Except that our company has no apparent understanding that during famine times we may need other assignments for the workers.  Corporate thinks we do projects 365 days a year, and if we bill too much time to the overhead account numbers, the managers get called on the carpet.   I do try to work on help-desk stuff during slack times, but sometimes even THAT work is thin.  Like now, which is why I'm so bored.

      Even better, remember what I said about forecasting the labor hours?  That also applies to the overhead numbers.  So if the manager guesses he'll need 100 hours this month for help desk work, but the project workload is light and we all fill up our slacktime with help desk work so we charge 200 hours to it....  carpet, meet manager.

      I told my supervisor a few weeks ago that every single large project assigned to me was pending some customer or vendor input, and asked him if he had anything else I could work on.  He gave me a list of help-desk logs from his favorite customer (that he'd assigned to himself to fix).  I reviewed the list, noticed that some of the logs were from 2006 (!) and sent the list to the customer to confirm if they were still outstanding problems.  He never replied to my email.  When I called him, he snippily told me that he was busy.   Fine, I could care less then.   It's not at all tangible but when working with this guy in the past, I've gotten the feeling that he didn't want to work with me.  I don't know if it's personal or a sexism thing.  I did ask my supe once if this guy had a problem with women and he said he didn't think so, but my supe isn't exactly sensitive to such things, so he wouldn't spot it anyway.  Oh well, I left the logs assigned to him.  If the customer ever responds to me, I'll work on them.  If not, cest la vie.

      If I can't find work for myself, I don't hestitate to ask around for tasks.  But so far this summer every time I ask, and someone gives me a new project, it ends up getting put on hold waiting for customer input.  It's like the customer's don't care, really, which is odd!  Anyway, it only bothers me because my task list is growing and growing and I'm accomplishing nothing.  So I've spent the last two months feeling pretty worthless.  I'm almost positive that all of my coworkers are enjoying the light workload but refuse to admit that it's light.  I enjoyed it for about the first week.  Now it's not fun anymore. Sure, I'm getting a paycheck, but I sure feel unemployed.  It's bizarre!

      And why are all my big projects stuck on hold anyway?  A couple of them are pending other software modifications being finished by my coworkers (who don't seem to have much urgency) before I can do mine.  A couple are pending customer imput who, as I mentioned, don't seem to have any urgency either.  Well, I cut them a little slack because they do have full-time jobs besides helping me to complete their tasks for them.  But surely they can respond in a week or two.  Two months?  WTH?  Did I enter some sort of time warp where I experience three months for each day that everybody else has?  

      I mentioned before that I'm trying to learn project management skills.  I've been doing online courses and reading books and I have a pretty good understanding of the PM best practices now.  None of which are used in my company that I can tell.  All management cares about are the Unholy Labor Forecasts, nothing else.  I can do the best practices for my own benefit, and I try every now and then.  But I'm working in a vacuum with no guidance.   Oh, and "we" don't care for any of that high-falutin software development best practices here, either.  We've been doing it this way for thirty years so we know what we're doing.  Don't try pushing any of that fancy QA or CM stuff on us, you'll only slow us down.

     OMG, if anybody's read this far, you deserve a medal!  I hope it's at least been a little interesting.

     



  •  Yeah, I always hated government contracts.  They always went this way.

     As for your client no longer caring, they have been beaten into submission by the process.  Oh my god!  The customer actually cares?  Stonewall them for 3 months on thier next two requests and I know they wont even bother getting bacmk because they know it will just get stonewalled again.

    How about leaving the place and setting up your own small company developing nich market products cheaper and faster then the current company.  If you signed a non compete that prevents you from developing products completly from your own codetake notes to never do that again, only sign it if it prevents you from using thier code to create a competing product.

    I feel for you, but at least you will be heading out the door soon, hopefully with a smile on your face.



  • @KattMan said:

    How about leaving the place and setting up your own small company developing nich market products cheaper and faster then the current company.
    From what I hear, It's tough to get on the vendor list for most of these government agencies.  Not impossible though.  I mean, this big defense contractor got on it, obviously.  Once you're in though, you don't have to do shit because you're on "the list."



  • @KattMan said:

     As for your client no longer caring, they have been beaten into submission by the process.  Oh my god!  The customer actually cares?  Stonewall them for 3 months on thier next two requests and I know they wont even bother getting bacmk because they know it will just get stonewalled again.
     

    Yeah, I'm sure this is why that one customer in particular hasn't shown any interest in the 4-year old problem logs I asked him to verify.  The newest ones were almost one year old.  That's really pathetic and I'm embarrassed for my coworker who sat on them that long.  As to new projects, I'm sure that applies as well and explains why we've been losing about 1 customer a year for a while now.   Recall a wild story I mentioned here about this time last year where "we" refused to bid on a multi-million dollar upgrade for a long-term good customer because we supposedly didn't have money in the proposal budget.  Even the customers who try to be loyal to us are kicked in the teeth, I don't blame them for leaving.

    We do, however, have lots and lots of competitors and that's who I'm hitting up for openings first.  Most of them are small companies who have one thing in their business goals and want to do it right.  (And if they don't pan out because of the economy, then I have lots and lots of IT staffing and consultancy places in this area that I'll ping.)



  •  Not to belittle your rant, but at least half of that seems about on par.  Waiting for vendor specs/input, having projects on hold, busy times and slow times where you sit on here all day.  That sounds like most places.

    The promotion thing is pretty stupid though.  It used to be that way in the ARMY as well, which there is a good thing.  Now they promote everybody unless you have documentation illustrating why they should NOT be promoted.  Pretty lame idea, but hey: what do I know?

     

    By the way, why is it we only get rants like this from you once a month?  It's like you're not upset, and normal, for 23-25 days and then BAM you're all upset for 3-5.  Must be the phases of the moon or something...



  • @amischiefr said:

    By the way, why is it we only get rants like this from you once a month?  It's like you're not upset, and normal, for 23-25 days and then BAM you're all upset for 3-5.  Must be the phases of the moon or something...
    ఠ_ఠ



  • @amischiefr said:

     Not to belittle your rant, but at least half of that seems about on par.  Waiting for vendor specs/input, having projects on hold, busy times and slow times where you sit on here all day.  That sounds like most places.

    The promotion thing is pretty stupid though.  It used to be that way in the ARMY as well, which there is a good thing.  Now they promote everybody unless you have documentation illustrating why they should NOT be promoted.  Pretty lame idea, but hey: what do I know?

    By the way, why is it we only get rants like this from you once a month?  It's like you're not upset, and normal, for 23-25 days and then BAM you're all upset for 3-5.  Must be the phases of the moon or something...

     

    Sure, the feast/famine thing wouldn't be so bad if we didn't have the defense contractor procedures/policies that require us to bill every working minute to a project, NOT bill to overhead numbers, and NOT bill inaccurately.  It's purely beaurocracy, but I read it as hypocracy when they preach that and then the managers refuse to give us overhead numbers for required training/meetings/fire drills, whatever.  That's always burned my bottom too, especially a few years ago when they were making us read and sign the timecard policy every year to prove that we understood the penalty for falsifying timecards was termination.  Let me see...  you threaten to fire me if I charge time to the wrong number, and claim you'll fire my boss if he asks me to do that.  But all of our managers do that on a daily basis and you turn a blind eye when we report it.  Uh huh.   

    I don't necessarily advocate automatic promotions, you should definitely PROVE that you've earned it.   But I do think that once your supervisor requests a promotion, it shouldn't take 2+ years to go through the process.   Same as our quoting process.  No matter how small the dollar amount, it seems that our quotes need to go through a team of accountants and then a team of attorneys before we can send them to the customer.   They want to know every possible risk that may or may not happen, even on a 40-hour project, so they can add several thousands of dollars in risk reserve.  Which ultimately is just profit. On top of the already built-in profit percentage.  Actually, now that I read what I just wrote, I bet the reserve actually pays for the overhead of those teams of accountants and attorneys.  Life in the large corporation.

    Anyway, I'm pretty sure I haven't posted a rant here in at least a year.  I guess you haven't missed me.  :-)



  • @jetcitywoman said:

    Sure, the feast/famine thing wouldn't be so bad if we didn't have the defense contractor procedures/policies that require us to bill every working minute to a project, NOT bill to overhead numbers, and NOT bill inaccurately.  It's purely beaurocracy, but I read it as hypocracy when they preach that and then the managers refuse to give us overhead numbers for required training/meetings/fire drills, whatever.  That's always burned my bottom too, especially a few years ago when they were making us read and sign the timecard policy every year to prove that we understood the penalty for falsifying timecards was termination.  Let me see...  you threaten to fire me if I charge time to the wrong number, and claim you'll fire my boss if he asks me to do that.  But all of our managers do that on a daily basis and you turn a blind eye when we report it.  Uh huh.   

     

    Yeah, I worked at one of those government type places before (a national lab actually).  My boss would tell me "we're running out of funding for project X, so I want you to start charging your time to project Y".  Even though I was working on project X she wanted me to charge my time to Y.  Seems like fraud to me, but w/e.  It's the way of the Government contractor.  I know what you mean though, they really don't like charging time as non billable.  You're right, it's a beaurocracy thing, and it's friggin stupid.



  • @amischiefr said:

    By the way, why is it we only get rants like this from you once a month?  It's like you're not upset, and normal, for 23-25 days and then BAM you're all upset for 3-5.  Must be the phases of the moon or something...
    Something about her nickname tells me this is a regular thing.



  • @belgariontheking said:

    @amischiefr said:

    By the way, why is it we only get rants like this from you once a month?  It's like you're not upset, and normal, for 23-25 days and then BAM you're all upset for 3-5.  Must be the phases of the moon or something...
    Something about her nickname tells me this is a regular thing.

    It's probably all the flying on jets.  Airports can be very frustrating, you know.  What with the security, and the lines, and the delays.  Plus, the seats on those planes.



  • @amischiefr said:

    @jetcitywoman said:

    Sure, the feast/famine thing wouldn't be so bad if we didn't have the defense contractor procedures/policies that require us to bill every working minute to a project, NOT bill to overhead numbers, and NOT bill inaccurately.  It's purely beaurocracy, but I read it as hypocracy when they preach that and then the managers refuse to give us overhead numbers for required training/meetings/fire drills, whatever.  That's always burned my bottom too, especially a few years ago when they were making us read and sign the timecard policy every year to prove that we understood the penalty for falsifying timecards was termination.  Let me see...  you threaten to fire me if I charge time to the wrong number, and claim you'll fire my boss if he asks me to do that.  But all of our managers do that on a daily basis and you turn a blind eye when we report it.  Uh huh.   

     

    Yeah, I worked at one of those government type places before (a national lab actually).  My boss would tell me "we're running out of funding for project X, so I want you to start charging your time to project Y".  Even though I was working on project X she wanted me to charge my time to Y.  Seems like fraud to me, but w/e.  It's the way of the Government contractor.  I know what you mean though, they really don't like charging time as non billable.  You're right, it's a beaurocracy thing, and it's friggin stupid.

     

    I'm guessing that was some time ago; doing something like that is a "screw the whole business" move if you get caught.  It's most definitely fraud, and my understanding is that defense contractors are extremely retentive about that sort of thing now.

    I worked at such a place fresh out of college.  Five months in I was laid off, as I wasn't on a project and didn't have clearance yet (which is why I wasn't on a project).  Fortunately they weren't too bad about billing to overhead: I spent about the last two months on an "IDLE" time code.  Yes, they had a time code for doing nothing.  Telling, isn't it?



  •  Man, I WISH we had a charge code for idle time.  It would reduce the fraud and shine a light on how our workloads really fluctuate.   And I agree that charging project X time to project Y accounting is fraud, and we have to do that alot too.  But our software work simply doesn't fit in with the government contracting ways of doing business.  We frequently start on our little "one week or less" projects and complete them while waiting for the purchase order to be processed.  It often takes so long for accounting to send us the billing code that the project is has been completed for months and I've forgotten that I even need to make a timecard correction.

     



  • @amischiefr said:

    By the way, why is it we only get rants like this from you once a month?  It's like you're not upset, and normal, for 23-25 days and then BAM you're all upset for 3-5.  Must be the phases of the moon or something...

    Maybe she has been putting her project manager/scrum training to use and organizing her rants as 30 day sprints?



  • @bstorer said:

    @belgariontheking said:

    @amischiefr said:

    By the way, why is it we only get rants like this from you once a month?  It's like you're not upset, and normal, for 23-25 days and then BAM you're all upset for 3-5.  Must be the phases of the moon or something...
    Something about her nickname tells me this is a regular thing.

    It's probably all the flying on jets.  Airports can be very frustrating, you know.  What with the security, and the lines, and the delays.  Plus, the seats on those planes.

    Especially when your vag is barfing blood and your maxi pad is threatening to runneth over all over your new Prada dress.



  • @morbiuswilters said:

    @bstorer said:

    @belgariontheking said:

    @amischiefr said:

    By the way, why is it we only get rants like this from you once a month?  It's like you're not upset, and normal, for 23-25 days and then BAM you're all upset for 3-5.  Must be the phases of the moon or something...
    Something about her nickname tells me this is a regular thing.

    It's probably all the flying on jets.  Airports can be very frustrating, you know.  What with the security, and the lines, and the delays.  Plus, the seats on those planes.
    Especially when your vag is barfing blood and your maxi pad is threatening to runneth over all over your new Prada dress.
    ಠ_ಠ



  • @morbiuswilters said:

    @bstorer said:

    @belgariontheking said:

    @amischiefr said:

    By the way, why is it we only get rants like this from you once a month?  It's like you're not upset, and normal, for 23-25 days and then BAM you're all upset for 3-5.  Must be the phases of the moon or something...
    Something about her nickname tells me this is a regular thing.

    It's probably all the flying on jets.  Airports can be very frustrating, you know.  What with the security, and the lines, and the delays.  Plus, the seats on those planes.

    Especially when your vag is barfing blood and your maxi pad is threatening to runneth over all over your new Prada dress.

    Oh, please.  That Prada is from last year and you got it 75% off at Filene's Basement.  You're not fooling anyone.



  • @morbiuswilters said:

    @bstorer said:

    @belgariontheking said:

    @amischiefr said:

    By the way, why is it we only get rants like this from you once a month?  It's like you're not upset, and normal, for 23-25 days and then BAM you're all upset for 3-5.  Must be the phases of the moon or something...
    Something about her nickname tells me this is a regular thing.

    It's probably all the flying on jets.  Airports can be very frustrating, you know.  What with the security, and the lines, and the delays.  Plus, the seats on those planes.

    Especially [...]


    Not cool, dude. Not cool at all.



  • @morbiuswilters said:

    Especially when your vag is barfing blood and your maxi pad is threatening to runneth over all over your new Prada dress.
     

    LOL, leave it to you Morb to be all gross and make me laugh.  You're very wrong, too.  I do cheap suits at best, but mostly prefer jeans and tshirts.

    BTW, I'm surprised nobody has commented on the forecasting bullet, which in my opinion is the biggest WTF in the list.  They seem to think we're just like building contractors nailing up  houses 8 hours a day.   I've tried to be a good citizen (since I'm a new baby PM and all) and tried to think of ways to accurately forecast.  If I'm the only programmer on a project, I can almost do it.  But since we are also required to respond to emergency calls from customers, I do get diverted alot.   And guessing how much labor other programmers will spend on the project I'm managing is... well, herding cats.   WTF do I care as long as they complete the work on time and under budget?

    They've been cranking down harder and harder on that, too.  Last month the accountant pressed me to verify if I REALLY was 100% absolutely sure that I'd meet the 10 hours I'd estimated for a project in July.  Yep, I estimated 10 so it darned well better come in at 10 hours, not 9, not 11.  



  • @jetcitywoman said:

    BTW, I'm surprised nobody has commented on the forecasting bullet, which in my opinion is the biggest WTF in the list.  They seem to think we're just like building contractors nailing up  houses 8 hours a day.

     

    Use the golf analogy.  If there's one thing clueless management types always understand, it's golf.



  • @Aaron said:

    If there's one thing clueless management types always understand, it's golf.
    Nah, you really have to be careful with that, or else they'll start talking about pushing the pin into the eighteenth hole once the balls make it from the rough onto the smooth, supple pi-- green. I'd suggest going with commuting: "If a watermelon truck overturns on I-270 in the middle of rush hour, blocking three of the four lanes, and then rubberneckers who happen to be on the detour route also crash and cause those lanes to close, you're not gonna make it home in the 20 minutes you budgeted. And there are a heck of a lot of watermelon trucks out there."



  •  Since these are accountants I'm dealing with, and the company seems to be basically run by the bean counters, can you suggest something they'll understand?  Some sort of pie chart or excel spreadsheet?  Or heh, "Monty has to put 10 stamps on each sheet of paper.  His boss comes along and introduces him to Sue who also has to put 10 stamps on the very same sheets of paper.  And it's an urgent project so they have no more than 5 seconds to complete each sheet...."  I would actually like to see that one acted out.  :-)



  • @jetcitywoman said:

     OMG, if anybody's read this far, you deserve a medal!  I hope it's at least been a little interesting.

     

    I didn't read the whole thing, but I'm guessing... Northrup Grumman?



  • @jetcitywoman said:

    Since these are accountants I'm dealing with, and the company seems to be basically run by the bean counters, can you suggest something they'll understand?

     

    Sure.  Assuming that these are actual trained accountants, they should have had to deal with taxes at some point.  Start from there.

    CE: "My sister works full-time as a marketing manager and has a part-time job in sales.  How much tax will she pay this year?"
    BC: "Uh... what does she make?"
    CE: "Oh, I don't know, somewhere between $50K and $150K.  I don't remember the marketing salary and the sales is based on commission."
    BC: "Well that's kind of a wide range.  You'd have to narrow it down."
    CE: "OK, well let's say the full-time job pays $50K and she gets another $30K in commissions.  So $80K."
    BC: "Oh, well then she probably pays about <some bullsht estimate>."
    CE: "I forgot to mention, she puts $15K into her RSP/401k every year."
    BC: "Uhh... then I guess it's <some bullsh
    t revised estimate>."
    CE: "And she lost another $10,000 on a bad investment recently.  That was outside the RSP/401k."
    BC: "Uh..."
    CE: "She's also divorced, has two kids, and gets child support payments from her ex."
    BC: "Well..."
    CE: "Oh, but he always pays late, I think he's already 4 months behind.  And the kids are 4 and 8, did I mention that?"
    BC: "..."
    CE: "The 8-year-old was in a commercial or something, does that count as income?"
    BC: "Well, it depends..."
    CE: "And she has to drive her own car to clients for the sales job.  They pay for the gas, but there's depreciation too, right?"
    BC: "Yeah..."
    CE: "I almost forgot, her accountant messed up last year and she overpaid her income taxes by $1200.  For some reason they didn't refund it."
    BC: "Ugh..."
    CE: "So what does it come out to?"
    BC: "I don't know, I'd have to crunch all of these numbers."
    CE: "I just want an estimate.  You can figure it out within, I don't know, 5%, right?"
    BC: "<some totally bullsh*t estimate, clearly trying to end this conversation>"
    CE: "Wait, did I say she overpaid by $1200?  Sorry, that was the year before last.  Come to think of it, I don't think she ever did her taxes last year.  She probably owes extra then, right?"
    BC: "Get out of my office."
    CE: "Way ahead of you.  You'll have that project estimate in about 7 months, or whenever the project is done, whichever comes first."

    If you don't think they'll get the message with the tax angle, then there are other options as well:

    - Estimate the company profits based on some totally arbitrary and ever-expanding list of expenses and losses
    - Estimate the share price of a publicly-traded company in 6 months, while you unravel a completely nonsensical timeline of company events and economic factors
    - Estimate your own net worth in 20 years, slowly mixing in all sorts of hypotheticals about promotions, layoffs, investments, medical and family emergencies, etc.

    Hell, just have fun with it.  You're looking for a new job anyway, right?


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