Sunday, December 11, 2011

Things Happen

Yesterday was another one of those days when everyone attributes a system bug to my project. It’s not the first time it happens so I end up scrambling to get things back on track and prove it isn’t me causing the issue; immediate response being the secret of damage control, a method honed to perfection by the Clinton team when faced with ‘bimbo’ problems, still an effective tactic in  every day blame game politics at work. Unfortunately, one is also deploying a software, perhaps not testing as much as required before the roll out, especially with the care free attitude of the supplier, the bane of successful project management, instead playing a game of chicken to see who blinks first, wondering if someone is not getting paid, thereby causing the foot dragging of the programmer. Next week the plan is to go live in Chicago, travel arrangement already made and tickets booked, the team all ready to go but still a few issues remain and the program not yet installed in the main server. What a mess, one wonders how this situation can still happen after the many obstacles overcome in the past, one thinks that some rapport has been established but chastened with the current state of affairs.

Feeling responsible is a mistake that must be corrected; otherwise one succumbs to pressure, a victim of the hero mindset; the skill to develop is the facility to answer back to one’s own team members, a factual and witty reply used like a sword to get things done or refuse a task, waving the weapon to suppliers, bosses, fellow workers and all those who would challenge you and try to load all the burden on your shoulders. I guess that is what people try to do when one’s in charge, the example of the current president a sad picture, one wonders if that’s democracy in action but one sees it everywhere, possibly the lizard brain trying to survive and the helpless martyr dying on the cross if he accepts the burden.  Another interesting article in Vanity Fair is the story of Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren, the advocate for consumer protection from financial malfeasance, a victim of all sort of bad press despite her noble goal of helping the middle class, a cautionary tale of how one can be blamed of all sorts of things even if the allegations are untrue, money and profit being the core motive for destroying other people’s reputation.

Vanity Fair is getting to be a great magazine where one can get insider news on politics and finance, like a gossip rag for the elite, powerful and discreet, stories about movers and shakers, stories already available in the dry magazines of Fortune or Forbes but lacking the human perspective provided by engaging writers like Michael Lewis, someone who may be reluctant to write in dry finance magazines, focusing instead in a sort of pop culture tale of the rich and famous. The story on Elizabeth Warren is interesting, a crusader confronting banking executives on their irresponsible behavior in the crisis, replying to her that ‘things happen’, similar to the idiotic remark of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on the Iraq chaos after the invasion who said ‘stuff happens’.  Unfortunately, it’s not easy to reform Wall Street in the same manner as withdrawing troops from Iraq, so courageous people like Elizabeth Warren or even Arnold the former California governor gets hammered, harsh stories and criticism flying like mud, tarnishing reputations like it was so easy to do like nothing, divisiveness in politics like it exist today, people hoping someday to be saved from gridlock.

The clock is ticking, the day slowly coming to an end, waiting for the supplier’s reply, wondering if the trip next week will push through, the supplier confident that the issue will be fixed, hopeful words spoken in a noon meeting but still no reply, one thinks about the guilt, now why did I not test this feature sooner?, preparing my alibi, weapons at ready, formulating the argument that the supplier is delivering a faulty product, pushing the testing to the customer.  It feels like the world is coming apart, the center will not hold, one feels burned out, wondering why I had agreed on the schedule next week when one could have pushed out to next year, no one to blame but oneself, ‘hell - stuff happens’, you say, following Rummy’s alibi, a glib pronouncement when trying to absolve yourself. There is just too much to do, attention spread out to different areas, fixing issues, writing emails, creating tickets, losing touch and dropping the ball. It’s not your problem man, you would say, just move on and have fun, laughing like the president despite the vitriol directed at him, head and shoulders above the contenders, opponents like pygmies with their small minds.   It’s your decision they would say and there you go accepting that responsibility.

The call finally happens but still not conclusive, issues not fixed, another call scheduled later at 5pm, one foolishly volunteers to remain and continue testing, determined to push forward, is that a dumb thing to do or what?, let’s wait out the game and see who breaks first, you wonder but really it’s been delayed too long and there’s no choice but to move ahead or another month goes by, things get delayed and you find yourself in the middle of next year. Soon the next call comes and by God things have improved, all the problems solved except for one small matter, nothing to worry about, ready to test again, continuing to work for a few more hours, shutting your computer, restarting and find your email broken, still marching on, testing all the possible scenarios, calling the help desk to have them fix your email, still not working and resolving to use the web-based one, continuing testing and the confidence coming back, yes it’s working right. The team will be going to Chicago after all, amidst the cold and possible snow, facing sure bumps in the road but ready for the game, the supplier keen on helping out too, proud to have fixed all the issue in hair – raising time, they are the best that can ever be, my God proud of them to keep at it and solving the problem. We shall see what we shall see next week in the windy city. Yes, yes, yes!

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