back to article You need a list of specific unknowns we may encounter? Huh?

The CIO flew in the other day. I am just a contractor so I only hear stories but so mythical is this fellow that I get the impression he must have flown in by winged chariot and would be trotting across town to our office on a company-funded unicorn. His arrival would then be announced by a fanfare of trumpets and a team of …

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Anonymous Coward

Sooo true....

Ah... you have just captured the essence of project & strategic consultancy in once swell foop :

"When asked to point out where a project is going wrong, don’t for god’s sake try to tell them."

Why did they not teach me that in my (bogus but expensive) MBA ????

~~

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Sooo true....

At my MBA school one of the first things they taught us in our "consulting" class, was that you must immediately make sure you recommend more consulting services, as any problem that can be solved on the first take is not big enough to pull down a big paycheck. You made it look too easy. So you need to make the problem bigger!

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Trollface

Re: Sooo true....

He should ice that foop so the swelling goes down

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So familiar

I used to be just like you Mr Dabbs, it used to drive me potty the wasteful ways in which things are done and then done all over again each time a PHB tweaked the requirement spec for his own aggrandisement. Trying to care was giving me no end of headaches and blood pressure that at my age now would be a problem. Over the years I have developed a credo that helps keep me sane. The long version is:

I am paid as much to rub out as I am to write.

The short version is:

DILLIGAF kerching.

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Pint

Re: So familiar

"Foolishly, I would try to help them curb the waste and suggest ways of improving their productivity and profitability. Oh yes, I truly was that naïve."

Wish I'd read that 15 years ago, I might have had some hair left.

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Brilliant

So totally true. I was nodding all the way through that one.

These days if a client wastes my time, I just console myself in the fact that they're paying me by the hour.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Brilliant

"These days if a client wastes my time, I just console myself in the fact that they're paying me by the hour."

Exactly that. I learned that giving 150% and being highly efficient is much like kicking the ball into your own goal. If the client feels like arranging tons of meetings for absolutely no outcome... fine. Most of the time you don't need to listen, as very little is going to come out of meetings with too many participants. Just nod, look interest, throw in some related but mostly random thoughts to give them more food for thought...

Extra brownie points if somebody comes up with a power point presentation. Make sure to feign interest by checking early on that it's available on the company's intranet or is forwarded to you by email afterwards. At that point you could actually take a nap and it wouldn't matter. (If you miss anything important, you can still catch up later.)

Otherwise, enjoy free coffee and cookies, and look forward to being a few hundred quid richer at the end of the day (with a new highscore in your favourite tablet-based game).

I seems to work a lot better not to ever suggest big changes (they're just not ready for it, and likely never will be). Instead, make small improvements here and there and wrap them into big and impressive lingo which nobody grasps anyway. So it must be great!

Also: Never fix anything immediately, if it can be delayed. Ask for deadlines, importance in relation to all the other things you've been postponing, make it sound more work than it actually is! It makes you look very busy and avoids that anybody of those paying you might think they pay money for somebody who hasn't got enough to do!

Companies don't like to end a contract if you're still in the middle of something they think is important (because you made it sound like that). So better make sure that they think you haven't finished all tasks, ever.

Then you get away with 50% of your energy left to spend on your hobbies after hours, and you keep the contract longer (because, well, you're not actually working that much any more).

And when shit hits the fan and you actually have to deliver something very quickly because it's critical, do it, but point out the other deadlines and ask for them to be pushed forward.

Kept myself with a corporate client on a contract for over 4 years that way... and now they are still paying a retainer, because they think they might need me for urgent stuff. (They don't actually, but that doesn't matter.)

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Terminator

Scary Man

I was once told by a boss that is was best to shout only when it wasn't necessary ...

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Re: Scary Man

Blackadder: Tell me do you ever stop bullying and shouting at the lower orders?

Wellington: NEVER! There's only one way to win a campaign - shout, shout and shout again.

Blackadder: You don't think that inspired leadership and tactical ability have anything to do with it?

Wellington: NO! It's all down to shouting. BEHHHHGGHH!

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Re: Scary Man

This is true. After my own foray into management, one of my employees (with whom I stayed on good terms) told me people only started to worry when I went very quiet and very polite.

But I knew it was time to retire when I started talking like Mr. Dabbs n his "before I got sensible" phase. At some point in the industry you may reach a point at which your house is paid off, your pension fund is big enough, and suddenly you have this urge to tell it exactly like it is. At this point senior managers avoid you, and junior staff ask you if you want chocolate biscuits with your coffee.

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Similar Situation

Except I'm not lucky enough to be a freelancer here any more, I'm on the payroll. I truly miss the days of being self employed/freelance. Sure I might have been a lot poorer but I had far more fun doing it than right now.

Roll on finishing my own project, the one project to get me out of paid underlingship and hello to being my own boss.

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This might just be-

the most truthiful article of all time.

Including the bit about the shouty bosses...

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@Dabbsy

Alistair, did you use an alias when being contracted to a now dead* project around here? Haven't seen your name listed as a team member, but I'm sure as hell you described our situation.

*I killed it - that was probably my biggest achievement ever.

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Re: @Dabbsy

Bloody hell, you scared me for a moment, there. There are people who read my column who recognise who I'm talking about. I just hope it never gets read by people who recognise themselves.

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Re: @Dabbsy

You shouldn't worry. The people you write about are commonly the same people who suffer a certain degree of loss of reality. No chance they'd recognise themselves.

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Re: @Dabbsy

Quite - in my experience people like those referred to in the article would have trouble recognising themselves in a mirror, let alone in an anonymised tale.

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Re: @Dabbsy

If one of your clients recognizes themselves just say you were talking about whoever it is they hate most. If you don't already know, make it a point to find out who they hate most. The enemy of your client is your patsy.

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Pint

I think your maybe me.. or maybe I'm you..

anyway.. have a beer..

nice to know I'm not the only one..

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Familiar story

They tell you they need a contractor in place ASAP, so you beg your previous client to let you off a few days early. There then follows a three-week process of reference-check timewasting*. When you arrive on site it's apparently a complete surprise to everybody: there's nothing for you to do**, and you idle around reading documentation while they think something up.

* I recently had to prove my address for the past five years, so I sent a copy of my mortgage confirmation from 11 years ago, together with the confirmation that I'd just paid it off. Not good enough. I had to supply five years of utility bills to prove that I hadn't moved out and back in.

** Which is just as well, because there are no resources to do it with. In my latest (very highly-paid) contract, it took over a month before I got a desk and a computer.

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Re: Familiar story

Being a contractor is, in my experience, just like the Arabella Weir sketch in The Fast Show. The woman who has all the answers but it ignored because she is a woman. Similarly, no matter how many times you have stepped in the turd that is being proposed by a permanent member of staff, no one will cross to the other side of the road on the say of a contractor.

I had to wait a month to start my current contract for the standard background checks etc, then 2 weeks for a logon to be created for me, another week for an admin account and another for a laptop. Would be frustrating were I not paid a daily rate, regardless of how much work I do (or don't do!)

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Re: Familiar story

This Dilbert is particularly apt...

(Link to safe for Work picture)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Familiar story

That is because contractors tend to breeze in and give recommendations ignoring half of the spec, constraints and budget, then proceed to sit back and assume that since another solution chosen was hard that theirs couldn't possibly have had any problems whatsoever.

Paid twice as much to do half as much work. Never have to deal with the consequences of technical debt that they create or tie up the loose ends that take 90% of the time and effort. Who doesn't hate them? :P

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Re: Familiar story

Paid twice as much to do half as much work. Never have to deal with the consequences of technical debt that they create or tie up the loose ends that take 90% of the time and effort.

It's funny, you say that like it's a bad thing.

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Re: Familiar story

>> That is because contractors tend to breeze in and give recommendations ignoring half of the spec, constraints and budget, then proceed to sit back...<<

I fear you may be confusing contractors with consultants.

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Windows

Re: Familiar story

What is it with these accounts you all have?

Like most colleges, we have a floating population of sessionally paid staff. They get a log-in same as us contracted ones. Usually ready for when they rock up needing to print stuff and use the photocopiers. A matter of a day rather than weeks.

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I laughed, I cried...

Oh, yes, yes, yes. All true. I know, for me, it's the beginning of the end when I read the latest in a long line of emails or slide decks and start screaming with unbelieving laughter. It tells me that my kool-aid tolerance has been used up and it is time to move on.

I have accepted that big business (big multinationals, especially financial services) are in existence only marginally to do what's on the tin (banking, investment, whatever); a good 80% is a self-sustaining boxing ring for senior chaps to wrestle for power and prestige. So projects are about their, um, manhood, size and swing-worthiness, and not actually about business value. Once I got that, I was able to play nicely. Until that moment of unbelieving laughter arrives...

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"I have been told I lack respect. I call it an inability to brown-nose."

Could of so used that line during my school days

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school days

You could have paid attention. Then you might realise that "could of" is illiterate.

-A.

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Headmaster

Re: school days

It is grammatically incorrect, but not illiterate. Illiterate implies a lack of ability to read or write. Since he's apparently capable of both, he's not illiterate. Just wrong.

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Re: school days

He is neither illiterate nor wrong. He is American. They actually speak like that.

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Re: school days

No, even in America, 'could of' is still wrong. At least for now.

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Re: school days

herman, we do often pronounce “could’ve” for “could have”, but “could of” for “could have” remains wrong here.

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Pint

Re: school days

They also speak like that in Essex, Herman.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: school days

> It is grammatically incorrect, but not illiterate

Graham, there are different degrees of (il)literacy, it's not black and white.

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Headmaster

Re: school days

It is grammatically incorrect, but not illiterate

Oh but yes, yes it is. As in uneducated. "Illiterate", from the Oxford Dictionary:

1 Unable to read or write;

1.1 Ignorant in a particular subject or activity;

1.2 (Of a piece of writing) showing a lack of education; badly written;

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Re: school days

I cud ave <sic> agreed with you but you are obviously a foreign chap with no understanding of textual exegesis and common idiom. Gawd blimey Mary Poppins.

I agree with M. Dabbs though. I worked for a multinational that was bought out by a huge US concern. I refused to sign a contract and their hatchet woman called a meeting for all staff and told us we had to sign new contracts. I said "I would make a better rentboy than a H***** employee [1]" I finally surreptitiously got them to give me gardening leave and flew the coop. It was truly awful and eventually their hatchet woman got wise and topped herself. Shame really but if you dance with the devil.

[Think game manufacturer / Intellectual property rights holder]

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Re: school days

<snip>

"Graham, there are different degrees of (il)literacy, it's not black and white."

Or indeed monachrome. One man's Pudenda is another man's Cnut (1).

1. King of Denmark, Norway and "England"

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To be fair to the CIO...

I can't remember ever going on a mandatory training course on a new system that imparted any useful knowledge about anything, let alone how to use the new system. So, in my experience, he was proposing a quality level far higher than the industry standard.

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Re: To be fair to the CIO...

Bingo. That is how I understood it too. That CIO actually knows something.

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Re: To be fair to the CIO...

This actually reminds me a bit of the observation that there is no such thing as a stupid question. Sometimes it takes someone with a lot of organisational clout to ask questions like "does this work" or "do people know how to use it?", because they have the power to demand answers.

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Re: To be fair to the CIO...

Mr Garrison of South Park said: "There are no stupid questions, only stupid people".

Mind you, he's not known for his wisdom.

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Re: To be fair to the CIO...

I can't remember ever going on a mandatory training course on a new system that imparted any useful knowledge about anything, let alone how to use the new system.

Absolutely. Conversely, I, as a developer, being given 'user training' on a product in order to have the required understanding to work on the product (which is a rare enough as it is), have been in training sessions where the trainer has demonstrated plenty of screens and menu options but has managed to impart zero actual information about what the product is, what it is for, or how to actually use it.

One of the big problems with this sort of situation is that the trainer will usually hand out some sort of feedback form, but it is impossible in practice to give honest feedback about how bad it was, especially if you are within the same organisation, as the feedback will not be anonymous (they may nominally say it is, but it isn't exactly hard to work out whose handwriting it is out of a pool of six people). If you say something negative, that person knows it was you, and you will have to face them in the knowledge that they know you were the one 'badmouthing' them. Most non-psychopaths tend to naturally shy away from conflict.

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Devil

Back in my past

I remember when I was working at a place where temp contracted labour such as myself definitely had second-class citizen status...and I also remember the moment when I realised that contracted labour such as myself wasn't constrained in the same way as staffers.

Annoying boss: We're busy doing staffy things - go and make tea

Me: OK. [Exit stage left ]

< some time later >

Me: [Enter stage left, bearing tea] Tea's up

Annoying boss: <Splutter> Yuk! You've put loads of sugar in this

Me: I used my initiative - you look kind of overweight, so I assumed you'd want a few spoonfuls in there.

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Re: Back in my past

Heh. Reminds me when one of the shouty bosses was visited by HIS American bosses one summer and I was asked to prepare some teas, coffees and "a water". No-one had asked for plain water before. The water cooler's cooler hadn't worked since long before I started there, so I duly served up a plastic cup of warm water, which she impressively spat out on the meeting room floor.

Cue a bit of admonishing etc from the shouty man... then, when no-one else was looking, he sidled up, whispered an apology, thrust some cash in my hands and asked me to nip down the newsagent and buy a bottle of chilled Evian. Sorted.

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Does my budget look big in this

<i>When asked to point out where a project is going wrong, don’t for god’s sake try to tell them.</i>

Rube. I bet you also misinterpreted half life wife's "let's not get one another gifts this christmas" although I guess not many times since you claim to still be married.

--

Connect with me on ButtPlugg!

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Re: Does my budget look big in this

I completely forgot to congratulate the clever fellow this week who signed up to Twitter and LinkedIn as "Hank Waggenburger III" complete with public profile apparently for the sole purpose of inviting me to join his networks.

Also props to the very real "Mr N Waggenburger" who also took the trouble to invite me.

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Re: Does my budget look big in this

I completely forgot to congratulate the clever fellow this week who signed up to Twitter and LinkedIn as "Hank Waggenburger III" complete with public profile apparently for the sole purpose of inviting me to join his networks.

Outstanding. :)

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JDM

Re: Does my budget look big in this

Great read as usual Mr Dabbs. Especially enjoyed reading the frustration of the "difficult" boss trying to get anyone to do anything how they want it to be done. Some of the best bosses I've had have been exactly like this and I could never put my finger on what it was and why I was praised for work I thought everyone was doing.

"Connect with me on ButtPlugg!"

Haha I would leave a comment along the lines of "Surely you have better things to be doing on a Friday afternoon" but here I am stuck in the office commenting on your comment so who am I to judge..

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