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She’ll Be Masticating On That For A While

, , , , , , , | Working | CREDIT: clrlmiller | September 15, 2022

I am in a role that requires imaging and building systems. Thankfully, we use a commercial product that is able to network boot systems, lay down a baseline operating system, and then install software packages, updates, configuration files, corporate settings, etc. It works quite well after I spend some time with the product, and on average, a complete system build can be completed in forty-five minutes to an hour.

A few tweaks for the individual users are needed afterward, but these take about five to ten minutes and work nearly automatically. A desktop tech can set up the build process, click “GO”, and watch and wait for the system to complete while answering email, getting coffee, or whatever. They build a few dozen systems daily. I work with the server and system build team and have little to do or nothing to do with delivering systems to actual users; that is desktop support.

A few months go by, and a manager for the desktop support group faces criticism that her group takes much too long to get systems to users. Sometimes this is a few days, but sometimes it’s a week or more. I’ve heard complaints from [Manager]’s staff they’ve been forbidden to deploy ANY system to ANY user prior to either [Manager] or her assistant having a look at the systems and reviewing them for approval. This is where the days-long delays stems from.

This, of course, makes NO SENSE WHATSOEVER since each system is built using the EXACT SAME process and they are identical except for hostnames and serial numbers. It is like insisting that every individual muffin from a bakery face inspection before hitting the shelf.

This manager doesn’t face criticism very well and refuses to acknowledge that her individual approval is a waste of time and needlessly repetitive, so she blames the build process for taking too long.

Uhh, what the f***? The build takes less than an hour, and a single technician can do about six simultaneously.

So, of course, a meeting is called to see what (if anything) can be done to “speed up the build process” and reduce the delays being complained about. As the meeting starts, I mention:

Me: “I’ve brought a laptop and have hooked it into a projector so we can all witness the build process, and we all can actually watch it run while we talk. I’ve brought a stopwatch, as well.”

[Manager] goes into a diatribe about customer service, improving processes, collaboration between teams, yadda, yadda, yadda, while people keep glancing at the projected build process flying by without my touching a thing.

This is where it gets… weird. After nearly thirty minutes of [Manager] rambling, I’m finally allowed to pose a question.

Me: *Politely* “Excuse me, [Manager], but where did you get the idea that the build process was to blame? What was the impetus of the idea that the automatic build took too long and is the cause of these delays?”

Almost on cue, the laptop going through the build reboots to finish off the last few installations and does a system chime — bing! — showing it is restarting.

Manager: *Startled* “What was that?!”

Me: “That was the laptop finishing off the build. Oh, by the way, according to my stopwatch, we are about thirty-three minutes into the meeting, and I started the process at the beginning.”

For some reason, [Manager] is livid.

Manager: “Why are you using obscene language?!”

Everyone in the meeting goes silent and turns toward [Manager], quizzical looks on all their faces. I pause, not sure what the h*** she is talking about.

Me: “Excuse me, what obscene language?”

Manager: “I’m not going to repeat it, but I’m sure everyone else heard you.”

Everyone starts looking at each other and again back to [Manager].

Me: *As politely as I can* “[Manager], I’m not quite sure what language you’re referring to, but as we can all see, the system build is nearly done. We’re not quite forty minutes into the meeting according to the stopwatch. Every system is built using the same process, so could we possibly reconsider the necessity to review every system before it goes out to staff?”

After some time, [Manager] relents that she’ll reduce the reviews to one system a week to “make sure we’re building the systems right.” Her comment about language seems to fade.

A day later, I’m pulled into my boss’s office and told I am being cited for using “inappropriate language” during the previous meeting. I’m shocked.

Me: “What language? Can anyone tell me what I said that was inappropriate?!”

Boss: “[Manager] stated that you thought her idea was without merit and that you used a ‘sexual innuendo’ to get a reaction.”

Me: “What ‘sexual innuendo’?!”

Boss: *Coughs and mutters* “She said that you said her idea was ‘impotent’.”

My jaw drops.

Me: *Carefully* “Exactly what I said was, ‘What was the impetus of the idea…’”

My boss closes his eyes and shakes his head.

Boss: “Okay, let me just confirm with someone else at the meeting and we can put this to rest.”

A day later, my boss confirms what I actually asked about in the meeting. He ends up having to have a polite, but rather awkward, conversation with [Manager] on vocabulary. He approaches me afterward.

Boss: “Please use simpler words when dealing with [Manager], okay?”

Question of the Week

What is the absolute most stupid thing you’ve heard a customer say?

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