Tales of Projects Long Past

“The Nightmare Begins” seems to be an apt title for some of the experiences“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times …” – tales of projects long past.

As long as I have been in IT, recruiting project staff has been a constant. Looking back over my career, I now can laugh at some of the antics I witnessed, though at the time they occurred they were not necessarily funny.

Here for your enjoyment are incidents from past projects as perpetrated by new recruits:

  • Curious George. We had recruited a highly skilled individual to direct our firm’s new technological initiative. I arrived at the office early one morning to get a jump on the day. I found the new employee in the break room with #2 pencil, lightly shading the outside of employees’ pay envelopes (this was in the day of paper paychecks). The impact printers that produced the paychecks left a small indentation on the outside of the envelope where the strikers contacted the paper. As he shaded certain areas on the outside of the envelopes, the employees’ salaries were revealed. He then erased the pencil marks to get rid of the evidence. Apparently he was insecure in the salary he had negotiated.
  • Thrifty Theodore. Our firm had won a large project that required the team to temporarily relocate to the project site which to many of the staff was in an undesirable location. To incentivize project staff to accept the relocation, the client included a lucrative stipend that was available for housing, entertainment, and living expenses.

    Several of us considered this an adventure and spent every dollar on enjoying ourselves in the new location. A couple of staff members, however, determined to maximize their remuneration by spending as little as possible on accommodations while banking the lion’s share of the stipend. They slept on futons on the floor, used cardboard boxes for their clothing, and looked for other ways to minimize their costs. Of all the project staff they were the most miserable, especially when the fleas infested their entire apartment.

  • Quarantine Quigley. I was managing a project in a jurisdiction that did not allow pets to be brought into the area without a long quarantine. As we were staffing up for the next phase of the project, we recruited a young man who had a dog that he did not want to leave behind. We advised him to leave his dog with friends or family, but he insisted on bringing it with him. Unfortunately, his performance was such that we terminated him early. He was released, but without his dog, which was required to serve the remainder of its time in quarantine.
  • Lost Larry. Our new project recruit arrived in the city, but had not yet come to the project site. As we were considering how we might locate him (this was before everyone carried cellphones), he walked into the office. He was visibly frustrated, having gotten lost several times based on the directions that our project admin had sent him. Apparently, he kept looking for the “salida” exit, but soon noticed that every freeway exit sign was labeled “salida”. We explained to him that “salida” was the Spanish word for “exit” (then instructed our admin on how to rephrase the directions for future English-speaking recruits).
  • Lost Leroy. On the same project as the previous incident, one of our new recruits was consistently late for every dinner meeting and project event outside of normal office hours. I finally questioned him one day as to how we could help him to be on time. I soon learned that regardless of the venue, he would first drive to his apartment from the office then find his way to the venue from his apartment.
  • Sliding Sandeep. What happens when you hire a staff member from India, and assign him to a project in the northern United States in the dead of winter? You then assign him a project vehicle to get around town. Keep in mind, he had never seen snow, let alone driven in snow. He took it all in stride, and every day he regaled us with stories of his adventures on ice and in snow drifts.
  • Arson Andy. We were welcoming a new recruit to the project and selected a bar and grill that maintained a frontier theme, complete with sawdust floors. The tables were comprised of large empty spools that had once contained large coils of electrical wiring. The new team member was smoking a cigarette and dropped it into the center hole of the spool. Sawdust floor. A flame quickly burst up through the center of our table. He quickly grabbed a full pitcher of beer from a server’s tray and used it to quench the fire.
  • Hungry Harriet. Many of our projects maintained snack rooms to satisfy team members’ cravings when they worked late on their scheduled tasks. On one such project the snacks were disappearing more quickly than expected, even for the size of our project team. The project admin soon discovered that several of the new hires were stuffing their computer bags full of snacks to take home.

    Similarly, on another project, management had mandated overtime one day a week for teams that had fallen behind schedule. To help take some of the sting from the mandate, the project catered a hot lunch for those requested to stay late. I observed week after week, team members staying until the dinner arrived, eating dinner, and immediately leaving for home.

    Unclear on the concept?

  • Traveling Tumi. This one is on me. I was a new director with a firm and traveling to Helena, MT to meet our project teams. I arrived on time, but my brand new Tumi garment bag did not. Without a change of clothing, I nevertheless met our project staff and the client management in my casual travel clothes. This was clearly not the image I wanted to portray on my first visit to Helena.

    I soon discovered what had happened: my airline ticket took me as scheduled to HLN – Helena, while my bag was sent it to HNL – Honolulu (this was pre-electronic ticketing). Not a great start for a new recruit, but at least my bag enjoyed its trip.

I recall many such stories of airplanes, cabs, hotels, rental cars, project gaffes, and the like. People will be people, and we need to enjoy these lighter moments of project life.

What about you? Feel free to leave your project tales in the comments below.

Get Your Free Guidebook

Subscribe and receive your free guidebook,
5 Ways to Master the Art of Managing People, Projects and Profits.