Thursday, May 3, 2007

Incompetence Squared

Today I saw my worst case of incompetence yet in the federal government.

But a little background first. I manage a gov database that contains locations of interest. That probably sounds a lot more ominous than it should, but I'm keeping the blog very generic, so please bear with me. There's another guy, who I'll call Roo, that wanted to create a way for people to go out to these sites and upload satellite data from Blackberrys with custom GPS units. Sounds good, but our job is to run IT projects, not develop tools. Anyway, many of us think Roo is a slacker, including the boss who began asking for products.

Roo responded by saying that he wanted to present to the branch, which would prepare him for a conference presentation. The boss agreed and some weeks ago the presentation came. This was the worst presentation I've ever seen in my life. Communicating with his audience wasn't his objective. But I persevered. Halfway through I noticed a bullet point about creating records in my database, which it couldn't since the records are only about things Congress mandated us to do. So I asked him if the point was true.


"No its not." I explained the situation to him. Which produced quite an enjoyably retarded scene.

Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to us running the database, Roo's project was all about uploading these records. For some bizarre reason, he never asked us about our end, basically wasting his effort.

On Nothing.

HEY! I'm saying your tax $$ were wasted by this jerk!

I was also shocked to learn that his idea would still need a laptop to download data from the unit and put it in the database.

So today we're in the branch meeting again and Roo asks me if I use type X of databases.


"Then my project doesn't work"


He's spent almost a year on this and he never checked to see if it was even inside the realm of reality. I press him on it and there is no way for it to work, even if I would let him. The boss is so shocked that he ends the meeting and stalks off.


Yet I remember when my team leader complaining about GPS units. Something about expensive custom units for peoples PDAs. The boss was okaying this for Roo's project.

"What are we doing!?" the leader would ask rhetorically, pained grimace on his face. "Roo is buying hardware when we're software providers. This is Washington Post stuff." At the time I thought he was being a drama queen, but I was wrong. Apparently the boss gave Roo permission to go ahead, even against the strong protestations of the branch's highest ranking member. Once I remembered that, I figured out why Roo never discussed his project with us. He new my team leader would torpedo the project as an expensive way to do something we already could do. So during the requirements phase of the project, we weren't consulted.

Then the boss didn't manage Roo at all, even though Roo once fell asleep on the can and was found because people heard his snoring. So he had no clue as to what Roo was doing, which was apparently nothing productive. Now he's furious with Roo, which doesn't surprise me, but he's also partially responsible. So is it a mixture of incompetence and unconsciousness? I found this nice graphic to illustrate the point.

After the meeting Roo sent out some cryptic email to the entire branch about how he was offended by our conversation. I think he's trying to cover his ass, but do you know what happens when people mess up like that?

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