Working with Big Blue as I do from time to time, I'm amazed how common english phrases get mangled and redefined. For instances, phrases such as "Personal Undying Commitment" turns into "Tough. The project was sh*tcanned and we're not paying you. Expenses ? Ho hoh ho".

Another useful facet of this is to determine at which level of the IBM organisation you are dealing with. For instance, consider the phrase "f*ckup".

  • This is in common use with technical contractors, and other reality-inspired workers. Unmangled english means that you are dealing with someone who knows what they are doing, and is willing to call a spade a spade. Clearly far too useful to be allowed to make actual decisions. Spends four hours a week in useless meetings keeping the people further up the monkey puzzle tree confused, and filling in requests for permission to visit the toilet. Or in yearly assessments. Or training on how to mangle your english.
  • A "Problem". An old-fashioned manager. Perhaps technically useless, but grounded nevertheless. Isolated from management by his continual reality checks. His occassional attempts at bringing some sense and sensibilty into the process is described by new managers as "howling at the moon". Spends 6 hours a week in useless meetings delivering status reports that are meaningless.
  • "Issue". More modern usage, low-level manager. Technically vapid, probably with pointy hair. But not yet at a level of making his own decisions. Spends 10 hours a week in meetings, where he doodles and wishes he was dead. Or schemes ways of getting his bonus based on no delivery whatsoever.
  • "Challenge". This is a "new" IBM person. So no technical grounding whatsoever (unless you are very very lucky). Probably a degree in applied bulls*it, and a very nice tie. Again, unable to make a decision in a crisis, and likely to make the entirely wrong one. Shots self in foot, reloads. Or worse, junior person with aspirations. Equally dangerous. 
    15-20 hours a week in meetings with other obsessed useless individuals, either being confused by technical "lickspittles" or flattering each other on how hard they are working.
  • "Opportunity". This relates to the rarified upper levels of the management mountain - the equivalent of a mountain climber. And all the lack of oxygen that entails. Perhaps might have been technical in the past (so therefore handly with punch-card stories, or 3270 emulators). Probably very intelligent and very motivated due to the 99% of his time that he spends dealing with internal politics or worse - IBM resourcing.
    Spends all his time in meetings, working out what to do to delegate down. Using the Monkey Puzzle tree schenario, firmly believes that everyone below him is happy, and is willing to lob sh*it down the tree as much as possible. (Believes that zero-bonuses for four years is a good way to retain good staff.) When presented with a clear recommendation, likely to either do nothing for months (and lose the opportunity), or worse, completely random.
    (Like playing russian roulette with a howitzer. In the middle of a bomb factory. In a war zone. With your wife. After you told her your project has been sh*tcanned.)
    Spends 40-50 hours a week in meetings wondering why they have to do "normal" work activity in their "personal" time. Secretly wants to be a golf pro. Hates technology with a passion.  Realises that the six years of nightschool for the business degree has been a complete and utter waste of time.

Now. I mentioned Big Blue here as thats the organisation that I deal with most. And since they make stonkingly huge wads of cash, can clearly operate the business with huge degress of profit, despite 80% management "lard" layer slathered over everything. Entirely possible that it all runs at "NCO" level as in the army. I have to conclude that this organisation runs DESPITE the management, and that some folks in key positions work incredibly hard to carry all that dead weight.  (This is why Ed Brill for instance is celebrated as a minor diety by all those with experience with IBM. An amazing individual. He has brains, power, communication skills and can somehow make things happen. A rare element in Big Blue)

We keep congratulating the folks out at Westford for instance, working under Mr Ronin. Fantastic product, sold code delivery, understandable and attainable road map. Congratulations, chaps - your commitment is supporting literally thousands of otherwise useless middle management who would be otherwise sanitising telephones, consulting, or issuing parking tickets. We salute you for keeping these people away from the general public, responsibility and live ammunition.. (I'm sure the hairdressing community, the designer suit community and the swiss watch folks can all do a quick whip round and give you something financial to sort you out).

The phrase "Kicking a dead whale along the beach" is the one to focus on here. Or "Corporate Elephant". (Corpulant Elephant?). Gerstner famously made the elephant dance. Well, the dance floor is empty now, and us poor monkeys under the tree are there, sweeping the floor. And being micromanged by suits who once read a manual on how to drive a broom.

Compare and contrast with other service organisations. And you find that again, counter-intuitively, they are one of the better ones. Seriously. At least with Big Blue, you know that something will happen.

None of this of course makes any sort of business sense. Which is even more amusing for those MBA-folks in IBM who dont understand how it can possibly function, but cover it up with style, panache and mangled english.

(Do I sound bitter ? Do the words "Sh*tcanned project", and "no signed contract" come together in your mind and leave you otherwise ? Are you dependant on Prozac?)

Remember when I said "Next time I take a job with IBM without a signed-off project, can someone slap me ? "

My missus is waiting at home to deliver me the biggest slap in my adult life.

And as a side effect - guru-level developer for hire. Any takers ?