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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Project Darkness

A couple of months back, I posted about "Umbrellagate" , and how it was a rebellion against the lighting situation at a company. That story talks about what happened one weekend, but there's more to it than that. Things kept happening over the weeks which followed, including something called Project Darkness.

A couple of the techs had noticed that there were small conference rooms nearby. They had no windows and only one door, and barely enough room for four people, but that didn't matter. They didn't have the soul-sucking evil lighting overhead, and that's all that did matter. We talked about this for a while, and realized that it would be possible to work from there if only we could find a way to get our phones working.

So, about those phones. At this new building, we had switched to Cisco VoIP phones which ran straight off their network cables thanks to the magic which is Power over Ethernet. This meant we couldn't just drag an ordinary switch into that conference room to feed four phones. I volunteered to do the research and found out exactly how much juice each phone needed, and then located a kind of switch which would supply it. Someone ordered one off eBay or similar, and this set things in motion.

One afternoon, it was decided: they were going to try it. They blocked out a bunch of time in the calendar for this one room and then four of them went in there, dragging laptops, phones, headsets, and that switch. I didn't get to participate myself because I was stuck doing some meaningless busy work elsewhere that week.

I did get a chance to look at the support ticket queues at some point. What I saw was absolutely amazing. They had managed to get the queue down to zero active tickets. This is not just zero unassigned which means you're keeping up with the incoming load. Oh no, they managed to actually clear out all of the other stuff and somehow had nothing in progress. This was a rare thing. We usually only saw this on weekend nights. They had done this on a weekday evening.

This confirmed what I already knew: techs who can control their environment tend to be happier techs, and happier techs tend to get more done, and with better quality. These four guys who couldn't keep up with the queues before had just laid waste to the tickets like an unholy army of crunchers. It was astonishing.

But, of course, corporate America being what it is, something had to give. Apparently, someone went looking for a conference room and found that some techs had blocked out this one room for basically an entire week. When they pulled up the scheduling entry, it said just one thing:

-- PROJECT DARKNESS --

Whoever it was absolutely flipped out and started calling in the heavy artillery. By the next morning, there was a strongly-worded e-mail from the VP of the whole area to everyone in the support organization. It was a decree, actually, telling us to knock it off and stop screwing around.

That's the kind of life we had: we were expected to go all out for the customers (and we did) but nobody inside the company would support us at all. What a joke.