Cool Solutions

Fix this Problem Once and for All (But Don’t Make any Changes)


August 25, 2010 2:26 pm





RS wrote: The day the PHB let me do my job:

This happened a long time ago, and the PHB involved subsequently passed away, so no living people will be harmed by this story. 🙂

When the primary file server at my Fortune 50 company ran out of file space and crashed, hamstringing some 6,000 employees, the Novell engineering team was called to the Director of IT’s office… the PHB. This was the first time “The Problem” occurred.

“I want a solution to this! Make sure it NEVER happens again. And, I want to be notified when the server’s going to crash next time!” (I know, I know… this is an ACTUAL plotline from an ACTUAL Dilbert cartoon, but it ACTUALLY happened to me! (Dilbert’s PHB: “I want advance notice of unscheduled outages!”) It should be noted that this was the same manager who regularly threatened to “cut people’s hands off” if they did anything wrong, and the very same manager who reviewed the “Confidential Employee Survey” with his entire department, reading each complaint out loud and saying, “Who wrote this one? No one? No one? I guess if you’re not man enough to admit it in front of me, it’s not a problem! Next!!”

So, we diligently banged our heads together to generate a solution. I wrote an extensive document that I could 100% confidently say, if implemented, would solve the problems once and for all. The recommendation included removing file storage from the SYS volume of the server(duh?), applying user quotas, dividing data departmentally (so that any one “data hog” would not impact the entire company), archiving unused data, clearing the servers of non-work-related data (Really? 600 wedding pictures at 4MB each?), and providing automated notice when disk space was reduced to near-critical limits. In light of today’s technologies, these relatively manual solutions are weak, but at the time they would have eliminated the problem completely.

I wrote up the proposal and presented it to the PHB. He said it was too politically sensitive to put limits on users or move their data, so I should just do everything I could to clean up without making any changes.

Cut to 4 months later… “The Problem” recurs. With a sense of Deja Vu, the same meeting is held, and I present the document I had written 4 months earlier. “If you implement the changes recommended here, “The Problem” will never happen again.” Nope… too politically sensitive.

After the fourth critical shutdown of the server (and nearly 16 months of inaction by the PHB), the Angry Vice President (AVP) made a surprise visit to the PHB Director’s office. Five minutes after the AVP left, I was called in.

“Do you still have those recommendations for preventing this from happening again?” asked the PHB.

“Yes,” I said, dreading what was to come.

With head in hands, and appearing to be close to a heart attack, he said without looking at me, “Good… implement them as fast as you can.”

Any joy I felt over being vindicated or appreciated was wiped out by the nausea of seeing “The Problem” survive for 16 months, sheltered and protected by my Director.

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