Four coordinators, an IT service call, and an AB switch

There were approximately 40 employees in the information technology (IT) department when I was hired, but downsizing had dwindled the staff count to under 20. The department had recently been through a reorganization when I took a service call from the secretarial pool. The client wanted to use their local printer to print documents from either their personal computer or the online corporate accounting system. My solution was to install an A/B printer switch at their workstation. The switch would allow the client to direct output from either their workstation (switch set to A) or online (switch set to B). Unfortunately, what I thought was a simple solution turned into a classic example of organizational inefficiency.

I first discussed the A/B switch solution with the Coordinator of Data Communications, and he agreed to provide the A/B switch. As we were discussing implementation plans, the newly minted Coordinator of Data Administration & Micro Systems joined the conversation and informed us that neither the Coordinator of Data Communications or I had the authority to make the final call on the A/B switch because he was in charge of microcomputers. As he saw it, the A/B switch would be installed on a personal computer, and that made the decision his sole responsibility.

The discussion started to get heated and caught the attention of the Coordinator of Computer Operations who joined in on the discussion. After filling him in on the situation, he noted that the A/B switch would require computer cables, that all computer cables must be made by one of his computer operators, and that he would need to be consulted on the project. At this point, I was politely informed that any further discussion on the A/B switch was above my pay grade (I was a lowly systems analyst) and that they would deal with it at their administrative level.

Two weeks later, I was approached by the client asking for an update. In follow up, I discovered that the issue was still being discussed, but that the three coordinators could not agree on who had the final authority to move the issue forward. However, the Coordinator of Data Communications had requested a meeting with the Director of Information Technology, along with the other two coordinators, to make a final decision on the service call. My office was down the hall from where that meeting took place. At one point, the discussion became boisterous, prompting the Director to step out of the meeting to ask the Coordinator of Systems Development & Support (my supervisor) to join their discussion.

The outcome of the meeting was to have the Coordinator of System Development & Support assign one of her team the task of reviewing departmental protocol on the use of printer A/B switches. You guessed it; she assigned me the task.

I will not repeat what I said to my supervisor when she assigned me the task, but when I arrived home, I told my wife that I was ashamed that my taxes were helping to pay my salary. I left the company about six months later, and the A/B box was still not installed.

printer-ab-switch

Dr. StrangeJob

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