Back when I was in my voluntary servitude to the Great Mother (which some might otherwise call my career with Ma Bell), we went through a number of business management fads. Each of these fads usually has one or more buzzwords. The one that infuriated me the most, the one that took me over the edge into outright rebellion against these fads was proactive.
Ma Bell [May She Ring Forever] decided that we had, up till then, been reactive because we primarily responded to complaints rather than anticipated problems and take steps to prevent them. This only proved that the folks in charge had no clue as to what the company had been doing. Or, if they knew, were trying a new public relations ploy. It was most likely the latter though I think the former was true enough.
In any event, the idea was that we were to act on problems we came across with more diligence than we had in the past. Somehow. You see, we actually did monitor the network and did try to anticipate developing problems and had been for as long as I had worked for Ma Bell [MSRF]. We performed routine maintenance, we tested circuits manually and automatically on a routine basis. We did not simply wait for things to break. There were thousands of engineers whose jobs were to predict future usage levels and initiate growth to handle it. And there were sections of Bell Labs whose almost sole function was to find ways to handle more calls with more efficiency and reliability.
That already existent proactiveness apparently was not known about. You see, when the "suits" came around, they rarely saw anyone actually working unless something had gone horribly wrong. So, naturally, they assumed we did nothing most of the time. That was probably true in my case but let's not go there.
The night I slipped over the edge was on a weekend. Weekends on night shift were pretty laid back. I mostly sat around, did a few routine maintenance tasks, checked readings, and little else. In other words, I could surf the internet for hours. On occasion, I would get a call from a surveillance center asking me to look into a problem on some carrier system. This was mostly to locate the problem, repair it if it was "in house", or schedule repair for the next week if it was in the field and the possible impact on service was negligible.
But then I get a call to check a certain single digital carrier system that "belonged" to a single customer. A business. A bank.
"There is an alarm", the center told me. "Could you look into it, please?"
They were often polite like that. It usually cut down on the whining and crankiness from those of us in the offices caused by having our sleep disturbed or interrupting our 47th consecutive solitaire game. Not always, of course, but most of the time.
I, of course, was always cheerful and willing. So I did look into it. And found, as I had suspected, that the problem was "out". "Out" means that it was not in my office and, in this case, most likely at the customer end. This was confirmed when the center remotely ordered a loopback at the customer's site and the trouble cleared. I could explain that further but then we'd get mired down in detail unimportant to the story. We, the center and myself, now knew the problem was within the customer's control.
The customer, being a bank, was closed since this was around 2 in the morning. And, since it was Saturday morning, would not be open for quite some time. The guy at the center (I'll call him "Phil" because that probably wasn't his name) asked me to go to the customer's site and find out what was wrong.
And that's when I began to change from my usual, friendly and helpful, demeanor into my "go away before I do something you won't like" personality. I explained that (a) I was alone and could not leave the office uncovered and (b) had no way to get into the customer's site (it being a bank and all) and (c) wasn't about to even consider it.
Phil argued with me. Cajoled me. Urged me. All of which I easily resisted.
And why was he so adamant? Why, he was being proactive, of course. He wanted to "fix the problem before the customer was even aware he had one." I asked him when this alarm had come in. He told me it was there when he came on his shift at midnight. I asked him how long it had been in before that. After much hemming and hawing, he researched it and found it had started just after the bank closed.
And I hung up the phone. An action I took for each of his next few calls. He threatened to report me to his supervisor. I welcomed that. You see, the bank shut down their phone system at closing time on Fridays. They had their reasons.
It was that night that I decided that being proactive was like sticking your hand in a fire ant nest to see if it was inhabited. And I really don't like fire ants.
A Night Unremembered
2 years ago