Way back in the day, when we were working at the WCA, texasjeff and I were the web guys. If there was something even remotely HTML related, we got to handle it. This included learning ASP and SQL and revamping the entire 5-year-old ecommerce site on impossibly freakishly short deadlines.
The organization, while it did a lot of good stuff, was known for its fire fighting mentality. If something was An Emergency, other things got pushed aside. It didn’t matter if the emergency was a random idea for “something cool” tossed out at a meeting, and the thing to be pushed aside was infrastructure changes that would dramatically improve profitability… The emergency ruled. Good people, but organizationally it had the psyche of a ferret. Very shiny-object oriented.
In any case, we tried different ways of forcing people to prioritize their requests, with limited success. At one point, the web development team was being called away to help people attach MS Word documents to outgoing email on a near-daily basis. A new-hire asked me how I decided if something was important. I looked outside my cubicle, scanned the hallway, and asked him, “Do you see a coworker running by with their hair in flames? No? Then it’s not an emergency.”
Finally, texasjeff and I came up with what we felt was an excellent solution.
Outside the door of the IT department, we would keep two barrels. One would be full of revolvers, the other would be full of baby seals. Before being allowed to ask the IT department for assistance, an individual would have to prove the importance of their request by shooting a baby seal. “If you’re willing to say that the life of a defenseless, cuddly seal is less important than your ability to open an Excel file that was sent to you from an AOL user, well… I suppose we’d better help you.”
We decided to abandon the idea after realizing we’d run out of seals way, way too fast.
Those were the days, man. Those were the days.