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This story is 100% true.
I got hired onto a team of construction workers to build a house. We set up a meeting with Management to find out what kind of house they wanted us to build, where’s the floor plan, what it’s going to be used for, who it’s for, etc. Management said that they didn’t know all that, we should just get started. They told us that we were going to use “Agile” which means that we just work on small deliverables and build the thing incrementally.
The developer team lead argued that we at least need to know how big the thing is going to be so that we can get started pouring the foundation, but Management told him they just don’t know. “What we do know,” Management said, “is that the house is going to have a bathroom. Just start there, and we’ll know more when it’s done. You have two weeks.”
So we just bought a port-a-potty, and screwed around on the internet for two weeks. Management was outraged. “You call this a house? This is the worst house ever! It doesn’t even have a tv!”
So we bought a tv and put it in the port-a-potty, attached to an outdoor generator. We were going to buy a a dvd player and get it hooked up to cable, but Management rejected the expense request, saying that they didn’t know if we needed it, and we’d come back to that later.
Management decided that we definitely need storage space, so we bought a boxcar and duct-taped the port-a-potty to it. Then to our horror they set up some desks and put a few miserable business interns in there. It went on like this…
After a few years the boxcar grew into a huge, ramshackle complex. It floods, leaks, it’s frozen in the winter and an oven in the summer. You have to get around in a strange maze of cardboard tubes, ladders and slides. There are two equally horrible separate buildings. We’re still using just the one outdoor generator for all power, so electricity is tightly rationed.
Communication between the buildings was a problem. For one of them, we use a complex series of flag signals. For the other we write notes on paper, crumple the paper up, and toss it over. Both of these methods were suggested as jokes, but Management really liked them for some reason. The buildings mostly talk to each other but they have to talk through us, so most of what we do is pass messages on.
It was suggested that we use paper airplanes instead of crumpled up balls, but the fat, awkward fingers of the Business Majors who inevitably take those jobs couldn’t be trained to make them. I built an awesome automatic paper airplane folder, but once again they couldn’t be trained to use it, so they just went back to crumpling the notes up in balls.
The worst part of all this is that it’s working. Everyone is miserable, but the business is making money. The bright side is that this nightmare complex is done so now we know what kind of building they actually needed in the first place, so we can start work on it. Obviously we can’t tell Management anything about what we’re doing until it’s finished. They noticed the gigantic hole in the ground where the foundation is coming in, but we told them that it’s a cache reset, and they mostly ignore it except when the occasional customer falls in.
I’ll probably be out of here before the new building gets finished. I could get a 50% raise by switching jobs, but Management still doesn’t think I should get a raise because I missed a couple sprints.