Just another day at Scrooge, Marley and Co.

It's the early 1980s, and this outsourcer's mainframes have to run 24/7. Computer operator pilot fish finds out just what that means when he's scheduled to work on Christmas Day.

He's depressed when he walks into the sterility of the computer room for his evening shift. A good old-fashioned Christmas looks like it's not in the cards this year.

Then a co-worker spots him and calls out, "Hi -- do you want a drink?"

What do you mean? asks fish?

"He didn't reply, but he took a floor puller and removed one tile from the raised floor behind the console," fish says.

"Under the floor, nestled in the cables, were bottles of liquor and mixers. This had the dual effect of keeping the bottles cold and keeping them from the prying eyes of management.

"It was a merry Christmas that year in the computer room. ..."

Continuing education

This pilot fish gets the opportunity to take a course in project planning, and it turns out to be well worth the time -- mostly. "It's a good class except for one thing," says fish. "I'm there with a co-worker and my boss and his boss. And my boss's boss can't follow directions."

So when he's told to work up a brief project statement for a hypothetical project that includes project cost and duration, boss's boss comes up with a document twice as long as requested and includes no information about cost or duration.

And when he's asked to plan a real project for the company, boss's boss again ignores directions.

"He comes up with a humongous project to put all the company's disparate internal and external applications under the control of a new application server and Web portal -- which would have the side effect of putting most of the company's applications under his own control," says fish.

"The team can't begin to measure the time or cost required for this. The instructor has to intervene to switch the team to a project of reasonable scope, cost and duration. Fish and bosses end up staying late to get even a sketchy version of this project together.

"To cap things off, fish and bosses are called out of class halfway through the last day of class by boss's boss's boss, the director of IT. The reason? Someone in another department has a project due in two days. They neglected to inform IT till now. Fish and bosses are now working overtime to evaluate two major HR packages that none of them knows anything about.