Rendered Fat Content


Photograph by Edward S. Curtis: Cañon de Chelly, Arizona (ca. 1904)
" … probably won't ever come out and declare that he never did have a clue …"

During both WWI and WWII, the US Army signal corps employed speakers of Native American languages as so-called Code Talkers, for radio chatter conducted in their native tongues was absolutely untranslatable code for German, Italian, and Japanese code breakers. Code Talker transmissions were never compromised. Now, it seems each profession maintains a native dialect, the purpose of which might mirror the original Code Talkers', to transmit sensitive information without fear of translation. Painters, plumbers, carpenters, and carpet layers each employ certain distinct patterns of speech to cloak their underlying meaning. Good often means mediocre. Awful might mean excellent, but don't let that judgement go to your head. Our flooring supplier uses standard project weasel language which I recognize from decades hanging with Project People.

Project People maintain many deeply encoded language patterns which fall under the general category of Schedule Chicken.
Schedule Chicken's purpose has always been to deflect blame, to distract someone so that they do not conclude that they're dealing with a malign idiot, a common suspicion among those interacting with Project People. Like Circus People or, more broadly, Show People, Project People are just different. They're less grounded, more adaptive, and much less predictable than your average cost accountant, for instance, or a typical Assistant VP of Customer Service. They're more mercenary than most, which tends to make them appear suspicious. Further, their form of work often leads them into situations where they are expected to provide explanations for the inexplicable, clear and simple answers which could not possibly exist, often to "Why?"-based questions intended to dredge up some past, which cannot be altered or fixed regardless of their response. Project People live in a world of essentially causeless effects which must interact with worlds which presume the presence of a Newtonian cause for every observed effect, one where anyone unable to provide crisp explanations seems at least untrustworthy and hopefully indictable.

Schedule Chicken refers to the common project practice where a practitioner, behind on delivering on their part, waits to report their difficulty until after another provider reports that they're behind. The tardy deliverer need never disclose that he's behind if he waits until the end of a status meeting to report. Indeed, the clever player might always appear to deliver on time while actually consistently delivering late, quite a feat and a definite skill, especially where delayed delivery might encourage the project manager to assign help to the tardy piece. It's axiomatic knowledge that adding resources to a chronically tardy component further delays delivery, knowledge project managers, surprisingly, don't always possess.

Schedule Chicken variants include what I'll label The Two Week Ploy. Our flooring provider's presently three rounds deep into this one. Six weeks ago, he reluctantly reported that our flooring was, unfortunately, back ordered. It wasn't even in the country yet, but on a container ship coming from who know where, expected to arrive in about two weeks. A month ago, I heard the same story. Two weeks ago, the same story again. Yesterday, I heard the same story again. The basic rule of thumb for decoding this form of CodeTalkin' says that if the target moves no closer for three successive reporting cycles, it means that the reporter doesn't actually know when they might deliver. These delays might be productively blamed on the supplier's supplier, customs, infrastructure shortcomings, or even government intervention in the markets, none of which have any influence over when our flooring might be delivered. I understand that our flooring supplier doesn't want to disappoint me so he reinjects me with hope every two weeks. He's sorry, but he's powerless.

Our Grand Refurbishment received no exemption from experiencing all the usual problems. Everyone's experiencing supply shortages and delivery delays. We're re-ordering the effort to make installing flooring not contingent upon anything and no other task except completing baseboard reinstallation contingent upon installing it. It's officially its own side project now. We'll attempt to complete everything else so that once that flooring arrives, we can install it then the baseboards, and only have touch up painting left to accomplish. That will occur at some indeterminate point in the future, probably, though our flooring supplier probably won't ever come out and declare that he never did have a clue when our flooring might get here. He's CodeTalkin' instead.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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