Photo Credit: pheezy @ flickr The rejection had taken three months to arrive, and now somebody, somewhere, owed Luis K an explanation.

Why had a required feature been rejected? He couldn't tell from the cryptic jumble of control codes and received/forwarded stamps that overflowed the "office use only" box. The internal trouble-ticket system just showed "handled externally".

He'd discovered the missing feature his first day with Hausdorff Solutions. He'd received a satisfying "good catch" after filing the feature request with his department head. Surely, she'd know why.

Passed On

"I have no clue," Shirley stated, sliding the paper back to him. "We don't handle these sorts of features."

"But we do navigation functions," Luis said.

"This," she replied, pointing a stiff finger at the form, "Is a mapping function. Mappings are a completely different department. I have no idea how they handle these things. You should submit a 27b-6 for clarification."

Luis blinked, stymied at the disconnect. He looked at Shirley's accusatory finger.

Sometimes all the left hand needs to know is where the right hand is, so it knows where to point the blame.

"I'd hate if anyone got in trouble for missing this," he said, frowning. "Who did this get passed to, so I can clarify it with them?"

"Vern in Accounting," she offered quickly, pointing out his "received" stamp.

Vern couldn’t have made a price quote without an estimate from Lena in UI Design, and she couldn't modify anything without input from Paul in User Acceptance. Anything Paul did first got submitted for approval by Mr. Fischer, the project lead.

Mr. Fischer, his face awash in the azure glow of his monitor, didn't even look at the offending slip of paper.

"We do not deal with new features,” gruffed the man in the always-pressed brown suit.

"It isn't new, sir!" Luis pleaded. "It's in the specs!"

"Would it need to be added to the existing navigation subsystem?" Mr. Fischer asked.

"Yes, but—"

"Ergo, it is a new feature. Not our company's responsibility. You'll need to file a 27b-6 with The Consortium."

Luis paled at the thought of tangling with that bureaucratic kudzu.

Passed Up

Hausdorff and three other companies formed one of the project's action groups. Their group, along with three other groups, were the German conglomerate. The conglomerate was sub-contracted to another conglomerate of European companies, who were themselves sub-contractors of an organization of customers. Those customers, along with their North American and Asian branches, formed The Consortium. And each member company in The Consortium could, in turn, sub-contract their work out to other companies— fractally on and on.

"No, I don't have a 27b-6," he said to the young woman on the other end of his fifth extra-office phone call. "I just want to know who the request was passed to, so I can find out who they passed it to— and so forth."

"I can find out for you, I suppose— if you really feel you need to do that."

Luis taken aback by the tone of her voice— resigned rather than disinterested. "Unless there's a better way?"

"Perhaps," she replied, her voice hush. Luis could picture her hunched over the phone, a hand over the receiver as not to be overheard. "But if you tell anyone, I'll deny that we spoke. You didn't phone through official channels so you can't prove anything!"

"I won't tell," he said, glancing nervously around his cubicle.

"The truth is, there are only two companies qualified to handle any request; the one that generated it, and the one that handles it in the end. Everyone else is just an intermediary. Well, maybe those two companies, since they work in the same field, know each other already, right?"

"Then maybe," Luis pondered aloud, following her line of thought, "the process could be streamlined a bit by establishing a direct link between them, don't you think?"

"I would never!" she retorted, aloud and deliberately. "Good day, sir!"

Luis hung up, and stared at the form. Nothing looked familiar, just an overlapping litter of foreign control codes and forwarding stamps.

And then, the form stared back into him.

Passed Back

Luis recognized one of Hausdorff's sub-contractor's control codes. Their peculiar format of encoding the date as a hex number was unmistakable. Had he filed the request directly with them, half of the pass-throughs could have been eliminated.

And then he recognized the mark of one of that company's sub-contractors...

Having seen the unseen, he mentally sliced section after section from the jumbled chain. That left just three nodes; Hausdorff to Lindenmayer, Inc. for feasibility, Lindenmayer to Banach Systems for cost analysis, and then...

Back to Hausdorff for approval?

Furious, Luis opened the internal ticket-tracking system, and entered Banach's tracking code. If this could have been solved with an intra-company request, or worse, a face-to-face...

An entry from one and a half months ago popped up.

"This is a new feature request. We only deal with existing features. Submitter must file a 27b-6. Status: Rejected by Luis K."

After a few moments, Luis swept the fragments of his mind off his desk, and dutifully filled in a 27b-6.

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