This is number 5 in my series of ridiculous happenings in my software development career.
The project for the railroad company was now going full steam ahead but it was becoming quite clear that initial estimates were not close to reality. Interesting technology choices were made like writing the back end processes in COBOL even though the system was to be deployed on HP Unix boxes. Rational arguments as to why this was not a very good idea were frowned upon.
As moral continued to dip, management needed some way to motivate the troops for a final push to rescue the project from cancellation. A deadline of July 1 was selected as the date for code completion. To this day, I have no idea how this particular date was chosen. July 1 certainly had no basis in reality. Everyone on the project, even the management I am certain, had no faith in our ability to deliver in this time frame. Nonetheless, we were officially on a death march and I had little say in the matter.
Everyone was gathered in a large conference room for the big announcement of the new deadline and notification of vacation cancellations and mandatory 60 hour weeks. You know, the sort of motivational speech we all look forward to hearing.
As we entered the room, each person was given a small box. We were instructed not to open the box until the crucial moment in the presentation when we would be told to do so.
When the moment arrived, we all opened the boxes to find a new coffee mug. I was so moved by this mug that I have kept it to this day.
Management never figured out why the mugs seemed to have a negative impact to moral.