It's a couple decades ago, and this insurance company is still running on a very old mainframe and a collection of homegrown Cobol accounting systems, according to an IT pilot fish on the scene.

"But the VP of IT had ambitions of modernizing," fish says. "So a small team -- well, one programmer -- was writing a new commission system in Visual Basic.

"The VP had other ambitions, too. So he scheduled a weekly series of meetings at which all his department heads would meet to start developing a programming standards manual."

Fish -- who's in charge of maintaining the old Cobol commission systems -- thinks that's a great idea, so he shows up at the first meeting eager to help.

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