PROCRUSTES was a son of Poseidon and had a stronghold between Athens and Eleusis. He is famed for an unusual form of ‘hospitality’. He possessed an iron bed (the Bed of Procrustes) and would invite passers-by to spend the night. Those that proved ‘too tall’ would have any ‘surplus’ amputated, whilst those that were ‘too short’ would be ‘stretched’ to fit his bed. There was never an exact fit, as Procrustes secretly possessed two beds.
Justice was eventually served when he was captured by Theseus and fitted to his own bed, with suitably gruesome consequences.
The Bed of Procrustes, Photo Credit Wikipedia
The Bed of Procrustes: The Anti Pattern Codified
Anti Pattern Name: The Bed of Procrustes
Type: Procurement / Product / Vendor Selection
Problem: The Bed of Procrustes is the quintessential ‘one size fits all’ Anti Pattern. It would be unfair to suggest that solution vendors of any hue possessed two metaphorical Procrustean Beds. There are however many case studies where amputated requirements or stretched systems and enterprises were lashed to inflexible iron frames.
Context: A wish to accelerate delivery can tempt the unwary to mistake a Procrustean Bed for the ‘last word in luxury’.
Forces: Solution cost, delivery timescales, pressure selling, lack of due diligence, short-termism.
Resulting Context: A poor and unaffordable fit that might cause permanent disfigurement, especially if you are ‘too tall’.
Solution(s): Understand solution scalability and lock-in ‘gotchas’. Procrustes did not warn his ‘guests’ of their fate and despite changes in consumer law, caveat emptor retains primacy over caveat venditor.
Further Reading on Classical and Greek Mythology
- The Greek Myths: Stories of the Greek Gods and Heroes Vividly Retold
- The Greek Myths: The Complete and Definitive Edition
- The Penguin Dictionary of Classical Mythology (Penguin Dictionary)
- A Brief Guide to The Greek Myths: Gods, Monsters, Heroes and the Origins of Storytelling (Brief Histories)
- Cassell’s Dictionary Of Classical Mythology