Friday, April 1, 2011


So we need to give a list of payments to the accounts girl. The guy has a sheet that he fills in and at the end of the day hands to the accounts girl.

Now there is a better way of doing this. Set up an XL spread sheet, fill it in and at the end of the day, email it to the accounts girl. It's easy to do corrections. They are all nicely filed away on the computer  etc.

Sounds simple. However, now you need two computers, two email clients, network infrastructure, a POP 3 server, an SMTP server, on and on. How many points of failure are introduced?

Now what if the accounts girl is not close? Well maybe the computer approach is the right one. But what if the guy just faxes the sheet over?

After a few years, you ask the guy, "What is the computer used for?" "To email the excel sheets."
If something goes wrong, often the problem is "how do we email the xl sheets" not "how do we deliver the figures"
Therein lays the problem we IT engineers see all the time.
People calling in experts to solve the wrong problem.

The Flying Bolt.

So the airframe mechanic rings through to fastening parts to get a set of window bolts.
"We don't have any AR17767 bolts" says the fastener specialist.
"What about AQ77567s" Says the mechanic.
"We got 'em, but you can't use 'em"
"Why not?"
"They're the wrong bolt, different part number."
"Don't give me shit about part numbers. They are the same length, same pitch, same socket"
"Mate, you can't use them. They are the wrong bolt. I know fasteners and you shouldn't use these on that aircraft."
"How many effing planes have you worked on eh?. I have been an airframe mechanic for 27 years. Don't tell me about bolting a window into a plane, just give the the effing bolts."

So the bolts fail at 35,000 feet and the pilot is half out of the window.
What went wrong?
The airframe mechanic only thought about putting the window in the hole. The bolt guy only thought about the bolt. The properties of a tensile fastening bolt are agnostic about what is being held together. It comes down to tensile strength, temperature characteristics, hardness etc.
It does not matter what the bolt is being used to hold together, that is totally irrelevant.
The window can only go into that aircraft. Not into a caravan or glass house. The bolt on the other hand can be used for any application that does net exceed the specs for the bolt.

The airframe mechanic came to the fastener specialist with a solution, not a problem.
The problem was finding a bolt to secure the window. Not securing the window per se.

He should have said "I have a problem and need to do xyz", can you give me a solution. Not, "I have a problem and need to do xyz and I want you to do abc"

He got what he asked for, but not what he wanted.

Don't go to specialists with a solution, give them the problem.