Ding! Fries are Done

An article claims that Backward Switches Doomed Probe. This does not mean that Lockheed Martin’s engineers are incompetent. Aerospace engineers are highly respected for the engineering problems they have solved and continually face. The article, instead, discusses the possibility that time and cost constraints on the production of the probe resulted in the probe’s failure. This brings to mind a chef analogy that I consistently use to control production schedules and damper client demands for immediate results.

Fred Brooks states in The Mythical Man-Month:

Observe that for the programmer, as for the chef, the urgency of the patron may govern the scheduled completion of the task, but it cannot govern the actual completion. An omelette, promised in two minutes, may appear to be progressing nicely. But when it is not set in two minutes, the customer has two choices–wait or eat it raw. Software customers have had the same choices.

The cook has another choice; he can turn up the heat. The result is often an omelette nothing can save–burned in one part, raw in another.

Although euphoria or a sense of power may be experienced by tightening a production schedule, doing so for artificial reasons unnecessarily minimizes a key resource that is available to an engineer for producing a quality system. Engineers pride themselves on the quality of their work. They gain pride in developing efficient systems in an efficient manner. Time is a fundamental resource used throughout the development effort. Most time is spent on coordination and planning to minimize the amount of time that is used on implementation and error correction. If an engineer takes time in implementing a system, it is simply because the engineer is building a system that works well. Fred Brooks notes, “More software projects have gone awry for lack of calendar time than for all other causes combined.”

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