Engineering Process

This play concerns 1 engineer and 5 non-engineers (Marketing, Management etc.) It is an extended analogy, and speculates on the interaction if the goal were nothing as hard to understand as software development, but something much simpler. It is intended to put the problems in the software industry into a more realistic perspective than the usual attempts to solve them do.

Engineer: So I understand that the task is to transport 12 people from their current location to the house of John Smith.
Non-engineer1: That's right. What do you need to do this?
Engineer: Well, that depends on where John Smith's house is and on where the 12 people are.
Non-engineer1: The 12 people are at headquarters in Cambridge Massachusetts.
Non-engineer2: The location of John Smith's house is a technical question. Potential changes in the market imply we should not narrow ourselves to an answer to that just now. Propose a solution that will work for all possible locations,
Engineer: But that makes it an almost impossible problem.
Non-engineer1: Now to return to the question of what you need...
Engineer: What I need depends on the location of John Smith's house.
Non-engineer3: Oh, John Smith's house is in Springfield, I'm sure of it.
Engineer: Is that Springfield Massachusetts? or Springfield Illinois?
Non-engineer3: What difference does it make? Springfield is Springfield!
Non-engineer4: Well actually, he said he lived in Boston.
Non-engineer3: Boston? No I am SURE he said Springfield.
Non-engineer1: Is it possible that he meant the Boston-area?
Non-engineer2: And we want the transportation to be handicapped accessible.
Non-engineer4: Well, not in the first release.
Non-engineer3: Right, leave that as a future improvement.
Engineer: I'm going to make the simplifying assumption that the John Smith whose house is the destination lives in the city of Springfield that is closest to Boston, thus arguably in the Boston-area, thus that John Smith lives in Springfield Massachusetts, and that the transportation need not be handicapped accessible. Okay?
Non-engineer4: Are you sure it was not James Jones whose house was the destination?
Non-engineer1: No, we all agree it's John Smith.
Engineer: So, SUBJECT to my simplifying assumption, I will need a transportation vehicle that seats at least 12 people.
Non-engineer2: 12 people? That's non-standard! That'll takes us a while.
Non-engineer1: It fits in the "buying externally visible things" budget. We can manage it.
Engineer: I'll also need a map of Massachusetts.
Non-engineer1: That is an "paper things" expense, and we have frozen all "paper things" expenses. I'm afraid you'll have to do without that.
Engineer: I guess I can make do.
Non-engineer: We'll let you know in a week.

(3 weeks later)
NE1: Here is your transportation vehicle. We have EXCEEDED your standards!
Eng; Exceeded? Oh really?
N1: Yes. Here is a transportation vehicle that seats MORE than 12 people! It seats 40 people! A 1968 bluebird schoolbus.
Eng: Oh, a nonstandard bus, huh, I can work with that.
NE1: How long until you can propose a solution?
Eng: Give me a day to look over the bus.

(1 day later)
Eng: We have a problem. This bus has no engine.
NE1: No engine? Well, you didn't specify that the vehicle have an engine.
Eng: If it does not have an engine then it will not serve as a transportation vehicle.
NE1: Well do the best you can.
Eng: Well I cannot very well transport people in a vehicle without an engine.
NE4: Could you push it?
Eng: Can we BUY a second-hand engine?
NE2: No, our "buying slightly expensive second-hand things" budget is used up.
Eng: Can we buy it using the same money as we bought the bus with?
NE1: No, an engine is not externally visible, but our "buying little things" budget still has money. Can we buy all the pieces of an engine and assemble it?
Eng: Who's "we"? I cannot assemble an engine myself. If you have money for little things, let's buy a map. Can't you get me a roadworthy transportation vehicle somehow? It would be the easiest solution.
NE1: No map. Too expensive.
NE2: Well, if we can find a vehicle the meets the company's standards... If you are actually going to drive in it on public roads, it has to be safe enough.
NE3: Well, maybe our "Replace old things with better things" budget has money.
NE2: That is possible.
NE1: Well, look into it.
NE2: I shall.

(6 weeks later)
NE2: We HAVE a roadworthy vehicle for you. A 1974 VW Bug.
Eng: But that does not seat 12 people.
NE2: So make two trips.
Eng: Three trips.
NE2: Look, the details are YOUR problem.
NE1: Did you solve the "map issue"?
Eng: Yes, I borrowed a map from my old college room-mate.
NE2: So it did not impact your delivery schedule.
Eng: Delivery schedule? no. Possibly quality. You see, the map is in French and out of date, and is written for bicyclers, so my information is less reliable and it took me more time to read it.
NE1: When can we expect delivery.
Eng: How about tomorrow.

(next day)
Eng: Okay, where are the 12 people?
NE2: Well, we needed the possibility of transporting 12 people, but there actually aren't 12 people here. Only 4 of us need to go.
Eng: So that was not a real requirement.
NE2: Of course it was a requirement. See it in this document? (pulls a document from an 18-inch (45 cm) high stack of papers).
NE4: Shall we leave now?
Eng: Yes, let's leave.
NE1: How are we going to fit my wheelchair in a VW Bug?
Eng: You said we didn't NEED handicapped accessible for this release.
NE1: Handicapped accessible, no, but I WANT to roll into the car in my wheelchair.
Eng: Into a VW Bug? How do you expect me to arrange that? No, handicapped accessible is in a later release. And rolling your wheelchair into the vehicle is part of that.

(They fold and ties the wheelchair to the roof, get in the car and by an especially circuitous route because the car does not fit down some bicycling paths, arrive at the destination)

Eng: Here we are, John Smith's house.
NE4: Is this James Jones's house in Illinois?
Eng: No, this is John Smith's house in Springfield, Massachusetts.
NE4: But I thought...
Eng: Did you read the documents?
NE4: No, of course not.

(a day later)
NE1: We have to do something about our methodology.
NE2: Yes, the delivery too much too long, and did not meet requirements.
NE4: Engineers are not productive enough.
NE3: The next time we want to do a transportation project we should make the engineer report his progress twice a day instead of daily.
NE1: Yes, that should improve matters.

Source: rec.humor.funny