Friday, May 22, 2015

The life of a hired intellectual gun

Xerox was developing a new operating system for its ill-fated line of computers. Their testing group was falling behind. Learning I had a statistical background as well as one in programming, I was asked to do two things. First, tell us why no matter how many testers we hire, we never seem to get ahead. Second, tell us when the testing will be complete.

The second question was the easiest. Each week, the testing group was discovering more and more errors at an accelerating rate. “Never, the testing will never be complete” was the answer.

The first question was also easy. They already knew the answer. They just wanted me, their consultant, that is, their patsy to be the one responsible for pointing it out. Seems the testing group had been given exactly four computers. Whenever a bug was discovered, the offending computer would sit idle until a member of the programming group could swing by and do a dump. So mostly, the testers played cards, gossiped or used the phones. When we got further and further behind, we were asked to come in Saturdays. The programming group never worked on Saturdays, so that really wasn’t much of a plan.
A sage observation about the consulting biz:
With a large well-established firm, there is one and only one reason you are being hired. The project is a disaster and every knowledgeable employee has already bailed.

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