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They Won’t Know It When They Won’t See It

, , , , , | Right | December 16, 2022

I was once involved in a government review of an engineering requirements document for a Department of Defense contract. Part of the document covered the requirements for post-test analysis. This basically amounted to listing the data that would be gathered during the test and how it would be presented in a report to be used to evaluate how well the system worked. The following conversation ensued.

Government Rep: “This isn’t what I want to see for test evaluation.”

Company Rep: “Well, what do you want to see?”

Government Rep: “You’re supposed to tell us what we’ll be able to see.”

Company Rep: “Well, we have, and you’ve said it isn’t what you want to see, so we need to know what you want to see.”

Government Rep: “You’re supposed to tell us what we’ll be able to see.”

This repeated several times, with no end to the loop in sight.

Me: “If you know this isn’t what you want to see, then you must have an idea about what you do want to see.”

Government Rep: “I don’t know what I want to see, but I know it isn’t this.”

Me: “We’ve presented what we think you’ll need to see to evaluate the system. If you can’t tell us what about this is inadequate, it will be impossible for us to fix it.”

At this point, he returned to repeating his assertion that what we’d presented wasn’t what he wanted but that it was our job to tell him what he’d be able to see, and we were expected to provide him with the information he would find adequate for that purpose, without him telling us what he thought that would be.

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