completing this project.
"Can we use your vehicle in the turnover ceremony?" the contractor's management team asked.
"Of course you can," our management exclaimed. "It would be a wonderful marketing opportunity for our products!"
Obviously, this was a change to the project scope. It should have been treated like any other customer request, which requires a clear headed analysis of the costs, benefits, and risks. However, it seemed like a very small change. These small "freebie" changes are often the ones that backfire, sometimes catastrophically.
As a marketing exercise, the benefit was small for the vendor: those scheduled to attend weren't the ones purchasing these systems. On the other hand, it was a very public forum in which something could go wrong. At the very least, a closer scrutiny of the project was called for. But this was such a small change.
All other work on our project stopped two weeks prior to the ceremony. A simple, bulletproof program was created for the AGV. The vehicle would be in the autoclave, the door would roll open, and the AGV would glide over to the reviewing stand carrying Captain Composite. It would continue past the stand, stop, and then back up until it was right in front of where the CEO for the aircraft company would be sitting. At this point, the presentation would be made. It would be epic.
As the date for the presentation approached, the management team became increasingly nervous. Team members would come down and make us run through the AGV program, once, twice, fifty times -- over and over again, they ran the program. It was flawless.
The decision makers on the customer's side were getting nervous as well. They realized that a failure would grant them the kind of notice you don't want from your company's CEO. They started thinking about what they could do to mitigate the risk.
Then the debate began over who would actually ride the AGV. Everyone on the customer's management team seemed to agree that it was a great idea for someone else to be the noble Captain. Their reluctance continued to grow when they realized that a costume would be involved. Mysterious back ailments and vertigo problems began to materialize in the likely candidates.
The tension in the project managers grew greater. They decided that all of the technical people should be sent home. Geeks mingling with august personages just wouldn't do. "No! No!" they cried, "What if something goes wrong? We'll be quiet as church mice, hide under tables in the control room. They won't even know we are there!" No, it was decided. It just wouldn't do.
Somebody decided that it was too risky to have technical types around. This risk was never clearly explained, and no formal risk statement was made. It is always dangerous when you act on your feelings rather than on a lucid analysis.
So it came to pass that on the appointed days all of the technical people who had anything to do with creating the program got on planes and started the long flight home from the factory.
The customer also hired an independent consultant to be in charge of technical direction for the control package for the AGV system. Several hours before the ceremony, the overall project manager decided that he wanted to see the AGV go through its paces just one more time.
The AGV rolled out of the autoclave, glided past the reviewing stand, stopped, and backed up until it was right in front of where the CEO was to sit.
"Can you make it so