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RE: XML As Fall Guy

Sed: "...the reliance on outside vendors instead of developing qualified in-house teams and talent"


For all the various experiences cited in this thread, that is the most critical lesson to learn. As I've said, the Saturn V was the biggest most distributed most expensive technology project of the time. 400,000 people worked on it for eight years. It flew first time and every time. Despite it's internal design flaws that had to be fixed to minimize risks, it NEVER FAILED.

And that was a surprise. To everyone.

At the core was a team of civil servants who specified it, designed it AND managed its fabrication and fielding. This team had been together developing these systems for three decades: German Rocket Scientists. The Von Braun Team.

Put your post-period revisionist revulsion of who they were and what they had done in their careers away, forget the fanciful Right Stuff movie, and accept that at the core of this very successful government engineering project was a cohesive, well-practiced, well-educated and very focused team of engineers.

They never said Failure Is Not An Option. Failure is always an option. They said "We Are Not In The Business of Making Shoes" and pasted signs in every office saying "Zero Defects. Waste Anything But Time." No member of the team was so insignificant by background or position that if they stood up in the meeting and said "We have a problem" the problem wasn't worked. The Arthur Rudolph meetings were legendary for how long they would work a problem (at one point a note was found on the lawn in front of 4200 that read "HELP ME! I AM TRAPPED IN AN ARTHUR RUDOLPH MEETING!"). If an on-orbit team was in trouble, they rolled semi trailers up to the building with cots and no one went home until the situation was remedied.

Forget the astronaut heroes. In the beginning they really were spam in a can. Did they contribute to the safety of the system? Initially, no. They were test pilots and being the macho cats they tend to be, they accepted the risks. Until a crew burned on the pad. Until their friends died because the Apollo capsule design teams in California got sloppy. The two major failures of the program occurred because of the contractor teams and both in the capsule systems.

But the Saturn V? Would it have failed? Yes. Statistically speaking, had we kept flying Saturn Vs, over time someone would have made a goof, something would have slipped by, a part would have made it past the quality control people just as the oxygen tank on the Apollo 13 manned flight system did. Yes. And spectacularly. But historically, it never did. This is why having the astronauts as part of the design team did matter: when you have to look into the faces of people you might kill if you don't pay attention, you get serious.

The German Rocket Scientists were not in the business of making shoes. Web designers are. And that is why they failed. Because in their minds, it didn't matter. Their team didn't matter. Their tools mattered. Their jobs mattered. Their careers mattered. The feet that have to wear their shoes didn't.

Forget heroics, losers and winners, elites and privilege. If you want to succeed, Mr. President, Mr. CEO, Mr. Investor, look at the Team. THAT is IT. Not Agile. Not MarkLogic. Not Java. Not XML. It is the Team that makes the difference between a success that is barely noticed because it worked, and having to apologize on TV every day for months.

If you insist on being shoemakers, walk a mile in their shoes.


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