Sunday, October 23, 2011

Is everything a hammer?

Well, our friends at Dark Matter have raised another issue that we found provoking, to wit: have we gone too far in some cases with the visual display thing? In other words, having invented the hammer, do we use it for everything?  All the world is not a nail, afterall, so perhaps some pause is warranted.

Now, to be fair, the Dark Matter crowd is all about safety, complexity, and and technology risk, especially as it affects human reactions in human-system situations. So naturally, Dark Matter is all over this stuff.

On the other had, as project managers (rather than system engineers) we have some obligation to test and challenge the various solutions, even we don't have the competence to rule things in or out. It's sort of the project equivalent of "reign but does not rule".

Setting up independent design review boards--sort of the red team equivalent for proposals--with 'grey beards' to give independent opinion is one way to do it.  (Does everyone recognize the term 'grey beard' or am I dating myself?)

In the post that got our attention, the issue was the elimination of certain tactile responses replaced by visual indicators. The case in point is the stall indication on the Airbus that crashed near Brazil a couple of years ago. The traditional "stick shaker" had been eliminated, as well as some other traditional tactile oriented systems.

There are all kinds of stories like this. In Gene Kranz's book "Failure is not an option" he describes similar debates between the rulers and the reigners. There was a lot at stake.

This stuff is not to be taken lightly, and certainly not to be delegated to self-appointed teams without a disciplined tie to established saftey regimes.

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