TrekAcademy


Lesson 054: Bridging the gap between client and designer
TV Series: Star Trek - The Next Generation
Season/Episode: 3/6 ('Booby Trap')

[Scene]

LaForge, the Chief Engineer of the Enterprise expresses in a discussion with a hologram image of one of the original designers of the warp engine of the Enterprise that he wishes Chief Engineers could be present when a ship was being designed. The designer in turn expresses the problem with designers is that they never get out into space.

[Lesson]

This is a perfect example of many real life work situations. The gap between the expectations of the client/user and the understanding of the designer/builder is often quite a large expanse.

For any organization producing a product or service, there is a mandatory requirement to bridge the knowledge and experience gap between the designers/builders and the users/customers. Too often when the customer wants a 'widget', the vendor delivers a 'gadget'.

Somewhere along the lines of communications between the client and the salesman and all the intervening management and departments that are involved, before reaching the actual developer, metaphorically hidden somewhere in the basement cubicle left alone in the dark, what was asked for and what was delivered may end up as not being the same thing.

This is why methods of Project Management like AGILE, SCRUM, etc. espouse involving the customer directly with the developer/designer to eliminate misunderstanding and reduce the loss of clarity in the goals of projects.

Consider the salesman who overheard a conversation on the train on his way to work one day that a company was having difficulty getting a client contract because they could not produce a thousand ties a week.

Knowing that his company could produce such a number of ties in a week, the salesman got the name of the client and hurriedly went into production. After producing the thousand ties, he approached the unknown client, with ties in hand, ready to sign the deal. To his dismay, the salesman found the client was not interested in his neck ties, but rather railroad ties.

For any business, it is imperative that clients and builders both speak the same language and clearly understand each other.

This issue is not confined to just between clients and builders. This is also a problem at times amongst builders themselves.

In 1999, the Mars Climate Orbiter was destroyed in its entry into the Martian atmosphere because the human engineers in charge of the mission in California and Colorado used different units of measurements in their calculations, respectively. One used the metric system (meters, kilograms, etc.) while the other used the British system (feet, pounds, etc.). This caused the Orbiter to be much, much closer to the Martian ground than expected at time of entry and caused its destruction.

Ensuring clarity in expectations must be a prerequisite to trying to meet them.

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