Saturday, 24 November 2012

Just how wrong can you get?

The specification statement was clear, "Dogs must be kept on a lead". The project analysts got together to break the request down. The statement did not say how many dogs must be kept on a lead. But after much consideration, the scope was defined as 'Any dogs within the area upon which the sign was situated.'

Everyone agreed that the 'Must' category was the best part of the statement..... (obviously a MoSCoW requirement.) The word 'kept' caused much anguish amongst the project analysts. What did they mean by kept? The dictionary was not much help....

kept - (especially of promises or contracts) not violated or disregarded; "unbroken promises"; "promises kept"
1. the past tense and past participle of keep
kept woman Censorious a woman maintained by a man as his mistress

Much thought was poured into the interpretation. Did 'kept' imply that the dogs were to be groomed  or fed while sat on the surface of a lead? They could not agree. One contractor finally lost his temper and said, "For crying out loud, enough of this intellectual onanism... can't you take anything literally? It's obvious. If you can read this sign, and you have a dog, it must be kept attached to a lead."

The next day, he lost his job for having an attitude.

And an additional handbook was written about how to hold the lead and who should be holding it. It stated clear guidelines as to the heaviest dog you could possibly hold, plus a leaflet about your dog's health, the potential risks to the walker and the affects of chafing on the hands.

The analysts, having "questioned to the void" long ago, had decided to pass the specification to their technical department, unchanged:

"Dogs must be kept on a lead"

The technical department sniffed at the statement. How could their colleagues in the business be so ambiguous? They found out where the sign was designed to go and surveyed the park capacity and neighbouring population. They decided there was an average at any given time of 12 dogs within the park, with a maximum capacity of 32 at peak times.

So taking this maximum into account, they constructed a huge lead with 40 collars attached.

As a RACI matrix wasn't signed off, no-one is accountable for actually holding the lead.

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