The Corners of the Box
Al Richardson VP & Head of Technology
Requirements? Let me share with you a short story. Currently R&R is working with a customer that has an “interesting” set of requirements. They would like a certain amount of power, a certain minimum breaking strength, and they would like the cable to float. Let’s examine these items for a second. Power- copper works and copper sinks, strength- steel works and steel sinks, floats- some insulation floats but I bet there is a requirement for maximum size. Yes, there is a max size requirement and now we are in a box. In fact, we are deep in the corner of the box where the edges of the requirements meet.
We have all heard that the customer is always right so we labor away attempting to design the perfect design. Take it from me, the customer is not always right and in many instances, the user had / has very little input into the requirements. Sometimes what you see in a Request for Quote or Request for Proposal doesn't make sense. Sometimes the partially conflicting requirements may be as simple as min / max size versus min / max strength. Sometimes they may be as subtle as strength / size / hydrogen generation (that was a fun design.) Either way, you can end up in the corner of the box with seemingly no way out.
There is a way out and you can do it without appearing arrogant. Arrogant in this case is defined as you knowing more about the customers’ needs and telling them that. Most of the time you don’t know which user requirements are really important and which are just there to fill in a blank. How do you tell the difference? The answer is simple, you ask. You ask in a way that shows concern for the customer. Concern for the customers’ needs, time, and money. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. Either way you gain a better understanding of the customer and the customer may have a greater respect for your organization.
R&R is in that situation right now and we are working with the customer. Will it work out? Maybe, maybe not. Since we are engineers, nothing is impossible. It just takes a little longer and maybe costs more money to get out of that corner.