Monday, May 11, 2009

The Question


I should have expected that this question was going to come sooner or later. I just didn't expect that it would happen in a fairly non-descript staff meeting, or that it would be directed at me.

"So, is it safe?"

[=trans: "After we do this, can you assure us that, for your area of expertise and responsibility, the airplane and the production system that built it, is safe to fly?"]

I was quiet for a second. My tools are processes are not ideal (nothing ever is), but they work as designed. Now, I'm being asked to say they will keep a the test pilots and test engineers alive. And to vouch for the safety and integrity of the company and its people. To the best of my knowledge (and I spend a lot of time refining this), we have the tools to make sure it is safe.

"Yes, it is."


As I started to understand the company, I developed a theory, the Fundamental Miracle of The Company. Basically, it's a timeline, and it goes like this:

Chaos -> Chaos -> Chaos -> Chaos -> Single Most Reliable Thing Ever Built By Humans

It's that last step that I had trouble understanding. But I'm beginning to wrap my head around it. In the chaos, of people running around, fighting the fires, they begin to understand and trust the systems they've built, the engineering that has been released. In the frenzy, things get fixed. Problems get hammered out and understood. And then, finally, people start asking each other the question: "Is it safe to fly?"

And we're able to answer "Yes, it is."


Days like today, I kinda love my company a bit more.

We build 250 ton machines with over a million parts. And they FLY.


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