Sunday, January 14, 2007

The sky isn't falling anymore

The Big Dig is reopening today after the documented inspection and repair of over 3,000 ceiling hangers. Meanwhile an investigation continues into where the blame lies for the improper installation of two-thirds of those bolts.

Poor documentation has played a major role in some significant engineering failures (the Challenger disaster being one of the most famous examples). What I’m wondering is whether that’s going to turn out to be a factor in Boston. Apparently, the ceiling system was an innovative design. So there would not have been a pool of workers experienced with installing these bolts. Was there training? What documents were used in the training? Who was responsible for writing, designing, testing, and approving the training documents? What documents were provided with the bolts? Who was responsible for writing, designing, testing, and approving the installation instructions?

Technical documentation of all sorts—in all industries—is often seen as a necessary evil, an afterthought, something to be checked off on a list of contract deliverables. Managers hate to pay for the resources needed to do technical documentation well, and the result is poor documentation that fails to meet its goals. Sometimes people die as a result.

Words matter. Design matters. Documents matter.


Blogger Susan Jones said...

you are sooooooo right!

10:42 AM  

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