Over the years I have witnessed a particular mistake repeated. It is usually with an old product that has a problem, or the old product requiring a change or a feature added. The mistake manifests itself with everyone believing they carry the true operation and understanding in their heads. Aside from Scotty aboard the USS Enterprise, most should assume there is something they may not know.
When a new product is being developed the team usually follows some development process with defined tools. Oversight is likely in place with design reviews and gatekeepers of some kind. But humans grow complacent and subconsciously assume these systems must be as they believe it to be. After all we have been making it or using it for years.
If you get involved with Value Stream Mapping you will come to realize everyone has their own reality of how things work. This could almost be a money making parlor tick. Do a demonstration of some process with 15-20 steps to an audience of 20 people. If two in the audience come up with the same detailed step by step process after watching the demonstration, I would be surprised. Usually 2 or 3 people are asked and I have never witnessed two agreeing or any of them being correct on the first pass. The tasking of writing it down will indentify to others what was missed. With repeated passes a complete process can be documented.
Having been a manager of experts in a variety of specialties I have often been the dumbest guy in the room. I know what I don’t know and I am less likely to develop a mental understanding good enough to convince myself I understand.
One example in particular comes to mind. I sat in a meeting to develop a system consisting of electronic devices. This was an add-on or a fix – not new product development where checks and balances are in place. I can’t recall the specifics but the experts were discussing this with great confidence. I was lost and asked that the oral conversation to be turned into a block diagram on the white board.
Just as with Value Stream Mapping the first attempt at the block diagram received corrections from people who a few minutes ago were in oral agreement. I believe it took seven iterations of the block diagram before all the experts agreed.
This is not an attempt to discredit experts. Without them the job would not get done. This illustrates that experts, except Scotty of course, can easily get over confident. When a team is involved it is seldom the case that everyone knows everything. Add the element of time for aged products/systems and it is almost a certainty.
If you are part of a meeting where everyone is in oral agreement it would be prudent to ask for a flow chart or block diagram. The dumbest guy in the room may save the day.