Engineering meetings can be entertaining, frustrating, funny, or just plain exasperating. Sometimes they can be all of those things. The air in an Engineering meeting can be filled with acronyms. It’s the nature of things. Years ago, we had a meeting to try and come to a conclusion on a plan of attack dealing with a troublesome product. The meeting was called by Mr. Z to get all of the players together and hash out a solution. All of the engineering groups were represented as well as the marketing and contracts folks.
The meeting quickly disintegrated into a finger pointing session. Things got out of control and people were taking digs at each other from all angles. The only thing that the accusations had in common was that they all seemed to include an acronym or two. They were talking about ATP failures, QDR reports, and on and on with the acronyms.
After a couple of hours of getting nowhere, Mr. Z finally shut down discussion. He announced that he would end the meeting by going around the table and taking suggestions from anyone who wanted to offer one. There would be no discussion, only ideas. At the end of going around the table, Mr. Z would make a decision that everyone would then have to implement. He started around the table and the ideas were basically more of the same with an accusing finger pointed at someone with an acronym or two.
Mr. Z worked his way around the table and got to a representative from the contracts department. He had not said a work up until that point in the meeting. When asked whether he had a suggestion, he started in with a long speech, that started by him saying, “I think what we need here is an A.P.E.”
Everyone got real interested and someone said that might be a good idea. He continued by saying that the A.P.E. would effectively deal with the ATP failures. It would prevent a QDR going to the customer. He went on for a good two minutes. People were making notes on their notepads. The mood in the room improved as someone actually had a positive suggestion. He finally finished and the room got quiet.
Mr. Z had been quiet during the entire talk about the A.P.E. He finally said, “I just have one question. What’s an A.P.E?”
The response was immediate. “It’s a big hairy ape to come in and beat some sense into our engineers.”
That was pretty much the end of the meeting. A couple weeks later, the guy with the A.P.E. suggestion left the company. It turned out that he had been a rather accomplished engineer and had gone to law school. He ended up working for a law firm defending companies in product liability lawsuits. Last we heard he did very well for himself.
As far as the usefulness of the A.P.E, I have to say that the guy was right. The product was rife with fundamental issues for which the responsible engineers needed an A.P.E.