Over Engineering and Compounded Conservatism – Safety, Overkill, and CYA at Odds With Success

Project management teams that are working on a very large project, and are segregated by the various components needed to continually communicate with one another. Why you ask? Well, maybe we should consider NASA’s Apollo Missions, and how each of the various engineering teams built in safety factors.

One team would engineer the space capsule skin protect the astronauts, another team would be working on the heat tiles for reentry, and they too would add in a safety factor. Each time calculations were done with the various engineering teams they kept adding in more and more safety factor.

Unfortunately, in this situation they kept adding weight also, and that meant they would have less payload, or they had to get bigger rocket engines. Bigger rocket engines needed more fuel, more fuel meant more weight, causing the Rockets to get even bigger. Pretty soon you had a giant pencil going into space in the capsule was the size of the exposed lead at the tip. Do you see the problem?

Luckily, most everything worked out okay, but NASA got smarter with the space shuttle and they had all of their engineering teams working together and communicating. In fact, there was even a management position where all the different teams would talk to each other through a certain individual. Interestingly enough, the same people that ran the Apollo Project collaboration division also volunteer to speak at MIT to that new engineering students and rocket scientists.

What do they call it when each subsequent project management team adds more safety factor, and weight to their portion of the project; Compounded Conservatism! Please consider all this.

Source by Lance Winslow