Star Trek and the Systems Analyst/Project Manager Bargaining Game

The bargaining game of analyst estimates and PM timelines is key to an analyst’s success. The analyst typically asks for too much, the PM offers too little, and they meet somewhere in the midst.  The best example of how the analyst wins at this game is seen in the rare crossing of the original Star Trek engineer, James Montgomery Scott, a/k/a Scottie, and the Star Trek, The Next Generation (TNG) engineer Geordi LaForge.  Scotty locked himself in a transporter buffer loop thus allowing himself to exist as unaging demarterialized energy.  The Enterprise’s crew figured out how to release Scotty from the buffer.  As a result, there were two chief engineers on deck.  Scotty was the old salty dog who always said things couldn’t be done and then did them.  La Forge was a younger, more idealistic, by-the-rules engineer.  The following dialog took place in a scene where Captain Picard (the captain of the TNG Enterprise) had given La Forge an order to produce some critical analysis.
LA FORGE: Yeah, well, I told the Captain I’d have this analysis done in an hour.
SCOTTY: How long will it really take?
LA FORGE: An hour!
SCOTTY: Oh, you didn’t tell him how long it would *really* take, did ya?
LA FORGE: Well, of course I did.
SCOTTY: Oh, laddie. You’ve got a lot to learn if you want people to think of you as a miracle worker.

You see, everything I ever learned about systems analysis negotiation, I  learned from Star Trek.  We may have been considered nerds when we were young, but we make more money than the cool guys ever will.


Festina lente

I’m an analyst by trade and temperament.  Sometimes I catch things quickly.  There are more times when I don’t.  When I am working with a customer, and the customer’s expectations are unclear to me, I have to make deductions, take them to my customers, confirm or correct them, and then move ahead.  Some people feel that I take too much time to do what I do.  Time is important but accuracy is essential.

There is an adage in Latin, festina lente. It translates to “make haste slowly” and it means to progress with urgency while maintaining precision. It’s a very feng shui sort of thing. I learned it as an artilleryman. In artillery, we faced the dual challenge of having to move forward at the greatest possible speed while being mindful that our compasses were circumscribed in mils and not degrees. There are 6,400 mils in a circle and a firing equation that is five mils off misses by five meters at a kilometer and 100 meters at 20 kilometers, the distance at which we often shot.  The Infantry was fast.  They could sacrifice precision in exchange for speed and ferocity.  We artillerymen had to be precise.  As soon as we missed a target by 100 meters, a counterbattery attack was launched on us, firing over the same trajectory as we fired.  If they were more precise that we, our end was imminent. 

I’ll stay with making haste slowly.  Gandhi said it best, “there is more to life than increasing its speed.”