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Alan Ferdman | More to Communication than Words

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Every now and then, I see a movie that appears to contain a metaphor describing a life-shaping event. Today, I am thinking of “Gran Torino” and the scene where Clint Eastwood’s character is in his basement, lending a tool to a young neighbor.

The youngster remarks about the large collection of tools hanging on the wall, and Clint responds by telling him how his collection had been accumulated over a lifetime. The scene was a minor part of the plot, but it made me think about how as we grow older we experience situations in life, where if we pay attention, can produce an understanding that may be helpful getting us through difficult situations. It is the old story of good news and bad news. The good news is we have gained more of life’s tools to draw on, while the bad news is, we would have been a lot better off if we had acquired the knowledge earlier.

Just before 2000, I was recruited by a past supervisor to join him at JPL. The Mars 98 Orbiter and Lander had failed, due to the engineering team not performing two important process steps. NASA and JPL were looking for help in preventing recurrence of similar “process escapes” in the future.

After joining the team, I learned management had decided not to implement a precise laboratory-wide software development process, but instead to have individual development projects apply computer maturity model behaviors. Yet,........

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