Know your Audience

“1,650,763.73 wavelengths of radiation in vacuum corresponding to the unperturbed transition between the 2p10 and 5d5 sublevels of the atom krypton-86, along the orange-red line.”


“About a yard”


Both of these are correct answers for the definition of a meter. Which one you use of course depends on your audience. When you communicate with people, you need to know who they are as well as what level they’re on.

I gave a presentation to NASA once and strongly recommended that we eliminate all the quality engineers on the program. Both the technicians and the quality engineers “stamped” the paperwork as part of the manufacturing process.

The technicians had no real ownership for the quality of the parts, even though they built them. This happened because the quality engineer’s stamp was considered the “final approval.” The technicians stamp became, well, just a “rubber” one as they say.

The technician’s stamp was essentially meaningless, so I proposed to turn things around a bit. I recommended that the technician’s stamp be the only stamp of approval. As a result, they would take more ownership and responsibility in building the parts. Adios to anymore finger pointing. Only one person would be responsible for the quality; the guy who built it. We could then eliminate all the quality engineers on the program, reduce costs, and produce higher quality parts. I have to admit I was surprised to see over 75 people in the audience at this presentation. I was only expecting 20 or so. I was even more surprised when my college whispered in my ear that about 50 people in the audience were quality engineers. At that point they were easy to spot; they were the only ones not laughing.

Know your audience.

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