Customer Collaboration – In the practice of engineering we are fundamentally problem solvers.  Our education, training and vitally our experience, are all brought to bear when helping a customer to resolve or understand an issue.  When presented with an issue we quickly move into “Given, Find, Assumptions, Solutions” mode; transitioning as quickly as possible to the “Solutions by Analysis” part of the process.  The “Find” piece of the problem is typically the most self-evident, though not always.  It is in the “Given and Assumptions” that the course is set to identify and resolve the key issues; or in some cases establish a path to a dead end – an answer which does not satisfy all of the data and a topic which I have discussed previously.

Understanding that the “Given and Assumptions” part of the process are critical to solving the problem, it becomes clear that the equipment or issue owner must be engaged in defining the “Given and Assumptions”.  This is the point of Critical Collaboration; the point when those closest to the issue provide and describe all of the associated known facts to those helping to resolve.  The Fact Set is essential; many times personal experience will creep into the process and a piece of information which should be described as an assumption, is presented as a fact, e.g. temperature data reported is accurate.

The point of this essay is simple – when we engage with a customer at the outset of identifying an issue, we will press hard to understand the fact set; not because we don’t believe you, rather because we know that in the absence of correctly discerning between fact and assumption, a correct root cause and solution cannot be reached.  We ask for your patience at this point in the process and that you self-examine what is known and what is assumed when we begin the effort of engineering a solution through analysis.

– Andrew J. Spisak, PE