An allegory

It was a time-critical operation. The surgeon surveyed the site of the operation and mentally prepared himself for the work ahead.

“Scalpel.”

“Denied.”

“What?”

Incredulous, the surgeon turned to the nurse who had answered.

“Scalpel isn’t an approved tool. I can’t give that to you.”

Identify your surgeons and give them the tools they ask for.

Update 10/8/2008: Talking with my sister several months ago now, she brought up an issue with this analogy: a scalpel is the most basic of a surgeon’s tools.  (It would be like denying a computer programmer a keyboard.)  This picture goes over the top to make its point.  It would have been more realistic for the surgeon to have asked for something much more exotic, and that would have also shown how the hospital would take on some risk by trusting its surgeons in matters like this.

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  1. #1 by jbranam on January 25, 2008 - 3:34 pm

    This is an inversion of control. It’s not the surgeons who choose the tools at present, it is the administrative staff of the hospital who either haven’t been to medical school, or who have, but haven’t practiced surgery in a few decades.

    The tools have changed drastically in that time; ask any (not allegorical) doctor.

  2. #2 by danielmeyer on January 25, 2008 - 4:09 pm

    So are you saying that this isn’t as far-out as it appears — that surgeons really do have this type of issue? I was trying for an example that wrenches you away from what the obvious flow is and helps you get that ominous, disturbed feeling that something is very wrong. Maybe the effect is still there for most of the other millions of my readers though, huh? :)

  3. #3 by jbranam on January 29, 2008 - 3:45 pm

    No, I think I didn’t post clearly. My first paragraph used “surgeon” allegorically; my second paragraph I used the term “doctor” not allegorically.

    Maybe that makes my comment parseable? 1st paragraph is the situation currently in certain software development.

    2nd paragraph I was trying to point out that IF it worked that way in a hospital, the surgeons would be missing many of the modern equipment that improves success and saves lives. The pace of change is probably faster in software, of course.

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