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Bring Me A Rock!

In the Quality Assurance world, we sometimes talk about rocks. Putting aside the middle managers, the product team, customer service, the project manager, the end user and so forth, a product ultimately falls to 2 people or groups: the client and the vendor. The client describes what they want; the vendor fulfills the client’s needs. The industry does not matter; could be software, could be construction, industrial supplies, whatever. And the problems begin with the first conversation. See, the client and the vendor speak the same language but in different dialects. The customer speaks and the vendor thinks they understand and drawing upon their experiences in their industry moves on to make the product for the client.

Here is how it works:

Client: "Bring me a rock!"
Vendor, eager to satisfy: Rushes out and finds the perfect rock. Cleans the dirt from the rock. Polishes it and returns it to the client.
Client: "Not that rock! Weren’t you listening? I said, ‘Bring me a rock!’"
Vendor, thinking he understands better: Goes out, spends twice as long, finds the perfect rock. Cleans it, polishes it, checks with some managers who agree it is the perfect rock. And returns to the client.
Client: "Not that rock! I want flatter rock. That rock is too round. Bring me a rock!"
Vendor, slightly dejected but still enthused: Goes out, kicks around some rocks. Notices all rocks are round here. Travels to another location. Finds a nice flat rock. Returns to client.
Pattern continues…
Client: "Now that’s a rock! Why didn’t you bring me that one in the first place? Could I have two for the price of one?"

The subtle differences in the dialect and the assumptions made on both the client’s part and the vendor’s part often result in a frustrated vendor and a dissatisfied client. Unfortunately client’s often get frustrated when the vendor asks too many questions about the rock in the beginning. The client doesn’t understand why the vendor is so dense. When the client buys into the need to clearly define a specification at the beginning of the project, time, money and aggrivation is saved!

Really, Bring Me A Rock applies to all walks of life. We do this to our children too. "Clean your room." "I’m done. Room’s clean." "That room is a mess!" See the problem?

5 thoughts on “Bring Me A Rock!

  1. The rock looks clearer after sleep.

  2. Dude, therein lies the problem with language. Once we get the wifi brain chips, we’ll be in good shape.

  3. […] about software development and software quality assurance processes, I love to talk about the "Bring me a rock!" scenario. I found these renderings of a rock rather amusing. Of course, there are no coffee […]

  4. Can anyone give me the source in Virginia Satir’s writing of the “bring me a rock” or “bring me a different rock” story?
    Thank you.

  5. Hello Dr. Beck!

    I’m not familiar with Virginia Satir in particular with regard to “bring me a rock.” The first time I heard “bring me a rock” was from my quality assurance manager somewhere around 1994 while working in software development with The Learning Company.

    Do you have a link to her telling of it? Is she the originator of “bring me a rock”?

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