Questions and Answers

Sometimes if you [receive] an answer, the question might be taken away.

Old Thrashbarg, “Mostly Harmles,” by Douglas Adams

Getting the right answers is only possible when you have asked the right questions.

Fortune Cookie

Shortly after I graduated university and began working a project manager came to me and asked me to give him a pressure profile at a specific location in a pipe. He was very specific about what he wanted. After about a week of work he came back and was a little irritated that I still wasn’t done and had burned nearly a week of his project’s already limited budget. I showed him what I had, but confessed that I did not think I could do much more as I had only been working with the software for a few months and also did not have a PhD in fluid dynamics. He was perplexed as to why I had done all this work as it was not what he had asked for, or at the very least, did not seem necessary for his ultimate goal. I pulled up the email he had sent me with his very specific request. After a little more discussion I managed to figure out that all he was looking for was a graph showing the pressures at the various system modes. Something infinitely easier than he had originally asked me. After another hour of work parsing the data from the original analysis I had run, he had his graph and I had learned a very important lesson:

If you’re not careful, you can get the correct answer to the wrong question.