The DoD requirement

There are times when the proper use of certain acronyms in limited quantities can make one come across as highly capable & professional.

Then there are times when the use of a single acronym multiple times in the wrong context can cause certain hearts to stop beating prematurely…or very nearly so.

A distant cousin of mine once recounted a humorous story from his workplace to me over coffee a few weeks ago. Such stories are always funny only in hindsight and only as long as the key people involved in it did not give up the ghost due to pure shock.

My distant cousin had a colleague (that’s right, my cousin does not have this colleague anymore for reasons that will become obvious as this story progresses) who loved to use the acronym DoD whenever he could. In the United States of America, any company that deals with defense-related projects to make a living tends to worship that acronym to a certain extent. I am sure you’ll agree that’s perfectly understandable.

One fine morning, this talented ex-colleague marched into a shop-floor meeting being led by the plant manager with an air of urgency and announced without waiting his turn that a certain experiment in progress in the laboratory under his charge was a DoD requirement and that it should be done ASAP (another one of his favourites as it happens) at all costs.

When the plant manager dismissed his already scarce smile for the rest of the week and asked him again to confirm what he had heard (this shop-floor tended to be a bit noisy and the plant manager’s hearing wasn’t top notch), the ex-colleague repeated the same message. Emphatically, a DoD requirement and he even had an official e-mail to prove it.

Refusal to comply immediately would now lead to a phone call with the plant manager’s superiors. Never a desirable scenario even in the best of times.

The plant manager had a rather weak heart and did his best to keep it going in spite of the demands of his job. This news had just made it a touch harder to make it through the day given that the cost of completing the said experiment any quicker than he had originally planned would be close to barely breaking even on the project that it related to. He did not emerge from his office for the rest of that week and even before the day was over, he reluctantly cut a cheque for the rest of the money to fund this DoD requirement.

When the results of the experiment were presented to him the following week, he discovered 2 things:

i) The experiment turned out to be an utter failure because the ex-colleague had delegated the task of executing this crucial experiment to a fledgling employee who was yet to master the difference between right & left while he himself left considerably early for the day

ii) While dramatizing the premise of the experiment before subtly announcing its pointlessness, the ex-colleague let slip the full form of the acronym DoD…Do or Die.

The official e-mail had come from the Vice-President of Sales of the company that provided a component used in the experimental apparatus. This individual had wanted to know if that component would work well in the experiment so that he could sell more elsewhere by a certain deadline imposed upon him by his superiors.

As it happens, the component itself worked splendidly. It was a metal washer.

Later that day, 2 desks were cleared of their occupants, 2 job vacancies were promptly posted and the plant manager retired to his office for the rest of the day.

Passers by recalled hearing a loud snoring noise coming from what they were told was a sound-proof office room.

The project did go through successfully (without the experiment) and it did turn up a tidy profit.