If you're the CEO or vice president of marketing of tech company, engineers have probably flabbergasted you with their lies about the quality of their work and shipping dates. There is a good reason for this: to innovate, engineers need to lie to themselves and others because many people are telling them that what they're doing can't be done, shouldn't be done, or isn't necessary. I'm not suggesting that you pity engineers, but at least you should understand how they lie.
We're about to go into final testing.
This is a meaningless statement on two counts: (1) "about to go" can mean days, weeks, months, or years to an engineer; (2) final testing can last days, weeks, months of years. As a rule of thumb, if an engineer can't tell you that the project will ship in three weeks or less, it means that she has no idea whatsoever.
Even my mother can use it.
It's not clear what the engineers mother will use if for, and it may be that his mother is the chairman of the computer science department at MIT. A better test is whether your mother (or father) can use it. At least you'll know something about the capabilities of the guinea pig that way.
Our beta sites really love the product.
More than anything, this statement shows a fundamental ignorance of human nature: beta sites always say they like the product. This because they (a) don't want to insult you and (b) they're flattered that you asked them to beta test the product. The real question that you want to know the answer to is, "Will our beta sites pay to use it once we ship?"
We'd save time if we'd just start the whole project over from scratch.
This translates to,"We're in such deep shiitake that I don't even know which way is up." Generally, any time engineer (b) looks at work done by engineer (a), engineer (b) "knows" what engineer (a) did wrong. Unfortunately, this continues, that is, engineer (z) "knows" what engineer (y) did wrong. If an engineer ever tells you this, triple the cost of the project and add one year to her "pessimistic" ship date.
This time we got it right.
This lie follows the previous lie as in "I know what my predecessors did wrong, and I've done it right." Guess what the next engineer will say about this engineer. You'll come to learn that there is no right and wrong in engineering. There's only stuff that's good enough to ship and stuff that's not.
It works on my computer.
In other words, the fact that no one else in the company can get something to work much less any paying customers isn't important because it does work on one computer in the world. In particular, if it works on the engineer's computer, then it's not his fault that it doesn't work on computers of lesser people.
We have great testers and a great bug-tracking system.
In other words, the programmer is using his teenage kids to try the product, and they send him text messages if they find anything wrong. As a rule of thumb, all projects have at least 1,000 bugs. If your engineer tells you anything less, he's either lying or clueless. Incidentally, a liar is preferable.
I don't know much about sales or marketing.
This is a lie of false modesty. Engineers think that sales and marketing is easy. How hard can it be, after all, to sell and market something so great? While this lie is awfully irritating, it usually goes away when the engineer misses deadline after deadline. There's nothing like blowing it to create self-awareness.
What I'm doing is scalable.
Isn't it funny how people who have never created a large, complex product "know" that what they're doing is scalable? I especially love this type of lie when the engineer slams companies like Google, Oracle, and United Airlines twelve months after graduating with a bachelor's degree in computer science.
This will take five minutes to fix.
There are several issues with this lie: first, there are 1,000 bugs that each will take five minutes to fix; second, as the engineer fixes bugs, he introduces new ones; and third, people are reporting new bugs faster than your engineer is fixing old ones anyway.
I have a soft spot in my heart for engineers because without them, there wouldn't be anything for people like me to evangelize and sell. Still, you shouldn't confuse softness for gullibility. It's a very good thing to know how engineers lie, so that you won't unwittingly repeat those those lies to others.