Telling a co-worker that their work is “Good enough for Government Work”…will end you up in a meeting with HR talking about how you need to be a team player.  This term suggests that the ‘worker’ is lazy, incompetent, and produces low quality work….but that’s not what it means…according to the US Military.

Back during WW2, the US Military was getting screwed over by contractors of everything from spoons to  bullets & tanks.  To win the war, the American Military needed to modify how it was dealing with its contractors and the quality of work they were producing.

As a result, testing increased of products.  Inspectors would test and inspect products to ensure that tax payer’s money wasn’t being stolen by low quality work, and American Soldiers were not being put at risk by being given bullets that did not shoot.

But you can’t test or inspect everything. Testing every item increase cost, it takes time, and somethings you just can’t test (how do you test that a bullet will fire?).  So the Government came up with MIL-STD-104.

MIL-STD-104 was a statistical chart and reference that classified everything that the government bought into only a few categories ranking importance and complexity.  Spoons were ranked far less important then tanks… for obvious reasons.  Next, they determined the lot size needed for testing and then how many of that lot needed to pass the inspection test.  If a random sample of that lot passed the inspection, then the entire lot was approved for Military use.

This is where the term actually comes from.  If a lot passes it’s inspections, it was approved for purchase and military use.  Therefore, it was deemed “Good enough for Government work”.

Hope that helps with your HR “Team Player” issue, and keep pushing out high quality work!!

Post filed under Business.