Image via WikipediaOnce upon a time, so the story goes, there was a major technical problem at a billion-dollar atomic power plant. This malfunction was slowing energy generation and reducing the overall efficiency of the entire operation.
As much as they tried, the plant's engineers could not identify and solve the problem. So they brought in one of the nation’s top consultants on atomic plant construction and engineering to see if he could determine what was wrong. The consultant arrived, put on a white coat, took his clipboard and went to work. For the next two days, he walked around, studying the hundreds of dials and gauges in the control room, taking notes and making calculations.
At the end of the second day, he took a black felt marker out of his pocket, climbed up on a ladder and put a large black "X" on one of the gauges."This is the problem,” he explained. “ Repair and replace the apparatus connected to this meter and the problem will be solved."
He then took off his white smock, drove back to the airport and flew home. The engineers disassembled the apparatus and discovered that, sure enough, this was the cause of the problem. It was soon repaired and the plant was back up to full capacity.
About a week later the plant manager received a bill from the consultant for $10,000 for “Services rendered.”
The plant manager was surprised at the size of the bill, even though this was a multi-billion dollar nuclear facility and the problem had been costing an enormous amount of money in lost generating capacity. After all, he reasoned, the consultant had come in, stood around for a couple of days, written a black "X" on one of the gauges and then returned home. $10,000 seemed like a high fee for such a simple job.
The plant manager wrote back to the consultant. "We have received your bill. Could you please break down and itemize your charges. It seems that all you did was to write one "X" on a single gauge. $10,000 appears to be excessive for this amount of work."
Some days later, the plant manager received a new invoice from the consultant. It said, "For placing "X" on gauge: $1.00. For knowing which gauge to place "X" on: $9,999."