Posts Tagged ‘second-system effect’

Should your experiences bringing products to market or providing services be added to the director’s cut of Jurassic Park?  Do critics and competition surround your brainchild like a pack of hungry raptors?  At the same time do you have to fight to maintain your position in the organizational herd?

Business, like nature, can be uncompromising in its response to your product and services. Provide what is needed and you live to see another day and get the opportunity to move your business forward. Take too big of a misstep and your business can be crippled or killed.

Darwin offers guidance in seeking opportunity, surviving, growing and thriving in a hostile environment. We will look at a tip to implement that guidance – feature management. We will also look at three signs indicating the odds of survival are decreasing.

Darwin

Darwin observed species adapting best to an environment without destroying it would have the best chance to survive. This includes dealing with threats as well as capitalizing on opportunities. This adaptation includes changing traits (evolving) as the environment changes along with predators and prey. The term he coined is “natural selection“. Without the forces of natural selection genetic drift sets in and the species risks evolving to a dead-end position. The dodo bird is a good example.

Feature management reflects natural selection with products and product development. On the other hand, genetic drift occurs in the presence of:

  • Customer’s gold plating of requirements;
  • Team’s gold plating of requirements;
  • Feature creep

Natural Selection: Feature Management

Feature management chooses among all the possibilities and selects a set of features which, when turned into a product, will meet a customer’s needs within the prescribed limits of time, and budget.

For long-term relationships product development and/or the definition of services includes the client’s need to survive, grow, and thrive. The best relationships are symbiotic with both you and the client benefiting from the product or service.

Genetic Drift

Genetic drift in product development is movement into a spot outside the boundaries set by the market. The product is essentially isolated and dies.

Customer’s Gold Plating of Products

Gold plating takes specifications beyond what is required. I experienced customer gold plating with the use of robotics in vehicle manufacturing. The client firm’s management style was heavy-handed. Being the person who was the source of a design failure would have major negative repercussions. So, a weld seam that was adequate at 1/8” width grew to 3/8” as it progressed through the client’s internal design approval process. This occurred with almost every aspect of the vehicle and the design mushroomed. The cost and time to produce increased. A competitor was able to grab market share with a vehicle of equal performance but a much lower cost- and time to produce.

Team’s Gold Plating of Products

This is typified by the engineer with a solution looking for a problem. The product is viewed as an opportunity to showcase capability that is above-and-beyond what the competition can do but has no real value in terms of enhanced performance for the customer. Again, the cost- and time to develop can increase to the point that the product or service is no longer competitive for its market niche.

Feature Creep

Apple’s Copland operating system is a good example. It suffered from second-system effect and became bloated. It also suffered from mismanagement in terms of what it would take to propel Apple out of a niche position and back  to that of a major player.

The best way to deal with genetic drift is to review all work in terms of the boundaries set by a clear functional specification, time limits, and money limits. For more on this refer back to the “Project” post in this series.

This concludes the first, seven-part series on change management. If you are as fascinated with this material and care to comment or would like more information on change management contact me at gwmonti@mac.com or visit www.ctrchg.com.