Good Path, Wrong Destination

Quick Summary: Successful early lab demonstrations can lead to overly optimistic schedules.


The initial success of a new product in the lab can result in excitement and in an overly optimistic view of the remaining work to be done.  As the old saying goes “the devil is in the details.”  Not focusing on those details and the time required to complete the many facets of new product release can result in a significant departure from the optimistic schedule, or worse, cutting corners to maintain the schedule.

There is always a natural tendency to be optimistic about the next new product.  After all, it has no bugs, no orders  have been lost to competition, there are no customer service issues, and no cost or performance issues have occurred!  Life is going to be good!  Even if these optimistic views are tempered with a more realistic view, there are some other common daily occurrences that support the optimistic view that the product will arrive on time, as scheduled. 

  • The first erroneous assumption is that progress is proceeding along well ahead of the initial expectation.  This trap can be the result of the development team’s focus on the “good path” as defined as the product works the way it should.  This seems obvious.  However, product and process variation and the reality of user error often make the “good path” the exception rather than the rule.  It has been estimated that the complexity of a product required to only handle the good path represents only ten to twenty percent of the overall effort involved in product design.  Accommodating process variation and real world constraints require the remaining ninety percent of the effort.
  • The second issue is closely related to the first.  Again, accommodating the products’ inputs and outputs properly, and their interfaces to people and other products represent a significant effort which may not be obvious when the product’s core functionality is working.  For example, all of the necessary inputs may not be present when required.
  • The third issue, again tied to the previous issues is legacy support.  Customer environments can be very different.  Think about Microsoft Windows as an example.  Many customers are still using Windows XP, Windows 7, Vista, and Windows 8, while others are using Windows 10.  Should a new application be compatible with all of them?  Has adequate testing been completed to ensure compatibility?
  • Finally, experience has shown that when a product is working in the lab and the “good path” can be demonstrated, it is time to break out the champagne and celebrate.  This point represents the fact that ten percent of the effort to develop a reliable and robust product that can be used by “mere mortals” and not development engineers has been reached!  This does not mean that the development team is only ten percent of the way to completion.  Instead, it represents that ninety percent of the effort across the entire organization still needs to be spent.  It includes documentation, quality assurance testing, regulatory compliance testing, customer service training, sales training, product announcement activities, and many other items as well.

Think of the “good path” point as the view from the top of a mountain in which the final destination is in plain sight.  However, swamps, predators, false trails, and other obstacles along the way may not be seen, though they are there.


Article Number : 6.020403   

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