Don't fiddle, be decisive

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(Source: Luis Villasmil, unsplash.com)

No this isn't about cutting staff during a pandemic (or other crises).

It's about product development.

(Although, I do believe, that cutting deep and quick is better than a drip redundancy strategy).

Our bokashi business includes both a consumer and a corporate solution. The consumer bokashi solution involves the selling of an airtight bin which includes an internal strainer (to separate the solid waste from the beneficial leachate).

We invested in this strainer very early in the development of this cost effective food waste recycling solution.

The only problem, over many years, was that when a customer used too much force compacting the waste (in spite of entreaties to be 'gentle') legs on the strainer bent or broke.

Our initial response was to make more legs and then provide free spare legs to customers who broke or bent the ones that came with their kit.

Then we made some small changes to the design of the legs - our most radical decision was to chamfer the step at the top of the leg instead of leaving it square (apparently this would make it more difficult to shear).

Surprisingly this didn't really work (sarcasm intended) .

So we made other small changes.

And the legs still bent or broke.

So this week we had another meeting with our injection mould company.

And made a big change.

Which works.

My wife and I were chatting about this and I asked "why did it take so long to make this big, but relatively easy, change?".

"Because we fiddled around (with hope) instead of cutting our losses and being decisive." she said.

But why did we fiddle and not be decisive? Perhaps, mentally we thought the big change was too difficult (it wasn't). Or, we had some mental fixation on the more elegant (but less strong) design of the original legs? Perhaps we worried that making them thicker would have significant cost impacts as they'd use more material (partly right, but not significant). Perhaps we thought that the consumer would, eventually stop breaking them (they didn't)?

I don't have a proper answer.

But the lesson is there: simple, but big, problems won't be solved by iterative "a little bit of this, a little bit of that" changes.

Better to be decisive. Quickly.