Home » Schedule » Efficient vs Innovative

Employees viewed Fadell — who’s known as the godfather of the iPod and played a key role in designing the iPhone — as a product visionary and leader. Fawaz, by contrast, was considered a business development manager, focused on efficiencies. … Another said he believes Fawaz was so “operationally focused” that the team delivered “on-time mediocre products” while he was in charge, instead of devices that took “big leaps forward.” cnet.com July 17, 2018, Nest CEO steps down after employees pushed for his exit. Photo by Landon Martin on Unsplash.

That was one of my biggest fears. We would deliver the product on time with good quality but the product wouldn’t sell well. We would have missed the critical delivery window. All because I convinced the organization to use realistic schedules instead of the aggressive schedules they had always used and had always failed to deliver on in the past.

Somehow, I feared, the psychology of the aggressive but unattainable schedule would otherwise entice the customer to stick with us in a form of joint insanity that would transcend logic and tap into a force I could not comprehend. As one boss told me “we just have to believe it and we will achieve it “ even as we’d never achieved anything like it in the past. People were so willing to go after these silly schedules that maybe they’ll one day achieve them and attain success beyond our wildest imaginations. Was I holding us back by using hard data on recent past performance as our basis for making commitments? Was my approach only going to result in on-time mediocre products?

I lost control of one product because we were managing it so well. The company needed their next big thing and so took over our project and increased requirements by 450% and pulled in the deadline by two months. When I pushed back I got sidelined into a minor role and we then delivered on our original schedule (not their accelerated one) but our product quality was mediocre at best. However, we were the first on the market with this variation of the product and so it sold really well.

The next product I kept control of and we delivered on time with software quality so good that people believed testing had not been completed so all the defects had not been reported. The hardware people panicked because all the late issues had been hardware and not software as had been usual in the past. Software defects had always delayed our past projects but without all the usual software issues, hardware suddenly looked like it had decreased in quality which was not the case. However, sales on this new product were mediocre.

Could there be some magic, I wondered, in making promises one could not keep? I still doubted it. If we had delivered our sales successful product on time and with good quality, we would have sold just as much but with lower costs and possibly gained a reputation for excellence in engineering and meeting promised dates. Our future products could have immediately leveraged that reputation and software quality we had achieved and further outpaced our competition instead of it taking us several years of work to get this software finally working as expected while releasing late and mediocre products in the interim.

Effectiveness and innovation often seem at odds with each other. I loved to innovate when the engine of our success was running very efficiently. The opportunities became trying to decide which way to go while knowing we could deliver whatever we chose. The alternative was aiming for a goal with no basis in knowing we could achieve it. We were relying upon the magic of an unattainable promise to reel in our customers. Ultimately we had hoped we had trapped them into taking the product by promising it will be ready by the end of the week each week for nine long months.

What are you doing to balance effectiveness with innovativeness in your projects?

Thank you for sharing!