Efficiency in Early Phase Design

November 18th, 2014:

Designing can often lead to unexpected discoveries and new paths for the project that can strain the scope of work.  Creating time and flexibility in the schedule to vet out these new paths is extremely helpful to ensure the research and development phase of the project is as fruitful as it can be.  To this end, the results of a tangential effort need to be rolled into the phase deliverable as quickly and as seamlessly as possible.  Whether the results are alternate mechanisms, divergent use case scenarios or a forward looking aesthetic; to keep the project within budget, the manifestation of these discoveries must be made in a timely manner. 

Early concepts being presented are generally numerous, intended for down selection and quick modification. Here time and effort can be used efficiently, enabling stakeholders to fully grasp the intention from both engineering and design teams without delving too far into time consuming visualization activities.  The team needs to quickly determine how finely crafted of an illustration is necessary to conveying meaning in a design sketch, and if, and how detailed a CAD model is needed to fully realize the function of a mechanism.

The customer expectations should be setup to fully utilize an efficient approach to the early phases of R&D. Fully dialed-in CAD or shiny rendered aesthetic concepts are better left to the later phases when the concepts are more concrete.  The level of detail the project has progressed to will determine the level of detail in the representations. Maintaining a quick and flexible approach to initial development efforts enable the unexpected “ah-ha” moments of discovery to be rolled into the deliverable without stressing the budget.

Every designer and engineer wants to produce the best possible design for every deliverable, and every company wants to show their clients the skill and expertise that got them the contract.  The desire to exceed expectations needs to be negotiated with real-world timelines and budgets.  The phrase “under promise, over deliver” is common in the business world, but the reality of the statement is one of perhaps unnecessary effort and strain to the scope of work.  This article http://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/underpromise-and-overdeliver-is-terrible-advice.html  references a scholarly study done by Ayelet Gneezy and Nicholas Epley, entitled "Worth Keeping but Not Exceeding: Asymmetric Consequences of Breaking Versus Exceeding Promises."  In the article the authors describe the diminished return on over delivering on promised work.  The value is in keeping the promise, the actual scope of work, and the study shows very little return on the extra effort put in to go above and beyond of what was expected.  The results were typical across a wide variety of tests and a follow-up study is being conducted on a behavioral level, comparing selfless to selfish behavior.  "Behaving fairly toward others is the critical point," Epley explains. "Beyond being fair, generosity does not seem to be valued as much as one would expect."  Epley is again quoted, “Don't be upset when your friends, family members, clients, or students fail to appreciate the extra effort you put into going above and beyond your promise. They do not appear to be uniquely ungrateful, just human."

Visually communicating the designs will always be a part of the design process, but an efficient and flexible approach will enable a greater number of discoveries and the ability to modify the designs quickly, on time and within cost estimates.

- Senior Industrial Designer Justin McCarthy, Goddard Inc.

Cartoon Drawing Accredited to: http://www.leanplus.com/