Friday, January 21, 2011

Emotional projects

Chuck Jordon was GM's design leader back when the 'greatest generation' were just getting to middle age.  His projects were cars, like the 1959 Cadillac, and his mantra was:

"We deal with an emotion"

He went on to say:
We deal with design — an intangible and emotional subject. There are no rules or steps to success. It’s a matter of opinion. This isn’t research or engineering with computer programs and hard data.

Words may not communicate it exactly. You gotta see it and feel it.

The point is, of course, is that in spite of GM's notorious command-and-control business culture there was a place for subjective, even a bit of agile, thinking and doing. Although the scope was generally fixed--it's a Cadillac after all--and the timeline was fixed by the model year rollout, the actual design externals didn't follow rules. It wasn't til you got under the hood, so to speak, that SAE standards, GM rules, and other mandates directed traffic.

So, what we have here is an engine of design innovation coupled with a project governance that, up to a point, allows for a 'no rules' emotion charged process to be the front end for a rule-driven engineering and production project, no doubt populated by pocket protectors, short sleeve white shirts and thin black ties!

Photo credit: http://oldcarandtruckpictures.com/Cadillac/cadillac1950-1959.html
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