Friday, October 7, 2011

To Push or not to Push

A lot's been written about Steve Jobs' legacy at Apple since his decision last month to step down from CEO and remain only as chairman. Unfortunately, Jobs died Oct 5th.

Among the anecdotes told and retold is his oft repeated anti-LEAN doctrine: features and functions are to the PUSHED to the customer because, he says:

It’s not the consumer’s job to know what they want

And it's not only Apple.  Sony has also been said to have not consulted any outsiders regarding the Walkman.  Again, when it's "new to the world", what's a consumer to say?  Hit, or no hit?

Well, what would the LEANers say about that? The Lean mantra, of course, is to pull consumer requirements from the customer, not push them (arrogantly) from the developers/stakeholders to the consumer.

And, what would the agilists say? Apple most assuredly does not embed customers/users on its product teams. They, perhaps as much as any competitive innovator, guards their intellectual property and marketing plans as closely as any. One only needs to go back to the infamous case of the lost/stollen iPhone prototype to see them in action.

That's not to say that a product manager internal to the company is not closely consulted on new products, but on the most important features and functions, hardly any less than Mr Jobs himself makes the final decisions.  Others need not apply

Conclusion: Alistair Cockburn may have been spot on when he said: any methodology can be made to succeed in some situations; any methodology can fail.  Perhaps, as it always has been: inspirational vision, leadership, commitment, and methodology.

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