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The Art Of “Good Enough”

Posted on July 10th, 2017 by in Chemical Manufacturing Excellence

Think outside the box

Engineering is all about boundaries, constraints and what we’re able to achieve within them. But one thing I’ve found to be true about engineers is that we’re almost never satisfied. There’s always a little bit more to do. There are always small improvements to make, problems to iron out, designs to hone.

Most engineers I’ve worked with (and this is true for me too) seem comfortable working within the technical constraints placed on them. But there’s one which always seems to throw up problems. Engineers seem to have a hard time reaching the end. We have trouble knowing when to stop.

The Pursuit Of Perfection

A lot of engineers are driven by the desire to make things better. That, and the ability to actually implement the potential improvements we’re able to spot, are the very things that makes them good engineer.

But the problem comes from the fact there is always more to be made better. In the real world, nothing can ever be perfected.

There comes a time when we need to stop tweaking, to stop improving, and to actually ship our work. There comes a time when what we’ve got is “good enough”.

More Than Technical

When you’re down in the details of a product development project day-in-day-out, it can be easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. It can be easy to focus only on the technical solution in front of you.

But it is very, very rare that the work we’re doing is actually only technical. The reality is that, despite what it might look like, the technical product is not what’s valuable. It’s what someone can do with it that counts. It’s the new capability it offers someone, or the cost savings, or the increased efficiency.

The value of anything we design goes way beyond its technical specification.

And so instead of focusing on optimizing the technical solution, constantly tweaking and improving, we should be looking to the value of what we’ve created. Is what we’ve got “good enough” to offer value to those who want it?

Know When To Stop

The best way to make sure you stop when you’ve reached “good enough”, instead of wasting extra effort and resource improving something which offers diminishing returns, is to map out exactly what the end-point looks like before you begin.

Before designing anything, ask “how will we know when we’ve finished?”

Start by defining exactly what you’re going to do, using well-crafted requirements, and stop when you get there.

Continual improvement of a product isn’t usually the best way to invest our time or resources. Instead, let’s work out what “good enough” looks like and deliver that. After all, that’s where we can offer the most value.

 Elsevier Recommends:

Access the article, ‘On Spec, On Time and Green: Ideas for Integrating Green Chemicals into Manufacturing Processes’

All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.

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