The “Pay to Learn” phase of projects

We should try to avoid waste. (Really?)

Nobody wants to create something just so it can be thrown away. (Really?)

Since “all universal quantifiers are always wrong”, those statements are probably not the whole story.

Even in lean eliminating waste is not as high a priority as one might think

In new product development – and re-implementing things in a different environment is new product development as well – a lot of effort goes into determining what the product actually is. And how to best build it.

Therefore some efforts are not waste at all, even if their results never go into production. In manufacturing and construction this is obvious for things like molds or scaffolding, but the same is true in knowledge-work as well.

Sometimes it makes a lot of sense to build something that will be thrown away, just to learn the right way to do it. Or at least a good way to do it.

Let’s have a look at Twitter for example. Twitter initially was build in Ruby (Ruby on rails to be exact). After a while it was rebuilt using different tools and techniques. So “obviously” the original implementation had to be “thrown away” at that time.
Does that mean that they shouldn‘t have started with Ruby? On the contrary – they ran with it for a couple of years. And they learned what they wanted to do with it.

But there are other things that you might not need in the later stages of product development – like dummy implementations of surrounding systems, paper mock-ups of user interaction, simulated server-roundtrips and a gazzilion more – but all of those help you learn.

And this “pay-to-learn” phase (with the willingness to throw away stuff that no longer is needed) is what often differentiates a really good product from a mediocre one.

till next time
  Michael Mahlberg

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