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Andrew Clear (Mug Shot)

This is the third in a series of a generally unedited “stream of consciousness” posts I am writing while reading Donald Reinertsen’s The Principles of Product Development Flow: Second Generation Lean Product Development. I haven’t been this affected by a book in a while, and I wanted to share my excitement with the world and test some of the ideas it is provoking. As such, this is intended to be an invitation to discussion, and I hope you will add your comments and disagreements below. If you wish to engage me in a detailed conversation, please feel free to contact me.

Why “last responsible moment” is a terrible idea

This is one of those catch phrases that has always bothered me, but I could never quite put in to words what made me so uncomfortable about it.

On the surface it seems like a good idea, and it’s adherents can be quite persuasive. Maximize the amount of information you gather before you make your decision. Making decisions early is a waste of effort and is going to be error prone due to variability. Blah, blah, and more blah.

Sounds great. Except, please tell me what “responsible” means in the context? What is that you say? It varies and is context specific? Doesn’t that reduce your catch phrase into a meaningless mantra?

Fear not however, Reinertsen is there to save the day and bring sanity to the discussion through the simple power of economics. You see, there is a best time to make a decision. And it is actually quantifiable. Pretty sweet, huh? Okay, here it is:

“Every decision has its optimum economic timing.”

Deceptively simple, yet perfectly obvious once stated. When you delay a decision you are trading time for information. Now, if we only had a metric that allowed us to quantify cost of delay

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