This is your monthly
Effective Engineering Consulting Services
If you would like to receive Effective Engineering e-newsletters as they are
published, please send an email to
and we will add you to our distribution list. Comments and suggestions are
welcome and encouraged!
Bad Breath Is Better Than No Breath At All!
Dennis – President, Effective Engineering [email@example.com]
On any given day you will see many ads on TV for mouthwashes and toothpastes
that purport to help eliminate bad breath. Bad breath is presented by
advertisers as a near-fatal condition that can have severe impact on your
social life, and can cause people to quickly run away from you shrieking in
horror. It is a condition that even your best friend is often reluctant to
tell you about. According to the ads, it is something to be absolutely
avoided at almost all costs. However, it is often useful to put things in
proper perspective. While having bad breath may not be good, it is
certainly far better than having no breath at all!
OK Tom, what’s your point and how does it relate to effective engineering?
Well, we often find ourselves in situations with two or more highly
undesirable choices and need to make a decision on how best to proceed.
Putting a proper perspective on those choices can often make such choices
For example, a project may be running late (though I recognize that this
seldom happens with your projects), and being late may significantly
impact revenues that can be generated with the product (see also
eN-021107 – Ineffective Engineering Costs You Time, Money, and Customers!,
eN-021121 – Late Projects Kill Companies!). The choices in this
case are whether to release the product late (bad breath), reducing the net
revenues and profits that can be generated, or cancelling the product
entirely (no breath). This decision is not necessarily obvious, but should
be dispassionately examined. If there are still significant profits to be
made even with the delay, then it makes sense to continue, but lessons
should be learned on better estimating and delivering on schedule
commitments. If the projected profits are substantially reduced or even
eliminated by being late, then cancelling the product may be the right
choice. Even in this case, the impact of not having a product in this
market area must be carefully assessed to determine whether dropping the
product entirely may have a long term adverse effect.
Another, less draconian example could be dropping some features, even if
they are considered important, in order to release a product on time. The
choices in this case are whether to release the product on time with a
reduced feature set (bad breath), or to delay the product release but
deliver it with all of the planned features (a different kind of bad
breath). In this scenario it is necessary to determine whether the release
date or the features are most critical to the success of the product (see
eN-030619 – What Do Your Customers Really Want?). Depending on
the situation either may be the case, and again, a dispassionate analysis
must be performed.
A similar example in the other direction could be adding some critical
features, late in the project, at the cost of delaying the product release,
if it is determined that these features may be essential to the success of
the product. It may be that a competitor just released a product with these
critical features and that without them your product may not be able to as
effectively compete. Again, it will be necessary to determine whether
timely release without these features (bad breath) is more critical success
than delay with these features (a different kind of bad breath).
Another variation is a product coming in at a higher cost than projected.
This may cause you to increase your price for the product (bad breath), or
to reduce your margin and thus reduce your profit (a different kind of bad
breath). Raising the price may make your product less attractive than your
competitors’ products, depending on the features of the competing products,
and thus reduce your sales revenues. Reducing your margins will reduce you
profits and may even make the product unprofitable. Some possible choices
in such a situation include implementing a cost reduction (immediately or
soon after initial product release) to reach or improve on your initial
projections (bad breath), dropping some features to achieve cost targets (a
different kind of bad breath), or killing the product entirely (no breath).
Once again, a dispassionate analysis of these and other options must be
conducted to determine the best approach for your company.
Similar situations may arise that relate to quality issues. You may
determine late in the process that your product does not perform as desired
due to problems with quality. Shipping a product with known quality
problems can severely damage the reputation of your product and the company
eN-021205 – Poor Quality Products Imply A Poor Quality Company
eN-060803 – You Only Get One Chance To Make A Good First Impression!).
That this happened indicates that you have problems in your product
development process that must be immediately investigated and corrected (see
eN-030828 – Development Methodology Basics: Stages of Development,
eN-030911 – Development Methodology Basics: Management of Development,
eN-040610 – Development Methodology: Test – To Verify, and
eN-041007 – Quality By Design!). It is highly likely that it
will be necessary to delay product release to correct the problems. This
then becomes a choice similar to the first example – to release the product
late (bad breath), or to cancel the product entirely (no breath).
Choices are seldom just black or white. There are many factors that impact
decisions that will need to be made. Putting your choices in perspective,
looking at the choices dispassionately, and performing a careful analysis of
the choices and their impacts on all aspects of your business is essential.
By properly analyzing the choices, you can determine whether bad
breath is better than no breath at all.
Copyright © 2007
Effective Engineering Consulting Services, All Rights Reserved