Some leaders mistake “customer focus” to mean they have to serve all of the customers needs or respond to every request from the field. There are multiple needs I have for a vehicle. Because of this I have more than one vehicle. Many manufacturers have tried to make a car or truck that does everything. It often just ends up being a vehicle that is great at nothing. (See Pontiac Aztek)
Know your target. Make goals, make compromises. Don’t commit to high reliability without making sacrifices. Something has to move either it be schedule or new technology development. There are no worse words than a leader saying “…and it must be highly reliable” without discussing the cost of pursuing that reliability goal. Know up front if you are willing to trade reliability for growth of technology or time to market.
Many companies succumb to the temptation to chase market growth through new features and technology adds. It’s not worth the risk of being labeled as “unreliable” if reliability is part of your brand. Stick to your brand balance and don’t let easy (often short term) market gains drive the business into an arena of low profit and constant product performance recovery.
Too much of leadership has degraded to “making deals” in the name of organizational efficiency in place of guiding the organization on a strategic path. The leader’s role is broader and much more important. Managers at lower levels lack the perspective and the confidence to maintaining a strategy. They are under constant pressure to compromise because they are in the trenches. Expecting them to hold the line on product goals is unreasonable. Strategy is creating continuity of connection between a program’s activities. Success of a strategy depends on all of these activities being executed well and the integration being fluid. Methodologies like “Bounding” that actively directs day to day actions ensures that all the product factors (cost point, time to market, new technology and reliability) stay aligned with the companies strategy.