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Painted into a corner

Painted into a Corner:  Common Product Un-Developments

March 1, 2018

Painted yourself into a corner?  We've all been there.  For this entry, ask yourself this important question:

How did I get here?

Stuck

Getting stuck doesn't make you a failure -- it makes you human

For today, accept that you are stuck.  Now you need to look for clues.  Assess the situation and clear your mind.

Getting your company's productivity out of a rut will require you to mentally back up, and determine how you got here.

There could be lots of reasons.  Here are some examples to inspire your brainstorming.

Bust out a paper and pen, or keyboard, and take some personal notes for yourself. Our lives are busy, and good ideas can get lost.

The Agenda

The first thing to consider is time constraints.

When we are feeling pressure to meet deadlines, our sense of time can get distorted.

When this time distortion occurs, we are more likely to take risks. This is often when accidents occur.

It happens and we need to be mindful of it. However, some risk-taking needs to happen -- it's part of starting and building a company -- but they should be calculated risks. Were yours?

Time constraints

Setting unrealistic deadlines or setting expectations too high can cause you to become overwhelmed.

Let's imagine a prototype for a simple design element of your medical device was scheduled to take a week.

What if it's already going on 3 weeks and still not done?

Ask yourself three questions

  • Did you set realistic deadlines?
  • Did you calculate for delays?
  • Were the tasks achievable with the resources you had available?

Think about what needs to be done now and what can be done later. It is easy to take on too much, but it's not possible to do everything at once.

There is a time and a place for everything.
The Human Factors

Inexperience can be another factor.

Were you ready for this task?

How are you supposed to know what to do if you have never done it before?  You can make educated guesses, but not having the actual experience makes it an interesting challenge.

Fear not.  You learn as you go.

It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to be physically healthy and emotionally content.

How is your state of mind?  Are you taking care of yourself?

It also makes sense to take a look at your team.

What is their level of experience?  Are they working well together?

Underlying issues lurking within a team can have unexpected impacts on the entire organization and its system.

healthy
The Choice

"I had no choice."

Yes, there are some points where it will feel like there were no other options.

This can be due to a lack of resources or a lack of experience.  Or, maybe you are relying on incorrect advice, or advice that isn't correct for you.

The same goes for assumptions. They may seem completely logical or common sense, but there are things out there that will surprise you.

Tread carefully before you go all in with what you choose to do. Check in with your most trusted advisors before entering unknown terrain. They have great advice for navigating the path to market.

The Aim

Sometimes we focus on the right task... but at the wrong time.

For example, having a complete prototype to display at a milestone meeting can absorb an enormous amount of resources.

Is this really the most important target to aim at right now?  Perhaps what investors are looking for is the removal of a technical uncertainty.

Then, having validation data to support a key design element would be far more important at that time rather than ensuring all design elements have been vetted for manufacturing.

It's not that the latter isn't an important developmental task, it is (extremely), but focusing on a time-consuming task rather than one that will move you forward will quickly overwhelm you. The time consuming task can wait.

Focusing your aim on the wrong tasks can also cause you to become stuck.

Maybe you're trying to please too many stakeholders instead of focusing on a few, or you've been rushing around in circles because you don't have a robust plan.

When we don't have a clear plan with well-defined purposes or definitions, we can stray from the path.

The Journey
The Journey

There are many things to focus on during your project's journey and the best thing you can do is make a plan and set realistic goals before you set out.

Think about the goals you had before you were stuck, and then decide if you need to rethink some of them.

Think about the Sirens in "The Odyssey." Besides plugging your ears with beeswax and tieing you and your team up to a mast, what are you doing to eliminate distractions?

It would help to make a list; "goals and distractions." In our next article "Stuck? These Expert Tips Will Get You Back on Track" we talk about how to use this.

Hopefully now you have a good idea of what happened and "how you got here".

The most important reason we need to do a mental backtrack is to identify what went wrong so you can prevent it next time.

We learn our most valuable lessons through trial and error.

Don't lose your confidence!  In our next article, we will discuss tools that will get you moving forward again. Continue with "Stuck?  These Expert Tips Will Get You Back on Track."

Published by Ian Maclean, P. Eng.

I was inspired to put my Engineering skills to work in the Medical Devices arena after learning about my Great Grandfather's transformative medical practice in the city of Winnipeg.  I enjoy the collaborative nature of the Winnipeg Device space and the people that make up this community.

Ian Maclean, Professional Engineer