The last 200 – 300 years have been characterized by a trend from the science of economics. Around the time when Adam Smith wrote the wealth of nations, it was specialization, rather than having each person make what they needed, they should become specialists at making one thing, and trade with other specialists. As time went on and the effect of the steam engine made the industrial revolution possible, it became scale economies, a trend that persists as central to many companies today. The 1960s and 70s were in many ways the age of “scientific management” and management fads such as “Total Quality Management” and “The Balanced Scorecard“. I suppose that in hindsight, the transition from a focus on producing a quality product, predictable operations, and little change, by way of management fads, was the introduction to the age of the marketer.
My reasoning behind this post is simple, as I was watching the recent episode of Silicon Valley, I saw once more the meeting between sales, administration and engineering within a business. These are the three parts of a business that can make or break it, but they are in fundamental conflict. While sales always want to sell the most, preferably in the easiest way possible, administration often view the company’s market value as its product, whereas engineers tend to be focused on the raison d’etre of a company, namely what it actually produces. Those who work in tech or production, will undoubtedly be aware of the problem with over-engineering, in that many engineers are perfectionists who, if left to their own devices may never decide to release the product to the public because it is not perfect, whereas sales and administration would rather release a product before it is finished if it will lead to commissions and market value. This made me think of various products I have purchased throughout the years, computers that last 8 years vs computers that break after 2.5, shoes that last a month vs shoes that last for years. Continue reading