Design for the Supply Chain Pt 7: Honest

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We’re getting into the second half of the “10 Principles of Good Design” as applied to supply chain and supply chain management (Design for the Supply Chain). This week we’re talking about the honesty of the supply chain management solution.

Principle #6: Good design “Is honest”

“It does not make a product appear more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.” – ‘Dieter Rams: ten principles for good design’ This principle immediately brings to mind for me the Gartner hype cycle. As an example, below is the Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, 2015.

Source: Gartner

I like to think about the hype cycle as being similar to Tuckman's model of group development: Forming–Storming–Norming–Performing where:

  • Innovation Trigger and Peak of Inflated Expectations ≈ Forming
  • Trough of Disillusionment ≈ Storming
  • Slope of Enlightenment ≈ Norming
  • Plateau of Productivity ≈ Performing

This is a pretty natural progression in terms of the introduction of new technology or ways of doing things. I think there’s a common belief that you have to oversell capabilities in order to get buy-in for moving in a new direction. I’ve seen my fair share of projects where teams jumped through hoops to cost justify implementing new software and/or business processes to get approval for the project. They unturned every stone to try and show as much value as possible in an attempt to make the projected impact so high that the decision to support the effort would be a “no brainer”.

The trouble with this overselling approach is that it can quickly lead into the “Trough of Disillusionment” AND make the trough deeper. This is even more problematic with “big bang” or “all-in” type projects. In addition to the normal project justification I think it’s good to break things down so that the project starts with a proof of concept (POC) to test the waters and prove that the desired results can be achieved.

Utilizing an Agile Methodology to run the POC (as well as the subsequent phases of the project) allows for frequent and on-going checks against project deliverables and value realization. In this way there is a continuous check-and-balance to ensure that the solution is “honest”. When the solution is not honest, it creates a vicious cycle that spawns additional projects or rework that goes through these same stages.

What a waste of precious resources… At the end of the day, this principle is important because being honest about the solution at inception through implementation allows the business to incorporate change in a way that is more realistic, which helps to reduce additional churn (storming), thereby being able to perform effectively a lot sooner (shorter path from Norming to Performing).

In terms of Industry 4.0, reference the hype cycle above for where various aspects are in the cycle (e.g. IoT Platform, Advanced Analytics with Self-Service Delivery, Digital Dexterity). I believe there will always be a certain level of hype with anything new because there’s always enthusiasm for the ‘new and improved’. I’m in favor of getting on with some POCs to show, with integrity and “honesty”, the real value of this framework while minimizing the “Trough of Disillusionment”.

What has your experience been in terms of supply chain improvement projects – have they been predominately honest in their projections and results?  What do you do to ensure an honest solution?

Want to learn more about Design for the Supply Chain? Check out the rest of the series:


- May 01, 2016 at 2:31am
This information is worth everyone's attention. How can I find out more?
- May 02, 2016 at 12:16pm
If your interest is related to this series in general, just click on the "Design for the Supply Chain" link in the opening of the blog post or click on "More blog posts by Jonathan Lofton" at the bottom of the post. If there is something specific in this posting that you would like to know more about please let me know. I'd be happy to provide more information or pointers to the material I referenced.



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