Sunday, October 31, 2021



Jeff Immelt (former GE CEO) was once reviewing a problem in a product review with a group of executives. The problem being discussed was about the design of the brand-new engine that GE had developed for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
Engineers had narrowed the cause down to a critical flaw in the low-pressure turbine design. GE was now facing a potential crisis. The company had spent five years and over $1 billion developing the engine. The market for this engine was worth $50 billion. Jeff watched and listened as people debated how to proceed—and then something dramatic happened.
One of the frontline engineers who worked on the turbine stood up. He was not a manager, not an executive. He was just an individual contributor. He said something that most people probably did not want to hear: “This is wrong,” he said. “We designed it wrong. It’s not working the way it’s supposed to be working, and this is going to cost us hundreds of millions of dollars, but we have to do it over.” As Jeff recalls, “This was a master technologist, a guy who would not even think about being politically correct. He said this with such conviction. He knew the consequences of this decision were going to cost the company probably $400 million to fix.” Jeff took that engineer’s advice. It was a costly but correct decision.
(Story adapted from the book- "Ask Your Developer")

This story can be dissected in many ways but two points that stood-out for me were:
1. The presence of front-line engineers in a critical project review meeting.
2. Not the mere presence but the engineers being given a strong voice in the meeting.

Embracing such culture helped GE avoid what Shreyas Doshi calls an "Authority Approval Bias" in his blog-
It is the tendency to attribute greater accuracy to the opinion of an authority figure and be more influenced by that opinion.

The fact that an high authority figure can go wrong (we are all humans!) and by providing psychological safety for frontline engineers to speak, it can help avert major product problems.

The blog includes 6 more biases on why products usually fails-
-The Execution Orientation Fallacy
-The Bias-for-Building Fallacy
-The IKEA Effect for products
-The Focusing Illusion for products
-Maslow’s Hammer
-Russian Roulette for products

Catch my Sketchnote below & highly recommend reading the blog-

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