Design Finalization: When “Good Enough” Really is Good Enough

For some of our customers, it is easy to tell when you’ve reached the end of a project. The requirements are met, the prototypes worked and the documentation is done and sent to the customer. Often there is a qualification phase where a series of customer-prescribed tests have to be performed; if the parts pass, the design is done, and the customer starts ordering.

Done is greater than perfect

When it comes to internal projects, determining when “good enough” is “done” can be a lot more difficult. Even after the design has been certified by an external entity, lots of questions can be left unanswered, like, “Can we make production easier?” or, “What about this application?” My boss, Zack, has a mug that he regularly drinks coffee from that reads “Done > Perfect”, and I think that reflects on the culture at HSI. We are here to finish designs and projects, not wait for them to reach “perfection.”

In a conversation I recently had with my co-workers, we talked about the balance between our concept of done and our customers’. One of my co-workers said that on several occasions he had more experiments to run, more data to validate, and other tasks to complete. But, to his surprise, the customer would respond with, “It’s perfect,” or, “It is working great in our application.” I think this reflects engineering’s balance between art and science that Ryan has talked about previously. Many great paintings might have had one more brush stroke that could have been done that only the artist would notice, but eventually, once the documentation has been turned in and the requirements fully met, the decision has to be made to call the work of art “done”.