This is text of an email I received a few years ago from an old friend. Poignantly true:

There was something about my experience with product development cycles that I failed to mention to you yesterday. You might also want to be on the lookout for it. That is, before the engineers ever worked with an alpha unit or even a bench mock-up, the marketing people would start advertising final performance and design specifications for the imaginary product. Usually that came more or less in the form of the marketing people photocopying the specifications from a competitor’s product that might be based on patented or otherwise proprietary and inaccessible technology. Real data were never actually involved in the published product specifications.

To recap, my experience with product development puts the process something like this:

1. A drunken conversation between a company executive and a prospective customer includes an offhand comment by the would-be customer that he would buy oodles of units if only “x” option was available. That pretty much comprises the entirety of the market research on the product.
2. The company executive returns from whatever exotic location he was in and calls a meeting in which the engineers are tasked with investigating the feasibility of the product. The engineers are handed a copy of a competitors product specifications for reference.
3. Before the engineers have a chance to do anything, the sales people announce that they have gone out and pre-sold units of the proposed product. The customers were promised the specifications of the competitors patented product and a delivery date somewhere in the two to three month range.
4. The engineers cobble together a piece-of-shit prototype in the minimal time frame allowed.
5. Company-wide panic ensues as the promised delivery date arrives and passes and suppliers cannot deliver parts in the ridiculously short lead time they are given.
6. There is no time to do proper testing on the product and no information exists on its actual performance.
7. Customers get shipped prototype units. Surprisingly, the prototypes fail to work as promised and/or break down.
8. Furious customers start yelling at the company representative tasked with addressing and solving problems (me).
9. The above mentioned problem solver goes insane because the product is fundamentally flawed due to the screwed up development process and cannot be altered to function properly.
10. The company institutes a standardized system of lying to customers about the product for the remainder of its life cycle.
11. High-ups in the company fire somebody over the debacle and vow that such a thing will NEVER happen again.
12. A new drunken conversation between a company executive and a prospective customer takes place (see step #1 above) and the entire process starts over.

A flow chart could probably be produced for this process but I am not that ambitious. I hope this helps and gives you some things to look out for.

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