Start With the End in Mind

Photo by Valentin Antonucci on

As the wise Baseball coach Yogi Berra once stated, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” When taking on any new adventure, project, task, job, etc., having an idea as to what the end of it looks like will help determine how to get there. When contemplating the end of a project, think about the hand off process, the use cases, the feelings the customer will have. Ask what issues might arise in trying to meet those goals. E.g. if ACME is building a set of kitchen cabinets, they should consider what getting finished cabinets into the customer’s home will entail. Are the doors wide enough to get through? Are there tight corners to be maneuvered around? Will they scratch walls or floors on their way in? Have the old cabinets been removed? How many stairs need to be ascended (or descended)?

Starting with the end in mind is a useful tactic for making apps, designing menus (and how food will be displayed when served), building homes, landscaping, and many other industries. In any case where a finished product will be handed off to a customer, trying to think through their reactions, their use patterns (or misuse), and feelings about the product will make for a much better handoff. Let’s look at a couple examples of this going wrong;

  • Mobile banking apps only allowing password resets with a text message. When someone gets a new number or leaves the country for vacation (to a place with limited cell phone reception), it becomes nearly impossible to reset your password and access your finances. They could have used email.
  • Kitchen designs that put a refrigerator too close to a wall, making it impossible to open the door all the way. A smaller refrigerator, or a different location could have eliminated this issue.
  • Car manufacturers putting the battery in a hard to access location. Jumping a car (or changing the battery) is one of the most common maintenance requirements on vehicles. Putting it in a simple to access location would save many headaches.
  • Mandated, online programs not having the server capacity to manage usage. When unrolling the Affordable Care Act, millions of users needed to use the online portal to sign up for health insurance at the same time. The website lacked the capacity to handle the demand, though, causing system wide outages.
  • Another example might be fire escapes in public buildings. There needs to be enough of them to let everyone out when the building is at max capacity.

Starting with the end in mind might not work when sitting down to write a fiction story. It might not work when embarking on a truly new path with more unknowables than knownables. But, when there is a clear goal that one is aiming for, spending time thinking about what delivering on that goal looks like will lead to a better process in the middle. At the very least, reflecting on what feelings a customer should take away with them after taking part in your product or service will help identify what areas to focus on to improve that experience.

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