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13.4 Launching the Business or Project

There is extensive literature by academics and practitioners on why businesses and projects fail. There is some agreement that management commitment and participation, along with involvement of employees, are the key success and failure factors, but after that the literature is somewhat confusing and inconclusive.We have been involved in several research papers on the subject including Garrity, Glassberg, Kim, Sanders, and Shin (2005) and Garrity and Sanders (1998). Note 13.7 "Watch Outs During Project Management" presents a few of the areas that can cause problems and perhaps even cause the project to fail. These issues should be treated as watch outs.

Risk is inherent in all businesses and projects. It is virtually impossible to make everything perfect and deliver a perfect product or service. Guy Kawasaki in Reality Check is very aggressive in his view of launching a new product or service.Kawasaki (2008). He states “Don’t worry, be crappy” and thinks that it is acceptable to ship a version of a product with elements of crappiness. He believes that the crappiness can be subsequently fixed in version 2.1 of the product. Kawasaki has a number of very insightful views on the innovation process as illustrated in Note 13.8 "Kawasaki Insights".

Watch Outs During Project Management

  • Management did not spend enough time and resources on the project and/or business.
  • The employees that were to use a system were not sufficiently involved in the development.
  • Insufficient resources were allocated to the project. This includes money, technology, time, and staff and others.
  • The function or process was not developed to match the tasks that were to be accomplished.
  • The system interfaces were poorly designed.
  • Not enough time to complete the project and too many competing commitments.
  • Too many changes were made to the original specifications of the project.
  • An emerging and immature technology was not ready for prime time.
  • There was no demand for the business or the project.
  • There was little if any project management.

Kawasaki Insights

“Innovation had better create wealth because it is so damn hard to do.”

  • Build something that you want to use. Don’t look towards the “visionary entrepreneurs” (that is a “crock of bull shitake”). People start companies because they want to use the products or services they create.
  • Make meaning. Great innovations enable people to do something better or permit people to do things they never wanted to do. For example, the iPad, iPod, iPhone, the Frisbee, and auto global positioning system.
  • Jump to the next curve. Most companies spend all of their time duking it out on the same demand curve. True innovation occurs when companies jump to the next demand curve. We do not need icehouses and landline phones anymore.
  • Don’t worry be crappy. It is ok to ship an innovation with elements of crappiness. First versions are seldom perfect and you will never ship if you wait till it is perfect.
  • Churn, baby churn. It is all right to ship with elements of crappiness, but you should not stay crappy. You need versions 1.5, 1.9, 2.0, and so forth. Employees do not want to hear about product complaints during launch. They just want to ship. “Innovation is not an event it is a process.”
  • Don’t be afraid to polarize people. Deliver great products and do not worry if your product does not appeal to every demographic, socioeconomic, and geographic location. You want to incite passion in the marketplace.
  • Break down barriers. It takes a long time to gain acceptance in the marketplace. Do not become flustered when acceptance is slow. You need to keep on chugging and get people to test drive your innovation.
  • Let a hundred flowers blossom. Be flexible in how people use your products. People used Apple for desktop publishing rather than use it for the spreadsheet, word-processing, and so forth. Recall that Avon Skin-So-Soft was also used as a bug repellent.
  • Think digital act analog. Use all of the technology to deliver innovation, but remember it is the happy people and not the coolness of the technology that is important.
  • Never ask people to do what you wouldn’t want to do. If the product solves a great problem and it is hard to use, then it will not stick.
  • Don’t let the bozos grind you down. Do not let influential people outside of the company influence you. Stick to your knitting.