Perfecting Products Before or After Launch

In the realm of efficiency and productivity, I am sometimes asked about product development. Specifically, about whether it is better to perfect products prior to launch or launch the product faster and then perfect it when it’s already in the market. I am going to answer this question by referencing Six Sigma practices. 

In Six Sigma, the goal is to have about 99.99 percent of products or services that are free of defects. This translates to about 3.4 defects per million and, therefore, the output is deemed to be perfect. You can see then, that the goal is near perfection. However, perfection can be costly if the organization’s aim is perfection, but its customers would be happy with “near perfection.” This puts the question of perfecting products prior to or after launch right into the lap of the customer. If your organization is developing products for market, your organization needs to answer the question, “How well does our process output meet our customer requirements?” Also, is the organization’s definition of perfection in line with Six Sigma’s definition in relation to defects? 

An organization that launches a product that does not meet its customers’ requirements is setting itself up for failure. For example, if you’ve developed a new software application, but haven’t cleaned up major bugs, your customers are not going to be happy because you have not met their basic requirements in relation to the product. You can imagine that there will be several outcomes from this launch. First, your customers are not happy. Second, your customers will go to your competitors. Third, if your competitors’ products are better, there’s a good chance you’ve lost your customers forever. Fourth, your organization will lose money. And the list goes on. 

But here’s another way to look at this example. Where Six Sigma calls for near perfection, the 80-20 Rule tells us to focus on only the 20 percent of the product’s features that will deliver 80 percent of the necessary requirements. So the question becomes, “How critical is it to your customer that your product or service be perfect before launch?” If you’re launching a software application that monitors patient breathing, then holding off until the product is perfect before launch makes sense. But if you’re launching a new game application, focusing on perfecting the critical 20 percent that will control 80 percent of the game’s features is perfectly good. 

In summary, then, whether you perfect your product or service before launching or launching it faster and then perfecting it, depends on your customers’ requirements and needs, not the least of which is the criticality of the product or service itself. With this in mind, if you’re still not certain, put yourself in your customers’ shoes. If you were the customer, what would you expect from your organization and its products and services?