« I've Got The United States Ranked 30th In Olympics Medal Count | Main | People Are The Same The World Over »

August 29, 2004

Jumping through hoops

A while back I posted about how product designs are getting too difficult, and how the greater the number of steps it takes for someone to set up a product, or to use a service, the less successful they will be. In it, I mentioned the Six Sigma concept of Rolled Throughput Yield: "the probability of being able to pass a unit of product or service through the entire process defect-free."

Let's say you have a website, and a registration process that takes four steps. Each step is pretty well-designed-- 90% of users are able to complete each step. However, only 65% of people will actually make it through, because you're losing people every step of the way (.9 x 4 = .65). The shows that often the best way to address the problem is not to improve the individual elements, but to remove elements altogether.

More recently, I wrote about how hard it is for organizations to produce well-designed products, because in order for a good design get out in the world, it has to run jump through a set of departmental hoops -- be approved by the business owners, marketers, designers, engineers, manufacturers, etc. etc. At each step, the project can be stalled. Or so many people have to be pleased, products are "designed by committee" - not a recipe for innovation.

This struck me as a kind of organizational variant to Rolled Throughput Yield. Particularly because we've seen that the organizations that do support innovative design have smaller, multi-disciplinary teams, not departmental stovepipes. It also struck me that these are two sides of the same coin. The complexity of product from the first example is often a result of the complexity of organizations in the second -- design by committee, or some form of serial design process, leads to products with too many discrete parts and interfaces, which are essentially invitations for something to go wrong.

Separately, on a bit of a Googlewander, I came across David Woods, who, among other things, has written about "human error."In reading some papers he wrote on the topic, I came across this diagram:
Taken from here (PDF), which is meant to be read in conjunction with this (PDF).

(I've been meaning to read more of David's stuff for a while. I think the study of "human error" can be an insightful perspective for user-centered design.)

The challenge, of course, seems to be to manage complexity. Complexity seems to be a given. Is it? Is increasing complexity inevitable? Occasionally products emerge that massively reduce complexity (at least, complexity of use), and are popular -- the original Palm (compared to earlier pen-based computing) and Google come to mind. Maybe the iPod (I don't know how it stacks up to other music players from a complexity standpoint).

Posted by peterme at August 29, 2004 01:58 PM


I don't see the connection between the diagram & what you're saying. The Woods / Cook papers discuss how accidents happen in complex systems & how to respond to them, but they don't suggest reducing the complexity of those systems.

Posted by: Jim C. at August 30, 2004 08:05 AM

if you're looking for more on "human error" by David Woods, I suggest taking a look at the (inactive) coursemodule available here:

Posted by: Justin Grossman at August 30, 2004 01:36 PM

Posted by: Justin Grossman at August 30, 2004 01:38 PM

You ask, 'Is increasing complexity inevitable?'

Yep. It's a natural/evolutionary law - simplicity tends towards complexity. then it optimises.

Google isn't exempt. They just presented the 'optimised' version of a search engine, based on the complexity models of competitors and knowing what not to show.

Posted by: Grantmr at August 31, 2004 10:43 AM

In your free time, check some relevant pages about... Thanks!!!

Posted by: Anonymous at February 6, 2005 06:25 PM

LIVE SHOW: all our girls to your disposition.

Posted by: Anukis at March 22, 2006 01:49 PM

Without limits, 24HS / 24 the girls n ’ wait that your orders. There are also sexual games, erotic stories and more...

Posted by: Mesjenet at March 22, 2006 02:09 PM

Pay day loans in a profusion never before seen by me were spun everywhere, and delicately-textured bats observed their age-and-sex and hushed wings on all sides of the otherwise supermatic gloom.

Posted by: pay day loan no fax at March 23, 2006 11:57 AM

Every day the whole sex. Galleries of free sex to enjoy.

Posted by: Enéada at March 23, 2006 07:54 PM

The best images and videos of hard hardcore sex.

Posted by: Hurun at March 23, 2006 08:03 PM

photo gratuite de celebrite nu , logiciel montage gratuit photo

Posted by: Theader at March 24, 2006 03:04 AM

windows media machine lavement movies ebony et boom meilleures

Posted by: grayson at March 24, 2006 07:24 AM

great site presonelle, enyoed!!

Posted by: douglaska at March 24, 2006 07:57 AM

Mozilla Firefox... The advantages of this navigator are clear: it is light, sure, compact and functional.

Posted by: Tatenen at March 25, 2006 08:24 AM

Mozilla Firefox...The principal difference is that it has been prepared by the system XUL and created to be multi platform.

Posted by: Uadyur at March 25, 2006 08:46 AM

ogiciel vga pocket pc , logiciel telecharger psp , editeur logiciel bourse

Posted by: Mc.Hiven at March 28, 2006 03:40 AM

great oportunity to discovere the meilleur materiel gratuit on the net, ici in the zone telecharger

Posted by: manathosh at March 28, 2006 07:52 AM

telecharger all version 01net, everithin is hear nex to the portal of sites on the net

Posted by: calinica at March 28, 2006 08:20 AM

WinRar 3.5... One of the best software of compression of files.

Posted by: Horajty at March 28, 2006 04:15 PM

DivX Video 5.2... Load the codecs of DivX to see the movies in DVD quality.

Posted by: Duamutef at March 28, 2006 04:33 PM

Mozilla Firefox ... it has been prepared by the system XUL and created to be multi platform.

Posted by: Hor Imyshenu at March 31, 2006 12:25 PM

Countervirus guarantees the safety of your PC ...*, * Passwords, * Encryption, * Exterminators, * Maintenance, * Alertness, * Firewalls.

Posted by: Astarté at March 31, 2006 12:44 PM

Le meilleur client des réseaux edonkey que l'on peut trouver.

Posted by: Lovely at April 1, 2006 04:29 AM

telecharger driver 3 , messenger telecharger , telecharger driver hp..

Posted by: yseult at April 3, 2006 04:15 AM

on the cd rom you find the best material on the net

Posted by: abhinan at April 3, 2006 05:03 AM

It chooses his girl and you chat about video with her in alive and in direct.

Posted by: Kematef at April 3, 2006 12:17 PM

Free video, is always learned of the new ways...!!!!!!

Posted by: Basty at April 3, 2006 12:34 PM