Remember: Shippables only

Updated: May 15, 2018



Remember: shippables only

It is crucial that a team creates shippables only. You need an end-to-end team for that. The team should contain “builders” mainly, people who have the skills to build shippables. In an online team that makes web stuff, you need for example 1 designer, 3 developers, 1 tester. If you have a team without enough builders, progress will be really slow and the non-builders will only create stuff that is not shippable or not used at all: we call that waste. A typical overview of activities to ship one item is 80% building it, 10% design, 10% the rest. Engineering is building. Using Pro/E is building.


So, a team of chefs should create edible dishes of food. A band should create songs. A product innovation team should create products. A product design team is not a team that can create something shippable, unless they make as real as possible prototypes or real products only. A team of researches can not create anything shippable either, unless they sell research reports. A team of managers mainly creates fuzz. ;-) Just kidding. As a manager try to protect the team from other requests and support the team to do small experiments. Create a culture of ”let’s just try something small” and less discussion. Encourage attempts, value learning experience, allow failure and motivate teams to perservere. Celebrate and share success widely.


A design is not shippable, neither is a presentation or a report. Sorry. Sometimes we have to make them of course, do it as short as possible, and invest in increasing the level of your reality of what you deliver. A strategy is not shippable. As a strategist you should provide max. the top 3 most valuable things to do for a team. That’s it. And while helping a team forward, a strategist should focus on helping the team with what they are building now.


Saying that design is not shippable, doesn’t mean you can’t do design. Actually the whole process is a design process. I have a MSc degree in Industrial design Engineering. This process is perfect for designers. The actual drawing is never a stand alone shippable product, but a paper prototype or some kind of mock up is. And while you see the result, you can experience it, evaluate it and improve into a richer or better result.


If you sell designs, then of course design is shippable. If you sell reports, then of course the report is a shippable item. I would like to challenge designers to use all their knowledge and focus all their talents on the current cycle that the team is developing, right now. If you do more than that, chances are you are creating stuff that is not used. We call that waste. It requires designers and builders with communication skills and collaboration skills. Choosing a new font for a website would require a quick 5 minutes exploration and then a trial and improve process together with a developer and tweak it together until it is good enough to ship, for now.


The idea of creating shippables is that the level of reality is really high, so you can determine the full impact of the result. I have seen many projects, where the last deployment step has been postponed and apps or sites were kept in development environments for too long. Always ship it to a real, and underwater environment, so you can see how it behaves in reality. Improve from there.