I can name that tune in three notes.

More with more doesn’t cut it anymore, just not good enough.

The behavior we’re looking for can be nicely described by the old TV game show Name That Tune, where two contestants competed to guess the name of a song with the fewest notes. They were read a clue that described a song, and ratcheted down the notes needed to guess it. Here’s the nugget: they challenged themselves to do more with less, they were excited to do more with less, they were rewarded when they did more with less. The smartest, most knowledgeable contestants needed fewer notes. Let me say that again – the best contestants used the fewest notes.

In product design, the number of notes is analogous to part count, but the similarities end there. Those that use the fewest are not considered our best or our most knowledgeable, they’re not rewarded for their work, and our organizations don’t create excitement or a sense of challenge around using the fewest.

For other work, the number of notes is analogous to complexity. Acknowledge those that use the fewest, because their impact ripples through your company, and makes all your work easier.

4 Responses to “I can name that tune in three notes.”

  • Don H:

    I loved reading this analogy. Extending the gains we make using lean practices, and continuously stretching ourselves to figure out how to accomplish more with less is rewarding. We are looking at taking business to a higher level without increasing our existing workforce. And although much of this is measured on the bottom line, there are very tangible and visible improvements continuing to surface in our organization. Some of them come quickly, and others occur more gradually, but it is rewarding in itself to consider that I make a personal investment in these changes and improvements.

  • Mike:

    Thanks, Don. I thought the Name That Tune reference may have been too obscure (old) for some, but I’m glad it worked for you. As you say, lean is not about cutting or reducing, it’s about creatively challenging yourself to maximize and feeling excited about it. It’s contagious.

  • GREAT analogy, Mike. Now if only the design community (and let’s not forget Manufacturing) would treat that behavior like winning contestants. Thanks for putting this out there.

  • Mike:

    Thanks, Dave. Can you suggest ways which we can celebrate this behavior and make it feel like winning? Mike

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Mike Shipulski Mike Shipulski
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