Friday, July 25, 2008

Faster Better Cheaper

My thesis research has begun in earnest, and I'm having a blast with it. It's a beautiful thing to study something you enjoy and are passionate about. I highly recommend it.

The thesis will basically take some of my AT&L articles from past years and give them a more rigorous academic treatment. Specifically, I'm examining my FIST: Fast, Inexpensive, Simple, Tiny model for innovative technology development. The basic idea is that FIST fosters innovation.

One of the cool things about this topic is NASA basically ran an 8 year, 16 mission experiment on the FIST model in the 90's, only they called it Faster, Better, Cheaper. Note the absence of "simpler" from that title - it's a key omission. As part of my research, I'm currently reading a book by professor Howard McCurdy, titled Faster, Better, Cheaper, and I'm excited to see that Prof. McCurdy's conclusions support my FIST model very nicely! Check out what he has to say:

“Engineers and other experts can reduce the cost of spaceflight and the time necessary to prepare missions for flight. Moreover, they can do so without significant loss of reliability. They can also do so with only modest reductions in spacecraft capability.”

“Reduced capability does not mean the mission is automatically worse. A mission with one-half the capability will be ‘better’ if it performs that mission at one-tenth the price.”

“Additional spending does not always purchase added reliability. It buys complexity. Added complexity creates a point of diminishing returns, which eventually reduced reliability.”

“Proponents of the [Faster, Better, Cheaper] approach created failure when they reduced cost and schedule faster than they lessened complexity.”

Naturally, that is where my Simplicity Cycle comes in... It just might be the missing piece of the Faster, Better, Cheaper equation. I should probably get in touch with this Dr. McCurdy, eh?

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