Best Practices

The Pie Factory

My mom asked me today, “What is it that you guys make at Jama?” I knew that was not a simple question to answer, as she isn’t familiar with any kind of product development.

I tried to say something about product development at Space X and multinational semiconductor chip companies, and how complicated that gets, and how you need a system to manage everything, but I ended up with this analogy:

Mom, imagine you want to boil an egg. You need nothing but the egg, a pot, water and a stove; just go in the kitchen and do it.

If you want to bake a pie, that’s something else. You need a recipe: a list of ingredients and instructions.

shutterstock_219632038 muffins 2

Now, imagine you work in a pie factory headquarters that employs hundreds of people. There are several pie factories worldwide and thousands of employees: Everyone needs recipes, work instructions and whatever else pertains to their tasks.

Let’s say that Marketing research suggests that adding whipped cream topping on the pies could increase sales by 10-15 percent. Product Development comes up with a change to the pie crust recipe so that it can accommodate the topping. Food scientists, storage experts, the delivery network and team executives discuss best ways the whipping cream can be made and applied so that it stays fresh between the factory and supermarket shelves. A natural preservative gets added to the topping; now you’re dealing with multiple recipes.

The result: A tastier pie with broader appeal and a much more complex list of ingredients and instructions than you started with.

This is what Jama makes: A single system to keep track of the recipe, the changes to the recipe and the reasons those decisions were made, and the people involved.

It will still take a while for my mom to take it all in…

Did you ever have to come up with a simple analogy for what you do? How did you explain it?