Design with why

July 20, 2017

Written by John Hunter, Advanced Completions Director

I should probably start this blog with a reference to Simon Sinek and his book Start With Why. Simon is a passionate exponent of the fact that only by starting at the WHY of things can we truly be successful and fulfilled. In his book, he leans mostly towards leadership and marketing aspects, and outlines that some people buy into the belief and passion of a company or cause.

His point is that people buy WHY you do things, not necessarily what you do. We live in world where for most products there is a broad choice of brands, Apple, Samsung etc and even more so with cars. What makes people choose a brand? Most offer very similar specifications and value, often the decision comes down to some gut feel, a preference that isn’t easily put into words. This is the WHY – whatever it is your chosen company/brand does and says, it works for you and resonates with the same kind of thoughts and feelings you have. A strong WHY for a company underpins all the branding and marketing, and how a company is perceived.

We can apply this WHY approach to design and product development. We all know of projects that start well but finish with results that are poor at best and at worst totally miss what the client needs or will buy. Even within our own organisations, we can probably point to projects that in retrospect, we made all the wrong choices along the way. It is easy to start a project planning how to do the tasks needed and have an idea of what it is that will fall out at the end of the process, the tangible object etc.

What is often missing is a clear WHY.  Why are we starting this? Why does my company want to do this? Why should the client care or want to buy? Does this align with the WHY of the company and the WHY of the project team? If people believe in the project, if it sits well with what they hold to be true about the challenge or technology, then the chances of project success are high. Having a clear understanding of the WHY will help focus the team’s efforts and overall project progress. It also helps people stay positive and motivated when things don’t go to plan, as the project is about the WHY and not the how and what. We all know that failure is a key part of any development project, a strong WHY underpins and supports the team to get back up and keep moving.

An example is a project my team and I have been focussed on for a while now; one that has proven to be a huge challenge, both technically and time wise. Technically we have been trying to develop a miniature mechanism to fit within tight space constraints, whilst still retaining all the robustness and longevity of much larger and less constrained counterparts.

However, our focus hasn’t been on developing a device or series of mechanisms.  We didn’t start the project looking to develop mechanisms, systems and an electro-mechanic device that had a set of specifications (HOW). We started by stepping back and looking at what the WHY was, WHY does the client want this, what are the key values that the client wants to buy. It was clear that the client wasn’t looking for a widget with certain ratings, they wanted an ability, a functionality. Ultimately the client wanted a means to control their operations in a totally new, efficient and value increasing way. And this was our WHY. Project decisions have all been made in sight of this WHY, for example any compromises on technical specifications have been to ensure we keep this WHY clear and precise.

The end result is that we have developed the PulseEight device, the world’s first truly intelligent completion tool.  This device uses unique Pressure Pulse Telemetry to give clients the ability to control and monitor their reservoirs in ways that previously were either not technically possible nor economically unfeasible. We have given clients the ability to do new things with their operations.

The team has had some very difficult days, and at times it would have been easier to give in, but no-one has, and if anything, the team has doubled efforts and kept the focus. The result or the WHAT, is that we now have an exceptional product that is gaining strong interest in the market and will be deployed in several key applications in the near term.  The team is stronger for it, more resolute and eager to move on to the next challenge where we will focus on providing clients with even more control and understanding of reservoir production.

I’m very sure in the fact that if we had not had a clear sense of the WHY, we would not be where we are today.

My challenge to you is to find out WHY you are doing the project you are – it might be clear, but it probably is not. WHY is your company running the project? WHY would clients want it? WHY are you and your team doing it? It has to be more than to make money or shareholder value.

Knowing WHY you are doing something makes a difference. Working hard for no reason is stressful, working hard with a strong WHY is passion (and very rewarding). Without a strong WHY, people will just take a pay packet. With a strong WHY, people will put their heart and soul into a project, this is evidenced in our experience over the last few years.

Design with Why blog written by John Hunter, Advanced Completions Engineer, Tendeka