How to convince an engineer… to listen to negative customer feedback!

Concepts matter. Engineers are notoriously hard of hearing when it comes to negative feedback about their designs. Not surprisingly, they’re keen about their work, but sometimes customers do experience mishaps, inconveniences or simply gripe about impractical features. How can we make engineers listen and mend their ways?

Typically, customer complaints are handled by a special department where experienced engineer tear down the problematic product, analyze the problem, find the root cause and come up with a design recommendation for a fix or for a best practice.

Typically as well, these are ignored by engineers.

When the experts come up with design guidelines, they’re assuming they’re working on the product. They’re not. They’re working on the mind of the engineer who is working on the product.

Coming up with detailed, small print, dense recommendations will simply ensure they’re never read, let alone taken on board.

The traditional model of:

  1. Show the facts: this didn’t work in these conditions
  2. Issue the guideline: you should do this instead

Simply does not work. To convince engineers you need to get through to their thinking:

  1. I understand what you were trying to do: here is the engineering concept you used — is that right?
  2. But in this case, this is what happened — can you see what went wrong?
  3. Here is a better engineering concept — do you agree?
  4. How would you solve the problem in this case?

You can be as directive or forceful as you like — oddly, it’s not about feelings, but understanding. In order to get engineers to listen, the data -> instruction loop simply fails to engage their thinking. You’ve got to go to the concept level to grab their attention.

This conversation doesn’t take more time (actually less), but does require better mastery of the deeper engineering concepts, and product knowledge.

If you want to convince an engineer, don’t stay at the surface facts level. Dive deeper into the concepts.

To find out more about lean engineering, join me at http://leadwithlean.com

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