For the last couple years we’ve been talking about being able to create excellence through the power of simplicity. This can take the form of simple visual controls, simple reports, simple cash-based accounting, simple customer service… and of course simple production planning.
And it can be simple design. This took front-and-center earlier this month with the release of the latest JD Power Initial Quality Study, which now considers "design flaws" as defects. In most cases these design flaws are features that are unnecessarily complex, which creates at least initial difficulty for the consumer.
An example would be BMW’s ubiquitous "I-Drive" that requires the driver to perform a series of twists and clicks of a single knob to toggle from the stereo screen to climate control… just to turn on the AC. Instead of simply hitting the friendly snowflake button. Although BMW was third-best in terms of actual manufacturing defects, they were penalized severely for such overly-complex design "flaws". Mercedes, not to be outdone, basically copied BMW’s I-Drive and was penalized as well.
Believe it or not, Porsche came out on top… even beating Lexus. The difference was due to the design side of Porsche, which users considered to be superior to Lexus. But what is somewhat surprising is that had the rankings been based purely on mechanical and manufacturing defects the order would have been only slightly different… Lexus first and Porsche second. So much for the common joke that a part of the high cost of Porsche goes toward the tow truck that follows each one. Overall Lexus is still the brand to beat, at number 1 for fewest manufacturing defects and number 5 for design flaws.
Some are trying to claim that considering such complexity issues as design flaws amounts to an "innovation penalty." David Buchko, a BMW spokesman, said "we are known, and we are expected to be, a leader in cutting-edge technology." Sorry David, that just doesn’t fly. A parking assist system is not just a parking assist system when BMW gets complaints and Lexus customers don’t even have to read the manual.
The difference is the execution. Excellence through simplicity. And simplicity does not require sacrifice.