Simple does Scale: The Model T

I recently visited The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI. My family and I spent half the day learning about Henry Ford, his two failed attempts to start a car company and how he built the Ford Motor Company from nothing. I won’t get into the politics or controversy surrounding the man, but one could not leave there a little awestruck by how this man changed the world. Out of everything I learned that day, one thing stuck with me: The impact of the Model T.

I began to truly appreciate the simple elegance of the Model T.  Previously, I would look at the Model T as a crude mode of transportation, a relic of a bygone era. After spending more time around the Model T the genius of the design was clear. The car was built to be built. Over and over again. In fact, by the end of the Model T’s run over 15 million were of it in its various forms were sold worldwide.

 

 Model T 

 “It will be constructed of the best materials, by the best men to be

hired, after the simplest designs that modern engineering can devise.”

– Henry Ford (Source)

Those words: “simplest designs” obviously made me think about what we are doing with software. The simplicity of the design allowed Henry Ford to scale – scale big and fast while serving the most customers as efficiently as possible. We are admittedly taking a page out of Mr. Ford’s book and employing his same strategy to software.

The question for all businesses remains: How can I make my business simpler so that we can grow faster? Complexity should be looked upon as a growth inhibitor – arguably a negative force to be on guard against. In the business world things tend to get complicated almost subconsciously or complexity creeps in to manage exceptions or “one-offs”. Complexity then calcifies over time and becomes the norm ultimately slowing you down.

My advice: Take a look at your business and even more specifically your sales process. See what you can make simpler, it will pay off for you in the long run. Just look at the Model T.

~ JP

Photo Credit: Harry Shipler, 1910 courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Comments

  1. I wholeheartedly agree. Micromanagement stifles creativity and potentially explosive growth. Simple design in management principles, product design, code, etc. is the best foundation from which to build.

    One thought to lend is to ensure that simplicity doesn’t allow a manager / owner a crutch to proclaim, “It works well, so I must be done.” Always seek improvement and look to expand the product or strategy for gaps in basic needs (the low hanging fruit) that can be filled.

    In other words, don’t be satisfied offering the consumer only vanilla ice cream and capturing a third of the business, when you could add a few more simple, in-demand flavors that boosts your appeal to more than half of the audience. http://goo.gl/dMdK

    Thanks for the refreshingly simple, yet highly effective tools you continue to provide.

  2. Debusk – Butter pecan tied with Strawberry – unbelievable. That link is exactly why I love the Internet. The fact that page exists makes me happy on many levels.

    Your point about simple line extension and seeking out additional opportunities is on the mark. While researching some of this post I discovered that Kingsford Charcoal was originally a “side business” of Henry Ford’s. Mr. Ford was able to monetize the leftover coals from his fires, repackage them and sell them. Pretty amazing and I think another illustration of your point.

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