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Orchestrated Reviews

If you think your design is perfect, it means you haven’t shown it to anyone yet – Harry Hillaker

Open, frequent, and well-engineered reviews and demonstrations are great ways to uncover and fix mistakes and errors before they grow into downstream money and time sucking abominations. In spite of this, some project cultures innocently but surely thwart effective reviews.

Out of fear of criticism, designers in dysfunctional cultures take precautions against “looking bad“. Camouflage is generated in the form of too much or too little detail.  Subject matter experts are left off the list of reviewers in order to uphold a false image of infallibility.

Another survival tactic  is to pre-load the reviewer list with friends and cream puffs who won’t point out errors and ambiguities for fear of losing their status as nice people and good team players. In really fearful cultures, tough reviewers who consistently point out nasty and potential budget-busting errors are tarred and feathered so that they never provide substantive input again. In the worst cases, reviews and demonstrations aren’t even performed at all. Bummer.


  1. Ray
    November 9, 2009 at 8:27 am

    The can’t look bad review is a fall out of the waterfall method. Since each review marks a milestone in the project. So this means the review has to indicate progress without any question. You are right this review is not set up as an actual review but as a sales presentation to keep selling the project. In fact it is rare that management would want anything but creme-puff questions asked at a review. They want to just sign off on the progress.

  2. Andy Hill
    August 13, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    I have seen the quote “If you think your design is perfect, it is only because you have not shown it to someone else” attributed to Harry Hillaker.

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