"Keep Horse Droppings from Falling on Your Head and Your Crapper from Exploding" by Greg White
Interesting note: the first draft was written on my Blackberry while sitting in the Starbucks at 4th and Seneca in Seattle.
I've been to Seattle several times, but yesterday was my first underground tour of the old city. The story is a prime illustration of the importance of proper planning.
The original city was built on a tidal plain. The elevation resulted in tidal flooding which prevented the sewer system from functioning properly at high tide. When the Crappers, the original toilets named after inventor Thomas Crapper, were flushed, pressure from the up-hill part of town caused a violent back-flow into low-lying homes.
To raise the sewer system, city streets were raised by 8 feet or more. Retaining walls were built between the sidewalk and street. Fill dirt was brought in to raise the streets and sewer lines. This put the sidewalks and first floors below ground level. Getting around town became difficult, horse droppings fell onto the sidewalks during rains (Remember, this is Seattle!) and many falling deaths occurred. To rectify these issues, the city built sidewalks at street level, effectively sealing off the first floors. This spurred a rat population explosion which promoted widespread disease, prompting city officials to condemn the first floors of most buildings. A lost underground city was created.
The story of underground Seattle shows us what happens when we don't have a good plan for our products and allow outside factors to drive our product roadmap. Without proper strategic product planning, we end up with incongruous products and product components as well as infrastructure that doesn't efficiently meet market needs.
How much "duct tape and bubble gum" is holding your product or infrastructure together? How much more difficult does this make your job? Make life easier for yourself and your customers. Have the big picture in mind when you do your product planning. Don't let your Crapper explode because you failed to anticipate future needs.
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