Jon Kolko on How Organizational Change Affects Product Development

In Chapter 15 of 21 in his 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, design educator Jon Kolko answers "How Do You Evaluate When to Continue a Project and When to Kill It?"  Kolko details his consulting experience and how projects more often than not are killed not due to the products themselves but rather organizational change or corporate reorganization.  

Jon Kolko is the founder and director of the Austin Center for Design.  He has authored multiple books on design, including "Wicked Problems: Problems Worth Solving."  Previously he has held senior roles at venture accelerator Thinktiv and frog design and was a professor of Interactive and Industrial Design at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).  Kolko earned his Masters in Human Computer Interaction (MHI) and BFA in Design from Carnegie Mellon University.


Erik Michielsen: How do you evaluate when to continue a project and when to kill it?

Jon Kolko: I don’t think I've ever killed a project. I think typically you either run out of money or time or the project evolves into something else. I’ve had projects killed on me as a consultant and I can think of at least three or four examples of that and they’ve always had nothing to do with the product. It's actually really interesting. They always had stuff to do with organizational change. Quarter after quarter profits lead to organizational reorganizations, which lead to what could be very effective, useful and informative products getting killed because the new organization didn’t support them, because the strategic comparatives have changed, because the team that was working on them is now dissolved, all of which are artificial reasons and not very good ideas because they are all driven by dividends. And so maybe if there's a lesson in there, it's -- don’t take your company public. But it's funny because like even within these organizations where you have almost total buy-in from people all the way down the chain, they still bemoan the death of their products, and it's like, look, they see the value of it, they're not in a position organizationally to fight for it. And so, the product gets killed.