Magic Triangle Profiles

The magic triangle is used for any decision making model. See Figure below.


The words are sometimes slightly different, but the meaning is the same.  There is only 1 rule:

In any decision, you may ONLY pick two points on the triangle.  The third is deficient.

If you choose Scope, it means that you have a more ambitious feature set. Quick means you always hit your deadlines (on time, under budget). Polished means you do testing, re-factoring, spend time on the frameworks and quality assurance. The execution is about how well you do what you do. Companies can screw up any choice they make with bad people or process or decision making.

Every company chooses, although often not intentionally. It is in their DNA. The funny thing is that there is no correct choice.  Each pair will yield different PROs and CONs.  Additionally, each company can execute their strategy better or worse. Here are some examples to help explain.

This is when a company says, “We will miss deadlines and take a long time to develop, but the result will have the scope we want and the details nailed down.”

Good Execution Apple, Oracle, Adobe
Poor Execution Blackberry, Intuit

For example, the Apple iWatch is ridiculously late and Apple is getting bad press over it. However, the likelihood is that the scope and quality will be very good. Blackberry conversely is also taking their time, but the execution isn’t as good and the results are poor.

PROs: People will love you if you execute well.
CONs: Mismanaged expectations, missed opportunities, slow to market

This is when a company says, “Let’s get a broad set of tools to the market quickly. We may incur technical debt, but we can deal with that later.”

Good Execution Marketo, Salesforce
Poor Execution Successfactors, Jobvite
– (these two are conjecture on my part)

This is a great choice when you are entering a new marketplace with lots of loose competition. It’s high risk, high reward. Feature set is often an important selling point. The key is to try and shift gears before the technical debt gets too onerous.

PROs: Get to market quickly with many features
CONs: Technical debt (and UX debt) can be devastating if left unpaid for too long.

This is when a company says, “Let’s do one thing really well and iterate on it.”

Good Execution Mobile app companies, WordPress
Poor Execution Predictive scoring startups

Agility is key for this kind of company. You don’t architect something enormous. Keep the aspirations tight and focused. Then use agile methodologies to iterate and improve. This works really well for Mobile app startups since apps lend themselves to smaller scope.

PROs: Get to market quickly with a MVP, Learn and improve quickly.
CONs: Depending on the market, you may architect yourselves into a corner.

As you can see, there are different choices a company makes that all can be successful or not depending on execution. So why does this matter? My answer is recruiting. It will yield a cultural mismatch with high tension if the person is a SCOPE+QUICK type person working in a SCOPE+POLISHED environment. They won’t know why they are arguing with people all the time, but it is the magic triangle.

People are nuanced creatures with lots of little preferences and thought processes. We are a bundle of neurosis and past experiences. Culture is one of the most important aspects of hiring and often is the least understood. I hope this model may help you to understand it better.

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