We were discussing a recent example of a product group that was trying to do what amounts to merging two things that really ought to be distinct. The end result, as you might imagine, is a product that does neither thing well. She called that “building a carboat.”
And that immediately conjured up the image of a mis-conceived vehicle that “drives like a boat and floats like a car.” While that’s amusing to think about, it’s easy to do when you’re trying to please too many masters, designing by committee, or both.
This seems to belong very much in the canon of the Church of 37 Signals, and I couldn’t agree more. Of course, sometimes a carboat is the only thing that will satisfy everyone internally. And then you’ve really got to think not about your product, but about your whole internal development structure. If you’ve got a carboat factory, it’s going to be really hard to build a boat. Or a car.