Dumb Design


Intelligent Design: Cellphones Are Kryptonite To Nissan's I-Key – Consumerist

I previously had trouble with my Prius key flying out at me (which I've gotten better with, it hasn't flown out at me since I wrote that post).

What I've linked to above is a problem with Nissan/Infiniti and their key fob.

The blog “The Consumerist” wrote:

Our pocket holds two things: our keys and our cellphone, so it's a good thing we don't own a 2007 Nissan Altima or Infinity G35. The intelligent I-Key used to start those models can be turned into a paperweight if placed within an inch of an active cellphone.

The solution: keep the two at least an inch apart.

Not really a “Root Cause” solution, is it, telling the customers to keep the key and phone apart?

Toyota is known for putting themselves in customers' shoes, including the case where their lead engineer drove a minivan all across the U.S. and Canada to understand what a minivan customers' needs were, including the need for cupholders — lots and lots of cup holders!

How Nissan could not understand that people might put both their cell phone and key fob in their pocket everyday is mind boggling. I keep my Prius key and my RAZR phone (both are pretty tiny) in my pocket together all the time, with no problems thankfully!

The concept of “Genchi Genbutsu” (or “go and see”) doesn't apply just to the factory floor, in extends to your customers. Telling customers to not do things isn't smart design.

Nissan could have very easily foreseen this problem if they had used very basic “Failure Mode Effects Analysis.” FMEA is a pretty commonly used design tool — did they use it and ignore the keyfob problem for some reason?

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. Hi Mark,

    sounds like a problem I encountered last weekend at German Postal Service.

    Early closing times -unlike the flexible opening hours all around us and even privately run postal services- results in queues that are larger than to GDR-times;-(

    The official response I got via mail was, “Due to economic reasons and customer research we can’t open the post agencies longer than at the moment. (my own thoughts: Please come earlier!”.

    That sounds pretty close the same as your post. The root causes are not touch a millimeter:-(

    By the way there is a post that is open -7 days a week:-))- but is run privately by a bookstore at the Leipzig railway station and that is not allowed to offer certain services, such as deliver packages and large letters (like books).

    It’s unbelievable and I think it will need a really big crisis to change the thinking of certain people (managers mostly) that what counts is the CUSTOMER not the costs in the first line.

    Hoping for leaner times



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