The Origins of "Success Assured™"

The concept of knowing a design will work early in a project (rather than after the production prototypes have been tested) and will satisfy the customers, such that projects essentially never fail, was first observed at Toyota (along with other measurable benefits).  But the name we have given to that concept, "Success is Assured", was born from a pair using those design practices over a century ago: the Wright Brothers.

Before their first successful flight, despite that brilliant highly-qualified engineers all over the globe had been trying to achieve manned flight and consistently failing, the pair of bicycle shop owners with only a high school education had proven to themselves that they would succeed such that Wilbur wrote "There is now no question of final success.", and they telegrammed their father in typical telegram-abbreviated language, “Rudder only injured  success assured  keep quiet."

Where did that confidence come from?  Early in their design process, the Wright Brothers identified three key knowledge gaps that needed to be filled in order to design an airplane that you knew would work:

  • “the construction of the sustaining wings.”
  • “the generation and application of the power required to drive the machine through the air.”
  • “the balancing and steering of the machine after it is actually in flight.”

They then set about methodically learning the causal relationships between the different design decisions they needed to make and the performance of the airplane.  To do that, they invested some time and innovation into measuring equipment such as the balances to the right and the wind tunnel below.


That allowed them to test hundreds of different wings in a few weeks of part-time work, meticulously collecting data until they could form clear limit and trade-off curves (like the one below), giving them a visual model for how their design decisions would impact lift and drag from the wings.

And those visual models and deep understanding proved immediately reusable.  As they wrestled with the design of the propeller, and the learning from marine propellers was not proving useful, they had the revelation that a propeller is simply a wing traveling in a spiral path... and they knew how wings worked.  That knowledge allowed them to design a propeller that is actually fairly efficient even by modern standards.


That highly efficient propeller coupled with their optimized wing design allowed them to get by with an 8 horsepower engine (they were able to compute that from their knowledge).  And so they went with a very simple engine with 12 horsepower that they could get cast in aluminum to make adequately lightweight.  (in contrast, without that knowledge, many of their competitors had spent many times more developing a much higher powered engine than the Wright Brothers spent on the entire airplane development.)

The key take-away from this story:  the Wright Brothers fundamentally transformed the front end of development into a sharply-focused learning and decision-making process, and thereby eliminated the late-process rework in which their competition was stuck.

For a more detailed look at the Wright Brothers story, or to see the larger implications, check out the Introduction to our new book, Success is Assured. For a short (2-minute) video about that book, visit

Contact us to learn more about how our Success Assured™ software can enable your organization to learn very early in the development process what they need to know to establish that “Success is Assured” for their project. Or as one of our clients, Teledyne Taptone, asserted: "There was no fear.  We knew as fact what our customers needed and what our capabilities were".

Contact us now to learn more
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