Icarus' predicament: Managing the pathologies of overspecification and overdesign

Alex Coman, Boaz Ronen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The phenomenon of overspecification and overdesign is well known in all industries: developing features that are not needed by the customer causes excess development efforts, missed due dates, terminated projects and higher lifecycle costs. The paper defines the phenomena, exploring inherent causes and prescribes solutions for both business-to-business and business-to-customer industries. It presents illustrative cases of overspecification and overdesign, proposes a self-assessment to determine the severity of these phenomena in an organization and resolves the conflicts driving these phenomena. Solutions suggested include adapting Simon's satisficer approach, resolving the marketing conflict by focusing on the 20% of features that account for 80% of the value, breaking the assumption that overspecification is beneficial for future growth potential, resolving the product manager's conflict via a global system view, implementing the 25/25 principle, freezing and stabilizing the specifications, constraining developer time to eliminate spontaneous overdesign, and piecemeal feature launch.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)237-244
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Project Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2010


  • 25/25
  • Overdesign
  • Overspecification
  • Product management
  • Project management
  • Research and development
  • The theory-of-constraints (TOC)


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