Trashcan consultant

Philip Morgan

Here's something to stretch your consulting mind-muscle:

In late 2018, San Francisco had embarked on a quest to design its own garbage can — from scratch. By the summer of 2021, two-and-a-half years later, an industrial design firm had completed the conceptual drawings for three models. In July, the Board of Supervisors would vote on spending $427,500, much of it to manufacture and test five prototypes of each model. The price tag for each prototype was estimated at between $12,000 to $20,000 apiece.

Source: (Do read the whole thing if you find consulting thought experiments useful.)

Reflection questions:

  1. If you had been hired as a consultant somewhere in the midst of this situation, what would you have advised? (I'm intentionally phrasing this in an open-ended way because the framing/assumptions we make about real-world constraints are very telling, I think.)
  2. If you come at this from a value chain mapping perspective, would you say that the cost and risk of developing a custom solution rather than using a commodity solution is strategically worthwhile?
  3. If you come at this from a human personality dynamics perspective or a "system of flawed human beings" perspective, how would you attempt to sell a different approach than the one that ultimately played out?
  4. The industrial design shops that worked on this project: was it ethical for them to involve themselves in this project?

Play consultant as you read the full article