Posted by: nedpelger | February 25, 2010

Rediscovering KISSing, again

I adore grand, technical solutions. When faced with a problem, I tend to try to figure a solution that will work in many different situations, a solution that will also fix all future problems.

After Einstein conceived the general and special theories of relativity, he spent the rest of his life working on the Unified Field Theory. That theory would tie everything together, would make all things make sense. He knew he was unlikely to solve it, but proceeded anyway.

Recently I’ve been working on large solar photovoltaic installations. One of my customers loves the efficiency and effectiveness of our team in building apartment buildings and wants us to figure out solar PV for many of his properties. It’s a fun technical challenge and business opportunity.

Years ago, I learned the value of KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid). I know it’s the best way to begin and usually the best way to end. But I get seduced by visions of my own little Unified Field Theory. I decide that I need to develop a spreadsheet that covers all situations and simply outputs wonderful good solutions.

So for the past few weeks, I’ve been dreaming and plotting about this Solar PV spreadsheet, while neglecting the actual work of figuring out what we should build. Finally last night, as I was hip deep in the spreadsheet programming, I remembered my gridded paper. As a young engineer, I solved my technical problems by carefully stating my assumptions than working through solutions with a pen and gridded paper.

As I worked through this simple approach, the real variables started becoming clear. I began to see what options we really need to price, what constructibility concerns we need to discuss. Ah, the joy of KISSing.


  1. Reminds me of a large deployment project where I “inherited” a 2700 line project plan; after 7 months of “resource leveling” and doing all sorts of analytical acrobatics, we ditched it and ran the remaining efficient 6 months with an excel spreadsheet with 3 tabs “Plan” “Build” “Deliver”

  2. That’s a great example. It’s always good to see if simple works first. Wonder how many times I’ll have to relearn that lesson?

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