Monthly Archives: December 2012

Is your development team on the proper trajectory for success?

Development Trajectory …


Trajectory is not a word that is used very often anymore.  When I was growing up, however, I recall that the word was frequently used with the Apollo missions to the moon.  I was 10 years old in 1969 when the first man stepped onto the moon.  One of the primary concerns was firing the rockets of the Apollo command module at the right time and for the correct duration to put it on the proper trajectory toward the moon.   The critical goal was to have the rocket carrying the astronauts leave the earth’s orbit and point it toward the moon with enough accuracy so that it could enter orbit around the moon.  This required a lot of mathematical calculations and a deep understanding of physics by the engineers and scientists.    Accuracy was of the utmost importance.    Additional course corrections could be made along the way, but the initial burn was the most important.

In development, the trajectory is often set early.  If it is set correctly, then the goal can be reached.   If the trajectory is set incorrectly, then the goal will never be reached.  The project must be directionaly correct from the start.   All factors and design elements have to be considered from the start.  These are difficult to anticipate because there can be many unknowns when development is started.

The proper development technique is to identify the knowledge gaps upfront that must be closed.  This end-in-view thinking helps to set the trajectory of the entire project.   The Lean Design Solution (Huthwaite) describes the techniques to set the proper trajectory of the project by exercising End-in-View thinking.

One technique that teams have used is to brainstorm as many knowledge gaps as possible at the start of the design.  Brainstorming alone, however, does not always properly uncover all of the gaps or set the team on the right course to find the correct solutions.  A more structured method is required.  The proper gaps must be uncovered to show the team what knowledge must be researched and documented.  Some knowledge gaps might identify new areas of research and discovery.  These are sensitive areas that require careful exploration.  The entire solution space of unexplored knowledge gaps must be explored.

The LEAN Design Solution describes methods to expose the gaps, and it provides a method to fully explore the solution space and close the gaps.  And Innovative LEAN Development (the book I co-authored with Mark Swets) tells how to rapidly close knowledge gaps and document the knowledge gained using rapid learning cycles.

As the team closes the knowledge gaps, the project trajectory is managed and can be effectively set to point the team in the proper direction.   Are you and your team setting yourselves up on the correct trajectory?
~Timothy Schipper