Category Archives: Lean

MRT: Applying Rapid Learning Cycles to Development – Webinar

Here’s a chance to find out how implementing rapid learning cycles will increase speed and innovation in your development process.   Please join me for a Management Round Table webinar, April 17, 2014.

Applying Rapid Learning Cycles to Development

In this session, you will:

  • Learn about the Steelcase lean journey and applications of lean in development.   Understand lean program objectives and the framework for implementation.
  • Explore how rapid learning cycles can be applied to development from the earliest concept phases and throughout development.
  • Close knowledge gaps earlier and speed up innovation in the development process.
  • Learn how rapid learning cycles go hand in hand with innovation methods.
  • Learn how to start planning your lean product development implementation.


How to Design for Speed and Simplicity

Guest post from Bart Huthwaite

How to Design for Speed & Simplicity

Quick time-to-market comes from getting the small things right.  Here is a check list to follow:

  1. Smaller is better.  Keep your product team small, typically no more than 6-8 members.  And make sure all know the importance of product speed and are totally committed to it.  Communication is faster when fewer are involved.
  2. Get the “Big Picture” first.  Don’t start without a clear “end-in-view” and a strategy for getting there.  Build your strategy on the strategic values which will make your product or service a long term winner.  Your team members will be able to make decisions faster.  Strong “buy-in” to a team’s game plan encourages faster response time when crises arise.
  3. Work in parallel.   Parallel work compresses product launch time.  Constantly work to build confidence and trust, thus encouraging early understanding and commitment of these parallel teams.
  4. Avoid “sand bag” solutions.   Sand bag solutions are those which slow down a new product effort.  These can include specifying a new, untested manufacturing process, launching a product with an untrained sales force and implementing a new CAD system the same time you are developing a new product effort.  These kinds of innovation are best done “off-line,”  and are only inserted into the product development cycle when they are fully proven.
  5. Create a “Team Efficiency Charter.”  Identify and agree on the characteristics of a highly efficient new product team.   Good product teams build standards of excellence and then adhere to them.
  6. Measure both product effectiveness and team efficiency in “real time.”  Product effectiveness is how well your product is attaining its goals.  Team efficiency is how well your team dynamics are working, such as the speed decision-making and follow-through.  Fast track product teams keep a stop watch record of everything.
  7. Think ahead.  Develop your product in three generations.  This helps your team anticipate the future.   I call this technique “step”, “stretch” and “leap.”  This helps you prepare for future shifts in technology, competition and marketplace changes.  This helps you avoid “re-inventing the wheel.”  Only insert new technology into your product when risk has been reduced to a minimum.
  8. Get management involved and committed at the early concept stage.  Management buy-in “up-front” reduces your team’s fear of failure.  Do this beginning at the early product concept stage.
  9. Be time driven.  Never start a meeting or a task without first setting a specific time to finish it.  And stick to your guns.  Avoid trying to get the entire job done in one sitting.  Shoot for 80% and then come back to the issue later.  Iteration is a hallmark of effective design teams.
  10.  Let us know how we can help.  LEAN Product Design is our passion. Contact us to learn about our onsite programs to help you.

Lean Development Excellence Featured Product: Smartphone Physicals

A Lean Development is ultimately a disruptive innovation, which means it dramatically changes an industry, effects all consumers, and generates new product families.

In this blog post, I’ll examine a remarkable way that smartphones are being adapted for use in medicine in ways that optimize value for the patient, and drive out wastes from the healthcare system.SmartPhone Physical

Ever imagine that your smartphone would take your blood pressure from the comfort of your home?

Or can you envision getting your blood sugar readings instantaneously on your iPhone?

Have you ever thought that your doctor would do an ECG or ultrasound on an iPhone right in his or her office?

It sounds like an instrument that Dr. Bones would use in Star Trek from his medical room on the Enterprise.  But that science fiction is now becoming a reality.  The future is here today!  These things are being done today, and will become common place in a few years.

“How long will it be before we’re all having our own smartphone physicals every one or two years?  Devices such as the body analysis scale, blood pressure cuff, pulse oximeter, and ECG are already in use as teaching devices in med schools and by some patients, and some early adopting clinicians are using them in daily life. TEDMED speaker Eric Topol has been integrating smartphone-based devices into his practice over the last few years and most recently used his AliveCor to diagnose a passenger-in-distress on an airplane as well as the CellScope Oto to visualize Stephen Colbert’s ear drum on the “Colbert Report.”  See TEDMED

SmartPhones are bringing new value to medicine.   The Smartphone used in this way brings new frontiers to the doctor patient interaction.   Here are the values that are optimized:

  • Tests can be done immediately.
  • The results are accurate.
  • The doctor’s diagnosis can occur in nearly real time.
  • Instant readings can help save lives.
  • The patients data can be saved for future comparisons and progress.
  • The patient can own their own improvement program with instant and continuous feedback on  progress

According to Eric Topol, a pioneer in the field of smartphones used in medicine, this new technology will disrupt the health care system and drive out wastes.     Smartphones used in this way will help to reduce unnecessary tests, or bring the tests directly to the patient.    Medicine can become personalized, and there will not be a need to do mass screenings.     Furthermore, drugs can be properly and accurately prescribed based on real-time data from the patient.  Here are the wastes that are driven out of the healthcare system:

  • Costly procedures are replaced by a low-cost or no-added-cost procedure
  • Patients no longer need to travel to the tests, the tests go to the patient
  • Medications can be calibrated based on the needs of the body
  • Mass screenings can be replaced by targeted tests for the individual

As more of these devices are available and more and more tests are possible from the smartphone, your next physical very well might be a smart phone physical.   The result will be a more thorough physical, with more test and feedback given directly to you as the patient.  And the costs of the tests will be lower, if not eliminated completely.

So, enter the brave new world of Lean Development, where disruptive innovations bring new value and eliminate wastes.

SmartPhone Pulse

Annual Health Physical: Lean by design


I recently attended my annual check-up and physical by my primary care doctor.   A number of things seemed different this year.   My doctor knows me quite well, and he knows about my professional interest in LEAN.  So he was excited to talk about what has changed.  My experience as a patient was completely different this year, accelerated by a grant to implement LEAN in his office.   If you are a health professional and want to delight your patients, take this piece of advice.  Go Lean.

So, what did the experience look and feel like for the patient after the implementation of Lean?  From the minute I walked in the door, I experienced many improvements.

1. No delays or queue.

There was no waiting at the front desk.   All of my records are now on the new EMR (Electronic Medial Records) system.   No copies were needed of my insurance card.  No questionnaires to fill out.   Only one quick form to sign for HIPAA.

2. No waiting once checked in.

I sat down in the waiting room, expecting to wait for a few minutes.   I had just signed my HIPAA form and was preparing to bring it to the front window, when the nurse called me in, “Timothy?”   At first, it didn’t register.

“Timothy?” she called again.

“Ah, was that Timothy you called?”, I replied.

“Yes,  Is that you?”

“Ah …Yes. I still have the form they asked me to sign.”

“No problem she said, I’ll take it.”

No wait time.  No division of duties.  Pretty smooth so far.

3.  Improved Flow

I noticed that the flow path to the room had improved.  Now the scale and height gauge were right on the way to the room.   “Umm, do I need to take off my shoes?”   “No it’s fine” said the nurse, ” We just need an idea of your approximate current weight.  It’s up to you.”  (No over-processing here.)

Well, I did take them off knowing that I had put on a few pounds since my last visit.  (1o pounds to be exact – It’s been a long winter in Michigan).

4.  Work area ready for the patient (5S)

On the way to the room…. the nurse stopped…there were 2 rooms to choose from.  She had to decide where to put me!  Obivously there is good flow in this office I thought to myself.  No waiting for a room.  The room was ready and everything was laid out for the physical.

5.  Excellent training and standard work

She went through the regular questions.  Everything was on their new computer system.   No paper records, only electronic records.  Very well done I thought.

She took a little time with the system (just a few seconds) and apologized since she was new.  “How new?”, I asked.   “Oh, I just started on Monday.”  Well, obviously they had standardized the work and training for her, because she was very efficient.  She then took my blood pressure, pulse, temperature, etc.   Everything went into the computer.   Then she said, “The doctor will be right in.”     So I picked up my smartphone to check my email, and before I had a chance to read one e-mail, I heard the doctor outside the room.   Then a slight knock, and there he was.  Wow… No waiting for the doctor.

6.  No rework

The doctor already had all of my information in his computer.   Everything done so far; my weight, my blood pressure, the questions I had answered, etc. ….they were all on his screen.

7.  Connected to Suppliers

When I asked my doctor for a refill on my prescription.   He said with a smile… “This is the part I love!”   He clicked a few buttons, and said, “There… it is sent to your pharmacy.”    Literally in a matter of seconds my prescription was sent to the pharmacy.

8.  Focus on the customer

My doctor spent nearly the whole visit dealing with me.  He went over everything connected to my health.  My family life, my exercise routine, my diet, yes… even my sex life.

9.  No waste

As the visit neared the end.  He said, “we are trying something new.”   Your billing is all handled in the room.   So after he left, a member of the office staff came in immediately to the room and went over the final bill and co-pays.   Everything was completed in a few seconds, and I was free to go.

10.  Total customer experience across the value stream.

I had to know… was my prescription really ready?  Will the pharmacy be as efficient?  So I went directly to the pharmacy after the appointment.  And yes.   The pharmacist had the prescription waiting for me.  And when he saw me come in, he brought my prescription to the front counter.  I was in and out of the pharmacy in a matter of 5 minutes.

So LEAN in Healthcare can make a huge difference in patient experience.   Congratulations to Dr. Terrence Wright and the staff of his office.

Lean Development Excellence Survey

Announcing the 2013 Lean Development Excellence Benchmark Survey
Please accept my personal invitation to you to participate in the 2013 Lean Development Excellence Benchmark Survey.
Are you curious about how lean can be leveraged to improve development in your organization?
Would you like to connect with others who are on their own lean development journey?
Are you attempting to improve your culture in the area of lean development?
Are you committed to making your development program better?
Have you ever wondered where your organization rates on lean development compared to others?
Can your organization be a teacher of lean development to others?
Please accept my offer to participate in this survey. This is a rare opportunity to compare your organization to others who are on their own lean development journey.

Tim Schipper Compressed (color)

The following areas of  are included in the survey:
Stake Holder Collaboration
Optimization of Value
Waste Prevention
Real-time Measurement
Product and Process Accountability
Systematic Innovation
Team Leadership
Senior Management Support
Knowledge and Innovation Value Streams
Pace of Innovation
Strategic Planning and Direction Setting

Participation is free. Your own company’s results will be shared with you at no charge. The full results and detailed comparisons of your organization with respect to others will be compiled and offered for purchase. However, the results and comparisons across all participants will be shared and included at no charge with your attendance to the Huthwaite ummit on Mackinac Islansd in August 13-15, 2013

How it works:
The survey will be sent to you and filled out by you for your organization. This is a great opportunity to get a small team together to discuss your ratings. Discuss each question and fill it out together.
The results of your assessment will be reviewed and by lean development experts Bart Huthwaite and Timothy Schipper.
The survey will also include a 30 minute teleconference interview with either Bart or Tim to review your answers and further discuss the ratings and responses.
Once all participants have completed their assessment, the results will be compiled. The name and information of your organization will only be seen within your company, and your identity will be anonymous to the other participants. The survey results will merely indicate from which industry the results were compiled. (Bart and Tim will sign an IDA or non-disclosure agreement upon request). We will only share your information with your permission.

Sign-up soon, the assessment will only be run during the month of May and June. So start today.

Design for lean manufacturing on Wikipedia


Throw out an idea … How to place an overview of design for lean manufacturing on Wikipedia?

Learn a new skill … How can you learn the skills to be a Wikipedia contributor and editor?  This took some learning about Wikipedia editing and the nature of writing with a neutral point of view (or NPOV).

Get some help from friends … How to enlist the help of others in editing and create a meaningful entry? Thank you to the Huthwaite Institute who stayed with the long editing process.

Edit, Edit, and Edit again … How many edits might it take?  The peer-editing process on Wikipedia is fairly unique. It was difficult to find an editor who understood the process and could guide us through the maze of Wikipedia editing.  So, a special thank you goes to Cullen (not his real name), who helped us through the process.   After many back and forth sessions and many hours of revisions … Lean Design is now on Wikipedia.

The result!

A Wikipedia entry on design for lean manufacturing without any qualifying statements on the entry!

Here is the first paragraph:

Design for lean manufacturing
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Design for lean manufacturing is a process for applying lean concepts to the design phase of a system, such as a complex product or process. The term describes methods of design in lean manufacturing companies as part of the study of Japanese industry by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At the time of the study, the Japanese automakers were outperforming the American counterparts in speed, resources used in design, and design quality.[1] Conventional mass-production design focuses primarily on product functions and manufacturing costs; however,design for lean manufacturing systematically widens the design equation to include all factors that will determine a product’s success across its entire value stream and life-cycle. One goal is to reduce waste and maximize value, and other goals include improving the quality of the design and the reducing the time to achieve the final solution. The method has been used in architecture,[2] healthcare,[3] product development, processes design, information technology systems, and even to create lean business models.[4] It relies on the definition and optimization of values coupled with the prevention of wastes before they enter the system. Design for lean manufacturing is system design.[5]

Please proceed to Wikipedia to read the rest of the entry.   Enjoy the reading, and let us know how we could make the Wikipedia more accurate and complete.  Note:  Others have already contributed and helped to make the entry more accurate.

Lean development strives for knowledge and idea reuse

Lean designers start with a review of the prior knowledge and proven ideas and end with documenting updates of that knowledge or new knowledge.

I have run a simple experiment which measured the effectiveness of knowledge sharing with groups simulating a develop environment. The simple experiment is an open-ended problem that requires problem solving to reach a solution. Knowledge sharing improves the outcome. After teams share ideas and knowledge, their success rate and quality improves by 100%.

A Knowledge A3 is simply knowledge captured on a single page of metric A3 paper (approximately 11 x 17 inches). They provide a vehicle to capture and communicate knowledge across the development organization.  Reusable knowledge A3s written to capture knowledge  take a certain amount of effort to create, but they are worth the effort!


These types of A3s are quite different from the A3s used by many Lean Manufacturing companies to manage a Kaizen used for tracking tasks to move from a current state to a future state.  A Knowledge A3 is less about doing things, and all about documenting important knowledge and learning.

For knowledge and ideas to be reused and improve the development cycle for the next project, ideas and knowledge must be documented, but more importantly, they must be easily found and reused.   The goal is to set up the knowledge pull within the organization. Therefore, the A3s must be put into a knowledge supermarket from which they can be pulled.   (In this case, “pull” is defined as retrieving and reusing knowledge as it is needed or per the demand of the next project).

It is important to take the time to ensure that Knowledge A3 is truly generalized, that it is from a trusted source, and that it is accessible.  These are three important characteristics of a well-functioning knowledge management system.  Toyota did this for many years by creating the “Know-How” database.  It was described in the book The Machine that Changed the World.   It is one example of how a Lean company (Toyota in this case) approached their development process by focusing on knowledge.   The “Know-How” database existed in paper form for decades before Toyota converted it to an electronic system.  Toyota had kept knowledge on everything from door handles to transmissions. The “Know-How” database represented the knowledge, engineering guidelines, and checklists that guided the design process to ensured quality.

Your Knowledge A3s will be focused on your own products, systems, and sub-systems.   The knowledge A3s work for IT systems and IT development just the same.  Knowledge A3s might be about a particular set of user needs or use models.  Alternately, the A3 might be about the architecture of the system itself, or about an important sub-system.   The goal is to document the knowledge so it can be pulled and reused each time a similar system or sub-system is developed.

For entrepreneurs working at a new start up, knowledge reuse is even more important in these cases.  Using prior knowledge to not reinvent the wheel for creating the business or the products certainly speeds up the time to market.

Lean design requires idea and knowledge sharing.

For Lean Development Excelence

Tim Schipper

Author of Innovative Lean Development.

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

Development problems and lean development

Development problems and making designs lean

Timothy Schipper

Early in my career, I was a product developer.   However, I quickly became disenchanted with the whole development process.  I loved the engineering part of the job, solving problems and finding solutions.  It was the lack of alignment, loop backs, and rework that discouraged me.   I found that the whole process lacked focus and that projects spawned huge amounts of rework.  Rework appeared in many forms – late design changes, added requirements, and a general lack of focus.  I found that development only address part of the value equation, and usually did not address the problem of anticipating manufacturing wastes and design inefficiencies.

My career took a few turns.   I left product development after a few years, working as an IT project manager and then as a manager.  It was during this period of time that I found lean methods.   I studied how lean was applied to manufacturing and also the office.   I found that the lean tools provided a framework for looking at problems, and working on root cause elimination.   The idea  of continuous improvement appealed to me as a way to move an organization to be more efficient.  Lean became my new passion.   Nearly 10 years and 120 workshops later, I had mastered the art of applying lean to the carpeted areas of the business.  It was during that journey that I discovered another application of lean.

Have you ever wondered if lean could be applied to the design world?  Could it be used as a method to design more efficiently?   Could it inform a product that was still on the drawing board, or should I say still in the CAD system?   It is clear that it could be applied after the fact, once products were designed and hit the factory floor.  Lean applied in manufacturing creates efficient value streams that run at a constant TAKT time with minimal inventory.  But what does lean look like when applied to design?

The discovery I made was that lean could be applied to design just as well as it has been applied to manufacturing.  Much of the language is the same, but the tactics are quite different.    About 5 years ago, I was introduced to the topic of designs that are lean at a Huthwaite Institute Summit.   It allowed me to synthesize my thinking and explore the world of design in a new way.  This proved to be a thinking model as well as a guide for individuals and teams on how to apply lean to their development process.   Thinking and reading Bart Huthwaite’s books inspired me to create LEAN products.both products and processes that are lean from the start.

The methods works well with teams who need to innovate quickly and speed development along.  It is unique in that it works on both the process of development and on the product that is being designed.   One of my favorite quotes is that for something to be lean it has to be lean from the start.  In other words, wastes have to be designed out for the system upfront.

I was inspired to write about how development could generate innovative products and lean process.  The book Innovative LEAN Development was one of the ways that I explored the idea of lean applied to development.  I co-authored the book with my colleague, Mark Swets.  It is our attempt to make a contribution to the knowledge base of lean development and design.

If you have been frustrated with the development experience as we were, then I encourage to investigate the lean development method.   We have witnessed many teams who successfully applied lean development to improve their process and the quality of their products.

If you find the idea of lean for development intriguing and would like to learn more, please respond and tell me your challenges and frustrations with the development process.  Let’s explore together how lean can remove your most difficult development gaps.  I only wish that I had found the lean method earlier in my career.

—– Tim

Discovery – and Rapid Learning Cycles

What do you want to discover today?

Heuristic (pronounced /hjʉˈrɪstɨk/, from the Greek “Εὑρίσκω” for “find” or “discover”) is an adjective for experience-based techniques that help in problem solving, learning and discovery. Archimedes is said to have shouted “Heureka” (later converted to “Eureka”) after discovering the principle of displacement in his bath.  You might remember from physics that displacement is the principle that a floating object will displace its own weight in water.


Heuristics is the art of solving a problem in the best or most optimal way that is possible.  The optimal solution will be the most elegant one that is possible.  In nature, we find that the solutions have been created to be the most optimal, with nothing wasted.  The design of a plant is unique to its environment, taking in the right amount of light from the sun and nourishment from the soil.

When humans attempt to solve a knotty, or difficult, problem, we have to use a trial-and-error method.  We are limited, and do not take all the variables and parameters into account.

Enter Learning Cycles … Rapid Learning Cycles (RLCs) are a method of laying out the problem and approaching it with a series of rapid iterations of building, prototyping, and testing each one.

The best developers and inventors practice the art of RLCs. Thomas Edison reportedly tried something on the order of 3,000 materials for the filament of the electric lightbulb.

Or take the case of Charles Goodyear.  By the mid 1830s, it seemed as though the rubber industry in America was going under. The problem with the new material was that it was unstable – becoming completely solid and cracking in the winter, then melting into goo in the summer. Miraculously the industry was saved by inventor Charles Goodyear – a man with no knowledge of chemistry who worked stubbornly and tenaciously to develop vulcanized rubber.

After incidentally learning about rubber’s fatal flaw, Charles Goodyear became determined to invent a way to make the substance more stable. Without a steady job, he lived for years off of advancements from investors. When his experiments with rubber continually failed, Goodyear reduced his family to poverty, was jailed for debt and derided by society as a mad man.

Undeterred, inventor Charles Goodyear finally found that, by uniformly heating sulfur- and lead-fortified rubber at a relatively low temperature, he could render the rubber melt-proof and reliable. He patented the process in 1844, licensed it to manufacturers and was ultimately hailed as a genius.

Years after his death, when the age of automobiles dawned, two brothers from Ohio decided to name their company after the man who made their product possible – hence Goodyear tires were born.

So, discover something today using rapid learning cycles… and don’t be discouraged by the iterative nature of problem solving.


Source for Charles Good year story: