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Is your development team on the proper trajectory for success?

Development Trajectory …

Apollo_CSM_lunar_orbit

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

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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