In this article series, we covered several topics in the area of product development and project management. We will now begin to explore process improvement with the topic “Design for Lean”. While design for lean may be a subtopic within product development, it helps us understand operational risks, operational costs, enables operational planning and process improvement.
Product Development and Process Improvement
Think of the “wasted energy” involved with products that require rework, redesigns, or fail to meet customer needs. In addition, a great deal of time and effort is often put into products after they have been developed to make them more profitable.
The goal of this article series is to help organizations proactively focus on maximizing customer value of products, and minimizing cost of operations during the product development process. Readers will also improve their understanding of problem solving and process improvement tools and methodologies. Some articles will provide high-level perspective while others will deep-dive into specifics.
While product development is not always perfect, companies can emphasize teamwork, establish a framework for innovation & problem solving, and eliminate waste. Meanwhile, employees can develop transferable, marketable skillsets with their knowledge of problem solving tools and methodologies. This article series will also help contribute to these objectives.
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Previous articles have covered product development tools and methodologies such as lean product development, agile, design for six sigma, product life cycle (PLC) and project management processes.
In this article, lets consider “the product” being developed any hardware product, software, IT system, service or new business process. We’ll use the acronym “PSSBP” (Product, Service, Software, Business Process) as an all-encompassing placeholder and to illustrate critical thinking on the topic as follows:
In a previous article, we defined design for six sigma (DFSS) as a thought process focused on maximizing customer value and minimizing cost.
More specifically, DFSS is used to reduce variability in product performance (thereby increasing value), using analytical models and our knowledge of manufacturing variability to enable specification limits on difficult-to-manufacture tolerances to be increased (thereby reducing cost).
For the majority of organizations, long-term success is tied directly to the new product development process. Tomorrow’s revenue and growth are tightly bound to how successful you are at launching new products.
Offering genuinely valuable, high quality products is, more than ever, the best way to capture market share. Also, more investment up-front minimizes overall expense.
…fewer design iterations to achieve the same goals (reduced time to market), more efficient production and delivery processes (reduced operating costs), fewer defects & warranty costs during the entire product life cycle (increased customer satisfaction).
In this article, we’ll compare and contrast the definition of a requirement, with a ‘story’, which is used in agile/scrum.
Both requirements and stories establish a clear understanding of customer needs in the context of desired functionality.
The framework for each is somewhat different, however.
Recall the definition of a requirement:
…a requirement defines “what the product (or process) design shall provide <output> at operating conditions <input>”
The framework of a story is as follows:
In this weeks article, we’ll explore how the three disciplines (product development, process improvement and project management) can enable change management.
First, it’s worth reflecting on how these disciplines fit together. Starting with product development our goal is to understand customer value, and to optimize the product (or service) by maximizing customer value and minimizing cost. It can be seen that, process improvement naturally complements this objective as way to further reduce costs. In addition, project management establishes how product development and process improvement is planned, executed, controlled and monitored.
Now let’s look at some key attributes of change management, along with elements of the three disciplines mentioned above.
All projects or programs have a formal or informal resource management process, with the goal of completing projects on time, within budget and with good project quality.
In order to meet this goal, the resource management objectives are:
- the quantity of estimated resources is accurate
- the resource role requirements are clear and precise
- the resources meet or exceed the expectations (requirements)
- the resources are added in a timely manner
- cost of the resources is minimized to the extent possible
In a previous article we compared and contrasted the role & responsibility for a scrum master vs. project manager/core team leader (CTL/PM).
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the scrum product owner role and compare it with the product development team’s “opportunity champion”.
In a previous article, we explored agile product development with a focus on early product validation.
There are additional key enablers from agile/scrum that can be borrowed and applied to any product development process, however.
In this article, we’ll compare and contrast the role & responsibility for scrum masters vs. project managers/core team leaders.
Let’s start with (all) the basic scrum roles:
Many companies pursue a product development strategy that provides a product (or service) which meets customer needs sooner (rather than later), and then makes adjustments after the product has been fielded.
Pursuing this approach means accepting the associated risks. What if a critical to quality or critical to reliability characteristic fails to meet customer needs? A product could fail miserably by eliminating important product development work scope and accelerating time-to-market. By the time an adjustment or “pivot” can be made it may be too late, or too costly to correct.
In my previous article, we reviewed the project approval committee, and emphasized approval to start projects and/or approve projects in-process.
With any type of project oversight, presentations or project schedules are often reviewed.
For a more lean project management approach it would help to consider reviewing the actual deliverables, including a mutual understanding of the “definition of done”.
“Definition of done” is the agreed-upon evidence of completion of a process, activity or milestone and usually includes a project deliverable. Some examples of deliverables might include the project plan, project schedule, documents (requirements document, plans, and reports), analysis, and designs (drawings). Other considerations can be built-into “definition of done” including compliance, acceptance/sign-off, exceptions and best practices.
A project approval committee can be an effective way to enable business decision-making and ensure projects are successful.
Committees may be known as a project review or steering committee; however, consider the following (proposed) objectives as follows:
- Approve new projects (and project resources)
- Approve project phase (phase gate) completion
- Approve project go-forward plans (including resources)
- Cancel projects that no longer make business sense
- Prevent rogue/unapproved projects from consuming resources
- Direct / redirect projects to complete key tasks or deliverables before moving forward
- Enforce project management planning and execution
In my last article, we reviewed a proposed Product Life Cycle process, which starts with a “Define” phase. In the “Define” phase, we are defining the project as well as the product.
We previously discussed the ‘technical leg’ of this process with the market analysis, identifying customer needs, product requirements, verification and validation, etc. [Read more…]
In my previous article we covered the advantages of a phase and gate structure for new product development. Now we can discuss some proposed phase names for a new product development or product life cycle (PLC) process.
An organization may have an existing PLC process ‘baked-in’ to their culture and process documentation. Accordingly, there’s a wide range of PLC phase names, all of which are likely acceptable and based on solid reasoning.
In previous articles we defined an element of lean as a phase and gate structure for new product development. This assumes a waterfall approach to the project (versus agile product development).
A new product life cycle phase gate structure might entail, for example: “Definition, Concept, Design, Verification, Qualification, Production and End-of-Life”. (Your organization might decide on different phase names.)
There’s an apparent contradiction in using a waterfall project approach and calling it lean project management, however. A goal of any lean process is to work toward ‘single piece’ or continuous flow: agile product development is more like ‘single piece flow’ of information, versus waterfall which is more like ‘batch processing’ of information.