How do new ideas occur to us? What is the secret mixture that enables this spark that creates something new? I have long wondered this, including when watching my son build things that I found interesting, and with no clear sign of what of the source of that idea that became reality. I saw him build things with Lego blocks, and I watched him build things at an online game called Roblox. In both instances it made me think, what is the source?
The same is true for my own life, especially my work life. I have been part of groups that have produced 7 US patents and other intellectual property. Each time was so different it is difficult to discern an underlying theme that made this creation possible or at least facilitated. What can be said in each instance to varying degrees, is there was a perceived difficulty or problem, some desired end state that was presently not … Continue reading
For those familiar with the lean approach to the work or the Toyota Way, you my already know about the concept of Muda. Muda is one of the three categories associated with lean that impact performance and costs to the organization. Muda is regarded to have seven waste types or areas or actions that cause waste.
Just like it sounds, making more of something than the need for that something. This does not just mean parts, but also extends to work product deliveries throughout the work pipeline. Think SIPOC (Supplier-Input-Process-Output-Customer), in this case any output from a process (P) delivered before the depending process (C) or work can start, leaving the work product just sitting there. Another variant of this waste would be working on products that are not for the next work process, but some prioritized work that is further down or upstream. When this is not coordinated well, we end up with rework, and if changes are required … Continue reading
I recently saw a post on Twitter from the Great John Cutler on allow the team to pick the tools that they use to do the work. Generally, this is not a bad idea, but not necessarily a great idea either. It sort of depends.
My experience in companies that also have hardware parts associated with the software, each group selecting their tools comes at a great disadvantage when it comes to understanding the various work products as it moves through the organization. It is not possible for one team to see what the other team has done, when the tools are not connected, or each group selects what that individual group needs without consideration of the departments that are depending or associated with the work. In these cases, a product life cycle management tool that connects the various work departments and work packages can help tie all of these together. Consider a vehicle manufacturer that develops … Continue reading
Kanban and Visual Management
Kanban is a lean method for identifying and managing the work and the flow, and it does so by creating a pull through environment. We will start by identifying the work we need to do. Each work item we need to do will end up on an individual card. The cards will be “pulled” as we have the time and talent to commence that specific work element. The card then moves from the backlog of work items, to the WiP or Work in Progress section of the visual management board. The visual board may have headings such as:
Backlog Work in Progress (WiP) Work for Review Work Completed / Demonstrated
We will pull items from the backlog and place the card in the state that corresponds to the work, for example, the work moves from backlog to work in progress as the work commences. It is easy for anybody to see the status of the work. … Continue reading
In preparation for our trip to Eindhoven University of Technology to lecture on Configuration Management, we provide a brief excerpt on the evolution of the horseless cariage.
Traditionally new market segments open due to the need to solve a problem. Such problems may be real as in the case of the environmental crisis solved by the automobile or the need may be concocted. New markets and products are rarely developed through the inspiration of a single individual. The automotive market came about through a synergy of the existing body of knowledge and other environmental conditions both in the marketplace and in the nature.
One topic of discussion at the world’s first international urban planning conference in 1898 was the growing health concerns due to horse excretions and the creatures that accompanied them. As the primary means of locomotion for wagons and other forms of transport, horse populations exceeded human population in cities.*
Manufacturers of “horseless carriages” using steam, electric, … Continue reading
Career; of Motorcycles and Trucks
This blog continues from my last post describing the first part of my career. We continue with the tire pressure monitoring system. In those days, and for many years before that, my preferred form of transport was motorcycle. I had an accident a few years before taking this job that broke some bones in my wrist (not my first nor last set of broken bones), in fact I got the bike fixed and was riding it through the winter with my right hand in a cast, and with multiple socks on to keep my hand warm. I should mention that my preferred transportation was motorcycle, at least in part, because it was my only source of transportation. Eventually, my fourth job before my professional career started, the manager of the U-Haul at which I worked during my undergraduate education came across a wonderful, and old, Toyota station wagon complete with the fake wood siding, … Continue reading
I have been very fortunate in my career, and that really means very lucky. Upon graduating from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, I had two job offers after sending my resume to more than 100 companies. That is not a very good yield, but it would be good enough. I selected the smaller company, but I selected that company because they created new things. The company I started at developed embedded industrial control systems. It also turns out the people with which I would be fortunate enough to work, were very friendly, and as I would say, were a hoot to be around. Some of my other blog posts describes shenanigans. To this day we still have secret words, that mean something to us but nothing to anybody else (R4).
What drives me
My interest or objective has never been one thing when it comes to product development. In the beginning, I was interested in … Continue reading
Value, Scope and Change Requests
Change requests are part of any development project. Change requests are sometimes necessary as we learn by building and doing the work. In my experience, change requests often are born from requirements we thought we understood, only to learn by working with the product or system that we really did not have enough understanding to be able to record this in the form of specifications. We think we are making things better when we spend an abundance of time documenting the requirements, at least those requirements about which there is uncertainty. That is not to say this is not a worthwhile endeavor, we have been in product development long enough to know there are downsides to delivering a product that has no associated documentation. The testing and manufacturing portions of the work will make use of these requirements documentation and the errant or lack of documentation makes the work of these areas and more difficult … Continue reading
Business is predicated on providing value to the customer, but it does not end there. The business itself needs to see value in the work, so this is really a value chain that is only as strong as the weakest link. If the value to the customer is too low or not existing, no customers will purchase the product. If the value to the business from the product is too low, there will be no investment
What is value
Value is the difference between the utility received and the cost for things.
Value = Utility – Cost
Value = Benefit – Cost
The utility may be customer dependent, but this must be understood, as this will drive the subsequent work. Not knowing what the customer values, clouds how we approach the work. We will write more about the conundrum later. It suffices to say no value to the customer means no value to the business, … Continue reading
Queuing theory is the study of waiting lines and is associated with business in determining resources needed to achieve service business throughput objectives, but it does not just apply to services and material handling.
Queuing Theory and Billable Hours
I have worked at companies that had a target for billable hours, that well in the 90%. That is, 90% or more of the hours the employee worked, had to be assigned to specific project work. The organization treated the time an employee was at work and available to work on specific projects, at nearly 100%, so for example, in a 40-hour work week, it was expected that 36 hours or greater were dedicated to specific project activities. This was recorded in the project schedule.
Queuing Theory and Product Development
The impact of queues on product development and knowledge management in general is explained well in this Harvard Business Review article a snippet of which is found below:Continue reading