5S

If you have spent any time in the automotive industry you have probably spent time working within a system called the 5S. Continue reading

Mura (unevenness)

The unevenness or mura of the work wreak havoc on our work. Project demands fluctuate and working on multiple projects likewise creates or exacerbates the unevenness. In product development work can get heavy around gate reviews as the project must accomplish certain expectations and milestones are reviewed in the gate activities.  One functional department may not be at capacity, but anther may be running beyond capacity.  The arrival of the work from one department stacks up as input to the next department.  This then creates muda as we have waste in the form of over production.  All of this unevenness has impact on schedule and the people performing the work, and sometimes specialized equipment as the demand fluctuates wildly.

Material that our development team will use may also be subjected to this unevenness, think prototype parts, upon which we will test and learn about the product for the next iteration of the development loop.  When lead times are long, we may … Continue reading

Muri – Overburden

Muri is waste associated with pushing people, processes and equipment beyond the limits or overburdening. An organization may be enamored of working large numbers of overtime hours, but any benefit for such some at a cost, and this is an example of overburdening.

I once worked at a place in which the employees averaged being at the organization for between 10 – 20 years, and had vacation time commensurate with being within the organization per the company benefits manual. The people that had been with the company that long had more than 4 weeks of vacation, which is 160 hours off of the 2000 hours or total work hours approximates 1840.  On top of this time off, the company also offered special days that it gave off to everybody – think Thanksgiving and Christmas for example.  Yet when it came to calculate the work the organization could undertake, the organization used 1980 per person to estimate the total amount of … Continue reading

Kanban and Visual Management

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

Project Organization Structure

If you have been a project manager for any time at all, you probably have experienced competing demands from the sponsors for the project.  The sponsor is the person(s) who drive the scope of the project in conventional projects.  In some instances, the project manager may find that there are in fact multiple sponsors and the respective priorities of those sponsors may be at odds.  This is not the only difficulty to which the project manager must respond.

From the CHAOS study by the Standish Group, on project failures and success factors, we find the results below. This study analyzed 23,000 projects in 1998[i], of the factors that enable project success and failure.

Success Factor Influence User involvement 20 Executive support 15 Clear business objectives 15 Experienced project manager 15 Small milestones 10

 

A list of the top 5 factors from this study, demonstrate that importance of the interface between the project, the executives that are supporting … Continue reading

Value Proposition

Value

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

What works: team participation

The team

My first job out of university was with a small product development and manufacturing company. The company developed their own embedded products for sale all over the world.  I do not know how this collection of technicians and engineers ended up as a tight or as close when it came to work.  The group was a collection of characters. The other electrical engineer, we will call Flicky (we had secret names for each of the team members). There was one technician we referred to occasionally as IR because of the unfortunate anagram is name made.  There was a mechanical designer we referred to as BWI, I will explain that later.  There was another assembler / technician we referred to as Wal.

Games with the Team

When it came to the electrical or embedded product idea generation and development, I can recall a game we played.  We would read the specifications together, asking questions where we could of the sales … Continue reading

What does not work – Queuing Theory

Queuing Theory

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

Poor Process or Poor Execution

Poor Process or Poor Execution

I have used both conventional approaches to projects, as well as agile.  In fact, i have used some of the agile techniques in conventional projects with success. I know, anecdotal but perhaps an interesting anecdote.

Conventional projects have had considerable high failure reported (Standish Group Studies for example).  The problem become, why these conventional projects fail.  For example, I have been on projects where the project manager is seldom seen, where conventional project processes are ignored or executed poorly.  There can be many reasons for failure, poor process, poor execution or poor strategy, can end in the same failure.  It is like a play in football, if the offense executes it well, we may get a touchdown. If we have not play, or execute a good play poorly, we might fail in both cases.

So the question becomes what is the root cause of the failure? For example, I wonder how the strategy was selected for … Continue reading

Product Development – what does not work.

What does not work -duration

Besides wasting time planning out many months into the future as if we could see and control that far ahead, there have been studies over the years that have established an inverse correlation between the length of time a project runs and project success rate.  Perhaps this does not sound so odd, given the more tasks we have or the more work we must do, the greater the risks. Consider a product and the opportunities for failure, the more parts, the more opportunities for failure or more failure points.

There is no silver bullet when it comes to product development. However, there are some things that studies tell us what does not work.

Duration

First, the planning and long-term project or treating the job like we know the details 6 months to 3 years in the future.  There are studies from the Standish group that illustrates the project s longer than 6 months in duration have … Continue reading

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