Gemba Walk

Go to the place where the work is performed, that is the Gemba walk.  This does not apply just to manufacturing, but also line managers and their respective departments as well as to project management. You want to know what is going on, what could be better, go unto the work space and watch and talk with the people doing the work.

Where the work is performed, depends upon the work.  For example, if you are the manager of a product testing department, the place where the work is performed is likely the lab,  Go where the Hardware In the Loop (HIL) rigs and see how things are going, go to the test rooms where the environmental (hot and cold) and other stimuli (vibration) are administered to the product.  Learn how this work is actually being done. Ask questions about how the work is going.  What sort of things are difficult and why? What can we do to make the … Continue reading

Tools and Teams

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 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

My Career Part 1

My Career

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

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, Scope and Change Requests

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

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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