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Balancing Ideas from Agile, Lean, Flow and Critical Chain in New Product Development

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by Larry Pendergrass, Principal

Every new product development leader needs to stay abreast of the latest ideas on product development principles, processes, tools and organizations; and methodologies such as Agile, Lean, Flow and Critical Chain are some of the latest ideas. But should any one of these philosophies be applied directly per the textbooks, and without modification to your unique business problems? To do so may invite disaster!

I have seen such a situation, when a newly-hired manufacturing expert applied lean principles directly according to the theoretical ideals, to a high-tech, high-mix, low-volume operation. The result was a near shut-down of the manufacturing operation for three months while “save-the-company” modifications to processes and tools were made. Thankfully, when the dust settled we had a balance of lean and other manufacturing philosophies that was more appropriate to the business. The same could happen to a product development processes if care is not taken. These roll-outs need to be done carefully, with skill, respecting the past, the company culture, the needs of the customers, and the market and industry, balancing various philosophies to create the best optimization for your business.

Whenever starting on the path toward change, the wise product development manager will make sure the reasons for change are clear, and that there is a solid respect for the past and the current state. Those reasons for change may include:

  • Needing fresher product definitions
  • Wanting greater innovation
  • Requiring more accurate and/or faster project schedules
  • Creating better communication and excitement with sponsoring managers

If so, you may find that elements of Lean Product Development (Lean PD), Product Development Flow (PD Flow), Agile Product Development (Agile PD), and Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM) may be just what you are looking for. But you don’t need to accept every aspect of these philosophies to significantly improve your product strategy and execution.

In the .pdf available for download, I will compare the elements of 4 product development philosophies, show one case example of careful selection among these, and describe the essential need to use good change management practices.

 

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