The need for processes, both in manufacturing and IT development, which enable the release of value-packed products to customers quickly, has never been greater than it is today. Customers are demanding and must have immediate solutions. Enterprises need to win by making customers happy, but they also need to be efficient. By using the principles of LEAN, an organization can meet all of these requirements.
The Case for LEAN
LEAN means creating more value for customers with less—less resources, less time, less cost. Customer value is always the number one priority for a LEAN process-driven business. A LEAN organization is continually striving to provide the perfect product to the customer through a perfect development process with zero waste.
LEAN requires doing away with functional silos and creating cross-functional teams that:
- Define the end result up front.
- Keep the customer’s needs top priority.
- Work quickly by eliminating bottlenecks and waste.
This is the roadmap for implementing LEAN into product development.
Getting information early, using thin vertical slices that give data, and looping feedback throughout the cycle contribute to the elimination of waste. Establishing an environment where risk-taking is embraced instead of feared is critical in the implementation of LEAN.
How to Get There
This sounds great, but how does an organization get there? First, it begins with product management buying into the necessary culture of LEAN. Product management must take the lead in creating a climate of risk-taking in order to produce innovative and value-driven solutions. In the beginning, the task can seem overwhelming because changing a culture is a huge endeavor. However, it can be accomplished. Here are 3 tips for developing LEAN product management.
Tip #1: Get Buy-In
If at least one product manager buys into the benefits of implementing LEAN as the process for the organization’s product development cycle, you are on the way. One leader who has a vision for the business can make a difference. Managers need reasons to be on board with LEAN—such as being constant learners, being efficient, and being innovative through continuous feedback.
It’s often helpful to get management off-site for 2-3 days in a setting without laptops and cell phones. Begin by educating them on the basic principles of cross-functional teams, value streams, and eliminating waste.
Set the context of an uncertain world where change occurs at a rapid pace. In order to deal with this environment that can seem chaotic, LEAN requires you to:
- Define the “now”; don’t try to predict a year in advance.
- Give the market what it wants now.
- Leverage the system to get customer feedback.
LEAN allows the organization to respond, adapt, and be innovative.
Tip #2: Show How
Leaders need examples of how LEAN has been implemented in organizations in order to begin to see how to do so in their world. This can be accomplished through case studies and hands-on exercises. Setting up real pilot programs with separate teams is a way to get hands-on with actual projects. Additionally, establishing communities of practice with speakers and LEAN practitioners stimulates new ideas and reinforces principles.
Tip #3: Find Waste Through Process Mapping
Finding actual waste in the current process is a good way to both create buy-in and continue the momentum when change may seem too difficult or interest wanes. Waste is one of the largest reasons for increased costs and lagging deployment. Putting steps in place that eliminate waste and, therefore, reduce costs ensures that products get to market faster.
Process mapping is essential in determining points that are bottlenecks and delays. Bottlenecks can be at such points as waiting, transporting, and batching. Creating a process map with micro steps from input to output shows the waste. Go to where the work is done and “walk the floor,” identifying the cogs. Ask questions such as:
- What is the biggest delay?
- Where is the work piling up?
- How can teams reduce the time that is wasted?
These are steps in mapping the process as it is and as it should be:
- Document the current flow.
- Map what people are doing in the process.
- Put together an ideal value stream.
- Measure the time spent on hand-offs from one area to another.
- Look where continuous feedback can be employed.
Getting this information requires a lot of observation. However, the information gleaned is invaluable in implementing LEAN; thereby, improving process eliminates waste, reduces costs, and deploys faster. Mapping the process finds areas where work can be done in smaller batches, thus getting data more quickly. This results in:
- Fewer handoffs.
- Decreased need for rework.
- Combined operations.
- Collapsing flow.
Using these 3 tips, LEAN product management can begin to change the culture and environment in order for processes to improve. It’s simple, though it may not be easy. Keep in mind that, most importantly, the benefits are not only tremendous but also necessary in competing in today’s fast-paced, demanding world.
If you want to listen to webinar that these tips originated, you can download a recording at our Web Seminar Archive Page.