Archive for November, 2009

Want More New Products? Reduce Capacity Utilization

Congratulations. You’ve managed to keep your product development engine running. Good work.  But now the hard part. Marketing and sales know new products are a key to profitability, and so does the CEO. So they’ve all asked for more new products, and now you have more active product development projects in the pipeline. The product development folks will do whatever they can to crank out the products. But can they get it done?

When does the product pipeline become too much for your product development engine to handle? We all know you can’t keep adding more new product development projects without adding capacity or improving productivity. Sure you can ask your product development engine to do more (and more), and it will try; but at some point it will run out of gas. So, ask yourself: Has your product development engine run out of gas? How can you tell? If it hasn’t, do you know how many miles are left in the tank?

If you don’t measure it you can’t improve it, that’s what the black belts say. But what to measure? What are the right metrics to tell you if your product development engine is out of gas? One of the best books on the subject is Managing the Design Factory, by Don Reinertsen. The rest of the post is strongly shaped by Don’s book, if not taken directly from it. Remember, genius steals.

The best metrics are simple, relevant to the objective, and are leading indicators. Simple so they’re easy to interpret; relevant so they move you toward the objective, in this case launching more new products; and are leading indicators, in that they are predictors of outcomes, so you can take action before catastrophic outcomes occur.  Here are three good ones. Read the rest of this entry »

Make it worse and do the opposite

It’s time to write, but, again, no topic.  This writing-once-a-week thing is tough.  I drop my son off at the hockey rink and walk back to the parking lot to write in my car (I’m telling you, this is a good place to write). Before I get to my car, my cell phone rings. It’s a teacher friend of mine. He’s the guy at the high school who helps kids work out issues with substance use/abuse and related topics. He’s a real pro – every high school should have a person of his caliber. Without introducing himself, he says, “You want to go for a hike tomorrow?” “I have to work,” I say. “It’s Veteran’s Day,” he says. “Yeah, I know, and I have to work,” I reply. “Oh ya, I forgot about that,” he says with a chuckle.

My mind clicks and I remember a discussion we had the previous week while on a walk.  I ask, “Do you remember talking about that trick to break intellectual inertia?” “Ya, we talked about how I used it to help a kid work himself out of some destructive behavior. Make it worse and do the opposite,” he says. “I love it; it works great,” he says. I now have my topic. We talk for a while and he helps my thinking converge. This one is a joint effort.

Here’s the problem: problems are stressful. We have a physiological reaction to problems; adrenaline rushes through our veins; our blood pressure increases; our heart rate increases; we get flushed. This is real. It’s run or attack, flight or fight. Our mental processing is all about survival. And there is real reason for concern; there are real consequences to not solving a problem – your reputation, your authority, your job. Read the rest of this entry »

Our New Normal, it’s all-you-can-eat

Our New Normal is crazy.  Competitors are chewing voraciously on each other, so are suppliers and their customers; there is immense pressure to launch more products; and radical cost cutting is required just to stay in business.  It’s official, the engine is running at its rev limit.  The wick is turned up.  We’re running wide-open.

Your people are tired and stressed, but they won’t admit it openly.  They are too concerned about losing their jobs.  They know anyone looking for a job is hosed.  The consequences?  One word – FORECLOSURE.  They will do whatever it takes to keep their jobs.

We are not infinite capacity beings, so there are limits to “whatever it takes”.  Your people will not work 25 hours a day 8 days a week.  They may sit at their desk more than before, but I assure you they’re not getting more done.  They’re just sitting there more.  That’s all.  In fact, they’re spending most of their emotional energy trying to keep their heads down and trying to stay off the critical path.  There is likely more activity, but less progress.  Certainly there is more stress. This is not healthy or productive.

Most troubling is that our New Normal makes it impossible to say “no”.  New Normal is really code for “can’t say no to anything”.  Say no and you may lose your job.  So guess what?  No one says no. Read the rest of this entry »

Mike Shipulski Mike Shipulski
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