Thursday, January 31, 2008

Design Team (Best) Same Practices

Design team practices are the "how" of a team's path to production release of a product; key emphasis on production release. Creating product samples has never been a cash machine for the business that a design team supports. A project objective must always be revenue; as a result our vision must always be on production release along with costs that meet the business case. Focus on anything less and any decisions, plans, scope or product requirements will be crippled from the beginning; culminating in an unplanned spin costing several months and lost revenue, just when production was within reach.

OK, off my soap box now and back to practices. Practices are typically called Best Practices because we want the "how" to be our absolute best. Of far more importance than being "best" is that they are the same. Everyone on the team does the same things, delivers the same items in the same format, captures the design the same way, uses the same verification strategies and so on. If the "same practices" are done well, no work will ever need to be redone. That's the litmus test for your practices. If the team is being surprised and reworking deliverables for a given project, they were not doing things the same. The degree of surprises is an excellent measurement of the quality and communication of your practices.

So what needs to be done the same? I guarantee most of the practices problems will be related to the specific deliverable out of a task. If there is a surprise on a project it is because a given task deliverable was not in sync with downstream expectations. The concept of Same Practices means alignment of all of the project deliverables to a consistent and agreed format, content and location. For a list of some common practices note the visual to the right.

If everyone is to deliver to a common practice the team needs to know what they are and they must have participated in the practices development or you have failed at the starting gate. Think Knowledge Management (KM) as the means for aligning your team to Same Practices. There is a plethora of suppliers out there that can make this easy for you. Wiki's, web collaboration tools, web project management tools and so on. If you want a list of suppliers send me an email and I will send you the links I have. One interesting point about surprises is that you may never know they happened. The engineers generally just take what they get and make it right while quietly slipping behind on their task. Implement Same Practices or endure a continuing rash of surprises that will quietly steal away the timeline to product revenue.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Managing Excellence in Design Team Execution

In these highly competitive times everyone is extremely busy, making it difficult to find time to step back and look at how things are being done. At the same time a team that is to approach execution excellence must devote the critical time necessary to define a roadmap and strategy for improving their design processes. We have a workshop solution to kick start the thought process and generate immediate concepts that a design team can implement on their projects thus enabling predictable and productive project execution.

Please follow this link to learn about an 8 hour team investment that will yield a newfound understanding of the path to execution excellence - A one day workshop at your site, with your actual team, specifically developing enhancements to the teams development processes.

"Change nothing and nothing changes"

This workshop makes an excellent kickoff to a process renewal effort.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Seven Leadership Actions to Execution Excellence in 2008

What are your plans for 2008 that will make this a better year for project execution? Are you writing them down, making plans and taking actions to move them from your wish list to a realistic and achievable goal list? Without a clear set of written improvement objectives and concrete plans to make them a reality, I would not expect 2008 to be much different than 2007. Written plans will make the difference between the status quo for 2008 and improvements that will be noticed. To get your goals started I have created a list of seven sure-fire actions that WILL improve your project execution in 2008.

Leading your Team To Execution Excellence in 2008
Producing a notable positive shift in project execution for 2008 will take work; hard work and at times it will be painful. If this is your 2008 objective it will take an honest, thorough assessment of what has not been working well; I suggest you suit up in your best armor and send your ego on a vacation for a while. Going through a thorough assessment of how things are really working and implementing obvious improvements will require you to hone your leadership characteristics and put them into action. Note the diagram below that identifies the different attributes for managing vs. leading a team. Displaying a higher degree of the leadership attributes will provide the essential guidance to developing execution excellence for your team.

Are you planning for simple incremental changes in 2008 or are you ready to make changes that will be easily noticed due to the improvements being on a scale that can't be missed? Ready to break some rules and operate in a mode that is uncharacteristic of the old? Ready to ask the tough questions? Ready to learn from your team? Ready for taking some risk? What is holding you back? Understand the answers to these questions and begin the journey from managing team execution to leading team execution.

For 2008 will you be managing the team or leading the team down a path to new levels of productivity? One path logs an acceptable rating while the other is a path that logs a striking score.

Seven Actions that will bring Execution Excellence in 2008
Below are seven activities that will bring your team visible differences in their product development execution. Do these well; really do these well and your team can't help but show a visible, higher level of execution efficiency. Lead your team to a noticeably higher level of execution excellence.

1) Listen - Spend some time with each member of the new product development team (design as well as non-design) and listen to what they believe is impacting their ability to perform better. Act on what you learn.

2) Break some Rules - Question, challenge, and stir things up. Being comfortable has no place in an organization that is going to display project execution leadership. Why are you doing things the way your are? The status quo will have no place in an organization that is living and breathing excellence in project execution.

3) Map your Process - Involve the team, learn how your doing things and map them out. Identify changes to the process; break some rules. Think outside the box; brainstorm with the team. Involve everyone on the NPD team, not just design. The final deliverable out of this activity must be a process that everyone believes will bring a new level of project success to the organization.

4) Don't over commit - Commit only after doing your homework. Be creative, be aggressive, keep your vision broad and commit only when you have a means to get there. Due diligence on plans and schedules will reinforce predictability for your project. A misplaced commitment will never benefit the team or the business; it will only erode confidence in the teams ability to execute.

5) Manage Scope - You must have something in place to manage the inevitable changes to project scope. Scope change is a reality that will exist for every project. Setting your team apart from the norm will be a process that manages the scope decisions well. That process must include changes from within the team as well as changes from the customer. Keep the Feature Creep Wildfire in control.

6) Learn what you don't know - "Those that know, know they know. Those that don't know, don't know they don't know." You must always assume there is something to be learned about roadblocks to your project execution and to find them; you need to listen to your team to uncover them. Keep a keen eye out for the unknown. It is always there, waiting to disrupt your plan. More about Finding what you don't know.

7) And Finally Seek Outside Input - This is essential to prevent a stale, incestuous view of your organizations best practices. We are too close to our situation to see the possible errors in our ways. An outsider can be someone from a different organization within your company, another company or a consultant. Most importantly it must be someone that your team believes has no loyalty to anyone in management and/or the business operation itself. The team must view this individual as unbiased and non-threatening, to be able to accurately assess the situation.