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.

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