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The Principles of Product Development Flow: Second Generation Lean Product Development Hardcover – 2009
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At Accuer, our business depends on helping successful product developers become even better. We need to provide real results, quickly, in lots of different areas. Because we need to stay at the leading edge, I've studied and read almost every book on lean product development; this one is better than the rest of them combined! Why? It's a unique combination of practical methods and clear explanations of the science that makes them work. If you've enjoyed Don's previous books as much as I have, you're guaranteed like this one. ----David W. Paulson, President Accuer, Inc.
This book challenges an awful lot of fashionable ideas on improving product development processes. It provides a vast number of very solid principles that could make a big difference for almost any product development organization, from beginners to the most advanced. It offers a fundamentally different way of thinking about product development processes. Don't read it if you are content with business as usual! ----Andrew Flint, Microsoft Hardware
From the Inside Flap
..the dominant paradigm for managing product development is wrong. Not just a little wrong, but wrong to its very core. Today's product development orthodoxy is broken. What's wrong? Companies are pursuing the wrong goals. They maximize capacity utilization, and wonder why cycle times are so long. They strive to conform to plan, and wonder why new obstacles constantly emerge. They try to eliminate variability, and wonder why innovation disappears. They carefully break processes into phases and gates, and wonder why things slow down instead of speeding up. Ironically, each of these actions actually hurts more than it helps.We need a different approach, one based on solid economics and real science. The heart of this approach is FLOW, and the enemy of flow is the invisible and unmeasured queues that undermine all aspects of product development performance. Stagnant piles of idle work lengthen cycle time. At the same time, they delay vital feedback and destroy process efficiency. Yet today, these queues remain unmanaged. Ninety-eight percent of product developers neither measure nor control their queues.But, how can we manage these queues and achieve real flow? It takes a bit of science. We can start with the ideas of lean manufacturing. Then, we must recognize the vast difference between the stable world of repetitive manufacturing and the high-variability world of product development. A product development process must thrive in the presence of variability. Ultimately, we must reach even further, drawing upon ideas from the Internet, transportation systems, computer operating systems, and military doctrine. This is the first book that comprehensively describes the underlying principles that create flow in product development processes, principles that have produced 5x to 10x improvements, even in mature processes. It combines a lucid explanation of the real science behind flow and a rich set of practical methods.Its underlying principles are organized into eight major areas, focusing on practical methods to: Improve economic decisions Manage queues Reduce batch size Apply WIP constraints Accelerate feedback Manage flows in the presence of variability Decentralize control Nobody is better suited to explain these ideas than Don Reinertsen. In 1997, his landmark book, Managing the Design Factory, first introduced the ideas that have become known as lean product development. His two previous books, Developing Products in Half the Time and Managing the Design Factory, have become required reading for all product developers. For over 25 years he has been recognized as a leading thinker on product development issues.This book begins where other books on product development end. It is guaranteed to change the way you think about product development. The Principles of Product Development Flow is destined to become another product development classic.
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For the traditionalist, add to cart if you want to learn:
- Why prioritizing work "on the basis of project profitability measures like return on investment (ROI)" is a mistake
- Why we should manage queues instead of timelines
- Why "trying to estimate the amount of work in queue" is a waste of time
- Why our focus on efficiency, capacity utilization, and preventing and correcting deviations from the plan "are fundamentally wrong"
- Why "systematic top-down design of the entire system" is risky
- Why bottom-up estimating is flawed
- Why reducing defects may be costing us money
- Why we should "watch the work product, not the worker"
- Why rewarding specialization is a bad idea
- Why centralizing control in project management offices and information systems is dangerous
- Why a bad decision made rapidly "is far better" than the right decision made late and "one of the biggest mistakes a leader could make is to stifle initiative"
- Why communicating failures is more important than communicating successes
For the Agilist, add to cart if you want to learn:
- Why command-and-control is essential to prevent misalignment, local optimization, chaos, even disaster
- Why traditional conformance to a plan and strong change control and risk management is sometimes preferable to adaptive management
- Why the economies of scale from centralized, shared resources are sometimes preferable to dedicated teams
- Why clear roles and boundaries are sometimes preferable to swarming "the way five-year-olds approach soccer"
- Why predictable behavior is more important than shared values for building trust and teamwork
- Why even professionals should have synchronized coffee breaks
And the list goes on and on and on.
My favorite sections are Reducing Batch Size, which I use in my Agile courses, The Human Side of Feedback, and Achieving Decentralized Control, on "what we can learn from military doctrine."
Mind-expanding! Bonus: the author includes his email address and promptly responds to inquiries.
Reinertsen clears this away and looks at the product development cycle from holistic perspective. When you approach the problem from a Total Lifecycle Profits perspective some forms of apparent 'waste' are really not. Implementing two options in parallel knowing you will throwing one away may very well be less wasteful then implementing just your preferred option - only to discover too late that it won't work.
His focus on queues and queuing theory is critically important. All processes and business have queues but too often we don't think of them that way. It's just the pile of work we need to get done - which is completely different from a queue right? Looking for hidden queues and treating them properly is the key to improving many processes.
I particularly enjoyed his discussion of efficient 'resource utilization'. A road network that is 100% utilized is gridlocked. A computer server with a pinned CPU and full memory is clogged and overloaded. A FedEx truck packed with every cubic inch of space is impossible to unload efficiently. Why then do managers assume that an employee with 'only' 90% of their 'capacity' spoken for is in desperate need of another project? Reinertsen cuts through this nonsense.
This is a new form of Scientific Management. Most previous attempts have treated people like clockwork parts in a machine. Differences were seen as a problem to be eliminated. If everything and everyone were the same then Efficiency would be achieved! All re-work was seen as inherently bad and a sign of a flawed process. Instead, by focusing on flow Reinertsen shows that in many cases variability is the key to adding value. With small batch sizes, parallel queues and fast feedback re-work can actually result in much better products and higher profits.
This book doesn't not provide a capital P Process that a business can implement as a magic wand. Instead it provides a set of tools and a way of thinking that can guide each organization to discover how to achieve flow in their own domain.
I highly recommend this book to executives, managers, product developers and "in the weed" workers. It's applicable across a wide variety of industries. While the details of developing new furniture or the next great cloud application are going to be very different the principles and tools are the same.
There were some helpful, concrete insights, but more important, this book will help you develop a mental framework for analyzing product development process. This understanding will set you free from the Agile vs. Waterfall cargo-cultism that permeates the tech industry.