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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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Chapter 1 is somewhat different from the other chapters in that rather than being a series of principles, it provides an overall view of practice orthodoxy and how many of these closely held beliefs are based on secondary or proxy variables. The chapter continues with an overview of several examples and then summarizes and discusses where things are going in the rest of the book as well as the layout. The first chapter is great. I did expect it to end a bit sooner than it did (I was thinking in terms of self-referential, small batch sizes), but I'm not sure a shorter chapter would have been better.
The second chapter introduces the approach for the rest of the book as well as the model underpinning the principles. The approach works for me. I imagine myself reading this book, going back and creating queue cards for each of the principles, then periodically looking up individual ones and refreshing my memory. It seems like a book I can keep going back to and reading just because I want 5 minutes of good reading.
For some context, I'm a software developer. I learned about the Theory of Constraints (ToC) before I really learned software development processes in depth. When I did being the software process journey, it was under the OO umbrella, so incremental and iterative, feedback, etc. This learning, however, I've recently realized (by first reading Kanban and now this book) was heavily influenced by the ToC. At the beginning of this century, I jumped on the XP and Scrum bandwagons, even working with a few of the original signatories on the manifesto for agile development.
ToC came up a number of times while coaching. Moving from ToC to thinking in terms of Kanban isn't much of a leap to me. However, since I was applying things I learned and internalized, things that seem obvious to me are often not obvious to my customers or even my colleagues (yes, sometimes I'm wrong, but often I'm not). For example, at many, many places I've been, companies claim they are practicing continuous integration or even continuous delivery, but then their builds are broken (red) 80+ % of the time. This is a huge cost to productivity, morale, feedback, etc. This is one example of many such examples that, in in the context of ToC are obvious bottlenecks, which cause queueing. If I look with lean glasses, many of these are worthy of stopping the line, but people march on, building up queues of work to be committed, which lead to more broken builds, integration problems, demoralization, etc.
However, what seems obvious to me doesn't seem obvious to others. More importantly, many people don't even see that there's a problem at all! They think, for example, when developers complain about being blocked due to the build being broken, it's just developers complaining about a minor glitch, but it is more typically a systemic problem.
This books presents a model based on economics. One thing that I observed myself observing about the book was that I thought it might be over emphasizing one dimension, cost of delay, or one approach, economics. However, "all models are wrong, some are valuable." While I had this observation, I didn't find anything wrong about the conclusions, and in fact find my self thinking "yes and," so I've kept reading. So while this model may be wrong in some ways (I'm not aware of any), I clearly see immediate and near-term value for me with its use.
What this model does is allow me to speak to upper management, and maybe middle management using a language they are likely to appreciate. I'm able to justify things like slack using economic models, so that I might be better able to communicate with them. So rather than talking about the flexibility and agility that well under 100% utilization might offer, instead I can discuss the cost of delivery related to high utilization (lack of slack). My primary failing up until now is not being able to explain what seems intuitive to me in a way that bridges the communication gap. This model seems to give me another way to both think about it and communicate it.
I have not finished reading the book, but in the the spirit of small batch sizes, this is my first delivery. I'll be making updates as I read the book. I am already confident that I'll finish this book and that I can recommend it to people. It'll have to really work hard to go under a 5 star review.
Finally (so far): my impression so far reading the book is that it seems well researched, brings together a number of disciplines in a non-trivial manner and seems to come form someone who legitimately has many good years of experience, not just the same 1 year of experience repeated over and over.
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.