This Lean Post is the second part of a three-part series exploring Collaborative Study Teams (CSTs) within LEI’s Lean Product and Process Development (LPPD) Learning Group. The learning group is made up of five non-competing organizations whose product development teams regularly share in-person and virtually how they are applying LPPD principles to deliver better products faster to customers. The CSTs are cohorts that convene monthly to take deep dives into specific LPPD principles and practices to accelerate learning beyond what each company could do alone. Read part one of the series.
A guiding principle of LPPD is Understanding before Executing. Fully understanding what customers value is pivotal to a product’s success. Within the product development process, the study phase is a team’s opportunity to precisely grasp what customers value, thoroughly explore the various ways to create value in the product, and fully optimize the future value stream’s design to deliver it. A robust study phase gets teams started on the right foot and significantly increases the likelihood of a project’s success.
The collaborative study team (CST), which included two to three members from each of the five member companies, focused on two areas. First: how to accelerate learning and share more effectively. Second: how to simplify the transition from the study phase to the execution phase. The CST members focused on one of these areas their organizations found particularly challenging. Some learnings gleaned from their experiments included:
- Utilize structured learning cycles. Learning cycles help teams effectively close knowledge gaps. “Structured” does not mean following a strict, predetermined plan and timing but rather a standard approach, including a common language to define each step (e.g., hypothesis, gap, goal, learning plan, findings, and conclusions). “Structured” also means maintaining a steady cadence of check-ins where team members can share and evaluate learning.
- Avoid the waste of overdoing. Define knowledge gaps in the smallest possible increments to answer the specific challenge blocking the team from moving forward. Avoid trying to harvest all the possible knowledge around a design problem. Also, do not overcomplicate learning plans. Use the lowest fidelity method possible, such as mockups, rapid prototyping, or simulation, to gain knowledge.
- Front-load learning. Front-loading does not mean everyone needs to jump on board on day one. Teams can accelerate learning and knowledge even with a small cadre of the right people. Key enablers to front-loading include defining the skills needed, determining the required capacity at the study phase, and setting budgets to fund those resources upfront.
- Minimize handoff waste. Avoid handoff wastes by capturing learnings (technical and project) throughout the study phase rather than consolidating learnings at the end. Some key elements include a completed and agreed-upon concept paper, product and process design decisions already made with supporting knowledge, a list of all project assumptions, open questions, and the risks the team must follow through on during the execution phase.
In the final post of this series, we will share the highlights and results of one other successful LPPD Learning Group CST: Developing People and Their Technical Skills as They Develop Products.
Designing the Future Remotely:
An Introduction to Lean Product and Process Development
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