Beyond concern with lead time in development

Why do so many businesses have similar problems as a long lead time in development? Because they all face a situation where they are not agile enough.

There are more problems than just lead time in development.

What are the problems?



What problems do companies face before they implement our Pulseguide?

Overload and uneven workload: The projects don´t get the resources they need which causes delays. The developers are overloaded and fragmented in many assignments and projects. The interference is high; people are interrupted as they work. Many product specialists are involved in all projects which makes resource planning nearly impossible. Unclear prioritization; one doesn´t know what work is most important. Often product maintenance tasks are thought to be more urgent and therefore more important than the long term projects. There is no overview of projects and assignments in progress.

Increasing technological complexity: Relatively little time is devoted to strategic issues. Overall direction and coordinated planning between marketing, production and development is missing. Project objectives as well as customer needs are often perceived as unclear and changeable.

Relay race at too low speed: Low level of interaction and collaboration. Developers are often left alone with complex problems. It is difficult to get relevant information and share knowledge. There are a lot of meetings which waste a lot of time and create frustration. Slow decision making. Organisation, roles, processes and responsibilities are unclear. Tools and models are bureaucratic without giving proper support to the work that is done.

What are the underlying causes?

Why do so many businesses have similar problems? Because they all face a situation where they are not agile enough to fast adaptation.

Non-linear systems occur when three actors or more interact. In a non-linear system, future cannot be predicted, small changes can have dramatic effects, and there can be abrupt thresholds as well as long term stability. Companies operate on an open market with competitors, suppliers, customers, government agencies, public and so on and all their products and needs. Open markets can be viewed as a non-linear system where introduction of a new product will make everybody adapt to the new conditions, which in turn provides new opportunities for all actors. The organisations themselves also behave as non-linear systems; internally and technologically.

In non-linear systems, detailed planning far into the future has limited value. Instead it is important to act quickly on opportunities and adapt to change. Agility is the ability to successfully create and exploit changes in circumstances. The amount of agility needed is a function of complexity of the situation and the cost of error.

What is the key behind the Pulseguide concept?

OODA loop is a concept originally applied in military operations and it is now also used to understand learning processes. Observe – see what is happening with our design, in our workgroup and business and what is happening around us. Orient – discuss and develop a shared understanding of the current situation and create ideas on how we can move forward. Decide – select an option to proceed with. Act – as a team to achieve maximum effect.

The faster you can spin the loop, the faster you will adapt and learn, and the more value you add.

In our Pulseguide “orient” and “decide” is done at pulse meetings, while as “act” and “observe” is done as people work with their tasks. The frequency of feedback is increased through the daily pulse meetings, where the team members share what they have done and observed. The discussion that follows will end in decisions on what to do next that will result in coordinated actions.

Beyond concern with lead time in development

When the loop spins faster, the system becomes more robust. Frequency makes each decision relatively small. You can correct the less successful decisions the next day. In product development there are a lot of decisions made. Any decision will put restrictions on the semi-finished product that affects future options and opportunities. Some decisions have to be changed because the impact proves impossible to handle. Since knowledge is built up as the work progresses, one can´t talk about right or wrong decisions. Each choice sets the conditions for the subsequent work and the consequences are often impossible to predict.

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Making Organizations Agile