I have been on a journey to declutter and simplify life for the past several years. I started thinking about all the accumulated junk we had in our house when my husband’s job was transferred. We moved from a Texas-sized house to an apartment with one-third the square footage. Not even much of our furniture would fit in the new space.
So, I spent time cleaning, sorting, and simplifying. I took carloads of clothes and books to Goodwill and donated excess pots and pans. I sold my sewing machine – I had given up quilting years ago and it just took up space. Our trash bins were overloaded every week with stuff that “maybe” I might use someday but had not touched in 10 years.
In the end, we have a crowded apartment and there’s still some leeway to get rid of more junk. But I can also say that decluttering has given me more focus on the important things – in both work and my hobbies.
Clutter in Product Development
Most firms have a systematic approach to developing new products. Many companies use a staged-and-gated (waterfall) methodology for tangible new product development (NPD). In software and IT, organizations often deploy agile or Scrum to approach product development. Both systems have distinct advantages, yet both can accumulate clutter over time.
Staged-and-gated systems are an excellent entry point for companies with no documented process for new product development. Gates serve as management checkpoints and consistent work is accomplished during the stages of work in- between gates.
However, staged-and-gated systems become cluttered over time as organizations grow and become more risk-averse. Documentation increases and decisions are made by larger groups through consensus. Project teams hold more and more meetings to address financial and technological concerns. Meanwhile, customers and markets – external beneficiaries of the new products – tend to be ignored as the organization continually turns inward to avoid investment mistakes. Learning and experimentation are also victims of staged-and-gated clutter.
Agile / Scrum
With iterations to develop products incrementally and a dedicated business representative, agile promises improved product delivery. Having the voice of the customer continually represented on the team should encourage a customer-focused design. Teams – in theory – are small enough to adapt to changing requirements. The end goal is to deliver products faster with a higher degree of customer satisfaction.
Unfortunately, just like staged-and-gated processes, agile gets cluttered over time. The ceremonies and rituals to communicate project information tend to increase the number of meetings that team members attend. For international and remote teams, these meetings are usually scattered throughout the day, reducing blocks of time available for focused work. Likewise, companies often use an internal business resource to represent voice of customer, thereby bypassing the benefits of iterative and incremental development.
Hybrid NPD Processes
In between waterfall and agile methodologies are the hybrid processes of WAGILE Product Development and Lean NPD. Both approaches to managing projects help to declutter bureaucracy and allow teams to focus in-depth on the actual work of product development. WAGILE Product Development applies design thinking and iterations with management gate reviews to validate on-going project investments. Lean NPD removes stages and gates altogether, granting the teams an ability to work autonomously by raising exceptions for management review only.
Declutter for Product Development
Just like closets and garages get stuffed with junk over time, NPD processes become bloated with excessive documentation, meetings, and requirements. Staged-and-gated processes and an agile approach to product development have appropriate applications, depending on the organization’s risk factors and culture. Hybrid NPD processes, like WAGILE and Lean, can help to strip out waste and clutter to provide project teams focus and efficiency.
You can read about WAGILE Product Development in Chapter 3 of The Innovation ANSWER Bookand here. Read more about the principles of Lean NPD here. Finally, take a deep dive to learn about these Hybrid NPD processes and applications at your firm in our virtual course, Designing a Hybrid Product Development Process, starting 24 January 2023. Register here.
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