The Race for Fast Cycle Time
Have you ever noticed that most tools or techniques offered to improve new product development claim to shorten cycle time? It is as though fast cycle time is the universal outcome of anything we do to upgrade our development.
This indicates how uncritically we consider how time to market will enhance our product development. In fact, with a little thought, it becomes clear that there are many different types of cycle time.
The Flavors of Time to Market
Why Does It Matter?
Despite what some tool vendors suggest, you can’t have it all. Many of these objectives are mutually exclusive. Sticking to schedule fights against flexibility. Higher productivity is incompatible with all-out speed. And lower variation costs you in productivity.
What to do? It is pretty simple: first think carefully about what flavor or cycle time is strategically most important to you. This may vary across project types, new-to-the-world versus mature products, for example. Then select the cycle time tools and techniques intended for those objectives.
Example: Schedule Variation
Many companies are interested in controlling schedule variation today because their substantial improvements in raw cycle time have left variation untouched. In short, they have been employing the wrong tools for the job. Voice-of-the-customer analysis and cross-functional teams shorten average cycle time but don’t affect variation. To reduce the variation, consider project risk management, which is aimed at this objective.
To enhance product development flexibility, pay careful attention to product architecture, prototyping strategy, design alternatives and convergence, and making decisions at the last responsible moment.
To stick to schedule, consider project management.
Most of this site applies to the all-out speed objective.
Finally, if you are interested primarily in productivity, consider approaches such as six sigma and its associated admonition to “do it right the first time.” But before you do this, see our column on the opposite “Do It Wrong the First Time.”
Or pursue further the nuances of cycle time.
(c) Copyright 2013 Preston G. Smith. All Rights Reserved.