How can we improve the flexibility of our product development process?

August 2005 Quick Tip

Recall that the last Quick Tip “How is flexibility beneficial in developing new products?” explained the benefits of flexible product development. Now I mention some techniques you can apply to make your product development more flexible.

One, making decisions at the last responsible moment, was covered in an earlier Quick Tip “My boss frequently stalls on decisions. Is this fast time to market?

Another is timeboxing. Because the plan is in flux in a flexible project, measuring progress relative to an overall plan doesn’t work. Instead, carve out small, measurable chunks of work and put each one in a “timebox” of time and resources. Then measure each of these tasks relative to its timebox – it counts only when it is finished. This technique is also valuable for controlling scope creep.

One more approach to planning a flexible project is rolling-wave project planning. Recognize that the long-range plan will change, so complete it only at a general level. At the start of each facet of the project, do your detailed planning only for that facet, and then plan the next facet or two moderately, leaving everything after this at the general level. When you start on the next facet, plan it in detail, and perhaps do another step of moderate planning. Thus, the wave rolls on and you haven’t wasted time planning something that will change anyway.

(c) Copyright 2013 Preston G. Smith. All Rights Reserved.