Get small to improve time to market

Small batches will help you improve time to market, read the difference between the traditional and non-traditional approach to product development below.

Traditional approach to product development (Batches of major activities)

In a traditional phased-and-gated system, each phase is a batch of activities that has to be completed in order to produce a set of deliverables. These deliverables are reviewed in a batch at a gate. Here are some other examples of batches:

  • A market research study is a batch of activities answering a batch of questions
  • A capital request usually asks for approval of an amount of capital to cover a batch of capital investments required for the project

Reinertsen explains the problem is that the batch is held up until the longest activity in the batch is done. The bigger the batch, the more likely it is that work will be held up waiting for the batch to complete [1].

Non-traditional approach to product development: ExPD (Small batches of activities)

In contrast, Exploratory PD (ExPD) emphasizes agility and flexibility.  The project team gains speed by breaking up the resolution of project uncertainties into small batches of activities.

Executing product development activities in small batches increases speed in several ways:

  • Faster feedback: Quick experimentation and iteration allows the team to quickly identify and resolve the most important risks and uncertainties. Quickly learning when an assumption is wrong means time and resources are not wasted on development based on a faulty assumption.
  • Faster cycle times: Typically, each item in a batch cannot advance to the next step until the longest activity in the batch is completed. Smaller batches mean fewer activities are on hold, waiting for approval to move on. Speed is increased by reducing idle time. The product gets to market and starts producing revenue sooner.
  • Shorter queues: We know from queueing theory (see Reinertsen [2] for a full explanation) that smaller batches result in shorter queues of tasks waiting for someone’s attention. This means also means less idle time.
  • Decentralized decision making: Small batches enable teams to make more fact-based decisions on their own. Smaller batches can mean that decisions are smaller in scope and can be delegated to the team. There is no need to delay while escalating decisions to senior management.

Interested in hearing more about improving time to market?  Read this case study:

Improving the Product Development System and Time to Market

[1]. Donald G. Reinertsen, The Principles of Product Development FLOW (Redondo Beach, CA: Celeritas Publishing, 2009), Chapter 5.

[2] ibid