Connect lean product development to the business

In evaluating factors for lean product development initiatives that have been successful, we have found that it is crucial to connect the initiative to the business in real terms. Too often lean initiatives are started because “They are the right thing to do” or “We know they will help.” They are undertaken with good intensions, only to lose momentum as those who started them lose interest; the initiatives are killed because they cannot demonstrate they deliver; or, worse, they just drag on, consuming time, energy, and resources without realizing the impact they should or can produce.

Lean product development transformation initiatives that are successful are connected to business results. Just as in manufacturing and other parts of the business, the development throughput must match the business need: The lift (the business impact in terms of revenue and profit) by type of project must be understood. With an understanding of project lift, the delivery rate in terms of the number and type of projects can be aligned with what the business requires and connected to the business strategy, objectives, and plan. This must be identified in quantifiable terms, measured, and managed. Just as with manufacturing goals and actions, progress to the business plan and the improvement effort must be tracked.

As a consequence of increased throughput, the lean product development system will also reduce time to market. Reduction in time to market is often the primary goal for improving the product development processes, but from our perspective it is an important by-product. In any case it has to be measured together with throughput and ‘lift’.

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