It’s a transformation.
Lean product development is a transformation of the development organization. It is a journey that never ends. It is not a training program or a quick fix. The benefits from lean product development over conventional methods are profound, but it requires a fundamental change in thinking and in the behavior of all who affect the product development process — i.e., nearly everyone in the organization.
As with any transformation, there is a ladder of progression for an organization. Tools and techniques — the most visible and easiest to grasp — can be taught through training courses and are often a good starting point in a transformation effort. They are important, but they are the least impactful for the organization long-term. Transformation requires structural and cultural change to the business. Practices in the form of customs and traditions of the organization need to change. The “ways of doing things” need to change, as opposed to the typical reorganizations that don’t really change a lot in how product development is done.
The underlying principles of lean product development need to be understood for transformation to be effective. A focus on principles keeps an organization on the critical path of prioritized improvement, holds the entire value chain accountable, and proactively allocates resources in a way that minimizes unexpected disruptions and creates and deploys reusable knowledge to innovate, satisfy customers, and gain market share.
Only with an understanding of the principles can individuals begin to take action to evolve their system. There are fundamental truths, yet every organization will adjust for their interpretation of lean principles adapting for their own benefit and culture in order to integrate LPD effectively into their DNA — lean product development is not a “recipe book” that can be applied without thorough scrutiny and context. As the principles become understood and employees become empowered to wield them, the values and eventually the mindset of people and of the organization change. Once the values and mindset change, lean product development is ingrained in the organization, transformation is achieved, and the drive for improvement emanates from a new plateau.