Idea Development Lifecycle – Lean Six Sigma in Motion

Idea Development Lifecycle – Lean Six Sigma in Motion

The Idea Development Lifecycle is a process used to bring your product or service concept to life with as little waste or defects as possible. At its heart, this process manages the changes that occur throughout development and production. Every time a change is made to your product specifications, it invites waste and defects to creep into the process or product.

How exactly does an idea move from concept to reality? There are 7 stages to idea development:

  1. Concept requirements
  2. Design
  3. Build
  4. Integrate & Test
  5. Make/Implement
  6. Verify
  7. Production

And of course, you have the additional pleasure of managing supply chains and shipping once you’ve reached the production stage.

The struggle with every idea development is the fact that soon after initially communicating your idea to others, there are a lot of chefs that come to cook in your kitchen. Unfortunately, everyone has great ingredients to add to your stew. If you don’t manage your idea lifecycle appropriately, you may not even recognize your idea when it comes off the production floor.

One of the first things to tackle is to determine your Needs versus the Nice-to-Haves.

What do I mean?

This is best explained by using an example.

Let’s say you want to develop a new mid-priced microwave specifically designed for mid-priced apartment complex owners to install over the stove in each unit as they remodel.

What does a mid-priced model look like and what features are necessary? If you’ve done some VOC work on your other models, you might find it easier to answer this question. Regardless, you need to chart the Needs and the Nice-to-Haves in order to determine what functions will make your new model priced right and adequately functional.


I think we can all agree that any microwave needs to have X features: cook, defrost, number buttons and start/stop buttons. These features are critical to the function of the microwave in cooking and defrosting food. Everything else is extraneous. Without these features, the microwave won’t function in the way people expect.


If we were producing a very low-end model, we might be able to stop with just the needs. However, people expect more these days. So what are our nice-to-have options? A quick brainstorm reveals we might include the following features:

  • Light
  • Vent fan
  • Timer
  • Delay cook
  • Auto defrost
  • Popcorn, beverage and other common food items
  • Reheat
  • Cooking rack

How do you determine which nice-to-have features need to be included?

Obviously, the first step is a logical analysis. Because our model is intended as an over-the-stove unit, we need to include features that replicate the function of our displaced range hood: light and vent.

Now, we move into an area where financial analysis an VOC can prove very useful tools. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do our current customers demand or want in our other models?
  • What price are apartment complex owners willing to pay?
  • How much will it cost to install each additional feature?
  • How much ROI will I get by adding each feature?

These can be tough questions to answer. That is why having a full set of LSS tools can be critical to the success of your idea. If a reheat button costs $1.37 per unit to install but doesn’t actually drive customers to make a purchase, does this feature add value to your product overall? No. It is considered waste in producing your new mid-range model. However, this same statement may not be true if you are producing a high-end model: Different model; different customer base.

Once you have your features in place, it is important to document them in a specifications document that will help guide your idea through all of the later stages of development. It will help you and others manage and document change and keep the other chefs in line with the purpose of your product idea.

Joann O. Parrinder, MSIE, PMP, CPIM, CSCP, is a dynamic project manager and process leader having managed successful projects to develop radios and satellite tuners for the auto industry, a website infrastructure for technician training, and other complex engineering and IT initiatives.

To learn more about how the Idea Development Lifecycle, please read Driving Operational Excellence: Simple Lean Six Sigma Secrets to Improve the Bottom Line or click on


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