Idea Development Lifecycle – Lean Six Sigma in Motion

Posted by on Jul 27, 2011 in Specific Tools | 0 comments

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


What My Dad Taught Me About Lean Thinking

Posted by on Jul 18, 2011 in Specific Tools | 0 comments

What My Dad Taught Me About Lean Thinking

Thinking Lean and doing it right the first time have some things in common: money, savings and profit. First developed for Lean manufacturing, the 5S’s can be applied to the idea development lifecycle process as well. They help ensure that after your idea initiates and proceeds through each development stage: 1) concept, 2) design, 3) build, 4) integrate and test, 5) make, and 6) verify for approval to release into production, that the final product, service or process, and sustains the essence and integrity of your original idea into the production mode.

This reminds me of some bits of wisdom my dad bestowed upon me one day.

I had just bought a new set of encyclopedia (you remember them – very tall books filled with lots of information), when I realized that I needed a bookcase to store and display them prominently. So I did what most young people fresh out of college do: I asked my dad, a carpenter by trade, to help me with my idea. I showed him my drawing and we headed for the lumberyard to find some knotty pine boards, a board for trim, some nails, and a can of maple varnish stain. My idea was simple: a top and bottom board attached to 2 side boards with a stationary shelf half way between. Simple idea until my dad asked, “How tall are the books?”  At that moment, I realized I had no idea.  Not wanting to waste our time making a bookcase that may not meet my requirements, my dad suggested adding metal strips with clips for flexibility to adjust the shelf height. It seemed like a good change to my idea and so we purchased the material and headed home.

As we began, my dad instructed, “Measure twice before you cut. You don’t want to waste a perfectly good board or your money.”  I heeded his instruction and slowly, my bookcase took form, and it soon was time to install the metal strips. My dad’s advice to use them seemed simple, but became frustrating to implement as I tried to line up each metal strip so the clips were level for the bookshelf. My dad suggested installing the strips from the bottom edge rather than the middle. This method used more metal strip than necessary, but made it easier to install. It also added the possibility for another shelf later. By day’s end, I had varnished my new bookcase and it was a beauty!

Looking back, it is clear that my dad was Thinking Lean. Creating flexibility was his way of adding value, and “measuring twice” was reducing or eliminating wasting material, time and money in the process.

Today, when you embark on a journey to develop an idea, this same advice mirrors the 5S’s principle of Lean thinking: Sort, Setup, Scrub and Shine, Standardize, and Sustain, and then apply them to develop your idea. Start by Sorting out your thoughts, presenting its “big picture” and writing your idea’s specifications document. As you discuss your idea with your team, potential customers, and possible suppliers, you are Setting up and organizing your idea’s features, functions, and options into final form.

Once you have all the details, it’s time for reviewing and refining the idea; that is, Scrubbing your idea to keep the good features and removing the unnecessary, or “waste,” in your design.  For instance, is being available in 21 different colors really necessary, when 2 or 3 will do? Once you are done weeding, you have completed Standardizing your idea’s essence with a baseline and can stop writing. This baseline document allows your finance department to estimate the cost of your idea, and your marketing team can determine a fair price, putting out feelers on its marketability. If their feedback suggests changes, then consider additional refinement while Sustaining your idea’s essence through your change management process, which might be as simple as the one I used to build my bookcase.

Thinking Lean through the 5S’s principle became my approach to make my idea reach its final form, a useful bookcase. I still remember that day my dad first taught me about Thinking Lean as I gaze upon my simple bookcase that still prominently displays my encyclopedia. It is still with me – it has endured.

The 5S’s, Thinking Lean…simple, yet so powerful!

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 5S’s can be applied to developing your idea, please read Driving Operational Excellence – Simple Lean Six Sigma Secrets to Improve the Bottom Line or click on


Creating High Performance Organizations

Posted by on Jul 15, 2011 in Methodology | 0 comments

Creating High Performance Organizations

An analysis of the highest performing organizations most often reveals an unwavering attention and dedication to the basics of Operational Excellence:

  • driving to a set of performance goals;
  • measuring performance against those goals;
  • taking proactive action to resolve issues and make improvements quickly; and
  • increasing performance expectations once targets are met.

Most organizations apply these methods to some degree already, but very few have a comprehensive and integrated system with the level of rigor and aggressiveness needed to drive impactful and sustainable results on a daily basis. In short, they achieve pieces of the Op Ex methodology by accident.

In contrast, High Performance Organizations employ an enterprise-wide Operational Excellence strategy that drives everything they do, moving them into the highest echelons of the competition in their market and industry.

Are YOU engaged in creating a High Performance Organization? The critical questions you must ask yourself include:

  1. How much more competitive do you need to be to:
    • reach and/or compete with the highest performing competitors in your market?
    • sustain your current position in the market to remain viable?
  2. How competitive do you want to be?

The foundation for excellence starts with Daily Management. In a nutshell, Daily Management is the application of the PDCA Cycle to daily incremental continuous improvement efforts. This means that everyone in your organization knows what they have to do each and every day to make the work flow smoothly throughout the entire organization. With this in mind, effective Daily Management requires that you and your teams:

  • Know your organization’s vision and mission
  • Know your customers and their needs and expectations
  • Know how to accurately communicate your needs and expectations to internal and external actors
  • Know your product or service
  • Know how your job fits into the overall product/service provided by your organization
  • Know your job and the process inside and out

In “Daily Management: The Foundation for High-Performance Organizations,” Chapter 7 of Driving Operational Excellence, I outline the ten critical components for achieving an effective Daily Management system. At the top of that list you will find Business Strategy. Business strategy defines the critical initiatives required to realize the business’ overall objectives and goals. Many organizations have a business strategy in place, but it often fails to incorporate any linkage to actual daily work. If your daily work processes do not align to your overall business strategy, vision and mission, the results you achieve will neither significantly impact your bottom line nor be sustainable over the long haul.

Your strategy should also align to customer needs and expectations. If it does not, all of your continuous improvement efforts will be in vain. The bottom line for businesses everywhere is the customer: Without them, there is no business to be had.

Creating a High Performance Organization requires you to think systematically with a focus on the end user of your product or service. A systems-wide approach allows you to get more bang for your buck out of each and every continuous improvement effort. Daily Management ensures that you never lose sight of your business’s vision, mission and goals.

David Dubinsky is the President and Founder of Op-Excellence, a management consulting and coaching firm dedicated to helping clients transform their businesses via Lean and Operational Excellence solutions.


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