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Elyssa Pallai

VP Marketing

Digital marketer and translator, Elyssa spends her time putting NPD and engineering concepts into plain english and working on new and meaningful ways to connect with Playbook's amazing clients.

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7 Tips for Improving Your Hardware Development Process

Elyssa Pallai- 09/22/16 07:42 PM

Looking to refine your hardware development process? Here are 7 Lean and Agile principles to refine your process and deliver projects faster...

7 Lean and Agile Tips for improving your hardware development process

    1. Let your team work on the correct priorities by pulling from the backlog

      Pulling tasks from a prioritized list works because the team isn’t being overloaded with all the wrong work. Instead, the team is focused on exactly the right task, at exactly the right time. As a result, people feel empowered. Earth shattering? No. Impactful? Yes!

    2. Do the right work at the right time, across the company

      Slips on the critical path cause a 1:1 slip to the project completion date. Do you know what is critical work?

      Hardware development teams need a tool that highlights correct priorities, so the team can set aside what isn’t truly important, and focus their attention on what is.  Kanban boards are a good start, but because they don't highlight the few tasks that actually impact the schedule, they can't deliver a correct list of prioritized tasks even for one project, much less for a whole organization!

    3. Schedule work up to no more than 70% utilization

      Manufacturing managers know that there is a huge loss in productivity when they load production over 80% utilization. And processes with more variability (like R&D projects!) need more flexibility in their workload. So why are R&D teams booked to 100% capacity? With some spare capacity in their workload, team members have the flexibility to respond to changes. Schedules are much more accurate and projects are completed faster.

    4. Limit your queue size

      The ability to identify queues and manage them effectively speeds up the system.  They are also the leading most indicator of schedule delays!The only way to know where the bottlenecks are (in the case of knowledge work) is to make the work visible through visual work management software or manual boards. Software has many benefits over manual boards including long-term planning and work visibility across projects. There are many more.


    5. Break down the work to get faster feedback

      The Lean Startup and the Agile Manifesto have both played a part in popularizing the concept of fast feedback. Product development is all about learning. Slow feedback causes slow projects. Breaking work into small batches speeds up the learning process. One great example is holding daily meetings to quickly uncover blockages and communicate issues, risks, and status changes.

    6. Decentralized, and rolling wave planning and management

      With decentralized planning, the people who actually do the work participate in the planning. This ensures the plans are more accurate and creates buy-in from the team members. Rolling wave planning allows long-term planning at a high level, and detailed plans for the next two to four weeks. Because of the highly variable nature of the hardware development process, this combination of planning and management gives teams the most accurate schedules and the flexibility to rapidly adapt to changes.

    7. Implement a shared project buffer

      We’ve written about the benefits of shared buffers in detail here. In short, they promote team work, shared responsibility of project deadlines and deliver more realistic plans.

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