Why are we always late?

Years back I managed a smaller engineering product design team, which was 1 of 4 global teams totalling some 260 development engineers. Our team was assigned a variety of jobs, ranging from complete products to minor sub-components design. The global master projects office maintained a simple visual progress tracking system, called pilot charts. Our projects usually progressed well, initially, but invariably tended to fall behind in the later stages of the allocated time plan. I regularly had to make uncomfortable reports to the global group’s master planner.

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Affordance and Design

Spending 2 years using the train door on the left, getting off at my intended stop became an unconscious routine procedure for me. It never failed. Then on my first day visiting a new client, I travelled on a different line by the train in the middle. Guess what happened – I failed to open the door and missed my stop! Thanks to having read Don Norman’s book ‘The Design of Everyday Things’ I do not blame myself for being the idiot. Now this week, on yet another rail line, I came across the door control design on the right.

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The problem with standards

A standard defines a set of requirements or an acceptable level of attainment; or it can be a specification that assures compatibility between interfacing systems. The extent of recognition of a standard varies from International, adopted across the world, to independent norms that are subscribed to by members of an association or particular industry.

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Are we there yet?

The aim of NPD project management is to develop the product within time and budget constraints, while also assuring that the design work is complete. There are risks from a NPD team not recognising an over- or under-design. Releasing a new product late and over budget, due to a tendency of making endless low value-adding refinements to the design, is practically just as bad a releasing a sub-standard design too early. Continue reading “Are we there yet?”

House of Quality Context Weighting

The House of Quality (HoQ) weightings concept is about reflecting the organisational context, by accordingly emphasise or de-emphasise the development focus on individual requirements. The context can include the commercial competitive situation, strategy, and the foreseeable degree of difficulty from limitations in the developing organisation’s capability and capacity. The exacting measures used in the ‘what context’ and ‘how context’ can be varied for different markets and organisations. Continue reading “House of Quality Context Weighting”

Shorthand QFD

Although the founding of QFD is based on evaluation matrices, as containers for the planning activities, the concept of QFD can in fact be implemented without using any single matrix at all. The spirit of QFD lays in a team-based process for maintaining visibility and integrity in the VOC, when translating the characteristics in one domain into characteristics in another domain. Continue reading “Shorthand QFD”

Navigating solution space

Solution space is abstract, multi-dimensional and non-convex. The space contains known and partially explored optimum solutions, which are illustrated here as hilltops. Areas of solution space are inaccessible to us, either because someone else have established the Intellectual Property Rights to it or because it represents a ‘void’ in our own design or production capabilities – i.e. the solution depends on a materials or technique that is outside our organisation’s skills set. Continue reading “Navigating solution space”

Evidence-based decision making

Decision making is the forming of a causal argument that a chosen alternative will result a certain future outcome. The quality of a decision is largely dependent on the accuracy and relevance of the information on which it is based – as well as being free from subjective bias in reflecting the true needs. When poor quality or biased evidence is used for decision making, the proposed alternative will risk producing an ineffective or adverse outcome. Standards, such as ISO 9001 on quality management and ISO 16355 on QFD, therefore calls for factual decision information. Continue reading “Evidence-based decision making”

People in systems

People are a particularly dynamic resource. Firstly, they are extremely flexible and adaptable, compared to a machine. Secondly, the individual person has an independent mind, which is sensitive to its environment. People’s abilities, concentrations and commitments vary continually. People need to be equipped with the skills, knowledge, support and motivation necessary to perform their functions within the system well. People also need to be aware of the organisation’s values and objectives, and understand how they themselves contribute to meeting these. Continue reading “People in systems”