The benefits of an organic, more iterative approach to product development. See also “Lessons in Product Design from Modern Warfare—In Pictures.”
by Al Kent
An interesting perspective
Industrial companies are often perceived as lumbering giants that have difficulty responding to competitive pressures and capitalizing on market trends. Design cycles can last years—not just for developing new products but also for upgrades to the existing portfolio.
Why are many industrial manufacturers so sluggish? In my experience, these companies have traditionally relied on a top-down, linear process that moves projects through design gates, also called stage gates. For senior management, it’s a comfortable way of doing things, making it easy to track progress and maintain control. However, this approach has significant downsides. It is often slow and bureaucratic, and its mechanical nature can stifle creativity. And at its best, innovation is an organic process; too much planning and control may lead to sub-optimal solutions.
Fortunately, there’s a better way. When industrial companies need to make changes in product cost or design more rapidly than traditional methods will allow, they can take a page from the fast-moving world of software design and adopt a sprint-and-scrum approach. This iterative process relies on short cycles involving rapid design evolution and revision. The sprint is a period of concentrated effort, such as engineering or coding a module, by individuals or small teams. At the end of each sprint, stakeholders from the key functions come together for the scrum, where they review progress and clarify goals for the next sprint. The intense nature helps to bring the organization together toward a common goal, and avoids the tedium that can set in with a long stage-gate process.