Tuesday, April 07, 2009


Creativity at the Lean Product & Process Conference

The Lean Product and Process Development Exchange is happening in Hilton Head, South Carolina, USA this week. I’m not a dis-interested participant, of course: my co-author Katherine Radeka is the conference chair (see http://www.triz-journal.com/archives/2009/04/04/ for our article linking TRIZ to LAMDA, one of the basic tools of LPPD) and I did a TRIZ tutorial in the pre-conference session. If the first three sessions are any indication, this will be a unique “Exchange”
1. Benjamin Wolff, professor of music at Hofstra University and cellist with a professional string quartet, used the development of a Carnegie Hall concert of a Charles Ives piece as an analogy for lean development—he called the concert date the “firm fixed product launch date,” which set the tone for the presentation. A few of the analogies were a bit labored (tuning the instruments requires both mechanical and human work, and a disciplined process in which everyone follows the rules, and the competency of the individuals is “raw materials” that is processed into the product…) but the presentation was a big success—it challenged the participants’ preconceptions and opened the conference as a challenge to traditional ways of thinking. Thanks, Ben Wolff! (Left picture, with cello)

2. Cathal Flanagan is Director of Equipment Engineering for Kulicke & Soffa, a semiconductor manufacturing equipment company. His talk was not the usual success journey—he had a 3 year story of lessons learned in both application of lean principles to hardware and software (usually called “agile”) development processes. About half the objectives in his scorecard showed no progress. So why was this a leading case study for the conference? The honesty! Showing that new concepts are hard! Showing that failure is more predictable than success in organizational change! AND showing that partial success is possible (remember the other half of the objectives) and worth doing. (And a lot of detail on “agile is not the same as lean, but both are useful.” Thanks, Cathal Flanagan! (right picture, without cello)

3. Bill Butler is a Six Sigma Master Black Belt and principle engineer who told a story about the TRW and Honda project to develop the roll-over airbag inflator assembly. Once again, thanks to both Bill and the program committee for an outstandingly honest presentation—he emphasized all the ways that the customer (Honda) was UN-happy and what TRW did to create both a useful product AND a happy customer in a seemingly impossible world of constraints of time and resources. The graphic tools, especially the limit curves, were key communication enablers to get the two companies trusting each other’s designs. The lessons learned section was heartbreaking—the design failed because a limit curve design rule was violated. The knowledge was developed, but not transferred across the 15 feet and one cubicle wall between people, and the phase gate reviews used the aerospace-derived “cartoon” and checklist reviews that were too late in the process. Thanks very much to Bill and to TRW for telling this painful story so that other people can learn from it!

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