In a Lean approach to product development, customer value is defined as ‘everything the customer is prepared to pay for’. Meanwhile ‘pure waste’ is any activity that ‘doesn’t bring value to the customer and damages efficiency’. So, how does your project documentation shape up against those definitions?
What does ‘pure waste’ in the development cycle look like?
- Any activity that burns resource without leading to substantial customer value
- Mistakes that require extra time and labour to fix
- Redundant or unnecessary processes,
- Workers over-delivering or endlessly ‘waiting’ for deployment
These are the typical patterns of waste we see in failing product development cycles. Too often they’re a result of inadequate, fragmented or overblown document management systems (DMS) leading to poor visibility and loss of control over processes.
But it doesn’t necessarily begin like this.
Project sprawl detracts from customer value
Small businesses working on high tech products may start out with an agreed set of tools, specifications and deadlines - but unexpected complexity can lead to fragmented focus and mushrooming paperwork.
Bloated bureaucracies lose sight of customer’s interests
Meanwhile, larger organisations using bloated document storage solutions and sluggish quality systems can equally lose track of priorities in the fog of competing demands. Customer needs can end up ignored in an excessive bureaucracy, specs can become over-complicated, effort duplicated, and businesses mired in delays.
Neither of these scenarios could be described as things a ‘customer would be prepared to pay for’ - or even ‘necessary waste’. And the fact is most of these hazards could be avoided by better planning and a Lean approach to documentation.
What is Lean documentation?
Lean documentation seeks to minimise waste by providing exactly the information that is required, at the right time, to the right audience – and nothing more.
Lean DM (document management) helps businesses create, revise and control documents in ways that maximise organisational ‘flow’, customer focus and the drive to deliver.
Lean DM requires we expedite accessibility, automation and a ‘process driven approach’ to meet changing customer needs. It ensures we only bring products to market for which there is proven demand, as rapidly and cost effectively as possible.
In this way we can continually deliver value by exactly meeting customer expectations and always keeping pace with them. As the Lean Enterprise Institute puts it:
“The ultimate goal is to provide perfect value to the customer through a perfect value creation process that has zero waste.”
Why not just use Google Drive as a document management system?
A Lean Documentation model drives customer value in the development cycle by:
1. Creating a repeatable development process for success in the market
How do teams embark quickly on a project and keep their focus on delivering against customer requirements without distraction? Lean businesses have defined processes for product development that snap into place at the beginning of the project. Through templating sets of required documentation to be completed for each stage of ideation, design, development and manufacture, they can quickly marshal and direct development resource to focus on priority activities. This avoids wasted or unnecessary effort as requirements alter or demand changes, keeping projects ‘flowing’ more rapidly towards completion in the most cost effective way.
This is the “just-in-time” concept from manufacturing applied to the knowledge economy– with tasks only being triggered as and when there is a specific ‘need’ for them.
2. Minimising defects and quality issues from the outset
Good Documentation Practice seeks to control waste and delays resulting from unnecessary failures in quality and functionality for the beginning of a process. Ensuring initial specifications are unambiguous and requirements are formally ‘accepted’ before a build begins, should be a key goal for a Lean DM approach.
3. Implementing cycles of Plan, Act, Do Check
Missing critical requirements frustrates any attempt at delivering customer value. But over-delivery is as much a threat to Lean goals as under-delivery, because it means unnecessary effort and delays. A Lean approach should ensure that needs and requirements are precisely enumerated and then automatically reviewed against deliverables at regular intervals throughout a development process to avoid the need for endless reworking and correcting.
4. Supporting structured feedback cycles from internal and external customers
A Lean approach requires feedback on development to be delivered as precisely as possible in ways that can expedite required updates. Lean document management systems should allow companies to loop internal and external clients in at relevant moments of a build. They should enable you to share key documents in controlled ways such as via an Extranet. They should minimise the risks of omission or repetition of important comment. They should capture feedback for prioritisation and actioning within a platform that is ‘a single source of truth’.
5. Keeping communication seamless but structured
Poor communication spread across multiple channels and platforms, can lead to untrackable conversations, unprofitable diversions, duplication of effort and unauthorised decision making. It can slow up a dev process, create confusion and the replication of mistakes. Clearly, no customer would want to ‘pay’ for that.
A Lean document storage solution that centres development processes around clear and version-controlled documentation, with notes and feedback exclusively funnelled and approved through the same system minimises the risk of such errors.
6. Creating and disseminating knowledge in the most effective way possible
The waste of knowledge and insight within an organisation does not serve customer interests or add value for them. In fact, the opposite can be true. Without the ability to share market intelligence and internal learning about best practice - a business can be doomed never to serve their customers effectively in a changing market-place.
A Lean DMS creates an accessible, internal training resource that disseminates business insights and a culture of continuous improvement across an organisation. It improves customer satisfaction through better transfer of documentation. It is focused on imparting knowledge to customers, partners, and suppliers as efficiently as possible via dynamic DMS tools and extranet portals.
And it should also be noted that this documentation isn’t just restricted to the written word - it is also contained in diagrams, flow charts, designs, videos, photos and the like. A Lean DMS should support the storage of a range of document formats that convey information as effectively as possible, in order to achieve its objectives of creating a more connected, responsive organisation.
So, what are customers prepared to pay for?
Customer satisfaction is the unremitting focus of a Lean DM. It serves customers better through ditching moribund and ineffective techniques of communication that frustrate efficiency.
It helps companies pioneer product development techniques that deploy the right people at the right time, to deliver the right product to the market. It values the continuous improvement of a company’s customer focus over every other commercial consideration.
Because when you expend all your efforts ensuring you give customers what they want, you eliminate the dangerous propensity to choose on their behalf and bring products to market they will not buy.