When Lean meets R&D management

December 27, 2017

Early this year I collaborated with a ‘lean’ practitioner from another consultancy to help a client enhance both the effectiveness and efficiency of their R&D.  Working in the consumer durables market, the client needed to

  • maintain the cost-effectiveness of their current product range (via their already excellent platform engineering),
  • support manufacturing and change engineering,
  • adapt and bring factored products into the portfolio to fill out the range
  • develop the next generation of products (more platform engineering) and
  • innovate in new spaces (yet another outbreak of innovation around data-rich products and services).

The issue was how to meet the demands of all the stakeholders across the business, with constrained budgets and all while building a consensus at Executive level about the optimal balance and scale of R&D.

So we helped them do a rapid review of their process (several quick wins there).  We introduced them to visual tools so whole project teams and their internal customers could manage risk and recover late-running projects (a few big wins there).

Then we helped them clarify the queues of work for their internal customers, the value of what R&D was doing for them and, crucially, the value of what R&D was not doing (due to priorities or capacity constraints).

It was this last step that transformed mindsets and behaviours.  Now the whole Executive team could see the value that R&D was delivering, the value that could be accessed by some re-prioritising and, most importantly, where the big opportunities lay.  The dimensions of the eternal question “how big should my R&D team be” were clarified in a common language.

Now there is the basis for a shared prioritization for not only how the company accesses value from R&D but also when such value is needed by the business – so answering the tactical-strategic trade-off.  Better decisions with more light and less heat.



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