Tools for simplification
When the goal of your project is simplification, what are the best tools to achieve it?
What is the best approach for a simplification project?
No, it's not Agile.
At least, not necessarily - and not only.
Agile is a set of principles and a series of practices that help achieve results effectively, but those practices do not differentiate between adding or removing features to the end product. It's not a method that helps you achieve a simpler product: agile helps you achieve it in a simpler way.
to see how "improvement by simplification" is systematically underrated, and what to do about it, read here
Design Thinking: human-centered simplicity
Whether it is a physical product or an intangible one like a service, your product can be made more user-friendly and less likely to cause confusion or frustration, for example by removing unnecessary features.
Design Thinking is an iterative, human-centered approach that requires going through different rounds of ideation and prototyping (actually, I tend to call them "mock-ups" - but that's another story) in order to identify what is worth changing, how it should change, and to validate the new design with its final users.
Design for Six Sigma: simpler to maintain
An interesting feature of Design Thinking is its broad perspective, involving non-typical users in the analysis. For our product or service, it would be interesting to keep into consideration the point of view of those who will manufacture or maintain the end product.
Design for Six Sigma is an engineering design process that seeks to avoid manufacturing and service process problems. In this sense, it can be seen as an engineering complement to Design Thinking.
Note: if you are not familiar with the term, "six sigma" is used to indicate a low percentage of defective products created in the process (it corresponds to about 0.00034%).
Lean Six Sigma: systematically simpler
So far, we have considered a one-time initiative, that plans a major redesign of a product (or its creation from scratch). But there is no such thing as the perfect product and, sooner or later, further simplification will be necessary.
Lean Six Sigma is the combination of two popular and successful methods for continuous improvement, "Lean" and "Six Sigma", and it is based on a characteristic sequence of phases, the well-known DMAIC (Define - Measure - Analyze - Improve - Control) improvement cycle.
At a glance
The simplest way to sum it up:
A good explanation of the statistics upon which the whole "six sigma" concept is based.
This IBM redguide is a tool-centered manual, but pages 14 to 17 offer an excellent introduction to Lean Six Sigma.
Critical path cooking
Process excellence applied to a simple recipe results in the most time-effective dish I have ever cooked.
You might notice that its execution is in waterfall mode. It's not a problem, as all the steps are known in advance!
Moreover, it's a good opportunity to discuss the basic concept of the critical path with an extreme example.
Once you master the execution, its time-to-table can be reduced to the number of minutes written on the packaging - and its critical path consists of one single, unattended task. But beware: if you have a delay on the other tasks, the quality of the result will be badly compromised!
Groundhog Day is probably the funniest film you'll ever see about continuous improvement. Forced to relive the same day again and again, Phil learns how to improve himself and his relationships with others.
A nice way to view it a second time is to recognize the Define / Measure / Analyze / Improve / Control moments in Phil's transformation (if you haven't already seen it, just enjoy watching it - and don't spoil the fun).
However, art is about breaking the patterns, not about following them. In this pivotal scene, Phil learns that some things simply cannot be improved.
Misquote of the Month
You need simple criteria to measure the success of your simplification.
Project Management as a process: what are the drivers that shape it? The purpose, the chosen method, or the organizational context?
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