Process Improvement: Intro to Agile

The high-tech industry has followed a proven method of product management that works quite nicely in a number of industries for everything from hydrophilic guide-wires to notebook computers to refrigerators—plan, develop, launch, EOL. When the product leaves the planning stage, it is pretty well defined. It gets on the POR and roadmaps are created. MRDs, PRDs are written: It is built and launched. It’s a pretty simple paradigm. But what if the product has characteristics that require it to change during the development process? What if there is a need for continual customer feedback as the product moves forward through the development cycle? The traditional “HW model” doesn’t work. This is where Agile has earned its stripes. Continue reading

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Process Improvement: Intro to Six Sigma

A business’ sales can flatten out due to competitive pressures, market saturation, economic conditions, or even a failure to evolve. The reason for which doesn’t matter for the purposes of this discussion. Sales and Marketing efforts don’t seem to be effective. What is the next logical step for a company? Cut costs. There are a variety of ways to “save” money. At Digital Equipment Corporation, they reduced their head-count to reduce costs. The mantra at The Home Depot with Bernie and Arthur was “Sales Cures All.” At some point, even more sales can’t over-come operational irresponsibility. At The Home Depot, Bob Nardelli leveraged his experience with process improvement at GE in an attempt to make The Home Depot a more operationally responsible company. It was through his effort that Six Sigma principles were put in place. Were they executed effectively? I’m sure everyone who reads this has been to a Home Depot store in the last couple of years. How was their Customer Service? Did it more closely resemble a Wal-Mart with lumber and no ice cream?! The challenge is to put the principles into practice without losing sight of why you are doing them and what it does to/for your “customers.”

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