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How focus benefits your growth strategy

Are you taking advantage of the benefits that focus can provide your organization? If you are clear on your growth strategy and new product strategy, one key way that focus can deliver results is pipelining.*

Here’s an example of how pipelining works:

  • You have four projects that that need to be completed
  • The projects are similar in resources required and expected financial return
  • The project customers each want to take delivery as soon as possible
  • Each project will require three months of dedicated effort by your entire staff and if you split the staff into 4 teams it will take 12 months to do all four projects at the same time.

Of course this last bullet assumes that there are no shared resource contentions that would hinder concurrent execution, or if there are, you can workaround them without multi-tasking – a highly questionable assumption given the powerfully negative effect multi-tasking has on the amount of work that gets done.

Here’s what the typical concurrent execution would look like with all of the projects finishing at the end of 12 months. Of course this assumes that all the projects were finished on time which is highly unlikely – click here if you’ like to read more about getting things done on time):

Concurrent execution of new products

 

In a pipelined approach the work is completed in 12 months as shown here. In reality, concurrent will take much longer because it demands multi-tasking:

 

Pipelined New Product Execution

The results of pipelining:

  • Requires no more resources, but delivers 3 of the projects far earlier – one in 25% of the time, one in 50% and one in 75%
  • Provides faster realization of the financial benefits with projects beginning to pay of in 3 instead of 12 months
  • Makes 3 project clients happier while 1 is no less happier than with concurrent execution
  • Cuts the cycle time by 75% (3 months vs. 12 months) and the average delivery time in half with an average of 6 months vs. 12months for concurrent execution
  • Provides strategic flexibility since priorities aren’t frozen at the start and can instead be examined at the completion of each project.

With these benefits, why is pipelining the exception and not the rule? Pipelining is one of those common sense approaches that is often only obvious in hindsight. In fact until you see it laid out graphically it might even feel counter-intuitive. So let’s hope that exposing more leaders to this approach will result in it being more commonly practiced.

* Pipelining is an outgrowth of the late Eli Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints and Critical Chain methodologies

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Richard H. Smith September 3, 2011, 10:18 am

    Good to see this – it is not more commonly done due to people having to answer to multiple bosses? Maybe it is from always working in small companies, but I have frequently had the situation where, already involved in several projects, something new with a near deadline comes up. I drop the multitasking and its inefficiencies, and target the near-term project. It is a bit of a hybrid, but is born from the changing realities of work. And while I recognize that multitasking has inefficiencies, I frequently have found that insight (data, contacts, etc) from one task informs another. Given the choice I would follow the pipeline model. But realizing gains from information that cuts across concurrent lines makes it easier to justify my cluttered work life.

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