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Tip #89 – Make New Product Flow Visual

Pipeline Accelerator Insight #89

New Product Workflow Visual Board

It’s easy to underestimate the difficulty in visualizing new product workflow in R&D/ new product innovation. In a factory, a lack of flow is obvious. WIP  piles up at some locations while your production bottleneck may sit idle waiting for parts. Intellectually, most people are aware that the same thing happens in product development. But because innovation is knowledge work, it’s much harder to see that WIP and to determine what actions to take.

Why limiting new product WIP is important to flow

So, if you want to ensure a constant flow of new products, make your new product flow visual. The best way to do that is with a wall-size Kanban board mapping your innovation projects into different columns and lanes.* This gives your team common context and an easy way to see everything going on in one place.

Initially, there will be some resistance. Some project managers will insist that this isn’t necessary if you have good project plans. If your company only runs one project at a time, they may be right. However, most companies share some resources across multiple projects. So, making your new product workflow visual is essential because:

  1. It helps the full team quickly diagnose blockages and take action.
  2. It helps maximize new product flow by visualizing and limiting bottleneck steps so you can shift resources.
  3. It facilitates daily communication between team members who rely on each other.

*If your team is distributed you can also use one of the many digital Kanban boards so to share new product flow information across locations.  And if you happen to be using a cloud-based project management software that doesn’t have a good Kanban visualization, we’ve been able to map Planview’s Lean Place to powerful project management tools like Exepron

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