The Problem of the Strategy, Culture, Change & Filters
Post 7 of 13
Author: Peter Jay Sorenson CMC®, Strategic Organization Design
Stickhandling in a Hidebound Culture
30 August 2013
There are several key premises upon which an integrated product development and manufacturing process (IPDMP) is built.
Creation & Application of Knowledge
One premise has to do with the creation and application of knowledge. Certainly, with the complexity of the modern passenger aircraft, it is obvious that people steeped in a variety of deep knowledge repositories (think technical fields, engineering disciplines, and areas of business expertise) are required to design and build an aircraft well (think time, cost, and quality). The question becomes, how do we pull these gaggles of people together in such a way that they can create and innovate within the project constraints? When you discuss the topic of knowledge work, one reality is that knowledge work processes are not routine. They can be delineated on flow charts, but the reality is that they are not linear, not sequential, and they are iterative. These characteristics of knowledge work mean that to do knowledge work efficiently and effectively, a well constructed and managed cross-discipline work process is usually the best solution. You do have to be careful. People can loose sight of the need for technical depth in the intensity of the innovative cross-disciplinary work environment. But that can be compensated for by using well crafted structures and adjustments (such as communities of practice1). Using an IPDMP is “silo busting.” Eliminating the “over-the-transom” disconnected handoffs between disciplines.
Customer & Supplier-In
A second design premise of the IPDMP in the Boeing case was that called “Customer-In” and “Supplier-In.” There was a strong belief that customer and supplier representatives should be brought in early in the design and manufacturing process to bring their unique perspectives to the table. These pilots, maintenance people, flight attendants, and manufacturers are the ultimate in field people who know what works and what does not work. They could create the detailed needs and want lists that leaven the design process and result in a viable product. The customers and suppliers are key stakeholders in the design and build of the aircraft. Without their early involvement their point of view is not injected in the process and the product does not meet the reality requirements that cannot be reduced into requirements documents.
Another premise behind the IPDMP is that the flow of information is critical to success. You have to have the right information flowing to the right people at the right time in the right format. Rigid silos in organizations build counterproductive filters into the innovation process. Information tends to be shared late in the design process rather than earlier. People who should be involved in a decision are excluded if they are not members of the silo. And information tends to be shared only if it makes the silo look good. It can become an exercise in power and politics serving the interests of the silo, not the interests of the customer and the overall design process.
Trade Offs and Compromises
A fourth design premise is that in designing a complex product you always have to make trade offs and compromises. An example of that was in the design of the electronics for the 777. The electrical engineers were getting a little bit carried away using a bunch of new components and parts that meant that the overall parts list (build of materials) was growing by leaps and bounds. So a couple of decisions had to be made. How much component and parts commonality was needed to support cost, quality, time, and maintainability goals? And what manufacturing technology could realistically be used to create these products to meet those same constraints? So trade offs were made. The parts list was constrained and the manufacturing process was specified. But those decisions could only be made well with the involvement of people from suppliers, manufacturing, and the customer’s maintenance groups.
The IPDMP is not the answer to all the problems in implementing an innovative approach. But in this case of the 777 Program where a design is heavily dependent on several deep knowledge disciplines, the customer perspective must be represented, information flow must be unimpeded, and trade offs and compromises must be carefully and frequently made, the IPDMP is an excellent organization design choice.
1Wenger, Entienne, Richard McDermott, and William Snyder, Cultivating Commuities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge, Harvard Business School Press, 2002.