Product Development Done Differently Using Lean Product and Process Development


At the 2019 Designing the Future Summit, John Drogosz and Katrina Appell, coaches with the Lean Enterprise Institute’s lean product and process development initiative, talked to LEI Communications Director Chet Marchwinski about Lean Product and Process Development’s four core principles.

Q: What are the core principles of Lean Product and Process Development?
John Drogosz: There are actually four core principles that we start with, the first one obviously being to deeply understand what the product must be. The second part then is to create flow and really eliminate waste to get speed and precision in bringing that product to the marketplace.

Katrina Appell: The third principle is creating new value. When we’re creating new products, we have to create new value or we wouldn’t need to create the product. It would already exist. The last and most important principle is that it’s all about people. People do development so we have to create enabling structures and systems to enable them to bring their best selves to work.

Q: What are some of the tools that go with the core principles?
John: They are adapted from lean management tools. We also are very cognizant to be cautious about throwing tools at a problem. So, we always say lean is very situational, especially in product development. Try to understand what is the problem or challenge you’re trying to solve and then use the right techniques at the right point.

For instance, if we’re struggling with deeply understanding what a product must be, we certainly have techniques to bring to bear, such as a concept paper. For trouble with flow and eliminating waste for speed to market, we have techniques, like value-stream mapping, to help us.

Katrina: If some of your problems are around communication and effective collaboration, obeya is a great tool for that. Throughout development, the work changes. So, the tool can be changed throughout that process. Even the same tool, such as obeya, should look a lot different in the early concept phase than in the later execution phase.

Q: Obeya is the Japanese word for …?
Katrina: It means “big room” but it’s a lot more than just a room. It’s an effective space for collaboration.

Q: Why is it important to apply these principles and tools to product development?
John: A lot of companies are struggling with trying to get their products or services to market faster. The best opportunity to really add value is right from the beginning. Companies, as they execute their product development processes, want to get value in the hands of customers as quickly as they can and at the right cost to make money.

Q: Katrina, is this only for manufacturing?
Katrina: LPPD is very applicable to services. When you’re designing a new product or process, you’re designing that service as well. We’ve seen LPPD used very effectively in healthcare and insurance. It really is applicable anytime you need to develop a new product or service.

Q: You’ve got me convinced. I want to implement Lean Product and Process Development in my manufacturing or service operations. What’s the first step?
John: The first step is to understand the current situation. What are the problems and challenges that your organization is facing in order to make sure that you take that first step in the right direction? We see a lot of companies use the wrong tool, searching for the problem to solve.

Q: I know the first step now. If I want to learn more, what can I do? Where should I go?
Katrina: There are a few books you can read. There are great articles on the www.leanpd.org website. We also have a workshop that we’re teaching in September, which is a two-day immersive experience with Lean Product and Process Development. It gives you a chance to experience all four of the core principles across the different phases of development, starting with the concept through execution.

Next Steps:
• Register for the two-day, in-depth workshop with instructors Katrina Appell and John Drogosz — Designing the Future: A Lean Product Development Immersive Learning Experience, November 13-14, 2019, Novi, MI. Review the curriculum and enroll: https://www.lean.org/Workshops/WorkshopDescription.cfm?WorkshopId=138

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