Observations from the Lean Product Development Exchange

by Jamie Flinchbaugh on October 3, 2016

Last week I did a keynote for the Lean Product Development Exchange, and wanted to talk this opportunity to share some observations and learnings…

• The official name is the Lean Product and Process Development Exchange. It really doesn’t seem to be about process development at all. Yes, people take their teaching points through to product launch, but this conference is about developing products and innovation. Perhaps a name change would be in order, both for accuracy and simplicity sake.
• The conference is dominated by those already “on board” with lean product development. It is a peer group, with many thought leaders in attendance. But where are all the people that need to be introduced? Are they not being invited by those in their company, or not interested in coming?
• Clearly just an observation, but Windows seems a bit evil. My Surface Pro is on the podium waiting for my speech, and as everyone is entering the room it suddenly decides to start updating to Windows 10 (without any prompting). There was another speaker before me, and that gave it just enough time to be ready. But geez Microsoft, give us a little control over such an important task!
• When Michael Kennedy is the first one to come up to the stage after your talk to compliment you, you’re probably doing something right. And when the line of people wanting to talk to you lasts 40 minutes and you miss some of the next breakout session, then you’re probably still doing something right. I think I prefer a “metric” such as post-talk engagement rather than passive numbers on a survey.flinchbaugh-at-lppde
• I surveyed the room – where is the overall maturity of lean product development between (a) point solutions to known problems, (b) a system, and (c) a culture? Only 1 person each thought we were at the point that lean product development is a culture or thought we were partly way to that. Some thought we were seeing lean product development as a system, and the largest block thought we were partway towards it being a system. That is certainly progress, but is it enough? Where do you think we are on progress?
• One of my favorite insights from the time there was discussion about convergence. It is natural to try to select your favorite or best choice. But instead, focus instead of eliminating options. As you eliminate options, the best choices emerge naturally. Why is eliminating options better than selecting one? I believe that it is easier to be rational. The reasons we select the ones we do is often emotional, based on familiarity or the source of the idea. But when we focus on elimination, we have to have a reason to eliminate it. But, I would love to hear more thoughts on this subject.
• There are many different ways in which lean product development becomes just lean development, and one example demonstrated was in architecture and design of hospitals. It is a product, albeit a very large one. We heard from Array Architects’ Jonathan Bykowski and Laura Silvoy. It’s notable to me that Laura is a young, sharp graduate of Lehigh University, my alma mater, and was great to see her at the front of the room sharing her experience.
• It was notable how many of the participants are from Europe. They have a European edition of the conference, yet still the US version has a very noticeable percentage of European participants. I don’t think that is only because the marketing was more successful. Based on my conversations, unlike the broader application of lean where the US is usually well ahead of Europe, in lean product development I believe Europe is certainly the leader.
Twitter is one more the more interesting tools in the conference toolkit. It’s a fantastic way to hear what the participants find interesting or important. Here is just a few items from my talk:


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