AND IMPLEMENTING CONCURRENT
Randi S. Brenowitz and Kathleen T. Terry
article originally appeared in the Conference Proceedings of the
Annual Meeting of the Association for Quality and Participation,
Cutting time to market is the biggest issue in American industry
today. Progressive companies are using concurrent development
teams as a way to attack this problem.
called concurrent engineering or multi-functional engineering,
concurrent development involves selecting people from different
functional departments such as engineering, manufacturing and
marketing to form a semi-autonomous work group for new product
development. Concurrent development teams have achieved extraordinary
success. They have been able to speed product development, design
better quality products and services, achieve continuous process
improvement and lower the cost of operations.
companies use this approach almost intuitively. It has also been
employed by Japanese firms and by companies such as Eastman Kodak
and Ford Motor. It is increasingly used by most Fortune 1000 corporations.
organizations tend to develop a steep hierarchical structure that
doesn't facilitate ready information transfer and coordination
among departments. However, intensified global competition has
forced companies to re-think many of the ways they do things,
and "throwing it over the wall" from marketing to engineering
to manufacturing is no longer acceptable.
improvements can be achieved with concurrent development teams.
According to a 1988 study from the Institute of Defense Analysis,
they can cut the product development cycle by 40 to 60%, reduce
manufacturing costs by 30 to 40%, slash scrap and rework by 75%,
and cut engineering change orders by 50%.
it's so great, why aren't all companies using it? Because although
it's a powerful methodology that's easy to understand, putting
it into practice can be difficult. Top management involvement
is required, and functional department managers must be willing
to provide resources to support the ream. Companies must also
makes some changes in organizational structure, such as giving
team leaders strong input for performance evaluations and salaries.
If functional managers continue to control the purse strings exclusively,
team members will be loyal to their functional departments rather
than to the team.
can companies assure the success of concurrent development teams?
A team must be an integral part of the company's strategic direction,
not a separate organization. It's analogous to adding a room to
a house. It's essential that the new room be connected to the
rest of the structure with doors, electricity and plumbing. In
the same way, it's essential that functional organizations be
restructured to accommodate the new team. Functional managers
also must be willing to accept the idea that the team has decision-making
authority, with the functional departments acting as centers of
technical excellence, education and resources.
a team leader who has a strong, long-term commitment to the concurrent
development process and its improvement is essential. The leader
must remain committed to the process even when there are problems
and it's easier to do things the old way.
be most successful, multi-functional teams must be properly initiated
and their development managed. Sound work process and continuous
learning are also necessary. Hence, companies often use a consultant
who is trained in concurrent development methodology when they
architect a new team.
team members have been selected, a facilitator walks them through
the process of identifying their project goals and details such
as product specs. They also agree on values and norms, including
decision making, conflict resolution and progress measurement.
On concurrent development teams, the process itself is as important
as the technical work.
second stage of development occurs a few months later and is a
reality check against the decisions that were made in the first
stage. How does the team really work together? How are conflicts
really resolved? Are the functional departments giving adequate
support? The team also discussed and implements a peer review
the third stage, a periodic check is make on how well them team
is working together. Both business goals and concurrent development
process goals are reviewed. Experienced managers say that the
most successful teams pursue process improvement as avidly as
the pursue products development.
C. Thurow, a professor a Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
has recognized the importance of the organization and group structure.
He says, "America's success or failure will depend upon improving
its system, but structural changes are not possible when success
or failure is seen as and individual phenomenon rather than a
system or group characteristic." This is exactly the problem
that concurrent development solves.
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