Let The Experimentation Begin!
Recently, one of our product teams at Inertia began experimenting with The Agile Framework to see if and how we could improve how we maximize innovation and manage our projects. I use the word experimenting deliberately, for a few reasons:
- First, because we need to see how the team here responds to the change.
- Second, it would be totally naive to assume that this change will work as we hope it will, without a whole lot of testing, feedback and adjustment first.
- Third, we need to assess the impact of this experiment on our business.
Will it make us more productive? More innovative? More nimble? Happier? More empowered to make decisions? These are all lofty outcomes and since Inertia’s bar is already set extremely high when it comes to quality and customer service, Agile has a lot of heavy lifting to do before it becomes established as our de facto way of doing things.
What Is The Agile Framework?
For those of you who are unfamiliar with concepts around The Agile Framework, it’s a particular approach to managing projects and designing products that was originally used for developing software. It’s now starting to really find its foothold in physical product development.
Agile depends on a series of short (2-4 week) highly iterative work sequences that are commonly known as sprints. When applied correctly, evidence shows that sprints can have a huge impact on innovation feedback loop, efficiency and productivity. ‘
Here’s a quick video that helps explain the fundamentals.
There is a ton of nuance in how you apply the Agile Framework. To kick things off at Inertia, our Project Engineer Felipe Luz (who is championing our experimental journey down the Agile rabbit hole) produced an AMAZINGLY detailed living document that captures how we’ll be working within the Agile Framework moving forward. We’re happy to share this with you, just click on the link or image below.
Why Agile, Why Now?
Designing and manufacturing physical products with a high level of success AND customer satisfaction is incredibly challenging. If you’re not nimble, really well organized, overly communicative and on point with your execution and quality control processes, you risk not making the right product for your customers. Not to mention that making mistakes in physical product development (which is a critical part of learning) can become very expensive to fix in the later stages of the design process.
As products become more and more complex and the bar for innovation rises – the processes used to drive their design & creation needs to become more nimble. Looking at how we can make improvements in how we go about managing our projects and developing products for our customers was a core motivation for starting Inertia 15 years ago. You can read more about our approach to our projects here. So in essence, our experimentation with Agile is more of an evolution VS a total sea change.
Examples of Agile in Physical Product Development
Excerpt from Procognita Blog:
The Wikispeed team, led by Joe Justice, is capable of delivering a new version of the road-certified car every week. Note the ‘new version’ words – it’s not another instance of an existing product assembled according to a predefined procedure, but a car with potentially different suspension, engine or the entire body.
Another great example is Solar Roof developed by 3M and Tesla. It took them five weeks from idea to installation on houses. The product is not just generating energy, but it is also more durable and competitive on price compared to regular roofs. And looks great.
However, the product I was most impressed by is a Saab Gripen fighter. It’s developed by four thousand people in short, 3-weeks iterations, tested and integrated at the end of every sprint. And its costs are about 18% of F-35, which is being developed with a traditional approach.
Over the next several months we’ll be blogging about our experiences experimenting with the Agile framework. If you have questions or comments, feel free to post them here on the blog or get in touch with us.