3P – the Production Preparation Process – is often used to develop a complete “reboot” of a process. The term kaikaku is often applied.
Like many of the lean tools, subtle points sometimes get lost in rote application.
Here are a couple of thoughts from some experience:
Developing and Exploring Target Conditions
One of the obvious characteristics of 3P in its early stages is mock-ups of the product and processes. The purpose of these mock-ups is to explore various concepts, gain understanding, surface and propose solutions to problems before anything expensive is actually built.
The result of this process is a fairly well defined target condition.
That is, we understand the performance the product, and the process, must deliver in order to meet the goal. And we know what they need to look like in order to meet those goals.
The mock-ups give much more definition to “how the process needs to work” than any sketch or CAD drawing can provide. They give the team confidence that, at the minimum, they understand what problems must be solved to turn this proposal into reality.
As the 3P continues, these mock-ups should be morphing into functioning prototypes, and finally into full-scale production. At each step there should be a verification that the team is converging onto the goal.
Any time there is divergence from the goal is time to symbolically pull the andon, huddle, reset to a known point, and reestablish a track to success.
Keeping the Solution Space as Wide as Possible
One common mistake that teams make is to focus too quickly on a single solution. This is a result of trying to quickly solve the “big problem” rather than seeking first to gain much deeper understanding.
The evaluation process is not about picking winners. The goal in 3P is to keep as many viable solutions in play for as long as possible.
At each iteration of exploration the team learns what problem must be solved next to keep this solution alive. If that problem seems too big and overwhelming, you are likely working on more than one thing. Time to decompose the process to its basic elements (again) and tackle things one-by-one.
While you are exploring alternatives, you always want to have something in your hip pocket that will, as a minimum, work. It might not be elegant, as cheap as you want, but it delivers. Having a viable Plan B in play gives the rest of the team much more freedom to push the envelope and explore.
The Plan B team is working continuously to improve from the baseline. Often they can develop some quite radical improvements. But they always start from something that works.
The beauty of this approach is that elements of the true innovation teams’ work can often be incorporated back into the baseline for even higher performance of the baseline.