Flexible Project Management for Lean Product Development
Technology, businesses and market changes are so fast nowadays that product development needs to be extremely adaptable or it risks a failure. To accommodate to this situation, CMI Defence, a Belgium weapon systems specialist, implemented a flexible project management approach which is based on the agile methodology. While the traditional project management uses the waterfall model where each phase of a product’s life cycle takes place in sequence, agile project management is more flexible. This means that adapting to new customers’ requirements and needs is less likely to cause any real turbulence.
CMI Defence is one of the world’s leading companies in multifunctional, high-effect weapon systems for light and medium weight armored vehicles. CMI Defence is part of the CMI Group, which in 2014 generated nearly 900 million euro, 38% of which came from CMI Defence with the remaining 62% spread evenly among the Group’s three other sectors.
Constant demand for shorter development and lead times, including several day-to-day business issues, for instance inefficient communication, coupled with the company’s continuous growth were clear indicators that a change was needed. CMI Defence found an answer to increase its product development efficiency by applying Lean Thinking practices.
Flexible project management is a method of incremental management for the product development activities in a highly flexible and interactive manner. It encompasses methods and tools of agile project management combined with the traditional project management best practices. CMI Defence uses a three-tier planning approach for maximal flexibility.
Project tiers are defined at the beginning of the project, but only the starting activities are defined in detail up-front. As the project progresses, details for the future activities are formulated based on the findings and master schedule needs.
For example, Work package 1 in Tier 1 is defined in detail at the beginning of the project, while Work packages 2, 3 etc. are only loosely defined (milestones, expected resources, etc.). As the work conducted in Work package 1 reaches completion, Work package 2 is defined in greater detail. This ensures that the project can adapt quickly to any change in customer requirements and other fluctuations.
Tier 1: HIGH-LEVEL MASTER SCHEDULE FOR ENTIRE PROJECT
- Project cost: FIXED
- Project duration: FIXED
- Project scope: FLEXIBLE
Tier 2: DETAILED PLAN
- Cost and workload of activities: FLEXIBLE
- Schedule and duration of activities: FLEXIBLE
- Planning: FLEXIBLE
Tier 3: WEEKLY TRACKING ACTION LIST
The various tasks related to the planned activities are detailed and distributed to the team members. The task planning and progress review are carried out on weekly stand-up meetings of the project team in the Obeya room using visual management tools.
How does your project management methods cope with agility and rapid (unexpected) changes? Can you quickly adapt to any customer requirement?
CMI Defence’s Best Practices are presented and described on more than 25 pages in the Lean Product Development Best Practices book. CMI Defence’s chapter is only one out of the 10 chapters presenting the real-world application of lean product development in multinational companies.
The hard copy of the book with the 10 cases is available for only 74.99 EUR.
CMI Defence’s Lean Product Development case is available digitally free of charge to our members.
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About the Authors
Lean Analytics Association
Matic has over 5 years of experience in working with global organizations from various industrial sectors, either leading or supporting the development and introduction of bespoke lean innovation and new product development solutions. Over the past years, Matic has co-developed a framework to enable better, faster and more integrated innovation across the entire value chain, enabling companies to maximize their innovation capability and deliver truly customer-centric products and services, while minimizing the risk of market failure.
Matic is a certified Service Design Thinking Facilitator, and the creator of the Set-Based Integrated Innovation Business Game co-developed with a multinational Swiss company. He completed his Master’s degree in Global Product Development and Management at Cranfield University in 2012. Matic is a co-author of the Lean Product Development Best Practices book, and several journal and conference publications. He regularly appears as a speaker and workshop holder at various lean, product development and innovation conferences.
Olivier Carlens is a Deputy Group CTO for CMI, a Belgian diversified group involved in Defense, Energy, Industry, Environment and Services. He previously worked for the CMI Defence, a CMI Group subsidiary, and other Belgian Defense companies. His experience includes Project Management, Systems Engineering, Product Development and Innovation Management.
Olivier received a Master of Sciences in Ballistics and Weapon Engineering from the Royal Military Academy of Belgium, a MBA from Vlerick Management School and a Master of Sciences in technology Management from the Open University.
Lean Analytics Association
Dr. Flores has over 20 years of experience collaborating as an internal or external consultant in different manufacturing and services organizations, leading several initiatives related to Lean Thinking, Business Process Improvement, Six Sigma, Supply Chain, Change Management, Open Innovation, Digital Transformation and Human Centered Service Design; providing also training and coaching.
She is co-founder and president of the Lean Analytics Association (LAA) and visiting scholar at the College of Management of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland.
She carried out her Post-doc at EPFL collaborating at the Lean Product and Process (LeanPPD) FP7 European project from 2009 to 2013. She completed her PhD in 2006 at the Politecnico di Milano studying Open Innovation Models to enable industry-university collaboration for innovation. She obtained her Master’s Degree in Manufacturing Systems in 1999 and a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Monterrey Tec (ITESM) in 1996.