The Lean Software Systems Consortium is meeting at the Long Beach Convention Center May 4 -7, 2011. The key-note speaker Chet Richards an Acolyte of Col. John Boyd gave the keynote speech on applying his work to Agile Software development. So who was Col. Boyd and what does he have to do with New Product Development (NPD). Chet was kind enough to meet me this morning for breakfast and we had a great conversation about Col. Boyd, NPD, Afghanistan, Bin Laden, and Software.
Col. Boyd was the father of the F-16, F-15 and god father of the A-10. He developed theory’s and formulas for what made a successful aircraft based on it’s key role in combat. In a nutshell the ability of an aircraft to change maneuvers faster and the pilot’s ability to recognize a situation faster allowed the pilot to get inside the decision – maneuver loop of his opponent and defeat him. He later applied this approach to ground combat and was a key advisor to then Sec. of Defense Cheney during desert storm.
According to Chet both the US. Marines and Special Forces Communities have embraced Col. Boyd’s approach to warfare. During the Bin Laden operation the ability of the Navy SEALS to adapt to the changes in plan, smoothly came from lots of training and applying Col. Boyd’s process. The embodiment of this approach – process is the, Observe Orient, Decide Act Loop, or O O D A Loop.
What makes this approach different is it’s adaptive nature. The Agile – Scrum community is now reaching the place where Col. Boyd was some 20 years ago. As Chet describes it “It is the ability to change maneuver states that equals agility.” How does this apply to NPD I asked? Chet said just look at Toyoda they “Engage with the expected (good gas mileage) and delight (or close the deal) with the un-expected (it’s a delight to drive)” To even get in the game we have to do the expected well, next what are those things that just make the product: easier to use, friendly, reduce mistakes, just plain work well. Chet gave me a simple example he did for one of his clients: a registration page on a website, the country pull down was ‘in alphabetical order” the United States was near the end of a long country list. He asked which countries represent 80% of your sales. Place those 12 countries first, from biggest market to smallest and then a down arrow to indicate that the other countries are below.
We discussed applying this approaches to simple products such as pipe and fittings. I Observed how the customer used the current Tee Fitting product. Oriented on where the product fit in to the customers world, and the problems the customer had to overcome when using the product. Decided on features, that would: take away pain, make installation easier, the cost and benefits we would include, Acted to develop the new Tee fitting according to our Product Requirement Document. The result was 4 improvements to the venerable Pipe Tee.
As we finished up our breakfast we both expressed amazement at the rapid changes in technology, and just how disruptive the cutting edge can be to companies that get left behind or just plain don’t survive. We are often change adverse, yet the key to success is change and often it is short bursts of change that change the world.