Lean Model to Determine Designs

lean-startup-0816We have all heard, “Well that is how it was designed.” Or, “the integrators made this more complicated than it needed to be.” I, as much as anyone like to pass the buck, but when dealing with customers we need to make sure we provide the end result they want. A lean model of looking at design can help integrators provide the desired result the first time around, improving their relationships, reputation and future revenue stream.

The first step is to look at the Current (as designed) State. This is the state of how something operates right now. So, if you were looking into installing digital signs in a location that previously had corkboards, you would want to know several things about the current state.

  • Are there rules about what gets posted on the bulletin board?
  • How often is the bulletin board cleared off?
  • Who “owns” the bulletin board?

The next step, and maybe the most critical, is to determine the Current (as-is) State. This is the way that things actually work. So, that list of rules you were given about what gets posted on the current bulletin board, does anyone actually know them, or follow them? If they tell you the bulletin board is cleared off on a weekly basis, does that actually happen?

Why are these types of questions important? Because if you design a system according to the as designed state, but that is not the actual as-is state, you are going to have unhappy customers. In the bulletin board example, if there are a bunch of rules, you will build the ability to follow these rules into a new digital signage system. This may cost development time, or a higher cost for the software. However, what if the customer never actually follows any of those rules? You have provided them what they asked for, but not for what they wanted. You have given them a product that costs more than what they need, and possibly added complexity to the system. Additionally, the person who suddenly has to monitor all those rules will feel as though this has caused them more work. Alternately, what if the people tell you they never follow the rules, but that they really want to start? This is critical to know before you design the system as well. Otherwise, you may observe them not following the rules, and build a system that does not allow them to enforce the policies they want.

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So they key for these first two steps is to first determine how the current process/system is supposed to work. Often, that will not be how it actually works. Second, you need to determine how the system does actually work.

Now you have what you need to determine the Future (to-be) state. This is where you determine what the design of the new process/system will be. You need to put together what you have learned from the first two steps. As you work through this final step you should reference all the other things you have learned, and observed, through the first two steps. Now, you can start your design. When you present the final design to the customer, you should include your observations of all three states. Make sure you give them the opportunity to correct any of the observations or facts that you have collected. It is only through these steps that you and the customer can be on the same page about what they want. When that happens, you won’t hear the types of things that I wrote in the first sentence. Rather you will hear customers who are very happy with what you provided them. This means they will call you next time they need an upgrade or service.