The need for start-ups to be agile

header-agile-business-guy-jumpingAsk anyone who has ever been involved in a start-up, there is no such thing as titles, roles, or departments. There is work to be done and everyone on the team gets that work done. It does not matter what your business card says you do, it matters what needs to be done to get that product to market.

This has been my story for the last four and a half years. Continue reading

Standardization & the impact it can have on products

bp'sIn the last post we talked about some of the positive and negative impacts that variation can have on your products. In this article we will be looking at the opposite of variation, which is uniformity. Some of the ways product managers can create uniformity is by standardizing on systems, product features, and pricing schemes. There are people who dedicate their lives to mastering the subject of standardization (think six sigma and lean manufacturing). What I hope to express is that just like variation, standardization can be a double edge sword. Continue reading

Variation & the impact it can have on products

I work for a manufacturing company. In my organization we talk a lot about how to create products that are the same each time we make them. Variation is often seen as the enemy in manufacturing. If one worker performs a task in a different way than another worker, the quality of the product can sometimes suffer.

Sunbather_Smurf_Color_VariationsDoes this mean that variation is always a bad thing? No, I don’t believe it is. In my department, variation is often something that helps us sell more of our products. We divide our product into two primary categories. Standard products and custom products. We think about these categories in terms of the 80/20 rule. 80% of what we make are standard products, and the remaining 20% are custom orders. Continue reading

Simpler is Always Better

SimplicityThis is a rule I strive to live by as a product manager. As I work to improve my product line, I ask myself, “Is this the simplest version of the product that I can create?”

As my team and I create the controls for our product line, we are always asking, “Are these the simplest systems we can create?” We use this question to review all of the product design standards, sales strategies, and manufacturing processes that are in place.

As the demand for our product has grown, our team has naturally had to grow as well. We continually ask ourselves, “Is this the simplest organizational structure possible or are we creating layers of bureaucracy that inhibit us from future growth?” Continue reading

Capturing Innovative Ideas


Has a new idea ever woken you up at 3:00 AM in the morning? Maybe the seeds of inspiration were planted in a meeting or conversation you had earlier in the day. You might not have even be aware that the idea was gestating somewhere in the back corners of your mind. Then suddenly, at the most inopportune time, boom. Full blossom. The idea hits you in the middle of the night before your big meeting and now you can’t get back to sleep.

This is a regularly occurring event for me and it is very exhausting. Many of the systems and products that are an integral part of my department have been the result of my insomnia. For the sake of those I work with (because I get a little grumpy when I am tired), I have had to develop idea capturing systems. In doing so I have been able to accomplish two things: Continue reading

The Systems Development Cycle

As an engineer, I really enjoy this part of my job. Creating and implementing systems is at its core an engineering function. You have to understand the tools and materials available to you and design a machine that does its job both efficiently and effectively. The simpler the system, the easier it is to understand and maintain.

Systems Development Cycle

Systems Development Cycle

When you are taking a new product from research and development to market you will experience the full systems development cycle. I have broken this cycle into what I believe are six steps. Many product managers are tempted to stall out on step four, while many others will likely never make it past step two. Continue reading