Every business leader wants to improve time-to-market for new products, but very few can translate that desire into tangible action.
Luckily for these leaders, a solution exists, and today I’m speaking with just the man to tell us about it. Drew Locher is a faculty member of the Lean Enterprise Institute, a global educational organization dedicated to improving organizational inefficiencies, including bringing products to market. As part of his work in developing and delivering innovative business improvement programs, in 2008 Drew authored Value Stream Mapping for Lean Development: A How-To Guide for Streamlining Time to Market, a very practical framework for leaders looking to reduce cycle time. Today he continues his work to create organizational efficiencies as the President of Change Management Associates, a management consulting firm based in the Philadelphia area.
Given the importance of time to market (TTM) in driving growth—as well as my own experience in driving improvements through the application of lean methodologies—I am very pleased to be catching up with Drew today as part of Invetech’s Executive Series on Growth.
Colin: Drew, good afternoon, thank you for your time.
Drew: Good afternoon Colin, and thank you for having me.
Colin: It is our pleasure. Drew, by way of background, could you please give an overview of Change Management Associates: its mission, types of client work, and operational approach?
Drew: Change Management Associates has been my business name since 1990. This year, we’re celebrating our 25th year anniversary.
Drew: During your introduction, you used the term “management consulting.” I think of us more as educators: our mission is to spread the word on all concepts under the umbrella of enterprise excellence. That would include the application of enterprise excellence concepts to product development. We do this through onsite workshops—which we prefer to be application based, “learning by doing,” another common theme of ours—and we try to pique interest through institutions like Lean Enterprise Institute. I am also part of the University of Michigan, so we do public workshops there too.
Colin: Terrific. From the perspective of product development, improving TTM is one of those holy grails that most organizations pursue, but very few succeed in achieving. Why do most organizations struggle to be more efficient in this area?
Drew: I do believe that it is a lack of willingness as it’s not easy to do, and it takes a serious commitment of management. I learned this back in the 1980s at GE: one of our strategic initiatives in the second half of the 1980s was to reduce TTM. This was a corporate-wide effort, and we had access to all of the businesses. When we first did it in major appliances around 1986, it didn’t work! However, we learned from it, applied our learning to aircraft engines, and were successful in reducing time to market by 50 percent in 1990. GE did it again in aircraft engines and had reduced another 50 percent by the mid-90s. It all comes down to willingness and commitment.
For several reasons, people have difficulties in getting their heads around very complex systems. They don’t know where to start, or how to go about doing it. It also seems that people who work in project-based environments struggle to recognize bigger issues around process. Those are two of the biggest challenges, because if you don’t think about processes, you’re not thinking about process improvement.
Colin: Yes, I think what you’re saying reflects well with my own experience, and the exciting thing is that it is in our hands. There have been many different kinds of management paradigms to improve TTM: the stage gate movement of the last 20 years, or the rise in outsourcing as a way of tapping into skills more efficient than internal resources, just to name a couple. You have focused your work around value stream mapping as the underlying approach to reducing TTM. Could you share what led you in that direction?