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Major Concepts: Realsearch ||| Enterprise Model ||| Maturity Model
                        Knowledge & Agility ||| Agile System Principles
Book: Response Ability - The Language, Structure and Culture of the Agile Enterprise
Value Propositioning - Perception and Misperception in Decision Making

(Section from paper presented at March 1998 IEEE Aerospace Conference)
Download: Realsearch A Framework for Knowledge Management and Continuing Education
View Section: Executive Overview, 1. Introduction, 2. Objectives and Building Blocks,
3. Framework and Process, 4. Testing the Approach,
5. Conclusions, References, Appendix: Local Metaphor Model Example

4. Testing the Approach

Principal Goal

  • Develop a physics of adaptability for business practices and processes to guide strategic, operational, and improvement planning.

Principal Objectives

  • Refine a set of design principles which effectively guide the development of highly-adaptable business strategies and operating tactics.
  • Identify effective approaches for implementation and management of these strategies and tactics.
  • Provide a vocabulary and conceptual base which effectively communicates the nature, value, and purpose of change proficient strategies and tactics to all employees.


  • Two highly adaptable business practices within an organization are examined in the first day-and-a-half of a 3-day Discovery Workshop. A structured analysis procedure guides participants on a search for candidate principles responsible for the observed change proficiency.
  • The second day-and-a-half is devoted to a "real problem" exercise; applying the principles developed in the opening period to something at the host site that is either too rigid or yet to be designed.
  • Four-to-seven people within the host organization are complimented with five-to-fifteen people from other organizations - limiting total participation to approximately 20 people. Participants do the actual discovery work and analysis, guided by a facilitated process that drives the effort toward the objectives.

Expected Benefits

  • Participants are on the ground floor of new knowledge development and, more importantly learn to apply it at the same time it is developed. Hosts have the added advantage of analysis and application suggestions for areas of personal and direct value - and can subsequently carry the application activity forward to a new business solution. An application exercise is not carried to completion in the three-day workshop - but does illuminate paths to follow for those host personnel interested/responsible for a solution.

Participant Profile

Participants were recruited continuously while open slots remained. A constant influx of new thinking and values was actively sought to keep the ideas and objectivity fresh. In general, this series welcomed anyone who fit the following profile:

  • Preferably a decision maker, manager, and/or organizational influencer involved with business practice and/or operation process issues.
  • Had a curiosity and willingness to actively explore the activities being analyzed.
  • Agreed to attend a minimum of two workshops.
  • Agreed to digest the pre-reading and participate in the development of conclusions.

Three-Day Structured Approach

Five to fifteen participants from other companies joined with four to seven participants from the host site in order to broaden the generated knowledge and objectivity. Each workshop was three days in duration at a single site. Participants other than site personnel had agreed to come to a minimum of two workshops in order to provide some "experienced" participants in the process.

On the morning of the first day we reviewed the basics of change proficiency and the analysis procedures specifically related to the site and areas to be explored; and overviewed the host-site business context. Assigned pre-reading on workshop objectives, analysis methodology, and host profile was used to facilitate quick focus in this first day's activities and preclude the need for lengthy basic overviews. Pre-reading also included three-to-four articles chosen from the general business literature that addressed issues useful for the analysis and application exercise. Participants with prior workshop experience were assigned roles as discussion leaders for the articles.

On the afternoon of the first day we began the first of two analysis activities - typically including a tour or demonstration of the area being analyzed. Sometimes people other than host participants would be brought in to present and discuss the area under analysis. In the evening of the first day the group was split into thirds to attack a one-hour homework assignment just before a group dinner. The homework assignments were chosen to exercise the analysis methodology and extract key issues from the article reviews for presentation on the second day. The group homework session and dinner were also used to open up the social channels of group participation, boosting productivity.

On the second day the second analysis was conducted in the morning and the application exercise was begun in the afternoon. Importantly, this devoted half of the time to actual application of the learnings obtained in the opening half of the workshop.

The end of the third day always concluded with a review of the process - which invariably led to changes in the subsequent workshops. For example, the initial two workshops had only the third day scheduled for the application exercise, with the first two spent in analysis and preparation. Participants wanted more accomplished during the application period, and also felt that the learning process was accelerated.

A structured analysis approach was employed to ensure that the objectives were met, and that the necessary data and knowledge were identified. Each participant had responsibility for personal conclusions at the end of the workshop, and received comprehensive documentation of the workshop proceedings in real time.

The facilitator's documentation responsibility occurs at the conclusion of the entire eight-workshop series - when a generic synthesis of all the data will be generated. This document will deal with the nature of a common set of adaptability principles applied across the wide variety of business practices outlined in the next section.

Workshop #1, LSI Logic, Gresham, OR, Apr 15-17, 1997

Pre-reading assignments:

1) "The …… Optimal Number of Suppliers", Bakos and Brynjolfsson, MIT.
2) Japan’s Software Factories, the Introduction, Cusumano, Oxford University Press, 1991.
3) "Prepare Your Organization to Fight Fires", Karl Weick, HBR, May-Jun '96.

Analysis #1: Re-Usable Product Design— "Coreware" is a proprietary product/service that streamlines the development of custom-designed ASICs for any customer. Coreware helps a designer quickly design a new ASIC by stitching together reusable sub-circuit modules and developing only that new material not already in the vast reusable module library. Coreware can be employed by LSI designers or provided to the customer's designers - at customer discretion - or a combination of LSI engineers and customer engineers may work together.

Analysis #2: Reconfigurable Order-Fulfillment Teams—When LSI started as a Fab-less (no internal manufacturing) operation all customer contracts were satisfied by assembling a custom team of sub-contractors. LSI maintains and constantly updates an active data base of internationally-located suppliers. These suppliers are quickly assembled into a team for each outsource-manufacturing contract taken on by LSI. LSI has since built internal fabrication capability and these plants are placed in the supply-chain mix along with external sources. This quasi-virtual-enterprise assembly and management facility is located in Hong Kong and is the central operational unit for the company.

Application Exercise: Large Complex Program Management— After extracting the underlying principles we will then attempt to apply these principles to a real problem at hand. The Gresham manufacturing facility is a $1 Billion + project in process, expected to begin test production in August and revenue generation in the last quarter of '97. Developing the factory information and control system is just one of many major activities going on in this start-up program. The date for scheduled production was pulled forward by six months only a few months ago. Though all of the various activities feel that they will be finished on time, the concern is for the integration of the effort. A boiling dynamic right up to the day of production. How might the principles of change-proficient systems be brought to bear on this program is the exercise we will employ on the third day of the workshop.

Workshop #2, General Motors Metal Fabrication, West Mifflin, PA, May 6-8, 1997

Pre-reading assignments:

1) "Time-Based Competition, The Product-Process Linkage...", Kosmala, Body Assembly & Mfg, IBFC '95.
2) "What Really Makes Factories Flexible", David Upton, HBR, Jul-Aug '95.
3) "How Bell Labs Creates Star Performers", Robert Kelley and Janet Caplan, HBR, Jul-Aug '93.

Analysis #1: Flexible Check Fixturing— Body panel check fixtures presented a particular problem to this plant - 700 plus fixtures, with more coming, required a prohibitive amount of storage space. The financial climate did not permit a capital intensive high-technology solution, like the new laser machines offer, but relief had to be found. The plant invented a unique modular fixture scheme that utilizes a common grid-work base plate with part-specific holding "details" that snap into "retainers". Details are machined in-house quickly and inexpensively, and then stored in a shelved shoe-box sized tray. Classic Reusable/Reconfigurable/Scalable concepts are evident in the design and should provide an ideal case-study for identifying underlying principles.

Analysis #2: Small-Lot Assembly Lines Built Just In Time— The "A Assembly Area" consists of highly adaptable people and highly adaptable workstations - custom reconfigured to assemble specific hoods, deck lids, fenders, and body sides for 60+ different vehicle models all in the same area - with welding, hemming, adhesive application, and press-piercing as principal processes. Most of the fixtures and processes were developed at the plant in order to efficiently accommodate such high variety. Though our analysis will necessarily look at individual workstations and fixtures, the focus will be on the total A-Line process concept rather than on individual elements.

Application Exercise: Knowledge Capture and Mobilization— The application exercise deals with one of the most important problems facing all companies today: how to make good intuitive knowledge in one part of a company explicit so that it can be taught to new employees and taken to other parts of the company. Turning this plant's innate tacit knowledge about highly adaptable process design into explicit knowledge that can be transferred effectively to new employees and employees at other GM plants will be our focus.

Workshop #3, Rockwell Avionics and Communications, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, June 30 - July 2, 1997

Pre-reading assignments:

1) "Sun Shines by Taking Out Time", James Carbone, Purchasing Magazine, 9/19/96.
2) "Control in an Age of Empowerment", Robert Simons, HBR, Mar-Apr '95.
3) "What Holds the Modern Company Together", Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones, HBR, Nov-Dec '96.
4) "The Trouble With Teams", Fortune, 9/5/94.

Analysis #1: Flexible Small-Lot Electronic Board Cell— The four machines and 16 people who work in this Universal Process Center are highly flexible - producing numerous printed circuit products in prototype and batch quantities ranging from 1 to 180 per day, with a large number of component parts, and a mixture of old and new technology. Machines include a high speed chip shooter, a screen printer, a general surface mounter, and a convection reflow oven. The team that works in the center is crossed trained and responsible for both quality and comprehensive maintenance.

Analysis #2: Cross Functional Teaming— Three teaming concepts will be analyzed:

a) Integrated Product/Process Development (IPPD) Teams combine Engineering, Production Ops, Program Management Office, and Business Development/Marketing to balance system design requirements.

b) Integrated Product Teams (IPT) are responsible for product manufacture, delivery, and improvement. Currently nine IPTs support more than 30 different product lines. Each includes a manufacturing specialist, facilitator, production control coordinator, quality control engineer, industrial engineer, IE technician, manufacturing electrical engineer, collateral engineer, components application engineer, quality assurance engineer, and finance.

c) Commodity Teams (CT) are one of the linkages between the IPTs and the IPPDs. These cross-functional teams have core representation from Purchasing, Engineering, Applications Engineering, and Procurement Quality Assurance Engineering; with the ability to add other specialists as needed. CTs are focused on best value, improvement, and long term supplier alliances; and jointly develop technology roadmaps with preferred suppliers that emphasize continuous improvement, trust, and sharing.

Application Exercise: Program Realization Process— Though significant benefits have been realized from the above mentioned teams, there is difficulty with inter-team interaction. This is becoming a significant problem as customers demand quicker time to market and want more customized product, and technology life-cycles and product life-cycles continue to shrink - resulting in more new product introductions to the factory each year.

Workshop #4, Pratt & Whitney Space Propulsion, Jupiter, FL, August 26 - 28, 1997

Pre-reading assignments:

1) "Successful Change Programs Begin With Results", Robert Schaffer and Harvey Thomson, HBR, Jan-Feb '92.
2) "Getting the Most out of Your Product Development Process", Adler, Mandelbaum, et al, HBR, Mar-Apr '96.
3) Accelerating Innovation, Chapters 2-6, Marvin Patterson, Van Nostrand, 1993.

Analysis #1: Flexible Engineering/Supplier Relationships— In order to support the aggressive schedule demands of typical development programs Pratt's engineers work flexibly with purchasing, suppliers, and production well in advance of final design and drawings, making many commitments from sketches based on layout information. Procedures are in place to reasonably mitigate the risk incurred with these early commitments. Due to the informal nature of this process, extremely close coordination with suppliers is required, as well as a good deal of trust between project engineers, purchasing agents, and suppliers.

Analysis #2: Kaizen Improvement Process— Initial team success in dramatically improving the ability of the Space organization to respond to dynamic customer schedules and reduce the cost of engine production has led to an expanding Kaizen improvement commitment. Since then, initiatives in cycle time reduction, procedural issues, environmental health and safety, and others have forged an adaptable improvement process that is constantly improving itself as it learns and applies new techniques with every initiative. Our focus will be on the adaptability of the Kaizen process itself - as practiced at Pratt - and not on any particular initiative. Issues of particular interest include training, cultural change, commitment, incentives, structures that enhance change, follow through, and back-sliding.

Application Exercise: Engineering Risk Mitigation— Though significant benefits have been realized from the concurrent engineering process, there are still cumbersome aspects of early release associated with high risk areas. One challenge is to speed up the engineering analysis process, so that adequate information is available to iterate the design. Technological advances and adaptable approaches to modeling and analysis tools for thermal, flow, fracture, crack growth, stress, and other considerations are a major focus here, and procedural issues are equally interesting.

Workshop #5, Concurrent Technologies Corporation, Johnstown, PA, October 1-2-3, 1997

Pre-reading assignment:

1) "IT Outsourcing: Maximize Flexibility and Control", Leslie Willcocks and David Feeny, HBR, May-Jun '95.
2) "Customer Intimacy and Other Value Disciplines", Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema, HBR, Jan-Feb '93.
3) "What is Strategy?", Michael Porter, HBR, Nov-Dec '96.

Analysis #1: Management of Knowledge and Technology Development— CTC is principally in the on-demand intellectual-property knowledge creation and diffusion business, and deals in a wide range of scientific and technological disciplines. Competitively they offer major cost advantages to alternative sources for outside analysis and development work for two reasons: a) their low overhead permits a low multiple on professional costs, and b) they have a strong management of technology development discipline that typically finds and follows the optimal solution path. It is this latter practice that the analysis focuses on. Important techniques employed by CTC include mechanisms for finding the most appropriate internal professional skills and experiences, for finding and modifying/reusing previous applicable work, and for staying abreast of applicable technology developments in the external community.

Analysis #2: High-Flux Program-Management Organ-izational Structures— CTC currently has seven directorates - each responsible for specific customers and programs. New incoming programs and projects are generally staffed in a matrix-managed structure until the next directorate reorganization occurs (at least twice yearly), and are then assigned to a specific directorate. Skilled resources within the total CTC community are available to any of the directorates according to where their skills are best applied.

Application Exercise: Seamless Spot-Market Knowledge Work— CTC is expanding its focus on commercial markets and looking for new ways to provide analysis and development services as an outsource service provider. They wish to serve a wide variety or industries and a wide variety of customers, yet appear to each individually as a comfortable extension of internal capabilities. Thus, we will explore the design of an adaptable "plug compatible" interface between enterprises that eliminates or reduces all barriers to outsourcing critical knowledge work, and delivers the full capabilities of CTC to its customers and partners on an as-needed, when-needed basis. The focus will be on a design that facilitates the creation of a custom enterprise interface as each relationship will have different barriers to overcome.

View Next Section: Conclusions

(Section from paper presented at March 1998 IEEE Aerospace Conference)
Download: Realsearch A Framework for Knowledge Management and Continuing Education
View Section: Executive Overview, 1. Introduction, 2. Objectives and Building Blocks,
3. Framework and Process, 4. Testing the Approach,
5. Conclusions, References, Appendix: Local Metaphor Model Example

Features: Home | Library | Corp Info
Major Concepts: Realsearch ||| Enterprise Model ||| Maturity Model
                        Knowledge & Agility ||| Agile System Principles
Book: Response Ability - The Language, Structure and Culture of the Agile Enterprise
Book: Value Propositioning - Perception and Misperception in Decision Making

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