So the first complete round of our little experiment is now over. The division was divided up into 12 groups. Each group was given a topic and told to come up with a list of quick wins for product development as well as a bit of a longer term goal.
I personally was a member of 3 groups. Issues with the process started when people began to question the scope of each group. Since the groups didn’t have central meetings and there really wasn’t anyone centrally positioned, it was difficult to answer these questions. I actually found out that two groups had each assumed that the other would cover the scope of one of the products, so the result was that no one covered it. Oh well, the joys of decentralized processes.
After a month of intesive meetings and planning each group had to give a 5min presentation on it’s quick wins. Once this was done a governing body would go through the list and sort all of the proposed items for both customer impact and engineering difficulty. The resulting grid allowed management to pick the items that were in the corner of highest impact and easiest to do.
So, a month of meetings involving the entire division and extensive planning resulted in a list of about a dozen todos for product development that was ~90% the same as lists generated prior to the process. We still do not have actual product specs to develop the products. That process needs to start now and we’ll have another month or more of meetings to get those done. I’m concerned that since the scope of these quick wins isn’t really nailed down that during the product spec phase they could dramatically increase in scope and no longer be a quick win. The one good thing is that the number of groups has been dropped down to 4 to manage the next round of the process and i’m only involved in one of those groups.
I’d have to say that so far the decentralized product development process has not lived up to the hype. It’s allowed everyone to get involved, but when it came down to it the final call had to be made by a group of managers. This resulted in people getting upset that their quick wins had been cut from the list. There was one possible idea that I know of that came up in this process that wasn’t already proposed prior. So you could point at that as a sign that we had a richer source of ideas that would had not previously tapped, but had we just remained open to including new ideas as they’re brought up couldn’t we have achieved the same result in much less time.
The final result is that the company is having a tough time handling the level of data in our day to day business. What is protrayed to the end user is our inability to develop new features for them. In each review that comes out comparing the entire field, we seem to fall further and further behind. We need to get this turned around fast or there will be serious consequences.