Engineering in the Gap
Matthew Loew posted on February 24, 2016 |
Mike Shipulski's 17-Feb-2016 blog on Organizational Capability Gaps, You probably don’t have an organizational capability gap, was up to his usual high standards. He points out that true Organisational Capability Gaps (OCG) are actually more rare than organization believe (most are actually capacity gaps). Although Mike does not provide a rigorous definition of an OCG, a gap exists when required elements (tools, technology, process, knowledge, etc.) to meet a business objective are missing from within the current organization and can't be solved by adding capacity

Some New Product Development (NPD) Project examples from my experience:
  • NPD Project where management required a Product Cost Target be established and met. The organization had never before even tracked product cost in development much less use cost as a development constraint. The gap in this case was that there was no existing ability to model costs of proposed designs and then to use that information to drive design decisions. 
  • NPD Project where aggressive performance requirements could not be met by simply making changes to an existing platform. Developing a new product to a set of requirements was something that the organization had never done before; all prior products had been derivatives of an existing platform originally developed by another company. So to be successful on this effort, the organization needed to develop capabilities in using requirements to guide the evolving design and to implement a Systems Engineering approach to drive the design requirements from the product-level on down.
I have been involved in several projects where real gaps in capability needed to be overcome. Developing new products is already difficult; adding OCG to the mix amplifies that difficulty. Problems occur when management and/or team members believe that a real capability gap is a capacity gap or is not a problem at all.  You'll here things like:

"We do this all the time"
"We never had problems with X before"
"Company Z does this, how hard could it be?"
"You make things seem a lot more complicated than they need to be"

The best way to demonstrate that the effort has significant capability gaps is to produce graphical aids to help visualize the problem. Some tips:
  • Depict the Current State and Resultant State with graphics with white space between them
  • Label the white space as the Capability Gap(s)
  • Show the relationship to the Business Goals
  • Try to quantify these gaps with Metrics
  • Reinforce Metrics with statements of fact that can not be arbitrarily disputed

Once there is acceptance that there is indeed a gap and there is the resolve to close the gap, be prepared for this to be a non-trivial effort. There are rarely simple process improvements, off-the-shelf software, or affordable consultants available to build the bridge over gap. Sometimes the gap can only be closed by using resources with knowledge that does not exist within the current organization. Just because people have been successful doing things the way they have been does not guarantee success in helping develop the solutions to overcome the gap or in doing things the new way once the gap has been closed.  

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