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Design for Uncertainty

Live audio-session with
Preston G. Smith
Co-Author, Developing Products in Half-the-Time

Change happens in the real world of product development. Unfortunately, most product development processes are not very good at accommodating change. Change is expensive. Change is complicated. Change introduces new defect opportunities.

It is not surprising that most product development processes go to great lengths to discourage change - Six Sigma, Stage-Gate®, and project office to name a few. Get it right the first time, get better information upfront before development starts. This is the path to greater speed and efficiency.

Sounds good in theory, but the real world doesn’t work like that. There’s no doubt that better upfront planning will help you avoid some “foreseeable” change, but there are many things that happen in product development that cannot be anticipated.

What can you do to maintain flexibility to make those changes that inevitably occur in midstream? Find out in an exclusive 90-minute audio-session (60 minute presentation with roughly 30 minutes Q&A woven throughout) as respected speed and agility expert, Preston G. Smith, discusses Design for Uncertainty.

Specifically he will discuss several tools with roots in the world of agile software development that have been adapted to non-software products. These include:

  • Discovering leading indicators of customer change, such as lead users

  • Modular product architecture principles: put “fences” around areas likely to change so that change is restricted to a small part of the design

  • Front-loaded experimentation before settling on a solution

  • Set-based design: explore and understand the design space so that you are prepared to make changes if necessary

  • Making decisions at the last responsible moment to keep options open (but meanwhile collecting critical information related to the decision so that it can be made quickly and correctly when its time comes)

  • Paying more attention to the so-called unk-unk (unknown unknown) risks that often lead to late changes

  • Balancing the often-opposing needs of flexibility and structure

Remember - the more innovative you are and the more you listen to your customer, the more likely such midstream changes are. Do you want to deny these changes or discourage your developers from making them?

This session provides an excellent opportunity to listen with others from your organization and ask questions about your unique challenges.

Invite your whole team to join you - the fee is the same as long as it's on one phone line, just put it on speakerphone!

About the Session Leader

Preston G. Smith
Co-Author, Developing Products in Half-the-Time 

Preston Smith began specializing in rapid product development in 1984 as an internal consultant, became an independent management consultant concentrating on time-to-market issues in 1986, and earned Certified Management Consultant (CMC) standing in 1990. He has led more than 100 workshops in 24 countries worldwide on advanced product development topics and has taught product development courses at several universities. Companies that have attended his workshops include: Siemens, Sony, Motorola, Medtronic, Nestle, Philips, Samsung, DaimlerChrysler, and Honeywell. Over a twenty-year period, he held engineering and management positions with North American Aviation (now part of Boeing), Pratt & Whitney Aircraft, IBM, Bell Laboratories (now Lucent Technologies), and General Motors Research Laboratories.

Preston is co-author of the popular book, Developing Products in Half the Time. Over 100,000 copies of this book are in use by managers in many industries. In addition, he has authored several handbook chapters and dozens of published articles on product development. Preston is book review editor for the Journal of Product Innovation Management. He holds a Ph.D. in engineering from Stanford University, and is a member of the Product Development and Management Association (PDMA) and the Society of Concurrent Product Development (SCPD).

His interest in flexible product development began several years ago when he observed companies hamstrung by rigid development processes in fast-changing markets. He has learned about flexibility by participating in the rapid prototyping community (keynote speaker at six rapid prototyping conferences) and more recently in the agile software development community, where he was keynote speaker at the 2004 Agile Development Conference and was a founder of the Agile Project Leadership Network ( Preston is a member of the Agile Alliance.

Session Details

This AudioSession is not currently scheduled. If you would like us to offer a repeat session in the future, please fill out our Topic Request Form

July 12, 2006

1:00pm - 2:30pm ET

Your office


Unlimited attendance per phone connection

Sorry, registration for this session is now closed.

How To Register:

Online: Online Registration Form
By phone: Call 1-800-338-2223 or 781-891-8080
(9:00am-5:30pm EST)

You will receive:

1. E-mail confirmation of your registration and dial-in instructions
2. powerpoint_icon.gif (342 bytes)Softcopy of presentation slides emailed  to your office prior to session
3. Your questions answered by an expert - both during the session (live) and after (by email)

Preston Smith will also be leading a new two-day workshop, "Flexible Product Development: Techniques for Thriving in Fast-Moving and Uncertain Markets" —August 8-9, 2006 in Chicago...more info