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Presenting the 12th Annual MRT Conference:

Special Breakfast Session

A Question of Context
The Promise and Peril of Applying Manufacturing Concepts to Product Development Effort

Randall C. Illiff
Senior Systems Engineer
Bit 7

The relatively recent combination of rigorous process definition and collection of detailed performance metrics has revolutionized the practice of Management worldwide. There is no question that these changes have produced a virtual "miracle cure" for factory ills, and introduced a level of competitive efficiency that cannot be ignored. There is understandably great pressure to apply the same remedy to every other part of the business life cycle.

The promise is obvious, and pervasive in literature. The peril, however, is frequently subtle, and too often an unwelcome topic among those seeking simple change and immediate benefit. Still, a powerful new medicine is only valuable if it can be prescribed in such a way that it cures instead of kills the patient, and the responsibility to "first do no harm" is as applicable to Managers as it is Physicians.

The secret to success lies in fundamental understanding of why these methods are so effective within the Manufacturing subset of the business, and then using that understanding to apply them, in context, to other places where the same underlying conditions are present. Instead of blindly arguing good versus bad, we can then shift our attention to not only actively using those methods in situations where there is potential for benefit, but also prohibiting their application in areas where we know only harm can result.

This understanding of context is an essential skill every manager should master before making process related decisions. It is the universal principle that underlies every successful implementation, and which can be used to confidently forecast the success or failure of any proposed initiative. It is also your only protection from the pervasive, but often dangerously narrow, Manufacturing derived instincts most organizations now exhibit.

Key Takeaways:

  • A universal "common-sense" basis for comparing proposed methods based on their potential to help or hurt the non-Manufacturing portions of your business.

  • A clear answer to the mystery of why what seem like such good ideas are sometimes the cause of such great harm.

  • Access to a family of comparably powerful methods that are inherently well suited to the task of managing creative effort

Randall Iliff has over 30 years experience working on developmental projects ranging in size from a few thousand to well over a billion dollars, and has participated in all phases of project execution from proposal to close out. He has held Proposal Manager, Project Manager, Systems Engineering Manager, Engineering Manager, and other related titles in multiple industries, and is now the Senior Systems Engineer for BIT7 in Madison, Wisconsin.

He earned his B.S. in Engineering / Industrial Design from Michigan State University, holds an M.S. in Systems Management from the University of Southern California, and received Honorary Fellow appointment at the University of Wisconsin Antarctic Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Institute when he served as the Systems Engineering Manager for the ICECUBE project.

Mr. Iliff is a charter member of the International Council On Systems Engineering (INCOSE), founder / prior Chairman of the INCOSE Commercial Practices Working Group, and a member of the Project Management Institute (PMI). He has published numerous professional papers, developed / delivered Systems Engineering and Project Management training to thousands of individuals worldwide, and is currently working on a book.

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All conference participants will receive c
omplimentary copies
of the following books:

James Andrew’s Payback: Reaping the Rewards of Innovation

Dr. Dean Spitzer's Transforming Performance Measurement

Conference Sponsor

Breakfast Session