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Execute Your Product Delivery Plan
November 3, 2021

Table of Contents

Introduction

Part 1, Reverse Engineer Your Delivery Plan, provided a strategy on how to prepare a product delivery plan by working backwards from the end goal. Now it’s time to execute the plan and deliver the product.

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Create Your Team

We all need a team around us to be successful. Luke had Han, Chewie, and Leia. Kermit had Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggie and Gonzo. Mustard has Ketchup and Relish.

Take a look at what systems you need to build. What technical skills do you need? How many people do you need?

It’s preferable to get 100% of people’s time if you can. Trying to assemble a team of part time people who are working on the project 1 or 2 days a week is going to be less efficient and less cohesive than a team of people working together consistently. You’ll also need to spread out the work. One person shouldn’t be doing everything to avoid overload and burnout. As equally as important is that one person shouldn’t be doing all of the fun or important work. People need to get interesting parts of the project to work on to keep them motivated.

Consider that you will likely need a combination of deep technical experience as well as breadth to accomplish your goal. Here are some archetypes to look out for when assembling your team:

  • The Leader: Star Lord, Captain Miller, Katniss Everdeen. This is you. Determine the plan, assemble your team and let them do their job. Motivate, guide, reward and correct. Be warned: the leader may have to sacrifice on behalf of their team, not the other way around.
  • The Sage: Obi-Wan, Gandalf, Mrs. Potts from Beauty and the Beast. The person who has gathered wisdom and experience over their life and is willing to communicate it with you. This is someone that can help rescue you when your project goes off into the weeds. If you’re feeling in over your head this is someone you can reach out to.
  • The Salesman: Don Draper, The Sirens in The Odyssey, Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross. Someone is going to have to talk to the customer on the phone, meet them at the door when they visit your facility, and tell them when there’s a problem with the delivery. This person needs social skills without being pushy or creepy.
  • The Genius: Will Hunting, Doc Brown. You may need deep technical expertise in your project and you will get it from The Genius. Expertise in one field means a lack of it in others, so be sure you are using this person where they are talented.
  • Jack of All Trades: Baseball’s utility infielder, Yoshi in Mario Kart. The counterpart to The Genius. They aren’t an expert at anything but they are good enough at everything. You can’t plan for everything and unforeseen circumstances will come up. Someone will need to jump in to fill a gap and it may have to be the jack of all trades.
  • The MacGyver: Something needs to be built and you don’t have all the parts. Ask the MacGyver! They can build anything based on the parts you have (or with a 3D printer).
  • The Pack Rat: The Jawas from Star Wars, The Collector from Guardians of the Galaxy. Has a stash of every part imaginable or can go scavenge you need. This person has a secret cabinet of parts that they may not tell you about until the chips are down.

 

Not every archetype needs to be filled on every team, some people may be able to fill multiple roles and some roles may overlap across people. But if you have a team made up of only one archetype you need to reconsider your team composition.

Allocate your team members to the various tasks and systems you have planned.

Execute the Plan

It’s time to start! Gather your people and inform them of the schedule and product delivery plans. What needs to be built? Who’s going to build it? Who’s going to order parts? What order do sub-systems need to be completed in and by what date? Start executing on the plan.

You might have heard “no plan survives first contact with the enemy” or “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”. The product delivery plan is a tool to guide you. As conditions change the plan will almost certainly have to be updated. Designs may be completed early, shipments may be delayed and people may get sick. And all of that is OK. Expect that you may have go to through some of the steps to rebuild your product delivery plan depending on the circumstances.

Mentally Prepare for Something to Go Wrong

Something is going to go wrong. That is alright because you have given yourself some emergency reserve time, built the proper team and are allowing yourself the mental grace to deal with such a problem. Allow yourself to mentally to prepare ahead of time so you aren’t blindsided when something goes wrong.

Something Went Wrong!

Your delivery is in a couple of days and testing found a problem in the product. What do you do? 

Make sure the Problem is Real

Spend time investigating the problem yourself. Talk to the person who found the problem. Debug it yourself with your hands on the keyboard or with the test equipment in hand. Debug it with your engineers and developers by looking over their shoulder. Is the problem real or did someone report a valid feature by accident? If it’s not an issue, no harm no foul. If it’s real, notify your leadership and customer.

Notify Leadership

Take 15 minutes and gather your thoughts. Figure out what you are going to say. Let your leadership that there will be a delay in the delivery to the customer. Tell them the issue, tell them how it’s going to be addressed, the new delivery date and any substantial financial implications. You want them on your side and being open and honest about the project will help with that. Consider telling them in person rather than over email.

Notify Your Customer

Take 15 minutes and gather your thoughts again. Figure out what you are going to say. Tell them the same things you told your leadership. If you can, tell them in person. If they’re in another building across town or another state, pick up the phone and give them a call. Last resort is to notify them over email.

Your customer will respect you more if you can deliver them bad news in a personable way and will likely lessen the impact of the bad news. Talking to them in person or on the phone allows them to hear the frustration or maybe embarrassment in your voice. They may also be frustrated with the delay and have to tell their leadership also and your emotions may resonate with them in a positive way.

Asking for More Time

You’ve done everything you can. The system is close to completion but needs another week or two to be finished. Everyone is already worn out and an overnight or weekend push isn’t enough time.

Do you have a hard deadline or is it just a date someone made up? You can always ask for more time. You can talk with your customer, explain the problem and get an additional two weeks to finish the system or deliver an incomplete system that might fail. Which do you choose?

Deliver and Celebrate

The product has left the building. There is only one thing left to do: celebrate!

I mean this sincerely: building and delivering any product requires celebration. You’ve been on a journey and it’s important to enjoy your successes and failures together with your team. It could be as simple as a happy hour with some coworkers. But you and your team have done a great job and it needs to be rewarded.

Takeaway

Executing your product delivery plan requires assembling a team of people around you who have the proper technical and social skills. While you have invested time into the plan don’t carve it into stone, instead be flexible and adapt to changing conditions. Mentally prepare for a problem to arise and give yourself grace! All projects have problems. Don’t forget to celebrate once the product is out the door.

Don’t forget to check out part 1, Reverse Engineer Your Product Delivery.

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