It is impossible to study the evolution of product development without taking a close look at Deming, the man who revolutionized and simplified the process back in the 1950’s. His 14 rules of management became the foundation of the Toyota Production System and eventually Lean Product Development. Deming was already well aware of key successful management protocol and practices, such as the importance of building quality in instead of inspecting for quality later on, the importance of continuously improving, as well as the necessity of having cross-functional teams rather than silos. Although Lean principles proved rather successful, especially in Japan, it is still rare for organizations to adopt them fully.
In 2001 another much-needed attempt was made to improve the process. Agile Software Development shares key elements with Lean and extends it with software related tools and methods. While one can argue whether or not Agile is based on Lean, the bottom line is that both approaches have the same goal: to improve communication and collaboration between people. Over the past 15 years there has been a surge in popularity in and adoption of Agile concepts due to an urgent need for a system that actually works.
A few years ago, the term DevOps became popular for extending Agile principles and values further to the operations team. Again, this put the focus on increased communication and collaboration by removing silos and focusing on common goals in an attempt to increase the overall value for the customer. The fact that many organizations today value DevOps for its methods and tools illustrates a larger and more important cultural shift. The question is now: what comes next? Considering the evolution so far, a further modification and extension of methods, concepts and organizational culture to even more parts of companies seems like the obvious next step. The phrase “future of work” is often used to discuss these very changes, with different approaches dealing with questions with regards to self-direction, work locations and employee engagement to name a few.
“Responsive org” is a recent movement which can be considered as having descended directly from Agile and Lean. Based on an open flow of information, experimentation and rapid learning cycles, responsive organizations are now able to quickly adapt to changes in their environment. Within these organizations, employees are connected in networks rather than in linear chains of command. In addition, all stakeholders share a common purpose, ensuring that knowledge is shared within all parts of the organization and that the decision-making process is fast and consistent. Furthermore, employees are encouraged to be actively involved and engaged in overall organizational growth, which in turn increases productivity, innovation, and flexibility.
With all of the above considered, it is clear that we are on the brink of a new era. It will be interesting to see how future organizations are designed and how we will work within them.