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My name is Corey Ladas, and I am a product development methodologist. I work mostly with software, although much of my experience is working on integrated mechanical/electrical/software products, so I like to think that I bring a broader perspective to the engineering process than you often hear.

I’m currently working with David Anderson in support of his Lean development initiative at Corbis. I also worked at Microsoft for 10 years, concluding with a 2 year tour in the Engineering Excellence group, where I had the good fortune to study and evaluate a very wide variety of industry practices and work with experts in those disciplines. My mission at Microsoft was to learn an much as possible about the state of the art in product development methodology (not just software development) and distill that down to effective guidance for production teams within the company.

In the process, I learned a few important things:

  • There are many ideas outside the software process literature that are more advanced than those inside that literature.
  • There are many ideas inside the software process literature that are more advanced than those outside that literature.
  • Most name-brand processes contain at least one misguided or mistaken idea.
  • Most name-brand processes contain at least one very good idea.
  • Many name-brand processes mistakenly claim that you cannot cherry pick these good ideas.
  • For every process idea that works, there is a reason why it works, and this reason is not always explained very well.
  • People who promote name-brand processes are often trying to sell you something or engage you in a power struggle.

Every production situation is different, but they differ according to a mostly finite set of variables. Good process engineering is mostly a matter of composing contextually specific processes from a set of tools and practices that cluster around that finite set of variables. As such, the number of possible specific processes is large but it is still finite. And while there is much variety among these possible processes, they are all measurable and ultimately predictable and controllable.

The Kanban process that David’s team has implemented here at Corbis is probably the most advanced thinking on workflow management that I have seen yet. So, I am delighted to have a chance to build on this in pursuit of the advancement of the state of the art. This blog will largely be about ideas that we try in our drive for continuous improvement.