Blogpost by:

Bent Jensen
Agile leadership coach and SAFe® Program Consultant (SPC)

Email: Bent.jensen@bbacademy.dk

I first heard Don Reinertsen’s name nearly 15 years ago, when I asked Mary Poppendieck, famous for her books on Lean software development, about the best person to learn from, wanting to dig deeper into Lean Product Development. She immediately pointed me to Don Reinertsen. He is a California based author, teacher and consultant with a background from the US Navy and Mckinsey. I bought his books: *Developing Products In Half The Time* and *Managing The Design Factory*, After reading them, I knew I needed to learn more and started to look for a class in Europe. The nearest one at that time was in the UK. I decided to go, and experienced a two day ride into advanced product development topics. It was a big Aha! when Don pointed out all the flaws in the common approach to product development, and I left the class armed with ideas about how we could improve our product development processes at SAS Institute, where I at that time was managing a development department. With my immediate manager, I worked on implementing several of Don Reinertsen’s principles, often with a very positive outcome. After leaving SAS Institute, I asked Don Reinertsen to come to Denmark and teach a class, since I was convinced that more people than I could benefit from his thinking. He declined for several years, I kept asking. One day in 2010 I received an email. “I have now completed my new book, and I’m ready to travel and teach all the knowledge that I have collected.” That was the start of our collaboration. We have since then at BestBrains Academy hosted a couple of workshops every year, and I have personally taken his Master class 3 times. Maybe I’m a slow learner, but I must admit that every time I’ve learned new aspects and got ideas that I could apply immediately. It has also been a fantastic journey to see how most new approaches to product development are indebted to Don Reinertsen’s thinking. When David Anderson launched the Kanban method, it was after conversations with Don, where he was told: If you want to improve your throughput and you can only do one thing, that thing should be limiting the Work in Proces (WIP) http://www.djaa.com/brief-history-kanban-knowledge-work Before Eric Ries coined Lean Startup, he was writing a blog called Startup Lessons Learned where he had this article on the importance of Don Reinertsen’s work. http://www.startuplessonslearned.com/2009/07/principles-of-product-development-flow.html When the thinker behind SAFe – Scaled Agile Framework, author and methodologist Dean Leffingwell had written his first book about Scaling Agile and was about to publish it, he came across Don Reinertsen’s book “The Principles of Product Development Flow” and decided he had to rewrite his book to incorporate Don Reinertsen’s principles before publishing what became “Agile Software Requirements” You may ask: Is there anything left that can justify buying the book or attending a class? – Or has it all been sucked up and processed by the ones inspired by his thinking. I can assure you, that there are lots of tools you can use to tune and improve your development process, even if you already are using some of the derived methodologies. His latest book “The Principles of Product Development Flow” is divided into nine general chapters and has a total of 175 principles.

The headlines are:

  • The Principles of Flow
  • The Economic View
  • Managing Queues
  • Exploiting Variability
  • Reducing Batch Size
  • Applying WIP Constraints
  • Controlling Flow Under Uncertainty
  • Using Fast Feedback
  • Achieving Decentralized Control
The book is a dense read but worth every hour spent. Don Reinertsen’s popular classes are also an excellent introduction into his universe of thinking and are spiced up with practical examples from a long life as an advisor for the largest and most successful corporations in the world, and exercises that give a hands-on approach to a great deal of the principles.

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