‘Decisions we make consistently on 80 percent of information.’
‘To scale up a medical product in six months from a laboratory test to a system with 10,000 clinical tests with test subjects, that is the assignment we are working on with the Verhaert Masters in Innovation group. It involves the development of a point-of-care testing device, a testing device that can be used at, for example, a general practitioner’s office. The system consists of a disposable for taking a sample from the patient and an instrument for analysis. The test must be able to be taken and analyzed by non-specialists. And within six months, the system must be widely produced and working. Quite a challenge!
‘To achieve the required speed, we created an approach with a flexible team, allowing us to do as much work as possible in parallel. In cooperation with the client and executives within the Verhaert Group, we divided the team into six subteams. Each subteam works on one specialized functionality of the product. The goal is to develop the different product functionalities in parallel, despite their interdependencies. We work with six subteams of four to six members, most of which are multidisciplinary.’
‘The subteams work simultaneously on development in their subsystem without waiting for input from other subteams to avoid delays. At the same time, at the end of the project, there must be a complete product designed in which the subsystems work together.
Therefore, each subteam has a linking pin. These meet for status updates and exchange of relevant information. Due to the speed of the project and the many parallel developments, there is a great risk that the necessary information is not always shared in a timely manner. As project managers, Jeroen van Tongeren and I direct the subteams and monitor the process. It helps a lot that we are technically savvy. It is important that we understand what information is crucial and what needs to be exchanged with whom and at what time. As project managers, we constantly absorb what happens in the teams and also check that the information is shared by the linking pins. That flow of information is essential. We are always looking for the balance between execution and consultation, so that there is not only time enough for exchanging information, but also for doing the substantive work.’
‘The second thing that contributes to speed is decision-making. Decisions in the project we consistently make on 80 percent of the information. Normally we would proceed to 95 or 98 percent certainty, but that last 20 percent in particular takes a lot of time. If it looks strongly like something is going to work we go for it. Even if we are not yet completely sure. We take a risk together with the client and save a lot of time. It is very important that a client dares to go along with this. We consciously take that risk together. We do map out alternatives in case the choice does not turn out to be the right one. Should this occur, we make a decision together with the client: do we go for an alternative and delay or do we adjust the scope? Suppose the time to result is slightly longer than the original goal. Then we decide: can we be satisfied with what we have now? Or are we going to fix it, even if that means we finish later?’
‘Fortunately, we don’t have to make that choice now, because we are on track for our final goal. This way of working is very dynamic, developments are going fast and a lot is happening at once. As a project manager, you have to make sure you keep up with everything and keep control. That is certainly challenging, but that is precisely what makes it very interesting.’
This project is being carried out within the Verhaert Masters in Innovation group, with various components contributing with their own expertise and resources. System engineering, physics, electronics, thermal and mechanical design are provided by Verhaert consultants and engineers. Lambda-X is involved in the optical instrument design. In addition, Verhaert Consulting provided additional resources in engineering. BEACON was involved early in the project for project management when it was scaled up from 3 to 25 men. Currently, 40 men are working on the project. Yorick Koumans and Jeroen van Tongeren coordinate the project hands-on from BEACON. In addition, Tom Stefels participates as the overall project manager. He monitors the overall direction of the project and takes care of contact with the client.
Back to overview
Read also the article about this project on the website of the Verhaert Masters in Innovations Group.