Grundfos is the world's largest pump manufacturer, based in Denmark, with more than 18,000 employees globally and a turnover in 2014 at 3,168 million euros. The annual production is more than 16 million pump units, circulator pumps (UP), submersible pumps (SP), and multistage pressurizing pumps (CR) as the main product groups. Grundfos also produces electric motors for the pumps as well as electric motors for separate merchandising. Grundfos develops and sells electronics for controls for pumps and other systems.
The Grundfos motto is “Be-Think-Innovate”, and Grundfos is very focused on innovation and research in order to maintain its market leading position. Day-to-day contacts between research and development centers in Denmark, China, India and the US are made through video conferences and virtual systems. Big global development projects are carried out in several locations in the world.
Grundfos has in 2012 established a project model for frontloading projects consisting of three stages after ideation:
Frontloading projects are used as a way to accelerate the knowledge and remove major uncertainties prior to product development. The tangible output from frontloading projects is a socalled “Fact Pack” which is documentation with the following content: Business evaluation, innovation profile, design ambition, product family master plan, technical documentation (design journals) and transition readiness assessment. The fact pack is used as input to and foundation for the Product Development Project (PDP) which will be carried through after the frontloading project.
The pilot project
The project is a frontloading project and has been initiated to assure Grundfos an increased market share whilst maintaining its leading position as a world-class pump manufacturer. This is expected through the development of a robust concept which not only needs to be technically feasible but also has the projected attractiveness and impact for Grundfos’ customer segments. The overall aim with the pilot project is also to reduce time to market in the R&D process.
The pilot project is part of the new generation of pumps in Grundfos. The new generation is going to be more cost efficient while at the same time comprise the requirements of Grundfos’ customer segments – and potentially more. The new generation of pumps has to adhere to a strict range of requirements and specifications, which mean that scope is substantially affected in the R&D process.
The pilot project is currently in its mature phase (May 2016), in which the purpose is to establish sufficient proof of the concept’s value as well as determine whether the concept has business applicability.
Furthermore, in this gate of the R&D process, the project team is highly focused on managing and circumventing the uncertain elements in order to yield a higher degree of transparency, predictability and reality.
The current gate is projected to terminate in June 2016 whereupon the requirements and specifications are transitioned to the manager for the next gate where the actual Product Development Project will be initiated. Besides a new project leader, the team will increase in size, but the core team will remain the same.
The local translation and tailoring was initiated on a meeting with the project sponsor and the project leader. The purpose was to understand the task at hand, the lifecycle and what was to be delivered within the project. The project sponsor and leader were also introduced to the Half Double Methodology.
Initially Grundfos was interested in trying out the following three guiding stars defined in the early phase of Project Half Double:
- Focus on customer value
- Kill complexity
- Work with visuals
In reality, the pilot project experiment became a mixed approach of leading stars and Half Double Methodology and it is difficult to isolate them from one another.
Tracking and customer value: The establishment of the impact cases and the project as a whole would serve the purpose to focus on the impact of both the end customer — and the internal customer of Product Development, who should take over the project after the end of the frontloading project in June 2016. The value of frontloading the project was measured in relation to the quality of the insight and learning created to potentially reduce the "time to impact" for the entire project lifecycle.
Impact tracking was especially focused on customer's satisfaction. This was intended to be measured at customer workshops that initially were scheduled for November and December 2015 – relatively early in the project lifecycle and probably earlier than in typical Grundfos projects.
Impact solution design
Customer value and kill complexity: The intention was to make the customer feedback the driver of the impact solution design instead of a verification of what Grundfos believes the customer wants. In reality it became difficult to carry out in the customer insight simply because parts of the organization that should set up these workshops where measured on other variables than providing an upcoming product with feedback. Because of this, feedback from customers came very late in the project.
The pulse check was setup with the 6 basic questions from the Half Double Methodology after the first sprint. It was sent out to the core team and key stakeholders of the project the day after each sprint planning meeting every four weeks.
The pulse was summarized and visually designed as a basis for a dialog with the core team meetings on how to interpret and act on the scores. Specific actions had an obvious effect; however, change of focus in the overall organization affected the scores on the pulse check even more.
Rhythm in key events: The rhythm of the project was set up early in the project and based on two working days per week. Monday starting up with a weekly planning meeting or a sprint planning meeting (every four weeks). Thursday afternoons were designated to planning meetings, following up on weekly progression and discussing technical solutions in a room called “N5” where all spare parts were accessible.
The head of product development was invited every four weeks to participate in the sprint planning meeting, and more key stakeholders were invited as the project had four to five months left.
Visual planning and work with visuals
Right from the kickoff of the project in September 2015, visuals were used. The overall milestone plan was established at this kickoff meeting with visual tools, and it formed the basis for all sprints in the project. In addition, it was used as a communicative tool for teams and key stakeholders about the project.
The plan had four areas of focus:
- Project management containing, among other things, steering committee meetings, decision points, important documents, completion, etc
- Requirements containing activities in relation to describing requirements for pump.
- Commercial containing the key milestones and important points in relation to the respective markets to get feedback and input on the new pump. Workshops, visits, conferences internationally with special focus groups and selected people.
- Technical tracks containing all the "tasks" which essentially are technical elements such as "cable entry", "carbon shaft bearing" etc.
A visual sprint plan was employed. It included "Team performance indicators" which were used to measure the following: Meeting length (with a goal of keeping meetings short and intense), number of meeting participants, number of completed activities out of the total number of activities planned, number of team members in the project room throughout the day. By the monthly end of the sprint, this was evaluated for the purpose of gaining team buy-in and increase participation in the meetings.
Allocation and kill complexity: To enforce simplicity the core team was colocated in a project room and had all their materials, drawings and spare parts of pumps available in order to minimize the time spent for communicative latency and waiting time. The team room (N5) was located approximately 1 km from the Center of Grundfos and with a 40% allocation, the team worked every Monday starting with a planning meeting and working on the project. The same thing happened Thursday, where the team was colocated. This enforced working together which can be an issue in the usual team setup in frontloading projects.
Active project ownership
There was a desire to get the steering committee close to the project and participate in sprint finalization meetings (sprint review). One member of the steering committee attended at a few meetings. Bookings were cancelled due to other priorities from steering committee members. Instead a meeting in January 2016 with Niels Due Jensen (chairman of Grundfos) was scheduled. He was presented with the technical elements of the project and gave feedback to the solution. The meeting turned out to have very good effect on the focus and collaboration of the team members.
Active project leadership
The project leader gradually took over all processes and facilitations of meetings. The Half Double consultants served as feedback team and helped the project leader and resources with key scripts and sessions out of the ordinary (reboot workshops, customer workshop scripts etc.)
Put people before systems and tailor to the project model
The frontloading model is well-known in Grundfos, which made it easy to relate gates and deliverables to the team. The model served as a supportive element to the project leader in order to ensure the documentation needed for decisions as well as verification of the impact/business case in the gate process. The impact/business case and the intensive planning made it possible for the team to align and work intensively toward the gates.
A couple of stories from the pilot project at Grundfos
The project was kicked off with intense workshops and followed up immediately: A lot of planning went in to a two day kickoff workshop with the entire team. A detailed script and all visual materials for the different sessions were made well in advance. Also all team members filled in a survey for a personal preference test in advance. The outcome of the workshop was a clear and common direction of the project and a lot of accelerated insight in the core team. When we left the workshop, everybody knew what to work with and what was going on in the team. The milestone plan worked as a visual tool to establish a common understanding of the scope, the timeframe and interdependencies in the frontloading project.
It was followed up by transferring all output of the workshop to the team room, so everything was visual from day one. Months later, everybody referred to those events as being some of the key elements that had made a huge difference in the project. Based on this experience the project was rebooted five months later in order to refocus everyone and create renewed team spirit. The effect of the workshop was immediately visible in the pulse check proving the worth of such sessions – the pulse check raised from an average of 3.5 in January 2016 to 3.9 after the workshop in February 2016.
Active leadership create a feeling of purpose and value creation: The meeting with Niels Due Jensen really showed how important the attention from key stakeholders is to a project. It was especially evident in the conversations and meetings planned to prepare for the event. Speeding up core parts of the project were the effect of the meeting. A lot of energy emerged from having the event coming up. The energy was rising from the team itself, which is essential.
Impact case and customer value as a driver for the project: Anchoring the impact case in the steering group and giving the project a high priority seemed difficult, primarily due to issues with higher priority both in business development and sales organizations. The consequence was customer workshops and meetings that were postponed and not prioritized. The design ended up being based on “Grundfos knowledge” and a conversation with one customer in South Africa. The real customer workshops ended up being more of a “verification” of the product rather than basis for the design and verification of the impact case. The consequence was last minute design changes based on customer input.