Interoperability - What is it?

by Jennifer DeGlopper

Interoperability - What is it?

Interoperability. The word is a real tongue twister. Sometimes it is tough to pronounce. But most times it is far more difficult to implement.  What does it mean? Interoperability is how well a group of people work together to achieve a common goal. It is the "human side" of design.

At the IPT team level, Interoperability usually works well. It is across the entire organization that Interoperability usually needs improvement. 

Data shows that poor Interoperability, not lack of technical expertise, is the root cause of most failures. The price of poor Interoperability is excessive waste in terms of time, cost and product performance. Most importantly, it creates poor morale. 

So how do we improve Interoperability?  Interoperability is the integration of all the processes we use in our daily work. Improving these processes is the best place to start. On paper, these processes appear logical, straight forward and easily done. Where the flaws occur is when we are implementing these processes. Data is difficult to find. Process steps are clear but not performed in the order required. Users are not sufficiently trained.

The first task is to understand the root causes of process problems before attempting to find solutions. 

Einstein said "If I had 20 days to solve a problem, I would spend the first 19 days on understanding the problem".   

The technique we have used successfully is to listen to the "voice of the process users".  

Here is how it works. During one of our workshops, each workshop team selects an process they use in their daily work. I share with them the principles of Lean Design thinking. Teams then use Lean Design thinking to understand the root causes of their process problems and agree on the attributes (-ilities) that the process must deliver. The team then rates the present process against these desired attributes and, using the Lean Design innovation feature, suggests ways to make the transition from the "as is" to the future "to be."

The team takes responsibility for not only revealing problems with the existing process, but suggesting solutions as well. The focus is always on solutions than can be done with minimum disruption to the program.

More than 100 Lean Design workshop teams have applied this method at Gulfstream Aerospace with excellent results. This approach is not limited to Lean Design training teams. 

Jennifer DeGlopper
Jennifer DeGlopper