Chat with us, powered by LiveChat Assess a real-life company or organization’s use of Lea | Coms Paper

Assess a real-life company or organization’s use of Lean, Agile, DFSS, or Design Thinking. Provide evidence of their processes and outcomes.  Comment on where the organization may find new opportunities to use a methodology covered in this course. (LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4).

Minimum 8 pages, maximum 10 pages (double spaced), not including cover page. Please look at the example paper for your references.


Applied Design Thinking

Trine University – GE 5093 – Design Thinking – Term Paper

July 25th, 2021



Table of Contents

Abstract …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 2

Introduction ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 3

Design Thinking……………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 3

Lean………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 4

Agile ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 6

Design for Six Sigma ………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 9

Findings and Recommendations ……………………………………………………………………………………… 10

Conclusion …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 11

References ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 13




This paper includes explanations of design thinking concepts from Trine Universities Design

Thinking course along with brief observations of implementation in a real-world, global company with

recommendations for improvement. The aerospace market is an oligopoly made up of large, global

companies. The competition is thick, driving organizations to seek out what works best to deliver the most

value while incurring the least amount of cost. With the goal of driving customer-derived value into the

core of everything a company practices, design thinking is the latest strategy to implement. This is evident

by the different flavors of design thinking adopted by big names in the tech industry—IBM, Salesforce,

Spotify, Toyota, Microsoft, and Samsung to name a few. They all have their own implementation to

complement their values and structure—one company’s model probably wouldn’t work out well at another

company. This paper will review some of the strategies associated with design thinking and evaluate how

Rolls-Royce’s supply chain organization has supported those strategies and what improvements can be

made to take it further.




Throughout my career I have only ever worked at large corporations. There is always an attempt

to implement the latest innovative strategy to drive business success. Usually, the programs are kicked off

with hype to boot, but they lose momentum over time. Design thinking would seem like the next sort of

round to come out. Working in Rolls-Royce’s Supplier Management organization the last 6 years seems

primed for a new approach to doing business. In 2015, they deployed what they call the Rolls-Royce

Production System (RRPS) which is a solid framework to start from. They have elements of design

thinking built into it, but the execution and practices have fizzled out. Design thinking, Lean, Agile, and

DFSS are concepts that could really revitalize RRPS if implemented properly

Design Thinking

At the start of the course, I described design thinking as an overall strategy in how to

realize an objective in a methodical way, up front, such that it minimizes risk and waste, maximizes

success, and can be refined over time as it almost feeds back in to itself in the end. I mistakenly went on

to describe it as a fractal pattern. Dam and Siang describe it as “an iterative process in which we seek to

understand the user, challenge assumptions, and redefine problems in an attempt to identify alternative

strategies and solutions that might not be instantly apparent with our initial level of understanding”

(2020). So, while the approach itself could be described as a standard pattern, the execution certainly

should not be. The standardized portion of the approach consists of some main concepts. IBM’s flavor

consists of 4 concepts: Understand, Explore, Prototype, and Evaluate (IBM, 2014). IBM do a great job at

leveraging Agile along with design thinking to increase project success. While design thinking is much

like the old approach of “thinking outside the box”, there is a social aspect that is new, which Agile seems

to really drive home when it’s used in parallel as IBM does.

RR supply chain from a high-level perspective is very much rigid. Generally, the same

approach is always used on projects, typically production development. The program feeds the



requirements, the SMT gets going and its rinse and repeat. The program is always considered the

customer, and the needs are always the same—a rate of conforming parts delivered by a certain time. In

reality, depending on the supply chain design, an SMT could be delivering components to another SMT’s

suppliers who processes the parts further, who then sends to another SMT’s supplier who does assembly

and testing, with a RR facility at the end for higher-level module integration. So, really, there are many

customers that could be accounted for. RR could leverage design thinking by redefining the “customer” is

in these supply chain development projects and avoid a lot of problems caused by fragment and isolated

management methods. There are often production lines that get technical approval from engineers who

don’t actually know how the products are handled downstream or where they end up in the final

assembly. The program can not be the simple answer to who the “customer” is anymore if RR expects to

maintain a competitive share of the market.


Lean in the context of business strategy is all about identifying and reducing wastes. This

isn’t waste the waste that gets placed into dumpsters—in this context, waste is any unnecessary work that

is of no value to the customer and the business. “The ultimate goal is to provide perfect value to the

customer through a perfect value creation process that has zero waste” ( AQS has

established a catchy acronym to remember the 8 types of waste to help identify them to then take action:

DOWNTIME. This stands for Defects, Overproduction, Waiting, Non-utilized talent, Transportation,

Inventory, Motion, and Extra-processing. Changes made to reduce these types of wastes reduces costs,

increases efficiencies, and improves responsiveness. The main takeaway is that it will increase profit

margins everything else remaining the same. ASQ makes a great point that will be relevant later, “The

leanest factory cannot achieve its full potential if it has to work with non-lean suppliers and

subcontractors” (

In 2015, RR launched an effort to implement their Rolls-Royce Production System

(RRPS). On the supply chain side of the business, supplier management teams (SMT) assigned a team



member as champion to each of the 14 main concepts. Each concept requires minimum standards to be

met in order for the SMT’s RRPS framework to get the “green flag”. Concept 6.1 of RRPS is “Waste

Reduction” with the goal stated as, “The team are trained in waste reduction and are actively reducing

waste in their area”. The two minimum standards are, “The team can identify waste reduction

opportunities using TIMPWOOD” (an older version of DOWNTIME) and “There is a formal way for

team members to raise and close waste issues”. While the goal is to actively reduce wastes, completion of

the minimum standards doesn’t quite satisfy the stated goal. That must have been deemed sufficient for

the green flag though with the expectation that there is momentum and changes would eventually get


In order to review the progress that’s been made, I searched through the local network where each

SMT houses their respective RRPS files. All of the waste reduction sheets had similar data collected

making it relatively easy to compile. Of the 45 wastes identified, only 25 are within the SMT’s ability to

change, so the other 20 should really be assigned to the central team to work. As shown in Figure 1,

Defects are at the top, followed by Waiting and Motion. Looking at the detail provided by some of the

teams, the integrity of how these were designated is questionable. That might not be worth digging into as

there are some other major problems with this attempt to work Lean into the working culture.

Figure 1 – Count of Waste Issues by Type

While the teams did pretty well in getting a list of identified wastes, it is clear that the effort went

stagnant very quickly. Only 3 out of 45 were marked complete. Also, the most recently modified file was

updated in 2017. This could be due to a lack of clarity on what kinds of wastes to identify and/or how


5 5


1 1 1





8 Count of Waste Issues by Type



they were expected to make the appropriate changes. Internal processes with waste issues can’t be

changed by the SMT’s themselves. Global process owners would need to be the ones to agree with the

waste and make the change accordingly. The SMT really should focus on wastes related to the external

supply chain. There are central, dedicated teams that only focus on improving internal processes and

tools. It would make sense to influence the central team to adopt a design thinking approach, and utilize

Lean as a collaborative effort with the supply chain folks who are subject to what they come up with—

they are clearly a customer in that light. They could leverage Agile to work the solutions with the SMT’s

as their customers. Reflecting on the earlier ASQ comment—if the central team is not thinking Lean

relative to the tools and processes, they deploy, the output generated by the folks using them are certainly

not going to be without waste either. As many advocates for the right-to-repair would agree—it’s very

frustrating to be stuck with something that doesn’t work well and even more so when you don’t have the

ability to fix it yourself.


Denning details the idea of an Agile organization well when he describes it as “a growing,

learning, adapting living organism that is in constant flux to exploit new opportunities and add new value

for customers” ((Denning, 2021). In order for an organization to be Agile, though, it must be deployed

and practiced at a lower level, specifically as a strategy for product and process development. This

specific application originated out of frustration in the software development world. Thought leaders

sharing in the same misery gathered together and produced a manifesto to commit to how they would

conduct themselves within their competing companies in order to influence the industry as a whole. going

forward even as competitors. The highlighted principles from the manifesto are as follows:

– Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

– Working software over comprehensive documentation

– Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

– Responding to change over following a plan



They clarified how to interpret these by adding, “…while there is value in the items on the right,

we value the items on the left more” (

There are 12 principles altogether, but we’ll focus on just those 4 main ones. It’s important to

point out that while the items on the left of the statements is the goal, the items on the right still need

some attention. This is like common mantra businesses use, “Safety First, Quality Always”. One is not

prioritized over the other—they’re both critical and accounted for in parallel. The expectation from the

manifesto is to not forget about the items on the left and keep the status quo from shifting to focus on the

right side. For large corporations, the status quo would certainly shift over time without regular manual

intervention. Using my 6.5 years of experience at RR, following is an evaluation for each of the 4 main

principles within supply chain management.

Shifting from processes and tools to individual and interactions has never been more relevant

given the effects of the COVID pandemic. Prior to COVID, RR supply chain employees sat in

“neighborhoods” within the two downtown office buildings. It was normal to interact face-to-face. Once

the pandemic hit, all supply chain management employees were forced to work from home and are

expected to continue indefinitely. Issues that would have normally been resolved with a 10-minue face-to-

face conversation now take about a week or more. Rolls-Royce has not emphasized the important of the

hierarchy of communication forms and make it clear the expectations of being responsive. With the

additional capability of flexing working hours, many people screening call, fail to respond to Microsoft

Teams messages, and correspondence is reduced to email traffic. Rolls-Royce needs to recognize how far

we are from having robust communication and interaction and reset the expectations especially given the

new remote working environment.

The next principle to evaluate is working milestones over comprehensive documentation. The

principle was modified from “software” to “milestones” to better suit RR supply chain. The milestones

most often worked in supply chain are related to production development. We utilize PPAP (Production

Product Approval Process) which breaks down production development into 21 elements with a handful



of milestones along the way. Rolls-Royce uses a web-based portal called MyPPAP to track the progress

and provide a central reporting tool. A major problem with the tool is that it’s not clear what fields drive

the reports. So, when someone finds something is misaligned, it’s difficult to determine which field needs

updated. There are weekly, monthly, and quarterly meetings to review program progression so the reports

are constantly being generated for one reason or another. When a report needs fixed there are usually

multiple levels of people working to get them corrected in time. Sometimes they end up manually

modifying the reports outside MyPPAP causing downstream reports to be even more misaligned and

difficult to correct. While the tool itself needs to be improved, this is a perfect example of too much time

and effort being spent on documentation and reporting rather than the milestones themselves. The fact

that the tool exists means someone is thinking about it. The team developing the tool could leverage Agile

and take a design thinking approach to get a tool in place that successfully saves everyone from spending

so much time on reporting. This perspective could be used across all centrally developed tools.

RR supply chain deals more with suppliers than customers, so swap “customer” with “supplier”

to make it, “Supplier collaboration over contract negotiation”. Cost reduction projects are one of the

main activities worked between RR manufacturing engineers and their supplier counterparts. Most

contracts mandate that cost reduction projects get split 50/50 between RR and the supplier. This is the

main element substantiating the justification for the project to be worked on both sides. It wouldn’t be

great for business to use RR resources to realize cost reductions that only increase the profit margins of

our suppliers with no benefit to RR. The problem often faced is that we’re told to hold off on these kinds

of projects because they complicate contract negotiations. Contract negotiations can last around a year,

which makes holding back on cost reduction efforts unreasonable from a business perspective. There is a

bit of a running joke that we can’t ever utilize the contracts, because they’re always being renegotiated.

While the technically-oriented roles seem to be collaborating, the commercial counterparts seem to be

clashing. Recognizing that we’re all pushing for the same goals, RR supply chain needs to extend the idea

of supplier collaboration across all roles otherwise it holds everyone else back.



The last main principle, responding to change over following a plan, has great potential for

improvement within the RR supply chain. The design release process is overly rigid given the complexity

of the development required for manufacturing. Design engineers naturally prioritize the form, fit, and

function leaving manufacturability as a quick evaluation on paper. Some components are feet in diameter

with hundreds of features. It’s impossible to really know for sure how manufacturable the component

will be until one is actually processed. With extremely long lead times, not only is design now willing to

leave a design unreleased for that long, but they’ll likely not be willing to be constantly incorporating

changes to accommodate. Unfortunately, that means the changes are done later when they cost more and

cause major disruption to the program. The design release process needs to be more open to Agile—

welcome change and work dynamically with manufacturing to work towards the final solution. Getting

prototyping underway early could allow for changes to be incorporated in parallel to the processing of the

first components. This would require input to be fed into design along the way, but it is possible given

modern technologies like 3D scanning.

Design for Six Sigma

The topic of Six Sigma throughout my career has been confusing. I’ve lived through the

progression detailed by Vikram Bhargava showing it transition from a literal definition to a philosophical

one used to drive management systems. As a metric, sigma isn’t really used that much–Cp and Cpk are

all I’ve used in practice in my career on the manufacturing side. I see the design side use sigma more

often, so it’s likely used more for theory rather than practice. The reason its progression has been

confusing is because I was formally taught the metric, but then observed the progression without

explanation over the las 15 years. So, what does it mean now? Vikram describes it as a “structured

application of tools and techniques applied on a project basis to achieve sustained strategic results”

(Bhargava, 2015). I would describe it further as being a data-driven approach to everything. It seems the

use of “Six Sigma” in management system names is really to signify that everything is quantified, things

are measured, and so decisions are straight forward, and success is able to be objectively substantiated. A



common place where this is used is with project selection. Creveling, Slutsky, and Antis Jr. recommend

the Pugh evaluation process to evaluate and select concepts that “score the highest in feasibility in

satisfying the voice of the customer…and the corresponding technology requirements” (2002, p. 399).

RR supply chain doesn’t utilize data-driven decisions to down-select or prioritize projects. This

could be in part due to the organizational structure. Each SMT is assigned a large team of cross-functional

people of 4 different types: a buyer, an order controller (aka planner), a quality engineer, and a

manufacturing engineer. They each have their own silo of responsibility that the other roles can’t do

themselves, but each requires input from the other which is where the collaboration is required. In the last

year though, buyers and quality engineers have transitioned to a new structure where they aren’t tied to

SMT’s and instead are deployed from a central team. With that move, those teams could adopt a DFSS

approach to how they deploy their resources to support the SMT’s using the same down-selection and

prioritization approach. For buyers, it could be driven by estimated costs. Quality could be also be driven

by a cost estimates driven by quality issues impacting delivery and program disruption. Every role could

deploy something like this even if they’re not formally centralized. It just requires management to push

this sort of collaboration.

Findings and Recommendations

Rolls-Royce has a framework in place that includes elements of design thinking. There was a

clear and enthusiastic effort to drive teams to develop their own system as part of the Rolls-Royce

Production System launch in 2015. The minimum standards helped get everyone educated on the topics, a

set of tools to use, and a system to govern it. As soon as it was all established, they waved the green flag,

and it was supposed to be off to the races. Unfortunately, it seems that most of the teams ran out of gas

before turn 1. It’s not entirely their fault though—it was unreasonable to expect the SMT’s to have the

privilege of making changes to the processes that housed the wasteful practices. Rolls-Royce needs to

redefine who the customer is in these scenarios or they need to clarify within the minimum standards

what the SMT should be focusing on. Most of the waste reduction issues were relative to internal



processes that the SMT has no control over. Instead, they should have been trained to identify wastes in

the supply chain itself—at the external suppliers. Improvements made there will reduce costs and drive

towards a more agile supply chain. The wastes inherent to the internal processes should be worked by the

global process owners who need to consider the SMT the customer. There is a good opportunity for

leveraging the Agile approach working those solutions. Ultimately, RRPS could be revitalized if some

details were ironed out on just how these concepts should be practiced. With the movement of employees

from cross-functional teams to centrally managed teams, they have a great opportunity to leverage DFSS

to down-select projects across their discipline and prioritize their efforts. Even the roles still organized

could leverage this approach if they’re able to collaborate across SMTs and pull themselves up out of

their silos. With a clear understanding of the design thinking concepts and knowledge of how they can be

properly applied and practiced, Rolls-Royce could take their pre-existing framework and update it to

realize the benefits originally intended along with making modern strides. One of the newer facets of

design thinking that I’ve recognized is the focus on social interaction through all of the activities. This is

highlighted in IBM’s model, complimented by their use of Agile, and is reflected in the Agile Principles.

This is especially important with a majority of RR supply chain working remotely without the ability to

literally speak face-to-face.


On some frequent basis, the large corporations I’ve worked for push large-scale implementations

of programs using the latest and greatest approaches with catchy buzzwords. If they practiced what they

preached and utilized some of the elements for the implementation itself, systems like RRPS might take

hold and the company could actually realize the benefits. Using time and resources to educate, develop,

and deploy systems that then go unused is massively wasteful in and of themselves. The green flag waved

in 2015 with the launch of RRPS which put in place a decent framework to build upon. The SMT’s have

broken down before turn 1 and need to come into the pits. They don’t need topped off or new tires, they

need a new power unit and a new team principal. Design thinking is the person for the job. I lead two



teams between two different SMTs and plan on walking management through these findings. I’ll be

aiming to encourage design thinking elements to be incorporated into our RRPS frameworks. From there

other SMT’s can follow suit. More precise direction seems appropriate as well through the redeployment.

I would surely make one of the goals getting people passionate about their jobs and excited to do great.

That’s easier said than done, but I’m excited to try!




Dam, R., & Siang, T. (2020). What is design thinking and Why is it so popular? Retrieved July

25, 2021, from


IBM, T. (Producer). (2014, November 21). How It Works: Design Thinking [Video file].

Retrieved July 25, 2021, from (n.d.). What is lean? Retrieved July 23, 2021, from (n.d.). What is lean? Retrieved July 25, 2021, from

Denning, S. (2021, June 28). What is agile? Retrieved July 25, 2021, from

Manifesto for agile software development. (2001). Retrieved July 25, 2021, from

Upfront Design for Six Sigma (DFSS): A Road map to excellence [Video file]. (2015, June 24).

Retrieved July 25, 2021, from

Creveling, C. M., Slutsky, J. L., & Antis, D., Jr. (2002). Design for Six sigma in technology and

product development. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Design Thinking
  • Lean
  • Agile
  • Design for Six Sigma
  • Findings and Recommendations
  • Conclusion
  • References
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