Critical Action Planning – How to Manage and Measure Scope and Progress

Scopes change. It’s practically a law of physics. Even if the overall project goals don’t really change, we often find that the project is harder to accomplish than we originally thought. During the project we often discover a need for new features, or our regulatory strategy changes.

Critical Action Planning makes it easy to incorporate and quantify scope changes. In fact, simple quantification of scope and progress is one of the key benefits of the Critical Action Planning approach. It’s a by-product of the technique, that requires virtually no extra work.

Here’s how.

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Critical Action Planning – Why “Division of Responsibility” Is The Wrong Approach


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Within a medical device project, “division of responsibility” among project team members is usually the default. “Division of responsibility” enables team members to feel ownership of major components of product design and simplifies accountability for project managers. What’s not to like?

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Critical Action Planning – Seven Keys To Prioritizing the Task Backlog


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New day, new data, new priorities. Like all Agile approaches, overall project execution is optimized when the highest priority tasks are performed in each “Select-Perform-Assess” cycle. So great project performance depends on great prioritization.

The project manager should expect to spend significant time every week re-prioritizing the Project Backlog, with the help of the team, incorporating project learnings and new information from the outside world into the existing project plan.

I’ve identified seven keys to Project Task prioritization, which actually can be used with any type of project management. For example, while dependencies in Gantt charts create a natural sequence of many project tasks, Gantts provide no prioritization when multiple tasks are ready to be started.

While perfection is surely the enemy of the good when it comes to task prioritization, an analytical approach can reduce errors and help the team achieve consensus on priorities. Here are the seven keys I recommend.

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Critical Action Planning – The Select-Perform-Assess Cycle and The Living Plan


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Capacity is king. You can’t do more than one week’s worth of work this week. Sounds obvious, right?

Most of the time, though, we take on too much, and end the week in frustration with lots of work still in process. When project teams take on too many tasks at the same time, everyone struggles with the ambiguity and morale is endangered.

Critical Action Planning uses the kanban technique of limiting work-in-process (WIP) to get things done.

How does the Select-Perform-Assess Cycle work in practice?

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Critical Action Planning – How To Manage Both Product And Project Risk

Any kind of Project Plan should build in tasks to mitigate both product and project risk. It’s fundamental, but we don’t always do it.

Product risks are the risks addressed by your plan already. In the concept phase, product risks relate to feasibility. For example, can we get adequate torque transfer along our thin flexible catheter in a tortuous anatomy? Can we achieve adequate signal-to-noise in our imaging system? In later phases, product risks relate to reliability. For example, will we meet the tensile spec with 0.95 reliability at 95% statistical confidence?

What do I mean by Project Risk?

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Improving New Product Development Productivity – the Agile Approach

I’ve been writing recently about the wholesale abandonment of Gantt-based project management (including critical chain) by software and tech companies. In the software world, the Gantt approach has been wholly supplanted by Agile Project Management. Agile Software Development is a class of new project management techniques that has become standard practice at modern software companies, including Google,  Spotify, Amazon and practically every software startup. Agile-based new product development (NPD) leads to products that better meet customer and business needs, with shorter development timelines and with less development investment. What’s not to like?

What is Agile?

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New England Venture Funded Medical Device Startup List 2014 Q4


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The New England medical device startup community is an amazing innovation ecosystem, producing great products and great companies over several decades. New startups are the lifeblood of that ecosystem, so I’ve been tracking first-time venture financing of medical device companies in New England since 2005.

I’m way overdue for an update. You’ll find my 2014 Q4 New England Venture Funded Medical Device Startup List linked below.

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List of Active Healthcare Venture Capital Investors – 2014 Q4

Baby You're a Rich ManAnother year has gone by since I last updated my list of healthcare venture capital funds with money to invest. Better late than never, I guess.

Today, I’m happy to post an updated list, complete through November 2014. Good news: lots of new funds have been (or are being) raised!

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My secrets for recruiting a great team


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At Fractyl we’re building an amazing team – the best I’ve ever worked with. Our team is super smart, highly productive, and absolutely dedicated to our mission. We see the big picture but we aren’t afraid to sweat the details.  We also know how to have fun.

Great teams start with great recruiting. Recruiting best practices are important, but not enough. Read on to learn how we’ve built best team in medical devices.

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List of Active Healthcare Venture Capital Investors – 2013 Q4

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It’s been almost exactly one year since I updated my list of healthcare venture capital funds with money to invest. I posted updates nine times between late 2010 and late 2012, so a new version is way overdue.

Today, I’m happy to provide an updated list, complete through 2013. While 2013 was no 2003, there are still lots of new funding sources looking to invest in great healthcare startups. Further, Bruce Booth of Atlas Venture predicts that “several other high profile life science funds are ramping up for 2014 fundraises.”

I’ve again included some non-VC firms in the list, as financing can sometimes come as debt, private equity and/or sales-of-future-royalties. I’ve also included some announcements from firms that are no longer investing, as it’s best to identify those firms early.

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