How does design flow differ? In manufacturing and cash flows, our goal is to work towards zero defects and doing it right the first time. Both are laudable goals for replication processes that are already designed but how do we do that for iterative processes like the design phase? The answer-you don’t.

Design Flow:

Principle of Iteration Versus Replication

Replication Processes

When dealing with the cash or manufacturing cycles you are basically replicating a master process. In manufacturing, you make the same product over and over. Think of it as making copies of a master design. Your cash cycle is the same. You want accounts receivable collected in a timely and consistent manner. Each receivable is collected the same way according to a master process.

In replication you want each copy to be as close to the master as possible, hence your goal is zero defects from the master, while, at the same time, you want it done right the first time to maximize your productivity and reduce waste.

design flowIteration Processes

Design is about iteration, not replication. With design flow, we do not expect to have zero defects the first time. In other words, we expect that a new design will not be right the first time. So we produce an idea and then refine it again and again until we are satisfied that the new idea meets the requirements. Design is an iterative process of refinements. It is the nature of the design process itself.

Your paradigm limits your thinking by literally creating barriers to new ideas. In the design cycle we try out new concepts which expand our paradigm barriers. From these new vantage points we see more new ideas, which then move our paradigm barriers farther out.


Is your organization designed for change? You see innovation and design come from brainstorming new ideas, seeing the same things a different way, and thinking outside the box. The more new ideas we try the more we refine the concepts we are focusing on and the better the product design becomes.

Law of Diminishing Returns

Iterations come from new ideas but there is a limit to the refinements we can make. As we approach this limit the design is considered “good enough” and we move on until new information, perspectives or old constraints are removed. This is the law of diminishing returns at work.

Thinking Outside the Box

Design flows differ from manufacturing or cash flows because they are based on the principle of iteration versus replication. But how do you continuously innovate to keep the design cycle moving?

To learn more about implementing continuous process improvement within your organization, attend one of our improvement classes!