Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Improving or Reengineering your NPD Process

Once you have decided that your NPD execution will benefit from a focused effort to modify or reengineer your process, there is rewarding work to be done. I have several ideas to get you started. Engaging in a process renewal effort must be broad in scope and include participation of the entire development team. Engaging upon a NPD process renewal with a limited scope of discipline participation is guaranteed to provide limited success. Don't seek justification to limit participation, seek a means to expand it.

Thoughts on Managing Change
The most important concept to address when engaging change (new processes) is that the team will be skeptical of this activity simply because it will be different. Change will always create anxiety among the team member's, an uneasiness that must not be written off or it will definitely impair your plans. The most common reasons your team will be uneasy about change are as follows:

  • They may lose a capability that is important to them.
  • They do not understand why this process change is necessary.
  • They disagree with the risk/benefit of a process change.
  • They fear not having the relevant skills necessary to work in the new process environment.
These concerns must be mitigated to produce and enable a successfully deployed process change. Address these items well and your team is certain to be energized about the possibilities to improve his or her productivity.

Start with creating "As Is" NPD Process (What you are doing today)

Brown Paper Session - Hang a large sheet of paper on the wall and use post-it notes to define each step in the process. Involve a cross broad section of your NPD team in this process with the objective of mapping out the flow of a project from concept to production release using the post-it notes (tasks/activities) and arrows (flow). The completeness and understanding of the existing process will become evident during this exercise, a very enlightening experience.

Discovery - This activity is essential to uncover the roadblocks (unknowns) that may exist in the current NPD process. Individual team members know how roadblocks are impacting their productivity, although they may not be able to see that there is or could be a solution. Formal discovery is best handled as one on one discussion using questions specifically tailored to uncovering roadblocks and/or deliverable issues. Share the discovery learning's with your team. More on Discovery

Project Post Mortems - Use project post mortems as a forum to expand learning's about any deficiencies in your process.

Finish with "To Be" NPD Process (Your updated or reengineered process)

Brown paper session - Once you have gathered all your inputs about the existing process I would suggest once again visiting the brown paper process that was created during the development of your as is process. Again pull the key team members together and plan out what your new process needs to be. This is best concluded over a period of several days, making liberal use of timeouts for members to reflect. Once this process is completed capture your process in a tool such as Visio for final documentation.

Process Containers - The medium to be used for your new process is an extremely important step for your successful deployment. It must be something that is easily used by the team, all of the team. The worst thing you could do with your new NPD process is capture it in a form that is not highly accessible by the team, thus leaving your well developed process to gather dust instead of providing the intended benefit. Process containers that I have seen as fairly effective for this purpose include design guides, design travelers, PIEmatrix and possibly schedule templates, although that's a stretch due to limited accessibility.

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