Friday, June 18, 2010

Is the Productivity Scorecard Measuring What Matters?

After years of talking with and working with New Product Development (NPD) teams, my productivity report card is in and the grade is not good! Acceptance and tolerance of the current situation scores high; while real, substantial and sustainable productivity improvements for the overall development process clearly gets a failing grade. Sorry people, but our industry is stuck in a mode of “terminal sameness”!

When the subject of productivity comes up in the semiconductor industry the discussion immediately goes to tools, EDA and all the wonderful things going on in that sub-segment of the chip development world. So, how has that focus been working out for the last 15 years? Are chip developments now predictable and smooth? Yes, I know; more integration, more transistors, embedded software, tighter technologies and the like are keeping projects messy and that’s the reason why new product efforts are still behind, over budget and require multiple spins. Really?

My observation is that new product execution is not being properly measured or managed. Project management methods have been in place for years now and they deal superbly with the tactical approach to guiding projects. What is missing is a strategic approach to managing a project and by that I mean really understanding what is not working and fixing it.

I frequently talk to teams that are dealing with highly visible execution problems for years with no solution in sight; and I do not mean tool issues. I am talking about team dynamics, mechanics and cross silo operational issues that siphon off a team’s productivity and are often not included in the productivity scorecard. That kind of short sightedness is just plain anti-success and merits an F in the productivity area.

The sad part in this is that there is large acceptance of non-tool related barriers to productivity, and I just don’t get that. How can leadership turn a blind eye to glaring issues that allow a NPD team to stumble over each other, project after project? From my perspective leadership is all about removing the barriers that keep their teams from being the best they can be, it is their primary role.

If the productivity scorecard is to significantly improve it will require the addition of a dedicated effort to locate and repair new product operational issues, an area that is not receiving the focus it deserves today. It means spending more time looking at people issues. If you’re a leader, I challenge you to prove that I am wrong!

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