Monday, January 03, 2011

2011 - Concepts for Really Making a Difference

A fresh year is upon us, the economy is looking up and there is energizing opportunity in the air. This is an ideal time to jettison the organizational baggage that has been holding back new product execution for a long time. This is the year to eliminate a belief system that supports the ongoing systemic issues that keep cropping up product after product, year after year. This first blog of 2011 will provide some fresh perspective on bringing about positive changes in new product execution for your organization.

Current Situation
Interestingly, there are far more similarities in new product execution issues than there are differences. Most organizations have very similar stories to tell about the frustrations of getting new products from concept to production, as per the business case projections. Requirements closure, scope control (feature creep), cost/schedule overruns and missed revenue targets are some of the typical themes for product development teams.

Another common trait is the inability to effectively address systemic issues such as these. From my perspective the reasons for this include limited focus, a lack of assigning individual ownership, a smokescreen of unavailable funding and a limited understanding of the full financial impact of the current situation. Organizations have latched up and are stuck in a loop of purely addressing issues within functional silos, unable to fully visualize the full New Product Development ecosystem.

The widely used matrix approach has left a huge gap in the ability to address obstacles that span multiple functional boundaries. Collaboration is working well on project specific topics and failing when the subject is more abstract, as in resolving broad coverage systemic execution issues. Get the picture? Take a step back and take a good honest look at what is happening, or actually not happening, when the subject is new product execution.

A common definition of insanity is doing things the same way and expecting different results. How about making 2011 the year of fading insanity by doing things differently, really differently?

Delivering Change in 2011
The following concepts outline the typical gaps that I have noted in addressing long term new product execution issues.

Solution by committee is ineffective because there is no ownership of the problem. Assign the problem, give this individual the proper cross silo power, set clear objectives and measurement and then get out of the way. This role is not a "in your spare time" activity!

Cost of Current Situation
There MUST be a recurring cost identified with any systemic issue that requires a solution. Failing to identify a cost of staying the same allows the "unavailable funding" smokescreen to continue. If there is not a significant cost then it is simply not a substantial issue, real or perceived.

Involve the Team
Solutions that do not include the team members that are experiencing the full impact of a problem are a just a management band-aid. Never forget that real solutions come from those that are experiencing the pain, not from conference room sessions.

Seek Perspective
Be aware that being too close to the problem will shade objectivity. It's human nature to both knowingly and unknowingly substantiate a position that will have minimal impact on us. Strive to always seek out an objective perspective to keep self-serving motives in check.

Avoid Tool Exclusivity
Tools bring significant advances in productivity. However, don't fall into the trap of assuming that the solution to all systemic issues lies in tools. New product execution strategies must include people management, individual communication and the maintenance of personal objectives.

2011 will be the year of positive change only if you enthusiastically seek it. It is too easy to assume the source of change will originate elsewhere, a common misconception that allows terminal sameness to prevail. That assumption is dangerously easy!

"Have you ever watched a fly bouncing off a window pane, even with an open door a few feet away? Many times the fly keeps crashing into the glass until it finally dies. There are many companies in today's world doing exactly the same thing. They continue down 'today's path,' wearing blinders to the possibility of change... until they die."
-- Mac Anderson