Tenet #6: Standardize the routine
Although innovation necessarily involves risk and variability, much of what is done in Product Development is predictable and routine, so where does standardization make sense in an NPD process?
There are two types of standardization that may be discussed with respect to the NPD system:
- Processes and Tools
Processes and Tools
Let’s start with the fact that NPD is not the same as manufacturing operations. Ideally in manufacturing, there is no need to change anything. From the beginning, products launched into manufacturing are perfect, low cost, high yield and exhibit high reliability. The suppliers will never stop supplying critical parts and there will never be a need for a redesign of the product. Of course, this ideal is seldom achieved, and it is less likely to be achieved the more cutting-edge your products.
Tenet #5: Sharpen your prioritization
I have worked with new product development leaders in the past who have said “We don’t prioritize projects in our active portfolio. All projects in the active funnel must be completed according to our agreements. That’s why they are approved to be in the active funnel; and it’s how we drive our teams to get the best performance.” This reasoning may appear to be sound, and perhaps in some industries and for some types of projects this mandate will work well; but in many industries and for many types of projects, the uncertainties in a project are just too high. Unless you have already driven your organization to a high level of conservatism in schedules (read “long schedules”) and have pushed risk-taking out of your process (read “little innovation in your products”), this type of directive will probably fail since few projects can account for the significant surprises that will impact scope, schedule or cost. In short, if you want fast projects and wish to maintain an innovative environment, this idea of no prioritization is a bad one.
Prioritization of projects is almost always necessary for the well-run product development organization wishing to emphasize fast throughput time and at the same time encourage high levels of innovation. This prioritization is essential to allow for well-reasoned decision making, agreed upon at the highest levels when leaders are faced with surprises.
Tenet #4: Reduce the portfolio
In most cases, the best way to improve the speed of product development is to reduce the number of projects in the active portfolio or project pipeline. Your choices of the number and type projects in the pipeline at any one time have significant consequences when it comes to the speed of your development systems. The balance chosen between “trying doing too much” and “doing too little” is an essential decision-point for the firm.
Throughput has been studied theoretically and experimentally in a diverse set of fields, from communication to traffic flow. Product development can be thought of as a chain of processes through which specific solution ideas, prototypes and documents, encompassing “products under development (PUDs)”, flow until they are deemed ready for production. Each PUD takes some capacity for its development, including engineering time, modeling and prototyping tool time, testing time and equipment, etc. It is self-evident that trying to develop too many products at the same time will slow everything down, but how can we find the optimum for a given capacity of development resources?
During this time of economic uncertainty and the likely increase of tax and expense burden on businesses mandated by changes in law, executives are seeking even greater productivity from the workforce in order to maintain bottom-line profitability or even survival. There is a generations-long history of companies achieving progressively greater productivity. Nevertheless, business leaders are seeking new ways to continue this trend.
Many writers have described a wide variety of ways to squeeze the nth degree of output from individuals of all job descriptions. A range of consultants will happily charge tidy sums for 1-day or 2-day workshops on the subject. There is another way, one that costs very little, if anything, and enjoys a high payback. The prerequisite is that an executive needs confident and effective managers and leaders to realize this productivity increase.