Tenet #10: Institutionalize learning.
My previous blog dealt with the need for rigorous monitoring. This monitoring is of two types:
- Monitoring by the PPM team of the execution of projects, and of the markets they will serve, taking corrective actions in the face of new data to make sure the company’s goals are met.
- Monitoring by the leaders sponsoring the PPM team of the effectiveness of that team and the processes they use, and taking corrective actions to assure team and process effectiveness.
Without careful and rigorous monitoring, and with the ever changing climate of business need, it is quite easy for projects to get off track and for PPM teams to become ineffectual.
Tenet #9: Monitor rigorously.
In my last blog I encouraged you to recognize that the PPM team with the associated processes has in its hands the largest lever to improve product development flow, that of the number and type of projects in the pipeline at any given time. Most firms tend to push the utilization levels up above 100%, believing that this is the best path to superior economic efficiencies. But in reality, our greater understanding of traffic flow and similar phenomenon has shown us that this will cause a system to slow down and eventually come to a complete stand-still. The PPM team must pay careful attention to these utilization levels and reduce them (to around 80%) if maximum flow of new products is expected. Since utilization and queue levels are directly related and since queues are often more easily measured, many firms choose instead to measure queue levels at critical points in the product development, pulling pre-arranged corrective action triggers as queue levels exceed an acceptable level.
In this blog I would like to discuss the need for rigorous monitoring of the PPM process and its results. This admonition has two parts:
- Monitor portfolio progress: The PPM team must be chartered to dig deep into project execution details, to revisit market assumptions regularly and in general never assume that what is started will hum along as expected without occasional nudging. This nudging may include reprioritization of certain projects, or more drastic action.
- Monitor the PPM team and process: The leader or leaders sponsoring the PPM team must regularly evaluate the charter, goals processes, and the performance of the PPM team to assure that the team is effective and accomplishing the current business goals.
Tenet #8: Improve flow.
In my last blog, I spoke of the need create a tiered set of portfolios and associated roadmaps, to pay careful attention to supporting frameworks such as technology, process and competency roadmaps. The PPM team must insist on, and have personal involvement in the creation of these ancillary portfolios and roadmaps. They are feeders into your PPM process, and directly into your project roadmaps.
In this blog I would like to discuss the need to act to continuously improve the flow of projects through the pipeline. The PPM team has the capability through its decisions to improve or completely shut down the flow of projects through the new product development process. At first, many may not see the direct contribution of the PPM process to project flow; however, the PPM team has perhaps the largest lever available to radically change the flow, that of choosing the number and type of projects in the pipeline at any one time. Thus, the balance chosen between “trying doing too much” and “doing too little” is an essential decision-point for the firm.
Tenet #7: Design tiered portfolios
In last week’s blog, I wrote about the value of using visual methods to cut, examine and present the data in many different ways. Visual methods have the advantage that you can quickly see large, complex data sets on a single page and perhaps best of all, can compare projects easily. This is essential as you are striving for a balance portfolio.
But a balanced project portfolio is fed by and in turn feeds other portfolios. While the exact list may vary with industry, included are typically:
- Technology Portfolio – Before you can successfully create that breakthrough non-invasive glucose monitoring unit, you need first to develop the technologies for miniature Raman spectroscopy, low noise signal detection, wireless communication and data management. You need to decide which technologies will be developed and which will simply be bought from others. The best new product development organizations are able to recognize key technologies, especially those that present high risk and pull them off of the critical path of a particular project. Running parallel then to the project roadmaps should be another roadmap for the needed technologies beyond the current product roadmap. This requires vision, insight and highly skilled decision-makers. You need to create a Technology Project Portfolio along with processes to balance, authorize and manage these projects, and then have these technologies intersect your product roadmap.
- Process Portfolio – In order to design and fabricate a new line of high speed semiconductor devices based on 10 nanometer gates, you need processes for ultra-fine line lithography, deposition, etching, and many other processes. Or before you begin that new business in high volume, low mix manufacturing (where all previous products required low volume, high mix) you have much work to do in altering manufacturing processes and/or identifying manufacturing partners. These efforts require projects and roadmaps, and should use portfolio management to balance, authorize and manage the projects.
- Competency Portfolio – Before you are able to enter a new market like RF test equipment or Pulsed Radar equipment, you need to decide which competencies will be core to the business and therefore owned, and which will be needed on a temporary basis and are candidates for open innovation. Developing the competencies for new areas of business require a plan. They require an inventory of current skills, and a roadmap to get where you need to go. They require development of more than just the product development department competencies, but may also require development of the sales force, application engineering, marketing, manufacturing and other functional areas. Your competency portfolio may at any time require minor or very significant work.
Tenet #6: Use visual analysis.
In last week’s blog, I wrote about the crucial need to balance your project portfolio along many dimensions, in careful alignment with top leadership in your firm. While this seems like common sense, many firms do not take the time to explicitly call out specific areas to balance, and gain clear guidance from top management to help in PPM decision-making.
In this blog, I would like to turn our attention to what seems to be a more tactical subject – that of using visual tools to both analyze for decision-making, and for use in communication to others. While this tenet may seem like a tactical detail, I believe it is essential enough to rise to one of my ten tenets of PPM. While I have seen attempts (and failures) at PPM in other ways, I believe strongly that the only practical way to pull out the key information necessary for these tough decisions is through visual analysis using pictures and graphs. From my experience, the primary use of tables of numbers will cause the team stray from the main strategic questions and to degenerate into a group discussing and questioning the specific numbers. Cutting the data in key ways will reveal critical data that speak to the firms most vital issues.
Tenet #10: Be visible. Be involved.
“It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.” — Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela’s words are rephrased but echoed by many leaders, writers, thinkers and philosophers from Lao Tzu to George Patton. In times of ease, the leader leads from the rear, perhaps taking a little risk by pushing others forward, but enabling ownership, growth and development. In times of great danger, a leader leads from the front, clearing the path and showing, not just telling the way. Periods of great change are seen as periods of danger in a business organization. In your change management project, you must be out in front, fully visible and highly involved. It is not enough to stand and the rear and point the direction. Remember that you are charting a course into scary and uncertain territory for your organization. Many will fear for their jobs, or at least fear the way their tasks will need to be performed after the change. Having a leader that is as fully committed to the success or failure of the project as the change management team, one who has the same agenda and stands to lose or gain in the same way is essential to obtaining the necessary dedication from the team.
Tenet #9: Recognize that some will not make the change.
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
Not everyone can live the words of the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, allowing change to flow into their lives without resistance. As hard as Lao Tzu’s advice sounds to follow, your people must eventually accept the changes imposed upon them. Those who are not able to do so will become a drag on your forward movement as an organization. Your role in the process includes bringing as many people as possible forward into the new vision. But no matter how you have recognized and appreciated the past, how you have painted a compelling vision, how you counsel, who you enlist to carry the message to the masses, how consistent you are with that message, and how often you recognize progress; there will still be some people who will not come along for the ride.
Tenet #8: Expect, identify and validate the grief process.
Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross is perhaps best known for the five stages of grief model. While originally formulated to help in counseling during the grief process for death and dying, this model is transferable to expected stages for any kind of emotional upset or personal change. Examples of these kinds of traumatic change are layoffs, forced relocation, personal injury, sudden financial hardship and relationship break-up. The grief cycle can also be seen in lesser events such as reorganization or new reporting structures, changes in tools and processes, and new expectations due to offshoring or outsourcing.
Tenet #7: Plan, recognize and celebrate short term wins.
Tenet #5 encouraged you to break your change project down into phases, but you should go further. You should assure that within the phases you have milestones to recognize, ways to encourage and reasons to celebrate. Your team needs to see progress, to know that their efforts above and beyond the normal day’s work are paying off, and the more frequently you are able to demonstrate and recognize this progress, the more effective you will be in encouraging your team to continue in the fight for change.
Perhaps an example will help. When I began working for a well-known company with a long history in innovation, there had been a period of very few new product releases and an overemphasis on specials for customers. While this company had been very successful in its own right over the years, it was clear that to reach its new growth goals, it needed to further improve by a focus on portfolio management and improving product development execution. There was much that we could do, but we choose to break the change program into phases that went something like this (with a few modifications to present a clearer picture):
Tenet #6: Empower decision making consistent with the vision.
As Mother Teresa said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” All too often leaders set themselves up to be the only decision maker for their change management projects. For well-intentioned reasons, leaders take on the mantle of ultimate judge for ideas and tactical implementation details of all kinds in a project. In fact, our new world of Sarbanes-Oxley accountability rules has made this situation worse, driving many leaders to pull back on delegation. The investment community and the law require a level of scrutiny and direct decision-making for accounting from our key leaders that have caused some to behave in a similar fashion nearly all decisions. The result in some firms has been that top management is now the bottleneck on many decisions.