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Challenges of introducing a new product development process

  • 1.  Challenges of introducing a new product development process

    Posted 06-01-2019 16:07
    Edited by Brian Martin 06-04-2019 17:56
    The PDMA Body of Knowledge states that A New Products Process "Provides an approach, which is commonly understood and accepted by the whole organization for successfully developing new products or making improvements to existing products."

    But what if that does not exist within an organisation? What are the challenges of introducing a new product development process into a company that has no history of it? I have faced this situation in the past and some of the challenges include:
    - Scepticism that it's needed and the feeling that it's introducing "red tape"
    - Lack of resources dedicated to product development
    - Difficulty to plan as people get diverted onto customer issues or sales opportunities
    - Senior management bypassing the "agreed" process
    - Passive resistance

    Approaches to address these challenges include not over-engineering the process, securing senior management buy-in up front, fighting for the allocation of ring-fenced resources, and the tenacity to follow through with the process to deliver "wins" that build confidence.

    What challenges have you faced introducing NPD processes and how did you address them?

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    Brian Martin
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  • 2.  RE: Challenges of introducing a new product development process

    Posted 06-06-2019 08:42
    Brian,

    After 30 years I've seen all of these but the one I love the most is Passive Resistance.  I recall a position I held at an HR Tech company awhile back where I was part of a product management team reboot.  They had had a team but it was composed of subject matter experts and was their first attempt.  As we all know, it's a common step - "Let's take all the smart people and put them in product management..." regardless of their ability to imagine a universe different from the one they're in today.

    That team was disbanded and a new batch of product folks was brought in that were all seasoned product professionals but had NO domain experience - a great experiment!

    During my 30-in-30 period (the time where I meet with the top 30, most influential people connected to my portfolio in the first 30 days) I had occasion to sit with one of the leaders of our call center operations team.  They sat patiently while I gushed what I can only assume they saw as irrational new-guy dribble.  When my elevator pitch was over about how I, and the new product team, will help them transform the portfolio and make everyone's lives better, I asked if they had any questions.  I long pause was followed by a simple "No."  I dug deeper.  Had I explained everything so completely that they were content?  They responded that while what I had to say certainly seemed interesting, I was part of the latest of a long line of new leadership teams and all they had to do was wait 2-3 years and I too would be gone.

    Sadly, in this case, they were right.  The entire leadership team from CEO down was flushed 2 years and 9 months later.  Fortunately, I saw the writing on the wall and had left 6 months earlier but I attribute the serial failure of my alma mater to two things.  First, they were privately held and under extreme financial duress.  The PE folks were applying undue pressure at the top to a leader that didn't seem to be able to manage that pressure on the scope and scale our organization required.  Second, our executive team had a hard time focusing strategically - they were in constant fire-fighting mode.  Sure, we solved a lot of strategic-like problems.  Sometimes though, you need to solve 6 problems in order to install a permanent, strategic solution.  More often than not only 4 or 5 of the 6 are fires so only 4 or 5 get solved leaving the others to smolder until they too become fires - a vicious game of cat and mouse.

    My advice is simple, take the time to map out your entire product/portfolio in terms of design, operations, sales, etc.  Don't skip any part of the organization that supports it.  Then, distill that down to a simple one-page dashboard that shows the status of each component so when you're talking about potential changes to any one area, you can constantly refer to the "big picture" succinctly.  No one wants to or can boil the ocean, but sailing out into the water without understanding what's happening everywhere is often dangerous.

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    Ernie Harris
    Founder
    Interesting Blazer
    St Petersburg FL
    727-306-1880
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  • 3.  RE: Challenges of introducing a new product development process

    Posted 06-06-2019 16:59
    Take the time to map out your entire product/portfolio in terms of design, operations, sales, etc.  Don't skip any part of the organization that supports it.

    This really resonates with me, Ernie. I have scars, from making assumptions about how things currently work and then gleefully proposing how my new campaign/product/enhancement/process was going to do wonders. The people living with the status quo need you to demonstrate you have developed an understanding of where the pain points are. You can't just assume everyone will be as overjoyed about changes as you are, no matter how commercially sound. And they will find ways to thwart you if you don't!

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    Brian Martin
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