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INNOVATION & GROWTH

No Excuses Product Development


Imagine the competitive advantage your company would have if important new products always finished on-time and delivered the sales and profits promised. That kind of performance is more realistic than you realize.
BY MICHAEL A. DALTON

As a leader today, youre always looking for ways to increase growth. But are the new product programs you are counting on for that growth delivering everything they could? Or are they leaving you with excuses instead of results? Across a range of industries, weve identified 7 critical obstacles that keep companies from achieving the level of new product success they strive for. Asking the following questions of your organization can help you identify where to take action to create a No Excuses new product growth capability with the resources you already have.

7 Critical Obstacles to New Product Success


1. Lack of focus on key programs makes everything take longer & cost more 2. Being busy is valued as highly as results are 3. Limited resources are wasted on projects that just get canceled anyway 4. Not enough resources focused on programs that are going to move the needle 5. No early warning provided before programs start to go off track 6. Disagreements over priorities put multiple timelines at risk 7. Repeated crises stretch talent too far Learn more about fast tracking your innovation www.GuidedInnovation.com/fasttrack

1. Is a lack of focus on key programs making everything take longer & cost more? Its only common sense that the more projects underway the longer everything will take to reach the market. But we see companies ignore that fact over and over again. They lose focus by adding projects without finishing or pruning otherseventually reaching a point where flow slows down and its hard to see any real progress. That slowdown also invites feature creepadding requirements and features. After all, the markets moving even if your project isnt! Of course, this only adds to the problem. One company that we worked with initially had 45 active projects running with a development staff of only 12. Their time-to-market had ballooned to 36 months and even small projects seemed to go on forever. The first step was to reestablish flow. We did that by working with the leadership to choose key strategic projects and placing the others into a backlog. Initially, some managers were anxious about working on less-but not for long
Copyright 2012, Guided Innovation Group, LLC www.GuidedInnovation.com 262-672-2700

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With key programs moving once again, they soon experienced the value of focus. Within a year, they cut time-to-market by half and were eventually finishing projects in as little as ten months. As a result, they brought more successful new products to market in the next year than they had in the last three. Costs also dropped by over $1 million since they were no longer paying for regulatory certifications on products that had little chance of ever getting to market.

2. Is being busy valued as much or more than results? Most mangers act as if multitasking is an invaluable skill when the opposite is true. Effectiveness plummets as you try to keep more plates spinning. In new product projects, the effort goes to keeping tasks updated, attending to project owners, and looking busy instead of getting projects across the finish line. Take this two-minute test to prove it for yourself: Time how long it takes you to write out these two lines in sequence:
Task 1: Task 2: R APID NEW PROD UCT INNO VATION S ABCD EFGHI JKLMNOPQR STUVWXYZ

Task 1:___________________________________________________________________

Task 2:___________________________________________________________________

It probably took you anywhere from 12-17 seconds to complete each task for a total of 25-35 seconds. Now lets add multi-tasking. Start by writing one letter for Task 1 on the line below, then one letter for Task 2, then back to Task 1 and so on. The sequence should look like R,A,A,B,P,C,I,D,D,E,N,F..

Task 1:___________________________________________________________________

Task 2:___________________________________________________________________

How long did it take this time? Notice how uncomfortable it felt switching back and forth. The interruptions make it impossible to get into a rhythm or flow. Everything took longer with multitasking. Multi-tasking doubled the time it took you to finish the pair of tasks. Worse than that, without multitasking, you delivered the first task in 15 seconds. With multitasking, you didnt finish anything until after 60 seconds. Thats not to suggest that people can only be assigned to one project. But even when resources have to be shared across projects, it is critical that they work on only one task at a time and work it to completion with as little interruption as possible.
Guided Innovation Group, LLC www.GuidedInnovation.com 262-672-2700

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3. Are your limited resources wasted on projects that end up canceled anyway? Why is it so hard to find a few days for good up-front assessment & planning when it can save so much unnecessary work downstream? Some wonder, Why bother at all. After all, no plan is credible when everyone is assigned to half a dozen projects and busy task juggling. And in some companies, new product plans are nothing more than milestone lists intended to satisfy a stage-gate template. Instead, good planning requires critical thought about the challenges youll have to overcome and the tasks required to get around those o bstacles and achieve your objectives. Up front assessment and planning pays big benefits by killing questionable projects before they can waste your resources. We worked with a company to help them plan an extension of their industrial line into the commercial market where it offered reduced operating costs. During planning they realized that they had not done the payback calculation to understand the pricing required to get customers to switch. After learning that the selling price needed to be below the expected manufacturing cost, they killed the project, saved hundreds of thousands of dollars, and used those resources on a better opportunity.

4. Are too many of your resources going to projects that wont move the needle? Only the best opportunities deserve your constrained attention and resources because most of your results will come from only a handful of them. But how do you know which ones those will be? Too often new product projects rise to the top of the backlog because someone on the leadership team suggested it or because a customer asked for it. And how many times have you seen those products land with a thud instead of applause? As commercial and technical teams identify the unmet needs you could potentially solve, they need a Customer Value Lenstools that help them go deeply enough with end users and potential buyers to be able to answer three big questions: 1. What superior value proposition would we bring to solving the buyer or end users unmet need? 2. Given the value created, what selling price would provide the buyer with an acceptable payback on their purchase or investment? 3. What return would the new product generate for your company? A project that answers all of these questions, and still has a compelling proposition consistent with company strategy, is ready to take the next step. We helped implement this approach with an energy products company that had identified an unmet need for a packaged solution to help drive down gas costs. Initially, they looked at this opportunity as a way to sell more of their existing commodity product. But using the Customer-Value-Lens approach showed them that this was a market that wasnt focused on the lowest price for individual components but was instead interested in time to payback. Putting together customized solutions with a guaranteed payback period allowed them to rapidly develop a new business with significantly higher margins than they were getting for components alone.

Guided Innovation Group, LLC www.GuidedInnovation.com 262-672-2700

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5. Do projects get derailed without advanced warning ? Nothing is more frustrating than learning that an important new product isnt going to launch on timeexcept for finding out after its too late to do anything about it. Youve seen the pattern before. In the first third of the project, everything is on time. In the second third, some concerns are starting to bubble up. Then everyone realizes youre going to run out of time. But its too late to do anything other than renegotiate the deadline, cut the project scope, and fix the stuff you missed later. Traditional milestone based project management practices actually make the problem worse. No one wants to admit it, but tasks are usually estimated at twice the actual touch-time to protect the project from inevitable problems and interruptions. In reality, this approach obscures the project status and encourages unproductive behavior. Youve seen it beforegive students more time than they need to write a research paper, and they wait until the last possible minute to start. Student Syndrome isnt limited to students. So with the actual status hidden and the task-level protection wasted on procrastination, any real problems are going to cause your project to finish late. Instead management needs a system that protects project due dates while providing real time information on the progress and health of each program. A system built for rapid execution where, like a relay race, key tasks start as early as possible, resources work efficiently without any interruption or multitasking, and the next runner is always ready and waiti ng for the handoff. Thats how projects get done on time.

6. Are disagreements over priorities putting multiple timelines at risk? While counterintuitive, strategic priorities can confuse execution and cascade delays across programs that share resources. Once a project has started the relay race, strategic priorities become secondary and the project that is most at risk of finishing late must get priority access to resources especially if the goal is an on time finish. Heres an example to show you why: Project Greenlight is your companys highest strategic priority. At the six-month point, Greenlight is 75% complete and looking like it will finish months ahead of the promised launch date. At the same time, Project Yellowlight, your second highest priority, is looking like it will just barely finish on-time one month from now. Thats when you hit a bumpboth projects need the same shared testing resource to complete their next three weeks of work. Following strategic priorities, Greenlight gets the resource first. Consequently, Yellowlight finishes three weeks late and misses the promised due date for an important new customer. So whats the alternative? If the risk of finishing late is followed instead, Yellowlight gets priority and finishes just in time without jeopardizing Greenlights on-time finish.

Guided Innovation Group, LLC www.GuidedInnovation.com 262-672-2700

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7. Are critically late projects stretching talent to the breaking point? You never want to miss an important customer or partner commitmentso how often do the last few months of your projects become either fire drills or death marches? The first time it happens, people might actually feel energized. Unfortunately, that buzz wears off quickly when they start to see more and more projects run this way. On top of that, the two most common ways to get back on track are renegotiating the deadline and eliminating functions and features that were previously must-haves. Do this often enough and team members become cynical about managements commitment to deliver what was promised when it was promised.

Whats Next? Imagine what it would be like to lead a business that regularly launches high impact new products before your competitors can. Can you picture that organizationone where instead of being stressed and burnt-out, people are energized, effective and excited about the future? Thats the kind of competitive advantage every leader needs. But if you answered yes to very many of the questions above, that picture probably doesnt match the reality you face today. Recognizing that is the starting point. But lasting change requires a dedicated, focused effort with you and your top leadership team steering a new course and supporting new behaviors. You can learn more about what is involved in making new product innovation a true competitive advantage by exploring some of the resources available on the next page or by signing up for a complimentary FastTrack Strategy Session. You and your leadership team will explore the challenges you face, get clear on the kind of results youd like to see instead, and learn more about strategies for overcoming your obstacles. Its designed to help you determine whether this kind of change effort is a fit for you or not. And even if it isnt, I assure you that your team will leave the session clear about your i ssues and excited about whats possible for the future. Heres to your growth. Want to Learn More About Fast Tracking Your New Product Growth Results? Mike Dalton
Managing Director Guided Innovation Group, LLC Call or Click Here

Guided Innovation helps companies get great new products to market in half the time without added cost Because everyone should work in a growth company
Guided Innovation Group, LLC www.GuidedInnovation.com 262-672-2700

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About the author:


Mike Dalton is the founder of Guided Innovation Group, where his focus is helping manufacturers make new products and speed-to-market a competitive advantage by getting great new products to market in half the time. Mike developed and sharpened his continuous improvement approach to innovation over 24 years while growing new and existing businesses as a general management and business development executive for the industrial polymer division of the multi-billion dollar S.C. Johnson & Son family of companies. Mike is the author of Simplifying Innovation: Doubling speed to market with your existing resources and other whitepapers and journal articles. He holds an MBA in marketing & finance from the University of Chicago and a chemical engineering degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology.

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Successful new-product innovation is one of the keys to profitable growth. Yet few business leaders are satisfied with their return on innovation spending or the resulting growth. While they need greater results, the areas responsible for creating that growth (marketing, R&D and engineering to name a few) are already stretched... sometimes to the breaking point. Simplifying Innovation provides a practical solution for these business leaders and for the executives and managers they are counting on to deliver that growth. In a compelling leadership story format, it shares the Guided Innovation System for continuously improving newproduct growth results with your existing resources. Adapted from manufacturing based continuous improvement methods, this constraints-based approach helps the reader find and focus on high leverage changesthe ones that deliver the biggest returns for their efforts.

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Guided Innovation Group, LLC www.GuidedInnovation.com 262-672-2700