June 15, 2008

Pacing it right

Speed is increasingly of the essence in new product development. The idea is to get to market fast. But how do you "do it right" and "do it fast"? Well, just because you might do something slowly doesn't mean you'll do it right, and it's also true that speedy execution does not preclude high quality of execution. No two ways about it, though, it does make the task more challenging.

The single most effective way to speed up the process is not to make mistakes. Instead of cutting corners, build in quality at every step, so that you "do it right the first time" and don't have to waste time doing it over again.

Product managers should invest a lot of time in defining the new product at the outset, so that everyone doesn't squander time on unfocused and unnecessary activities.

Let's not run a relay race. Ever since Henry Ford made the assembly line practical, businesses have been obsessed with sequential processing: do this, finish it, then do this, finish it, then go on to this and so on. To whatever degree possible, you should try to abandon sequential processing for parallel processing. Divide the task at hand to several parallel steps. And of-course make sure you maintain constant intercommunication.

Through clear definition of corporate goals and strategic plan, you should prioritize the proposed new activities. Which ones are important to work on now? Which can be back-burnered? Which can be scrapped? If need be, make hard choices, and then, get set to work on them.

Speed is important in product development, but carelessness is unforgivable. It is not unforgivable just for some highflauntin moral reason, but because customers will not forgive products that are flawed in design or in quality. Most people spend much of their lives trying not to look like fools. Your customers are no different. They won't take a chance on a new product that has a flawed reputation.