Project management tools promise better collaboration or task management but new product development projects requires three unique requirements that needs to be fulfilled by other means.
Strategy establishes what we want to achieve, what we should do and project management executes these wishes.
Without execution, strategy is meaningless and without strategy, execution is directionless.
Project managers play a big role in new product development projects as requirements keep changing frequently, and it requires skill to lead the team through changes much like a kayaker navigating the rapids. New product development is chaotic and in the whirl wind of activities it is easy to be busy but not move the needle in meeting strategic needs. These challenges makes product development unique from a project management perspective. Three requirements stand out as very important and usually it falls upon the project manager or leader to account for these.
#1 All tasks are not equal in NPD
Tasks in a new product development can be categorized as important and urgent, you will only see an important task that is also urgent, when there are a problem in execution. In the chaotic world of NPD there are frequent fires to put out, unexpected problems to address, that takes time and effort to fix. This takes us away from working on things that really matter i.e. the important things.
Steven covey makes the case that if we were to focus on the important tasks we are likely to have fewer urgent tasks.
Urgent tasks are distractions from executing your strategy or most important needs. They are the effect of procrastinating or neglect of strategic needs. If your team is constantly putting out fires you should step back and introspect. It is likely that something important slipped through the cracks in the past. Focusing on the strategic needs is essential for project success.
#2 The DNA of a good team
What makes a good team? The most basic ingredient is to have the right players. NPD is no kindergarten – do not hire B players that you think will learn the right attitude and personality. Knowledge can be learned but attitude and personality is hard to change. Hire for attitude and personality and do not compromise on these.
Hire people for attitude and personality, not skills or qualifications
You could take a great team and make them mediocre by neglecting team culture. Culture is like the water in a fish bowl. It is hardly noticed but critical to health of the fish. A little fowling cause’s fish to die and clean oxygenated water helps them thrive. Make a good team great by sowing the seeds of a healthy culture. Good culture begins with ability of teams to face the brutal facts, and have honest discussions without fear of judgement. This requires trust and ability to ask difficult questions. With trust comes the ability for team members to commit to project goals. When the team is committed to the project charter, team members become accountable and produce results. Good team culture begins with open communication and empowering people to make decisions and take actions with responsibility. Accountability comes with the ability to introspect and open debate over actions and outcomes. This is much easier said than done but teams have to experiment, learn and create a formula that works best for them. It then becomes their unique culture that gives them the medium to flourish in.
#3 Change Is the Norm
The only thing that is constant in new product development is Change. Successful teams embrace change and implement mechanisms to anticipate and react to change quickly. Changes in strategic direction/needs could affect execution and vice versa outcomes and learning from execution could result in adjustments to higher level plans.
The only constant in new product development is change
Good teams develop mechanisms to seamlessly be transparent to top down or bottom up changes. Sometimes this is just having a great leader who does this linking intuitively.
In summary the three requirements of new product development projects are;
- All tasks are not the same – focus on the important tasks
- Make engagement, commitment and accountability a habit
- Align activities to strategic needs for flexible and lean execution
These requirements are challenging and hence we have the best people in project management. But what if project management tools could help? We could then utilize our best people less internally focused and more on customer or business development. If interested you can read more about THINK-PLAN-DO please check the “Entroids Way” digital eBook below: