Launch Higher Value Products Faster
Launching higher value products faster requires a great dynamic process and growth-minded teams with people who learn, think, and continually develop knowledge. Too often, organizations adopt from others without critical thinking. A prime example is Stage-Gate™ or Phase-Gate. While it’s a structured framework, in the absence of key knowledge or purposeful thought on new product design and launch, it can be detrimental to a company’s growth.
In fact, organizations have used Stage-Gate for years to launch products taking twice the time they needed because of not questioning the process they were working within. When they got really serious though, many times from external competitive pressures, they figured out ways to cut the cycle-time in half or even better.
Can you begin to fathom the opportunity losses that have compounded over the inefficient years? People tend to operate in the status quo instead of working on alleviating their system’s constraint at any given time. Often, people in the function are blamed. However, it is executive leadership who squarely owns this problem. Executives are responsible for running a growth leadership organization, which requires continual learning and development. Instead, they are running an operationally managed organization. Each modus operandi presents a stark contrast in culture from the other.
Has the business community lost its marbles? In 2007, when Tim Ferriss published the 4-Hour Workweek, it was on the New York Times Best Sellers List for four years. The message from this book is the antithesis of what we ought to be striving for. It encourages people to start new businesses during working hours while the company pays you. How ethical is this? Yet, Tim made fortunes on the speaking tour as scores of leaders invited him to spew his unethical message, laced with tips on his new “lifestyle design.”
What does this have to do with launching higher value products faster? Tim Ferriss’ message is “direct others to do while doing the minimum.” Who’s doing critical thinking for improvement and growth of the business here? Launching higher value products faster takes real brain power and hard work by engaged knowledge teams.
In 2011 when Eric Ries published The Lean Startup, corporate America flocked to this next “shiny object.” The reality is that startups as a group are the worst investment asset class. Yes, there are the few great successes that everyone talks about, but the dark underbelly of losses runs deep. Why would a going concern want to adopt startup practices when they have tried and true innovation practices at their disposal?
One such susceptible company was General Electric. It invested millions of dollars in launching Lean Startup programs throughout, only to find that it was just another fad. The reality is that the Lean Startup Build, Measure, Learn principle is a diluted version of the Plan, Do, Study, Act (PDSA) model created by Walter Shewhart in 1939 and popularized by Dr. Edwards Deming. Even the PDSA model is an incomplete and mis-sequenced rendition of a closed-loop feedback control system. Why would Fortune 500 companies spend millions of dollars on a simple but flawed method that’s been available for free for 70 years?
Who should we learn from to understand how to launch higher value products faster?
One source I would recommend would be Curtis Carlson’s work outlined in his book with William Wilmot, Innovation: The Five Disciplines for Creating What Customers Want. Here, the authors outline a simple sequence: need, approach, benefit per cost, and competition (NABC). They cite many examples from their experience at Stanford Research Institute International (SRI) to support their simple model for framing the front-end of new project selection and value proposition design.
NEED: “What is the market or customer need?” As we know, there are many methods that may be leveraged to increase understanding of customer value, such as jobs-to-be-done, ethnography, contextual interviewing, data mining, house of quality, and many more.
APPROACH: “What is your approach to addressing this need?” There are many methods one can invoke to elicit more interesting approach concepts. For example, invoking aspects of the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ) in the early design phase can produce approaches otherwise unimaginable.
BENEFITS: “What are the benefits per costs of your approach?” Carlson introduces an interesting approach through the Value Factor Analysis (VFA) method that Len Polizzotto created at SRI.
The writers offer extensive detail on how to use Polizzotto’s VFA cycle in the appendix to their book. The model can be leveraged for product or process design.
COMPETITION: “How do those benefits per costs compare with the competition?” Competition can be added to the VFA model for comparison purposes.
The Five Disciplines for Creating What Customers Want outlines the five disciplines to launch higher value products faster. They are:
- Important Needs
- Value Creation
- Innovation Champions
- Innovation Teams
- Organizational Alignment
Carlson makes a key point that it is the creation of a robust System for developing new products that makes the difference between high sustainable compounding growth from new products versus duds.
For more information on not only creating such a system but automating it, visit our website.
What would Dr. W. Edwards Deming advise?
Let’s take an excerpt from Dr. Deming’s book, The New Economics for Industry, Government, Education on New Product Development.
Planning for a new engine
Engineers were at work on plans for a new engine. They had worked on most of the pieces of the development, but had not put the pieces in sequence. For example, they were training 100 skilled workers for machining, inspection, assembly. A flow diagram put the pieces in sequence, and showed relationships between them. Figure 14 shows the flow diagram that we arrived at just as I drew it on plastic on the overhead projector. Results of the last stage may indicate reconsideration of the stage of actual drawings. With the flow diagram in view, everyone may understand the relationships between stages.