Tenet #10: Remove the distractions
It should come as no surprise that, without active management, the resources needed for NPD will have a strong pull away from projects and toward seemingly urgent and very important tasks. Some of these tasks will be as critically important as advertised, while others will have the illusion of importance due to their urgency. Keeping your resources focused on generating new products is not always easy, and this undertaking is made much harder for the smaller firms where everyone must wear many hats. Potential distractions abound, and I would like to break down these distractions into three buckets of possible recourse:
- Reduce: Distractions that should be anticipated and diminished, and ideally barred from utilizing your NPD resources.
- Plan: Distractions that can be handled proactively by appropriate planning or changes in roles and responsibilities.
- React: Distractions that unfortunately must be handled reactively by using your NPD resources.
Clearly those tasks that fall under Plan or React are not seen as adding zero value. These tasks should be done, but some of them will not add value to a given project and so should be managed for as little impact on the project as possible.
From my experience, the following are the major issues that draw heavily on some, if not all resources used in a NPD processes. I have also made an attempt to put each of these into one of the three buckets listed above.
Tenet #9: Communicate the purpose and status
It is my opinion that, for any kind of robust project management, there is little chance of over-communicating to your team and your sponsors. Far more likely, you and your team are under-communicating, and it’s hurting your sponsorship and reducing the sense of urgency and therefore the speed of your projects. However, not all communication methods are equivalent. Communication must be a light burden on the team, and has the right material targeted for those consuming the information. It must be tailored for the audience intended and more often than not it should be simple and concise, requiring little time for others to pull the essential elements out of the communication vehicle. Some of your communications should be visible at all times as admonished by lean practices, but not all.
Reasons for communicating
There are three major reasons for frequent communications:
- To generate buy-in
- To generate synchronization
- To generate feedback
Tenet #8: Monitor buffers and queues
Monitoring buffers and queues of active products under development in your system is extremely important for speed. I will first show how taking advantage of project buffers can assure an aggressive project and on-time delivery, and then show how to monitor and react to growing queues at the front of process centers in your product development factory.
Building an accurate project plan must take into account the complex psychologies of your team members; in particular, their necessity to overstate the time needed to complete a task can reduce schedule predictability and slow the project. This tendency is due in part to the way leaders have responded in the past to late tasks, and how team members have suffered if they underestimated the task length. Punitive actions for tardiness communicate to the teams (perhaps without leaders realizing it) that “schedule accuracy is more important than project speed”. To create a faster organization, leaders need to find a way to give the opposite message: “speed is more important that schedule accuracy”, and then reward the team accordingly.