NPD Tales

Ideas Thoughts and Comments on Product Development

Selectively Getting Real

I’ve spent some time recently working much more closely with the 37 Signals product BaseCamp (more about that another day).

Whilst looking over the company website I stumbled upon their ‘book’ Getting Real.  It’s an easy read that really gives you a comprehensive picture of the culture at 37 Signals.  It’s also full of some fantastic ideas many of which present a fresh viewpoint on the process of product development.  I would recommend people to read it.

The authors admit that the book’s emphasis is on building a web application but do suggest that ‘a lot of these ideas are applicable to non-software activities too.’

I’d add that I feel the book’s emphasis is on building mass market web applications, some of their ideas in the chapter on Feature Selection (’Start With No’, ‘Forget Feature Requests’) might not be perfect advice in a more specialist or niche field.

Is that the point of this type of book – to provoke debate and ask questions on how you do things whilst presenting a smorgasbord of ideas from which you can create your own way of working?  If that’s the case then there is always the risk that the reader will cherry pick the ideas that reflect their current state and achieve no improvement in the way they develop products…

Increasing NPD Productivity – Introduction (1 of 5)

The overall process of new product development and innovation encompasses an wide variety of elements.  This blog regularly explores a number of ideas and tools which hopefully provide inspiration in the quest to improve the efficiency and productivity of many of these elements of NPD.

This short series of 5 posts will explore the more fundamental issue of how the different pieces of the picture are assembled and how they relate to each other.  The two main conclusions will be how successful NPD depends upon a combination of three main topics: -

- People

- Project

- Portfolio

and the exchange of real time information between these three is as important as improving performance in any specific area.

Continuous Improvement

For tens of years, manufacturing professionals have sought out process improvement. Total Quality Management, Six Sigma, Just In Time, 5S, Lean Manufacturing have all brought benefit to companies who can make a cheaper more reliable product.

Product development professionals mainly focus on product improvement.  The goals of cheaper and more reliable are still there, but the predominant factor is more features or higher performance.

Both groups are engaged in a continuous improvement exercise.

But improvement of the product development process is often ignored.  The benefits of being able to develop better, cheaper and more reliable products for less cost and in a shorter time is a rich seam waiting to be mined.

Design for Six Sigma

Several years ago I was working for an American company who had embraced the ideas and thinking behind Six Sigma.  Unfortunately the introduction of the culture and mindset associated with what were a powerful set of tools was not implemented in an ideal manner and the value of the exercise was somewhat lost along the way.

For me, Six Sigma is a label that was attached to a toolbox.  Some of the tools were new to me, some of them I was already familiar with.  But in the same way that you use a real toolbox, the real value is in selecting the right tool to do the particular job.