Preston Smith's Corner

Flexible Product Development: Agile Hardware Development to Liberate Innovation

flexible product development book cover Flexible Product Development is a new book written by Preston Smith aimed at restoring the flexibility needed to innovate in new product development. Flexibility is essential to move with the changes that are inevitable during the development cycle as customers change their minds, markets shift, and new technologies arise and fade. Unfortunately, most development organizations have declined greatly in their flexibility in recent years.

Flexible Product Development: Agile Hardware Development to Liberate Innovation, was published in November 2018:

  • 318 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-578-40197-3
  • US$11.00 (paperback)

A simplified Chinese translation of this book is underway, but is is caught up in the China/USA trade wars and may never see the light of day. Several parts of the book are available online without charge:

From the Book’s Cover

CHANGE presents a dilemma to product developers. It is the essence of innovation, for which developers strive. As they work every day, product developers discover improvements (innovation), but to incorporate these improvements, plans have to change.

Unfortunately, seasoned developers have learned that midproject change has a high price: schedule overruns, blown budgets, rework, and quality problems. To avoid such complications, it is safer to follow the original plan, leaving the change for the next project—or for a competitor!

Software developers have overcome this dilemma by discovering and applying so-called agile software development: small and dedicated teams, very short development cycles, early testing, and heavy customer involvement. These techniques are a blessing for software development, but they can’t be applied to non-software products directly, because they depend on the malleability of software.

This book dissects agile development, discovers its roots, and rebuilds a set of techniques that allow non-software developers to accommodate change during a project, thus resolving the dilemma of change for hardware products, too!

PRESTON SMITH was a Certified Management Consultant specializing in rapid and flexible product development for 29 years. His consulting and training spanned countries from Finland to Sri Lanka and products from supercomputers to footwear. He is also the author of Developing Products in Half the Time (the classic on time to market) and the award-winning Proactive Risk Management. Preston earned his PhD in engineering from Stanford University.

Praise for Flexible Product Development
“Speed has always been a critical element in the product design process. But as Preston Smith points out, one must be extraordinarily flexible as well in one’s development and innovation processes. In the light-speed world we live in today, as Smith so poignantly points out, one’s ability to use intelligent, knowledge-based flexibility is an imperative to winning each day, every day.”

—Michael D. Thieneman, executive vice president and chief technology officer, Whirlpool Corporation

“Preston’s previous book, Developing Products in Half the Time, was chock-full of time-to-market gems. This one goes further, showing time-to-market in a new light and providing even more wisdom that’s right on for today.”

—Chuck Blevins, Ph.D., director, Office of Program Management, LifeScan, Inc. (Johnson & Johnson)

“Preston provides exceptionally detailed treatment of techniques to help any program manager lead difficult, constantly changing projects. His many examples show how these tools work in the real world.”

—Jim Callahan, PMP, senior program manager, C-Cor

“This book addresses what’s concerned me lately: how to make product development more effective and quicker. It emphasizes that project leaders should manage decisions and risk rather than tasks and processes because decisions are what really drive the project.”

—James Joseph Snyder, product development manager, Medtronic, Inc

Reviews of Flexible Product Development
In the Journal of Product Innovation Management, May 2008, Volume 25, Issue 3, pages 303–304

In the Agile Journal.

At the Product Development Advantage Group (see the Book Recommendations section)


More Links to Relevant Material
Flexible Product Development
is a sequel to Developing Products in Half the Time for the 21st century. As the time-to-market field has matured, emphasis has shifted from the raw cycle time addressed in Developing Products in Half the Time to the necessity for changing quickly in today’s turbulent world.

The book’s content is explained on this website and in recent Quick Tips newsletters.

This book presents a broad variety of tools and approaches in several categories so that you can select the most appropriate ones for your application. It balances the strengths and weaknesses of each tool and of flexible development as a whole.

Implementing flexibility in most organizations will require significant changes in organizational values, so the book provides a concluding chapter on organizational change, presented from several viewpoints.

(c) Copyright 2013 Preston G. Smith. All Rights Reserved.

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Note: As this is an archive of Preston’s New Products Dynamics Website, some off-site links may no longer exist.

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