Preston Smith's Corner

Is the CEO important to flexible product development?

July 2007 Quick Tip

A recent research report “Managing the Future: CEO Attention and Innovation Outcomes” finds that “forward-thinking CEOs are the main drivers of successful innovation” in their companies. So, specifically, how do CEOs figure in flexible development? One key ingredient of adopting flexibility is the significant changes in organizational values and behavior required. Thus, the question becomes: is the CEO a key factor in organizational change?

When writing my forthcoming book, Flexible Product Development, several months ago, I polled 35 product development experts regarding their experiences with organizational change. The one consistent response was that the CEO had to lead the transition for it to be successful. While desirable, this creates two problems. First, the person wishing to initiate change is unlikely to be the CEO, and second, my discussions with CEOs clarify for me that they, working alone, lack the time, connections, credibility, and skills needed to implement change. As Mary Lynn Manns and Linda Rising explain, “It is not top-down or bottom-up, but participative at all levels.”

Consequently, I created a multifaceted approach to organizational change. It includes the top-down approach of John Kotter as a framework, the bottom-up tools of Manns and Rising to execute the details, and the transitions perspective of William Bridges to knit the pieces together effectively. See the bottom of our Resources page for more on their books.

Better yet, order Flexible Product Development and read Chapter 10.

In short, the CEO must be on board (eventually), but don’t depend on this executive to lead the effort.

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


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