What is the most important factor in improving product development?

October 2008 Quick Tip

As realtors are fond of saying about buying houses, there are three important factors to consider in improving how you develop new products: people, people, and people. But how quickly we forget this and put our energy instead into processes, approaches, and tools. Chapter 6 (page 126) of Flexible Product Development has a chart showing that people are about ten times more important than processes (see this chart in “Change: Embrace It, Don’t Deny It”) published in Research Technology Management, July-August 2008, (Vol 51, Issue No. 4), pgs 34-40).

One reason that people are paramount is that experienced, motivated people tend to fix anything else that gets in their way, such as a process bottleneck or an organizational reporting problem.

People includes connections between people, that is, teams. You can do plenty to improve teams, but in fact, we have mostly moved backwards on teams over the past couple of decades. One area we have weakened is in failing to dedicate a person to one project. Dedication provides a host of benefits, one of which is accountability (if you are assigned to multiple projects, you can always claim that you were working on another one when asked what you accomplished on a certain one).

Another powerful team characteristic that we have slipped away from as we globalize is co-location. In the Flexible Product Development book (pages 141-150) I provide three types of 21st century support for co-location and show how you can derive great benefit from co-locating partially when complete co-location is impractical.

For more on this topic, see our recent article, “Effective Development Begins and Ends with People” in Cutter Consortium’s Agile Product & Project Management Advisory Service.

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