Nobody’s perfect, and that applies to product development systems too. There’s always room for improvement. But how do you know if your system needs more than a bit of pampering – it needs a makeover? Here are 8 signs it’s time to give your system some real love.
1) Nobody expects a new product to be launched on time
Occasional misses happen, but when everyone knows to double the estimated project timeline, something is wrong. Causes can include over-loaded resources, unexpected but foreseeable problems and frequently changing requirements.
2) Over-budget is the norm
Again, occasional misses happen, but ballooning budgets make more than the finance department weep. Causes can include: unanticipated manufacturing fixtures and equipment, adding resources to make up lost time and over-loading products with unnecessary features.
3) It’s a miracle if the new product meets its sales goals
You’ll need a miracle if: you forget to ask Sales what is reasonable, you forget to factor in adoption time on really new products, you forget to budget for appropriate promotion or you miss the assumed launch date.
4) Team meetings are stressful and conflict-heavy
Stress and conflict do not have to be the norm, and I’m not talking about “creative tension.” If team members don’t understand their roles & responsibilities or lack the necessary skills to perform their tasks; if department heads are fighting over priorities and doing their own thing; or senior leadership provides no direction, there’s going to be conflict. No amount of team-building events will fix this.
5) Departments have different priorities
When departments are not in alignment, the teams know they are getting conflicting orders. This creates stress and conflict, but it also slows down projects because they are short-changed on the resources required to execute the project. And the impact isn’t limited to one team; slow-downs on one team can impact other projects as team members try to adjust and accommodate the resource-starved project.
6) “What’s our strategy” is a common lament on the grapevine
Don’t expect people to hear it through the grapevine. Strategy is critical to decision-making, project prioritization, department alignment and resource allocation. If you fail to clearly state and communicate your strategy, be prepared for some surprising (in a bad way) projects.
7) Everyone feels overloaded with work and deliverables are late
It is so tempting to just slip in one more project, or preempt a project for an important customer. The teams can adapt or just work a little harder, right? But, the truth is too much multi-tasking does slow down the whole system. Abdicating responsibility for proper resource management will create a disaster.
8) Project review (gate) meetings have become dog and pony shows, complete with smoke and mirrors
Sometime gate meetings become opportunities to get face time with the leadership. Everyone wants to look good, so teams are expected to take time away from project work to create impressive decks and downplay (or hide) problems. This situation benefits no one. Gate meetings need to be working meetings where unadorned factual and relevant information is shared and discussed.
These are common signs of product development dysfunction. Don’t ignore them. Give your PD system the love it needs.