In last week’s post, we discussed who is on a new product development (NPD) team. For example, a working NPD team must include representatives of project management, marketing, engineering, and finance. Collectively, these functions can lay out the new product project for design, development, and commercialization.
Of course, a working team cannot know the answers to all questions regarding the new product development project. An extended team enhances the skills of the working team as needed. For instance, R&D defines compositions and assemblies introducing technical solutions for new products. Manufacturing and supply chain determine whether a design can be produced with available raw materials, parts, and equipment. These extended team members attend project meetings and events on an ad hoc basis only.
Teams must be small enough to make rapid decisions and to collaborate effectively. My favorite guidance for team size comes from Jeff Bezos’ “two pizza rule”. A team should be no larger than can eat two pizzas. Realistically, this translates to about six to ten people. In contrast, consider when you’ve been on larger teams and recall how decisions get mired in politics or minutiae. And, notice how many people are multi-tasking when they are not really needed at team meetings.
The purpose of meetings is to make decisions. NPD projects encompass a series of telescoping decisions. In early phases of a project, the opportunity is identified. The NPD team will write a design brief describing (at a very high level) the technology, the market segment and the product category. As the project progresses, the NPD team makes decisions regarding pricing strategies, market segments, and product functionality. In this way, NPD processes manage risk, but empowered teams have authority for decisions.
In Lean NPD, for instance, we use in-person, cross-functional, collaborative workshops to create NPD project outputs. However, these workshop “meetings” are effective only when the working team and necessary extended team members are given autonomy for decision making. Of course, management sets boundaries for cost and schedule, but otherwise, the team is empowered to execute the project as their special skills dictate.
In WAGILE project management and Lean NPD, we minimize meetings as a general rule. Most meetings, in my experience, are actually forums for one-way communication that can be handled in a different way. Newsletters, videos, chats, and e-mail are all useful to push one-way communication, such as project status updates. Even routine project approvals can often be routed electronically without the inconvenience of a large meeting.
Unfortunately, there are a few types of people that thrive on meetings, despite the ineffectiveness of them. We’ve all met managers who like to hear their own voices and believe that having lots of meetings validates their busy-ness and worth. Some folks use meetings to gather individual data and information in a single place and time without considering the waiting time of others attending but not actively participating in certain discussions.
In WAGILE and Lean NPD, we encourage quick stand-up meetings with the team on a frequent basis (even daily) to check work progress. Using a Product Kanban Board in conjunction with a stand-up meeting keeps the focus on near-term activities that might be falling behind schedule. Cross-functional team members can step up to assist and accelerate tasks on the backlog. Meanwhile, everyone on the project (the working team and extended team) has a full view of project activities. Download a PowerPoint Kanban template here.
Keep the Team Small
Large groups are great for generating broad and diverse ideas. However, completing project tasks requires a small, active, and willing team. NPD project teams must be small enough to make rapid decisions. Minimum team representation should include the key functions necessary to convert an idea to a commercial product. Do not overburden extended team members with unnecessary meetings and, instead, use other communication tools to share project status.
Please contact me at info@GlobalNPSolutions.com to learn more about NPD project team effectiveness. You’ll also be interested in reading Chapter 4 in The Innovation ANSWER Book. Get your copy at Amazon along with the companion book, The Innovation QUESTION Book.
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