Exceptional Management

This article was originally published in The Critical Path email newsletter, March 21, 2003.  

Not all products are the same. Not all development teams are the same. Why then do companies try to create standardized development processes? Logically, any company attempting this does so to alleviate perceived problems with recurring errors, things like rework, slow cycle times and information defects. The theory is that a formulaic approach will drive down process variability with benefits similar to how a standard tooling process will drive down defects and scrap in manufacturing. Unfortunately, this is not without its costs. Continue reading


The ABCs of Product Development


is for Assembly, could it always be leaner?


is for Benchmarking, from grass that looks greener


is for Customers, whom we love and we hate


is for Deliverables, and delaying due dates


is for the Engineers who clean up the mess


is for Finance, who make us do more with less Continue reading

Lean VS. TOC

This article was originally published in The Critical Path email newsletter, December 15, 1998.  We received several emails about this article when it was published which may be even more interesting than the original piece.


At Management Roundtable’s recent Metrics conference, I had the opportunity to participate in a special luncheon with Theory of Constraints guru, Dr. Eliyahu Goldratt. Having read both “The Goal” and “Lean Thinking,” I took the opportunity to ask Dr. Goldratt a question that I had been thinking about for some time:

“Dr. Goldratt,” I asked, “Can you compare and contrast TOC with Jim Womack’s “Lean Thinking” as it’s derived from the Toyota Production System?” Both philosophy ‘systems’ appear cast from the same mold, both are strategies that focus on value, both challenge ‘batch and queue’ conventional wisdom, and both are attempting to apply their shop floor principles to the overall enterprise, especially product development. Continue reading

Paper: Anticipating Disruptive Innovation

It is very true that humans are naturally shortsighted and that we often “mortgage the health of our future for the urgencies of today.”  Nowhere in any company is this more true than when it comes to innovation.  The majority of your product teams are, and rightfully so, likely to be laser-focused on  meeting their current project schedule rather than developing your next generation revenue source.  With the persistent economic malaise, resources for these activities are shorter and shorter, which in turn stunts economic recovery in a very vicious circle.

This subject is well addressed in the paper, Anticipating Disruptive Innovation, a winner of the Industrial Research Institute’s (IRI) Maurice Holland “Best Article Award” for 2004.  This paper was written by Ralph Katz and Jay Paap, who is the instructor for Management Roundtable’s workshops on Technology Scouting and Roadmapping.  Here’s an overview of the paper with links below to the full text .pdf. Continue reading

The Idiot’s Guide to Theory of Constraints (TOC) – Part I

The late Dr. Eliyahu M. Goldratt was a genius, a visionary, an unbelievably prolific business guru…and a scary man.

Sadly, he passed away this past June of 2011, and I don’t mean to call him scary out of disrespect, honestly, it was a trait I think made him more effective.  He was exceptionally intimidating despite a short stature and seemed to always get his way, I mean, look at that mug, would you contradict this man?  He once opened a keynote speech by saying, “business consulting is just a hobby of mine, my real occupation is as a soldier, my real job is to kill people.”  No joke. Continue reading

MRT Time Capsule: PDBPR January 2002

Before there was open innovation and crowdsourcing, there was just the Internet.  Before web-based discussion forums, companies only had expensive tools like focus groups, interviewing and ethnographic studies to get at the voice of the customer.  Once the web took off and enough homes had Internet access, companies started creating their own online presences for customer feedback, which in turn helped fuel Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing.

One of the major first movers in this space was greeting card company, Hallmark.   Below you can download a copy of MRT’s old newsletter, Product Development Best Practices Report (PDBPR), from January 2002, whose feature story is about Hallmark’s Idea Exchange online community program.  Continue reading

Social Media makes babies cry…

Some people say email is obsolete because today’s younger generation uses text, tweets and other tools to communicate, but I don’t buy it, it’s still here, hasn’t changed much, and forms you fill out still ask for it, but not your twitter ID.  The same does not go for social media, which is much more of a fad and prone to eventual extinction.

Here’s some more evidence that supports the idea… Continue reading