Is “Strong-Form” Product Management the same as Toyota’s “Chief Engineer” Concept?

strongformOne of the highlighted practices recommended by a recent report from Booz & Co. is a concept you may have heard about called “Strong-Form Product Management.”  Like most best practices, this isn’t really a new concept, but more like a great idea given new labels and contexts.

In this particular example, Strong Form Product Management seems strongly inspired by Toyota Motor Corp.’s “Chief Engineer” system.   Basically, both models call for there to be a singular person to act as a chief integrator and business champion whose oversight will improve overall quality and ensure the entire development program remains agile.  Another name that you may have heard this concept called is “Heavyweight Product Manager.”

Regardless of title, the idea behind a function such as this is that the person should have complete control over final decision making with the caveat that they are also directly responsible for financial and market performance.   Ideally, this person becomes intimate with the voice of the customer, stays on top of all technical design tradeoffs, integrates the contributions of all product development functions to reduce complexity and maintain the project’s focus on the bottom line.

Now compare that with the following list of Chief Engineer responsibilities from Scott Belware’s blog:

  • Voice of the customer
  • Customer-defined value
  • Product concept
  • Program objectives
  • Architecture
  • Performance
  • Product character
  • Product objectives
  • Vision for all functional program teams
  • Value targets
  • Product planning
  • Performance targets
  • Project Timing

Seems like pretty much the same thing to us!

If you’d like a copy of the “2013 Industry Perspective” Booz & Co. report that discusses the “Strong Form Product Management” concept and their other management recommendations, please complete and submit the form below:



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