Finding the leverage points in your innovation system


The ancient Greek engineer Archimedes is famous for saying “Give me a lever and a place to stand and I will move the world.”  The beauty of the concept of leverage is that it can be applied to most of life’s efforts, whether it be moving a rock, running a shop floor, or even managing product development and innovation.

Every complex system like new product development is composed of a wide range of interdependent events, all reacting to and affecting one another simultaneously on multiple levels.  When these systems reach inevitable bottlenecks or changes pop up with market conditions or customer needs, managers can easily misidentify root causes and apply the wrong resources to solve the wrong problems.  Add in the dimensions of a multi-project environment and time-to-market pressure and it’s easy to feel like you’ve lost all control.

Mike Dalton, author of “Simplifying Innovation: Doubling Speed to Market With Your Existing Resources,” believes that finding the proper leverage points in your system is the key to unlocking faster cycle times by preventing you from wasting valuable time and resources.  In his many years of experience leading product and business development teams, Mike has identified common leverage points each business faces which he calls “7 Critical Obstacles to New Product Success”:

  1. Lack of focus on key programs makes everything take longer & cost more
  2. Multitasking & interruptions waste valuable resources
  3. Limited resources are wasted on projects that just get canceled anyway
  4. Not enough resources focused on programs that are going to move the needle
  5. No early warning provided before programs start to go off track
  6. Disagreements over priorities put multiple timelines at risk
  7. Repeated crises stretch talent too far

Mike will be exploring these issues and various methods and tools for addressing them in an upcoming free webinar produced by Management Roundtable:

MRT_Webinar_BannerDoubling Speed-to-Market and New Product Profits
How simple constraints-based methods can accelerate growth
May 15, 2014 – 1:00-2:00PM ET

For more information and to register for this session, click here.  There is no fee for this webinar and you are encouraged to foward this information to any of your colleagues that you think may be interested in attending.

NoExcusesPD_DaltonAs part of this webinar, we are also offering a free white paper, “No Excuses Product Development,” from Mike Dalton which further details the 7 obstacles listed above.

Fill out the form below to request your free copy of this paper:


Steelcase’s Lean Journey: There and Back Again

SteelcaseOfficeOffice furniture maker, Steelcase, Inc., has been on one heck of a journey in both Lean Manufacturing and Lean Product Development.  We’ve been following their progress for a number of years and now have an opportunity to get an update on where they stand today in an upcoming webinar with Steelcase’s internal ” Office Lean Consultant,” Tim Schipper, who has worked in multiple positions at the company, including CAD, product engineering and IT, before settling into his current role in their Lean Management Office approximately 10 years ago.

One unique aspect of Steelcase’s history with Lean Product Development is that it was originally driven by their Information Technology group who wanted to keep pace with and support the lean transformation going on in manufacturing.  From there, it was a less painful task to move lean improvement efforts to the development area and IT’s lessons learned proved invaluable to the product development office.  (See the form at the bottom of this post to request a copy of our article from 2005, “THE LEARNING CYCLE: Steelcase’s Journey from Lean Manufacturing to Lean Product Development”)

timschipperMuch has happened since their early days and Steelcase has refined their lean product development into a self-feeding system they call “Rapid Learning Cycles,” which closes knowledge gaps easier and speeds up innovation.  Tim Schipper will be talking about his company’s methods in an upcoming free webinar from Management Roundtable:

 Apply Rapid Learning Cycles to Development
with guest speaker Tim Schipper, LEAN Management Office, Steelcase, Inc.
Thursday, April 17, 2014 – 1:00 – 2:00 PM ET
Click HERE to register for this free session

Request a copy of our article: “The Learning Cycle: Steelcase’s Journey from Lean Manufacturing to Lean Product Development””

This webinar is being produced in conjunction with the “Lean Product Development Summit” being held August 19-21, 2014 on Mackinac Island, Michigan.

Is roadmapping poised to take off with economic recovery?

PLR_IreneWebinar_ScreenshotI’ve often heard that when college students “put a mortgage on their futures” with high tuition loans, all they’ve done is set themselves up to be short term financial thinkers for the rest of their lives.  One could argue that companies notoriously do the exact same thing with planning their own futures and product portfolios.

During a recent webinar, respected Technology Strategist, Dr. Irene Petrick of Penn State University, talked about seeing this first hand working with companies who are trying to chart their future directions and make sure they invest in the proper technologies and accurately follow market trends.  Companies seem so focused on making their short term revenue goals for shareholders, they are distracted from and procrastinating on critical strategic decisions regarding technology investment and game changing innovation.

Not only is she seeing strategic horizons shrink from 7-year planning down to 5-years, 3-years or less, she increasingly sees more and more management attention and resources being siphoned off to leverage short-term gains, often at the expense of securing future revenue.  The “make the month” mentality that shuttered numerous factories in the 1990s is cycling back again and moving up the ladder into R&D.  Once the economy is in a more comfortable position, it’s thought that planners would be relaxed enough to look further ahead, and hope that no real monsters have appeared meanwhile in these blind spots.

While it seems that only improving jobs reports and consumer spending can turn around the economy, Dr. Petrick does believe the macroeconomic trend of increasingly integrated product ecosystems as a major factor in turning this issue around.   Fueled by mobile devices and social media culture, more and more products are being composed of complicated partnerships between manufacturers, supply chains, retailers and more, often known as the “iTunes type ecosystem.”  This type of complicated coordination, says Petrick, inevitably leads companies down the path of strategic roadmapping.

To hear more from Dr. Petrick, her webinar, “Why is it so hard to get traction with product line roadmapping?” is available on-demand from Management Roundtable.  To have a link to the webinar sent to you via email, click here.

Product Line Roadmapping – What’s Your Take?

PLR_Logo_500COur research shows that interest in roadmapping as a visual and strategic tool for product development is continuing to grow at a rapid pace, but that one of the biggest issues is a lack of common understanding and definition of just what it’s composed of and encompasses.

Management Roundtable and the Adept Group are currently working on creating a definitive model around the term “Product Line Roadmapping” as a way to reflect the cross-functional coordination that is required for aligning the necessary resources, departments and leadership to create profitable, platform-based product lines.

You’re invited to help shape this discussion and the direction of the research, networking and educational material that will be produced starting this year.  Here are 3 very simple ways for you to get involved and be a part of the growing community:

  • 5-Minute Survey – Please consider taking 5 short minutes out of your day to answer a few questions that will help us understand your perspective on Product Line Roadmapping and how we should focus an upcoming conference.
  • Linked-In Group – Join our community of PLR professionals on Linked In where resources are shared and common questions answered by peers and experts.
  • On-Demand Webinars with Thought Leaders – Our monthly webinar series features recognized experts and practitioners talking about their experiences implementing roadmapping at companies across many industries.


Even old stage-gate dogs can learn some new tricks…

OldDogToday over 75% of US firms are using some flavor of the Stage-Gate process created by Dr. Robert G. Cooper over 25 years ago.  In that time it has been credited with positive accolades such as fueling US economic turnarounds and boosting new product success rates, as well as harshly criticized for increasing bureaucracy and creating roadblocks for innovation.  The truth of the matter is likely somewhere in the middle.

An age old business aphorism applies here: “A fool with a tool is still a fool.”  In R&D processes there simply is no one dimensional “Plug and Play” solution.  Schools of thought such as Stage-Gate, Concurrent Engineering, Lean, Agile, Spiral and Theory of Constraints are more similar than dissimilar and one would be best off borrowing what makes sense from all of them than following one plan’s instruction manual verbatim.

The biggest mistake people have made about Stage-Gate is thinking that it has not evolved.  The method’s creator, Dr. Robert G. Cooper, has spent a great deal of his career improving and refining his techniques to stay in tune with current technologies as well as business economics.  He travels the world visiting companies using his methods, studying their results and updating his toolset.  Understanding that time-based competition and speed-to-market are constants in the NPD formula, Dr. Cooper has focused primarily on methods for accelerating development processes to meet the demanding pace of today’s markets.

Dr. Cooper’s latest thinking focuses on a few critical aspects of product development, based on his research and hands-on experience with numerous global Fortune 500 firms.  He calls his latest augments the “Triple A Idea-to-Launch” system, which encompasses:

  • A1 – Adaptive and Flexible
    • Spiral development for rapid customer feedback
    • Scaling the Stage-Gate process to fit the scope of the project
    • Gates integrated with portfolio management
  • A2 – Agile
    • Using value stream analysis and removing unnecessary tasks
    • Integrating Agile techniques with Stage-Gate
  • A3 – Accelerated
    • Finding overlap opportunities for concurrent development
    • Proper assignment of resources and use of cross-functional teams
    • Robust system for defining product requirements on the “fuzzy front end”

If you would like to learn more about Dr. Cooper’s latest thoughts and augmentations to the Stage-Gate process and what it takes to set up your own “Triple A I2L” system, he will be speaking at a free webinar presented by Management Roundtable – see link below for details and online registration.


The Product Development Butterly Effect – How Everyday Design Decisions Affect Bottom Line Profits

butterflyeffectIt seems that everyone has been talking about customer value and design to cost for years, yet few companies are satisfied that their efforts in either process translate directly to higher profits. One reason is that the two processes have been kept at arm’s-length from each other while designers have been in the dark about how their everyday decisions affect the final product’s price. It’s time to both update and to get real about integrating the price and cost sides of the profit equation in product development. This webinar is designed for Marketing and R&D leaders who are tired of hoping for better margins and are ready to take control of them.

Led by Wayne Mackey, principal at Product Development Consulting, Inc., this free, on-demand webinar will begin by resetting our past understanding of customer value using a simple but effective tool to gain insights into the distinction between what customers want and what customers will pay for. We then outline the progression of design for gross margin building blocks from business needs through market insights and platform strategies, ending in higher margin product realization. We will conclude with highlights from a B to B case study with specific examples of bottom line results. If you’re tired of hoping that your company’s innovation platitudes and buzzwords will make a measurable difference in your P&L, this webinar is your first step to proactively ensuring that it does.

To watch this free webinar (no registration required) – CLICK HERE

For more information on Wayne’s upcoming workshop, click the banner below: