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BETTER NPD BLOG


Articles and Briefings

 

Flexible Product Development workshops in Mumbai and Delhi.  Explore new ideas to make your product development more competitive.

 

Agile Product Development.  Support innovation in fast-changing markets by principles from the Agile software movement. (Executive Briefing)

 

Dealing with mid-project changes.  Rather than trying to avoid mid-project changes, reduce their cost. (published in Machine Design, March 2011)

 

Avoid 11-th hour project dilemmas by preparing for change.  Flexible Development principles help to avoid the costly dilemma to do it wrong or do it over. (published in Visions, December 2010)

 

Flexibility costs and benefits.  A white paper summarizes findings based on interviews with NPD leaders.  Also available: Slides from the online forum.

Flexible Development

Unlike traditional phase-gate processes that resist change, Flexible Product Development embraces mid-project change to support innovation and market dexterity at minimal cost.

Why be Flexible?

What is Flexible Product Development?

Doesn't Flexibility cost too much?

Where can I learn more?

Why be Flexible?

The common approach to product development holds that mid-project change is wasteful, and that extensive upfront planning can eliminate the need for change.  Not in today's business environment.

 

Processes that resist change are toxic to innovation and cripple market dexterity.  In a recent IBM report, CEOs around the globe say they are focused on improving their firms' dexterity to respond in a complex and fast moving economy. Today, according to the report,  "Organizations unprepared to act immediately on new opportunities may watch them slip away from their grasp almost as quickly as they emerge.”  Processes such as phase-gate, developed in yesterday's business environment, are no longer competitive. 

 

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What is Flexible Product Development?

Pioneered by Preston Smith, FPD is a new approach to developing products that embraces mid-project change, rather than resisting it.  By rejecting the pretense that upfront planning can eliminate change, designers are free to anticipate and plan for uncertainties, greatly reducing their impact on cost and schedule.

FPD is a set of tools and methods that cope effectively with—and even embrace—mid-project changes. Based on ideas and experience from a variety of sources, including the agile software development movement, FPD reduces the cost of midstream changes and balances the benefits of change against the risk of ballooning budgets and slippery schedules. FPD principles include:

  • Keeping important design options open until the last responsible moment.

  • Using effective experimentation and front loaded prototyping to promote innovation, discovery, and learning.

  • Specifying requirements in a way that keeps the development focused yet encourages in-process customer feedback.

  • Reducing the cost of change throughout the development process.

  • Building teams that are comfortable with ongoing change.

  • Balancing the advantages of flexibility with the benefits of structured processes.

 

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Doesn't Flexibility Cost Too Much?

The "plan your work and work your plan" mentality is so strongly ingrained in management thinking that it obscures the true costs and benefits of FPD.  Three major blind spots are:

  • Managers expect mid-project changes to be prohibitively costly.  But change doesn't cost much when you've prepared for it.  Like insurance, FPD requires a premium to explore and hold options open, but this is usually small compared to the prohibitive cost of unanticipated changes.

  • Managers expect flexibility to make projects unpredictable.  It's startling that FPD projects are subject to less variance in schedule, cost, and ROI than phase-gate projects in dynamic markets with changing requirements.  Teams that anticipate change will not waste schedule time and budget developing something that may later prove to be wrong.

  • Managers expect FPD to delay market launch.  Another counterintuitive result of dissolving the planning myth is that FPD projects provide quicker launches in dynamic markets.  Whereas a phase-gate approach prohibits starting development until requirements are frozen, a flexible approach allows developers to start sooner, so market launch can occur sooner after detailed requirements are finalized.

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Where can I learn more?

Contact me to ask about an onsite or public workshop on FPD.

 

Take a look at a recent workshop in Mumbai and Delhi.

 

Read a recent whitepaper by Preston Smith and me. 

 

Preston's website  is a good source of information and ideas and has a link to his new book.

 

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