The Leadership Challenge
From Leading Product Development: The Senior Manager's Guide to Creating and Shaping the Enterprise, Steven Wheelwright and Kim Clark, The Free Press, New York, NY 1995
Senior managers understand:
- The consequences of product development have a direct impact on competitivness. They mean the difference between falling behind ..., and neing the competitor who provides leadership, compelling others to meet similar standards.
- The bulk of a company's assets are tied up in how it delivers value to its customers. If it has old products, the wrong products, or even the right products at the wrong time, that value is severely limited.
- The success or failure of product development is driven by the entire range of functions - every dimension - of the organization.
- Product development is the means by which a company builds capabilities. Through new product development, an organization creates the "energy" - the skills, processes, knowledge, and motivation - that drives its future.
- Effective senior managers recofnize that their most important contribution is their cumulative impact, rather than their influence on a single project.
- What senior managers do sets the pattern and example for everyone in the business.
What makes development hard is what makes it rewarding:
- Product development touches everything the business does
- What matters exists in an indefinite future
Product development necessarily entails uncertainty. Coping with uncertainty in an individual project is hard enough. Here the challenge is to achieve excellence in product development consistently. This calls for senior managers that can see the business as a whole, clarify what needs to be done, and pull the organization together to make it happen.
- The pressure is on to respond to competitors – immediately
This causes projects to be added in response without fitting them into the overall strategy.
- The illusion of activity
In the absence of a sufficiently comprehensive and strategic process for evaluating what should become a project and why, the bias is to keep on adding projects – both to ensure that “things happen” and to demonstrate responsiveness to customer needs and competitor’s threats.
- Projects are where the action is
In companies without strong connections between strategy and development projects, projects become places where important issues are resolved. Senior management likes to be involved in key decisions, but they often slow a project down, or come in late, when it has veered off course. The result is heroic firefighting that does not build capability or deliver distinctive value to the marketplace.