Want to improve? Then stop.

Making a difference by design…

Want to improve? Then stop.

Stop and take a moment to pause, to reflect. Learn from what you just did, from what just happened. You’ll be quicker overall because you’ll take a better path. Hurrying & rushing doesn’t work. We all know this. Yet, somehow it’s hard to break the habit.

In product development there’s an extra challenge: the time between developing something and seeing the results come of the production line can be many months. By which stage you’re already working on the next lot of new products. More likely, on the third or fourth project. It’s hard to even remember the first one.

Yet, to keep going is the definition of insanity:

“Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.”

(Which is the quote that’s not from Einstein, but often mis-contributed to him.)

Most companies around the world use a version of a Stage & Gate style process to manage their product development process. The last Stage of the process is called Review. What I’ve found is that most companies (95%) skip that stage. Too busy and already working on the next project. However, you’re missing out on a key bit of learning.

Play with a toddler and you’ll notice that they learn by watching the effect of their actions. Push that one block and they all topple over… Got it! And they learn quick.

Action = Reaction.

It is Newton’s third law of motion.

In product development it’s more like:

Action = ……………………………………………………………….. Reaction. 

And a lot happens during those dots. By which stage we’ve forgotten to take notice of the reaction.

Want to improve and want to improve quicker? Look at the reactions. And even better, reduce the waiting time and look at the first indications of reactions. Bring the learning forward. How can you test and learn earlier?

And when you get to the ‘Review’ stage, I recommend to review three things:

  1. the product
  2. the project
  3. the launch

The product: how well did we design it for manufacturing? Does it run smoothly through production? How well did we design it for cost/margins and purchasing? For the market? Do they buy it? Does our intended target group buy it or someone else? What’s the pickup rate? Do they repeat buy it? What’s their feedback? (On social media, compliments & complaints). I review this straight after the product has left the production line, after about 3 months (pick up rate), 6 months (repeat purchase) and 12 months.  After that the project becomes part of the standard bi/annual product range reviews (range rationalisation).

The project: how well did we manage this development project? How well did we work together as a team? Did we use any clever approaches or tools that we could/should use on other projects? What knowledge did we create that’s re-usable? I review this straight after the product has left the production line, while the project is still fresh in our minds.

The launch: I’ve learned that some beautiful products can be poorly launched. Sometimes it’s poor timing, poor support or poor communication. I review the launch separate, typically 3 months after the product has left production (when the product is in stores and the first media has just hit the market) and again at 6 and 12 months to see the effect of the launch, both in sales and in margins.

Really, doing reviews is not hard. What’s hard is that it’s not a habit. It’s somehow seen as a waste of time. Yet we all know it isn’t.

Want to make a difference? Make reviews key learning moments. Make them fun. Make it a ‘pause’ moment – feet up, relax and review. Take it away from site, find a nice reflective spot, bring the whole project team and make it a celebration, about learning and going forward. What have we learned? What can we take forward? If we’d do it again, what would we do different?

It’s the quickest way to improve and to feel good.

Onwards & upwards!

P.S. – Whenever you’re ready, here are five ways I can help you make a difference:
(1) Set up a time to talk, give me a call (021-68 49 68) or send me an email.  I’d love to have a conversation with you.

(2) Download my “Product Development Warriors’ whitepaper. Find it here!

(3) Sign up to my newsletter

(4) Connect with me on LinkedIn, you’ll also find me regularly posting there.

(5) Forward this email to a colleague