My guest is Allan Anderson. He is a keynote speaker at the 2015 Product Innovation Management conference. For the past 20+ years he has been refining his skills in product development and change management, gaining three perspectives as practitioner, academic, and c-level leader in companies. He earned a PhD in Product Development from Massey University in New Zealand, where he is also a professor.
Practices and Ideas for Product Managers, Developers, and Innovators
Summary of questions discussed:
- How did you get your start in product development? Allan pursued food technology in college which led to a specialization and graduate degree in product development.
- In the description to your keynote speech at the Product Innovation Management conference you shared that “often, there is very little understanding of the principles that truly underpin good NPD practice and how these principles should be applied within a specific company.” Are you suggesting that a one-size-fits-all approach to NPD doesn’t work – that the best practices used by one company may not work as well in another company? There’s been a tendency for companies to adopt a product development process found in books or provided by a consultant without really understanding why the process was chosen and considering if it is best suited to them. Allan refers to this as a paint-by-numbers approach. Instead, he encourages companies to develop processes that are specifically created for their culture, structure, and needs. Organizations should develop their own product development process built around a model with three components: (1) do the right things – choose the right products to work on with the right focus for the organization, (2) do the right things right – choose the processes and practices that are appropriate for what you wish to achieve and measure their success, and (3) create a culture and working environment that helps you to be successful. The key objective is learning what works for the organization.
- How can NPD performance metrics help an organization determine what is important and how to continually improve? Traditional metrics used in product development are lagging metrics that focus on outcomes. They don’t lead to any form of learning. Instead, use “contributing metrics” that influence the desired outcomes. For example, does the organization have the right portfolio management in place, are the right cross functional teams in use, is the fuzzy front end being given sufficient attention, etc.
- What metrics should be used? Allan uses his model of (1) doing the right things, (2) doing the right things right, and (3) creating an innovation culture to create metrics that are appropriate for the organization. The objective is to lead to learning and improvement of the product development process. What is important is the discussion that occurs around metrics and what are the key areas for the organization to improve product development. It is important to involve the entire organization and identify discrepancies in perspectives between groups, such as between manufacturing and engineering. This produces opportunities for deeper learning and process improvement. It also increases ownership of the processes.
- Do you have an example of an organization that used performance metrics to transform their NPD process? When Allan was the CEO of the New Zealand Dairy Industry, an R&D group with about 400 employees, he applied his model to define the important metrics and factors for their product development success. In doing so, this led to discussions that brought employees together and improved teamwork. The focus was on people and encouraging people to talk to other people in the company. The collaboration that took place created the success. The processes are only useful when they are in the hands of people that want to make them work. They also benchmarked their work against other organizations’ best practices.
- Description of PDMA’s Comparative Performance Assessment Study (CPAS)
- Description of the CPAS study in the Journal of Product Innovation Management
- Allan on LinkedIn
- Allan’s profile at the Messey University
“We don’t have the money so we have to think.” – Attributed to Sir Ernest Rutherford
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