I admire leaders who are able to create a Grand Strategy. My admiration is boundless for those who actually succeed. By definition, it is very difficult to see how you are doing on a Grand Strategy until you are well along the path toward implementation. The path is full of doubt, questioning, and also requires a steadfast commitment by top management to stay-the-course.
Louis Gerstner did this successfully at IBM in the 1990’s.
Unfortunately few managers are as gifted as Gerstner.
How many times have we seen companies destroyed by rigorously implementing the wrong plan? Management that bets-the-company on a strategy that would need years to determine success or failure are taking a huge, and in my mind, unnecessary risk.
Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856 – 1915) was one of the founders of scientific management and probably the first modern management consultant. He believed that all tasks could be reduced to “one best way”.
Captain Queeg in The Caine Mutiny (perhaps not one of literature’s great managers) said, “There are four ways of doing things on my ship. The right way, the wrong way, the Navy way, and my way. Do things my way and we will get along.”
The next few posts will outline different approaches to new product development.
My question for the reader: do you think there is one best way, and if so what is it?
I have written about the difficult odds of success in product development.
Moving past failure requires a strong ego (something I will comment on specifically in a later post), but most of all, it takes a good sense of humor.
Sometimes it is not easy to find anything funny going on. The media seems to have downgraded humor into an attempt to shock or outrage.
Humor does not need to be this way.
Take a look at TED.
For those of you who are living too deeply in your lab, TED is a yearly conference bringing together some interesting people. While humor is only a small part of the conference, the organizers view it as important. So do I.
Humor can still be smart.
If you are working in a world that depends on rigorous use of verifiable data (the bottom left quadrant), it is likely that your innovations will be incremental; that is, product improvements rather than breakthroughs.
Conversely, if you are really working “out of the box”, you are most likely in the top right quadrant.
- What does this imply about Six Sigma techniques and innovation?
- Can one work “out of the box” without knowing where the box is?
- How much does industry even care about real breakthrough innovations anymore?
”Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say, we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.” — 2002, Donald Rumsfeld.
From this came “The Rumsfeld Matrix”.
Product developers and their managers have always had trouble dealing with uncertainty. The Rumsfeld Matrix illustrates both the “comfort” that comes from working in the lower left quadrant where all is known, as well as the complexity with working in the top right.
You can bet the “fuzzy front end” is not so fuzzy if you live in the bottom left quadrant.
More about the implications of this in future posts.
WHY THIS BLOG:
Companies today need to become much better at innovation. While most organizations claim to foster new products, their actual track record is poor. Managers are using old tools and methods to shape the future.
Except for the rare companies, such as Google or P&G that are richly endowed with a culture of innovation, most managers are left to fumble or improvise a process for developing new products. Regrettably — these improvisations are likely to fail.
Yet it is the nimble smaller firm, when combined with an appropriate innovation strategy, that has the greatest chance for success.
My goal is to help those who are struggling with PD to find a successful path through the art and science of innovation.