Dodging Product Development Failures, Part 3 – Integrated Team Work

October 16th, 2014
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There are many elements that lead to a successfully developed product; we’ve already covered two important factors: 1) Assessing all risks and going beyond prototype development and 2) developing an uncanny customer insight. In this post, I’ll discuss a third key element, the importance of teamwork.

Pitfall: Team activities that are not integrated
Product development depends on many different disciplines, including engineering, regulatory, marketing, manufacturing, finance, sales, and quality control. While these specialists bring a depth of expertise, you’ll need to integrate all of them. While a specialist will certainly be able to identify a task and complete it, she or he may balk at attending team meetings where the discussion is far outside her or his specialty. But the best teams are made of people who know how every discipline connects to the product. Only with an integrated team will you know what a customer really wants, have a superior sense of priorities, and gain the ability to shift attributes like price, time to market, or specific product features. Unfortunately, many groups who call themselves teams don’t have this level of connectedness.

How to avoid this pitfall: Give the team members time to focus on the complete picture and freedom to think outside their functional boxes
To enable team activities to be truly connected, core members need to have time to focus on the complete picture. They need to expand their thinking outside the confines of their functions, and engage in areas in which they have no experience. For instance, I worked on one product where installation of the product was critical to that product’s success. Everybody on the team needed to learn about installations in the field, despite the fact that this was an area nobody really knew or “owned”.

Another way to foster integration is to have all the team members help create phase gate reviews and/or investor pitches (which we’ve discussed can be similar to a phase review). There’s nothing like explaining your plans and products to an outsider to see how the whole program will work.

These three examples—separating risk assessment from design development, acquiring uncanny customer insight, and creating integrated teams—demonstrate how product development is more complex than it initially appears. Many times the best approach is counterintuitive, requiring you to slow down and reflect in order to get to market faster. Confirming that you’re still headed in the right direction and avoiding wasted time and resources can pay off handsomely, enable you to beat the odds and launch a successful product.

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About the Author:

Throughout my career, I have repeatedly grown businesses by delivering innovative medical products in markets such as drug delivery, medical information, orthopedics and dentistry. Today, I work with a variety of startup companies, helping them to articulate compelling investment propositions and to develop their proprietary medical technologies.