Author: Michael Dalton

Is process really your innovation problem?

I recently spoke with a company that was terribly frustrated by the results of their new product innovation process. Or should I say the lack of results – because they readily admitted that projects never finish on time and rarely deliver even half of what they project. Even so, this was a successful company whose brands you might even recognize. As far as they were concerned, their stage-gate process was the problem. Many of their leadership team just weren’t seeing the value – no surprise given the results they were seeing. Of course, I’m no fan of the approach that most companies take to managing stage-gate type processes. But it’s often not the process that’s the real problem. I find it helpful to ask prospective clients a few questions about the way they are using – or maybe even abusing – the process: Do you have a clearly defined market strategy that guides development teams to the areas where you want to invest and where your capabilities match? Do smaller, urgent projects routinely interrupt major projects? Do cross-functional teams visit charter customers to find unmet needs? Are people routinely assigned to work on three or more projects at the same time? Do your development teams understand what constitutes commercial, technical, manufacturing, and regulatory feasibility? Are resources spread across too many projects preventing them from moving quickly and without delays?...

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What are late new product launches costing you?

What are late new product launches costing you? I recently saw that missing the launch date for their 3D Gameboy cost Nintendo $1Billion in lost profits by missing the Christmas buying season. When Nintendo issued the profit warning cutting it’s fiscal 2011 profit forecast that news wiped out 10% of the stocks value in a single day (ouch!). While $1 Billion in damages may sound surreal to most of us, new product delays can have a big impact even on smaller companies. As I shared in a previous post, the COO of a medium size company had shared his frustration with continued new product delays – just one of which was costing his company over $50,000 per day in lost revenues. You don’t have to be a electronics giant to feel the pain of late new product launches. So why are new products late so often and what can be done about it? Here are a few key reasons for projects running late that you can address with a critical chain approach: 1. Too many projects running for the number of resources – Assigning development team members to more than one or two projects spreads them so thin that they spend more time on juggling priorities than productive work. 2. Running projects in parallel rather than sequentially – People are always amazed to see that running one project at...

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Tomatoes, single-tasking & innovation?

Okay, so a tomato can’t make your new product innovation move any faster, but a little concept called the Pomodoro Technique might help eliminate some of the bad multi-tasking that wastes time and can slow any new product project down. I’ve written a lot lately about eliminating multi-tasking for personal and corporate productivity, but only recently ran across this concept from a link in the Knowledge Jolt with Jack blog. I think it makes a nice little adjunct to Personal Kanban which I’ve written about before. It works like this: Break your work into small bite size tasks Set a timer and work only on that item After 25 minutes, take 5 minute break After doing this a few times take a longer break. Why’s it called Pomodoro? Simply because the timer that is used looks like a tomato (or Pomodoro in Italian). The upside – Pomodoro is an easy to implement tool, and by staying focused, most folks are going to find they get more done. Plus it’s simple, and I’m all about simplifying. The downside – Okay, it’s a little redundant with Personal Kanban, which says you should limit work in process already. But it’s easy for most of us to get distracted dozens of times per day only to realize we haven’t pulled much through our Kanban. WIP limit or not, that this can be an...

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Managing your biggest constraint – your time

Each of us has the same 1,440 minutes every day, 7 days a week, but what we accomplish with them varies dramatically. For most of us, time is our constraint, and how we choose to exploit the time available will drive the results we see. My last post on singletasking gave some tips for managing your constrained time more effectively. In these next two posts, I’ll share a system that I’ve personally found very helpful for maintaining the focus necessary to get the really important stuff done. Over the years, I’ve tried numerous different time management systems from do-it-yourself approaches like Outlook reminders and Excel spreadsheets to commercial systems like Franklin Covey Planner and Getting Things Done (GTD). Each had its useful elements, but none of them ever really worked the way I needed. Then a few months ago, I ran across Jim Benson’s Personal Kanban approach for managing your personal workload and have been hooked ever since. For those of you unfamiliar with Kanban, it’s a Lean tool for visualizing your workflow and minimizing your work in process. In its simplest incarnation, a Kanban board has columns for each stage of workflow and then tasks are are moved from column to column as work progresses. In Personal Kanban, post it notes are written for each task. You color code them for different categories. Mine are Marketing, Selling, Client...

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The case for singletasking

A few weeks ago I wrote a post asking “Is multitasking getting us anywhere?” It created quite a bit of activity in my LinkedIn groups and one kind reader reminded me about the The 4-Hour Workweek. I had read Ferris’ book a few years ago and while his internet entrepreneur shtick is definitely not my cup of tea, he still makes some useful suggestions for ridding ourselves of the scourge of multitasking. Ferris reminds us that 20% of our efforts deliver 80% of our results. That’s what Richard Koch, author of The 80/20 Principle and others have called the Critical Few. So singletasking is about focusing our efforts on those critical few things that deliver and increase results. Of course, you also have to figure out what area is going to give you those results. And no surprise, that’s where I suggest the theory of constraints (TOC) should play s a big part. That’s because improvements in how you operate your systems constraint (your bottleneck) are going to deliver almost 100% of the increase in your results. Without specifically referencing TOC, Ferris also recommends outsourcing as many tasks as you can. While the economics he shares don’t always appply, this is still great advice for any business person because no matter your job, you are the system constraint in being able to get more productive work out of your efforts...

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Elephants at Work

Lynn Dessert, MBA PCC

Lynn Dessert, MBA PCC

Lynn Dessert is an Executive Coach based in Charlotte, NC. She assists high achievers to be exceptional and versatile through executive, leadership and career coaching. She works with clients by phone, ZOOM and in-person.

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