Figuring out product line responses to the Covid economy is like wrestling a jellyfish. As soon as you think you have the gelatin mass in a hold, it suddenly pops loose. You try again, and you get stung.
Our Product Line Problem
We have a big problem that goes to the root of how we manage product lines. The approaches used by companies to grapple with the Covid jellyfish are too slow, too narrow in focus, and almost entirely after-the-fact.
We’ve learned processes and tools that work great in a stable, healthy economy. And we’ve embedded those practices into our organizations. We forecast sales; we plan supply chains; and we develop the perfect user interface. But these approaches fall short when we put them up against radical shifts in product demand, customer behaviors, and supply chains. And for many of us, our livelihoods depend on how we respond to the Covid jellyfish-like “depression.”
After-The-Fact is Too Late
Being diligent with our current practices can drive corrective actions. But the efforts are after-the-fact. We have to see the jellyfish pop lose to know we’ve lost our grip. We fall short on predicting product line problems before they happen. And that makes us incapable of avoiding the issues. If you believe our markets and the economy will bounce back in a much wished-for V-shaped recovery, you’ll probably view topics I am discussing as irrelevant. But you may be like me and believe the global recovery is L-shaped. We’re not bouncing back to normal, and there are significant changes still to come.
It’s always interesting to hear a company praise a manager for resolving a problem. For example, you might see a CEO send out a note praising the heroic work achieved by an engineer named Jennifer. The message will say how Jennifer, single-handedly redesigned a part in a major product so it could be sourced from a new supplier. And Jennifer’s work helped stop enormous financial losses. Thank God for Jennifer! And look how great our leadership is to praise Jennifer publicly.
The Root Cause
But what about the other story? The story about how the executive team failed to pick up on the issue until after the losses mounted. Isn’t that the real problem? The organization could not see and failed to respond to the problem until after they incurred financial losses. It’s great to celebrate Jennifer’s work, but it’s not good to sidestep the root issue.
What’s most frustrating about the big challenge is that it’s hard to see and understand such problems when you’re working in the weeds of product development and management. And the more companies push on a Covid response, the more everyone finds themselves in the weeds.
A Product Line System
You’ll understand the problem best by looking at a product line as a system of parts designed to work together. And the system components include more than the group of products you sell. The system is also composed of different market segments, platform-levers, and technology building blocks. And the system includes supply chain flows and alignment across functions. Plus, the system includes current products, those in development, and targets for innovation.
Once you’re able to see your product through the systems lens, you’ll also understand how the parts interact. Most important, you’ll recognize the quality of the parts, and their interplay, directly affects your product line’s performance.
In the Jennifer case, a product’s part (a technology building block) tied to a supplier through the supply chain. Losses mounted because the company was only looking at their financial dashboard through its supply chain lens. They had no means to view the whole product line system in real-time. If they had, the negative economic impact would not have happened.
The recourse is to create smart Product Line Strategies based on the system parts. It’s then to couple the Strategy to Responsive Roadmapping based on the same components. And I realize the notion of Product Line Strategy as a system is foreign to many managers. It’s even foreign to experts who practice the art of strategy formation. But if you come from product development and management, as I do, you’d see its evolution over the last several decades. And like most practices that help drive product development and management, the approach wasn’t created by a business school professor. But they contributed many principles and parts.
A core tenant of Responsive Roadmapping is to forecast and track the flow of the product line toward Strategy-defined goals. And it’s doing this for each strategy part and their relation to other parts.
Responsive Roadmapping would have obviated the need for Jennifer to be a hero. It would have enabled managers to spot and remove the problem before it pushed against the product line’s performance.
Companies need Responsive Roadmapping to form and guide smart product line Pivots. And the Pivots will demand significant changes to the strategy parts and their interplay.
When you pull off major strategy moves, it’s certain you will bump into hindrances. Some may be minor and others major. A principle of Responsive Roadmapping is to work diligently across all system parts to spot these hindrances and roadblocks. It’s to make sure you see the constraints before you realize a push-back on the product line’s performance. But most important, companies must define the cause of the problem. And then they must focus people and their skills to mitigate the problem.
Responsive Roadmapping enables companies to get a grip on the Covid jellyfish. It’s an invaluable tool. And that’s true now and for the months and years to come. We’ve only just started to see change unfold for companies and customers alike.
Build A Systems View
I am confident you’ll see the enormous gains from Responsive Roadmapping once you review the topic. You’ll then be able to create a quick systems view of your product line. And you’ll see how the approach will advance your company’s ability to respond to the enormous changes going on around us. But the onus is on you and your product line team members to get it done… to get a grip on the Covid jellyfish.
Get Help and Do It
My call to action is for you to review more about Responsive Roadmapping and then call me. I will answer all questions and coach you on your best path forward.
You may reach me at:
paul.oconnor @ adept-plm.com
Adept Group’s Web Contact Here
Or call + 01-904-373-5428