Winning the Red Queen’s Race in New Product Development
“Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!” – Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass
Does product development seem like the Red Queen’s Race so wonderfully described by Lewis Carroll? Does it take all the speed you can get to keep a market position? Every company is going faster and faster. Time-to-market, accelerated innovation, and fast and agile are central themes in many organizations. The problem is that speed may not be all it’s cracked up to be.
Sure, speed is important. But if your results are the “same-old, same-old,” then simply going faster won’t advance your offerings. You’ll need more. Speed is key to holding ground against competitors. But you’ll also see competitors doing everything they can to go faster. Maybe you need to go twice as fast as you can! Ah, The Red Queen’s Race!!
Speed Is Not Enough
To win the real race, you must add two factors to your push for speed. The first is “Strategic Impact.” This includes measures like revenue, market share, and customer satisfaction. If a new product adds no strategic impact, developing it rapidly is unimportant. Yet there are major challenges in a search to boost strategic impact. And these challenges differ from those in the push for speed.
The second factor is “Resource Use Efficiency.” This includes such measures as man-days-to-complete and incremental cost of development. It’s about using your resources as best you can in pursuit of speed and strategic impact. But spending too much to gain speed and impact won’t keep you competitive for long. This is especially true as Industry 4.0 and new technologies like AI come on the scene. You must push all three factors: speed, strategic impact, and resource-use efficiency.
Many challenges can pop up in this three-pronged pursuit. You’ll see work that drives strategic impact and resource use efficiency can be at odds with the forces that push speed. And when speed or time-to-market initiatives are well entrenched in an organization, seeking to gain on the other factors may seem counter-cultural.
Work and Decision-making
The trade-offs across the pursuit demand companies take on new approaches to product development. You can’t win by focusing only on the Red Queen’s race. The job is to gain strategic impact and improve resource use without hurting speed. To do this you must improve the way your company works and makes decisions. It’s upgrading your company’s whole approach toward product development. This starts with how you form a strategy and extends through how you manage products.
I divide the work and decision making into four areas. Be careful not to tag the areas as processes. Sure, to a certain extent, discipline may be needed in each. But you’ll find flexibility and free-thinking strengthen each area’s contribution to improve speed, strategic impact and resource use.
- Product Line Strategizing and Roadmapping
- Front End Targeting, Concept Generation, Rapid Experimentation
- Agile, Staged, or Hybrid Development
- Portfolio, Pipeline, and Responsive Roadmap Management.
Most organizations do much work within the four areas. But the work and decisions can be disjointed. That’s a problem. One function’s approach may not match another. Or the decisions disconnect over time. You’ll hear “last month we said one thing, now we say another. What’s it going to be next month?” And while this may frustrate management, it can anger the people doing day-to-day work in the product development trenches.
The solution is to streamline the four topic areas. And it’s to build skills in each.
You Need Bigger, Better Projects
Most companies help projects by using a staged or Agile development approach. And some energize managers to explore and discover potential products. But this front-end work seldom delivers big concepts that are doable with current resources. Instead, it pushes incremental developments as extensions of current offerings. It drives speed, not strategic impact and resource use efficiency. You’re left with the Red Queen’s race!
It’s common for companies to try to get ahead by pushing more incremental projects into development. But this only clogs the pipeline. A Red Queen’s mindset will simply push harder, hoping for more speed. In total unawareness, companies will shift resources to the clogged pipeline, and not into front-end discovery work. They push on methods and practices to remove hurdles and roadblocks in the clogged pipeline, hoping to deliver more incremental offerings. It’s important to understand this didn’t begin with present day approaches. For some, it’s been going on for years and it’s embedded into their culture. But please consider the message I’m sharing. You don’t need to be an MIT systems-thinker to see the lunacy.
The Real Race
If you wish to get ahead, you’ll need better projects to come from your front-end work. You do this through smart Product Line Strategizing and Roadmapping. And you need to maximize project flow through the front-end and development, whether agile, staged or a hybrid approach.
Winning the Red Queen’s Race is not sane. Speed alone isn’t enough. Product development must also stress strategic impact and efficiency. To do this, consider how and what you create. Your job is more than just improving development practices after projects get formed. Most important, your job is to figure this out before your competition does. That’s the real race.
To learn more about fast, impactful, and efficient product development please consider several Adept Group venues. We focus on Product Line Strategies, Front-end Targeting, and Responsive Roadmapping. These are critical building blocks to great product development.
Check out my book, The Profound Impact of Product Line Strategy. Or consider my in-depth Masterclass. This 1-day class enables deep discussion specific to different product lines and organizations. You may also find our customized seminar, held on-site at your offices, a perfect fit to your needs and your product lines.
Whitepaper– Good Product Line Strategy Matters.