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The Who’s Who of New Product Development

By Philip E. Quigley, CFPIM, PMP | March/April 2013 | 23 | 2

Making sure your team members are on task

New product launches are critical to the success of a company—and a major challenge. Nothing is easy, and there is no place to hide when things go wrong. 

Bob Lutz, former vice chairman at General Motors, says a company’s conceptual design must have a “wow” factor. In other words, as soon as customers see a new product, they take notice—and this hopefully turns into an immediate sale. To achieve this, the design group must be connected to the customer and know what is going to impress. Note also that it may be easy to get a “wow” once, but getting it again and again over the course of years is immensely more difficult. 

But exciting design isn’t enough. It’s necessary to take that design and produce it in quantity and with quality. Here, manufacturing and sourcing team members must be professional, talented, detail-conscious, and innovative. These professionals are responsible for taking ideas, concepts, and high-level designs and breaking them down to parts, tooling, and materials. And because the design and launch process is a parallel effort, it’s constantly being tweaked, revised, and sometimes completely overhauled. 

To keep things running smoothly, the management group must have experience dealing with issues and problems associated with new product launches, the ability to keep themselves and the team calm, and constant focus on the objective: a successful launch. This can be difficult when dealing with a team of bright; talented; and, occasionally, egoistical people. Care must be taken through team-building exercises, which might include everything from formal education and training sessions to taking the team bowling. A carefully thought-out plan to reward and acknowledge the team on a regular basis also is valuable.

Finally, senior management and the board of directors must be involved and stay involved. This process requires constant attention, as well as considerable time and money. Teams and processes are fragile. If leaders get lazy or just stop paying attention, new product launches will fail, and the company will pay the price.

Competency and strength in launching new products are absolute musts. Cultivate superb, multi-skilled product development teams, and nurture these highly intelligent and innovative people. 

Philip E. Quigley, CFPIM, PMP, teaches at Chapman University’s Argyros School of Business and Economics and California State University at Fullerton. He may be contacted at pquigley@fullerton.edu.

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