The New New Product Development Game article in our set of principles – part 4/5 – Our people cont.

In today’s blog post we will continue our elaboration on the companies in the article The New New Product Development Game [1] and their fulfilment of our set of principles, and today we continue with the people part and the remaining principles in our set.

Principle: We need to nourish broad competence, when needed in the end to end flow, to achieve better flexibility short-term (spanning from the needed T-shape when solving different interdependent activities in product development, to the needed multi-I-shape in production when solving different independent activities).

Within the team, cross-fertilization starts as soon as the interactions start in the project, due the varying functional specializations, and sometimes also a variety of personalities, in the core teams. This happens automatically when the development phases are in parallel, since otherwise later “phases” cannot start, which is the normal case in the traditional waterfall way of working.

“The overlapping of phases also does away with traditional notions about division of labour. Division of labour works well in a type A system (sequential phases), where management clearly delineates tasks, expects all project members to know their responsibilities, and evaluates each on an individual basis. Under a type B or C system (not sequential phases), the company accomplishes the tasks through what we call “shared division of labour,” where each team member feels responsible for—and is able to work on—any aspect of the project.”, the authors of the article state (the type B and C system, can be seen in the former blog post).

“The overlapping approach has both merits and demerits. Greater speed and increased flexibility are the “hard” merits. But the approach also has a set of “soft” merits relating to human resource management. The overlap approach enhances shared responsibility and cooperation, stimulates involvement and commitment, sharpens a problem-solving focus, encourages initiative taking, develops diversified skills, and heightens sensitivity toward market conditions.”, the authors insightfully continue. This gives us T-shaping for “free”.

“Because members of the project team stay in close touch with outside sources of information, they can respond quickly to changing market conditions. Team members engage in a continual process of trial and error to narrow down the number of alternatives that they must consider. They also acquire broad knowledge and diverse skills, which help them create a versatile team capable of solving an array of problems fast.”, the authors continue. This together with “shared division of labour” is called multifunctional learning. Some companies recommended their people to try to know two technology areas and two functional areas. Multifunctional learning which is kind of Multi-I-Shaping, will also result in broader competence, T-shaping, so it is another perfect match.

And if this core team is successful and have learnt many things about the way of working, the best way to spread their knowledge throughout the company is to spread the team members among new core teams, which the authors refer to as “organizational transfer of learning”. By doing so, our principles to nourish short chains of interactions and T-shaping, are fulfilled as well. And remember specifically that T-shaping happens when working in projects and that it cannot be planned, so not any education or any reading of Lesson Learned reports will do the work.

Principle: Our working teams*, must sit in a as flat hierarchy as possible, following the numbers 15 and 150, also in the light of Conway’s law.

Many times, as stated before, the core teams (and sometimes their sub-teams) were placed in one big room. A perfect match.

In next blog post it is time for the wrap-up. C u then.


*diversity must always be considered when putting the teams together.

[1] Takeuchi, Hirotaka and Nonaka, Ikujiro, ”The New New Product Development Game”. Harvard Business Review, Jan 1986 issue.
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