JA N UA RY 2010
o p e r a t i o n s
p r a c t i c e
The path to successful new products
Businesses with the best product-development track records stand apart from theirless-successful peers in three crucial ways.
Mike Gordon, Chris Musso, Eric Rebentisch, and Nisheeth Gupta
Is your company finding it hard to develop new products? If so, you might try learning from themasters. We found—after surveying more than 300 employees at 28 companies across North America and Europe—that the businesses with the best product-development track records do three things betterthan their less-successful peers: They create a clear sense of project goals early on, they nurture a strong project culture in their workplace, and they maintain close contact with customers throughouta project’s duration. The teams in our study that embraced these tactics were 17 times as likely as the laggards to have projects come in on time, five times as likely to be on budget, and twice aslikely to meet their company’s return-on-investment targets. While we focused on companies in the automotive, high-tech, and medical-device industries, we believe that product makers of all stripescould benefit from our work. Here is a closer look at what we found: Keep it focused Whenever project requirements were clearly defined and communicated to teams before kickoff, the project had a greaterchance of success. In our survey, 70 percent of the people working on high-performing projects—those that ranked in the top quarter of a performance index linking best practices to outcomes—said theyhad a clear view of the project’s scope from the beginning, compared with just onethird of poor performers. We found that not thinking through a project’s scope early on— say an appliance maker asksdevelopers to design a new cooking range in the four-burner category but then later expands the project to include ranges with six burners—can create delays. The teams with a clear understanding of...