by Connie Polzin, David Parker

The Challenge

Point B works with many organizations for whom a fast-moving innovation pipeline is critical—not just to grow revenue, but also to sustain their current market position. The Internet has enabled vast expansion and streamlining of supply chains. This, in turn, shapes B2B and B2C marketplaces, driving ever-greater requirements for customization, fast turnaround, and pricing that reflects global competition.

Customer intimacy has never been more critical to product innovation—however, disciplined, rapid execution is now a deciding factor.

As market pressures and the rate of change continue to increase we see entire industries make substantial investments along the product development value chain, yet as many as 80 percent of all new products and services fail in the market.

We often encounter organizations with ostensibly robust product development capabilities and hear the phrase “we just can’t execute quickly enough” as if that were a separate and somehow less impactful problem to have. This is telling; it reveals that the organization largely views efficient execution as an afterthought to an otherwise creative process.

Execution Matters

We believe aligned processes, disciplined execution and a culture of continuous improvement are vital and integral capabilities for product organizations in a marketplace defined by customer intimacy and intense competition.

By infusing Lean thinking into product development, Point B helps our clients streamline product execution. We sum up our approach with three key levers:

  • Understand what the customer really needs. Most product teams seek customer needs as product attributes, but they stop there. Try looking at activities and asking, “Would the customer pay us to do this?” If the answer is no, why put precious time and money into it? Looking at development through this lens empowers product teams to double down on the activities that matter most, and find ways to cut time and overhead from the development cycle.
  • Put the right processes in place. Empower people as owners and agents for further improvement, then let them use their expertise and passion to define better ways of working. Point B has Marketing & Product Management experts who advise on leading practices, along with Lean practitioners who frame the work, train and coach people, and put in place the structures necessary to implement and sustain the changes.
  • Implement a robust measurement strategy. The right measurement will provide clarity of purpose, help prioritize both action and improvement, and enable the team to recognize and celebrate progress. It doesn’t have to be death by reporting. A small number of the right data points, delivered in the right context—such as daily huddles and periodic process reviews—can play a huge role in driving and sustaining desired behaviors.

Benefits of a Lean Approach

By deploying the right processes (customer-focused, cross-functional) and applying intuitive daily management practices and measurement systems, organizations can achieve the triple play: they improve customer intimacy, accelerate time to market and drive down costs.

Financial benefits typically come from the reduced costs of a compressed development cycle. They also come from recovering opportunity costs, such as “the sale that didn’t get away" and the revenue from the additional products launched with time and money previously wasted. 

Point B helped a mid-sized furniture manufacturer reduce development time by 20 percent, enabling both greater responsiveness and a cost-neutral expansion of the product pipeline. Annual direct benefits exceeded $1MM. Indirect benefits included improved customer delivery performance, enhanced production readiness, and cost savings from improved material and component planning.

Easier Said than Done?

Not really. While the prospect of Lean can be daunting, it starts with small steps that can deliver fast, visible benefits and infuse an organization with the energy to keep going. In our experience, success builds on success. Starting small, and empowering people to tackle the challenges that affect them most on a daily basis, sows the seeds of ownership and continuous improvement that bear substantial fruit over time.

We suggest a collaborative approach that focuses on:

  • Establishing shared accountability for success. In this approach, leadership establishes a vision, gets buy-in, sets expectations for participation and performance, and puts the governance structures in place for holding people and teams accountable.
  • Providing the team with the tools, education and support to understand ways of working, eliminate waste, improve performance and sustain gains through daily management.
  • Developing a culture of respect and ownership, where continuous improvement equals continuous change. This requires employee engagement and change management efforts that are supported by active sponsorship from leadership at all levels.

The Bottom Line

Point B has a track record of helping organizations develop and launch extraordinary products in extraordinary ways. Improvements are achieved by the client’s own employees, who are both empowered and accountable for finding better ways of doing things. 

At the end of the day, we find our clients achieve greater customer intimacy, increase revenues and drive costs out of the business while accelerating time to market. It turns out that yes, you can have your cake and eat it, too.