Improving the Product Development Process

Each expert on product development has a favorite model of the new product process that emphasizes what he or she thinks is most important. The above figure illustrates a popular model that separates technology development from the preparation of designs that production turns into products or services delivered to customers, all according to a strategy developed by executives using data on customer needs and concerns as developed by Marketing and others. This figure includes one important step that is absent from the processes recommended by most experts: A project post mortum or "post natal," which is a powerful tool to help product development managers decide which of the many different and occasionally conflicting recommendations should get the most attention. The use of project post morta and other techniques for prioritizing opportunities for improvement in a product development process are described in "Improving the Product Development Process," by Spencer Graves, Bill Carmichael, Doug Daetz, and Edith Wilson, Hewlett-Packard Journal, June 1991. For a free copy of this article, contact Productive Systems Engineering by calling (408)294-5779, fax: (408)294-2343, or e-mail: (You can also order the Journal article directly from HP. See

Other techniques for diagnosing product development problems are described in Lightning Strategies for Innovation by Willard I. Zangwell (NY: Lexington / Macmillan, 1993). A related technique to help manage product development projects is "The Return Map", described in an article with this title by Charles H. House and Raymond L. Price, Harvard Business Review, 69, pp. 92-100, January-February 1991.

Consulting assistance with improving product development is available from Productive Systems Engineering.

Other Productive Systems Engineering programs: Designed Experiments (Design of Experiments, DoE or DOX), Reliability Experimentation, Tolerancing, Quick Start Total Quality (Total Quality Control, TQC / Total Quality Management, TQM), Statistical Process Control (SPC); Fiber Optic Communication/Transmission Systems (FOCS or FOTS); Control and Monitoring (RMM); Electronics (Theory & Application); Production Line Assembly for Technicians (Assembly).

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