Managing Product Development

Posted by Rumin Mann
August 12th, 2011

Part two in a three-part series on product development.

In part one of this series on managing product development, we looked at the importance of having a highlevel strategy to guide your efforts. (For part one, visit The next challenge for management is to determine the “how” and “who” of product development.

As companies grow, they tend to refi ne and legitimize various aspects of their business, and the area of product development is no different. At the fi rst level, product development efforts lack planning and performance tends to depend on the capabilities of a few individuals’ skills. At the second level a system is implemented to give structure so successful practices can be repeated. Product development process can be characterized at this level as practiced, documented, enforced, trained and measured. (Most wood product manufacturers tend to be at the stage where they are moving from level one to level two.) The third level focuses on optimizing processes. Failures are analyzed and there is continuous improvement. This level is more critical to fast-paced industries such as electronics where product life-cycles are short and speed to market is everything.

Several different methodologies for new product development exist. Adopting these methodologies can result in cost savings through decreased development times, improved manufacturability of new products, reduced launch costs and increased consumer satisfaction with products. Some of the more written about models include Quality Function Deployment, Stage-Gate Process, and Superior Product Development. While the details of each model differ, the basic ideas are similar. We outline the Stage-Gate process below but it’s a good idea to explore several models and then pick and choose elements to create your own, tailored process.

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