At the symposium we asked leading companies to identify the key factors in successful product development. We talked to senior management and technology professionals in sectors ranging from pharmaceutical and medical device to large engineering and consumer products. Delegates' responses centred on three key themes: people, teams and leadership.
Developing key people
Delegates identified a common need for integrators on product development teams. These are people who understand the relationships between disciplines and the need to integrate specialists into multifunctional teams.
Building effective teams
Dialogue centred on the challenge of forming teams that combine solid technical and project management ability with leaders capable of directing a team along a coherent journey, whilst maintaining alignment with goals and focus on delivery.
Getting leadership right
The group agreed that leadership style and company culture are often considered to be less important than technical excellence in successful product development teams. However, there was clear agreement that the culture of an organisation and its leadership style are important because they set the tone for personal development, and for how teams interact on projects and revitalise when projects change.
Reflecting on successful product development
Guest speakers at the symposium built on these themes, drawing from personal experiences in successful companies, and highlighting the attributes that had contributed to the successful delivery of new products from their organisations to the market.
The symposium concluded with widespread consensus on the challenges of developing the key people, the effective teamwork and the engaged leadership that need to be at the heart of successful product development. In addition many practical interventions were proposed for participants to consider for deployment back in their own organisations.
“We need people more than they need us” was the rueful reflection of one delegate, encapsulating the need to address the people challenges for sustainable success in developing innovative new products and transferring them successfully through manufacture to the marketplace.