team 2The first word in successful engineering execution is talent.  To create an effective product development team, with a healthy velocity of quality new products, there is no substitute for talent.  This does not mean that your team needs to be the highest paid in the industry, but it does mean that you need a solid core in the team and that you need to be sure the depth of what you attempt to develop is appropriately matched to the capabilities of your team.  As such, it is essential that your team implement an effective interview process that will only bring on staff that can really help you succeed and that will work well with your team.  One subtle point:  when you think of the talent of your team, you should also think about the talent of your partners, suppliers and sales channels.  In the best run companies, these also function as elements of your team.  A high performance extended team can also be critical to your success and can be a great means of cost avoidance as well.

The next word in engineering execution performance is leadership.  Good leadership sets the tone for the organization.  A good leader will create a culture where talent is well managed, performance is recognized and rewarded, best practices are taught and used, and productivity tools and processes are used to simplify and accelerate development.  The engineering functional leadership should provide:

  • Leadership on resource management – what key skills are needed to be successful
  • Direction on development methods – strategic guidance on what to build and what to buy
  • Competitive insight on technology – what are the best paths to new product introduction
  • Roadmaps to operational excellence – identifying performance gaps and how to improve
  • Leadership on new tools, processes and technologies – leading to best in class performance
  • Mentoring of the organization – helping the team members reach their potential
  • Cross functional partnering with other business functions – ensuring that engineering appropriately supports customers, sales, marketing and overall business results
  • Development leadership that is attuned to what is available from the market (silicon, software, systems and open source) enabling good decision making for roadmaps as well as for development strategies (success favors the prepared mind)

Similarly, it is essential that the other half of the product R&D equation, Product Management, also provide appropriate leadership to achieve best-in-class performance.  Product Management leadership should provide:

  • Strong knowledge of target markets based on competitive analysis and customer intimacy
  • Strategic product direction, product roadmaps and clear product definition
  • Guidance on priorities and how NPI activities will impact the company P&L
  • Business analysis tools and metrics to enable informed decision making on priorities
  • Core Team leadership to ensure that cross functional expertise is leveraged for success
  • Collaboration between sales, marketing, engineering and operations for optimum execution

Finally, the CEO, Division GM, or other top leadership functions must establish an expectation of high achievement and continuous improvement.  It is the CEO or GM’s responsibility to ensure that the NPI leadership is driving an agenda of operational excellence, continuous improvement and innovation.