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Karen Martin

Karen Martin: Once product priorities are established, map the new product value stream

By Karen Martin, - Last updated: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - Save & Share - Leave a comment

My advice is two-fold: First, applying a healthy dose of focus is the stuff champions are made of, so, yes, prioritizing is wise. In choosing which products to improve, there are many factors, such as margin (why spend your time on low margin or, worse, loss leader products?), technology (is this product’s technology being rendered obsolete in the short term?), customer relationships (put more effort into products that your best customers like), and so forth.

Second, once your priorities are established (and you’ve reached leadership consensus, a key step in maintaining focus), I put my money on value stream mapping (VSM). But let me be clear: it’s not about the maps; it’s about the process used to create them. Effective VSM activities are team-based, where the teams are biased with the level of leadership who can authorize what may be provocative future state improvements. They also must be highly cross-functional. To Jean’s point, finance/accounting should most definitely be involved. As well as sales. This is a frequent miss and it’s most unfortunate. Every function that plays a role in the value stream needs to be represented.

Value stream mapping is frequently (and mistakenly) viewed as a tool merely to reveal waste and redesign work processes. Used effectively, the practice of value stream mapping is so much more. It’s an organizational transformation tool that creates leadership alignment, develops deep and broad understanding (often for the first time) about how work actually gets done, and provides the means to simplify what can be exceedingly complex work, as NPD is. It’s a brilliant way to see opportunities for better in-process collaboration and ways to get to market faster with a higher quality, lower cost product that carries lower risk.

That said, mapping the NPD value stream isn’t for the faint of heart. It is tough work, but I’ve found it to be the most effective means to date to create a strategic blueprint for improvement across highly cross-functional work flows. Of course, mapping the value stream (or value stream segment as NPD is) is just the first step. Executing improvement and making adjustments along the way is where the rubber meets the road!

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