Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of three blog posts.

In my last post, I discussed focusing our NPD teams on the success of the product, not their individual tasks.  In this article, I’ll share about another core Agile principle: Embracing change.

In my experience, the most obvious reality of the world and implicitly in our work to deliver products to market is the most difficult cultural element to modify. It is a fundamental reality that the time at which we know the least about any project is on the first day of that project. Most of our project management principles and business processes around new product development and launches are risk-focused when trying to address this reality.

We put decision points or gates, between each segment of work and learning associated with that work to make sure we have not uncovered or learned something that deteriorates the value of our offering or makes it impossible to bring to market. This type of process is an absolute “must” to ensure we are not just throwing money and time away. Further, we need to augment this thinking with a systematic design and engineering approach that allows our new learnings to create a better product, not just kill a bad idea.

In my reviews with NPD teams, we often spend time looking at what happened with a product launch. Whether a product was successful or not can be a very small detail that the team discovered. All too often I hear they discovered it “too late to do anything about it.” This is the most critical part of the culture we need to address. In Agile it is never too late to learn something that will make us more successful.

The reason I push this as a cultural issue over process is the belief of the individuals. The team must believe that all insights are not only valued, they are indeed critical for the larger success of the product. It is not important if we have to go back to the drawing board on packaging, design or formulation if it means the product will be better for the customer.  Unfortunately, most individuals believe that at some point in the creation and launch of a product, we cross a point of no return where indeed the cost to change is too high. Even worse, many times the engineers, brand managers or scientists even act that way. Instead of embracing the new information as an opportunity to be more successful, they shy away from change.

When coaching these teams, we must emphasize re-working a design post launch is costlier than any re-work before we go to market. More importantly, we must learn from our trend in the software industry’s Agile movement and embrace change, even late in the process.

Continue learning about how to leverage Agile principles by reading Part Three.

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