From delayed products to gushing pipeline
- Medical Devices
- North America, Europe, and Asia
- Years of declining sales and a major product recall that hurt the company’s position in the marketplace along with a lack of innovation of new products
- With the help of Insigniam, an international management consulting firm, key leaders were developed, with each one producing a breakthrough result in their area of accountability. An innovative and revolutionary speed to market process that is inclusive of all functions is in place.
Insigniam consulted a medical device maker, which specializes in healthcare products, to see beyond its bureaucratic breakdowns, improve pipeline, market position, sales and margins, and get a clearer focus on its future.
An iconic company with more than 150 years of business history.
The company had been in the top three and had fallen to number four. Morale was low. People no longer related to themselves and the company as a winner and innovator in its field.
That was the key problem the new president explained to the consultants at Insigniam: He wanted to produce new, quality products and produce them fast. But the company had launched just one new product in the past eight years, and despite owning one of the most recognized brand names in the business, it was quickly losing market share and its connection with customers and consumers.
The president believed these problems to be cultural. Too much bureaucracy. Too many departments working independently of each other. An absence of leadership development for top executives. And a failure to grasp how the marketplace was changing.
So he asked Insigniam, an international management consulting firm, to help him create “breakthrough thinkers” among his executives and to establish a new, speedier product development process.
Step 1: Identify problems
Insigniam first examined what wasn’t working in the way new products were being brought to market — or, in this case, not brought to market. To do this, Insigniam consultants conducted dozens of confidential interviews with employees and internal customers to reveal hidden beliefs on what the company was not doing right, could be doing better, and missed opportunities.
Surprisingly even team members who worked in the same department had different views on how the existing product development process worked. That told Insigniam that the process wasn’t working at all. Specifically, two key roadblocks were revealed.
Roadblock 1: Failure was not an option.
Innovation in medical devices isn’t quick or easy. There are failed attempts at creating new products. Anything can turn out to be unpalatable to consumers, or, worse, unsafe. Moreover, Insigniam’s interviews revealed that the company had installed few incremental deadlines or review procedures to suspend product development projects that were failing. Because there was no clear “no go” signal ever sent on those projects, researchers often pursued their own goals — pursuing a patent on a new product, for instance — rather than working to bring a product to market and looking at what was wanted and needed for the company. As the president realized, malaise had set in, creating a culture of disbelief.
The result of that roadblock: Declining morale and a lack of trust in co-workers.
Roadblock 2: Too much “R &D” not enough “M.”
The company’s research & development department was almost solely responsible for initial new product development, and once a product was ready for market, it handed off all that responsibility to the manufacturing department and the marketing department. Because the three rarely communicated, that created a disconnect between what the company was developing and what consumers were asking for.
Step 2: Change the culture, and the process
Insigniam led the team by changing the approach and process to one of problem solving, accountability, and possibility: They supported the change of the corporate mindset to a more collaborative approach and spelled out the specific breakdowns in the company’s product development process. Where there were no incremental deadlines before, they worked with the team and implemented a five-year pipeline process for new projects with specific and challenging deadlines. And where there was a lack of understanding – or a shuffling of accountability on product development, specific executives were tasked with specific responsibilities. To that end, the company created three new teams that managed or contributed to a more efficient process.
Team one: A 26-person Global Leadership Development Program drawing executives from across the company’s various departments. That team was charged with changing the corporate culture from a risk-averse organization to one that valued risk, didn’t punish failure, and could quickly make decisions. Insigniam created a customized High Performance Leader® development and coaching program for these executives, based on its proven, proprietary methodology. A culture of accountability is now embedded.
Team two: A five-person “Speed to Market” core team that included two top executives (also members of the Leadership Development Program) — who reported directly to the president. Those high-level executives were key because they not only understood the product development process; they also had the power to change it.
Team three: An Office of Product Acceleration was an output of the Speed to Market team. This four-person office oversees the management of a product from just after conception to 18 months post-launch. It is intended to be a neutral team, invested not in the needs of any individual department, but in the company’s needs. The other bonus: Since the office rotates positions, it allows for the development of many potential leaders.
Organization enabling and building
R&D became D&R to reflect the new emphasis on development. With leaders aligned, the company looked for a quick win to provide a steady product pipeline as teams launched simultaneous mid-term and long-range initiatives. One formerly “dead” project was revived, resulting in revenue growth, and just as importantly, D&R motivation.
- The organization had its best year in decades
- Twelve launches are in progress, with about three to five launches expected per year
- Licensing and launches now have a streamlined development pipeline that’s predictable
- The vice president who led the Speed to Market initiative and team is happy. He says, “The saying goes that the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting different results. Doing the same thing over and over is the absence of possibility. Insigniam led us to the idea that possibility creates the opportunity for anything to be accomplished. With one caveat — it must be accompanied by accountability. In 18 months, that recipe built a process and a five-year pipeline, where 10 years previously there was none.”