New product development Assignment

New product development Assignment Words: 1767

Employees began work promptly at 8:30 a. M. And most left before 6:00 p. M. A devout family man, Kirsches firmly believed that coming in early or leaving late were signs of ineffectiveness. He set the standard himself, just as his father and grandfather had before him, pulling into the parking lot precisely at 8:30, and, with rare exception, pulling out before 6. An advocate of “managing by committee,” Kirsches also emphasized development from- within and continuous technical and managerial education. Over the years, for example, he had sent a number of his top people to Harvard’s Advanced Management Program.

Merit took pride in and was renowned for its generous employee benefits; indeed, many companies in the area used Merit to benchmark their health and pension plans. Turnover was generally low, and employee morale was high. In a departure from the company’s philosophy and traditional practice, however, Kirsches had in recent years brought in carefully selected middle managers from outside the firm and the industry. Some even had Mambas. Although Merit held a dominant position in the upscale juvenile furniture market, the primary driver of its profits, Kirsches believed the company was increasingly vulnerable in one area: new product design.

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Traditionally, temporary task forces had handled such work, with line managers typically spending six months on a new product task force. This rotating system had been in place since the company’s inception to ensure that all line managers gained experience in this critical and creative arena. For Skirmisher’s own first assignment at Merit, his father had placed him on a new product development team. Customers’ inclinations to buy high-end juvenile furniture fluctuated rather dramatically depending on economic and demographic cycles.

However, over the past 10 years, other changes prompted a fresh assessment of the new product development process. Differentiation was a critical factor in this business. Consumers were becoming ever more demanding about design, quality, and safety, and responding to these concerns meant that product life cycles were shortening. At the same time, manufacturers of household furniture were venturing into the children’s market. Moreover, an increasing number Of low-cost producers from emerging economies placed tremendous pressure on costs. Consequently, sales had leveled off at approximately $750 million.

To ensure the company’s continued success, Kirsches concluded that his legacy should be a vital new reduces development (NYPD) group. After giving the matter considerable thought and briefly discussing it with his top managers, he decided that radical change was in order. He would form a group of six to eight people with diverse and even unorthodox backgrounds to work full time on coming up with viable new product ideas. If he could find the right people and give them a good deal of encouragement, Kirsches believed new product development would flourish.

Thus, he sought to hire the kinds of people who could give real impetus to this initiative and began to look for office space to house them. Although no space was available at that time on the second or third floors, some was available on the fourth. He felt it was important for the group to have an area of its own. Within months of the decision to form the new group, Kirsches hired eight new people (See Table 1) who he felt represented the appropriate mix of backgrounds, intelligence, enthusiasm, and imagination for the task at hand.

Kirsches, who had attracted the above individuals based on his compelling vision that they would be doing “something completely different” and of vital importance, believed that the group would be most effective if given extensive freedom and encouragement. The only things he required from it was a biweekly progress report, so that the executive committee could be kept abreast of its activities, and a monthly financial report. Group members were free to work as they wished; as long as they focused their energies on coming up with viable ideas for durable, multipurpose children’s furniture products those consumers would consider a good value.

The only structure he imposed was having one person report directly to him. Thus, he appointed Kane the group head, in large measure because Kane was the first to be hired, but also because he had made such a positive impression on him. When the eight people began work at Merit, they did not know each other. Given Skirmisher’s rather broad mandate, they also did not know what they would be expected to do on a daily basis. They soon discovered that they had different ideas not only about what they should do, but also about how they should approach their work.

Those like Jacobson, who had worked in large corporate environments in the past, were the most outspoken about how the group should approach its task. He was a proponent of a more “systematic approach. ” Kirks was accustomed to participating in long-term complex projects, but he had never irked in a for-profit company. He privately favored a more “exploratory attack” to the task but was reluctant to make suggestions about how they should proceed. Vitreous encouraged the group to look for “cutting-edge ways in which things could be done. Not only were the group members’ backgrounds, competencies, and interests diverse, but their working styles varied. Kane and Dustman were accustomed to wearing suits to work; O’Hara always wore jeans and a tee-shirt, and Waters also valued dressing casually. Carney could work comfortably only amid stacks of clutter, while Jacobson was, as he put it, “compulsively neat. Kirks felt that he worked better with music in the background, while Waters and Dustman preferred a quiet work environment. On the first morning at Merit, the eight members of the new NYPD team reported to Skirmisher’s office for a day-long informal orientation.

Kirsch newer presented each person with a packet of information about the company, the products that Merit manufactured, and employee compensation and benefit information. Then they toured the offices and the nearby plant with “Mr.. As they quickly came to call Kirsches. After lunch in a restaurant a few miles away, the group was introduced to the executives tit whom they would most likely come into contact. Then Kirsches took them to the fourth floor of the building and showed them their three interconnected offices.

He explained that the team would have one secretary, located on the second floor, working directly for them, and that they should request additional support staff if it became necessary. He apologized for the sparsely furnished offices, the team’s modest budget, and the age of the computers and other equipment provided. After Kirsches left, the group spent the rest of the afternoon organizing their work space. Each office could hold two or three desks. The middle office was the largest and contained three desks and a conference table.

Kane, whom Kirsches introduced as the group’s head for reporting and administrative purposes, moved into the first office. Carney took the desk located next to the window because he “craved fresh air. ” Dustman and Waters had already laid claim to the middle office. Kirks took the remaining desk in that room because he expected he would frequently need to spread out at the conference table. The three others shared the last office in which the group quickly agreed to put the coffee machine that Jacobson had found in a storage closet (see Figure A). The group then spent the next few weeks becoming familiar with the company.

Kirsch newer came upstairs once or twice a week, and he Often shared information he thought the members could use. Team members informally divided up the work among themselves largely on the basis of interest and expertise. For example, while each member generated the data needed to prepare cash flow projections for potential products, Dustman usually took responsibility for coordinating this activity. O’Hara used his artistic ability to translate ideas into three dimensional drawings and rough prototypes. Jacobson proved particularly adept at synthesizing complex data on materials, thanks to his background in systems analysis.

At first, it was hard for the group to find a role for Vitreous given the disorderly way in which he appeared to work. Over time, however, Vitreous found his niche: he was quite skilled in resolving potentially disruptive issues about the group’s process of working together. Kane was the nominal group head. Waters soon became the informal co-leader, drawing upon her organizational expertise and an ability to communicate easily with Merit’s engineers. The team interacted a great deal and quickly developed some routines. Members got into the habit of bringing their lunch and eating around the large table in the middle room.

Anyone could suggest when lunch should begin, but because they shared the middle office, Waters, Dustman, or Kirks tended to control the timing. These lunches often became brainstorming sessions for eliciting new ideas. At first, team members came in at 8:30 a. M. And left, often together, at 6:00 p. M. As “half-baked” ideas were gradually turned into potential product designs, however, the team began working late and on weekends. After a hill, some members began to come in later in the mornings and work until 8 p. M. Or 9 p. M. , while others preferred to come in earlier and leave earlier.

For all, however, it became the norm to work late or on weekends rather than leave a task unfinished. People were almost always in the office between 10 a. M. And 3 p. M. , since it was during these hours that lunch and the brainstorming sessions tended to occur. As subgroups formed, and members tended to work together in twos or threes, friction occasionally developed. One source of tension was Carneys strong preference for working alone. He often complained that the brainstorming sessions were interrupting his concentration, and because he felt it more important to finish whatever task he was working on, he missed many of the sessions.

Eventually other members began to kid him about his “antisocial behavior. ” When this seemed to have no effect, they began to exclude him from informal conversations. At lunch one day when Carney was absent, Vitreous suggested that the group discuss the purpose and frequency of the sessions and the importance of everyone being present. As a result, team members concluded that exceptions to regular attendance could be made without affecting radioactivity. Subsequently, Carney was included in more informal conversations, but he still remained, in his words, “at the edge of the group.

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