Under Control


In January, this column discussed various criteria needed for success in research and development (R&D) projects. THe space limitations of a columnist's single page prevented elaboration on several parameters discussed as being paramount to successful R&D projects.

At the time, I was fooling around with software providing criteria for formal proposal evaluation. It was suggested that the innovation section - which should comprise about 10 percent of a proposal 0 should be evaluated against eight criteria:

The first three parameters were discussed in January, but this columnist assumes nothing about reader's memory.

What you intend to bring to a product to market must be 10x better than anything currently available in some single way. Computers improved at least that amount in the last five years, in several significant ways. Microsoft is striving to leverage its current advantage as we enter the age of Internet. Wal-Mart also is being challenged to sustain a lead for even a short time.

Seven years refers to the time commitment necessary to sustain a new product offering. Next-quarter results should have nothing to do with this quarter's R&D commitment.

R&D projects must be managed by small teams with clearly defined goals. Three gurus - the "smart" people - should be supported by no more than five people each. Remember, too many cooks spoil the broth, and they increase the preparation time and grocery bill too.

From here we move on to this month's new topics, beginning with "100 percent of the market." To belabor the obvious, market dominance is everything. With dominance in market share, the technologist has control - over pricing, margins, and growth.

Look at our friend Bill Gates, for example. Economists say wealth is created by technology and human ingenuity. Perhaps, but control of the market is the supreme indicator of wealth creation. Market control is obtained by carefully defining an exclusive niche and using an unfair advantage.

Every successful research and development project must make use of the "five-legged dog" mnemonic. The five legged dog comes from the old riddle, "if you can call a dog's tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have?" The answer is "four," because it doesn't make any difference what you call a dog's tail, it still only has four legs. The riddle has nothing to do with the success of research and development projects, it's only means to remember that there are five pillars that support successful R&D endeavors:

If any of the five are missing, the likelihood of failure is great. I purposely listed technology last. The fact is, technology is the easy part - we know hoe to make products. Flow manufacturing and information technology enable us to make just about anything, anytime. The tricky part is selling the stuff; we live in a consumption constrained society.

Consumption is the starting point. In any project, the first thing written is the user brochure, not the technical specifications of the product. The first question asked is, "What do people need?" not, "What should we make?" We can't tolerate the anarchy of a so-called genius who creates a product just for the sake of creating it. We need to be more professional than that.

As appeared in Manufacturing Systems Magazine May 1996 Page 96

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