“Don’t expect what you don’t inspect.”

It’s human nature to put something off until someone asks for it. That “ask” creates a deadline for results and signals that someone is interested and watching. The same principle applies to managing product-line performance. You must regularly inspect all the decisions, plans, actions, and results related to the performance of your product line. In part I of How to Manage Product Line Performance,  we took a look at the first three inspection points (reviews) in the table below. In this part II, we’ll take on the last three.

Review Type Purpose Typical Frequency
1.     Product Strategy Decide what products to offer and when Annual
2.     Product Line Inspect product-line-commercial performance and strategy execution Quarterly
3.     Phase Gate Decide whether to advance a product to the next lifecycle phase Upon phase completion
4.     Product Development Inspect product-development-program performance Monthly
5.     Product Team Coordinate product-team activity Weekly
6.     Product Development Core Team Coordinate product-development-core-team activity Weekly

Product Development Review

Both product-line and phase-gate reviews provide product development updates. But as control mechanisms they are not sufficient.  Product-line reviews are too superficial. Phase-gate reviews can be too infrequent. Therefore, regular detailed product-development-program reviews are required to

  • ensure program schedule, budget, and expected outcomes are on track,
  • issues are exposed and addressed, and
  • cross-functional program contributors are aligned.

To get the insight that you need to assess your product-development programs, the following review agenda is a good place to start.

  1. Top-level milestones
  2. Status versus success criteria
  3. Product-lifecycle-deliverables status
  4. Status vs. cost and margin targets
  5. Status vs. program budget
  6. Top risks and mitigation plans
  7. Accomplishments the last 30 days and goals the next 30 days

The agenda above will provide insight into when, to what degree, and how likely your program will produce the desired new product.

Product Team Review

The product team is responsible for the day-to-day execution of the product strategy. This includes making sure that

  • revenue and margin are on track,
  • the sales force is supported,
  • competitor attacks are defended,
  • product development meets commitments,
  • the installed-base is performing well, and
  • customers are happy.

The product team, led by the product manager, consists of the functional representatives that have been assigned product-line ownership. See the figure below.

The Product Team

The product team meeting is not unlike a CEO’s weekly staff meeting. The topics are the same, just the level of abstraction is different. A product team review is often a weekly working meeting where the team

  • reviews performance,
  • creates action plans,
  • identifies resource needs,
  • coordinates activity,
  • establishes priorities,
  • resolves issues, and
  • prepares for product-line reviews.

Product-Development-Core-Team Review

A product-development, core team (core team) is responsible for executing product development programs. This is a working group that includes representatives from the organization’s functions that will contribute to the development program.  See the figure below.

Example Product-development, core team example structure

The core team must meet regularly to coordinate all the activity related to a product-development program and prepare for product-development–program reviews. The core team meeting’s regular agenda often mirrors the agenda for a product development review. Its membership and charter are very similar to a product team’s with these key differences:

  • A core team is usually led by a product-development-program manager, not the product manager.
  • The product manager is a team member, not the team leader.
  • The core team’s scope is a product development program, not the whole business of the product line.
  • It is not permanent. The core team forms and disbands as needed to execute product development programs.