These new product teams face a dilemma. On the one hand, they are urged by senior management to compress the cycle time: that is, to shorten the elapsed time from idea to launch. On the other hand, they are urged to improve the effectiveness of product development: cut down the failure rate: to do it right, which suggests a more thorough, longer process.
Parallel processing is one solution to the need for a complete and quality process, yet one that meets the time pressures of today's fast-paced business world. Traditionally, new product projects have been managed using a series approach: one task strung out after another in sequence. The analogy is that of a relay race, with each department running with the project for its 100-meter lap. Phrases such as "handoff" or "passing the project on," and even "dropping the ball" or "throwing it over the wall," are common in this relay race approach to new products.
In marked contrast to the relay race or sequential approach, with parallel processing many activities are undertaken concurrently rather than in series. The appropriate analogy is that of a rugby match rather than a relay race.13 A team (not a single runner) appears on the field. A scrum or huddle ensues, after which the ball emerges. Players run down the field in parallel with much interaction, constantly passing the ball laterally. After 25 meters or so, the players converge for another scrum, huddle, or gate review, followed by another stage of activities.
With parallel processing, the game is far more intense than a relay race and more work gets done in an elapsed time period: three or four activities are done simultaneously and by different members on the project team. Second, there is less chance that an activity or task will be overlooked or handled poorly because of lack of time: the activity is done in parallel, not in series, and hence does not extend the total elapsed project time. Moreover, the activities are designed to feed each other (the metaphor of the ball being passed back and forth across the field). And finally, the entire new product process becomes cross-functional and multidisciplinary. The whole team—marketing, R&D, engineering, sales, manufacturing—is on the field together, participates actively in each play, and takes part in every gate review or scrum.
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What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.